Monday, December 30, 2019

Iceland Visit Part 1.

I arrived in Reykjavik Iceland at 6:30 in the morning on December 27th to a very rainy morning.  The sun does not rise till 11 or so in the morning and by 4 pm it is totally dark.  It is not that much different than living in Alaska.  

The last time I traveled to Iceland, they were working on the airport and it was a lot messier.  This is a picture of it as I'm heading towards customs and baggage claim.  If you wonder why I chose Iceland, its because my traveling companion wanted to see it in the winter after visiting in the summer.  I was expecting snow but found rain instead, lots of rain.

This is one of the big attractions in downtown Iceland.  It's about two blocks from the guesthouse I chose to stay in for this visit.  The statue in front celebrates Leif Erikson who discovered both Iceland and America.  In the back is the Hallgr√≠mskirkja Luthern Church.  It is one of the largest and tallest structures in the country.  The Hallgrimskirja church is 74.5 meters tall and it was named after a famous Icelandic poet and clergyman.  You can hop an elevator up into the tower but I chose not to go there.

This is a picture of the inside of the church.  It is open most days and it has a set of bells that ring every hour during the day.  It is big and quite beautiful.  There are signs all over reminding people that this is a working church so you need to be respectful.  

This is the backside of the statue celebrating Leif Erikson and his discovering several places in the new world.  All the writing is on the backside facing the church.  Over the right side, you see the top of a building.  That building is the Leif Erikson  hotel where you can choose to stay if you desire.  I chose a guesthouse because it was smaller and included a continental breakfast.  

I saw this decorated Christmas tree outside the Leif Erikson hotel.  I couldn't resist taking a photo of it.  We'd just finished visiting the church when we decided to wander around downtown in rain, rain, and more rain.  We were supposed to go watch the northern lights but the tour got canceled due to rain and cloudy nights so we rebooked.

This is one of the bells I saw hanging over one of the main streets in downtown.  There is a prohibition against most busses coming into downtown.  If you book a tour, you are told you have to go to a bus stop to be picked up.  The streets are quite narrow and I don't think there is space for busses and large vehicles to come down.  

I love strolling through new places.  After the church, I continued strolling down the street to a store on the same side as the hotel and found these cuties.  They are based on a land created back in 2010 and the characters are quite popular over here. 

The first character sat outside the store while this one is in the window.  He's almost cute enough to want to take home.

Finally, to end this set of photos. I have more to share over the next week.  I'm due to go out on a tour of the Southern part of the island with geysers, and all sorts of other things.  I'm hoping I see a bit of snow while I'm here.  I'm also hoping to be able to take the Northern Lights Tour but the prediction is for more rain so we'll see.  

I hope you enjoyed these guys.  I've got some cool buildings and graffiti to share with everyone.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Friday, December 27, 2019

What To Do With Leftovers?

Goose, Goose Breast, Fry, FoodMy family never, ever threw away leftovers from the Christmas meal.  My mother had it planned out to the day as to what we'd eat.  Her meals were based on a traditional turkey based Christmas meal.

My mother often took the gravy, potatoes, and left over vegetables mixed them together to make a Shepards Pie.  The gravy and veggies made the main part and the potatoes formed the top crust.

There was also the hot turkey sandwiches made with buttered toasted bread, sliced turkey, gravy, and a dab of cranberry sauce on top.

Sometimes, my mother took all the left over veggies with the gravy to create a thick veggie soup we'd eat with left over rolls for a nice warming meal.  Stuffing was the hardest thing for my mother to use so she'd sometimes try to make a savory bread pudding out of it.  I'm not saying it was great but it was edible.

The final stage for leftovers was taking the bones from the turkey, add any remaining veggies, and cooking it until it turned into a great broth my mother used in a turkey noodle soup.  She'd add fresh onions, garlic, veggies, and noodles, to make a real nice hot soup.

My mother has been a traditional cook who never thinks past the usual.  If you talked to my father, he'd be more into making a turkey stir fry using leftover turkey, carrots, celery, and other crispy vegetables from the green salad and served it on rice.

He is the one who might have used the left over stuffing to create a bread soup because the stuffing was already cooked and spiced but he never got around to it because my mother ran the kitchen.  There are ways to use leftovers to create new and wonderful dishes.

One possibility is to take the left over turkey, chop it up, add it to a cream sauce with mushrooms, leeks, and spices.  Put it in a baking pan, cover with puff pastry, or a pie crust, bake at 350 till nicely browned and serve.

You could take the turkey, mix it with yoghurt and curry powder before letting it rest about 15 minutes.  Grill the turkey till nicely browned and place on a piece of warmed naan bread.  Top with mango chutney, tomatoes, and a bit of mint chutney.  Enjoy.

Like your fried chicken?  Why not take left over pieces of turkey and fry them up in the same way.  If you don't like fried chicken, you could always make barbecued turkey or turkey sloppy Joes.  it is all a matter of using your imagination.

Do you like muffins for breakfast or a quick snack?  Take your left over ham, chop it up into small pieces and throw in the muffin mix or add a few peas with the ham to add something extra.  This uses those few peas you have left over but don't want to throw out.

If you have left over pumpkin from making pies, make a nice creamed soup out of it for a wonderful winter meal.  You could take the left over corn, add it to your cornbread recipe with chopped Chile's and some cheddar cheese, you have a great side dish to go with a chili made with left over turkey or roast beef.

I hope you had a great Christmas with few leftovers.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Unusual Christmas Traditions

Christmas Tree, Lights, Christmas, Tree Every family has their traditions for Christmas.  For some, its having the tree surrounded by the nativity scene while others like their tinsel tree.  Some families open presents on Christmas Eve while others insist everyone wait till the morning.

Some places have some unique holiday traditions, some we've heard, some not but all quite interesting.

Let's start with Austria's bad Santa.  This Santa is known as Krampus, who is identified at the assistant to Santa.  He goes out looking for children who behave badly to scare them.  He is the one with a terrifying mask who is strolling down the streets in December, playing stunts, and ghastly pranks.  In addition, Vienna has a parade devoted to celebrating Kampus.

In Caracas, Venezuela, it is the tradition on Christmas morning to roller skate to Mass at the local churches.  There are so many residents who do this that the police department has closed down many streets in the down beginning at 8 A.M. so the church goers can easily roller skate to worship.  There is a story that children will tie one lace of a skate to their toe while hanging the skate out the window so their friends can skate buy, jerk the skate to wake them up.

In Iceland, there is an a giant cat who roams the countryside. Farmers used to use this Yule cat as a way of getting their workers to work harder because those who worked hard were gifted a set of new clothing while those didn't, were eaten by the cat.  I'm not sure anyone has seen the Yule cat but it has a place in Icelandic tradition.

In the Ukraine, cobwebs are popular at this time of the year.  The story goes that a widow was so poor she couldn't afford to decorate her Yule tree, so the spiders took pity on her and used their spinning ability to cover the tree in cobwebs.  When the children woke up in the morning, their tree was decorated and they were happy.  In addition, the Ukrainians consider cobwebs to be lucky.

 Kentucky Fried Chicken created a campaign in 1974 where they told the Japanese to have "Kentucky" for Christmas.  It was so successful, the Japanese began buying more and more chicken over the years until it is now a tradition.  Most Japanese stop by to pay a premium price for this Christmas Eve meal. The most interesting thing about this tradition is that Christmas is not a holiday in Japan.

It is said the Christmas tree tradition originated in Germany but they have a second unusual tradition connected to trees.  When they set up the tree for the season, they hang a pickle somewhere on the tree.  The child who finds it receives a gift.  There are those who say this tradition did not originate in Germany but in Spain.  The story goes that Santa released two boys who'd been locked in a pickle barrel and brought them back to life.  Who knows but it is still interesting.

In the Netherlands, children leave their shoes by the fire in the hopes they will be filled with gifts and treats.  Children also leave carrots as a treat in their shoes for Sinterklaas's horse. In older times, children who did not behave well would find potatoes in their shoes instead of treats as a punishment.

In Italy, the tradition happens on January 5th when Belfina, an old lady, visits all the houses to leave their stockings filled with candies and presents.  She is said to enter houses through the chimney just like Santa does, and children leave treats of wine and local foods instead of milk and cookies.

On the other hand, in South Africa, it is a tradition to eat fried caterpillars on Christmas.  The Christmas caterpillar is not your normal caterpillar, it is covered in festive colors.  It is believed that by eating these creatures on Christmas, you are giving yourself some good luck for the upcoming year.

Then in Sweden, it is traditional to watch the 1958 Disney cartoon "Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas." on Christmas Day.  This tradition dates back to the 60's when there were only two channels and television was still new.  One of the stations aired Disney cartoons and every Christmas at 3 PM, people would turn on the television to watch the show.  Even now, over 40 percent of the population still watch the show every year.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these traditions.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Best Days to Travel for Christmas and Hints.

Airport, Transport, Woman, Girl, TouristThis is the season when most people head home to visit family.  I choose to travel at Christmas rather than Thanksgiving because I have more time available and if the weather turns bad, I've got more leeway for traveling.

When making your plans, it is best to keep in mind there are certain days that are better to travel on.  Although the day of the week Christmas falls on changes every year, generally the two to four days prior to it are the busiest days for travel.

Also keep in mind that about one third of the American population travels for this holiday.  It is estimated 112.5 million people will fly, drive, or take trains or buses to get to their destinations. In general December 22nd is the busiest day and consequently has the highest priced ticket but the day after Christmas, the 26th is the second highest.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have the fewest number of people traveling and often have some of the cheapest fares. It is also suggested to wait till New Year's Eve to return because there are fewer travelers heading home but if you wait till January 2nd, you'll pay more and experience longer lines going through security.

To counter these things, it is advised people buy their tickets well in advance when there are more options and fewer restrictions.  It is possible to wait till the last minute to book a ticket and manage a price break but this also means fewer choices for getting to your destination.  The best time to book tickets is the period between September 25 and October 25.  When booking flights, try to avoid the last flight of the day because these are often cancelled due to bad weather or are delayed and you might end up leaving the next day.

When purchasing tickets make sure you've added a bit of extra time in for your connections.  You never know when your first plane will be delayed so you need that cushion.  One year I purchased tickets from Alaska to Pennsylvania.  My flight into Seattle ended up being two hours late due to weather.  When I got there, there were announcements stating all flights were grounded but I checked and my flight heading east to Philly was marked as leaving in an hour so I rushed over, and made it there.

If you want to make it through the airport faster, there are some things you can do.  First, check in from home, print off your boarding passes or make sure they are on your phone. If you travel with bags, check them in using the curbside service so you can go directly to security.  If you prefer, travel with only a carry-on bag so you don't have to go through the lines at the counters.  Many publications suggestion travelers invest in TSA pre-check to make going through security faster and easier.

Personally, I try to start my trips at smaller airports so I don't have to mess with long security lines but sometimes I can't manage that so I add in extra time to get checked in.  For security, make sure you have your foods in plastic bags that you can pull out and have any electronic devices on top so you can pop them into a tub.

In addition, plan to head off to the airport a bit earlier than normal since traffic at this time of year actually increases and you never know if there is going to be an accident or construction that slows you down.  It is always best to arrive early at the airport than accidentally miss your flight because flights are full at this time of the year and it is often hard to rebook in time for Christmas.

One more thing I do is pack a blanket, pillow, eye mask, and earplugs incase I get stuck overnighting at the airport or are on a long flight.  These items take little room and make things more comfortable. I have a lightweight jacket I can squish into a small pillow and a blanket that folds up into a small roll I can stuff in my backpack shoe section.

Think about these things as you get ready to travel.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Keeping the Holiday Weight Off.

Christmas Food, Ham, Potato, Food The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is hard for most people because it is the time of year where most people gain weight. According to research, most people gain an average of one pound although it seems like more.  The thing is, this pound is quite stubborn and doesn't want to go away.  After a few years, you've had a weight gain.

Unfortunately, winter is the time when people no longer exercise as much because it gets dark early, the weather gets cold, or we longer hours and get home tired.

The good news is there are steps everyone can take to keep the weight off and stay in shape.  One big thing is to keep moving by exercising, taking long walks, or park your car in the outer reaches of the lot so you have to walk.  If I am shopping at several stores all within a short distance of each other, I park in the middle and make a long circle.  If the weather is bad, head to the mall and make several trips around the mall before you actually start shopping to get some exercise in.

Instead of snacking on cookies, candy, chips, or cakes, indulge in fresh fruits or vegetables because they are healthier for you and you are less likely to gain weight if you are eating healthier foods.  When enjoying a party at someone's house, take less than you want and stop eating when you are full.  Do not eat till you are stuffed.  In addition, eat a healthy snack at home before you go out to a party because you are less likely to eat unhealthy foods or stuff yourself.

Furthermore, if you have the choice of a small plate, use that because it takes less food to fill it.  Take your time eating your food so your body registers its full on less food and you actually enjoy the taste of what you are eating.  If you want seconds, walk around talking to people before you make your decision because it gives your body a chance to determine if it is full.  This can take up to 20 minutes.

Watch the amount of alcohol you drink at a party.  Most alcoholic drinks, including eggnog have lots of calories and it can make us eat more.  Stay in control and drink little if any alcohol at your party.  Last, drink lots of water to keep yourself feeling full so you eat less.

If you are hosting the party, have some baggies or sealable tubs out at the end so people can help themselves to the leftovers to take home rather than you keeping them.  This cuts down on what you have to eat and helps you with your weight.  This is standard practice up here in the bush.  People always take home the leftovers for later to eat.

Remember, even though it is the holiday season, you can do things to help control your weight gain even if you don't always get to the gym.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 16, 2019

More Homemade Bath Gifts

Bath, Bathroom, Bathtub, Bubble, Shower
 When I make bath gifts for Christmas, I always include body scrubs, bubble bath, and bath salts because it is more fun to give them a variety of choices.  These three items are so easy to make and people enjoy using them to relax, or escape, or just feel better.

Bubble bath isn't that hard to make.  All you need is one cup of clear unscented castle soap mixed with two-thirds cup of vegetable glycerine, a quarter cup of water, and three to four drops of your favorite essential oil.  You can add a few drops of food coloring if you want. Carefully mix the ingredients together before placing in a jar.  The car could be fancy or it could be a mason jar with a lid and finished off with a ribbon tied around it.

Some people prefer a simple bath salt that is easy to make.  For this, you need three cups of Epsom salts, two cups sea salt, half a cup of baking soda, and two or three drops of essential oils.  Begin by mixing the two salts together until completely blended, sprinkle in the essential oils and mix again until there are no clumps.  Finally add in the baking soda before pouring in to decorative glass jars.

If you mix up two different bath salt recipes like cinnamon and vanilla, you can layer them in a glass jar to make it more interesting and allows the recipient to get a possible three scents.  They could have a bath with cinnamon, one with vanilla, and one with a mixed scent.

There is also a milk bath mix that is quite easy to make.  Take one and a half cups of powdered milk (dairy or nondairy) and mix with half a cup of Epsom salts until completely blended. If you want a colored milk bath, add in two to three drops of food coloring, mixing until the color is fully distributed.  At this point add in 5 to 8 drops of essential oils and mix well.  If you want to add a bit extra, you could add in half a cup of flower petals but make sure to let the recipient know.  Mix well and bottle in a cute bottle.

Should you want to add ground up oatmeal as an additional softener, you can add about half a cup to the mix.  It is also possible to add honey powder to the mix because honey moisturizes the skin.

Finally, I always include body scrubs because they leave you feeling so soft and clean.  In addition, they are not that hard to make.  One easy recipe is to take one cup of Himalayan Sea Salt, half a cup of olive oil or favorite oil, and a few drops of essential oils.  Carefully add the oil to the salt, one teaspoon at a time until the mix has reached the desired consistency.  Add the essential oil, mix and place in a bottle or jar.  Note the oil in this mixture can make the bathtub slippery.

Another nice scrub mixes one cup of brown sugar mixed with half a cup of melted coconut oil and bottle.  This mix is great for softening elbows and other rough patches of skin.

Have fun creating baskets for people this Christmas.  It makes a nice change from the usual gifts and is fun to do.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Make Your Own Bath Bombs For Christmas Gifts.

Bath, Bomb, Spa, Luxury, AromatherapyMost women and some men enjoy soaking in a nice bath to relax, unwind, or indulge but they often want something a bit more than hot water or bubbles.  Something a bit more sophisticated with excitement.  Bath bombs meet this description.

Bath bombs are solid balls when added to water begin fizzing adding movement, color, and fragrance.  As the bomb fizzes, it breaks apart, dissolving into the water.  Bath bombs add a bit of oil to the water, often countering the harsher nature of a few ingredients.

Overall, bnthbombs are used for enjoyment, not really for improving your skin.  On the other hand, bath bombs use readily available ingredients and are cheaper to make than buy.  

One Christmas, I made baskets of bath products for my female relatives and included bath bombs because they are so easy to make.

Bath Bombs - Makes about 12.

You need:
8 oz  baking soda
4 oz Epsom salt
4 oz corn starch
4 oz citric acid
2.5 Tblsp Coconut oil
1 Tblsp water
a few drops essential oil
4-6 drops of food coloring

12 to 18 silicon molds you can get at most craft stores.

Step 1.  Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl.  Mix the ingredients completely so there are no clumps.

Step 2.  Mix the coconut oil, water, essential oil and food coloring in a separate container. It is suggested you put them in a small jar and shake until totally mixed.

Step 3. Slowly, very slowly add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir. If anything starts to fizz, slow it down.  It is recommended the wet liquid be added to the dry ingredients one teaspoon at a time.  The mixture should resemble damp sand with few clumps.

Step 4. Immediately stuff the mixture into the silicon molds.

Step 5.  Let the bombs sit for up to 24 hours and then pop them out.

Step 6.  Individually wrap the bombs and you are ready.

Note:  If you want you could add biodegradable glitter if you want sparkle in your water.   Furthermore, make the dozen bombs at once, otherwise, the mixture can dry out too fast.

There are a few things you need to know about bath bombs.

1.  As time passes, bath bombs become less fizzy and if you wait too long, they won't fizz at all.  It is recommended a bath bomb be used within 21 days of it being made to get the most enjoyment.  Furthermore, the scent also decreases over time as it dissipates.

2. It can take up to five minutes for the bath bomb to quit fizzing and be totally dissolved.  It is recommended people wait until they quit fizzing to get in.

3. If the bath bomb has glitter in it, the glitter can sometimes stick to the tub.  Use shower gel to get it off.

4.  Bath bombs were invented in 1989 as an alternative to bubble baths.

Have fun exploring and playing with making your own bath bombs.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The History of Christmas Caroling.

Christmas Carolers, Gentlemen CarolersAlthough fewer people wander through neighborhoods singing Christmas carols, you can still find groups providing vocal music at parks, malls, and other places to spread the holiday spirit.

Most the of the songs played are ones we know by heart because we grew up hearing them again and again.  Sometimes we hear them over the radio, the television, off of youtube or maybe even streaming.

In order to discuss Christmas Caroling, we have to look back in history to see how carols and Christmas became connected.

No one is sure when caroling began. It is said that the original Carols dating back to the fourth or fifth century were written to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and were written in Latin but they were not associated with Christmas until the 13th century. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with integrating this music into Christmas services.  These bright cheerful songs made a wonderful change to the traditional music of the time.

It is also said that St. Francis of Assisi incorporated music into his Nativity play in Italy.  The songs were sung in Latin or in the viewer's native language so they could join in and it was said this was a way to get the carols into the communities to share the birth of Christ and these carols that spread across Europe.

It is also believed groups going out to sing carols in Churches and neighborhoods were carrying on a historical tradition of the poor who sang for food or drink.  Others say groups went door to door singing because they were not allowed to perform in church while another group said the tradition did not begin until the 16th century when Christianity incorporated several Pagan traditions including wassailing.

Wassailing is a thick spiced drink given to travelers to keep them warm but over time the tradition became associated with caroling and Christmas.  According to one source the original carols were passed down verbally from generation to generation and people did not begin writing these carols down until the 1500's but I don't know how true the claim is.  There was a time in England between 1649 to 1660 when Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas celebrations because he believed it was a serious holiday and should not be celebrated the way it was.

Even after Christmas returned to the joyful celebration, caroling was not as popular as it had been.  It wasn't until the 19th century when Victorian society enjoyed the Christmas hymns. At this time, many new carols were written and joined the old favorites sung in church and taken to the streets.  These songs were published in books sold in stores to anyone who wanted them.  It was easy for groups to get music to go caroling. The enjoyment of caroling has continued since then.  According to a recent survey, about 16 percent of the American population still carols at Christmas time.

So as you can see, the history of caroling is interesting.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Handmade Soap For Gifts.

Soap, Soap Bars, Handmade, Cake MouldOften times, I"ll make bars of soap to give everyone at Christmas because it is easy and it is something people use. Soap can be the usual squarish shape or it can be something like the soap cupcakes in the picture for today's column.

The other thing about making soap is you have your choice to make it completely from scratch or save time by buying the bases and customizing the mixtures to create fancy bars of soap.

I admit, I tend to begin with the bases because I do not want to work with lye.  I'm scared of lye but I know people who regularly make their own soap from scratch.  I'll be talking about making soap both ways so you can choose the method you are more comfortable with.

First is the method I use.  I pop into Hancocks,  Michaels, Jo-ann's, Hobby Lobby, or other store that stocks all sorts of craft items.  I look for the bars of soap base designed to be melted and poured into molds.  So here are the steps to using these.

Soap using the purchased base.
1. Cut the base into small pieces and place in a microwavable container.
2. Cover the container with plastic wrap
3.  Place in the microwave and heat for one minute. Take it out and stir the mixture.  If it is not melted, cover and microwave again for no more than a minute.  Repeat until the mixture is completely liquid.
4. Add in the essential oil at a 0.4 ounce to one pound of soap ratio.
5. Add the soap safe colorant by the drop.
6. This is where you would add the oatmeal, lavender, cinnamon bits, etc.  Don't add too much.
7. Stir carefully til mixed and pour into the soap molds.
8. Let cool for several hours till ready.

Second, there is the cold pressed soap.  This is the one you might think of when you decide to make your own soap from scratch.  Most people now use oils rather than tallow or lard because they are so much easier to find. The ratio of the oils changes depending what you want the final product to be but you can use certain basic recipes with minor changes.

This is also the method you need to have a scale because it's all done in ounces or pounds.  Your ingredient weights need to be accurate.  The area needs to be properly ventilated.  You also need to use safety glasses and rubber gloves.

There are a couple of ratios for oils that one can use.  First is a 34/33/33 or 34 percent olive oil, 33 percent coconut oil, or 33 percent palm oil. The other possibility is 30/30/30/10.  The 30 precents are for coconut oil, palm oil, and coconut oil with the last 10 percent being sweet almond oil, mango butter, shea butter, or rice oil or a mix.

This website has an easy to use lye calculator so you can input the types of oils, amount of final product, and it tells you how much lye and water you need for the mixture.  It is easy to use.  If you plan to make your own soap from scratch it is recommended you use a lye calculator to make sure all the proportions are correct.

For the 30/30/30/10 recipe you need:
5 oz mango butter
15 oz olive oil
15 oz coconut oil
15 oz palm oil
7.19 oz lye
16.08 oz water

Before starting, make sure you have everything out and have all the oils weighted.  Use your safety glasses and gloves through the whole process.

1. Measure the lye carefully.
2.  Add the lye slowly to the water, never the other way around. Make sure there is a lot of air circulation.
3. Stir the lye mixture carefully and slowly unto the lye is dissolved.
4. Let the lye mixture cool.
5. Measure and heat any solid oils until totally melted.
6. Add liquid oils to the melted solid oils and stir together.
7. When both the oil mixture and the lye mixtures have cooled to about 100 to 110 degrees F, slowly pour the lye mixture into the oil mixture until it begins to thicken.
8.  Add the fragrance and color at this point.
9.  When totally mixed, pour into molds and let set for a couple of days to solidify.
10. Cut into bars and let set for a couple more weeks to age it properly.
11.  Wrap the bars and you are done.

Be sure to use the lye calculator for cold pressed soaps because it allows you to calculate the amount of lye needed for any mixture of oils you have around.  There are other lye calculators out there but this one is fairly easy to use.

I would also suggest you read up more on making cold pressed soaps from different websites to see if they have a recipe you'd prefer to make.

I love making soap for Christmas because it is one gift everyone can use. My sister-in-laws put the handmade soap in their guest bathrooms.  Let me know what you think because I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

Female Code Breakers of World War II

Feldpost, World War I, LettersAnyone who has read about World War II knows that women stepped in to take over certain jobs so men could head off and fight overseas.We know of Rosie the Riveter, the poster girl for women but how much do we know about the women who made a huge difference by cracking both German and Japanese codes to help the Americans win the war.

At the end of 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, the government sent out mysterious invitations to women attending the top women's colleges of the time.

Specifically, it was the Navy who wanted women to work as cryptoanalysts or code breakers in their intelligence division.  Prior to this, the Navy had been recruiting males from elite colleges and after finding success, they decided to see how women would work out. By the spring of 1942, about half of the first group of women recruited finished the training and reported to a cramped basement in downtown Washington, D.C. for work.

 At about the same time, the Army met with representatives of these same prestigious universities to recruit women to work in their code-breaking facilities because there was a shortage of qualified people for this type of work.  In fact, with all the men fighting overseas, women who met the criteria to be code breakers were also in short supply.  This is the first time, women were in such demand.

All the women who joined the intelligence community knew they'd never receive credit for their work and that they'd face the full effects of the wartime secrets act should they talk about their code breaking work.  Many of these women had plans to escape should someone pay way too much attention to them.  Some said they sharpened pencils and emptied trashcans should they be asked what they did.

In the end, over 10,000 women were recruited to codebreak and it turned out these women formed one of the most successful intelligence efforts in history.  During the war these women ran machines that had been converted to code breaking machines, kept track of public speeches, shipping manifests, ship names, enemy commanders all used to break messages.  In addition, women worked as translators, managed small systems, broke some major codes.

In fact these women broke exploited, and rebroke codes while testing all new codes designed by the Americans to make sure they were solid.  Although the Navy refused to let women go overseas to participate in the war, the Army sent women to the Pacific to work as radio intercept operators.  Some women created fake radio messages misdirecting the Germans so they didn't know about the Normandy invasion

Neither Germany nor Japan believed in using their women for anything other than for making babies so they didn't even think of recruiting women to break codes or using them to listen in on radio transmission to obtain information for troop movements, pending attacks,  and all sorts of other information.  In addition, the women who worked for the United States advanced the signals transmission or reading the enemies coded transmissions, laid the foundation for cyber security,  and the modern computer industry.

The work these women did shortened the war and helped America win it.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Please remember that Pearl Harbor was bombed 78 years ago tomorrow.  I have a relative who is 95 and was a high school senior in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. There are a few veterans still alive who were there but they are passing with each year.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

How Important Is Balance to Aging?

Design, Son, Older Woman, Mother, SeniorFor the longest time, I tried to get my mother to go out and walk.  Walk to the store, to the library, anywhere as long as she'd move.  She kept telling me she didn't need to walk everyday because she was in good shape.  Along the way, she and dad had to move into a care facility because they could no longer live on their own.

The place offered exercise classes several times a week.  I tried to get my mother to go but again she refused.  She'd tell me she was in good shape, or those classes were for people in wheelchairs.

Then she fell and did something to her knee and found herself in a walker.  Again, I tried to get her to go to the exercise classes but she wouldn't because she wasn't in a wheelchair yet.

Unfortunately, as we age, we have to keep exercising and working on retaining our balance so we are less likely to fall.  In addition, bone density decreases, people loose strength, and when people do fall and hurt themselves so it takes longer to recover.  Surprisingly, the process begins around the age of 25 rather than when people are older.

Our brains are important to our sense of balance and as we age, we often become less active, causing our brains to loose some cognitive ability.  Furthermore, we can no longer carry out as many tasks as before and it shows when people stop moving to talk.  Furthermore, the amount and type of information provided by our brains also decreases.  In other words, as our eye sight declines, we often misinterpret what we see and we misjudge things so we fall more often.

Another way information is not longer transmitted correctly is when our joints and feet are no longer accurately providing information due to swollen joints, poor flexibility, or poorly fitted shoes.  In addition, certain medications can cause us to be less stable than before.

The good news is that we can do things to help delay the natural deterioration.  One thing we can do is to moderately exercise at least 150 minutes every day or average 30 minutes each day.  At the end of one exercise session, you should feel a bit warm and be slightly out of breath.  You should include balancing exercises via yoga as part of your regular workout.  In addition, you should also do weights to help keep and build strength.

Here are some suggestions to help you age gracefully and counter the effects of aging.

1.  Keep moving.  Get up and move around so you are not sitting all day.  You might want to practice standing up from a sitting position without using your hands, or stand on one foot while standing by the counter.

2.  Take a walk every single day.  Start with what you can do and then over time increase the time and  the distance so you are walking longer and further.  Vary the route you take so it is not the same one each day.  I am unable to walk every single day here in Alaska but I have several DVD's which allow me to walk at least a mile and often more inside the house.  It is hard to walk outside in a blinding blizzard.

3.  Practice some specific exercises designed to improve your balance such as standing on one foot for 30 seconds or more, then change to the other foot, or raise your weight up until you are standing on your toes, then lower your feet so they are flat on the floor.  Repeat the exercise 10 to 20 times and to increase it's difficulty, do this with hand weights.  Walk forward placing heel to toe as if you are walking on a tightrope.  This is a great exercise for improving your balance, or practice squating into a chair and then stand up again.

4. Take up Tai Chi because this Chinese exercise form is great for developing balance in both healthy and ill people.  Tai Chi is great because it is designed to focus on slow movements which in turn help balance.

If you just do a few things every day, you can delay the natural decline our bodies go through as we age.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Where To Go In December.

Freezing, Landscape, Frozen, ColdDecember is the month when people plan to travel home for the holidays. I already have my tickets for that and I've squeezed in a trip to Iceland because I want to see it in the Winter.  There are some wonderful places for people to check out during the month of December.

Of course, many people travel to enjoy the holiday spirt, go to warmer places, or just to travel.  Due to my job, I only have a couple times a year I can do this so I choose places on my bucket list.

Cologne, Rhine, Dom, Germany, LandmarkCologne, Germany comes highly recommended due to its Christmas spirt.  There are seven, count them, seven holiday markets spread throughout the city.  There are two you do not want to miss.  First is the Cathedral Market known for having the biggest Christmas tree in the area and next is the Angel's Market where you can enjoy eggnog and watch all the people dressed as angles.  In addition, Santa comes through once a week on horseback.

St Thomas, Virgin Islands, BuildingsIf you prefer a warmer location, check out St. Thomas in the American Virgin Islands.  Since it is associated with the United States, you don't need a passport and at this time of year, most visitors arrive by ship so you can find cheap fares and great deals on hotel rooms. In addition, December is not in the Hurricane season and it's still warm enough to enjoy swimming or scuba diving. Try to plan your trip around December 15th because that is the day of the St. Thomas Lighted Boat Parade where boats are judged on holiday decorations, lights, and originality.

Kinkaku Ji, Snow, Backlight
Although Kyoto, Japan is not normally associated with Christmas, the town has some wonderful celebrations leading up to the New Year.  December is filled with small markets where you can buy ceramics and handicrafts, enjoy seasonal food, and you can visit an enchanted bamboo forest filled with lanterns.  If you can stay over into January, you can experience the bell ringing event on New Years.

Rockefeller Center, New York CityOn the other hand, you can plan a trip to New York City so you don't have to leave the United States. New York City offers holiday window displays people can enjoy as they stroll down Fifth Avenue or head over to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center to enjoy a lap around the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.  If you wander down to the subways, you can listen to live performances by the musicians who provide their music.

If you'd rather leave the United States but do not want to go very far, head for Quebec City in Canada because in December the city is covered in snow and resembles the iconic Christmas Village.  With its cobble stone streets and small, densely packed store fronts, you feel as if you'd traveled back win time.  This is the month, the old part of the city is filled with wreaths, carolers, and a real German Christmas Market.  Enjoy all the activities while enjoying hot food and drink from the stores lining the streets.

Of course, one can enjoy Albuquerque, New Mexico with its warmer weather.  On December 7, one can enjoy the Twinkle Light Parade or wait till December 24 to experience the Old Town Luminaria Tour and stop by the Biopark Botanical Garden for its River of Lights which is the states longest walk through a holiday production with tons of sparkly lights.

Antarctic, Animal Life, Wildlife, PolarDecember is the perfect month to visit Antartica.  No it is not cold, or at least winter cold.  Since it's in the Southern Hemisphere, it is summer down there and the perfect time to watch Penguin chicks hatch, enjoy whales swimming by and enough ice melts so cruise ships can pass through and people can enjoy trips in the area.  You might also want to enjoy a quick trip in the sea by kayak or even a polar plunge.  Imagine being able to add this destination to your list of where you've been.

Iceland, Reykjavik, HallgrimskirkjaLast but not least is Reykjavik, Iceland with its wonderful shows of the northern lights, a huge Christmas tree, a public skating rink, and 13 Santa's who roam around town.  I'll be going after Christmas and I'll be there for New Year's.  I'll be taking lots of pictures and sharing them with you at the end of the month.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these places.  I hope your December goes well.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.