Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Functional Fitness

When the weather gets bad, I pull out my DVD collection so I can continue getting exercise, even on bad days.  I pulled out one and on it the instructor mentioned that we were doing "Functional Fitness", a term I'd never heard of.  

Functional fitness is defined as exercises to help train your muscles so you can do normal activities safely.  When exercising, your muscles are trained to work together by recreating movements you might do in your daily live at home, in sports, or during sports.

Exercises performed during functional fitness prepare a person for real life so if you pick up a 50 pound child, you won't pull a muscle.  Furthermore, it combines balance with strength, range of motion, and mobility so you can twist and turn without injury.  To aid this, functional fitness focuses on attaining core stability to help with posture and balance. An example of one exercise one can do for functional fitness are squats because they train lower body muscles for sitting in or getting up out of chairs, or squat down to pick up something on the ground.  

The nice thing about functional fitness is that it can be done at home or in the gym.  It might involve high intensity training, use dumbbells or resistance bands, or rely on body weight such as in sit-ups, pushups, or planks.  Furthermore, functional exercises tend to use multiple joints and a wide variety of muscles.  When done properly, these exercises can help reduced any chance of injury, improve your ability to carry out everyday activities, and make life easier.

It is strongly recommended that older people look at incorporating functional fitness into their daily routine so as to help them improve balance, muscle strength, and improve movement so as they age, they decrease their risk of falling and injuring themselves.

Tai Chi and yoga offer great movements for functional fitness such as ones that focus on balance, resistance, and flexibility.  It is also possible to take regular movements such as lunges and instead of always lunging forward, perform the lunge movements in multiple directions.  

If you are just starting out, one should ease into functional training just as one would ease into any new form of exercise.  In addition, at the beginning one should rely on exercises that use one's body weight to provide resistance rather than using extra resistance.  It is not the same as working one muscle group out at a time using weights or machines.  It is combining different muscle groups to perform together because in nature, our muscles work together, not separately.  

Functional fitness is not only for the elderly.  It is for everyone so that as we age, we retain the ability to pick things off the ground, sit down, stand up, reach for things on the top shelf, twist and turn, so we don't hurt ourselves.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Walking Versus Running

Recently,  I've seen a few articles stating once can get the same benefits as running but through walking.  I'd never heard that before.  I grew up hearing running was a better way to lose weight and become fitter but I've never been into running.  I'm willing to jog occasionally but not run. 

According to some, one is not better than the other as it all depends on what you need and goals.  In addition, both are excellent forms of cardiovascular exercise.  Cardio is good for the body because it helps maintain or lose weight, improves your stamina and your immune system,  strengthens your heart, and can help you live longer.  It also helps your mental health so you feel better.

Although walking and running share many of the same benefits, running actually helps burn calories at about double the rate of walking.  If a person wants to lose weight faster, running is a good way to do it but if a person can't run, walking is good.

In regard to walking, there are several different types of walking but two are good for improving fitness and helping to lose weight.  First is speed walking in which a person travels at least three miles per hour.  This pace helps increase heart rate and provides more benefits than just going for a stroll.  If a person is walking at four to five miles per hours, it is referred to as power walking which burns about the same number of calories as a runner.

There are ways to improve the benefits of walking such as changing the pace at which you walk.  For instance, walk two miles per hour for five minutes and then increase your pace to say four miles per hour for two minutes before returning to your previous pace.  This method can increase your fitness level while elevating your heart rate.  

Another way to increase results from walking is to wear a weighted vest that is no more than 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.  The weighted vest helps increase the number of calories your body burns.  If you don't have a weighted vest, carry light dumbbells as you walk as it provides the same benefits.  It is possible to perform interval walking with the dumbbells so you have our base walk and you throw in intervals of a faster pace.  

Furthermore, one can walk up and down hills to increase calorie burn.  Walking up an incline causes the body to burn as many calories as a runner.  If you are in a flat area, check out walking machines that allow you to program for a hilly incline.  Increase the incline to five percent, then 10 and finally 15 percent for the most benefit.

On the other hand, running is a high impact exercise which can be harder on the body.  Unfortunately, running can lead to stress fractures, shin splints, ITB friction syndrome.  It has been shown that while walkers suffer a 1 to 5 percent injury risk, runners have a 20 to 70 percent injury risk.  It is suggested that runners use cross training to reduce the chance of injury.

The bottom line is to do between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate exercise every week to stay fit.  I love to walk but sometimes there is too much snow or it's too cold so I have DVD's to work out inside.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Olives - Green, Black, and More.

My father loved buying large bottles of olives, usually black, and added extra garlic to the solution.  He put it in the back of the fridge for a month or so and then enjoyed the newly flavored olives.  Once he had the bottle with properly seasoned solution, he'd keep adding more olives every time he ran out.  When he brought the olives out, the kitchen smelled of garlic. 

So growing up, we had the standard black olives and those green ones stuffed with pimentos.  Otherwise, I didn't know that anything else existed.  It was only after I left home, I discovered there was a whole world of olives out there.

Olives are actually a fruit.  They are considered drupes or fruits with a single stone such as peaches or cherries.  They differ due to their low amount of sugar with a high percent of oil.  Unfortunately olives are rather bitter until they are cured.  Furthermore, green and black olives are the same except the green ones are harvested at the beginning of the season while the black ones are picked later in the season when they are softer, darker, and riper.

Olives can be cured by soaking in a brine, or in water, or packed in salt for dry curing, or placed in lye, or left on the tree to cure.  The fastest quickest way is via the use of lye but that often leaves olives with a funny taste while olives left on the tree to cure is a rare method.  As with most other fruits, there are a variety of olives.

1.  Kalamata is considered the best of Greek table olives.  The deep purple, almond shaped fruit is often soaked in red wine vinegar, red wine, or olive oil that gives it, it's deep smokey flavor.  There are becoming much easier to find at grocery stores.

2. Castelvetrano  is the olive eaten by Italians as a national snack.  The bright green olive is classified as sweet.  The Castelventrano is from Sicily.

3. Cerignola are huge green olives from Italy.  They are crisp and their size makes them perfect to stuff.

4. Nyon olives come from France. They are small, deep purple, and wrinkled.  They are prepared by dry curing them before placing them in a brine to age.  

5. Nicoise olives are grown on "Le Cailletier" trees in France. .  These small olives are an important part of cooking on the French Rivera.  

6. Liguria also known as Taggiasca olives.  These small, greenish olives are from the most northwestern region of Italy, just on the other side of the border from the area of France that grow Nicoise olives. 

7. Gaeta olives hail from Puglia Italy.  The small, purplish, wrinkled, olives that are processed either by dry curing, or brine cured.  These olives are great in spaghetti.

8. Picholine olives are produced in France.  They are green and torpedo shaped.  They are large enough to serve as  appetizers.

9. Gordal or "Fat one" olives come from Andalusia, Spain. These light, yellowish green olives are extremely plump and large.  They are frequently used in tapas.

10. Alfonso olives are Chilian in origin but grown in an area under Peruvian control.  These deep purple olives are first brine cured before being soaked in red wine.

11. Mission olives are from the United States.  They have been grown in California since the 1700's and are thought to have come from Spain. Most of the harvest is used to produce olive oil but the rest of the green and purple olives are what we find in the supermarket in cans.

12. Manzanilla are beautiful green olives from Spain.  The brine cured olives have a smokey flavor.

13. Beldi olives come form Morocco.  These are some of the few that are regularly dry cured.  These deep purple almost black olives are rare and hard to find because Morocco only exports a few each year.

14. Amfissa are grown in the hills around Delphi Greece.  These olives are hand picked when they are nice and ripe.  They are brine cured to get a melt in your mouth softness.  

I've eaten a few of these but some I just discovered and other are a bit difficult to find here in Alaska.  I have a list I can look for when I down in places like Los Angeles.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Records Are Back! Maybe!

Recorded music has gone through some interesting iterations.  The first recording happened back in 1860 when Edouard-Leon Scott recorded his voice but he had no intention of playing it back.  However in 2008, that scientists developed the technology to heat the recording.  Then in 1877, Edison created the first "phonograph" to record sound on a cylinder. Ten years later, Emile Berliner took the invention one step further with his "gramophone" which used a flat record made of shellac.  

This new machine allowed people to record their voices and play them back.  Many famous people recorded things they'd written and the recording remained after they died including Robert Browning.  Robert Browning recorded one of his poems shortly before he died. It was considered creepy to hear the voice of a person who had  passed on.

In 1901, the Victor Talking Machine Company was founded to produce "phonographs" which were actually gramophones.  This company quickly became the leading seller of both machines and records.  Then in 1907, they introduced the Victrola which people loved because it hit both the speaker and the player in a cabinet so it appeared to be just another piece of furniture.  People loved the ability to listen to famous opera singers and by 1921 people were purchasing over 100 million records per year.  Although "Tin Pan Alley" published most of the records, control slowly made its way to the record companies.

Then in 1925, a technological advancement hit the field.  The electrical record pressing system replaced the old mechanical process.  This made it easier to produce records with a standard speed of 78.26 RPM's aka 78's and it spurred production of classical music for the consumer over the next two years.  The 78 RPM record ran between 10 and 12 inches in diameter, held one musical tract, and held between 3 and 5 minutes of music although 3 was standard.In addition, the first magazine devoted to records began publication in 1926.  It was known as "Phonograph Monthly Review." 

Furthermore, many American companies acquired or started record companies that have lasted for almost a century.  For instance, General Electric purchased the American section of Marconi Wireless and renamed it the "Radio Corporation of America" better known as RCA who purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929.  Throughout the roaring twenties, we have Deutsche Gramophon, Decca, and EMI.  In the early 1930's EMI opened the world famous Abbey Road Recording studio in London. 

Although the 78 was standard in the late 1920's, a company introduced the long playing album with a speed of 33 1/3 RPM which was the same speed used by films but it didn't take off on it's own because the original albums offered a compilation of 78 RPM tunes.  Then during World War II, the government made 12 inch vinyl 78 RPM records that played an extended seven minutes of music instead of the previous 3 minutes.  The government did this to help soldiers who were off fighting for our country.

In addition, prior to World War II, records had been made out of a resin but the war caused a shortage of this material so companies switched to vinyl which turned out to be better in the long run because vinyl allows for narrower grooves so the length of the recording jumped. Furthermore, vinyl also allowed for clearer recording with less background noise.

About 3 years after World War 2 ended, Columbia introduced the 12 inch 33 1/3 RPM record which held 20 minutes of music on each side and this new record took off.  In addition, during World War II, the Germans invented a process to record people on magnetic tape so Adolph Hitler could be heard everywhere by just recording his speeches and having them played across the nation.  This technology became the widely accepted tape recorder after the war when an Army Engineer used it to create longer music.  The long playing album and the tape recorder replaced the old 78 because you could now get full length concerts to listen to.  

Records continued being popular till the 1980 when alternative forms of recordings such as CD's took over and the number of records decreased through the early 21st century.  The didn't disappear completely because they were used by radio stations and jukeboxes but CD's commanded a higher market share.  Then in the late 2000's or early 2010's something happened.  

People discovered records again.  A couple years ago, our local Barnes and Nobel bookstore, had one of their employees play music from records all day to introduce the fact they were starting to carry them again.  Fortunately for me, the employee had lots of really nice vintage songs by lot's of the greats from the 1960's.  

The numbers of records sold began increasing around 2010.  Each years more and more were sold until in 2019, the numbers of records sold set a recent record, outselling CD's.  So it appears that records have made a serious comeback and people who were around years ago and kept their records are now happy as they don't have to start from scratch. Are you one of those who kept their records? Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Different Breakfasts For Different Folks

 Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day.  Everyone has something different.  For some people, it is cold pizza from the night before, while others enjoy toast, pancakes, eggs, and bacon.  I usually have either cold cereal with yogurt or a thick fruit filled cake with tea.  When I was growing up, my mother alternated rice with oatmeal.  I've had both either plain, with raisons, with cinnamon, with milk  and sugar, or milk and butter, or just butter and sugar.

Most countries have breakfast foods that are associated with them.  For instance, if you think of Australia, you think of Vegemite on toast.  Vegemite is a yeast byproduct left over from beer making and flavored with vegetables and spices.  I can tell you from experience, that Vegemite can take a bit to get used to.

In Japan, you might have rice with green tea, or rice with boiled fish and miso.  Either is a great flavorful breakfast.  On the other hand, in Myanmar, you might be served a fish broth with rice noodles and flavored with lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and onions.  This is sometimes served with fried fish cakes.  If you decide to have breakfast in Malaysia, you might have a plate with coconut rice, surrounded by anchovies, peanuts, a boiled egg, and hot sauce.  

Head over to the Philippines for rice with some sort of meat for breakfast.  They like rice and hot dogs, or rice and dried beef, or rice and spam or rice and meat.  In Pakistan, you'll enjoy a fried unleavened bread served with a chickpea stew, and a surgery treat such as a slice of tahini loaf.  

If you have breakfast in Europe, many countries offer bread with butter, jams, or cheese.  Some offer yogurt and muesli or granola, or eggs to go with the bread.  When I visit Europe, I always go for bread, cheese, and tea for breakfast as I enjoy European breads.

On the other hand, breakfast in England, Ireland, and Scotland tend to either offer porridge aka oatmeal, or eggs fried in lots of grease, served with canned baked beans, toast, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, and sausages.  In the Middle East, you might have a flat bread with a cheese like Feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and possibly a local sausage.

In many Central and South American countries, you might have some sort of bread or corn tortilla with eggs, cheese, and beans.  I had the bread, eggs, cheese, and beans when I stayed at a hotel in Costa Rica.  It was great and I loved it.  Foods made out of corn were so much better for the most part than anything I found at a local bakery.  

There are also countries which offer a bread that is stuffed, or similar to Danish pastries, or croissants to enjoy with fruit and a strong cup of coffee or tea.  So where ever, people have breakfast, it is usually something that is solid and delicious.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Who Was Jeremiah G. Hamilton?


Although this man found a place in history, there are no surviving photographs or paintings of him, yet he left his mark.  The man,  Jeremiah G. Hamilton,  was born around 1806 in Haiti at least according to his death certificate but newspaper articles claimed he'd been born in Richmond, Virginia to free parents.  Yes, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding his early years. 

It is known that Jeremiah was well educated, fluent in French, extremely literate, and filled with ambition, more so than many have, even today.  He also used his past as he chose and adjusted it to his need.  Furthermore, his path to Wall Street curved in unique ways.  At the age of 21, he transported a load of counterfeit coins from Canada, through the United States, to Haiti for a group of New York businessmen.  The Haitian government got wind of it but he got away.  If he'd been caught, he'd have been shot because Haiti charged and tried him in absentia.  The judge sentenced him to death when convicted. 

He remained hidden in Haiti for twelve days with a price on his head before hopping on a ship and sailing off to New York City.  By the time of the Great Fire of 1835, Jeremiah resided there with a rented office on Wall Street.  It is said he took advantage of the fire to acquire $5 million from many of the victims.  He then invested in real estate by purchasing 47 different lots in the present day area of Astoria.  In addition, he bought wharves, docks, and more land in Poughkeepsie.  

Jeremiah G. Hamilton began making deals with other businessmen.  They thought Jeremiah would be an early mark but he played hard and was more aggressive and ruthless than the others.  In fact, he took people to court on a regular basis and became known for it.  Furthermore, insurance company refused to insure him after a few of his ships sank and he collected.  In 1843, one insurance company accused him of trying to con them out of $50,000.  Eventually, they dropped the case but he managed to accuse them of sending someone to try to drown him in the East River.

He wasn't having much more luck when dealing with the stock market.  The secondary stock market threatened to expel any member who bought or sold stock for him by 1845. Although, newspapers suggested members of the stock market didn't want to deal with him due to the color of his skin, that really wasn't true.  Furthermore, he didn't let anything stand in his way to acquiring and increasing his fortune.  Throughout his life, he kept on fighting and it didn't bother him to stand up to his enemies.  During one case, he object to a witness to the point that when the judge, Jeremiah, and the witness took their argument out into the hall and all three ended up in an altercation.  

In addition, he lived his life straddling two worlds.  At work, he was in charge.  He made deals, he made money, and was on top of everything but at night, he had to live his life as a second class citizen due to being black.  Although, he had aspirations to be better than other African Americans and he took pains to try to distance himself, he couldn't because he was classified by the color of his skin. 

This didn't stop him from associating with white society, nor did it stop him from marrying a young white woman who had his first child when she was no more than 15 and he about double her age.  Together they had 10 children and stayed together some 40 years until he died. All through the Civil War, he continued his manipulations so the money people lost to speculation, he managed to gain from the same deals.  It wasn't until after the Civil War ended that he finally gained some respectability as a millionaire until his death.

He made history because he became the first African American broker and  millionaire on Wall Street which up to that point had been inhabited strictly by white businessmen.  When he died in 1875, it is said he had a fortune of over $2 million which is $250 million in today's dollars.  It took a long time before another African American succeeded on Wall Street like he did.  There are no visual records of the man but there is a great paper train.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to her.  Have a good day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Pin-up!

The pin-up girl is projecting an image. One where she is flirtatious but independent, teases but is never risqué, She is sexy without being exposed and she kept our men going through world war II.  

Betty Gable, an actress from the 30's and 40's, was one of the most popular pin-up girls from the second world war.  She was extremely popular.  In fact, she was so popular, you could find her picture all over the world, where ever American soldiers ended up.  She was not the only one, just one of many.

Pinup girls have been around a little while int he form of advertisements showing beautiful women who worked in Burlesque.  Although women often partially undressed during a burlesque performance, she never fully stripped.  This type of advertising began in the 1860's or so and provided some of the early pin-ups for society.

The next wave appeared on calendars in the early 1900's.  At this point, the calendar had one picture with the month and date part at the bottom.  In 1903, interest perked up when a female was featured instead of George Washington or a business.  "Cosette", by modern standards shows nothing, but back in 1903 would have gained attention.  She appears to be wearing little but possibly a skin tight body suit with twinkly things covering her vital parts.  with a background of feathers around her head and she is seated on a stool.

About the same time, artist Charles Dana Gibson created drawings of the "ideal" woman from her hair all the way down to her toes. The woman had the perfect hourglass figure, luscious hair piled on top of her head, and kissable lips  but she was independent and that was appealing to many.  She became the icon for her times and her picture was hung on walls because it was the only way, anyone could have her.

At the time, Charles Dana Gibson created the drawings, he worked for Life Magazine as an artist.  As part of his job, he drew "The Gibson Girl" for different covers of Life Magazine.  In addition, the covers were so popular that other magazines such as Century Magazine, Puck Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine created their own version of the "Gibson Girl" and ran them until 1932. 

The government used the idea of pin-up girls to help get men to enlist during World War I.  They'd often dress a female in a sexy version of the male uniform and include a phrase such as "I wish I were a man, so I could join the Navy".  Although they are a type of propaganda, the women made men dream because they were perfect.

Once the war ended, and the "Roaring 20's" began, the pin-up ideal changed so she became more free-spirited with her shorter skirt, bobbed hair, who drank and smoked, and showed skin.  She escaped the restrictions of society and lived her life as she pleased.  Many, many women tried to emulate these dream women but they never quite made it.

Many of these pin-up girls appeared on the cover of fledgling movie magazines because they discovered these teasing pictures brought people to watch movies.  So during the 1930's, female stars were painted in costumes and positions that teased the man and by the 1940's when World War II broke out, they were in a position to step in to help the government make pin-ups to increase recruiting and for men to take with them overseas. 

These pin-up girls communicated to men that these girls were worth fighting for.  Men had these pin-ups in submarines, tucked into pockets, and hung in barracks. In addition, beautiful pin-up girls graced all the planes.  They kept the men going through it all.  In addition, many of these pin-up girls were shown doing every day chores but in a sexy way.  The whole pin-up industry reached it's pinnacle during World War II.  

After World War II, the pin-up girl went from being drawn by an artist to appearing in photographs.  In 1953, Hugh Hefner founded Playboy magazines which featured women in the center fold.  In addition, these women went from showing little to being naked as times changed and he pushed limits.  Now one can find pin-ups of women on motorcycles, next to mining equipment, and other scenarios found in calendars and magazines.  

There is a a movement to bring back the vintage pin-up.  You can find videos on how to recreate the look and have pictures taken in the style. Where does it go from here?  Who knows.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Donut Dollies.

Imagine if you will.  World War II has broken out and being female, you want to do your part.  So you go down to your local Red Cross to volunteer.  They are organizing club mobiles for use in Europe among other places.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, the Red Cross jumped into action. Under a 1905 act, the government required the Red Cross to supply aid to the wounded and sick during the time of war.  In addition, they were charged to uphold communication between United States citizens and the military.

At the time, the government declared the Red Cross would be the only civilian organization to work over seas with the military.  Consequently, the Red Cross was charged with keeping the morale of the troops assigned overseas, especially Europe, up.  In the beginning, Red Cross volunteers manned canteens, helped out at transportation hubs, to provide food and entertainment for servicemen heading overseas as they mobilized.

Due to the number of military members being sent overseas, the Red Cross needed to increase the number of volunteers helping out.  They created a sophisticated campaign t attract a higher class of women.  In fact, their requirements were more stringent than those for joining the military.  Women had to be at least 25 years old, have a college degree, have an outstanding personality, provide extremely good reference letters, and pass a physical exam.  They were so picky that only one in six women who applied, made it into training. They wanted women with the right look, the ability to talk to any soldier on any topic from baseball to music, and be able to make and take wisecracks.

Upon being accepted, women traveled to Washington, D.C. for about six weeks of training at the American University.  While there, they learned about history, policies and procedures for the Red Cross, were immunized, received and were fitted for their uniforms,  and learned about the military in detail.  In addition, they had to learn all the rules contained in a 10 page document covering every aspect of their uniform from pinning collars to no jewelry. 

Once they completed their basic training, they learned more about recreation and administration. When they finished all their training, they worked in Washington, D.C. until they received orders to go overseas. Per a suggestion by a retired United States General, the Red Cross created club mobiles to be used in Europe.  These club mobiles were actually single decker lime English Green Line buses outfitted with coffee and doughnut making equipment, along with chewing gum, cigarettes, newspapers, and magazines. The Donut Corporation of America donated over 450 donut making machines.  

In addition, they had phonograph systems to play music, records, and speakers. There was also a lounge in the back of the bus where soldiers could hang out and talk.  Each bus has three American Red Cross volunteers assigned and they got the nick "Donut Dollies" since they had to make a lot of doughnuts.  In essence, these girls in the club mobile provided soldiers with a little bit of home they missed.  Aside from the women, the men loved the doughnuts and coffee offered.  Although each machine could produce 48 dozen doughnuts every hour, it was not enough to keep up with the demand of the soldiers so the Red Cross needed to set up central bakeries so they had enough donuts.

If you wonder, in December 1944, 205 women served over 4.5 million doughnuts to service men stationed in the United Kingdom. The Red Cross club mobiles provided recreational activities for Americans who were stationed no where near the few set up in London and such. Although the uniform was standard, the women knew how to wear a bit of perfume and lipstick to enhance the situation.  The women provided conversation to those who needed it or listened to men who wanted to talk about girl friends or family still at home.

 These club mobiles were not only found in the United Kingdom.  Beginning in June 1944, just after the Normandy invasion, many were sent over to France.  These club mobiles used converted GMC trucks manned by three American women who followed the troops as they advanced through France and Europe.  These women stayed in towns in-between visiting different basis providing doughnuts, music, talk, coffee, and music, just as they did in the United Kingdom. 

Up until VE Day, the club mobiles continued following the army through France, Luxembourg, Germany, and Belgium.  Once the war was over, they remained in Europe till the end of 1946, continuing to offer their services. Although they followed the army through Europe, "Donut Dollies" were not completely safe.  54 female volunteers lost their lives serving in Europe for the Red Cross.  

When the Korean War or the Vietnam war began, the Red Cross provided "Donut Dollies" to entertain the troops just as they did in World War II.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Keeping Your Stress Down During The Pandemic.


Unfortunately, the pandemic is making life more difficult.  Where I live we had a couple of cases pop up at the beginning of August and then another couple of cases at the end of August but it's enough to make people nervous and worried.  The school district has told us, our school can go ahead and open up as if everything is normal except the students need to wear masks and observe reasonable distancing.  We could go straight yellow or even red if we get more cases.  

In addition, we can't travel anywhere unless we are willing to undergo quarantine for 14 days due to a shortage of tests.  All this uncertainty is creating a bit more stress than normal.  You don't know what will happen tomorrow, so it's important to do things to relieve stress.

In today's world, it is strongly recommended that everyone take care of themselves both mentally and physically.   To help one's mental health, the CDC recommends people take deep breaths, meditate, and/or stress.  They also suggest people work on eating healthy meals and exercise on a regular basis.  In addition, one should get enough sleep at night, and avoid drinking too much alcohol, or using drugs.  

I've settled into a routine at work where I walk around the gym for 20 minutes straight and then do more things at night like exercising, walking, yoga, or dance for another 20 minutes to an hour.  I'm finding, it helps me keep my stress down.  I also read a lot more than I have in the past and I've been trying new recipes that look interesting.  I've always found cooking helps me relieve stress.  Exercise, reading, or cooking are not for everyone.

Another way to relieve stress and help one's mental health is to sit down and think about four things you can see, three things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.  This helps one stay in the present which cuts down on the amount of anxiety one feels.  If you don't feel like thinking about physical things, why not create a list of things you are grateful for.  One doesn't have to make a list of 32 items.  The list can be of simple things such as being grateful for it being a sunny day, or you found a beautiful flower, or have a roof over your head.  Research indicates that people who are grateful for things, tend to have more feelings of well-being.

At meal times, slow down when eating.  Take a bite of food in your mouth, taste it, chew it slowly to experience all the flavors.  Close your eyes and savor it.  When you eat slowly, you are more likely to notice you are full and you are more likely to choose healthier foods which can improve your immune system.

Furthermore, many peoples routines have changed drastically.  Rather than fight the change, take advantage of it by establishing a new routine or at least a list of certain things that must be completed each day.  I have times scheduled during the day to read, to write, to walk, and relax.  In between those, I work, I clean house, I do other things but they are not on my to-do routine.

It is also recommended that one postpone any major decisions during this time.  When one has to make a major decision during normal times, it can be quite stressful but right now the stress is way more increased.  So if one can put off making the decision, it is better.  This why they recommend you shouldn't change your hair style or get a tattoo.  

As far as work goes, you might consider saying no to taking on the extra assignments you'd ordinarily accept, especially if you are trying to work from home and raise your children at the same time.  See if you can set aside specific times for work and do not do any extra work outside of those hours.  This helps cut down on the amount of extra stress.

If all else fails, take advantage of talking to someone such as a counselor, your minister, or even call one of those mental health phone lines to help you out.  Where I work, we have a couple of different people when can talk to when things get a bit too hairy.  I haven't used them because I'm one of those people who writes it all down to release my stress.  It is nice to know they are there, just in case.

I hope these things help you.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Is Danish Pastry From Denmark?

You find it almost everywhere in the United States.  I get mine from the well known coffee place when I pick up a hot Chai. I love the cheese version but will eat any from of it.  It is my go to food when stuck in an airport when I need breakfast but don't want to spend an arm and a leg for something.  We all enjoy our Danish. 

I am used to names on foods that have nothing to do with it's origin.  Nothing at all!  I was reading a cookbook on foods from Scandinavia when I stumbled across a Danish pastry recipe where the author mentioned something about it having been brought in by an Austrian.  I read that and though hmmmm?  Really?  So off I went to look!

According to the Los Angeles Times, this particular pastry began in France back in the early 1600's when a baker's apprentice in France made a huge mistake.  He forgot to add butter to the flour when mixing up the dough so he tried to compensate by folding it in afterwards.  Instead of a total failure, the finished product turned out to be lighter than any other pastry they had at the time.   The apprentice ended up opening a cafe in Paris in 1622 where he served the "pastry of a thousand leaves".

His success lead him to open a second cafe in Florence where the Italians classified this a "folded pastry". Again this food gained so much popularity that Italian bakers took it to Austria.  This pastry made it's mark in Austria where it moved to Denmark due to a strike of Danish bakers.  The Danish bakers wanted a real wage rather than being paid in room and board. When the Danish went on strike in 1850, owners brought replacements in from Austria.  

Since they didn't know the Danish breads, they made what they knew and when the strike finally ended, the "Viennese" had a place in Danish society and the Danes had to learn to make it but they upped the fat content and added more eggs to make it theirs.  Eventually, the food became known as "Danish pastry" because the Danish bakers took it with them when the emigrated to other places including the United States where it kept the moniker "Danish".  In Germany, it is known as the "Copenhagen and in Denmark it's a "Viennese".  

The "Danish" made it's first appearance in the United States in 1915 when a Dane made them for President Woodrow Wilson's wedding.  The Dane convinced a restaurant owner to sell his pastries there and they became quite popular, spreading around the country.

It is said that the best Danish pastry is made with chilled ingredients so that as the dough is folded, the layers stay separate rather than blending into each other.  The Danish use jam, fruit, nuts, or cream as fillings for their pastry but in the United States, they prefer cheese, or a fruit jam type filling.  Furthermore, connoisseurs believe that making them by hand produces a better result than using machines.

When I visited Germany a few years ago, I saw "Danish" in the bakery but I didn't know the name for it as I spoke little to no German and the lady who waited on me spoke little to no English.  I pointed and held up fingers which she understood.  I noticed they were not quite as sweet as the ones in the United States but they were good.  One of these days I want to try making them at home.  If I do, I'll take pictures and share the results with everyone.

I hope you enjoyed learned a bit about "Danish".  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Labor Day Is Coming In The United States.


Labor Day is celebrated worldwide just as it is in the United States but at a different time.  Usually, International Worker's Day which is now known as Labor Day is celebrated on May first.  In the United States, we celebrate it on the first Monday in September instead.

Labor Day, as celebrated in the United States, recognizes the contributions made by the American worker. The labor movement in the 19th century pushed for the recognition and in 1894, this day was finally recognized.  

As the industrial revolution took place, more and more people began working 12 hour days every day of the week just to earn enough money to survive.  In addition, children as young as 5 or 6 often worked the same long days in mines, mills, and factories for way less money.  These workers often worked in unsafe conditions, with no fresh air, decent sanitary conditions, breaks, no sick leave or insurance.

The lack of decent working conditions lead to the organization of unions who pressed for better conditions, shorter hours, and benefits but it didn't happen without bloodshed.  In 1886, a gathering in Chicago turned into the Haymarket Riot when someone threw a bomb at the police.  Eight people died and  eight others were convicted of in the bombing without any real evidence.

No one is sure of who first suggested such a day.  Some say it might have been Peter J. McGuire, General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, who made the suggestion first.  While others say it was Michael McGuire who was a machinist before becoming secretary of local 344 branch of the International Association of Machinists in New Jersey.  It is said he proposed the holiday in 1882 during his time as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.  What is known is the Central Labor Union chose to accept a proposal for the Labor Day holiday and appointed members to a committee to work on it. 

 The first real Labor Day parade happened on September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid leave and marched from City Hall to Union Station in New York City. This spontaneous parade lead to others and the general idea that working men needed a holiday to celebrate their contributions.  The Central Labor Union held another parade, one year later on September 5, 1883. The idea spread across the nation but Congress refused to pass legislation recognizing "The everyday worker." At least until 1894.

On May 11, 1894, people who worked at Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went out on strike in protest to having their wages cut and all their union leaders fired.  Then on June 26, The American Railway union called on its members to boycott of all Pullman cars.  This lead to crippled rail traffic across the country.  In an effort to break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago to get things back to normal, unfortunately, it lead to a series of riots resulting in at least a dozen deaths.  

As a result of all the deaths and unrest, Congress passed the legislation necessary to make Labor Day official across the nation because they wanted to mend relations with the unions and workers.  President Grover Cleveland signed it into law on June 28, 1984 and Labor Day has been celebrated regularly since then.

In the early days, workers celebrated the holiday with parades filled with floats representing various unions.  They showed the public who they were but over the years, it has become a three day weekend for BBQ's to celebrate the end of summer, the beginning of fall, and sometimes the beginning of school.  You might spare a thought for those who helped create this holiday in remembrance of the working man.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Dogs Can Find What?

 I've been watching "Hotel Impossible" reruns. If you've never seen the show, a hotelier goes to a hotel that is trouble, redoes the lobby and a room to show what can be done, helps set up a plan of improvement and heads off.  For the last couple episodes, the hotelier has had to bring in the dogs because all the reviews mentioned bedbugs. 

Since 2011, certain dog breeds, particularly beagles who have an excellent sense of smell.  These dogs are trained to recognize the pheromones emitted by bed bugs to find them. This allows the dogs to find bed bugs that are hidden in mattresses, walls, and other locations.  

It is said that a well trained dog can find as little as one bed bug and be able to differentiate between living bugs and viable eggs and evidence from old infestations such as carcasses, empty egg shells, caste skins, and fecal spotting.  Dogs do have a limitation in that if bed bugs are above their heads and the air is flowing upwards, they may not smell the creatures.  On the other hand, they are better at identifying bed bugs in outlets, behind a baseboard, or eggs in carpet strips.  They can find bed bugs in piles of clothing, toys, or inside bed springs or furniture making an inspectors job easier.

He's used these dogs before on the show but there was an episode involving a hotel in Orlando Florida where they brought in dogs to find bed bugs and one other item.As they began renovating a room, they  found some black mold so the hotelier arranged for a dog to come in and look for mold.  They knew there was some but until the dog went through, they didn't know it was pretty much throughout the whole facility, to the point it was dangerous to the people who stayed there.  Mold sniffing dogs undergo over 600 hours of very specific training and must be re-certified annually. 

This is rather impressive because there are up to 18 different types of mold found in homes.  In the case of the hotel, there was a lot of black mold which can be quite toxic.  There are arguments agains the reliability of using dogs but they do offer advantages especially when identifying hidden mold.  Traditionally, mold is found via air sampling looking for spores but it isn't always as accurate as it could be due to air flow.  The test finds there is mold but inspectors have to identify it's physical location. In addition, thermal scanners or moisture meters can be used to find places which are ideal for mold growth but if the conditions disappear, mold doesn't.

On the other hand, mold sniffing dogs can take their handler straight to the mold infections even if it is not visible so they can tear the area apart rather than trying different locations.  In addition, dogs can cover more territory as they sniff for mold which is an advantage over the traditional methods in larger buildings.  Furthermore, they are able to find mold because they are looking for both active and inactive spores rather than conditions.  

Unfortunately, due to the height of the dog, there are areas, such as ceilings they cannot easily reach to sniff.  They are trained to identify 18 common types of mold out of the over 100 types that are potentially toxic. Dogs are not able to give quantitive data on amounts of mold present at any location.  Furthermore, dogs are not always cheap to use because the cost involved in training them has to recouped.

In addition, home inspectors are beginning to use mold sniffing dogs as part of the home inspection.  The dog is used to find locations with mold so the inspector can investigate and take samples to determine the type of mold and how extensive the infection is.  Some argue that an experienced inspector will find the mold without using a dog but others argue that the signs have to be there.  

So let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.