Monday, November 30, 2020

Will Mardi Gras Happen In 2021?

If you say "Mardi Gras" to anyone, they will instantly think of the parade that weaves through New Orleans with people in costumes and beads galore.  The "Mardi Gras" celebration has been around a very long time,  Long before New Orleans but the 2021 celebration will be different.

Marti Gras has been traced back to medieval times as it moved through Rome into France and from there to France by the 18th century.  When the  French-Canadian explorer, Bienville, arrived in 1699, he named a bit of land 60 miles south of New Orleans "Point du Mardi Gras" because it was the evening before the "Fatted Calf" holiday.

Just four years later, Mobile had their first "Beouf Gras" celebrations and in 1710 people there formed the "Beouf Gras Society which sponsored parades from 1711 to 1861.  In the Mobile parade, they had a huge bulls head, 16 men pushed down the route on a wagon but this was replaced with a real bull dressed in white signaling the beginning of lent.  It was always held on Fat Tuesday.

Bienville went on to found New Orleans in 1718.  By the 1730's the Mardi Gras tradition had been established in New Orleans but not with parades.  Instead, the Governor celebrated with society balls upon which today's Mardi Gras balls are based. It wasn't until 1781, that the first reference to a Mardi Gras "carnival" appeared in written reports. 

Celebrations expanded so by the late 1830's there are records of possessions or parades of maskers with carriages and on horseback made their way down torch lit routes in a festive mood. Within 30 years, the annual parades had floats also known as "tableau cars". Then in 1870, newspapers began printing information about events ahead of time while printing a "Carnival" edition filled with lithographs of the fantastic floats after the event because it was imperative to keep the design of your float secret until it hit the streets. Although newspapers published pictures of the floats, it wasn't until 1886, they were able to print the pictures in full detail and in color thus sharing all of the beauty and genius of the designers of the day.  

The first real King of the Mardi Gras appeared in 1872 to preside over the parade. They declared  purple, gold, and green as the official carnival colors in honor of the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff. In addition, they added the song "If Ever I Cease To Love" as the official Mardi Gras song again in honor of the Grand Duke.

Then in 1873, for the first time, all floats were constructed in New Orleans, rather than in France thus eliminating shipping and transport.  In 1875, the Governor declared Fat Tuesday as a legal holiday in the state and it remains one even to today.  The parade has had few interruptions including the pandemic back in 1918 in addition to both World Wars.  It has been stated that due to Covid-19, the parade for 2021 will not happen since it is seen as a possible "super spreader event" but the celebration will remain because Mardi Gras is a religious holiday and cannot be cancelled.

At this point in time, no one is quite sure the form 2021 Mardi Gras celebration will take as they are still working out the details.  One thing is they will most likely require social distancing, and masks.  It is important to keep an eye out to see what the final form takes.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Football + Parades = Thanksgiving Activities

As I mentioned Wednesday, my dad and brothers spent much of Thanksgiving day watching either parades, football games, or both.  I think many other houses share the same tradition and it's gotten to the point, it isn't Thanksgiving without either.  Historically, football has gone hand in hand with Thanksgiving.

President Abraham Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a National Holiday back in 1863 and in 1876 the very first Thanksgiving day football game took place when Yale went up against Princeton.  At this point, the game was moving from rugby to what we see now.

By 1900 as perfect for the Intercollegiate Football Association scheduled their playoff games for the Thanksgiving weekend.  This weekend has a history of famous clashes such as the University of Michigan versus the University of Chicago or Boston Latin versus the English High School of Boston which continue to today.  Furthermore, there were hundreds of games played over the Thanksgiving day weekend.

Around 1900, professional football started developing and they chose this weekend for their games, often scheduling games for championship titles or for big rivalry games.  When the National Football League got it's start in 1920, it chose this weekend to host up to 6 games for the population.  In 1934, the owner of the Detroit Lions began hosting games as a way to bring attention to his new franchise and this team plays one of the three games every Thanksgiving even today.  

In addition, the owner of the Detroit Lions also owned a radio station and he arranged for the first game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears to be broadcast to 94 other stations when his team lost but it began a new tradition.  The Dallas Cowboys followed this idea by arranging to have their holiday game broadcast in 1966 and they became the second team to play on Thanksgiving. 

As far as parades, Macy's held their parade back in 1924 to celebrate their flagship store and remind people that Christmas was coming.  In fact, the first parade took place first thing in the morning so spectators could head off later in the day to watch the huge Syracuse versus Columbia game.  The parade was a success and took place every year.  At first, in 1932, a local radio station began broadcasting commentary on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade but it wasn't until 1946, they switched to broadcasting it via a television.

Due to the coronavirus, Macy's will have their parade but it will only have the last part of the route just in front of Macy's store.  The parade will be broadcast as usual but place over a 3 day period so all participants are able to observe normal social distancing.  The store has cut back on the number or participants to make it easier to meet all recommendations for safety. 

As you enjoy watching you football games or the parade, remember how long these two have been broadcast and become entrenched and associated with Thanksgiving.  They are as much a part of the celebration as turkey and having relatives visit.  Enjoy your weekend.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  have a great day. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Memories of Thanksgiving.

We all know what you should have for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  It should include turkey, ham, goose, pumpkin pie, apple pie, stuffing, potatoes, candied yams, rolls, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and some sort of salad.  Every family has developed their own variations for each item or might have something non-traditional. 

For instance, my aunt would serve a stuffing filled with the usual onions, celery, spices, bread crumbs, along with added chopped apples and sweet potatoes. I really enjoyed the additions so I adopted it for me.   Other people prefer a rice stuffing with apples, pecans, or cranberries.  

As for cranberry sauce, I love picking wild cranberries and using those to make my own sauce.  The local ones are much smaller and a bit tarter and make a really awesome sauce.  Around here, they wait for the first frost before picking the cranberries because the frost makes them a bit softer and sweeter.  My parents on the other hand, always bought the cranberry sauce with and without cranberries.  

Then there is the traditional pumpkin pie which most people bake and then serve with whipped cream or cool whip but I prefer a haupia topping.  Haupia is a coconut pudding you can make from scratch or find a packaged mix.  Once the pie is out of the oven, top the pie with the haupia pudding and let everything cool together.  It adds a nice twist to the pie and if you have any folks with either dairy allergies or are vegan, the haupia meets their dietary needs. 

Dad always made the mashed potatoes.  He'd cook the potatoes with the skins till they were really soft before draining them and popping them into a bowl.  Dad then used a ton of butter as he mashed the potatoes.  Instead of milk, he used heavy cream because he felt we needed to make the mashed potatoes more festive.  At the end, he added salt and pepper to taste.  Mom always told us the skins added roughage and was healthier for us.

Mom took care of the turkey.  Since she wasn't the best cook, she always bought one of the one turkeys with the pop up sensor and she wrapped it in the bag to catch juices and steam the turkey at the same time.  She was also up quite early to get the turkey started so it'd be ready in time.  I took care of the gravy because mom could never make it without lumps, lumps, and more lumps.  I tended to melt butter in a pan, add a bit of flour before browning it, and then adding the juice to make a really awesome gravy.  The gravy always seemed to mesh perfectly with the potatoes.  

Of course they had to make the candied sweet potatoes made up of those canned yams that seem to have no taste mixed with brown sugar, spices and butter.  I think it was another aunt who used marshmallow cream in hers while one of my grandmothers tossed chopped pecans on hers.  I think this is one dish, every woman hand her own version of this recipe.  When I left home, I started with fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned because I preferred the flavor and taste.

My other grandmother always contributed a veggie dish made with celery jello and canned mixed vegetables cured in a bundt like pan.  It was what it was and everyone dutifully ate it. Dad's only contribution to the meal was the mashed potatoes since he and my brothers preferred watching football and various parades while all the women did the preparation.

If you think back to your childhood, I'm sure you have memories like this.  I'm lucky in that I never had the drunk relative who came to all the celebrations. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving day tomorrow whether you stay home and head off elsewhere.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Fitting Exercise Into A Busy Day


My days can get quite busy.  I still leave my apartment every morning, spend several hours teaching students, run a couple study halls, and spend extra time in my room so students can get caught up on things.  This means I often get home after 6 at night and I do not feel like working out but I've modified the Nike saying of "Just do it! and changed it to "Just get started!"

I purchased several DVD's with exercise routines that run between 10 and 20 minutes long.  I've discovered on the days I do not want to get started, it is so much easier to talk myself into something that is 10 minutes long than a 40 minute work out.

You might be thinking that 10 minutes is not long enough to get sweaty or get much or a workout but I ended up buying a Jillian Michaels DVD and those workouts make me wish they were shorter. You can find them using weights, resistance bands, yoga, Pilates, stretching, dancing, cardio, and so many more.

From personal experience, it is so much easier to talk myself into doing just one routine.  Just one routine and once it's done, I'm ready to put on a longer one.  Sometimes, I choose a short high impact followed by a 20 or 30 minute dance or yoga routine so I get a well rounded session.  Due to the spread of the virus, many gym facilities are closed or are at half the capacity.  Having the DVD's helps me continue exercising.

If you don't want to go that route, there are things you can do to slip exercise in here and there.  Since it is recommended you get around 30 minutes a day, it is often easier to fit it in using smaller chunks such as parking your car as far away from your place of work and walking to and from.  At lunch, walk around the building multiple times for a 10 minute stint.  I work in a building that is long and thin, so I often walk from one end to the other end a few times.

On the other hand, you might have to work from home but that won't preclude you from managing some exercise.  If you have a two story home, stairs are great for providing an all round workout by just going up and down at a quick pace. Pick up a jump rope and return to your childhood by jumping rope or buy a couple of weights for strength training. When you were a teenager, did you ever put music on and just dance to it? You can do that now.  It provides a good cardio workout but if the weather is nice, head out for long walks around the neighborhood or over to a park and use the gym equipment there.

Unfortunately due to the spread of the coronavirus, it is highly recommended that you do most of your exercising outside while observing social distancing of at least 6 feet or at home.  If you must go to a gym,  see if you can virtually check-in and try to maintain social distancing while wearing a mask if possible to provide that extra layer of protection.

Go modern and down load a workout app for your phone. They have apps for yoga, home gym workouts with no equipment, Tabata, seven minute, etc.  You have a wide choice of which one or ones you want to try.  If you don't like it, delete it and try a different one until you find the one that works for you.  

It is important to include exercise in your daily routine, even during these stressful times.  Do not put it off till tomorrow because it can turn into a habit and soon you don't exercise at all.  As I said earlier, it is sometimes easier to put a short workout on just to get you started and you can ease into longer sessions. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Friday, November 20, 2020

History Of Freeze Dried Foods

Growing up, my dad loved to take us camping.  Sometimes we'd backpack into some area, other times, we settled in a campground but no matter what, my dad never purchased those "Hiking" or "Backpacking" foods.  Everything was made from scratch except for the milk and tang.  It wasn't until I got to college that I learned about freeze dried foods designed for camping or backpacking.  Imagine, a whole meal in a small package you just added water to and heated.  

I've often wondered how freeze drying foods all began because they have been around in the form of coffee or tea for a very long time.  There is a bit of conflicting information concerning who invented it and when but most agree that the Incas and Buddist monks who lived high in the mountains used the elevation and cold nights to freeze dry their foods.  As far as the modern freeze drying techniques, it appears that several different people had something to do with it.

According to an article in the Food Technology Magazine, freeze drying was invented in 1906 by Jacques-Arsene d'Arsonval who worked at the College de France in Paris. Yet according a different source, Benedict and Manning created the first freeze dryer in 1905 which was used to dry blood tissues using a chemical pump. A third source attributes the modern process was invented by Mr. Richard Altmann in 1890.  What is clear is that the first freeze drying techniques were designed to preserve organs and tissues. 

For the most part, freeze drying was used primarily in the medical field to preserve organs, tissues, and vaccines. Freeze drying played an important part during World War II because it allowed blood to be preserved without refrigeration so medical units could take care of the wounded.  

The application of the freeze drying process wasn't used on foods until after World War II.  The first freeze dried foods began appearing during the 1950's when companies began drying foods for commercial use but it was the space program in the 1960's that provided a boost to the market.  NASA explored the use of freeze dried foods for space flights and in the process created a public desire for freeze dried ice cream.  

Until NASA requested dried foods for their program and the freeze dried ice cream which they used as a way of letting people taste "Astronaut" foods, only groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts, other outdoor groups used freeze dried foods.

Then in the early 1970's, companies utilized advertising to increase the need for freeze dried foods.  One area was to appeal to people who spent a lot of time backpacking or away from civilization because freeze dried foods were extremely light.  The move created more demand because backpacker could haul a weeks worth of foods in less space and with less weight. These companies developed products like stews, lasagna, and such  for campers and backpackers who wanted "real" foods.  Eventually, you could get just about any type of meal from breakfast to dinner.   

Now you can find freeze dried foods in your local grocery store where you can find it in those #10 cans.  These appeal to people who are prepping for various disasters or want it due to their locations.  I keep freeze dried eggs for baking because the local stores are often out and most people tend to have dried milk which is milk that has actually been freeze dried.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  have a great day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bizarre Beliefs About Sleep.


Throughout time and across the world, various groups have developed some rather weird and bizarre beliefs about sleep. My mother always told us not to eat after 7 pm or we'd never be able to sleep because our bodies were too busy digesting food and would keep us awake.  

The word nightmare is believed to have evolved from "Mara" who was an evil Germanic spirit who brought bad dreams to those it visited.  Russian and Slavic mothers put knives in the cradles of their infants to protect them from a nasty night creature.  

In ancient Egypt, the Egyptians believed they could banish nightmares by placing four statues of cobras at the four corners of the room while chanting an incantation at the same time.  They believed these statues would spit venom at any invading nightmare or creature who tried to bring a nightmare.

Furthermore, it was also believed that the gods communicated with certain people such as the Oracle of Delphi via their dreams.  In ancient mythology, Hypos was the god of sleep and brother to Thantos the god of death because it was believed that sleep and death were similar. 

In Ancient Greece, some believed that two people who slept in the same bed could experience the same dream.  The idea behind this belief was if one person was asleep in bed and had a dream, they could wake up and another person then fell asleep in the same bed, they would experience the same dream of the other person.  Interesting idea?

In addition, Plato believed that dreams originated in the liver.  He believed the liver was sensitive to changes in the body and would change shape to become sweet or bitter and would influence dreams but Aristotle thought the soul left the body and could interpret information contained in breezes.  

Early Christians believed that demons could invade a person's sleep and tempt them into sinful behavior by creating erotic dreams.  Later, beginning in the 12th century, they thought these same demons could take over a woman's body and cause her to become pregnant. The demons in this case were incubus (male) and succubus (female) and it was a strong belief.  Along the way, others began to believe that nightmares were caused by the Devil and a person having too much blood in their body.  It was recommended that people pray every night to protect them from the Devil and it's influence. 

A century or two later, people believed that wearing rubies, coral and diamonds to bed provided protection from bad dreams.  It wasn't long before opals, topaz,  and emeralds joined the list of protective jewels.  For people who could not afford these jewels, they could drink wine that had had dragons tongue or gallbladder boiled in it. If you couldn't find a dragon, you could rub the blood of a mink on your forehead for protection.

As time has passed and scientists have been able to research various beliefs, we have learned more about sleep, dreams, and nightmares.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Melatonin And Sleep.


I know we've all had one of those nights where we try to sleep but can't so we take melatonin because someone you know has recommended it.  I've got friends who say I should take it every night and others who tell you it shouldn't be taken every night.  I use it occasionally but not often because I hate relying on anything to help me sleep.

First of all, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland found in the brain.  Normally, this hormone is responsible for when you sleep and when you wake-up. Your body begins producing melatonin when the sun sets so around bedtime you are ready to sleep and then the amount decreases around sunrise so you wake up.

Unfortunately, when one is exposed to too much light, it can interfere with the production of melatonin in the body. The modern household has lots of light that is high voltage and almost imitates day. Between all the lights, the devices, street lamps, lights in the yard to protect us, we are exposed to enough light that many of us have difficulty getting to sleep at night.  

One can take a supplemental dose to help get to sleep especially if one has trouble getting to sleep at night.  It can also be taken to help get over jet lag, or sleep when a person works odd hours. It is recommended that one take melatonin one to two hours prior to going to bed.  

Although, most of the melatonin sold on the market is synthetically made, there are some possible  side effects  such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, or sleepiness when taking melatonin and it is recommended that people should not take it without consulting a doctor first because it can interact badly with certain meds. Furthermore, it is said to be safe to take melatonin every night for a short time but one should not use it for months.  

Rather than relying on melatonin, there are things one can do to help make it easier to sleep.  For instance, replace some of the light bulbs with ones that are lower wattage and begin using these about two hours before yo want to go to bed.  The lower wattage signals your brain that it is getting darker outside and your body begins to produce more melatonin.

In addition, be sure to exercise at least 30 minutes each and every day along with making sure you get outside to get a dose of natural sunlight. If the exercise is of a vigorous nature, plan to do it earlier in the day to give time for the body to calm down. One should also take a nice warm bath or shower to help relax before bed time.  If you are a person who needs a quick nap during the day, make sure it is no longer than 30 minutes in the early afternoon.  If a person takes a nap too late in the day, it can interfere with getting to sleep at night.

When you are getting ready for bed, put your electronics to bed so you have less exposure to blue light and you don't get lost checking your e-mail or social media.  In addition, make sure your bedroom is cooler than the rest of the house, preferably in the 60 to 65 degree range.  If the room is too warm, you won't sleep as well.

Try to only sleep in your bed rather than watching television, listening to music, or reading, otherwise you might find it harder to relax.  Finally, look at trying some meditation so as to calm your mind and body.  It is hard to sleep when your mind is active.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Living Through The Pandemic With Your Mind Intact.

This week, I've looked at changing our mood by smiling, working on cultivating happiness and today I'm looking at ways to survive being home with everyone due to lockdowns and other issues directly tied to the pandemic.

One major event that changed everyones lives was when schools closed and adults ended up working from home or ended up at home due to their work disappearing.  With everyone home, it is important to create sustainable routine for everyone. This schedule ranges from when to get up, have meals, attend school sessions via distance, clean rooms, etc.

Another thing to do is to not to think about all the what if's based on rising numbers in many states.  It is important to focus on where you are now rather than looking at what might be if something changes.  This type of thinking sends us away from reality and our actual situation into a fictional realm.  When you focus on what is happening in your life right now, it helps you feel more under control so you on longer feel helpless. 

In addition to looking at facts, it is important to stay flexible due to the constantly changing demands of your situation.  Look at schools who one day are meeting in person and then the next, everyone is learning from home.  This leads to a perception of loosing control which is what most people hate to face.  One way around it is to look at all the facts while staying flexible. When you look at scenarios, look at them with an objective point of view rather than the worst case so as to not lose sight of reality.  Look at the possibilities your family has for the current situation.  Furthermore, give yourself permission to change your mind as the data changes because it will always be changing. 

One should also find continuing purpose in this time of uncertainty. One should sit down and determine which personal values are most important at this time. Those are the values to focus on and share with your family.  In addition, what things do you want your kids to remember when this is over and what values do you want them to experience.  

Make sure your whole family gets physical since physical movement helps us relieve stress and feel better.   Physical movement can be as simple as walking around the backyard, or around the office or practice some Tai Chi or yoga, maybe throw some music on and just dance, or move.  Perhaps, the physical movement might be going up and down stairs multiple times.  

Finally, it is ok to be disappointed or to mourn the things that didn't happen such as your annual family holiday, a wedding, your weekly visits to a relative in a retirement home.  The thing is that we look forward to these events and are disappointed when they are taken away from us.  During this time, we have to make hard decisions to not go places and we experience disappointment but we have to accept that we are disappointed.  Then think about why we were going to the event and how we could still do it or find something else.  For instance, if you have to miss a wedding, maybe you can still attend via Zoom, or instead of going to Europe for that long awaited holiday, find videos of the place and enjoy it that way.

Our lives have changed for the past few months and will stay changed.  If we don't  make some choices, we will become depressed and that is not good.  We have to take steps to survive this pandemic intact so when it is over, we will be able to move forward.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Cultivating Happiness

We are in a time of uncertainty as we watch numbers of those infected by the coronavirus climb while many of us are worried.  If you are deemed an essential worker, you worry about being exposed to the virus because you have to work but if you are one whose job disappeared, you worry about unemployment, about surviving.  Through all this, stress levels are growing and happiness seems hard to find but it is possible to cultivate happiness in the midst of all of this.

It might seem hard to cultivate happiness or even wonder why one should try to be happy but it has been found that happiness has some real benefits.  It appears that when a person has a positive attitude, the immune system is boosted, and protection from respiratory viruses is built.

There are ways to cultivate happiness and none of them takes much.  First,  it is imperative to take extra good care of yourself and make sure to include some form of exercise.  Research has shown that taking a 12 minute walk can produce a much lighter and happier mood.  Exercise can be as simple as walking or doing light yoga if you aren't much for doing a 45 minute cardio workout.  

Next, one should begin to meditate because it fosters inner happiness by slowing down to meditate.  Meditation causes the neurochemicals that makes us feel better. In addition, it also helps reduce stress activated such as cortisol and adrenaline.  If you don't know where to start, there are several apps one could download or check the internet for websites. 

Third, work on getting enough good sleep at night.  This can be especially hard during the pandemic because you're worried about so many things but sleep is important to both physical and mental well being.  One way to regulate sleep is to set an alarm to remind you to go to bed so you go to bed at the same time every night.  I've found going to bed with a book about an hour before I want to go to sleep, helps me ease into being tired enough to sleep.  

Fourth, take advantage to technology to stay in contact with others.  Social interaction is important to staying happy because most of us have a need to interact with others.  Most humans are not made to be alone.  If any member of your family is not good with technology, teach them so they can use technology to stay in touch or make a point of calling them on a regular basis.

Then work on decluttering your house because too much clutter can get in the way of positive feelings.  In addition, one should take time to make the bed and clean up regularly so the house shines so you feel happier.  Since many offices and schools are closed, there are often more people in the house than normal and it can get cluttered quite rapidly but it is important to take the time to clean everything up.

It has been shown that when we connect with nature, we undergo less stress and have better general health.  Being in natural environments helps lower brain activity in the frontal lobes thus helping our brains to relax. Unfortunately, many of the national parks and forests are closed and one isn't able to travel due to restrictions so how do you interact with nature?  Pull up pictures!  There is research to indicate that just looking at pictures of nature can do the same thing as actually being outside. 

Finally one should be thankful for what they have.  In addition to writing down the things you are grateful for, it is important to thank everyone you interact with because you feel happier when you thank people. I realize this can be extremely difficult when life doesn't seem to be going well but when we do these small things, we can feel so much better and happier.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Does Smiling Make You Feel Better?

On one of the exercise videos I have, the instructor claimed one should smile even if one doesn't feel happy because it can change your mood to being happy. I'd never heard that claim before but it sort of makes sense but after a bit of reading, it appears that it can or it might make you feel more upset depending on the circumstances.  

If you have a job with the public and your boss says you must always smile, it might not make you feel happier because you feel forced to do it.  Some jobs will fire you if you do not provide service with a smile which can make a person feel stressed.

On the other hand, if you are not forced to smile but choose to, that is a whole different scenario.  Many, many stars have sung about the power of a smile being quite powerful but in recent research, scientists have discovered, the smile may indeed be quite powerful.  Look at the painting of Mona Lisa with mysterious smile.  People see it, smile, and remember it. 

In one experiment, people placed a pencil between their teeth so they forced their muscles to smile and the  person started feeling happier.  It was as if the muscles of the body smiling, told the body it has happier and the emotion of the person changed so they feel happier.  Psychologically, when a person smiles, it sends a activates the amygdala which is the emotional center of the brain and the amygdala releases neurotransmitters that make a person feel more positive.  It's like they feel the same reward as when you eat chocolate.  Research has indicated a smile can give you the same level of stimulation as eating 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving $16,000 in cash.  

This discovery provides some interesting applications to the area of mental health because it might be possible to trick the mind into being happier. There is a strong connection between action and perception so this is a reasonable possibility. In addition, it supports the saying of "Fake it till you make it" in regard to being happier.

So in addition to making you feel happier, it can make others feel better because smiling is contagious.  When you see a person smiling, you automatically want to smile back and you automatically begin feeling more positive.  Furthermore, when you smile, your face lights up, and you attract the attention of others so you might find the perfect mate, a best friend, or even land a job.  This is due to a smile making you seem more open and people have less fear and uncertainty about relating to you.

 Another side effect of smiling is that your brain works about 31% more effectively so if you smile at a person you have to work with, it can make collaboration or just working together more effective. What most people don't know is that the brain keeps tract of how often you smile and uses that to help judge your emotional state.

The other thing about smiling is that it provides instant feedback to everyone in a time where immediate feedback is the norm.  People don't have to think about what a smile means.  If you do well, you get a smile or you smile.  In addition, happiness is a state of being not a collection of things so the smile helps us again the state of happiness.  So rather than gritting your teeth and bearing it, smile, so the world smiles with you.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

I'm Reading.

Teddy, Bear, Sitting, Art, Abstract

"And the wee little pig cried wee!, wee!, wee! All the way home!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Is Honey Better Than Sugar?


When people want to cut down on sugar, they tend to switch to honey because it has a reputation for being healthier but is that true?  I use both, honey for putting on hot bread with butter and sugar in my breakfast cakes.  

The thing is that both sugar and honey are composed of fructose and glucose but their percentages are different.  In addition, both are composed of carbohydrates and both can cause weight game if consumed in too high a quantity.

Honey is made up of nectar collected from flowers by bees.  Honey is made up of about 40 percent fructose and 30 percent glucose combined with water.  In addition, it contains trace amounts of enzymes, amino acids, B vitamins, Vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants known as flavonoids. 

Since honey is made from the nectar of flowers, it comes in so many different flavors and colors. Some flavors are milder while others are heavier and they range from light colored to a deep dark amber.  I tend to like the milder flavored ones that are usually lighter.  No matter what, honey will cause a persons blood sugar levels to spike. 

Because honey has a higher proportion of fructose and less glucose, it has a sweeter flavor which means a person uses less sweetener but it is high in calories and may not be safe for children under a year old.  On the other hand, although sugar is also made up of about 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose.

Sugar is primarily made from sugar beets or sugar cane and must go through a multistep process to reach the granulated form we are most familiar with. If you go to a store, you'll see sugar mostly as white, brown, or raw.  The brown sugar offered in stores is actually white sugar mixed with molasses while raw sugar is a bit less processed than white.

The nice thing about sugar is that it has a long shelf life where as honey crystalizes, its lower in calories, and it naturally occurs. In addition, it is a good form of fast energy and it contains 16 calories per teaspoon while honey is 22 calories for the same teaspoon.  Sugar has a higher glycemic index than honey so it raises blood sugar a lot faster

Unfortunately, it can cause weight gain, make a person more likely to get certain diseases, and can be harder to digest.  The bottom line is that both can cause weight gain is too much is consumed, can increase dental decay, cause certain diseases, and cause blood sugar to rise and then crash.  It is strongly recommended that people watch the amount of both sugar and honey they consume. 

There are ways to reduce the amount of sugar people use.  One way is to substitute unsweetened apple sauce or bananas into your cooking so as to use less sugar.  Another way is to cut the amount of sugar required by half for sweetening drinks or on cereal.  If you are baking, reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe by one-third. Add flavorings such as vanilla or spices such a cinnamon, or ginger to add sweetness without adding more calories.

Although there are sugar substitutes such as saccharin are not recommended because they can increase sugar cravings, mess with the bacteria in your guts, and effect insulin sensitivity.  I am aware of alternate types of sweetness such as those made out of jackfruit or other and I'll explore those in the near future.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

What Causes Belly Fat.

I was working out to a new DVD the other day.  The person leading it stated that belly fat is caused by stress.  That struck me as maybe not quite correct because I tend to have some and it goes away and comes back, almost on a cycle.   I am one of those women who have always been a bit goofy in the abdomen area and have accepted it but I'd still like to know what causes it and how to get rid of it.

First, there are two types of belly fat.  One type is visceral which is the fat that surrounds organs while the other is subcutaneous which is the fat just under the skin.  

In general, one can gain fat in the belly area by eating poorly, not exercising, and stress. There are significant reasons one would want to get rid of the excess belly flat.  When a person has extra belly fat, it can lead to or increases the chances of heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, type 2 diabetes, asthma, certain types of cancer and dementia or Alzheimers.

If someone eats too many sugary foods such as cake, candy, soda, or too much fruit juice can lead to a weight gain, slow a person's metabolism thus making it harder or a person to burn calories.  One other thing that can cause a person to gain belly fat is to not include enough protein in their diet.  In addition, people should eat more grains, cut down on the transfats and increase monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats as they are healthier.

Unfortunately, drinking too much alcohol can also cause men to gain wight in the abdomen.  It can also cause liver disease and inflammation.   In addition, if a person does not get enough exercise they will put on weight and it becomes harder to loose any weight. As far as stress, stress causes the body to produce cortisol which helps the body deal with stress and can slow down a person's metabolism.  Furthermore, when people are under stress, they often eat way more than is good for them and gain weight.  In addition, when people do not sleep well, it can effect their weight.

Fortunately, there are things a person can do to help loose any fat gained in the belly region.  One of the first things is to improve what you eat.  One should eliminate sugar, fatty foods including commercial baked goods with transfats and refined carbohydrates.  Instead, eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.  One should also cut back on  alcohol at the same time.

Then one should also increase the amount of exercise. For the most effective results, combine cardio, strength training, high intensity training and resistance training.  It is recommended people get a minimum of 30 minutes per day. Exercise also helps to decrease the amount of stress a person is undergoing.  Add in a bit of meditation and mindfulness.  In addition, try to get out and enjoy the sun more.  One way is to walk outside when you can because sunlight helps regulate metabolism.

One also needs to learn to sleep better at night by relaxing, turning the lights down in the room by replacing lightbulbs with lower wattage and planning to slow down one to two hours before going to bed.  I go to bed and lay in bed at least one hour before I plan to sleep so I can read a book with the lights down and just ease me into being sleepy.  It works most evenings, except when I have something on my mind.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Why Is It Named "Candy Corn"?

Halloween is over and people bought over 9 billion pieces of this one candy that most people only eat once a year.  When we played a couple Halloween games of Kahoot, Candy Corn came up as being a favorite but my students said "Yuck" to it.  No matter what they think, it is a traditional part of Halloween.  

It is said this favorite was first made back in the 1880's when candy companies made a slurry of sugar, corn syrup and a marshmallow creme and turned them into vegetables like pumpkins, turnips, and other foods.  

You may be wondering why agricultural products? At this time in history, about half of the population lived on farms, ranches, or lived off the land so candy companies always made agricultural themed candies to sell to this portion of the population.

The first candy corns were marketed by Wunderle Candy Company out of Philadelphia.  It is said that one of their employees, George Renniger, created the three color, hand cast candy.  There are records showing Wunderle as the first company to market these treats.  It wasn't until 1898 when the Goetz Candy Company (later the Jelly Belly Candy Company)  got the recipe and began producing it.  It wasn't marketed as Candy Corn because most people didn't eat corn, so it instead it was sold as "Chicken Feed".

In fact, it wasn't until World War I when a wheat shortage occurred that people began eating corn and corn based products such as corn meal, corn flour, etc.  Even into the early 1920's the company used a rooster to help sell the product with the pitch of "King of the Candy Corn Fields."  However, over the first half of the 20th century, Candy Corn became one of the common "penny" candies which are cheap candies kids could easily buy in bulk and enjoy. 

At this point in time Candy Corn was sold year round so it appeared at Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and was eaten by kids just because it was cheap and good. Then in 1950, the company made a push to increase consumption of this candy around Halloween even though it was sold year round.  Even today, it is well known at Halloween and honestly, that is the only time I think about it.

In the beginning, the company cooked up a slurry of sugar and other ingredients and once it was nice and gooey, men would walk backwards filling molds where the concoction cooled and then tipped out for another run.  Now, they still make the slurry but the process has been mechanized but they still make it doing the white first, the orange second, and the yellow bottom last. 

If you surveyed people on the proper way to eat candy corn, you'll find people have their favorite way of consuming the treat.  About 65 percent of Americans believe you should eat the whole thing at once while 27 percent think one should begin at the white end working through to the yellow part and 7 percent want to begin at the yellow end and go to the white.  

Candy Corn candy is such a part of the culture that October 30th has been declared national Candy Corn day. Brach's candies markets a variety of flavors that combine peanut butter and chocolate, or maple and French toast, or caramel or Birthday cake.  I don't like the stuff so I avoid it at all costs.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Sunday, November 1, 2020