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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Early Flight Home

Introducing a great new band!
Early Flight Home is a pop punk band based out of Pennsburg, PA. Forming in the summer of 2011, Early Flight Home (EFH) began playing regular shows in September and has only picked up speed since. Hopping on the local music scene, EFH has been featured everywhere from colleges to coffee shops and basements to sidewalks. Having released their debut album 'As Seen On TV', the band is persistently tackling the dying punk music scene with a taste of fresh air. Early Flight Home is currently signed to Philadelphia label Beard Party Records. The band consists of Kurt Amen, Alex Baver, Jared Whalen, Justin Stitt, and Jake Alder.

Kurt Amen-Vocals
Alex Baver- Guitar/Vocals
Jared Whalen-Guitar
Justin Stitt-Bass
Jake Alderfer-Drums

Record Label
  Beard Party Record

Press Contact
Booking Agent

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Survival

 The Holiday months of November and December have to be some of the most exciting, stressful and sleep deprived times of the entire year.  Baking, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, decorating, cooking, entertaining, and probably more last minute shopping, all somehow accomplished on top of all the normal everyday activities.  Add a few over excited children to the mix and many adults just may think about asking Santa if they can hitch a ride to fly away from it all.

Consider a few sanity items to help your family glide through the commotion without a meltdown.

Too much "over the river and through the woods" can easily result in overtired children suffering from a bellyache or headache.  Too many sweets and not enough down time can upset the balance in anyone's system.  Peppermint has the property to relax contracted muscles.  Stomach pains are felt because of the contraction of the muscle, be the cause from tension or improper foods.  Peppermint is also one of the best anti-nausea remedies around.

The Children's Tummy Oil is great to keep on hand for massaging the goodness of peppermint onto your little one's tummy to help relax those tight muscles.  This herbal oil also utilizes the benefits of the essential oils fennel, chamomile and lemongrass to help relax and calm those bellies as well as your child.  Click here

 The Peppermint Body Spray is like a medicine cabinet in a bottle.  Peppermint is good for everything from fatigue, headaches, cramps, nausea to congestion.  Spray into the air  or as a body spray to help with fatigue, rub onto temples for a headache, add a bit under the nose for a stuffy head or to help with nausea or motion sickness.  This spray utilizes peppermint essential oil so not for use with pregnant women as the concentration is too strong for the baby.  Same for children under the age of eight.  Click here

 This Tension Headache Massage Oil is wonderful to either use as a massage oil to knead into those tight neck and shoulder muscles or throbbing temples.  Also wonderful to add to a hot bath and let your cares float away with the steam.  Essential oils such as sweet marjoram, chamomile, helichrysum, basil, ginger and lavender are wonderful for relaxing the mind as well as the muscles.  Click here

 Over excited children often have trouble settling themselves down.  Our Children's Settle'n Down Massage Oil utilizes calming lavender, chamomile and marjoram essential oils in a skin nourishing  blend of apricot and jojoba  oils. Children love touch and a gentle all over massage or even just the feet will do wonders to bring on sleep.  Click here

 Help everyone in the family drift away into slumber and dream about sugar plums with this Sleep Aid Dream Mist Air or Linen Spray.  Wonderful for children, adults and even your family dog.  Essential oils chamomile, sweet orange, lavender and ylang ylang blend nicely into a sweet, floral delightful pillow spray.  Spritz lightly and smile as your loved ones seem to visibly relax into their pillows with an "ahhh".  Click here

  So once the kids are tucked safely in their beds and not a creature is stirring, now it is your turn.  Run the tub water, turn off the phone, close the door and bring along your glass of wine or a cup of tea.  This Nervous Tension Bath Oil contains a skin nourishing blend of oils such as almond, apricot, jojoba and wheat germ along with wonderful relaxing essential oils.  Sweet orange, lavender, marjoram and cedarwood combine to help relax tight and painful muscles, and bring balance to all the clutter which may be hindering sleep.  Click here

Making lists helps keep your spinning mind from getting overwhelmed. As things get checked off, you'll feel more in control, proud that something else is behind you, and relieved there is still tomorrow to continue the holiday marathon. Homemade, handmade, is wonderful and picture perfect is nice, but certainly not a requirement of a memorable holiday. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Good for You Holiday Cookies

Holiday cookie baking doesn't have to be a nosedive from the healthy eating you may normally encourage with your family's diet.  There is no reason you cannot enjoy the cookie baking extravaganzas that draw everyone into the kitchen with its wonderful smells.  Just remember when eating them that moderation is the key!

Here are three great drop cookie recipes that are not only delicious but offer a bit of nutrition and fiber as well.
The first two are a variation of the typical old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookie. The third recipe is a great peanut butter cookie for those who like a chewy type cookie.

                                                      CRANBERRY OAT COOKIES

1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups quick oats
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl, combine sugars and oil.
Blend in eggs, milk and vanilla.
In another bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda and salt.
Gradually add dry mixture to the sugar mixture.
Stir in the cranberries.

Using two spoons drop onto baking sheets that have been coated with nonstick cooking spray.
Fit 12 to a sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Let cool a few minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 4 - 5 dozen

                                                    TRIPLE FIBER OAT COOKIES

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups quick oats
1 cup chopped prunes (easiest done with a kitchen shears)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl combine butter and sugars.  Mix until creamy.
Add the egg and vanilla and blend.
In another bowl sift combine the oat bran, flour, baking soda and cinnamon.
Add this dry mixture to the creamed butter mixture.
Stir in the oats, prunes and almonds.

Using two spoons drop onto baking sheets that have been coated with nonstick cooking spray.
Fit 12 to a sheet and flatten with a fork that has been dipped into water to prevent sticking.
Bake 10 - 11 minutes until lightly browned.
Let cool a few minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 4 - 5 dozen

                                            PEANUT PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

1/2 cup butter softened
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup chunky peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tbsp. milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup chopped peanuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
In a large bowl, combine butter, salt, peanut butter.  Blend well.
Add sugar, brown sugar, eggs and milk.  Blend well.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and ginger.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture.
Stir in the chopped peanuts.
Using two spoons drop onto ungreased baking sheets.
Fit 12 to a sheet and flatten with a fork that has been dipped into water to prevent sticking.
Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Let cool a few minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 4 - 5 dozen

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Charlie Brown's Christmas and Relationships

 By either viewing on TV or reading the book, "A Charlie Brown's Christmas" is a yearly holiday tradition in many households.  The message we hear all through Advent is that the true meaning of Christmas is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  We really do try to focus on that but it can be difficult with the materialistic aspect of the season so evident all around us.  
Some people just go with the flow and really enjoy all the hoopla of the expenses, preparations, family gatherings and all the other demands not normally consuming our time.  Other people are annoyed and just want to skip it altogether. 
Kenya McCullun, a free lance writer for the Examiner, put some thought into the interactions amongst the Peanut gang. Bothered by the greed and self-centered attitude he observes around him, Charlie Brown's holiday spirit is dampened and depressed.  He feels very alone with his thoughts that something is just wrong about it all, so seeks the advice of Linus who puts everything in perspective as he quotes the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke retelling the Christmas story.
By observing the Peanuts' gang, Kenya makes note of five lessons of human behavior and how influential they are within our personal relationships.

1.  Not everyone has a special someone or a family hub where everyone returns on holidays. Christmas can be a very lonely time and we shouldn't just assume the people we see everyday have special plans.  Charlie Brown is part of the gang but he feels so alone.  It often takes the holidays to realize that we are truly blessed if we have family or at least one friend who stands apart from the many acquaintances.  Facebook sends that point home very clearly.

 2.  Charlie Brown thinks since he feels so alone and 'different', then something must be wrong with him.  In turning to Lucy for psychiatric advice, he comes to the conclusion that his problem is that he is afraid of everything.  Interesting is that once we can put a label on something supposedly wrong with us it becomes a legitimate condition.

3.  Polite conversation is not always what it appears.  Sally writes a beautiful letter to Santa and opens up by asking about him before addressing the true purpose of her letter.  From the time we first take our children to see Santa and the conversation centers on what they want, I suppose we are setting the stage for 'what's in it for me' rather than the true spirit of giving. 

4.  Lucy certainly doesn't have a problem with self-confidence.  She is positive with her good looks she'll have no problem getting the part of the Christmas Queen in the school play.  When she states the obvious to Charlie Brown he doesn't catch on to this ageless game women play in fishing for compliments. Finding him clueless, her quick temper jumps all over him.

5.  In his search for the perfect Christmas tree for the school play, Charlie Brown takes pity on the sad little tree ignored by everyone else.  Able to relate to what it feels like to be the underdog, Charlie Brown takes that little tree home.  It is neat that he has the gumption to stand up to his friends knowing how they were going to ridicule him and his sense of taste.  But in his wisdom, Charlie Brown knows that everything has its good points and all it needs is love to thrive. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Charlie Brown's Christmas, Advice for the Workplace

 Kenya McCullun is back with her insightful thinking as to the meaning behind Charles Schulz' Charlie Brown classics. A freelance writer for the Examiner, she posted "5 Workplace Lessons from 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'".  Taking it a little bit further I've added my own spin on it.

Meeting your own expectations during the Holidays can be enough to set yourself up for emotional and physical exhaustion.  Home decorating, personal touch Christmas cards, brainstorming, gift shopping, baking, party plans, family obligations, the list just goes on.  People tend to overlook how their normal schedules aren't going to be too forgiving and magically create more time in a day.  If anything schedules become even tighter as projects need to be completed before year's end. Managers need to realize that his/her people are the business' most valuable resource.  The demands put upon them have to acknowledged with empathy and understanding.

1.  Charlie Brown feels unappreciated, invisible and lonely.  Even in our age of electronic communication, receiving a handwritten card is a personal touch always appreciated by the recipient.  Charlie Brown seeks empathy from Snoopy about his disappointment over not receiving cards in the mail.  Snoopy is more focused on his own business than to connect with Charlie Brown's state of mind.  Kenya compares this scene to that of the overlooked and undervalued employee who feels invisible to his/her boss.  A wise manager knows to connect with his personnel and really listen to what they have to say and offer to the job.

2.  Lucy offers her services of psychiatric advice, supposedly to help people.  To be able to go home at night knowing your chosen profession results in the improvement of peoples' lives, the bottom line is you still want to make money.  Lucy's advice may help her clients but in reality she is more appreciative of the money she is pulling in than the personal satisfaction of helping others.  Managers would be wise to be aware of personal situations outside of the workplace and make adjustments when necessary.

 3.  Lucy advises Charlie Brown to get involved in the school play.  In doing so, he'll raise his spirits by feeling a part of the group.  He soon finds out why the job was offered to him.  It was because no one else wanted to do it.  A word of advise for the workplace manager is to make sure the employees are fully aware what is expected of them.  People don't want to end up doing the dirty work no one else wants. 

4.  Charlie Brown made the mistake of being overly eager to gain the respect he craves.  He took charge but didn't communicate very efficiently to his staff.  His orders were not understood correctly, therefore not carried out as intended.  Respect is earned not by barking out orders and simply demanding obedience.  A good boss knows how to delegate, coordinate and time manage his/her people to optimize their skills.

5.  Sounds shallow, but Lucy believes a person's work doesn't matter unless they are striving to reach fame.  Schroader believes the joy is in the playing.  Personal achievement is in satisfaction with a job well done.  Good management respects that not all employees want to be in the limelight.  Some may want to be rewarded unceremoniously. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Snuggle n' Snuzzle, Holiday Cuddle

The holiday season may or may not be a happy time.  Life's pressures don't just stop because jingle bells are ringing and lights are aglow.

The best remedy for a "blue" Christmas is to find yourself someone or some thing in which to make some form of contact, human or not. There is a big difference between being alone and lonely.  Being your own best company is a good thing, but it isn't healthy to let yourself lose connection altogether.  Humans are social creatures and we usually do feel better when we put ourselves out there.

The whole message behind the Holidays isn't just having a special someone and spending a lot of money for that "ooh aah" gift.  Don't get caught up in the romantic illusion of the season pushed upon us by secular Christmas music, jewelry store ads or the movie industry.  Look a little deeper into the eyes of a good friend, a beloved pet, or the sparkly eyes of an excited child, and you'll feel a remarkable connection. 
Open yourself up a bit in public settings. Get past those first awkward, out of place moments by making eye contact and being the one to begin a conversation.  You may find that oftentimes people aren't cold at all, they can be just as uncomfortable as you and need a little boost.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Traditional Elixir of Youth and Vitality, ACV and Honey

"I just don't feel good.", says the mom. "What doesn't feel good? What's wrong?", says the doctor.
"I don't know", says the mom.

I can't count how many times we go through this dialog. It is so very frustrating for the patient who cannot pinpoint what the problem is, for the caregiver who frequently hears these complaints, and for the physician whom we visit in anticipation he or she will make a difference.

Born at the end of the baby boomer generation, many of my peers are dealing with aging parents and the heartache of feeling helpless as they lose their vitality and slowly slip away.

Many people of my parents' age group can remember the excitement back in the mid-1940's when Sir Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of penicillin.  That discovery spawned the boon of the pharmaceutical industry and as time went on people began to put more faith in modern medicine and herbal knowledge was often no longer routinely passed down to the younger generation. 

As a little girl in the 1960's and 70's I can remember all the talk about the end to world hunger with the advancements in agriculture growing out of the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The amount of food that could be grown and reaped per acre would be able to keep up with our growing world population as well as to aid poverty, drought stricken areas.

Our age of technology and the demand for supermarket prepared and convenient meal planning has been wonderful but we are now paying a price.  As a consequence of not maintaining consistent, natural, healthy, balanced diets, many, many people are fed but remain malnourished.  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have resulted in a population lacking in energy and feeling half sick much of the time.  Noninfectious and degenerative conditions are able to get a foothold in a body weakened from deficiencies in important nutrients such as potassium.  Premature aging, mental and physical fatigue can often be linked to a potassium deficiency.

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" was an example of the old-fashioned folk wisdom spoken by our grandparents. They may not have known exactly why, but apple-eaters have always had a certain healthfulness and apple glow.

Traditionally, an at-home remedy for many ailments, and even called an anti-aging elixir, is the daily intake of raw apple cider vinegar and raw honey.  This mixture taken with a glass of water has cleansing and disinfecting properties to detoxify the body and fight germs and bacteria.

Natural, undistilled, organic, raw apple cider vinegar was the world's first natural medicine and considered a perfect food.  Commercialized vinegars do not contain the same health values of raw cider vinegar.  The powerful enzymes and minerals are destroyed during the distilling process.  Public demand for clear, "pretty" vinegars are the reason natural, raw vinegars are rarely on store shelves.  Raw vinegar is unheated and unfiltered, so it will appear cloudy with the "mother" still floating around.  Quality vinegars containing the "mother" retain the health benefits of minerals, pectin for fiber, and amino acids.

Also desired is raw honey that has not been heated excessively through pasteurization. The only way to get that pourable,perfectly clear look of most commercial honeys is to heat it and then filter it excessively. The problem with heat is that many nutrients are very sensitive to it and die. You may get strange looks when you tell people your raw honey is 'alive', but you're absolutely correct to a certain extent.It's the beneficial enzymes found in raw honey that make it so digestible to humans. Raw honey is filtered, but very minimally and in a manor not to destroy the health promoting enzymes and other nutrients.

So, how does this vinegar and honey remedy work?  With our modern diet of processed and commercialized foods full of unhealthy fats and starches, a person's bloodstream tends toward becoming acidic.  A body remains in balance when more alkaline.  Fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables and legumes are examples of alkaline forming foods.  A food's pH has nothing to do with its acid or alkaline-forming tendency in the body.  Citrus foods are acidic, however the end-products they produce after digestion and assimilation are alkaline.  Meat will test alkaline before consumed but it is actually very acid-forming within the body.  When the pH or acid-base ratio is off balance the body is forced to borrow minerals from vital organs and bones to neutralize the acid and remove it from the body.  Stress and allergic reactions also produce excessive acids in the body.  Continued high acidity can lead to damage and possibly disease.

 The aged have more trouble anyway with kidneys that just cannot function as optimally as in their youth to filter out and eliminate toxins and wastes.  Add the burden of having to detoxify all their medications, it is no surprise people feel sluggish and blah.

Apple cider vinegar and honey are both alkaline-forming and can correct excess acidity in our systems.  Conditions that can be helped include:
Bone and muscle aches
Shooting pains upon standing
Dull skin, hair, and nails
Chronic fatigue
Lack of mental alertness
Cold hands and feet
Poor digestion

Many of these complaints sound very familiar with our elderly parents.  Rediscovering this age-old remedy once called the "fountain of youth" may be a godsend for our loved ones.  With a little cooperation and a willingness to try something perhaps not prescribed by their doctors, wouldn't it be grand if these ailments could be relieved.  Relieved by getting to the root of the problem and supplying the body with what it needs to function correctly, rather than feeling there is no other choice than to deal with the side effects of yet another prescribed pharmaceutical designed to address just the symptoms.

Mix a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of raw honey in a glass of water.  Take twice daily.

This information came from various sources authored by supporters of Paul and Patricia Bragg.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Indulgence..Everything in Moderation

Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.  ~Epicurus

Enough is as good as a feast.  ~English Proverb

Even nectar is poison if taken to excess.  ~Hindu Proverb

Healthy skin is a by-product of a healthy body.  
If ever there was a time when we feel the pressure to please and make everyone happy, it is around the Holidays.  Appreciative of every party invitation, often we feel obliged to attend.  These events may be an inconvenience on our time or a further drain on the pocketbook for that bottle of wine or hostess gift.  

Inevitable, we usually do have a good time, but then again, we find ourselves eating too much of the wrong foods and having one too many alcoholic beverages. We all know none of these indulgences are good for us but we go along with the flow in the spirit of the season and not to appear a downer.  The problem is too much of anything and we pay a price.
The liver, kidneys, lungs, intestine, bladder and lymphatic system all work together to absorb necessary nutrients and eliminate waste products.  Each organ has a job to do and when our bodies are overtaxed, deprived of proper rest or nutrition, things get out of balance and our bodies send us signals to which we would be wise to pay attention.  Lethargy, breakouts, dark eye circles, mental fuzziness are all ways our body tells us something is off balance.  Ignore these messages and dis-ease may turn to disease.

Our skin is the body's largest and most diverse vital organ. It takes an environmental beating every day, so it is vital we pay attention and not take its appearance for granted.  What we put into and onto our bodies eventually will be reflected on our face.  Unhealthy lifestyles result in premature aging of the skin.  Stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, not enough water, sedentary lifestyle, as well as toxins in facial products and cosmetics, all take a toll on our appearance.
Alcohol dehydrates the skin, so if you plan to be drinking be sure to keep well hydrated with water.  The morning after headaches can be lessened by drinking an 8 oz. glass of water with the addition of the juice from half a lemon.  This will help replace lost fluids and cleanse the body and eliminate the toxins.  Try to include water rich foods such as fruit and cucumbers.

Holiday party platters are usually loaded with lunch meats, cheeses, crackers, pastries....all foods loaded with sugar, salt, nitrates, hydrogenated oils, bleached nutrient deplete flour.  Too much, too often and our skin becomes clogged, resulting in poor digestion, blemishes and a pasty complexion. 

Have fun and partake in the goodies, just don't make these choices a pattern.  Too much of anything in life throws us off balance.  When you begin to feel sluggish it is a sure sign to get up and get moving, not just literally, but as a wake-up call to make a few changes.  No one wants to physically look as though they've lived a hard life.

Hangover Relief Oil

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Tree Fun Facts

The joys of trying to keep cats safe during the Holidays

Every year we go through the rearranging and the mess of setting up the Christmas tree and my family deals with my temporary Scrooge attitude about the sanity of why in the world people drag a dead tree into their homes.  But once the tree is up and the trail of needles through the front door swept away I usually get over it and anticipate our little lighting ceremony.

For me that involves a silent prayer of thanks when all the lights work the first time around without too much of a hassle.  The business of Christmas lights is to me, a landfill disaster, since it is inevitable that 50 of the 100 bulbs will die for no apparent reason on some of the strings.  Of course, the manufacturers make the bulb sizes just a hair different every year so it becomes impossible to just replace bulbs with those on other strings and you're forced to go out and buy new.  This money racket drives me crazy, especially since we fall right into the game by keeping with the spirit of the season and just doing what we must to get the lights up and working.

Enough with the rant.
I came across this cute little book called "Weird Christmas" by Joey Green.
It explains a lot about why people do what they do.  Traditions are interesting within societies.  People do as those before them have done without question.  For those who want to know the 'why' behind our actions, this is a great, entertaining read.

Bringing greenery into the home can be traced back to ancient Egypt.  That climate utilized palm fronds.  In ancient Germany, fir trees (tannenbaum) were considered fertility symbols because their green thrived throughout the cold winter months.  The Church had a problem with pagan rituals, therefore in A.D. 575 Bishop Martin of Bracae in Germany banned the use of all greenery during Christmas.  In efforts to take control of pagan practices, by 601, Pope Gregory instructed the festive decoration of churches.  By 700, Germans began bringing a tree into their homes during the winter solstice.  Martin Luther is said to be the first to put candles on a tree to simulate the twinkling stars of the heavens.

Some Christians believe a Christmas tree is a form of idolatry.  In the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah warns the Israelites against worshipping idols carved from trees.  Interpretation of what the Bible is really saying may always be up for argument.  We have to understand the difference between literal and symbolic.

The custom became popular in England back in 1840 when Prince Albert, who was German, married Queen Victoria.  They set up a tree in Windsor Castle and the popularity spread.  The custom was brought to America during the Revolutionary War by Hessian mercenaries and later by German settlers (initially in Pennsylvania).

Woolworth's sold the first mass-produced Christmas ornaments in 1880.
Christmas tree light bulbs were first developed around 1890 by an employee of Thomas Edison, Edward Johnson.  Ten years later, the Ever-Ready Company of New York, began to mass produce strings of lights to the public.

Fifteen-year-old Albert Sadacca from New York City, developed safety lights around 1917, and went on to found The NOMA Electric Company, the largest Christmas lighting company in the world.

The annual tradition of the lighting of the outdoor White House Christmas tree was started in 1923 by President Calvin Coolidge.

Statistics claim ninety-four percent of Americans celebrate Christmas and eighty-three percent have a Christmas tree. A survey in 2004 found that of the 36 million Americans who bought Christmas trees, 27.1 million bought live trees and 9 million bought artificial trees.

Christmas tree farms cover approximately one million acres in the U.S. and produce enough oxygen for 18 million people. Real trees absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful gases from the environment while releasing oxygen into the air. Did you know that young, fast-growing trees release more oxygen and absorb more carbon dioxide than mature trees? And for every real Christmas tree cut down, another is planted in its place. You are supporting your local business by purchasing a live tree from a tree farm in your area. Nothing goes to waste, since once chopped down and the season is past, they are recyclable as mulch.

Those who favor artificial trees claim they are better because they are reusable and not a fire hazard.  The down side is that they eventually end up in landfills. Fake trees are produced with petroleum based plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The manufacture of such plastic consumes a great deal of energy and natural resources from our environment. Older artificial trees may be contaminated with metal toxins such as lead.

Ideally, the best solution to the argument is to buy a live, potted tree which gets planted (be sure the hole is dug ahead of time before the ground freezes). Just remember that potted trees have a limited time they can be inside the dry, warmth of a home, whereas a cut tree can last up to a month. 

The top producer of Christmas trees is Clackamas County in Oregon, with 2.59 million harvested annually.

The largest live Christmas tree in the world is erected at New York City's Rockefeller Center.  This tradition began in 1931 and always uses a Norway spruce.  A tree this size is usually over fifty years old, and at least 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide.  It takes five miles of wire to string the 30,000 lights.

An interesting article in keeping you pets safe during the holidays  Click here

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yummy Ways to Enjoy those Pumpkins

Every year I buy a few of the smaller sugar pumpkins with good intentions to cut, cook and puree the pulp and roast the seeds.  Then days and weeks pass as I pass them on my porch and ultimately feel pressured to get it done before frost.  Once frost hits them they get soft and start to rot.

Pumpkins were a mainstay in the diet of Native Americans yet in the typical modern lifestyle they are too often only thought about for pumpkin pie during the holidays or for Halloween decorations.  Technically a fruit but served as a vegetable, pumpkins are loaded with B vitamins, essential fatty acids, protein, and zinc.  Carotenoids, what gives them the orange color, are powerful antioxidants that enhance the immune system and enable the body to form vitamin A.  Pumpins and squash are a valuable part of dealing with prostate disorders and diabetes.

To put up a pumpkin:  First wash off any dirt and place the pumpkin on a cutting board.  Use a strong kitchen knife large enough to cut through the hard shell.  Cut the pumpkin in half and using a large metal spoon scrape out all the stringy insides and seeds.  Pull the seeds off the stringy part and put in a separate bowl.  Continue to cut straight down so you end up with vertical strips about 2 - 3 inches wide.  Cut those slices across so you end up with smaller chunks.  Put all these smaller chunks into a big soup pot, add a little water, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer until soft.  Drain and cool till you can touch.  Using your large spoon, scrape the pulp off the shell and put into a strainer to drain off the excess water.  Then transfer to a bowl.  In small batches, puree the pulp in a food processor and measure out 2 cup portions to put into freezer containers and freeze.  Each 2 cup portion is about equal to the typical 15 or 16 oz. can of pumpkin.

Now for ways to get your kids (and/or husband) to eat it!

To roast the seeds:  Wash the seeds with water, lay out on a paper towel and pat dry.  Put them in a bowl and toss them with a bit of oil (about 1 tsp. per cup seeds).  Spread out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt if desired.  Bake at 250 - 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, till toasted.

Fresh Pumpkin Soup:
This recipe comes from Taste of Home
Makes 6 servings
Can be on the table in 30 minutes

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
2   14 1/2 oz. cans chicken broth or 29 oz homemade
2 cups pumpkin puree or 1  15 oz. can
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp gound nutmeg
1 cup heavy whipping cream (I used evaporated milk and it turned out fine)

In a large saucepan, saute the onion in the butter until tender.  Remove from the heat and stir in the flour until smooth.  Gradually stir in the chicken broth, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about five minutes or until heated through.
Great with a salad and corn muffins or crusty bread.

A great alternative to the usual vanilla or chocolate flavored pudding for dessert

Pumpkin Pudding
Makes 8 servings
Ready in 5 minutes

1 package (5.1 oz) vanilla instant pudding
1 can (12 oz) fat free evaporated milk
2 cups or 1 (16 oz) can pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Beat together the pudding and the milk.  Refrigerate for 5 minutes.  Mix in the pumpkin and spice.  Regrigerate for another 10 minutes.

A favorite for a healthy breakfast, lunch box or after school snack
Pumpkin Chip Muffins
Makes about 24 standard-sized muffins
Shown are several ways to alter this recipe

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups or 1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil  (or can subsitute 3/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup applesauce)
3 cups all-purpose flour (or can substitute 1 1/2 cup all-purpose and 1 1/2 cup wheat or other type)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or cinnamon chips (or can substitute 1 cup chips and 1 cup oats)

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil (or oil and applesauce) until smooth.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Add dry mixture to the wet pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Fold in the chocolate or cinnamon chips (or chips and oats).
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups about 3/4 way full.  A 1/3 cup measuring cup works great for dipping out each muffin cup portion of batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 16 - 20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing.  These also freeze well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gift Idea for Teacher Appreciation at Christmas

The holiday season is an ideal time to display our gratitude and appreciation to those special people involved in the lives of our children.

When my own two were young I can remember going on a baking frenzy to arrange cookie plates for everyone and it seemed no matter how many I made there never seemed enough to store away for my own freezer.

Not everyone has the time, skills or interest in holiday baking yet still want something special to give to all the various teachers and instructors.

A personal body care arrangement would be a great idea as it is all ready for gift giving and portrays the message that you have empathy for what they experience with their job.

To check out this gift idea click here

1.  A crowded classroom is a breeding ground for germs on those surface areas commonly touched, such as door knobs, bathroom faucets, toilet handles and light switches. Also great as a room spray to fight airborne germs and freshen stuffy indoor air, this Germ Fighting Air and Surface Spray just may be a mainstay on his/her desk. Contains powerful essential oils, tea tree, thyme and eucalyptus which are known for their antibacterial and antiviral properties. Free from the synthetic fragrances typically found in air sprays, there is the reduced risk of irritating the allergies of sensitive students to chemicals. This spray comes in a 4 oz. size plastic spray bottle.

2.  Frequent hand washing is the first line of defense against catching or spreading germs. Unfortunately, chapped hands are often a result from the continuous cycle of soap, water and the hot air of the hand dryer. Our healing, herbal all-purpose balm can be such a relief for red, chapped skin. Containing no water, this balm is superior to a typical hand lotion. Due to its herbal healing properties this balm can also be used for minor wound care.

Plantain is a common overlooked weed, but it contains amazing medicinal properties which are released in an olive oil infusion. Added to that is coconut oil, which is known for its ability to help skin retain moisture, a wonderful hydrator often used with chronic dry skin. Chamomile essential oil is added for its gentle and popular use in treating inflamed skin conditions. This balm comes in a 2 oz. size white plastic jar.

3.  Maintaining control over a classroom while keeping their attention so they learn something would be enough pressure to keep many of us awake at night. This linen and/or air spray contains nerve calming, sleep inducing essential oils: chamomile, sweet orange, lavender and ylang ylang. Too many things still on the 'to do' list, too many thoughts bouncing around, can easily take their toll and contribute to sleep deprivation. A light spritz onto the bedding just may become an anticipated nightly ritual. This spray comes in a 4 oz. size plastic spray bottle.

4.  A good lip balm is always a good thing to have on hand. Chapped lips are not pleasant, especially when there is the need to talk as frequently as does a teacher. This tubal lip balm utilizes the healing properties of the herb calendula to help heal and protect the delicate skin around the mouth.

5. Last, included in this assortment is a touch of femininity. A solid perfume eliminates the risk of a leaky bottle in a handbag. Listed here is a 1/2 oz. jar of the patchouli and lavender blend, but if the ylang/ylang and vanilla blend or the spice blend is preferred, let me know. Should this gift be for a male teacher just look through the shop and substitute something under a $10 value or I can add two extra lip balms.

Boy Scout leader
Girl Scout leader

Sports coach or instructor
Musical instrument teacher



Sunday School teacher

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Charlie Brown's Workplace Lessons

 It's that time of year again to repost this humorous interpretation of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving". With the short work week the week of the holiday, perhaps you can relate to the Peanuts gang.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many people feel the stress as they try to get everything done within the shorter workweeks of November and December.

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer and wrote two articles for the Interpersonal Relationships Examiner with her interpretations of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving".  The first article, "7 Interpersonal relationship lessons from 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'" was touched upon in a prior blog post. (click here)
Kenya also wrote an article titled, "7 Workplace lessons from 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'".

The Peanut's cartoons have valuable messages behind the actions and personalities of the characters.  If watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is a yearly tradition in your household, pay close attention to the wisdom Charles M. Schulz weaves throughout his stories.

1.  Holidays create more work for everyone.
Sally complains that holidays just mean more schoolwork to cram into a shorter week.  We often say we have to pay the price for any time off, be it a holiday or personal vacation.

2 When you whisper sweet nothings in your coworker's ear, make sure that no one else is around.
When Peppermint Patty invites herself over to Charlie Brown's house for dinner she checks to see if anyone is listening in on their conversation.  Any workplace can be a setting for gossip and the possibility of bits of overheard dialogue misinterpreted.  Lesson hear is to be careful with personal conduct amidst coworkers.

3.  Teamwork can get impossible jobs done.
Charlie Brown was at a loss as to how to cook a dinner, but with the help of his friends he was able to focus and put together some form of a meal.  A good manager knows to encourage teamwork and delegate assignments to those most capable for that particular project. An employee who is resistant in asking for advice or help when overwhelmed puts himself/herself at risk for burnout and a low performance rating.

4.  Whistle while you work.
Snoopy and Woodstock find a little time amidst the workload of dinner preparations to play a game.  Any type of career choice eventually loses its novelty and becomes just a job.  Try to find ways to make the work more enjoyable and stimulating.

5.  You don't want to be the one who acts up at the office party.
Peppermint Patty is not happy with the Thanksgiving meal and vocally lets everyone around her know about it.  Even within the aggressive, competitive environment of the business world, there is a fine line between confidence and just being rude.  It is acceptable to speak your mind but timing is everything and nothing can ruin a party setting faster than a clueless guest who makes those around him/her uncomfortable. 

6.  Some people cannot work outside of their element.
When made aware of her behavior, Peppermint Patty sums it up by exclaiming that she just can't function outside of a baseball game environment.  Employers look for well-rounded people who are capable of multitasking and able to handle the stress of the unexpected.  Problem solving and dealing with people successfully makes for a very valuable employee.

7.  Delegate the hard jobs whenever you can.
Peppermint Patty isn't totally clueless about her behavior but she has issues with admitting her mistakes and offering an apology.  It takes confidence and courage to be the better person and face up to our mistakes by making peace with the offended person(s).  Getting others to do our dirty work for us is frowned upon, even if that person has the authority to delegate the job to someone else.

Thank you to Kenya for helping us watch this favorite show with a new perspective!
Perhaps your input will put a smile on the faces of those who feel overworked or unappreciated in their field of work.
Enjoy your holiday with all the food, family, friends and football.