Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pomegranates: The Juice is Definitely Worth the Squeeze


Prepare to be surprised by the often-overlooked benefits of yet another peculiar super-food. You have probably heard of pomegranate; there’s a good chance you've even tasted it. But how much do you actually know about pomegranate nutrition?

Photo of a pomegranate
Photo from pomegranates.org
Firstly, to give you some background on the pomegranate, we have to travel back to the beginning of time. Biblical time, that is. According to the Global Healing Center, Persians and many other scholars believe that pomegranate is the forbidden fruit that Eve actually plucked from the Tree of Knowledge, as opposed to the traditional interpretation of it being an apple. Pomegranate has other interesting ties to the apple, as well. The word “pomegranate” literally comes from the Middle French word “pomme garnete” for “seeded apple.” It is also occasionally referred to as a “Chinese apple.” This unorthodox, rather mysterious fruit has its roots in many other cultures, typically symbolizing prosperity and abundance. 

So what is it about eating a pomegranate that captured everyone’s attention? Between the pomegranate itself, pomegranate seeds, and pomegranate juice, there are plenty of varieties to choose from. The most widely celebrated attribute in all of them is the high level of all three types of polyphenols, an especially potent antioxidant. According to the health research on pomegranates.org, it is extremely rare that any fruit has all three (tannins, anthocyanins, and elegiac acid), yet alone such a high level of each. It is also unusual for the juice of a fruit to be just as healthy as its fruit or seeds, which pomegranate juice boasts. Although the inedible peel contains the bulk of the antioxidants, much of it is released when the fruit is squeezed during the juicing process. Therefore, the benefits of pomegranate juice rival the nutritional content of any other fruit juice. In addition to all of this, pomegranates are loaded with vitamin C and potassium, are a good source of fiber, and are low in calories.

If you've never tried pomegranate before, I have a hunch about what you’re thinking. “Something this healthy can’t possibly taste great, can it?” Actually, it can and it does. Many people love its mildly acidic and sweet, cranberry-like taste. It’s packed with flavor without being tart. It’s also extremely versatile and can be eaten alone or as a part of a pomegranate recipe. Some of the most popular ones are pomegranate salad recipes.  No matter what form you are enjoying pomegranate in, the first step is always the same— discard the inedible rind. The Global Healing Center recommends a fuss-free way to get at the pomegranate seeds:
  1. Cut off the crown and throw it away.
  2. Score and slice the rind all around, but don’t cut the rind all the way through.
  3. Soak the pomegranate face down in cold water for about ten minutes.
  4. While the pomegranate is still in the bowl of water, break apart the scored rinds, and remove the seeds from the flesh (the seeds will sink to the bottom of your bowl).
  5. Remove the rind and membrane from the bowl with a sieve or spoon.
  6. Drain the seeds with a colander and pat dry with a paper towel.
Be careful during this process, as the deep red color of the pomegranate can stain everything from your hands to your counter tops. Once the seeds are free, you have the option to incorporate them into a variety of recipes. A good list of categorized recipes can be found at pomegranates.org. For your first pomegranate salad, we recommend trying one of their recipes:

Pomegranate and Papaya Salad with Ginger Dressing

photo from pomegranates.org
Ingredients (for six servings): 

2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger or a generous ¼ teaspoon powdered
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium pomegranate, seeded
2 heads endive, separated into leaves
3 quarts baby lettuce or other torn lettuce leaves
1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green part of green onion

Dressing directions:

Mix lemon juice and the next 6 ingredients; whisk in oil and then reserve. On a large serving platter, arrange endive leaves like spokes with tips pointing out. Toss papaya with 1 tablespoon dressing, then reserve. Toss lettuce with remaining dressing and mound over endive leaves. Top with reserved papaya, then sprinkle with pomegranate arils and green onion.

Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer

Monday, February 25, 2013

National Children's Dental Health Month


Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors the National Children's Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. This year’s campaign, “Get A Gold Medal Smile,” aims to help parents give their children a healthy mouth for a lifetime.

The key to getting and maintaining “A Gold Medal Smile” begins from the moment baby teeth begin appearing in your child’s mouth, which can be as early as six months of age. Parents should start by wiping baby teeth with a soft cloth, or lightly brushing with an extra soft toothbrush after feedings. When putting your child to bed, be sure you only fill their bottles or sippy cups with water. Juices and milk contain sugars and acids that are harmful to a child’s teeth and can cause tooth decay.

Plaque is an invisible film containing many different types of bacteria and it is continually forming in the mouth. Some of these bacteria are helpful to the mouth. However, others can cause tooth decay. The bad bacteria feed on the sugars and sweets found in the snacks that your child eats, and then produces acid that causes decay if it is left on their teeth.


Toothbrushes are used to keep teeth healthy

As your child gets older, it is important to brush their teeth twice a day for a minimum of two minutes. It is also crucial to floss their teeth at least once daily. You should continue to perform the brushing and flossing for your child until he or she is old enough to effectively do it by him or herself. For most children, this will be around the age of eight. Younger children may not enjoy having their teeth brushed and flossed, but it is important to establish the routine. Once your child knows the routine, he or she will be more likely to embrace it. To help your child develop good brushing and flossing techniques, have them brush their teeth first, then provide a follow-up brushing to ensure everything was brushed thoroughly. Be sure to encourage them. Let your child know they did a good job!


Child smiling with healthy teeth


It is critical to remember that flossing is just as important as brushing. The older your child gets, the closer the spacing between their teeth becomes. Generally, toothbrush bristles cannot reach in between teeth, which means bacteria will continue to grow there. Dental floss and floss picks are great tools for both parents and kids, making it easy to get in between the teeth to remove harmful bacteria. If your child’s gums are bleeding, that means they are not healthy. Flossing daily will result in much tougher, healthier gums.
Fluoride toothpaste is essential in strengthening and protecting enamel, and should be used as soon as your child is able to spit. Once the enamel is gone, it cannot be re-grown, and a cavity is likely to form. Cavities can cause your child great pain, and if left alone, may result in him or her losing the tooth.

Although oral care for your child at home is important in promoting a healthy mouth, visits to the dental office for professional cleanings and checkups are even more important. Every six months, you should take your child to the dentist. There, the dental hygienists can provide thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments, while the dentist can examine your child’s teeth and fix any problems such as cavities.

Children start getting their first adult teeth, the ones that need to last forever, at age six. Parents need to establish good oral hygiene habits for their kids at an early age so they may enjoy a healthy mouth for a lifetime. So as the National Children's Dental Health Month raises awareness about the importance of oral health this February, help your child “Get A Gold Medal Smile.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

Spring Cleaning-Make it Family Fun






The frost is starting to disappear in the morning and the days are becoming warmer which means we will be heading outdoors. Before we head outside to smell the freshly cut grass and maybe catch a few baseball games, we always get the fever for a little Spring cleaning.   
Spring cleaning usually involves cleaning out closets, getting rid of house clutter, deep cleaning the bathrooms, and all the stuff that we don't like to do, mainly because it takes up so much time. I found a list online on how to Spring clean and what should be done. Now this detailed list isn't for everyone and it will take some time, but it helps you get organized and pretty much tells you room by room what to clean. So, if you want to Spring clean to bring your house back to smelling and looking new. then check it out! You won't be disappointed.

If you are looking for a little closet cleaning, and just wanting to find out how to make your house clean while incorporating the whole family, here are some tips on how to clean the house quickly and make it fun for everyone at the same time. It's a great way of cleaning your house in a jiffy so the whole family can enjoy the great outdoors together.
house clutter
Make spring cleaning family fun!
  • Competitive Garage Sale - Plan a garage sale and make a section for each family in the household and see who makes the most money. This will give everyone a little extra incentive for cleaning out their closest and drawers and getting rid of the stuff they don't wear or use anymore.  
  • Bathroom or Bedroom Challenge - Making up cleaning games to get things done is always a great idea. This gets everyone involved and we all know that your child's clean bedroom always puts a smile on your face! What you can do is do this individually for a bedroom or pair up with a partner and pick a bathroom and see who does the better job. The winner can receive a special prize or maybe will be able to pick what is for dinner that night. Just make sure you get an outsider (maybe a grandparent of close friend) to judge so you don't have any bickering going on! 
  • Garage Game Room - If you want to get your garage looking spic and span, give your family a little incentive by rewarding them when it is done. When the garage is done being cleaned out make it a place for playing games too. You can go as basic as a dart board or some chalk for hopscotch to finding an old ping pong table. Find games that can be put away and stored easily so the cars can still be parked when not playing. This will also help with keeping it clean and clutter free if everyone uses the garage.
  • Sale or Donate to the Salvation Army or Thrift Store - Garage and yard sales are great but very time consuming. If you want to get rid of your stuff quickly why not donate it to the local Salvation Army or thrift store? If you have young children, this is a great way to teach them about donating and helping out the community. This will give everyone a sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing they helped someone out. If you want to make a little cash, you can also put your items on consignment at the thrift store.
  • Watch Hoarding Buried Alive -- Okay I know this sounds funny but as a family sit down and watch an episode or two of the TLC TV show. My family watched this for the first time last year and as a family we all decided we would NOT keep things that we don't need. So if you are wondering how to clean your house and keep it clean, this is for you. After we watched the show the whole family went through a cleaning frenzy and it actually helps keep things organized and clean around the house. A great show to watch to jump start the spring cleaning.
  • Online Garage Sales -- There is a website where you can post or find garage sales.  Facebook also has one that is becoming very popular. It's an easy way to advertise your garage sale items to get your items sold quickly and get all the clutter out of your house. You can either post your garage sale or post your items. This may be a better route for some if you don't want to have a full blown garage sale. It's also a great way to recycle and lighten the load on land fills.
Whatever method you and your family choose to get that spring cleaning done, in the end you will all feel better knowing everyone chipped in. Sure you may get some moans and groans at first but power through and make it a family affair. Plus your family may realize that spring cleaning, or for that matter any cleaning, is a huge chore and shouldn't be done by just one person. WHAT'S GOING TO WORK? TEAMWORK!

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Secrets of Soybeans

When you want to get the healthiest diet foods into your daily regimen, should you consider soybeans? Possibly yes, possibly no. 

soybeans
Soybeans one of the healthiest diet foods.
For good reasons, many people include soybeans (including their variants tofu and edamame) in their list of good-for-you foods. But scientists and health professionals also caution that there are possible risks to soybean cooking

Before you throw the baby out with the soybean oil, let's look at both sides of the soybean health debate so  you can make an informed choice in your diet.

The Benefits of Soybeans


The soybean has been a part of the human diet for almost 5,000 years. It’s a versatile product, eaten in various forms, including:
  • Whole soybeans: One of the most popular forms is as Edamame, which is prepared from immature soybeans that are still in the pod. The pods are first boiled or steamed and then served with salt. These green soy beans are found in Japanese, Chinese, and Hawaiian diets, on restaurant menus and in the freezer section of grocery stores.
  • Soy protein isolate: In this form, it is often added to such products as soy sausage patties, protein shakes, and soybean burgers. 
  • Soy flour: It is often used as a high-protein or gluten-free substitute to other flours.
  • Tofu: A curd made from mashing soybeans, coagulating the resulting soy juice and then pressing the curds into soft white blocks, mostly used in Asian or vegetarian cooking. 
Eight key soybean benefits:
soybean benefits
The benefits of soybeans are many.
  1. High protein – Unlike most plant foods, the soybean is high in protein, similar in quality to meat protein. And yet it’s also a good source of fiber, which no common meat source can boast.
  2. Phytonutrient-rich – Soybeans contain many active phytochemicals with antioxidant benefits, including phytoestrogen phenolic acids, and the isoflavone Genistein. Collectively, these have possible anti-tumor properties and may aid in prevention of heart disease and osteoporosis.
  3. Affordability – Soy is a considerably cheaper protein source than meat.
  4. Cholesterol – Many scientific studies reveal that soy in the diet can lower bad cholesterol in the body. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adding 25 grams per day of soy protein, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  5. Menopause – Some studies indicate that soy may also reduce symptoms of menopause and the risk of osteoporosis. Soy products may possibly prevent certain hormone-dependent cancers, including breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer.
  6. Diabetes – Soy protein may help reduce insulin resistance, kidney damage, and fatty liver in people with diabetes, according to a study in rats.
  7. Hypertension – A recent study shows that eating soybean protein appears to prevent and may help to treat hypertension.
  8. Bone loss – A study using soy milk revealed an anti-inflammatory effect, which may aid in the prevention of bone loss and cancer.

The Downsides of Soybeans


Not everything is rosy when it comes to soybeans. While there are many soybean health benefits, be aware that:
  • Soybeans contain moderate amounts of a natural substance called purine, which in large amounts can make gout worse. Persons with gout should not eat a lot of soy products.
  • In spite of the beneficial isoflavones in soy, there are other bioactive anti-cancer components in soy, such as protease inhibitors, lignans, phytosterols and saponins, although you can reduce these risks by eating soy as close to whole form as possible.
  • For individuals who are allergic to soy, side effects include stomachaches, constipation, and diarrhea.
  • Some research indicates an increase in male infertility with sufficient consumption of soy products.
  • Soy contains phytoestrogens that may have some of the effects of the human estrogen hormone if consumed in large quantities.
  • Based on some studies, the Israeli government advises women with breast cancer or a high risk of it to consult their doctors about soy in their diets. From related data, the country’s health ministry also issued recommendations that soy consumption be limited in young children, avoided in infants, and consumed in moderation in adults due to potential cancer concerns, pending authoritative future studies.
  • Drug interaction risks with soy products include warfarin, aspirin, and thyroid-replacement drugs.
With all these precautions are soybeans healthy or not? There is no question that, while they may not belong in everyone's healthful diet plan, there are many health benefits of edamame, soybeans, and tofu when you modify your nutritional eating habits with the above cautions.

Soybean Recipes


The soybean is a remarkably flexible food with a wide range of dietary uses in health recipes. To get you started, here are some of my favorites:
If you have a favorite soy health recipe, please share it, or the link to it, in the comments below.

Soy research


Want to dig a little deeper into the fascinating subject of soybeans? Here are some helpful links:
Is soy a part of your diet? Use the comments section to share your opinions on whether it should or should not be. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Exercise Your Brain!



the effects of exercising
Improve brain strength with physical
and mental exercise.
We exercise to lose weight, increase strength, or increase health, but what about exercising your brain? Recent brain research indicates that there are ways to improve your mental capacity or mental longevity through exercises, both physical exercises and brain games. 

Pump Iron to Flex Your Brain?

Physical fitness, it turns out, equates to mental fitness as well – that there are mental benefits of exercising. According to John J. Ratey, MD, author of A User's Guide to the Brain. physical exercise affects not only physical fitness but mental fitness as well, including alertness, mood, and vitality. Other doctors report that one of the effects of exercising is that it appears to diminish symptoms of adult and child attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and may even generate stem cell growth, which stimulates the brain. Brain research has also revealed that exercise positively affects the nervous system, releasing serotonin and dopamine – the feel-good chemicals –  into the body.

mental fitness
Fun brain games may improve thinking skills.
In a 2001 mood study reported in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, volunteers who did aerobic exercise for an hour reported a reduction in depression, fatigue, anger, and tension.  And a Duke University study on clinically depressed adults 50 and older showed that, after four months of regular exercise, participants had improved as much as those on the study who were either treated with the antidepressant drug Zoloft or a combination of Zoloft and exercise, and that those who had only exercised maintained the antidepressant benefit longer, as determined in a six-month post study checkup.

So, if you you want to think more clearly, perform better, improve morale, and decrease depression, try physical exercise! Even a single low-to-moderate exercise effort can reduce anxiety for hours. For a lasting effect, doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, at least three times weekly, with even better effect if you perform 30-60 minutes of exercise up to five or six times per week. While the experts suggest that, generally, more sessions per week are better, they note that exercises involving extreme exertion may actually show a decrease in certain mental faculties directly after the effort, but that the delayed effect is just temporary. 

Brain games to increase memory and critical thinking skills

Is it possible to improve a brain with mental games? Many experts say yes, that fun for the brain is good for the brain. 

brain quizzes
Brain quizzes and games contribute to
mental fitness.
In the past, scientists believed that our mental capacity solidified after childhood – that what you've got is all you’ll ever have. But neuroscientists are now finding that our brains are constantly changing, generating new neurons and developing synaptic connections, regardless of age, and that certain types of mental fitness games and memory tricks can capitalize on this development to boost brain power.

These brain games, developed by companies such as Lumosity, and Cambridge Brain Sciences Inc., offer online tools for measuring and improving brain function, zeroing in on cognitive processes such as memory and attention. 

One peer-reviewed study reported in the Mensa Research Journal showed that some of these brain games can significantly improve short-term memory. In another study using an adaptive, computerized program, participants demonstrated significantly increased basic math skills, including number sense, and calculation, as well as processing speed, cognitive flexibility, and visual-spatial processing skills. Other research indicates that simply being social – interacting with others – boosts mental health by stimulating several areas of the brain.

All this developing evidence suggests that the right kind of mental exercises can reshape the brain to become more efficient. While there are conflicting opinions within the medical field on the effectiveness of brain training exercises, and even conflicting study results, there is no harm in trying these brain stimulation games, especially since many of the games that mentally stimulate are actually fun brain games. Some of the brain-fun memory games resemble arcade games and board games, modified to stimulate certain types of brain activity, and then measure the results. 
While most of these scientifically proven brain-quiz sites are not free, you can try them for free, such as the engaging brain games at Luminosity.com. There are ways to gain access for free, such as the Lumosity Education Access Program (LEAP), providing educators with Lumosity memberships for their students. If you or an educator you know is interested in participating in LEAP, you can fill out their online application. Through the Clinical Access Research & Engagement (CARE) program, clinicians such as psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists and neuropsychologists can also get sample memberships to these brain quizzes for their patients. 

The brain strength game exercises influence a range of practical and usable cognitive functions, such as remembering names after the first introduction, remembering the location of objects, multitasking, learning new subjects quickly and accurately, and solving problems faster, even with just three to five 15-minute training sessions per week. That’s a small time investment for measurably improving the brain’s function.

Add on some regular physical exercises to build some brain muscle and you’re on course to be smarter and more alert for a long time. 
fun brain games
Gain brain strength by building brain muscle
with physical and mental exercises.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Parent Leadership Month




February is Parent Leadership Month. Some of you may be wondering, like myself, what that is and what does it mean? This was put into effect to help families become stronger and safer and help show strong leadership traits. It was also implemented to give knowledge in leadership and teach different leadership styles. When a parent shows great leadership and management skills the family as a whole is stronger. Children watch everything their parents do, even when you think they aren't.

It is very important for a parent to show their leadership skills with parent and community involvement. If your child sees you supporting the community and acting as a true leader your child will do the same and soon become a leader themselves. If you show the initiative and teach them what good leadership skills are they will catch on quickly and follow your lead as they get older. Most kids like to be a part of community groups and involved in activities; so get your child involved and show them the real qualities of a leader.

When I researched this subject, I searched the internet for the definition of leadership. These are some words that came up: leader, guidance, command, direct, influence, effectiveness, control, sway, and the list goes on. When I think of how to define leadership to my children I think of one thing, what can you do to encourage others to realize their potential?

The meaning of leadership isn't a bunch of words or synonyms that are used to describe something. Leadership is something that is developed over time. Some of the leadership words above may lead your child to develop leadership qualities you don't want him to have. They may think by being a leader that means they get to boss everyone around and everyone does what they say.

meaning of leadership
Leadership in schools is a
great place for kids to start.
Different types of leadership skills are often confused with being bossy and being the "Leader of the pack". This can happen at school and this is also where bulling comes into play. Leadership in schools is a place where kids can learn the difference between leading and bullying. Being a leader is the opposite of being a bully. We tell our children that a leader stands up for someone who is being bullied.

So, how can parents teach and show great leadership skills to help our kids become leaders? Here are three key words, SHOW, EXPLAIN, and ENCOURAGE.  These words will help you teach your children great leadership skills. It will also get them involved in the community and show off all your great parenting leadership skills.

  • Show your children what a healthy relationship is and how it works both ways. There isn't any one person that is in charge, but you work as a team. If there is a disagreement you work it out instead of cowering down to the stronger person. Come up with a solution that everyone is happy with. This will teach them that there doesn't have to be just one leader in a relationship. Being a leader doesn't mean everyone does what you say. Being a leader means you do what is best for everyone that is involved to make the relationship stronger.
  • Explain what a team is and how important it is to listen to everyone on the team. Everyone needs someone to help them out and that is what any team does. Whether it's in sports, work, or school, everyone has to work together to get a job done.There is always someone that coordinates or comes up with an idea, but what makes that person a true leader is how they get everyone around them involved to help out.
  • Encourage social skills and have your children become an organized leader. Look through the local newspaper and see if there are any events in your community that your kids can get involved with. Encourage them to go to their friends and see who wants to join them. Having them take the initiative to get their friends involved, you have opened the door to leadership. All they might need is a little nudge in the right direction and most of the time they will finish it.
organized leader
Who are community leaders? You, me and anyone else
who is willing to make the community better.
If you are in need of some extra help in developing better parent leadership skills there are plenty of people and organizations that will help. Parents Anonymous Inc. is a great place to start. Their Shared Leadership Program helps to strengthen partnerships between parents and others in the community to build stronger families and individuals.

A lot of people think that you are born a leader, I disagree. I think anyone can become a leader. Is leadership a skill that you can develop? Yes, very much so! I am living proof of that. I use to be the shy kid in school who barely spoke and the only thing I did outside my box was play sports. I came from a broken home and my parents divorced when I was very young. I only saw my dad a few weeks out of the year and he was the one with tremendous leadership skills. Not that mom didn't have those skills, but she was so busy working and trying to make ends meat that I didn't see her much. When I turned 16 I made a life changing decision to move in with my Dad and that is when it I started to develop leadership skills. He didn't have to say much to me about how to be a leader, but I was able to learn from watching his example. He ran his own business and helped the people around him. He made everyone around him realize their own potential, which I believe is the best leadership skill anyone can have. After a short amount of time I started building confidence in myself and it wasn't long before I became a leader just like him. I have four other siblings and we are all leaders in our own ways. We have our father to thank for that. So, parents are where it needs to start to help children become the next leaders in our society.

It is never too late to take charge and who knows, maybe your child will be the next president, of his or her own company, student council or even of the United States!

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidents' Day Holiday



federal holiday
Presidents' Day
honors Washington.
I can hear the water cooler discussions now;  “Boy, I have been looking forward to the 3-day holiday coming up next week! What do you have planned for your days off?” How many of us really think about why we are getting those much cherished days off of work and school? Do you consider it just another time NOT to have to go to work? 
We are about to celebrate Presidents' Day, which has been designated a federal holiday since 1968. Prior to 1968, on February 22, we celebrated Washington's birthday as a federal holiday. Lincoln's birthday fell on February 12 and was considered a public holiday. In 1968, Congress decided to coordinate a Monday holiday system that would be uniform across the country. They designated the third Monday in February as Presidents' Day to honor the two famous presidents together. Since then, this holiday has been celebrated as a federal holiday that honors all American presidents.

How Do You Celebrate Presidents' Day?

How do you celebrate the day set aside for us to think about the men that have shaped our country over the past two hundred and some odd years? If you read your newspapers this time of year, you will see all of the “Presidents’ Day” sales in just about every department store known to mankind! Now, I am not exactly sure just how the former presidents would have viewed the popularity of the retail sales that honor them, but hey if you can save some money on your purchases, why not! 


Since this is a winter time holiday, I know many families that plan their ski trips during this time.The only drawback to this planning is that they are NOT ALONE! The slopes are packed on this holiday weekend!
We should really take time to reflect on just why we stop our daily routines to honor our past presidents. According to the website for the US Parks Service, there are many planned activities that honor our past presidents. One of the best places to take part in the celebrations to honor our presidents is Washington D.C.   
The George Washington Birthplace National Monument in VA, holds an annual birthday celebration on President's Day and on his actual birthday. If you intend to take part in this celebration you can enjoy special colonial activities held throughout the day. Mount Vernon (now part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway) also honors George Washington with a birthday celebration weekend and an annual fee-free day held on the third Monday of February.
federal holiday
Celebrate Lincoln's Birthday by
visiting the Lincoln Memorial.
There are also annual activities to remember Abraham Lincoln's birthday that include a February 12th wreath laying ceremony at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in KY. Also Lincoln Day, held each year on the Sunday closest to February 12th at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana as well as special birthday programs at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Illinois. Each year, other special events are added, so be sure to check park calendars before you book your travel plans.


holiday weekend
Visit Mt. Rushmore for Presidents' Day.
Other places to visit include memorials to other presidents, like FDR. I have included Mt. Rushmore in my bucket list as a place I really, really want to visit before I leave this world. It is quite a feat and I'm sure that pictures don't do it justice.
So think about what you would like to do with your holiday time and make it a family affair.  Tell the kids why they don’t have to go to school and how important it is to honor those that have laid the ground work for the greatest country in the world, and that without those men of our historical past, we would not have the freedoms to do as we please on the day given to us in their honor. Get out and enjoy all the activities and most of all have some fun! Tuesday and the return to work will be right behind our fun day!
Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 15, 2013

Glaucoma: Invisible and Incurable


Known as the silent thief of sight, its most common form has no warning signs. It is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, but there is no cure to reverse the damage it inflicts. It is estimated that glaucoma afflicts over 2.2 million Americans, but only half of the people that comprise that statistic are aware that they have the disease.

Do you know what glaucoma is, or what the treatment of glaucoma entails? The lack of awareness in this area of vision care is alarming. According to a 2002 Prevent Blindness America Survey cited by the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), half of people surveyed had heard of glaucoma, but did not have an understanding of what it is. Even more disturbing, 30% of those surveyed admitted that they had never even heard of it. The divide between this disease’s impact and its public awareness is wide.

vegetables
Glaucoma involves the optic nerve.
Glaucoma involves complications of the optic nerve, typically in both eyes, which causes vision impairment or loss. As fluid pressure in the eye rises around the optic nerve, vision gradually becomes impaired. The GRF states that “everyone is at risk for glaucoma.” Glaucoma is more common with the elderly, but also afflicts infants and young adults. Although it's rare in babies, approximately one out of every 10,000 infants in the US are born with glaucoma. African Americans are 15 times more likely to suffer vision impairment from glaucoma than Caucasians.

Despite these statistics, the GRF reports that less than half of all adult Americans get the vision exam best suited to detect this grievous disease— a dilated eye exam. Popular misconceptions about which vegetables aid vision are not helpful, either. How many times have you heard that carrots are good for your eyes? Research now shows that although carrots are high in antioxidants, those antioxidants are not the type commonly found in the eye.

The two types of antioxidants that are highest in the eye are lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are found in spinach. Foods with vitamins C, E, A, and zinc are also recommended as supplements due to their high antioxidant content. According to livestrong.com, the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish are also helpful with membrane support and reducing inflammation in the eye.

Here is a great, glaucoma-fighting fish recipe from epicurious.com to get you started on your all-natural, preventative diet:

Glaucoma
Foods with vitamins C, E and A, plus
omega-3 fatty acids can help support eye health.
(Photo by Richard Eskite found on epicurious.com)

Seared Salmon on Baby Spinach (serves 2, prep time is 45 minutes) 

Ingredients

2 7-ounce skinless salmon fillets
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 large shallots, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
3 ounces baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup whipping cream

Preparation

Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon; sauté until just opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in same skillet. Add half of shallots and half of tarragon; sauté 30 seconds. Increase heat to high; add half of spinach and toss 30 seconds. Add remaining spinach; toss until wilted. Divide between plates.

Melt remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining shallots and tarragon; sauté 30 seconds. Add wine and cream and boil until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return salmon to skillet; simmer 1 minute. Arrange salmon with sauce atop spinach.

If you aren't ready to take the plunge into reconstructing your diet, supplements are an option. However, be sure to consult your doctor first. Just as with prescription drugs, too much of a supplement could do more harm than good. Do some research, take preventative action, and receive the proper eye care. Get in front of glaucoma and stop the silent thief of sight. If you do require prescription medication, download the FamilyWize discount prescription card to save up to 75% on your medications. There is a link to download the free card in the upper, right-hand corner of this blog. Also, visit our Community Resources page for assistance with health care.

Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day


February holiday
Who is St. Valentine?
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Valentine's Day or what the actual history of St.Valentines is?  Sure we all know what it stands for but how did it become such a popular day to celebrate and who is Saint Valentine? It must be a pretty special February holiday if over 2.2 million couples pick this day for their wedding day. St. Valentine's Day has a very interesting story and, after researching the origin of Valentine's Day, I found out some pretty interesting facts on Valentines's Day that I would like to share.

Valentine's Day was actually created after a person and not a certain day. The St. of Valentine's day was a real person, named Saint ValentineValentine's Day facts show that there were actually more than one St. Valentine. While there are a few stories surrounding the origin of St. Valentine, the most common says that Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriages for young men because he thought that single men made better soldiers. This is when Valentine, a Roman Priest, stepped in so that marriage would not end. He actually kept marrying the young lovers behind the Emperors back. Once the Emperor found out, he threw Valentine into prison and he was eventually executed. While Valentine was in prison he actually fell in love with the jailer's daughter and wrote her love letters that he signed "From Your Valentine."  So Valentine's Day is more about what you would do for love rather than what you should do when you have it. Valentine was such a hopeless romantic that he didn't care about the consequences that he may encounter if he disobeyed the Emperor. All he wanted was for everyone to be happy and in love.  
Now that you have read a little Valentine trivia and know the true meaning of Valentine's Day, do something that you haven't done in the past. Instead of spoiling your loved ones with flowers, candies and cards, try thinking of something that will really make them happy and feel loved. My husband is good at this and every year for Valentine's Day I do get flowers but not the kind you are thinking of. Instead of a dozen roses that die after a week, he actually buys me a dozen rose bushes. He plants them in our backyard every year and every time I go outside it reminds me of him and how creative and thoughtful he is. Now a dozen rose bushes can get a little pricey and some may be thinking that is a little much. So why not start with one rose bush? Over the spring and summer months your rose bush will create at least 12 roses so you will have surpassed the dozen roses in no time and you will have it year after year.  

5 Valentine Day projects
Valentine Days Crafts
will be cherished year round.
There are a lot of things to do on Valentine's Day like going to the movies or going out to eat.  There are also a lot of creative gifts and fun Valentines out there that are clever and inexpensive.  It will just take  a little creativity to find the best Valentine gift that suits your loved ones.  I have two favorite Valentine's Day crafts that are inexpensive practical that anyone would love.
  • Homemade Coupon Book -- Make a coupon book filled with love. I have received coupon books from my kids many times and I LOVE them. When they were younger the coupons were.... Make your bed, dust, wash the car, do the dishes, help with dinner and so on. Now that they are older the coupons have gotten much better.... Pedicure, manicure, 5, 7, or 10 minute neck massage, pay for own gas, make dinner, breakfast in bed, clean the bathrooms, and do laundry. Now if you are making it for your husband or wife I am sure you can come up with some good ones that we don't need to know about. ;)
  • Why I Love You Book --  If you have been with your loved one for many years this is a great gift.  Make a homemade book and on the outside you have it say "___ Reasons I Love You."  So the number you put in is the number of years you have been married. You could even make this on your first year and add a page every year. By your 50th Wedding Anniversary this would be something that you can share with the whole family.
Valentine crafts for children are so much fun and they really enjoy making them.  Anything from a child is cherished no matter how much it cost or what it looks like. The best gifts usually include a hand print picture, or a home made drawing. Making simple Valentines crafts will also help your child stay away from all the sweets that are out there during this time of year. There are a lot of cute Valentines cards, Valentine cupcakes, and Valentine crafts that you can make with your children. Below you will find my top 5 Valentine Day projects that I have done over the years in my preschool. hey are easy and very inexpensive.

Valentine's Day
Crafts for Valentine's Day that mean so much.
  1. Photo Key Chain - You can find a photo key chain almost anywhere for under $2.00. All craft stores have them too. Take a picture for one side of the key chain and then have your child draw a picture of themselves for the other side. Very cute idea and makes it personal when they draw on it.
  2. Homemade Love Flower  - Trace your child's hand and add a pipe cleaner, wooden dowel, or a Popsicle stick for the stem. Make leaves in the shape of a heart and write why you love that special person. Your child can color it or add some glitter to give it that special touch.
  3. Hand print Tile - Find an old left over tile and have your child put their hand print on it. Put a special saying or just I Love You. The tile can be used as a pot holder on the counter. A very easy and clever idea.  
  4. Thumb print Card - This is one of the easiest and one of my favorites. Make a person from your child's thumbprint and write on the card "Thumb-body loves you."  This craft for Valentine's Day is very easy and it will be kept close to the heart year after year.
  5. Heart Book Marker - Make a heart for your child from thick paper or cardboard. Next have them decorate it with crayons, markers, glitter, or stickers. Next turn it over and write a special poem about Valentine's Day. Add some yarn and you have an instant book marker.
Valentine's Day
There are free crafts available if you are trying to save a little money by making homemade Valentines for your child's classmates. It will take time but you will save money. Plus you will have fun with your child and the memories will never be forgotten.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer