Two Expats, a Native and a Bottle of El Jimador

Baguette, Cheese and El Jimador, the party essentials

A couple of days ago our good friend Philippe Boets, the man behind Petanque America and the Annual Tournament in Downtown,  came over to our house to show me what needed to be done to get my Christmas Gift underway: a Pétanque Court in the Backyard.

For the occasion we introduced him to the most organic Happy Hour Drink we know, El Jimador Tequila, as he proclaimed to never have tasted it. As is usual during our get-togethers our conversations cover Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach and from there the world. This night we ended up talking about the “old” country versus the “new” country and some involuntary comparisons always come out. As I am deeply involved in the organization of the Amelia Island Blues Festival our conversation went to the Annual Fête de la Music, a huge global music festival that started in 1982 in France and has now spread to more than 100 countries around the globe. We think huge after a couple of shots.

The Fête de la Music was first held on June 21, 1982, the day of summer solstice, a pagan night which recalls the ancient tradition of Saint John’s feasts.  Now mind you, this story is not about music, but from music it is an easy step for us to get to food and when we brought out the extra aged Dutch Cheese to complement our Tequila, the ensuing conversation planted a story to my mind. In educated, exposed opinions, food quality in the US in general, has been historically low due to a few major corporations who control the food supply with little care about quality and too much focus on price.

Although there is some truth to that assessment, in my opinion however, the American consumer is to be blamed to a large degree, even though I also believe that consumers these days are pushing for better and… are showing a willingness to pay for better.

Historically Americans in general simply don’t value quality food, at least not enough to pay extra. And yes of course I am generalizing here. Compared however to European countries, the quality of basic staples is often worlds apart.

Take for example the fresh bakery on any block in Paris, Milan, Madrid, Brussels or my hometown of Heerlen easily makes better breads than any bakery in Jacksonville, Orlando or Atlanta. As my recollection goes I only found comparable in San Francisco and New York.
Here on island I cannot get a real Baguette, although some stores and restaurants are slowly getting closer to the formula.

Two minutes from my house in little French St.Martin however I can get a couple of “sticks” for 80 cents a piece, put some Dutch Cheese on it and wake up in Heaven. Furthermore, at almost any corner, I can buy coffees to die for. Then there’s the superior-quality milk. What we refer to as organic milk in the U.S. is just “milk” over in Europe,where you can’t find the poor quality of milk sold in the U.S. supermarkets, even if you tried. And my apologies that I’m not going to get into the salamis, deli meats, and vegetables available.

These aren’t food specialties with a special place in my heart, but rather items that any person can appreciate – milk, bread, coffee, etc. There’s something very strange going on here. How can people in a country with a much lower standard of living (St.Martin) than the U.S., be eating better in many ways? It’s seems too convenient to immediately blame the big corporations like the movie Food Inc. does, but I think it is because the European system is very much based around small vendors. It’s the local bakery on the corner, the farmers’ markets; it’s the neighborhood butcher and the tiny café with the best coffee made fresh every 30 minutes. Small business supports this way of life and the consumers support them. Small communities support small business. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. That’s why I’m such a big fan of keeping Amelia Island local. Support the local small business and quality is mostly guaranteed.

But of course this comes with a price in both time and money. It’s easier to grab some sliced Wonder”bread” from a grocery store shelf than to make a special trip to the bakery shop. Even without a price difference, there’s a higher cost there. But it’s a cost that many Europeans are willing to pay. And when you’re willing to pay this price, wonderful neighborhood bakeries will exist. In Europe the pull toward the big box grocery store model started at least 40 years ago, but somehow there is a balance kept between the two models, likely because the cities are older and kind of set in their architectural ways, leaving lots of space for small businesses to deliver quality.

Now that is what I'm talking about

I do think that America is slowly turning European as far as its food tastes go. It’s impossible to ignore the recent success of businesses such as Whole Foods and Starbucks Coffee, or even the opening of the Mustard Café at the Nassau Health Store. The consumer is becoming more concerned about quality and health, not just the price. Even Walmart sells organic milk now. (On a side note, I consider organic milk to be the gateway drug to organic food. If you haven’t tried it yet, do so). Forget for a minute the Lactose intolerancy or the supposed negative health implications and drink liquid whipped cream. Woohoo. The Dutch are famous for their milk cows and dairy and yet recent surveys have found them to be the tallest, yet healthiest people in the world. The only common denominator is milk products!

So we are on the right track here in America, however, consumer sentiment still has a long way to go. A lot of my friends love organic food but complain that they can’t afford it. Well to be brutally honest, that isn’t true for most of them. They can afford it, but they don’t value the food enough to spend the money. I can’t afford a Maserati or Bugatti at the moment, but if I choose not to buy one of those cars this year, and instead drive my bike on this gorgeous island, I can easily afford to eat much better for a long long time.

It’s of course a matter of personal preference.

Folks like my grandparents would rather have a three-year supply of fresh tomatoes than a giant TV. I get my aged Dutch cheese from iGourmet, because without it my Tequila is somehow a bit harsher and I don’t have the pleasure of seeing people close their eyes in pure ecstacy after just a small taste. People in Europe drive average small cars, because the gasoline is $6-$7 dollars a gallon. They need money in their budget to live life to the fullest and because of that, a car has become a tool. That’s just the lifestyle they’re accustomed to.

Sure, at first, I thought the whole organic food movement was simply an “alternative soul” niche market. But it’s really catching on for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment and everything with lifestyle changes. Now that the trend has started, I don’t think it will stop. And that is a good thing.

Uh Philippe, “how did I end up with this story instead of a story about the upcoming Blues Festival?”  Guess it was El Jimador, a name given to the experienced Mexican farmer who selects and cultivates the legendary and unique Blue Agave; the man whose perfect blend of experience and basic instinct commands respect for these plants, whose knowing eyes identify those, which after ten years of cultivation, have reached maturity, and whose strength and skilled management of his tools, bring the finest specimens to harvest.

And that is almost poetry without a hangover.

Club 14 Fitness Revolution

Club 14 Fitness RevolutionRev·o·lu·tion (from the Latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.”

The revolution kicks off on January 10th at CLUB 14 FITNESS in the movie theater shopping center on 14th Street on Amelia Island. This is your opportunity to join the 2011 Fitness Revolution and make a serious change in your body’s organizational structure in a relatively short period of time!

Check out some of what they have lined up for you:

MEMBERSHIP BLOW OUT

$39 PER MONTH PLUS Zero enrollment, available on January 10th, 2011 ONLY!

FREE ON-SITE

-Nutrition Coaching
-Chiropractic Analysis
-Massage Therapy
-Gait Analysis

IT ALL BEGINS

-Forever Fit Competition
-Group Fitness Re-launch
-2011 Health Fair

For more information stop by, visit www.CLUB14FITNESS.com or call them at (904) 206-4414.

Dead Birds, Dead Fish and Hazmat Suits

Dead Birds, Dead Fish and Hazmat SuitsAll over the news both online and on television were stories about the thousands of birds that fell from the sky over Beebe, Arkansas late New Year’s Eve.

Described by many as a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, the community is looking for answers. Dead are mostly red-winged black birds and authorities are speculating the deaths may be related to lightning, stress, hail or fireworks. Really? Then why are officials from the Department of Environmental Services who are picking the birds off of lawns, roofs and streets wearing protective gloves, oxygen masks and hazmat suits?

Take a look at some of these reports for yourself:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooZxZhpMSl0

Here is the official press release from Arkansas’s Game and Fish Commission, released January 1, 2011, regarding the dead birds.

BEEBE – Last night, ringing in the New Year took on a whole different meaning for the citizens of Beebe. Beginning at around 11:30 p.m., enforcement officers with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began getting reports of dead black birds falling from the sky in the city limits of Beebe.

Officers estimated that over 1,000 birds had fallen out of the sky over the city before midnight. Most of the birds were dead, but some were still alive when officers arrived. The blackbirds fell over a one-mile area in the city. AGFC wildlife officer Robby King responded to the reports and found hundreds of birds.

“Shortly after I arrived there were still birds falling from the sky,” King said. King collected about 65 dead birds that will be sent to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.

The AGFC has flown over the area to gauge the scope of the event. There were no other birds found outside of the initial area.

AGFC ornithologist Karen Rowe said that strange events similar to this one have occurred a number of times across the globe. “Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail,” Rowe said.

Another scenario may have been that New Year’s Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area may have startled the birds from their roost. The birds may have died from stress.

Rowe said that it didn’t appear as though the birds died of any poisoning or other event. “Since it only involved a flock of blackbirds and only involved them falling out of the sky it is unlikely they were poisoned, but a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin,” she said. Testing will begin on Monday.

The City of Beebe has hired U.S. Environmental Services to begin the cleanup and dispose of the dead birds. The environmental firm will go door-to-door to pick up the birds that are still in yards and on roof tops.

Mid Air Collision

MSNBC has recently revealed the cause of death may have been a mid-air collision among the birds.

But wait… there’s more

24 Hours Later

Twenty four hours later and 125 miles away, hundreds of thousands of Drum fish were found dead in the Arkansas River.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qfDxEhm35U

What do you think?

Could these incidents have been caused by government testing as many commenting on a wide variety of articles on this topic are suspecting? Or is something else at play here? Let us know what you think!

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The Inevitable Post Holiday Diet Effort

Potatoes are back on the diet roster

This year we left a lot of traditional calorie boosters out of our Holiday intake line up. We kept an eye on Portion Control, we went light on the alcohol, heck we even cut out our Rum Fruit Grog Tradition, in an effort to limit the caloric damage. Well sad to say that the result in weight gain is about the same as in any other year when we went all out. That verdict came in when we faced the window on our scale of damage by the first of the New Year.
The question now is, would we have gained even more if all our traditionals would have been part of the Holiday Food and Beverage Equation?

A glimpse of how this may have worked was recently revealed in a new study of overweight people and the effect of potatoes in their diets.
As we all know, for quite a few years now, potatoes have been declared a starchy evil in any serious diet effort. Turns out however there is no truth to that at all.

Researchers tested this very theory as they put everyone in the study on a diet but let half of them eat a serving of potatoes almost every day. Twelve weeks later, the potato eaters had lost roughly the same amount of weight as the potato abstainers — about 3 pounds.

Contrary to popular belief, carbs aren’t off limits when you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, your body needs carbs for energy and key nutrients. And in a study where overweight people cut 500 calories from their diet each day, people still lost weight regardless of whether their diet included potatoes. Bottom line: When it comes to weight loss, the overall composition of your diet is more important than including or excluding any single food. A calorie-controlled diet that is balanced, high in fiber and nutrients, and focused on healthful fats will get you further than nixing bread. Or potatoes. Or any one food group, like carbs.

Whether you’re trying to slim down or just boost your nutritional status, potatoes are a super menu choice. One medium baked potato with the skin serves up 4 grams of fiber, 900 milligrams of potassium, and a healthy dose of vitamin C. All for just 160 calories. Top your tater with corn, black beans, and salsa to ratchet up the flavor and nutrition without adding tons of extra fat and calories.

Armed with this information I’ll reintroduce the potato to our menu, however I have one overriding concern resulting from this test: Overweight people cut 500 calories from their daily intake and in twelve weeks only drop 3 pounds on average??? They mean that for 84 days I drop 500 calories from my daily intake (that is 42,000 calories!) and I only loose 3 pounds?

I think it’s time to make my cabbage soup; I’ll loose 3 pounds in 3 days, guaranteed.

Food Channel Predictions for 2011

Back to Grandma's Canning Corner

At this time of the year, everyone and his lapdog comes out with a list of forecasts and trends that will see daylight in 2011. Nothing new therefore when I got this email from the Food Channel that 2011 will see a lot more Home Canning, more Men Cooking and more purchasing of local foods.

The Food Channel, along with CultureWaves, Mintel International and International Food Futurists, identified the most significant food trends that will drive how people eat throughout 2011.

“The new economy has created a boldness and willingness to change how we work, how we cook and how we eat. All of our 2011 trends reflect that in some way,” says Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel. “One example is baby boomers wanting to age well. For example, trend No. 10 explains they are eating for better sex, more energy and the ability to work longer.”

The Food Channel’s top 10 trends for 2011 are:
• The canning comeback, something grandma did is gaining popularity for both economy and health.
• More men cooking because of layoffs.
• People wanting to get food grown locally.
• Americans are of tired of being told what they can eat.
• Social media working as a food guide and coupon source.
• Corporations thinking like small businesses to respond to a changing market.
• More fresh foods daily via gardens.
• Bringing chefs to schools to improve taste and improve diet.
• Eating “out of the box”, because change makes people comfortable with more change.
• Eating for better sex and better health to live longer and healthier.

Well I would like to add that foregoing doesn’t change my circumstance one bit, as aside from the holidays, I do the great majority of cooking around the house and an important reason why is, that I work from the house. Surprisingly that trend does not show up on the Food Channel’s list, but I think that one important reason for the trend detection is the fact that a growing number of people have taken their business to the internet working from the home, which will have consequences on eating out as well as the type of foods purchased.

One major change for me is that grocery shopping once a week has now turned into daily or at least three times a week, increasing the level of fresh food in my household substantially, while also stocking up canned food like the squirrels in my attic.

New Year Resolutions… Again

New Year Resolutions... Again

New Year Resolutions... Again

Here we go again. It is the time of year when most people are either making resolutions about how they are going to be in the year ahead or they have given up on resolutions because they have disappointed themselves by making promises that they haven’t kept. I recall my article from last year called Time to Make Some Changes and I see that I have not been very successful in implementing and sticking to the life changes that I wanted to achieve.

Although I may not have accomplished all my goals, a lot of positives were achieved during the year. I traveled to Ohio and Tennessee. I graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Legal Studies. I spent time with my mother and granddaughter. I completed many quilting projects. I welcomed my husband home from Kuwait. 2010 was a good year.

If you plan to make New Year’s resolutions, be sure that they are realistic. Psychology Professor Richard Wiseman created a quiz to assess whether or not the techniques that you plan to use will actually work. You can find it at www.resolutionquiz.com. I scored in the medium range.

I am looking forward to 2011 knowing that I need to make time for me. My health, both mental and physical, is important. Working on my goal of being fit may take some time and I may slip up, but if my ultimate goal is to improve my life and I keep that in mind, it will help keep me going. Even when I slip up, as long as there is an overall improvement, it is a success! Isn’t that the whole point of this resolution thing?

Happy New Year!

Family Togetherness is Making Me Sick

Family Togetherness is Making Me Sick

The Common Cold

Yes, I love my family and I love the time we spend together, but all of this family togetherness is making me sick, literally!

Traveling in the tight quarters of the family sedan to Grandma’s house is the best way for Cousin Bobby to give you his cold. Let us all gather in the dining room and hold hands for a prayer before Christmas dinner; thank you little Suzie, I now have your sniffles!

When you work outdoors or mostly alone as the adults in my home do, then you aren’t exposed to as many germs that cause illnesses, I suppose that makes my immune system a bit weaker than other people’s. And these Christmas gatherings are making me sick.

I hate to catch a cold, the sniffles or the flu!

    -If you have a fever stay home. If you or your child has had a fever within the past 24 hours, stay home!
    -Don’t use your hand to shield a cough or sneeze, use your elbow. Since it is difficult to open a door with your elbow, this will reduce germs spread on doorknobs, lightswitches, remote controls and keyboards.
    -Use disposable drinking glasses. When you have company over for several days, just use disposable drinking cups and throw them away! Not a big tree-hugging initiative, but you will reduce the chances of catching their cold.
    -Take vitamin C and increase your vitamin D!
    -Get plenty of rest. It is easy to over extend yourself physically during the holidays. You do not have to do it all… call it a day and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Remember, this is your holiday, too!
    -Drink plenty of fluids.
    -Encourage your guests to scrape their plates and put their dirty dishes in the sink. You shouldn’t have to touch everyone’s dirty napkins and eating utensils!
    -Avoid white sugars. This is harder to do this time of the year with so many delectable tidbits lying about.
    -Don’t drink alcohol to excess. This is also hard to do with the in-laws visiting this time of the year.
    -Continue your exercise routine unless you have already contracted a severe cold.

The weather does not make you sick. It is the behavioral changes that often accompany weather changes that may cause you to get exposed to cold and flu viruses. Staying rested and healthily active will keep you feeling your best into the New Year… and if you must, it is ok to avoid your sister’s snot-nosed kids if they have been ill!

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Battling the Holiday Season Weight Gain

Apple Cider Vinegar to the Holiday Weight Gain Rescue?

Between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, the pressure on the waistline of your pants or jeans seems to be accelerating quickly. Too many Holiday Parties, dinner events, office party hors d’oeuvres and snacks in the cupboard.

I have lost count of how many times in recent weeks we have gone out to restaurants and on the way back in our car, loosened the top button of our pants, while having discussions on how, come January 1st life will make a big turn for the gym, diets and no more alcohol.

So when I read a story about how vinegar, or more precise the acetic acid in vinegar, is capable of inhibiting the body’s ability to store fat. It turns out that vinegar does double-duty fat-blasting, especially around the middle where the body likes to stock up on the stuff.

It also doesn’t seem to matter what vinegar — white, apple cider, balsamic or even red raspberry — you use. What’s critical is that you use the vinegar that has 5% acidity (acidity is typically marked on the label). The antiglycemic effect is greater the more vinegar you consume: The bare minimum for lowering your blood sugar is 1 to 2 tablespoons. It’s not the most chuggable liquid, so I think the best delivery system is as a dressing. I make a killer cucumber salad with an assortment of vinegars but in combination other fat burning foods such as asparagus, celery, onions. beets, brussel sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes and carrots, it can do wonders for your waist.

For a salad dressing it suffices to mix your favorite vinegar with olive oil at a 2 (vinegar):1 (oil) ratio, and serve with mixed leafy greens, crucifers like watercress and arugula, and other veggies or even potatoes. Be creative.

Another recent study revealed that obese people who took in 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily melted significantly more body fat and especially belly fat than a group taking a placebo — despite being on the same diet and exercise plan.

Oh, and listen to this, vinegar also seemed to help lower bad-for-the-heart triglyceride levels and systolic blood pressure as was discovered at the end of the 12-week study. That’s what I would call a Sherpa’s load of health benefits for one little flavor maker.
Piece of advice, start getting your daily dose of vinegar (don’t overdo it or you may get negative side effects from low potassium and low bone density) and maybe you won’t have to get the 2 sizes bigger clothes out of the winter wardrobe chest.

And even though some dietitians and “health experts” call it irresponsible for celebrities like Megan Fox to endorse the vinegar diet, citing potential damage to the liver, I don’t hear them calling drug companies irresponsible, even if their pharmaceuticals cause potentially debilitating side effects. I did a vinegar diet about 7 years ago and lost close to 50 lbs – actually the only thing I did was eating my daily serving of lettuce and greens with a oil and vinegar dressing.

Past 200 Years Show Huge Human Improvement

Hans Rosling on TED

Sometimes all the news coming down on us is depressing; as if we have lost our humanitarian direction. Bad news, economic frustration, violence all around and life in general is tough. It’s the small picture. A much broader picture can only be the quantifiable result of time comparison.  And when a larger picture is presented that shows how far we have come in the past 200 years, a picture presented by numbers; statistics to be precise, it turns out that we have accomplished magnificently.

Even when I studied econometry (the statistical application of data into an understandable process)as an integral part of my economics schooling, I never got quite excited about the crunching of numbers into an understandable picture.
My mindset could not foster the enthusiasm to really portray something of global understanding. But a professor of international health in Sweden, Hans Rosling has a long history of exploring the facts and figures that surround our changing world and what’s more, he can make it come to life with exuberance. In a segment of a BBC series, Rosling gave one of his most famous lectures with a new twist, while using 120,000+ bits of data and augmented reality, as he takes us through the last 200 years of global history and its supposedly uneven growth of wealth and health.”
In less than 5 minutes he shows us that we do have a lot to be thankful for and that the global picture of our accomplishments in the past 200 years are quite admirable.
No one makes statistics sound quite as awe-inspiring as Rosling. When you check out the video, you’ll see what I mean.

While this isn’t the first time that Rosling has given this lecture, it is the first time he’s used augmented reality technology. Pretty cool update, if you ask me, and fitting with Rosling’s approach to statistics. He has continually struggled to find new ways of presenting data that speaks to and engages the audience. His Gapminder site makes public data easily accessible, colorful, and meaningful to people who would otherwise ignore graphs as boring and inconclusive. In Rosling’s long history of amazing lectures (many of which can be found on YouTube) he has shown the importance of understanding the history of global changes if we want to plan for a better future.

After watching this, I am seeing that short term frustrations with a world not picking up quickly enough on needed improvements, are okay as long as we also understand the magnificent accomplishments by our human race over the past 200 years.

This is really worth watching. Seriously.

Facing My Black Friday Demons

Thanksgiving dinner is not cleared yet when Black Friday becomes main dish

While the kids were planning a nighttime Black Friday routing that would make them benefit best from the various early opening hours from Wal-Mart and Kohl’s to other Black Friday ‘Targets’, right there at the Thanksgiving dinner table, my mind was working on my own Black Friday demons.

My brother Thom, our friend and webmaster died on a Friday morning exactly 17 weeks ago at the far too young age of 51. A completely unexpected massive heart attack was the doctor’s  definitive ruling and since that day in late July I have woken up every Friday morning with a dull, aching feeling in my head and stomach.  Fridays had become dreaded days for me, especially in the early morning hours and I was hell bent to lose that before I enter the great age of the Sexagenarians tomorrow. (The word alone already sounds like magic)

But this Friday, Black Friday for many Americans, wasmthe day I was going to face my Beast of Burden by testing what I could still accomplish.

And I had the perfect project to do it.

My good friend Lila Keim, who was one of the first ones who came to console us on that dreadful day, recently joined Team Werling from Prudential Chaplin Williams Real Estate, had asked me to take and post pictures of some of the team’s listings to her website; 22 to be exact. Seven of them were off island so those were done earlier this week, but 15 were left on the roster, stretching from Atlantic and Fletcher South to the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, while meandering like a high strung river through the heart of Amelia Island. A perfect opportunity to combine the need to loose the Thanksgiving starches and attempt to clean up the cobwebs in my head.

The forecast called for a cloudy afternoon, so I took my $40 mountain bike, a bargain I acquired about 7 months ago at a garage sale and by 8:45 I got on my way. There is irony in this as I realize that my mountain bike, with a $100 saddle I have come to appreciate tremendously in recent months, requires constant pedaling. The 3 inch wide tires do not allow for inactivity; sitting in the saddle resting for 3 seconds on acquired speed means you have to bend over and stand on the pedals again to gain speed from zero. Great on the beach, bad on the road!

The Team Werling Route

My Nikon D200 around my neck, a backpack with spare equipment and a water bottle, a wad of chewing gum to chew away the pain when my upper thighs start burning holes in my shorts and off I go to my starting point 3 miles north on Atlantic and S. Fletcher.

The whole time pedaling there I was thinking, tomorrow you turn 60 but what is there to hold you back. What does it mean when people say “act your age”. Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
“The Secret of eternal youth is Arrested Development.”

My thoughts went back to last night’s Thanksgiving Dinner, with the kids and their spouses and a grand child and another on the way. As they were excitedly planning their Black Friday purchases, the laptop sitting right next to empty plates and leftover turkey, my mood started to turn upbeat again. “Black Friday is soon going to develop into an all-night party with live music performances, dancing and food and beverages,” I envisioned, as my legs mindlessly kept pushing the bike forward on Fletcher.
Live evolves, rejuvenates and re-invents itself and that is good and a smile slowly spread across my face.

I had been confronted with a harsh reality that hit home; losing my brother, partner and friend was harder than I was ready to admit. He was my younger brother; I was in a weird way responsible for him, until on this bike ride I truly and deeply realized that we all make our own choices. I chose to quit the smoking habit this year, I chose to join Club 14 and get serious with becoming fit, I chose to walk our little dog on the beach every morning – why else live on the beach?-; I chose to pursue a bicycle as my means of transportation when bureaucratic blunders robbed me temporarily of my driver’s license; I chose to temper my daily wine intake and eat better balanced meals.
I chose all this because I realized that their was much in my life to be thankful for and it was up to me to stay in the best possible health to enjoy the hopefully many years to come.

My photo trip measured a little over 28 miles and took almost 3 hours with a minimum of 300 thoughts going through my mind. The result was actually that it helped me becoming acutely aware of the fact that I am very happy and grateful for my family, my friends, my clients and my life here on Amelia Island. I am a baby boomer on the eve of 60 when I write this and I still have Rock and Blues running through my veins.

To the notion that Sixty is getting up there, I’d like to say: “Bring it on, I’ll keep on rockin’.”

Thanksgiving Holiday Safety Message

Thanksgiving Holiday Safety MessageFernandina Beach, FL – Across the country, Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires caused by cooking equipment. As family and friends come together to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, the City of Fernandina Beach Fire-Rescue Department would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone in our community to make safety one of your top priorities.

Along with remembering all of the things that we are thankful for, the Thanksgiving Day meal is typically a highlight of everyone’s celebration. It is very important that we practice some basic safety measures as the kitchen becomes the center of activity and a gathering place for our family and friends. Please review the following safety tips as part of your holiday preparation.

• Never leave anything cooking on the stovetop unattended.
• When cooking your turkey, make sure someone is always in the house. Also, remember to check your turkey frequently while it is cooking.
• As the kitchen becomes the gathering area for family and friends, be certain that children are watched carefully and kept at least 3 feet away from the hot stove.
• As food gets hot it becomes very dangerous. Steam or a splash from vegetables, gravy, or other hot liquids will cause serious burns.
• Keep the floor of the kitchen from becoming a tripping hazard by keeping toys, pocketbooks, and bags off of the floor.
• Don’t leave knives within the reach of children.
• Make sure that all electric cords are not left dangling off the counter within easy reach of children.
• Keep matches and lighters stored safely away from children locked in a high cabinet.
• Make sure your smoke alarms and detectors working properly.

Also please remember, most cooking fires in the home involve the stovetop and the leading cause of these fires is due to unattended cooking.

Please have a healthy and fire safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Add a Variety of Vegetables to Your Diet

Add a Variety of Vegetables to Your Diet

Fresh Vegetables

Getting enough vegetables into your daily diet is something we all want to do, yet we find ourselves eating the same old things week after week. Adding a variety of vegetables to your diet is as easy as selecting a fresh vegetable from your color palette.

Think of your veggies as colors, not specific vegetables. When shopping, pick fresh, new vegetables by trying to use all of the colors. Consider trying a vegetable you have never tasted before. I know my categories may not be the same as what a professional would use, but it certainly works in my family to reduce the, “Oh no, not green beans again” comments.

Greens
Broccoli
Green Beans
Celery
Spinach
Greens (Turnip, mustard or collard)
Zucchini

Orange
Carrots
Sweet Potatoes
Squash
Bell Peppers

Legumes
Beans
Black Eyed Peas

The Salad Stuff
Lettuce
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Green Beans

Other
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Corn
Potatoes

When shopping, I think of a color we haven’t had for awhile. I will also try to make a conscience effort to buy (in order) fresh first, then frozen and finally canned.

Here are some other ideas:

Sliced and steamed zucchini, squash and onions are a great alternative to plain old cabbage.

Try slicing up sweet potatoes into strips, then toss in a large baggie with olive oil and and your favorite spices. Bake them in the oven for a suprisingly healthier substitute for French fries. (Are French fries a vegetable?)

Our entire family likes salad, so we tend to add it as a side dish several times a week. Consider serving salad as your main course by setting out olives, onions, boiled eggs, peppers and garbonzo beans along with the standard salad of lettuce, tomatoes and carrots.

Looking for a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes for your Thanksgiving dinner this year? Try smashed cauliflower. You won’t be disappointed and if you don’t overcook the cauliflower the kids may not even notice!

Think of your family’s vegetables in colors and you will be sneaking in a variety of nutrients!

Five Days in January

Building a network online

On July 21 of 2010, social networking site Facebook topped 500 million members, or the combined population of North and Central America and then some… In a geographical context Facebook is as a virtual country, the third largest country in the world.
Last January that number was “only” 350 million and now in early November we’re looking at a possible slowdown with 530 million, give and take some undisclosed double registrations. Not even history’s biggest conquerors such as Attilla or Alexander the Great can boast these numbers.

Twitter is looking at 175 million users and YouTube has announced the latest upload data; every minute that passes, over 35 hours of video is uploaded to the video sharing website. In other words, YouTube gets over 50,400 hours (2,100 days worth) of new video content every day.

In my daily confrontations with customers and friends I keep insisting on not forgetting to put some effort in Twitter as most people don’t quite get the usefulness of Twitter. In today’s technology based world however I have learned to follow in the footsteps of those more in the know than I can possibly be. If Apple boss Steve Jobs interlinks his new iTunes baby “Ping” with Twitter, allowing Twitter users to connect their accounts to iTunes, than I know that mySpace is writing its obituary and Twitter has found its longterm momentum.

Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it a while back: “We didn’t design Facebook to be cool, we designed it to be useful.”  Some 500 million people, 20% of which are homegrown USA, agree with that statement. As long as these subscribers trust that Facebook will treat their data info responsibly, there is no reason for the Internet success story (so far) of the 21st century to wane or collapse.

More than 30 billion pieces of content (including web links, blog posts, news stories, and photographs) are shared through the site each month and its members spend roughly 700 billion minutes there.  The average Facebook user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events.  And it’s not just the Y or Z Generations using Facebook.  According to a study posted by Pingdom, a significant 61% of its users are over age 35, putting to rest the idea that Facebook is just for the youngest, most tech-savvy generations.  Surprisingly, the average Facebook user today is 38 years old.
Here are some more interesting data:

•First Compare how forcefully Facebook overtook mySpace between October 2008 and October 2010

Skyrocket on the Internet

• Another interesting piece of information is that Facebook has about 1/3 of the US population as subscribers, but even that accounts only for less than 20% of its total global subscriber base.
Imagine that countries such as Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia rank high on their list. Also imagine how important this could be for travel and tourism attraction.

This was the status in January of 2010

Travel and Hospitality

The personal pages on Facebook are pretty much leveraged, yet many of the business pages are having a hard time getting people to “like” them.  I get the remarks quite often that business owners either don’t have the time, the technical or creative knowledge or the belief that being active in social networking makes a difference for their business. Especially in the hospitality industry there is a major disconnect. So here are a few observations that apply… thankfully not all, as some hoteliers and innkeepers do a splendid job.

For those who don’t, here are  some suggestions:

1. Your posts are boring because you’re doing all the talking.

Get your customers involved and ensure they feel a part of your hotel community.  The dictionary defines community as “a group of people with a common background or with shared interests within society.”  Encourage your guests to post comments, pictures and videos of their stay at your hotel. A successful Facebook page listens to and actively engages its customer with organized, quality content and brand new, up-to-date information from not only its administrator but also its followers.  How well do you know your customers?  Are you asking them what they like, what they need, what they want?

2. You put a GPS in your car, so why not on your Social Media?

Why don’t you have a social media roadmap? If you don’t have a map, electronic or otherwise, chances are you won’t make it to your destination, especially if it’s in an unfamiliar area.  Social media works the same way.  No plan and, before you know it, you’re lost.  Every marketing plan should have a section dedicated to web presence and social media.  Here, by outlining your objectives, you can coordinate your marketing efforts and cross-utilize the various social media applications that will work best for each of your targeted market segments.  It is essential to know what you plan to do, how you plan to do it and, most important of all, why you are doing it in the first place.  All many people know for sure is that they should be participating in social media because everyone else is.  This reasoning didn’t work with your mom and it won’t work here.

3. You’re pretty much just like everyone else.

There are more than 5 million active Facebook business pages.  How do you stand out from all of the others?  Avoid using Facebook simply to post all of the packages you have on your website.  That’s generally a Romance package, Bed and Breakfast package and a Shopping package. You’re getting bored already?  Give your followers special perks and discounts that they can’t get anywhere else.  What about a free upgrade for the first 10 people that redeem the coupon?

4. You have not given your Guests a reason to keep you in their primary news feed.

Remember “If you build it, they will come.”  Step in your customers’ shoes and take a long, honest look at your business page.  Are the posts lively, compelling, unique, timely?  There’s nothing more deadly than a dull Facebook page.  If you take photos of your followers attending events at your hotel, tag them.  Most people have notifications that deploy an alert when they have been tagged in a photo album.  Make the most of your page’s tab settings by distributing special offers and coupons or holding contests and sweepstakes (be sure to follow Facebook’s full terms and conditions).  The idea of winning something, anything, is a great incentive to keep fans coming back for more, not to mention attracting new fans.  Reward your loyal supporters and don’t forget to remind your users to like and share.

5. Don’t even get a Facebook page if you can’t commit the time to work it.

There are enough excuses around why people can’t commit.  My advice is don’t do it if you can’t commit! Your Facebook page is a daily commitment, so if you aren’t ready, don’t go there.  For business pages there is a direct correlation between frequency of posts and number of followers.  If you strive for one post per day, you’re on track to creating a successful page.  Watch the activity on your page and post when your followers are most active, usually between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  Don’t know what to post?  There is a story in everything, just mix it up with observations, tips, travel-related topics, breaking news and, without fail, open-ended questions to inspire observations from your followers.
Remember that if you want to be liked, you have to be likeable.  Show your personality and have fun with your page.  It will create that sense of community so essential to social networks.

LinkedIn News

Oh and by the way, there are other social media sites to support your business…

Beginning of this month, LinkedIn rolled out its new Company Pages, enabling businesses to develop more robust presence on the site, as well as more control over those pages. Here is some information to help you take advantage of these new features.

Setting up a company page is free and the news is that LinkedIn added tabs that businesses will be able to populate with information at will: Careers and Products & Services (services previously at a cost) .On Company Pages, administrators can add content to the Products & Services tab and each brand will have a greater extent of control over what is displayed on their pages. These various products’ lists will be able to be showcased dependent upon which industry category your LinkedIn account is a part of. Businesses can also modify their pages to display the strongest recommendations to prospective customers in an attempt to exhibit the trust in their brand and accelerate the growth of their product.

Companies can also add videos of products and services to their pages and feature particular products more prominently than others. In turn, LinkedIn members can recommend and review a product or service on a company profile and their recommendations will surface on their own profiles as well. Company Pages will list the people who have recommended a particular product as well.

Five Days in January.

I would not be surprised to learn that you are confused and overwhelmed by the options and opportunities vs. the amount of time available to commit to a well laid out social media action plan.
If you are interested in learning how you can, you may keep the week of January 17-21 open for a very special “Five Days in January” program that team SearchAmelia is conducting at Amelia Hotel at the Beach, in which you will walk in with limited or no knowledge of an internet presence and social media plan, and walk out with a completely optimized internet business you are in absolute control of.

Among many other features the program includes a segment that explains and sets you up for Hootsuite, a social media dashboard for individuals and teams (companies) using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and more.
Stay tuned for details next week.

Great American Smokeout 2010

Great American Smokeout 2010

Great American Smokeout 2010

Smokers, you have one week to prepare for the Great American Smokeout on November 18th and Baptist Medical Center Nassau is ready to help you kick the habit!

Meet the folks who can help you quit!

All smokers and tobacco users are invited to begin the process of quitting on Thursday, November 18 with Sheryl Gerhardt, RN, MS, tobacco treatment specialist. Gerhardt will explain the hospital’s new treatment program, Addicted to Life, which is available at no charge to all Nassau County residents.

Stop by anytime between 8am and 5pm for games and prizes. Visitors can have their lung capacity and carbon monoxide levels tested, sign up for free tobacco cessation classes, and trade tobacco products for treats to help manage a full day without tobacco.

No appointments are necessary. For information, call 321-3892 or visit www.addictedtolife.info.

American Cancer Society marks 35th Great American Smokeout

Atlanta, GA – In preparation for the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, November 18, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to put their health first by making a commitment to quit smoking for good. At www.cancer.org/Smokeout, the American Cancer Society helps with that commitment by providing smokers online resources and tools such as a guide to quitting smoking; desktop helpers such as the quit-clock and crave button, and support from trained counselors through the American Cancer Society Quit For Life® program operated and managed by Free & Clear® at 1-800-227-2345.

According to an American Cancer Society report, smokers who quit can expect to live as many as ten years longer than those who continue to smoke; and smokers who quit, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke. Research shows that much of the risk of premature death from smoking could be prevented by quitting. Smokers who quit reduce their risk of lung cancer – ten years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s – and lower their risk for other major diseases including heart disease and stroke.

“Quitting smoking is a very important step in reducing cancer risk, as tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S.,” said Edward Partridge, M.D., national volunteer president for the American Cancer Society. “The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout is a great first step for smokers to take charge of their health by quitting or making a plan to quit, and the Society can help smokers through a variety of resources including personalized telephone coaching by trained specialists.”

The American Cancer Society created the trademarked concept for and held its first Great American Smokeout in 1976 as a way to inspire and encourage smokers to quit for a day. One million people quit smoking for a day at the 1976 event in California. The Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to commit to making a long-term plan to quit smoking for good.

Important facts about tobacco use:

– Tobacco use remains the world’s most preventable cause of death.
– Cigarette smoking accounts for about 443,000 premature deaths – including 49,400 in nonsmokers.
– Thirty percent of cancer deaths, including 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, can be attributed to smoking.
– Smoking accounts for more than $193 billion in health care expenditures and productivity losses annually.

About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.5 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, about 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

Mark your calendar today!

November 18, 2010 – The Great American Smokeout!

No Light until Valentine’s Day

Longyearsbyen 1999

As our days are getting shorter and we’re once again struggling to adjust to a one hour time change just to squeeze a bit more light out of the day, there is a town on Northern Norway’ s island of Spitsbergen, that just entered its annual 4 month long night…Polar Night to be exact.

The 2,000 or so people in Longyearbyen, the earth’s most northern town, located at 78° north latitude inside the Arctic circle, saw the sun set on October 28 and the next time it rises it’s on Valentine’s Day in February, three and a half months later. Of course 2 months after that the town goes into 4 months of Polar Day when the sun doesn’t set.

But for now people living there experience perpetual darkness four months out of the year and even though I usually wake up when it’s still dark outside, even in summertime, I am sure that this extended period of darkness would affect my life and moods.

Dutch electronics giant Philips is conducting a science experiment with a 4 year old product that helps people wake up to increasing light levels, imitating natural sunlight. If it works, people in this arctic town will migrate much less south when wintertime’s polar nights are nearing every October.
72% of Longyearsbyen’s participating population validated Philip’s experiment by claiming that waking up during the polar night was a real daily struggle, while 94% expected the Wake Up Light to improve their daily lives during this period.

Island History

A Coal Miners' Town turned to tourism

Longyearbyen, situated on the westcoast of the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago was discovered by Dutch Navigator Willem Barentsz in 1596. Even though the island were frequented for many reasons by different nationalities, it was never settled, even though its economic importance in mining and hunting,whaling was quite promising. It remained No Man’s Land (terra nullius)  – until 1920 when as part of the Treaty of Versailless, which officially ended Worldwar I, the Treaty of Spitsbergen was signed. This treaty made Svalbard part of the kingdom of Norway, but allowed citizens of other signing nations equal rights to residence, property, commercial activities and research. As a result, people from many nations live on Svalbard today.

With coal being the early energy source behind the industrial revolution, the coal mines on Spitsbergen became of real importance and Lansing Michigan born American Businessman John Munroe Longyear with several investment partners bought assets in coal research and exploration in 1906 and established the Arctic Coal Company (operated from Boston) and build a settlement for workers that became Longyear City, later turning into Longyearbyen (byen is Norwegian for town/city).

The attraction

Due to the discovery in the 1930’s that bodies buried in Spitsbergen were not decomposing, because the permafrost preserved them, people cannot be buried there anymore.
This discovery created the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, an Arctic safe capable of storing millions of crop seeds, is located near Longyearbyen. Global Crop Diversity Trust administers the facility. The safe has been designed to protect against natural and human disasters, including global warming, floods and fires, and nuclear holocaust. The site was chosen for both its remoteness and ambient temperature of the permafrost.

Longyearbyen: The Northern Most organized town on Earth

As a result of these developments, an important University Center opened in Longyearbyen in 1993, providing lectures in geophysics, arctic biology, geology and Arctic technology as well as bachelor, master and PhD positions. The faculty consists of 20 fulltime professors, 21 assistant professors and 120 guest lecturers. English is the official language of work, and currently about 350 international students take at least one course per year at UNIS. The student body consists of 50% Norwegian and 50% international students; there are no tuition fees, and most students live in six renovated mining barracks in Nybyen.

In 2009 the airport served 150,000 passenger movements and tourism is becoming a major source of income, in spite of  chilly summers and bitter cold winters.

Let there be Light

As medical science has pointed out the importance of light to human wellbeing, Philips Electronics introduced the Philips Wake Up Light as an experiment to the community, which by those who are participating, is hailed as a fantastic experience which helps alleviating the usual condition of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), thought to be caused by light deprivation and a growing number of mental health specialists are recommending Light Therapy to patients with symptoms of depression.

Philips claims that light gradually increasing in 30 minutes before your set wake up time will positively affect the energy hormones as they are preparing your body to wake up, a statement that is corroborated by most
The Philips Wake Up Light uses a 300-Lux lamp with 20 brightness settings, which is rated to last 6,000 hours.

Interesting is that the experiment is already 4 years old in a digital world that is supposed to instantly get the word out.
The 325 households (people) in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen who got the light that retails around $130, said almost unanimously that at times it was almost too soothing, coaxing them back to sleep to the relaxing sounds of playful birds or wind chimes, an extra that is build into the gizmo, which for a small surcharge can also accommodate an iPhone or iPod for sounds and music of your choice.

I think I just found the perfect Christmas gift.

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