March 31, 2010

Benefits of Drinking Water

Posted in Health, Home tagged , , , , , at 8:55 am by Liliana

Benefits of Drinking Water

Have a glass of water!

Drinking water is critical for a healthy body and a healthy mind. Our bodies are more than 60% water, and unless we drink enough of it, our bloodstream cannot dissolve and transport nutrients effectively. Our kidneys need water to filter wastes. We cannot maintain our skin tone, digestive flow, or regulate body temperature without enough water.

It is not only important that we drink sufficient amounts of water, but also that the water is high quality. Depending on where we live and whether the water is provided from a municipal site or from one’s own well, the quality of water will vary. Contamination can occur – not only from the water source but also for other reasons. Plumbing, and the type of pipes we have, makes a difference; whether we use a well; and, whether there is contamination from agricultural chemicals seeping through the ground. If you have concerns about the quality of your water, it is a good idea to get it tested. In general, it is best to filter both city and well water before consumption.

The quality of bottled water varies greatly. Some water is good quality while other is simply repackaged tap water. Bottled water can also be expensive and the plastic water bottles are not good for our environment.

Whatever option you choose for drinking high quality water, make sure that you drink enough of it during the course of each day. National Academy of Sciences recommends (in its Dietary Reference Intake recommendations) about 13 cups of water each day for men and 9 cups for women.

March 30, 2010

Pain of Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted in Family, Health, Knitting, Women tagged , , , , , , , at 7:14 am by Liliana

Pain of Alzheimer’s disease

Pain of Alzheimer’s disease

I had lunch with a friend last week. We had Thai food, drank strong, hot tea and talked.

She was telling me about her mother, who is experiencing early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. My friend is worried. Sometimes, her mom is perfectly fine and her worries seem unfounded. Her mom can make wonderful meals, keep the house clean, do laundry, go shopping. But then she forgets little things – the security code on the garage opener, dates and events, things that were obvious and familiar a few days ago.

My own mother started experiencing these kinds of symptoms in her late fifties. Assuming  that she was depressed, we took her from one doctor to another, but no one seemed to  know what the problem was. My mom was the most accomplished baker I knew, but now she would substitute salt for sugar in her tortes. And then, she would say that she didn’t do it – someone else had sneaked in and played a trick on her. My mom could knit such intricate sweater patterns that Jeff believed that she would have made a fine computer programmer if she had been born at a different time. But now, she could not remember how to knit. As time passed she stopped seeing her friends. She became worried and confused. She became suspicious and paranoid. Like the rest of us, she knew that something was terribly wrong, but she didn’t know what.

My sister and I tried hard to do the best we could, but when I think back on that early time, I would do some things differently. My friend was telling me how she is always trying to find the right balance between challenging her mom to do more, and accepting her state by showing patience, kindness and understanding. It is a fine line, and one doesn’t know what the right thing to do is. Everyone has to find an answer for themselves, but I think I would now err on the side of kindness. So far, there is little one can do to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. I would take my mom’s hand in mine more frequently than ever, and show her that I am there for her, no matter what happens. Right now, reassurance and love are the only cure for dementia.

March 29, 2010

Missing Silver

Posted in Children, Family, Holidays, Home, Pets tagged , , at 5:30 am by Liliana

Nena and Silver - 1996

Nena and Silver - 1996

The screensaver on my home computer has a picture of Silver and every time I look at it – I feel her silky fur under my hand. Silver died a few months ago, at fourteen years of age – a remarkably long life for a Siberian Husky. It was a happy life. We got her one Christmas when she was a tiny puppy, her ears so large that she tripped over them.

Joe and Branka wanted to get a puppy for Sasha and I went with them to help them choose the right one. At the breeders, we met a family of huskies. The mother, Star, was anxious and suspicious when she saw us. The father, Storm, was watchful but friendly. The eight puppies were – what can I say? Running, playing, wrestling, nibbling and licking everything in sight. Bella was the largest puppy in the litter and the prettiest one. She and Branka fell in love the moment they saw each other, two alpha females who appreciated each other’s strengths and personalities.

The moment we brought Bella home, pandemonium ensued. Everyone loved Bella and my kids had to have a husky of their own; and frankly, so did I (and Jeff, too, although he tried to be restrained.) The very next day, we were at the breeder’s again. By now, Star and Storm were a little more at ease with us, the puppies just as crazy with joy. Jeff liked a little blue eyed boy, but I had already noticed Silver. Silver was the runt, the smallest dog in the pack. An awkward little girl with soulful brown eyes, long ears, and shy demeanor, I knew that she needed me and I needed her. She was our dog.

Silver became an integral  part of our family. She and Sam (he was three at the time) licked lollipops together. Nena took her to school for show and tell. Mike chased her all over the neighborhood when she ran away. We all loved Silver.

We miss her now. Whenever we eat, if we are having steak for dinner, Jeff will mention how much Silver would have enjoyed the leftovers. I go for walks by myself these days. When kids come home from their various escapades around the world, Silver is not there to greet them and get excited. When our friends come over (especially the ones who broke the rules and fed her goodies under the table), well, they mention how sad they are that Silver is not around. We are grieving, but memories of her bring us joy.

March 28, 2010

Honey-Almond Cake

Posted in Food, Home, Recipes tagged , , , at 7:27 am by Liliana

Honey-Almond Cake

Honey-Almond Cake

Perfect for afternoon tea or a light spring dessert, honey and almonds deliciously flavor this simple (and gluten-free) cake.

INGREDIENTS
For Cake:
1 1/2 cups whole almonds, toasted
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Topping:
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

To toast almonds, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F, stirring once, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.
Process almonds in a food processor or blender until finely ground (you will have about 13/4 cups ground). Beat 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer (or use a paddle attachment on a stand mixer) on medium speed until well combined. Add the ground almonds and beat on low until combined.
Beat 4 egg whites in another large bowl with the electric mixer (use clean beaters on a hand-held mixer or the whisk attachment on a stand mixer) on medium speed until very foamy, white and doubled in volume, but not stiff enough to hold peaks, 1 to 2 minutes (depending on the type of mixer). Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and gently remove the side ring. Let cool completely.
Transfer the cake to a serving platter. To serve, drizzle cake with honey and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Tea and coffee would be perfect accompaniment. Enjoy with family and friends.

March 27, 2010

Make Your Bathroom Green

Posted in Cleaning, Health, Home tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:35 am by Liliana

Green Bathroom

Green Bathroom

Try a few simple and easy tips and change your own habits and the habits of your family. Small efforts add up to make a big difference.

  • Tub – Use this green, home-made cleaning product, instead of toxic chemicals: 1 teaspoon of liquid soap and a few drops of antibacterial essential oil to one cup of baking soda. Add enough water to form a paste; use with a sponge or brush to scour bathtub surfaces.
  • Toilet – widely used in many countries, a dual-flush toilet greatly cuts on water use. Most American models consume 3.5 – 7 gallons of water for every flush. Double-flush versions use 0.8 – 0.9 gallons ( for fluids) or 1.25 – 1.6 gallons (for solids).
  • Towels – Most towels are made out of conventional cotton. Cotton is a crop that uses more than 25 % of world’s insecticides and some of the most hazardous chemicals. Think of using organic cotton and bamboo towels that have been made with plant-based dyes.
  • Shower Curtains – Most shower curtains are made from polyvinyl-chloride or PVC. This is a kind of plastic that releases hormone-disrupting carcinogens into the air. Look for non-vinyl curtains instead.
  • Paper – If every family in US replaced a roll of ordinary toilet paper with one of 100 % recycled paper, we would collectively save 423,900 trees in one year.
  • Faucet – Turning water on for two minutes while brushing teeth wastes more than 2 gallons of water a year in the US. Remind yourself and your family members to turn water off.
  • Flooring –  Vinyl is frequently mistaken for linoleum, but it is not the same product. Real linoleum has been made from abundant natural materials (ex. linseed oil, pine resin, and powdered cork) since the nineteenth century.
  • Reusable Items – Keep your bathroom counter organized by placing bathroom items in glass jars of different sizes.
  • Bamboo – Bamboo fiber items (furniture, flooring and fabrics) are rated high in sustainability because bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on the planet.

Please send us your own ideas for keeping your house green!

March 26, 2010

Family Life

Posted in Children, Cleaning, Family, Home, Pets tagged , , at 7:05 am by Liliana

Joe, Branka, Jeff, Liliana - 1982

Joe, Branka, Jeff, Liliana - 1982

My sister and I are married to two brothers.

Jeff and I met first. I was in graduate school in St. Louis, his hometown, and one of my roommates introduced us. We were married a year later. His younger brother, Joe, was the best man at our wedding. My younger sister, Branka, was the maid of honor. The younger siblings danced at the wedding and seemed to like each other, but they were both in college and in other relationships. Three years later Branka (then a high school teacher) spent her summer vacation with us. She and Joe (a public radio DJ at the time) went to movies, jazz concerts and walks by the Mississippi River. By August, they were engaged.

Over the years, we have mostly lived in close proximity to each other. Our Siberian Huskies (Bella and Silver) were sisters. Our children are close in age and devoted to each other. Nena and Sasha attend the same college. Nicole and Sam share teenage angst and have double dates. Mike teases them all indiscriminately.

Now that Joe will be losing his job in May, the closeness of our families will be tested even more. Joe has decided to go back to school, get his MA and become a high school English and French teacher. To make this plan possible, they have chosen to rent out their house, and move in with us. Our house is fairly spacious, but we’ll have to organize the space carefully, so that everyone has the privacy they need.

For the last month we have been preparing Joe and Branka’s house for renters. Everyone has been doing their part: painting, cleaning, moving furniture, fixing things that were broken, preparing food for the workers, etc. Sasha and Nicole have expressed sadness about leaving their childhood home, but really, for the most part all of us have been upbeat. We are excited about Joe going back to school and doing what he loves. We are happy that we have each other to help now that the need has arisen. It won’t be easy, we all know that. Some of us are very private, some very extroverted, but we are all willing to find a balance and make it work.

You might remember my sister’s dining room table. Well, it is now in my dining room and will stay there until Joe and Branka are ready to move to another place. No one thought for a second that the table could be left behind. We took our set to the basement and my sister’s Amish table and chairs are again the hearth of our family get-togethers.

March 25, 2010

Spring Vegetables – Asparagus

Posted in Food, Garden, Health, Recipes tagged , , , at 6:51 am by Liliana

Asparagus

Asparagus

Although a delicacy since ancient times, the nutritional value of this delicious spring vegetable was not well recognized until recently. Today, we know that asparagus is an excellent source of carotenoids, vitamins C and K, foliate, and more. An entire cup contains only 43 calories.


A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

  • For delicious hors d’oeuvres – roast asparagus along with other vegetables such as patty pan squash, Portobello mushrooms, and beets
  • For a refreshing salad – steam asparagus and lightly drizzle with a lemon vinaigrette
  • For a main course – toss freshly cooked pasta with asparagus, olive oil and favorite spices (ex. thyme, tarragon and rosemary, etc.)
  • For a colorful omelet – chop asparagus and cook with eggs
  • For a lovely side dish – sauté asparagus with garlic, shiitake mushrooms and tofu or chicken

Recipe – 5-Minute Healthy Sautéed Asparagus

Prep and Cook Time: 10 minutesIngredients:

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 3 TBS low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Mediterranean Dressing:

  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Optional: Sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese

Directions:

  1. Chop or press garlic and let for at least 5 minutes to enhance its health-promoting properties.
  2. Heat 3 TBS broth over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet.
  3. When broth is heating, snap off the woody bottom of asparagus stems, then cut the spears into 2-inch lengths. Cutting them into short pieces of equal length ensures quick, even cooking.
  4. When broth begins to steam, add asparagus. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. The outside will be tender and the inside will be crisp. Thinner spears will take about 3 minutes. “Healthy Sauté” will concentrate both the flavor and nutrition of asparagus.
  5. Transfer to a bowl. For more flavor, toss asparagus with the remaining ingredients while it is still hot.

Source: George Mateljan

March 24, 2010

Relay For Life®

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Health, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana

Relay for Life

Dear friends,
This year, I am participating again in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life® with a team from RepairClinic.com (our team is called The Fix it Crew!) I hope that you will support our efforts with a donation.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life® is a fund-raising event that gives people across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors and people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. Relay For Life® raises much-needed funds and awareness to help the American Cancer Society save lives from cancer.

Please support me in my efforts by visiting my personal web page to make a secure, tax-deductible online donation.

Thanks to your support, the American Cancer Society can:

  • Help people stay well by helping them to take steps to prevent cancer or detect it early, when it’s most treatable.
  • Help people get well by providing around-the-clock assistance and support
  • Find cures by funding groundbreaking research that helps us understand the causes of cancer, determine how best to prevent it, and discover new ways to cure it
  • Fight back by working with lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and rally communities worldwide to join the fight

Each of us has our own reasons for caring about the fight against cancer … whatever your reasons, I hope you’ll choose to make a difference by making a donation online to support my efforts. Together we can save lives.

Thank you and I will keep you updated on my progress.

March 23, 2010

Advice on Good Interviewing Etiquette

Posted in Career, Work tagged , , at 7:12 am by Liliana

Good Interviewing Etiquette

Good Interviewing Etiquette

Unemployment is at a record level, and a lot of people are looking for a job. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, you want to use your opportunity well. Here is a bit of common sense advice on good interview practices:

Timing & Planning

  • Schedule your interview for your best time of day
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Have contact information ready
  • Complete necessary forms in advance

Apparel & Appearance

  • Shine shoes & check fingernails
  • Get a haircut & comb hair neatly
  • Choose suit with shirt and tie or blouse
  • Coordinate accessories

Reading & Research

  • Read information on the prospective company
  • Research company web site for latest news & press releases
  • Google people you’ll be meeting for background information
  • Know how to pronounce names of people you will meet
  • If this is a second interview, review notes of past meetings
  • Be acquainted with current news so you sound well informed
  • Create a list of good questions you will ask the interviewer
  • Check e-mails just before leaving for any last-minute rescheduling

Take With You

  • Cell phone (turn off before interview)
  • Portfolio or business case
  • Resume copies (at least two)
  • Business cards
  • Blank paper or notebook and pens

Getting There

  • Plan on being punctual and arrive several minutes early
  • Plan on extra time if weather requires
  • Google map the directions
  • Find out where to park ahead of time
  • Identify the correct building entrance
  • Pay attention to your posture
  • Make appropriate, positive opening comments
  • Your handshake should be strong and firm

Best of luck.

March 22, 2010

Appliance Maintenance Advice – from RepairClinic.com

Posted in appliance parts, Cleaning, RepairClinic.com tagged , , at 6:54 am by Liliana

Appliance Maintenance Advice

Appliance Maintenance Advice

We all have stories. A few years ago, our washing machine hose ruptured. Water leaked throughout the night and in the morning we discovered a deluge in our basement. Another time, when the kids were very young and we felt overwhelmed, our dryer stopped working. We called the repairman only to discover that we had completely forgotten that the filter needs to be cleaned. Cleaned frequently.

Well, many of these appliance problems can be avoided if you follow some basic procedures and maintenance routines. Here are a few suggestions from the experts at RepairClinic.com:

  1. Keep your appliances clean – Some can be cleaned with general household cleaners, but many require specialized cleaners.  For example, to remove a moldy smell from your front-loading washer, try a product called Affresh. Just run it through the wash cycle and your machine will smell fresh and clean.  Smooth cooktops on ranges must be cleaned with a special cleaner. If you use an abrasive chemical, not designed for cooktops, you could easily ruin the glass surface.
  2. Change the filters – If your appliance has a filter, it needs to be cleaned or changed on a regular basis. This is true for the filter on your refrigerator water dispenser; your microwave filter; and, the lint filter on your dryer.  Don’t wait for something to go wrong. Be proactive.
  3. Don’t forget to remove the mold, rust, lime, etc. – Prevent buildup in your dishwasher, which can eventually lead to a loss in power, water pressure, or clogged hoses or tubes. Any time you have lime deposits or mold buildup, your appliance is either not going to run efficiently or is going to smell badly, or both.  Keep it clean!
  4. Check your hoses – Check periodically to make sure that the hoses and connections on your appliances are tight and secure.  You don’t want them to pop apart when you least expect it and cause a flood in your house.
  5. Don’t slam the doors – If you slam the door on your microwave, eventually the catch on the door will fail to latch.  If you slam the door on your refrigerator, the hinges may become weak or misaligned over time. This can result in a door that refuses to close.
  6. Buy a surge suppressor – Be safe and keep power surges or lightning from damaging your appliances.  Your local hardware store should have surge suppressors for all major appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers and dryers.  The last thing you need is to replace an expensive circuit board because of a voltage spike or thunderstorm activity.
  7. Follow directions – It is important to read the owner’s manual and follow directions. For example, many manufacturers recommend that you use a specific type of detergent. This is especially important with front loading washing machines.  They require a special HE-type detergent. This detergent doesn’t foam up as much, which is necessary for proper cleaning action.

You will greatly extend the life of your household appliances if you take good care of them. It is easy to do!

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