Hot and Smokey Tuesday, Jun 12 2018 

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Cinnamon, cumin, sumac, and cardamom. One of my attractions to different cultures is their cuisine. Tai, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, or Italian. I love them all! I thrive on the spices of ethnic foods and am excited when I discover a new one.

My newest seasoning of choice is chipotle powder. Chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno that has just enough heat and smoke to pack a great punch on everything from eggs and green beans to chicken and fish. Or try a few shakes over popped corn or even corn on the cop. 

For a quick, healthy snack, sprinkle chipotle powder on a mashed avocado. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of sea salt. Top it off with a bit of fresh cilantro and you have a special snack to enjoy with tortilla chips.

Venture out to your grocery store’s spice aisle and be brave! Pick up some chipotle powder or another spice that you haven’t tried before. Purchase the smallest amount possible and experiment. You may find that you are drawn to more vegetables and proteins when you literally spice up your life.

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

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Powerful Pele Tuesday, May 15 2018 

 

Bring a flashlight and water and don’t take any of the lava rock. Those were the guidelines my husband and I were given in 2002 prior to walking on the Kilauea volcano. It was active then, but nothing like it is today. However, the volcano captivated me and left a memorable impression.

At the time, I didn’t know there were different types of volcanoes. I expected a tall cone to spew lava like my fifth-grade science fair project. Instead, the volcano was relatively flat with multiple cracks and tunnels that flowed into the ocean.

As we walked out in the black of night, we crossed fissures that glowed bright, red with lava deep beneath. It was intensely hot. The experience was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Many Hawaiians believe the fire goddess, Pele, created the Hawaiian Islands and governs the Kilauea volcano, controlling the lava flow. Legend warns visitors who remove volcanic rock will suffer her wrath. Countless visitors testify to experiencing bad fortune after doing so and eagerly return Pele’s precious volcanic material.

There are about 1500 active volcanoes worldwide in addition to those under the ocean. Approximately one third of these have erupted in the past 100 years. Scientists have identified 169 volcanoes in the United States that are expected to erupt at some time. Most are in Alaska where eruptions occur nearly every year. The remainder are in the West and Hawaii.

The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is one of the most active on Earth. It has been erupting since 1983. The eruption of Katmai Volcano in Alaska in 1912 is said to have been the most violent eruption to occur within the United States.

Volcanoes are openings or vents where lava (molten rock after it erupts above the Earth), tephra (small lava rock), and steam erupt on the Earth’s surface. Volcanic terrain is built by the slow accumulation of lava. The vent may be visible as a depression at the top.

Through a series of cracks within and beneath the volcano, the vent connects to one or more linked storage areas of molten rock made of oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium, titanium, and manganese. This connection to fresh magma (molten rock, crystals, and dissolved gas below the surface of Earth) allows the volcano to repeatedly erupt in the same location increasing its size until it is no longer stable.

Magma originates tens of miles beneath the ground. It is driven upwards by buoyancy because it is lighter than the surrounding rock. Magma may erupt by pouring from vents as fluid lava flows or shoot violently into the air as dense clouds of rock shards and gas. Ash (shards of tephra) then may be carried in the wind around the world.

Volcanoes are categorized by their shape and size. Cinder Cone volcanoes are the smallest and are made of small pieces of solid lava.

Composite Volcanos, also called Stratovolcanos, form the largest mountains. These volcanoes have steep, even sides made from repeating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and volcanic bombs. The tallest composite volcano on Earth is the Ojos del Salado in Chile with a summit elevation of 22,615. The tallest in the United States is Mount Rainier in Washington State with a summit elevation of 14,410.

Shield Volcanoes are built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. They have a sloping dome shape similar to a warrior’s shield. They were built slowly by the growth of thousands of lava flows over great distances and cooling in thin sheets. The Hawaiian Islands are made of a chain of shield volcanoes which include Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Lava Domes are technically lava flows but contain lava that is too thick to flow away from the vent and therefore squeeze out and accumulate as a giant pile over and around the vent. Lava domes may look like pointy spines, a giant muffin, flower petals opening, or as tongues.

Modern science provides warnings in advance of eruptions to assist in the preservation of human life but can do little to protect homes, farms, and businesses in the event of eruption. Magma contains dissolved gases which provide the driving force of most volcanic eruptions. Even if magma never reaches the surface, gases can continuously escape into the atmosphere from the soil and vents.

The most abundant volcanic gas is water vapor, which of course, is harmless. But significant amounts of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen halides also are emitted, all of which are potentially hazardous to plant, animals, property, and people. Also, in ash producing eruptions, ash is often coated with hydrogen halides. This can poison drinking water supplies, agricultural crops, and grazing land.

For more information, check USGS, Volcano Discovery, and USGS volcanic videos .

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

Moving Along Monday, Apr 30 2018 

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On the first anniversary of moving into my townhome, I’m acutely aware of my blessings. I’m rich in what matters most in life.

The past year has been relatively peaceful. Marshall continues to do well. My children, grandchildren, step-children, and step-grandchildren are healthy. And I’m enjoying meaningful work to pay my bills.

For many years, my stress level was at a peak. The years previous to this move were intense caring for Marshall 24/7 at home for ten years and then transitioning him to managed care, working through a few disturbing issues with relationships, clearing out the house in preparation for sale, the intrusion of showing the home for two years, negotiating the home sale/purchase, packing to move, and then unpacking in my new home all while overseeing Marshall’s care and working. Countless times I believed I was close to the breaking point.

But here I am, and I’m so very grateful! I’m blessed with a home I can manage and afford. I love the space and my kind neighbors.

Marshall, although always on a decline due to Alzheimer’s disease, calls me by name and tells me he loves me every day. Our time together is typically very tender.

I am greatly blessed with an extensive group of family and friends. They are supportive, attentive, and carry me with their love and kindness. My children and grandchildren especially bring me great joy.

And to top it off, I have work opportunities that allow me to use the gifts God gave me in ways that minister and connect with people dear to my heart. I’ve written two books in my new home, one of which is under contract, and beginning a new one. In addition, I’m speaking regularly, predominately on caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

When we are traveling through the dark tunnel, the journey can feel endless. The rays that do shine through are difficult to see and the number of steps into the sunshine is so uncertain.

The only way out of that tunnel is to keep going. Most often, we enter the light wiser and stronger.

(Do you follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

“Sew,” What’s Your Hobby? Thursday, Apr 12 2018 

Stamp collecting, flower arranging, gardening, playing a musical instrument, woodworking, gourmet cooking, bead working, antiquing, knitting, reading, painting, jewelry making, singing, writing, athletics, magic, playing chess or bridge, learning a new language.

If I had my way, I’d engage in one hobby after another. Currently, I’m hand quilting a massive bedspread for my bed. It’s the first quilt I’ve worked on in several years. Although the sewing leaves my hands in tremendous pain due to fibromyalgia and arthritis, I’m loving every minute of it.

The word, hobby, relates to an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation. Strangely, the word evolved from hobby-horse. The reasoning behind the shift is that the activity is like a favorite pastime, such as riding a hobby-horse, that doesn’t go anywhere. In fact, this is not so at all. Studies show numerous benefits from participating in a hobby.

Our hobbies often are what some people do professionally. We aren’t at that level or don’t have the time to pursue it to that extent, but the activity brings us pleasure and distraction from the tough stuff in our lives. Hobbies are our “time out” from obligations and promote a sense of calm and purpose. The activities help us structure our time. They offer an incentive to get our work done. We’re more efficient overall. And engaging in hobbies is more constructive than staring blankly at the TV.

In addition, hobbies create opportunities to make new social connections with like-minded individuals. And those social connections are an important key to happiness and longevity.

Here are a few more benefits of delving into hobbies.

Hobbies

  • Help us cope with stress, which is very important to our health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Relax the mind
  • Stimulate the brain with new challenges
  • Help us to build self-confidence
  • Offer us a sense of purpose
  • Ward off depression by bringing joy to our spirit
  • Promote a sense of the present as we focus on what we are doing at that moment
  • Can reduce mindless eating as our hands are preoccupied
  • Assist us in discovering talents we didn’t know we had
  • Promote productivity in other areas of our life because we are happier and more focused
  • Can provide additional income
    Help us transition to retirement
  • Prevent boredom and filling time with bad habits
  • Improve brain health and memory
  • Increase good stress known as eustress
  • Assist us with improved sleep
  • Offer opportunities to mentor and share our gifts produced from these hobbies
  • Make us more patient

If you are seeking a new hobby, look at local junior college and park district listings of classes and inquire what your friends enjoy. If you do have a hobby, please tell us! We’d love to hear from you.

(Do you follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

 

 

Do You Believe in Leprechauns? Friday, Mar 16 2018 

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While driving through Ireland in 2005, our guide pointed to a field, laughed, and said that is where the fairies live. I asked him to stop the car and let me walk there.

“No! We cannot do that! I told you, that is where the fairies live!” he said.

Fairies are serious creatures in Ireland. In fact, 236 leprechauns believed to live in the caverns of Carlington Mountain are protected under EU law. The directive also protects their sanctuary including the animals and flora.

The sign posted reads, “European Habitats Directive. Plants, Wild Animals, and Leprechauns (Little People) are Protected in This Area. Please Tread Lightly. Hunters and Fortune Seekers Will be Prosecuted.”

Protection was established after a man named P.J. O’Hare was tending his garden in 1989 and heard a scream. He rushed over to find small, charred skeletal remains, a tiny, green suit, hat, and several other items. O’Hare gathered everything and placed them in a glass box in his pub, and, except for the coins, the items remain there until today.

The coins went missing for a while and were later discovered in a purse in a stone wall under repair by a man named McCoillte. After the find, McCoillte had several encounters with leprechauns. On one occasion he met a leprechaun named Carriag who claimed to be the elder of 236 leprechauns living in the nearby mountain. Carriag said that millions of others died because people stopped believing in them.

McCoillte and a group of friends fought for the protection of the leprechauns and surrounding area. Protection was granted in 2009 since the court could not prove the “little people” did not exist.

The word “leprechaun” may come from the Gaelic luchorpan, meaning small body, or leath-bhrogan, for shoemaker. Leprechauns belong to the family of fairies living in forts or fairy rings under circular mounds of earth. In Ireland, more than 40,000 of these mounds can be found across the country and are not disturbed for fear of bad luck. Nor are hawthorn trees or holly bushes cut down in the event that fairies inhabit them. Numerous tales of misfortune serve to deter inquisitors from harming the wee ones.

Some say that leprechauns, who are only males, are the unwanted fairies tossed out of the fairy community. They are solitary creatures who live and work alone. Because their workmanship as shoemakers is in much demand among the fairies, they’ve accumulated great wealth, hence their pots of gold. They also are talented musicians who play whistles, fiddles, and Irish harps.

Typically dressed in bright green, a white frilly shirt, and the softest leather shoes with gold buckles, the little guys top their red hair with a three-sided hat. Often, they also wear their brown leather work apron.

However, in the middle ages, leprechauns were thought to be male or female and dressed in red. They may have originally been underwater creatures. Some say they are descendants of Tuatha De Danann, a group of magical beings who served under the Gaelic goddess Danu long before humans arrived in Ireland.

Leprechauns are nearly impossible to find and even harder to catch. Should you be lucky enough to get your hands on one, don’t take your eyes off of him for one second! Leprechauns are intelligent, quick-witted, and cunning. They can distract you and be gone in a blink of an eye.

And if one promises to grant you wishes or direct you to his pot of gold, it’s not likely he’ll follow through. The little trickster is more inclined to turn those coins into leaves and your wishes into something purely for his entertainment.

(Do you follow my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books or my Facebook author page?)

Did You Hear the One About…? Monday, Jan 15 2018 

What is the tallest building in the world?
The library. It has the most stories!

Sorry, but that’s my kind of humor. I also find kids and pets pretty funny.

Laughter is good medicine. It actually induces physical changes in the body as it stimulates the organs while taking in more oxygen to the heart, lungs, and muscles. It also increases endorphins, relieves stress, stimulates circulation, and improves the immune system.

People who belly laugh on a regular basis have lower standing blood pressure and reduced hormones associated with stress. And laughter strengthens the immune system by increasing infection-fighting antibodies. It’s good for our brain, as well, as it stimulates both sides of the brain enhancing learning.

Laughter even burns calories. According to William Fry, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, one minute of laughter is equal to ten minutes on the rowing machine.

With so many benefits and no side effects, perhaps doctors should start prescribing a joke or comedy a day!

(Do you follow my blog, Mary K Doyle Books or my Facebook author page?)

 

Showing Gratitude Tuesday, Nov 7 2017 

We’re repeatedly being reminded to appreciate what we have. So many of our neighbors have lost everything to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, fires, and mass shootings. Our loved ones, friends, school, home, employment, treasures, church, and favorite shops, that we take so much for granted, can instantly be taken away, just as theirs have.

Are we paying attention?

We complain about the little struggles that really don’t matter. And often, those complaints are aimed at the ones we love the most. We wouldn’t talk to or treat our friends the way we do to our closest family members. Most likely, we know they will put up with us no matter what. But just because we can get away with it doesn’t make it right or fair.

With Thanksgiving approaching, let’s stop and reflect on our many blessings. This beautiful holiday and its opportunity to show gratitude is quickly disappearing with the earlier onslaught of holiday commercialism. Let’s not look back with regret. Take a moment to pause and acknowledge the long list of gifts we’ve been given.

Let’s especially think about the people in our lives. Pause before speaking, reacting, judging, or giving our loved ones a look of disdain. These people are our greatest blessings. Let’s treat them that way.

(Do you follow my blog posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

We’re All About Pumpkin Monday, Oct 23 2017 

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With the arrival of fall, we Americans are all about pumpkin. From soup and bread to coffee and dessert, we incorporate the fruit into every imaginable food.

Not only are pumpkins tasty, they’re healthy. A cup of cooked pumpkin provides 245% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 19% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. It also contains more potassium than a banana. Best yet, all that flavorful, filling pumpkin only totals 49 calories.

The roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, often called pepitas, are nutritious as well. They are rich in fiber, protein, vitamin K, phosphorous, manganese magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.

Pumpkin seeds found in Mexico date back to 700-5500 BC. Native American Indians used pumpkins as a staple in their diet for centuries before introducing them to the pilgrims. The Natives ate roasted pumpkin and wove dried strips into mats. The early colonists cooked pumpkin in stews and soups. They also baked a luscious pudding with them by slicing off the top, removing the seeds, filling them with milk and spices, and baking them in hot ashes.

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek pepon, meaning melon. The word  went through a series of variations after being translated into French and English. The American colonists’ were the first to use the word pumpkin.

Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbita genus along with cucumbers, melons, and squash. Edible and ornamental pumpkins are grown in nearly every state in the US, although Illinois grows more pumpkins than the other five leading states combined. Farmers plant seeds in April and May for a harvest that begins in late July and lasts through November for a total growing time of about 120 days. Vines can grow up to 30 feet long. Flowers are dependent on bees for pollination to become pumpkins.

Libby, owned by Nestle Company, dominates the North American market for canned pumpkin with nearly all of their sales from October to January each year. Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe is likely to be the most often baked.

(Do you follow my posts on my blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

Preparation for Flooding Tuesday, Aug 29 2017 

Our friends in Texas are under water and Louisiana is now at risk. Some evacuated and left everything behind. They’re now worrying if they will have a home or anything to go back to.

Others remained in place and are watching the water rise around them. Some already lost their homes and all of their possessions. They have nothing left.

And there are those who lost their lives or whose personal safety is at risk. They’re stranded without food or water. For all of them, the stress of the disaster will take its toll on them for their entire lifetimes.

Many of us have been in similar situations. There are floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires all around the world. No matter how much we sympathize and emphasize with other people’s situations, we don’t fully understand until we’ve actually been there.

Flooding can happen anywhere in the US, and in most areas, any time of year. Landslides and mudslides can follow flooding. Destruction can wipe out entire towns.

In preparation for floods:

  • Take photos of items in the home.
  • Purchase flood insurance.
  • Elevate the heating system, water heater, electric panel, and appliances.
  • Waterproof the basement.
  • Install a sump pump with a battery backup.
  • Keep gutters and drains free of debris.
  • Practice first aid skills and emergency response actions through training classes.
  • Stack sandbags around your property if there is a threat of flooding.
  • Store basic necessities in a bag or container. Include:
    • First aid kit
    • Special medical equipment for people with special needs
    • Prescriptions
    • Important documents such as medical records, passwords, legal documents, and pet photos and their medical history saved on an external hard drive or portable thumb drive and placed into a ziplock bag. Or secure paper documents in a bag.
    • Cash
    • Phones and chargers
    • Clothes
    • Food and Water
    • Priceless items, photos, irreplaceable mementos, and valuables depending on their size and transportability.

FEMA recommends evacuating prior to flooding, but if you have not:

  • Turn off the gas, water, and electricity. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or you are standing in water.
  • Do not drink tap water as it may be polluted.
  • Evacuate as soon as possible.
  • Do not enter flooded areas or wade through the water. Its depth can be deceptive. Moving water can carry you away and within the water may be dangerous debris, rocks, mud, and sewage.
  • Stay informed and monitor weather reports.
  • Know the evacuation routes and plan your source of transportation and destination.
  • Text SHELTER + your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter near you.
  • Practice how you will communicate with family members.

If trapped in a building, go to the highest point, call 911, and signal for help from the roof if possible.

If trapped in your car in the water, stay in your vehicle if the water is below the window or climb out the window and onto the roof if the water is rising.

If trapped outdoors, climb to the highest ground possible and onto a sturdy object.

For those of us untouched by the disaster, we can reach out to our neighbors by donating money to credible organizations such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities; donating clothes and other items to organizations such as the Salvation Army and AmVets; opening our home to those left homeless; and praying for them.

 

Taste That Shape Monday, Jun 26 2017 

Food is one of the pleasures of life. Most of us look forward to times of day and seasons that present our favorite dishes. But why we like those foods is complicated. All of our senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, in addition to taste—play a role. So does our memory and perceptions.

Marketers and chefs know the significance of visual presentation whether the food is packaged or plated. We are drawn into restaurants or the family table due to the aroma of what’s cooking. And that sound of the sizzle on the grill attracts us along with that smell.

The feel of foods is also important. Some like cold or hot dishes or foods we can hold in our hands. We also have our preferences of crispy, crunchy, or creamy. And how much we enjoy any of it is based on past experience. Comfort foods are linked to memories of earlier days.

I’m not a big fan of farfalle, also known as bow-tie pasta. As pretty as they are to look at, I prefer the firmer, tubular shapes of macaroni or penne. The texture, how the sauce sticks to the pasta, and the familiarity of childhood family dinners are only a few of the reasons these types of pasta top my list.

Scientists state that shape does in fact alter the flavor of foods. Molecules reach the tongue and nose at different speed and order with the change of shape.

A few years ago, the British company Cadbury updated the shape of their chocolates called Dairy Milk. The public strongly reacted claiming that in doing so the flavor changed. Cadbury responded that the recipe and preparation process remained identical. The only change was the shape of the angular chunks to ones that were curved.

Their goal was to allow the chocolates to fit into the mouth easier. But this also changed how quickly the chocolate melted and molecules were released on the tongue. The oils in the chocolate now are released quicker resulting in an oily taste.

When preparing foods, shape is even more significant. Dice vegetables and their texture changes, varying the taste, or at least our perception. Think of how differently raw, whole carrots taste from diced or sliced and also how they taste when cooked. And the more surface area of the ingredient, the greater the change. For example, we increase the browning or charring on a vegetable or piece of meat with elongated shapes of food.

The shape also affects aroma. The smaller something is cut, the greater the aroma, and as we know, smell is an important aspect of taste. Chop broccoli or cabbage and the smell of the sulfur can be offensive. Slice onions or mince garlic and we can almost taste them.

(Follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books or my author Facebook page.)

 

 

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