Don’t Ask for Ketchup on That Dog Friday, Jul 18 2014 

The crack of a baseball bat and aroma of hot dogs heaped in condiments signal summer is here in full swing. And the two often go hand-in-hand.

Many a summer festivity, picnic, barbecue, and baseball game include hot dogs. It’s estimated that more than 7 billion hot dogs will be consumed this summer in the U.S. Americans eat about 60 dogs a year.

The creation of the hot dog is debated but the name is thought to have originated in Germany in the mid to late 1800s where it wasn’t uncommon to consume dog meat. Sometimes they also are called franks, after Frankfurt, Germany.

Today hot dogs are cooked sausages typically made from pork and/or beef, fillers, flavorings, and preservatives. The filling is encased in small intestines of sheep or sold without any skin.

Their more nutritious, but not so delectable, cousins may be made from chicken, turkey, or vegetarian ingredients. They may also be gluten-free, preservative-free, or organic.

Hot dogs can be grilled, steamed, fried, broiled, or microwaved. They are pre-cooked but should be served warm to avoid Listeria bacteria. My favorite dogs are Hebrew National 100% all natural kosher beef. They are tasty and relatively healthy.

Hot dogs can be topped with mustard, ketchup, onions, mayonnaise, relish, cheese, chili, or sauerkraut, but beware where you make your garnish selection. Areas and baseball parks, such as Coney Island and Fenway Park, offer their specialties with signature flavorings and toppings. In some areas of the country the dogateur will be highly offended if you request toppings outside the local cuisine.

The traditional serving in Chicago is a Vienna beef hot dog topped with mustard, chopped onions, sport peppers, fresh sliced tomatoes, a pickle, and a sprinkle of celery salt. One last important touch is that the delicacy be served in a poppy-seed bun.  You don’t want to frustrate a vendor in Chicago by asking for ketchup. It you really want it, you might ask them for ketchup on the side for your fries.

For a twist on tradition, order a corn dog, which is dipped in corn batter and deep-fried. Enjoy a plain hot dogged chopped in some baked beans or a mini-hot dog wrapped in bread dough and served as an hors d’oeuvres.

Nathan’s Hot Dogs holds an annual hot dog eating contest every July 4th. This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, proposed to his girlfriend before chowing down 61 franks and buns.

Hopefully, the young man does not practice every day. Although delicious, the tasty treat is not recommended as a daily diet. The American Institute for Cancer Research states that consuming one hot dog or serving of processed meat every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 20%. Hot dogs also are high in sodium, fat, and nitrites. In addition, hot dogs pose a choking risk in young children. The suggestion is to cut them into small pieces to reduce the risk.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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Back to the Beginning Tuesday, Jul 15 2014 

Farming got a boost in productivity with the discoveries of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers but we now know that more food does not mean more nutrition. These substances have toxic results on our health. The nutritional differences between conventional and organic foods are debated, although most people see the health benefits of foods without chemicals.

A 2012 study, which some believe is flawed,  found no significant difference in nutritional value between conventional and organic foods. But a new analysis from the United Kingdom analyzed over 300 studies and concluded that organic crops are higher in antioxidants.

They also have lower levels of toxic metals and pesticide residues. Most significantly, organic crops are said to have an average of 48% less cadmium, a metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening, and liver damage.

Organic farmers are not allowed to plant genetically engineered seeds or use synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, hormones or antibiotics. Not only does this result in healthier food, organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of favor-enhancing nutrients, so they taste better.

Organic farming also benefits the livestock, farmers, and environment. Organic farmers provide more humane conditions for the animals and leave soil and water supplies less contaminated. Additionally, farm workers avoid contact with the toxins used on conventional farms.

Organic foods can be expensive in some areas, but perhaps not in the long run. If we are healthier, we can live better and longer with fewer medical bills. Sometimes advances in science bring us back to the beginning where less is best.

Read more about organics at: Organic Center and the USDA website.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

 

More than a Meal Tuesday, Jun 3 2014 

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My daughters, Lisa and Erin, took me overnight to the quaint, little town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to celebrate my big birthday. Since I am still recovering from pneumonia, we kept things fairly low-keyed. We spent the day relaxing at the pool and then went to The Baker House for dinner.

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Although the 17,000 square foot, 30-room Queen Anne Mansion was built in 1885, the decor is 1920s. Rich, dark woods, copper ceilings, and antique light fixtures adorn the opulent home.

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The wait staff and some of the diners can be seen wearing period clothing. Guests are welcome and encouraged to don the vintage hats that hang on the walls.

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Pre-prohibition cocktails and a limited but delicious menu is available. We had cheese fondue for an appetizer. Both of my daughters had pork tenderloin and potatoes, and I had honey mustard salmon with wild rice for dinner. Our waitress brought raspberry parfait for my birthday and we also ordered crème Brule. We were not disappointed. The food and atmosphere were so much more fun than an ordinary restaurant.

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The Baker House is listed in the National Register of Historic places under its original name, Redwood Cottage. The lakefront home was built by Emily Baker as a summer escape for her and her five children. It was later a sanitarium for wealthy Chicagoans suffering from minor emotional disorders and addictions, a speakeasy during prohibition, and a hotel and restaurant with various owners. The current owners purchased the home in 2010 and renamed it after Emily Baker. They consider it their residence as well as a hotel and restaurant.

The Baker House is located at 327 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva. http://www.bakerhouse1885.com, 262-248-4700.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Bunny Hop Tuesday, Apr 22 2014 

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The bunny that hippity-hopped into most of our homes this past weekend was made of chocolate, and once spotted, lost its ears. But if we look out the window throughout the Midwest, it’s not hard to spot the real ones bouncing around gardens and parks as more than half of the world’s rabbit population lives in North America.

Bunny is an informal name for rabbit. Rabbits live in groups and wander meadows, forests, grasslands, wetlands, and even desserts. They are herbivores, feeding on grass and seemingly, all of our favorite garden flowers. They also eat large amounts of cellulose. Interestingly, rabbits are incapable of vomiting.

Rabbits, except for cottontail rabbits, are born blind and hairless and live underground. They are most active at dawn and dusk and will sleep more than 8 hours, often with their eyes open watching for predators. These little guys can live 9-12 years if left unharmed.

Although rabbits and hares are both in the family, Leporidae, they belong to two separate species. Hares are born with fur and good vision and are typically larger, have longer ears, and larger hind legs than rabbits. And they do not burrow as rabbits do. Rather they make nests in grass.

Rabbits are often domesticated but hares are not.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Hello Spring Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

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Congratulations Winter Survivors!

According to the calendar, spring has sprung. Now if only we could get Mother Nature to understand that.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s been a tough winter. Most, at least in the Midwest, experienced the toughest season in decades. We had way too many bitter cold days and way too much snow. But we got through it. We’re still here, ready for warmer temps and sunny days. Pat yourself on the back for your outstanding ability to endure, persevere, and move on.

Like the first crocus that pops its head up from the cold, hard ground, we emerge into the new season bright with hope and optimism. Embrace the moment. Before long, we will be complaining about the heat.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Save the Daylight Tuesday, Mar 11 2014 

Yay for Daylight Saving Time! Except for dancing in the dark, daylight makes us happy. Seeing some light at the end of a long work day feels as if we still have plenty of time to ourselves.

Daylight Saving Time (notice the correct terminology is “Saving” not “Savings”) has a long history and a mixed bag of pros and cons. The main intent for it is to save energy. If we use less energy to light our world, how can it not result in savings?

Modern Daylight Saving was first proposed in 1895 by a New Zealander named George Vernon Hudson and implemented in Germany in 1916 to conserve coal during World War I. The U.S. officially adopted DST during that time as well.

Then the U.S. program got tweaked along the way. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson called for Daylight Saving time to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October each year. Ronald Reagan amended this program to begin at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. Finally, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that extended DST by four weeks.

DST does save energy in the evenings but this may be offset by more consumption in the mornings. Also, some parts of the world benefit more than others. Although DST helps to save energy in cooler climates, there is increased demand in warmer ones. Little impact is seen in areas closer to the earth’s poles such as Iceland and Alaska and near the equator where there is only a small variation in daylight through t the year.

Some of the disadvantages of the time changes include the confusion over meetings and appointments in neighboring areas with different time zones as there is in the state of Indiana. Overall, DST causes disruption to scheduling, travel, sleep patterns, and we also have the time, expense, and inconvenience of physically changing the clocks. Farmers see some disadvantageous because grain is best harvested after dew evaporates and cows are sensitive to the timing of milking.

And there is some impact on our health. More daylight allows more exposure to the sun and an increased chance of developing skin cancer. And interestingly, heart attacks increase the first three weekdays after the spring transition.

But the extra daylight is believed to benefit retailers and centers for outside sports and activities as well. In addition, DST results in a slight reduction in traffic fatalities and accidents involving pedestrians. It also reduces violent crimes in some categories. And there does appear to be fewer fires because of the practice of replacing batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when we change the clocks.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Step Carefully Tuesday, Feb 25 2014 

With the exception of my philtrum, (That’s the groove between the nose and lip. I just wanted to use that word because it sounds cool.), every inch of me is bruised and hurting. I fell last night and have more colorful spots on me than the tattooed lady at the circus my husband likes to talk about.

The snowplows pushed snow up to the top of our mailboxes on the street, which we have to step up on to reach the box. A brief thaw and refreeze turned the mound into solid ice. I took one step up and fell right down to the street with a thud.

It will be interesting to see the statistics at the end of the season on weather-related injuries. We’ve had so much cold and snow here in the Midwest; I’d be surprised if the emergency rooms aren’t keeping unusually busy with sprains, strains, lacerations, and breaks due to falls and heart attacks from shoveling.

I’m really good at giving advice that I don’t take but here are a few things we can keep in mind the rest of this winter:

  • Keep our hands out of our pockets. We can’t brace ourselves, or even balance very well, if our hands aren’t available.
  • Take small steps. It’s easier to recover from a slip if are feet are closer together.
  • Dress appropriately. At least my jacket offered some padding, and if I had to remain on the ground for a while, I wouldn’t be chilled.
  • Hold on to the handrails. When walking up and down stairways, the railings can prevent us from going all the way down should we slip.
  • Walk cautiously. My fall is a reminder to slow down and step carefully. If you don’t, nature will force you to do so. I’m not moving very quickly today.

And here are a few suggestions when driving:

  • Drive slowly enough for conditions.
  • Keep space between vehicles.
  • Use headlights.
  • Brake before turning.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Smile and Say, “Cheese” Friday, Feb 21 2014 

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I don’t know why this photo is so funny, but you can’t tell me you didn’t laugh. I wanted to make you smile because it’s one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. Putting on that happy face benefits us physically, emotionally, and even socially.

Students who smiled in their college yearbook photo were five times less likely to be divorced decades later, according to a DePauw University study. The study didn’t reveal if the former students are happily married, but married they are, and chances are, they really are happy in some small way because they smile. And when someone smiles at us, we usually smile back, so their spouses are smiling too, making it one big happy-fest.

Our bodies physically react when we smile. Blood pressure and heart rate lowers, which reduces stress. Endorphins and serotonin are released and act like an anti-depressant enhancing our mood, reducing pain, boosting our immunity, and increasing productivity. All of these things result in a longer life by as much as seven years compared to those who don’t smile. In addition, everyone around us acquires those benefits because our smile makes them smile.

Smiles are good for business too. People who smile tend to earn more money as smiles encourage trust and display confidence. We naturally like to do business with happy people.

What’s more,  smiles are like little face lifts. They actually make us look younger and more attractive.

So read those funny papers, watch that comedy, think of your joke, and put on a great big smile. It’s a quick and inexpensive means to a healthier, happier life.

(Photo by Erin Lukasiewicz)

 

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

No Need for Groundhogs Tuesday, Feb 4 2014 

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Here in the Midwest, we didn’t need a rodent to tell us we have six more weeks of winter ahead of us. Regardless of the groundhog seeing his shadow, we are fully aware of the mounds of snow around us and the alternating cold and snowy days ahead in the forecast.

The news is buzzing with salt shortages, record-breaking snow day closings at schools, and traffic accidents due to the weather. But there is good in everything, even in these conditions.

Personally, I like the brightness of the snow. There appears to be so much more light streaming through the windows as the sun reflects on the snow. And when outside, we are wearing sunglasses almost as often as during the summer.

Here are a few other positives about this winter weather:

  • Hot showers, hot drinks, and fluffy blankets are so much more enjoyable.
  • Snow resorts don’t have to make snow. The real stuff is here in abundance.
  • Snow removal and heating repair employees are banking a lot of overtime.
  • No need to hurry home from running errands. That ice cream in the trunk isn’t going to melt.
  • We get to wear beautiful scarves, sweaters, and boots.
  • Not enough space in the refrigerator? We can just set those cold drinks outside the door.
  • We’ve gotten our money’s worth out of our winter wear.
  • Snow plow sales are up.
  • Schools and some businesses have closed due to blizzard and subzero conditions. This has offered a lot of us days to enjoy family and the homes we work so hard to maintain.
  • Kids are getting a lot of exercise and practice building snow-people and forts.
  • Cuddling keeps us warm and happy.
  • Snow makes a good surface for identifying animal tracks.
  • Artists are not lacking in material for snow sculptures.
  • The farmers’ fields will have plenty of moisture for planting in the spring.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Being a Part of the Magic Tuesday, Jan 14 2014 

This past weekend, my husband and I attended the 3rd annual Believe in Magic show presented by the National Association of Downs Syndrome. The entertaining and heartwarming show included a number of area magicians, a ventriloquist, and a face painter.

Magician Paul Lee organizes and hosts the annual show in honor of his niece, Teagan, who he magically introduced on stage. His protégé, Trent Rivas, a young man with severe cognitive challenges, also made Paul proud with his presentation of the Zombie Ball. And several other young people with special needs assisted throughout the show.

Believe in Magic and other shows, such as Jackie’s Magic that benefits a local county food bank, raise a financial total and level of awareness significantly greater than if the participants simply donate a monetary contribution. It’s a way of tithing with unique God-given abilities and gifts, time, and energy that promotes a heart-to-heart connection with the audience.

Most people don’t have the ability to produce an event such as Believe in Magic, but we all can contribute in some way. Showing up is vital. Without our attendance, no show would matter. We also can offer volunteer hours to organizations and individuals in need, donate financially, and most importantly, make a point of understanding the needs of others.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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