Sunday, November 24, 2013

The 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau is ready - but is it any good?

Some wine lovers LOVE this time of year - and the uncorking of the Beaujolais Nouveau harvest. 

It’s release is always the third Thursday in November and the reviews are pouring in. As usual, it’s light to medium-bodied, with red berry and cherry fruit flavors. According to Wine Spectator, this year’s crop is a little different - for the better. It was harvested a few weeks later than in recent years, thanks to the cool and rainy spring in France which delayed flowering. The result: a little more grip and length than the typical Beaujolais Nouveau, which makes it a contender to enjoy with food rather than just for sipping. 

If you’re new to the world of wine and would like to try the Beaujolais Nouveau, don’t wait. Unlike other red wines, it doesn’t improve with age and must be enjoyed six to eight weeks after harvest. 

Eat breakfast - or die...

You really should eat your breakfast - especially if you’re a man. 

According to study by Leah Cahill and the Harvard School of Public Health, skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time. The study found that men who did not eat breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than men who did.

The breakfast skippers tended to be younger, full time workers. They also had a tendency to exercise less and drink and smoke more. So what should you guys be eating for breakfast? Wholegrain toast, or cereals like porridge with low-fat milk are good options. Toss some dried fruit or a sliced banana on there and you’re off to a good start.

What’s the secret to cooking a juicy turkey? Flipping the bird.

The secret to a delicious, juicy roast turkey? Flip the bird! 

According to Fine Cooking Editor, Jennifer Armentrout, by the time the dark meat is cooked, the white meat is often dried out. Start cooking your turkey breast down, on a v-shaped rack in your roasting pan. Those delicious dark meat juices will drip down and saturate the white meat. After about an hour, it’s time to flip. 

First, make sure the turkey isn’t stuck to the rack with a spatula. You’ll need to protect your hands with silicone oven mitts or several layers of paper towels. Ready, set, flip the bird. Be sure to keep it level to prevent juices and ingredients from pouring out of the cavity. Once flipped, continue roasting. Don’t worry about any indentations on the breast from the rack. Those will fill themselves out in the roasting process. 

Don’t just take pictures with your phone. Take GREAT pictures with your phone...

Just about everyone with a smartphone uses the camera. 

You can make your smartphone photos stand out among the crowd using these simple tricks from professional photographer Dan Burkholder, author of “iPhone Artistry:”

* Check the camera settings and choose the highest resolution. Most people don’t realize it’s not usually the default setting. 

* Wipe off the lens before snapping a picture. That phone could be covered with dust or lint or debris from your pocket or purse - and ruin the shot. A quick with a soft fabric can make all the difference.

* Skip the zoom, it just enlarges the pixels. The best way to zoom with a smartphone is to either get closer to the subject, or just take the picture and crop to zoom after the fact. 

* For low light situations, take the shot from multiple angles - and again without the flash. You’ll see a big difference and you’ll have more to work with in editing mode.

* Brace yourself. If your shots often are blurry, ­reduce arm shake by bracing your elbow against your body before snapping a picture. Better yet, hold the phone with both hands and brace both ­elbows.

* Easy does it on the touchscreen shutter button. Too much pressure and you’ll blur the photo. A smooth, light touch is all it takes. If you’ve got an iPhone, the volume button on the earbuds can double as a shutter button, giving you some distance and stability.

Dan has some amazing tips and app advice.  If you'd like to get fancy, check this out.  

How dog-friendly is your car?

If you’ve got a dog who likes to go for a ride in the car...

...some models are better outfitted for Fido than others:

* The GMC ­Acadia crossover has lots of cargo space for big dogs and their stuff. It also rides a bit smoother than some other big cars. 

* The Volvo XC70 wagon has an optional cargo-­compartment divider and steel safety grille so that you can carry your dog and your luggage at the same time.

* The Kia Soul is a tall wagon with multiple seat configurations. It also has glass that reflects the sun’s rays to reduce heat buildup for your buddy.

* The Toyota FJ Cruiser SUV has water-resistant seating surfaces, for those trips to the vet.

* The Mazda5 Sport minivan has sliding, wide-opening rear doors, a rear liftgate and a low cargo floor. All nice features for your furry friend.

* The Dodge Journey SUV has loads of cargo room and in-floor storage bins that can double as coolers.

Say Squinch! The trick that makes you look better in every photo...

There is one facial expression that will make you look better in every photo - the squinch. 

Squinching is a word coined by professional photographer Peter Hurley, whose squinching YouTube video is going viral. When you squinch, you’re squinting your eyes just a bit, narrowing the distance between the pupil and the lower eyelid, creating a look of confidence. It eliminates that “deer in the headlights” look and give your face a touch of emotion. 

While squinching and squinting are similar, there’s a big difference when it comes to photos. A squinch is more subtle than a squint, and won’t give you that furrowed brow. Use just your cheek muscles, not your forehead. 

Is it normal for your heart to skip a beat?

If you’ve ever had the sensation that your heart just skipped a beat, or fluttered a bit - it’s perfectly normal. 

Almost everyone experiences an occasional skipped or extra beat from time to time. While it’s probably nothing, it shouldn’t be ignored either. According to Dr. Gordon F. Tomaselli, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, the vast majority of arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, are benign. However, some arrhythmias could raise the risk of stroke or other heart issues, and it’s important to let your doctor know how often you experience them. If the sensation is new or frequent, you should definitely have it checked out. 

Are you a smoosher or a sucker?

Everyone has a snack personality.

According to a new study on food texture, your preferences could affect your choices and ultimately your weight. 

Are you a…

* Chewer? Chewers take their time and prefer foods that don’t break when bitten. If you go for gummy bears, soft granola bars or raisins, you’re a chewer. 

* Cruncher? Crunchers forcefully bite through food and swallow it quickly. They may go for a crisp apple, almonds, pretzels or a hard granola bar. In the candy department, they’ll go for something with nuts.

* Smoosher? Smooshers squish foods between the tongue and the roof of the mouth. They’re typically slow eaters who their food. A smoosher’s favorite snack is yogurt, pudding, mangoes, bananas or avocados. 

* Sucker? Suckers also like to manipulate food in their mouth - but they prefer hard snacks. When they’re not sucking the juice out of oranges or peaches, They’ll usually go for Jolly ranchers or suckable breath mints. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What did the Pilgrims really eat for Thanksgiving?

The first Thanksgiving took place In the fall of 1621, most likely sometime between September 21st and November 9th. 

The Plymouth colony’s 53 English settlers decided to throw a party to celebrate their first successful corn harvest, and 90 native Wampanoag Indians joined them. The feast went on for three delicious days. Lucky for us, they took detailed notes of the event and some of the recipes. Here’s what they ate, courtesy of the DailyMeal.com:

* Turkey: Wild turkeys were indeed served, roasted then boiled. There may also have been some goose, duck crane, swan, partridge, pigeon and eagle. The birds were roasted over an open fire and then used for soup and stew for the next few days.

* Seafood: The Pilgrims settled near some of the best in the world near Massachusetts Bay. Cod, bass, lobsters, eels, and clams were all most likely on the first Thanksgiving table. 

* Meat: We know that the natives contributed five deer, so venison was the main red meat of the feast. Seals were most likely also served. 

* Grain: Wheat and corn were plentiful, so round loaves of cornbread and a type of sourdough called cheate bread were cooked. 

* Vegetables: Stewed and spiced pumpkins were served, along with peas, beans, onions, radishes, carrots, watercress, sunchokes, and spinach.

* Fruit: Plums, grapes, cranberries, and currants were dried and used in sauces. 

* Nuts: Walnuts, chestnuts, acorns, and beechnuts were all available for the feast.

* Herbs and Seasonings: The natives were experts at making foods taste good. We have them to thank for perfecting the use of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and black pepper.

Not served at the first Thanksgiving would be potatoes. They had not yet been cultivated. The same would go for sweet potatoes - and marshmallows.

If your kids love sugary cereal, we’ve got good news. Which one’s aren’t all bad...

Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids! But are they any good for kids? 

Actually, Trix scores okay in the sugary cereal department. While they’re high in sugar, at 120 calories per serving, they’re also high in iron, niacin, B6, B12 and some other nutrients. Here is how some other kids favorites score on the nutritional scale:

* Honey Smacks: They’ve only got 100 calories per serving and are a decent source of vitamin C and dietary fiber.

* Golden Crisp: A little lower in sugar, with one gram of fiber and no fat.

* Froot Loops: 110 calories per serving, but the serving size is a little more than the others. These loopy favorites have 3 grams of fiber.

* Kellogg’s Smorz: More calories at 120, they’re lower on the healthy list with 2 grams of fat and 25 grams of carbs.

* Fruity Pebbles: A little fiber - and lots of sodium, carbs and calories.

* Coco Puffs: A little cuckoo in calories at 120, but a respectable source of fiber, iron and calcium.

* Cap’n Crunch: Eat this one just for the fun of it and some folic acid. It’s got fat, carbs and calories and zero vitamin C. 

Who or what wakes you up in the morning? Why it matters...

Do you wake up on your own in the morning - or does your alarm clock have the honor? 

Hopefully, you can do it on your own once in a while. Research found that those who wake up naturally, usually a few minutes before the alarm goes off, are less groggy than those who are jarred back to reality by a horrible noise. 

Sleep scientists have found that if you tell yourself what time you need to wake up, your body will actually anticipate it before it happens, softening the blow. You’ll also be better off if you skip hitting the snooze button. The mixed signals of “get up” and “don’t get up” can really confuse the body and some experts say it’s the worst way to start your day. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Please, remain calm - but there is a shortage of turkeys this year. The warning from Butterball, in a moment…

If you’re planning on buying a large, fresh, never-frozen turkey from Butterball, you’d better hurry up. 

The company says there are only about half as many of those this year. For some reason, many of Butterball’s birds had trouble gaining weight this year. We are talking tons of turkey here. Butterball produces approximately 41 million turkeys each year - about 1 in 4 Thanksgiving turkeys are Butterballs. 

There is no shortage of small to medium sized birds - and plenty of frozen. If you do see a large, fresh Butterball over 16 pounds between now and Thanksgiving, grab it and give thanks.  

Are you too young or too old to be an organ donor? Probably not.

Some people hesitate designating themselves as an organ donor due to health or age.  

Organ donation is more versatile than most people think. For instance, there are no age limitations on who can donate. Whether you can donate depends on your physical condition, not age. Because there are many different types of organ and tissue donations, very few medical conditions will disqualify you.

If you do wish to designate yourself as an organ donor, it’s important to let your family know your wishes. You can designate your decision on your driver’s license, or visit your state donor registry at organdonor.gov.

And the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year is: Selfie. Which words came close,,,

Grats “selfie,” you’re Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year. 

Selfie is defined as a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam. A Word of the Year candidate must sum up our culture in the past year. Some other cultural words in the running were:

* apols: It’s short for apologies. “Apols to those who knew this already.”

* babymoon: A relaxing or romantic holiday taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born.

* BYOD: It’s byod day, or bring your own device to school or work day.

* grats: Because congratulations is a really long word.

* binge-watch: To watch multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital stream.

* twerk: Dancing to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance, just missed Word of the Year notoriety. 

If your child would like to improve his or her GPA, have them try this...

If you’d like a higher GPA, try going to bed earlier. 

A recent study found that students with a later bedtime during the school year had lower GPAs than those who hit the sack earlier. The participating students were split into groups by bedtime. The late group had an 11:15 or later bed time. The middle group called it a day between 10:15 and 11, and the early group was sound asleep sometime before 10:15. Using their cumulative GPAs, the researchers determined that the earlier they got to bed, the higher the GPA was likely to be.

The next time you check your email, take a deep breath. Email apnea...

Do you hold your breath while you’re checking your email? 

You probably do and don’t even realize it. A recent study found 80% of us experience email apnea, the temporary absence or suspension of breathing while reading or writing email. It can actually be a problem if it happens a lot. Shallow or irregular breathing rhythms can throw your body’s oxygen levels off. It can also disrupt your heart rate and put unnecessary stress on your system.

Christmas is going mobile. The must-have holiday apps...

Ready or not, the holiday shopping pressure will soon be on. 

Here are some great apps to help keep you organized, on budget and in the mood:

* The Christmas List: Sets a budget for each person and helps you track your shopping progress. It’s also password protected for sneaky peekers.

* Wanelo: Short for want, need, love, this app gives you suggestions of stuff on sale. When it finds the perfect gift, you can order it on the spot or save it for later.

* Red Laser: This one is a bar code scanner that lets you scan your gift and find it cheaper somewhere else. This one is a bit addictive. You may even start scanning things you already have to see what deals you’ve missed.

* Gift Plan: Create wish lists for all your friends and family with details like sizes and budgets. You can even import profiles from Facebook or create your own.

* FastMall: Never turn the wrong way again in the mall. This app will map out your route and give you turn by turn instructions to the next store, escalator or restroom. It will even remind you where you parked your car. 

We’ve all witnessed a rainbow - but have you ever seen a moonbow? Where to spot the rare phenomenon...

Have you ever seen a moonbow? 

If you have, you’ve witnessed an extraordinary phenomenon. It's not the ring we sometimes see around the moon. Moonbows are lunar rainbows, on the horizon, and are super rare because the conditions have to be just right. 

For a moonbow to appear, the moon has to be full, bright, and low in the sky. The sky needs to be very dark and of course there must be rain falling, opposite the moon. You’ll need to get up early to spot one. Because the sky is still light at moonrise, moonbows are more likely at moonset, two or three hours before sunrise. A lunar rainbow appears whiter than a solar rainbow but it’s full spectrum of color will appear on film if you’re lucky enough to catch one.

Moonbows are nothing new. Aristotle’s Meteorology, circa 350 BC mentions them. There are a few spots on the planet that are prime for moonbows and many of them cheat a bit with the aid of waterfalls. These are categorized as spray moonbows. To spot one, head for Yosemite National Park in California, Cumberland Falls in Kentucky, Victoria Falls in Africa or to the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Do you sleep like a log - or a baby? What that says about your personality...

The position you sleep in says a lot about who you are when you’re up and about. 

Here are the most common sleep positions and the personalities they are associated with:

* Fetal: This is the most common position at 41%. Fetal sleepers are curled up on their side. They tend to be tough on the outside but sensitive and often shy. They are also the first to fall asleep.

* Log: 15% of us sleep like a log. Log sleepers are easy going and sociable - but they’re also probably a bit gullible and too trusting of strangers.

* Yearner: 13% of people sleep in this position, on their side, with arms outstretched. Yearners are open in nature but cynical, suspicious and slow to change their minds. 

* Soldier: This serious sleeper is quiet and reserved with high standards. 8% of people sleep soldier style, on their backs with arms at their sides.

* Freefaller: 7% sleep on their stomachs with arms above the head. They tend to be brash and gregarious but thin skinned. They also hate to be criticized. 

* Starfish: Just 5% of people sleep on their back with limbs outstretched. They’re good listeners and love to help. They make great friends but not-so great bedmates. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Planning to read Fifty Shades of Grey? Why you should buy it, NOT borrow it...

If you see the book Fifty Shades of Grey in the Library - do NOT touch it. 

It’s filthy, and we don’t mean the story. Researchers who were testing library books for germs checked out the 10 most borrowed books and they found fifty shades of filth on that one, including the herpes virus. Some of the books had more than just germs, including trace levels of cocaine. The next time you want to read a really popular book, you might want to consider buying your own or downloading a germ-free version.

Your nose has quite a personality. Let’s see if it suits you...

Like it or hate it, your nose has a story to tell. Here’s what the shape of your schnoz is saying:

* Big noses with wider tips and larger nostrils: The bigger the nose, the more power, drive, leadership, ego. Big noses hate taking orders and like being their own bosses. They’re not big on small talk.

* Small noses: These little cuties love group activities and are always willing to help out for the greater good. However, they can be impatient and easily frustrated, which can lead to temper outbursts. 

* Long Noses: They’ve got a good sense of smell and a great sense of business. Follow a long nose and it won’t lead you astray. It’s got great instincts.

* Short noses: Short on ambition but long on loyalty. Short noses tend to be sweet and childlike and a bit on the sensitive side.

* Straight Noses: Also known as the Greeks, they’re methodical, clever, disciplined and usually very appealing. 

* Turned-up Noses: Those little ski slopes are full of character and usually an optimist. They also tend to be kind and supportive.

* Hooked Noses: Much like the hawk, they demand respect and are not influenced by the masses. They long to feel important, but will follow their own path.

* Roman Noses: Ambitious and headstrong, they’re natural leaders with a big personality. When in Rome - let them decide.

* Wavy Noses: They’ve got a bulb at the end and are bright, quick wits. They’re generally fun-loving in nature and natural entertainers. 

* Wide or Nubian Noses: Average in length, they’re extra wide at the base. Wide noses like to help out but they’re also hot tempered and like to spend money. The wider the nostrils, the more self-reliant that nose is. 

Have you ever dreamt you were pregnant? What that means...

If you’ve had a weird dream about being pregnant, you’re not alone. 

According to Ally Mead, author of “Searching for Sassy,” pregnancy dreams are all about creativity. While it’s more common for women, it’s not unusual for men to have pregnant dreams too. Ally says pregnant dreams suggest you are either craving time to be creative or are already working on a project which will come into existence relatively soon. This could be a home renovation or large-scale project at work.

Pregnant dreams can also be triggered by unattained goals and desires. Those who give up on their real-life dreams may be plagued with pregnancy dreams until they revisit or reconsider that neglected “baby.”

A Thanksgiving warning from the Department of Homeland Security.

What could be worse than burning the turkey on Thanksgiving? 

Burning the house down. The Department of Homeland Security has teamed up with the U.S. Fire Association to raise awareness of Thanksgiving fires. Cooking fires nearly double on Thanksgiving day and are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Here is the proper Thanksgiving protocol to follow:

* Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. 

* If you are simmering, baking, boiling, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that the stove or oven is on. 

* Wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking is strictly prohibited. 

* Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of of at least three-feet around the stove and areas where hot foods or drinks are prepared or carried.

* Anything that can catch on fire—pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags—shall not be placed near the stove top, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.

* Arm yourself with a lid to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stove.

* Turkey fryers must be used outdoors and in an open area away from all walls, fences or other structures. Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck. You’ll need to enforce another “kid free zone” and restrain any pets on the premises.

* After your Thanksgiving guests leave, assign a family member to perform a home safety check to ensure that all candles and smoking materials have been extinguished.

Black Friday shoppers: Start your engines.

If you’ll be participating in the Black Friday madness, you might want to start training for it now. 

Consumer Reports has some strategies to help you hit the ground running next week:

1. Be prepared. Study ads before Black Friday. Websites such as bfads.net, blackfriday.info, theblackfriday.com, and gottadeal.com are already up and running. Some of them let you filter your searches by product categories, such as TVs.

2. Shop online first. Before you brave the crowds at the stores, check to see if the retailer is offering the same—or even better—deals on its website. There may also be some online exclusives you couldn't get even by walking into one of their retail locations.

3. Sign up for e-mail alerts. Shoppers can learn if the products they want are stocked and available, or if an item is eligible for a "buy online, pick up at store" option that can save shipping charges.

4. Use social media. Visit the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers and see if they're offering any incentives when you "like" their page or follow them. 

5. Get the apps. Make sure your smart phone is charged and loaded with a few key comparison-shopping apps such as ShopSavvy, ShopKick, and RedLaser that will let you see special deals and compare prices while you're in the store.

Football can be a dangerous sport, even if you don’t play. How just watching it can be hazardous...

Caution: that football game could be hazardous to your health. 

A recent study found that watching your favorite team suffer a loss could increase heart attack risk over the next few hours. That’s because your body is suddenly flooded with stress hormones that can cause blood pressure to spike. We can’t blame the game for all of the risk. It’s not unusual for football fans to drown their sorrows in saturated fats and sugary stuff during and following the game, especially if it was close or an unexpected loss. It’s an unconscious play to feel better - and one that could backfire on your health.

Are you a night owl? The good and bad news...

If you just can’t help staying up late, you’re probably a genuine night owl. 

Scientists have determined that night owls are genetically different than intermediate sleepers and early birds. They studied the brains of all three types and found that night owls tend to have diminished white matter. If that sounds bad, it is. Night owls are also more prone to depression, tobacco use and problems with cognitive functions.

Now the good news. Night owls tend to be more creative and productive than early risers, and have more stamina later in the day. They’re more analytical and better at reasoning and are more likely to achieve greater financial and professional success than early-to-bed, early-to-risers.

To stuff or not to stuff?

If you’re determined to stuff your turkey, keep in mind it will take a little longer to cook, by about a half hour. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, a stuffed turkey is more prone to food borne illnesses and you’ll need to take these precautions:

* Make sure your turkey is completely thawed.

* Be sure to remove the giblets. A lot of people forget this step.

* Don’t make your stuffing ahead of time. Stuffing a turkey with cold stuffing can mess up the cooking time inside. Warm stuffing also reduces the risk of bacterial growth.

* Loosely stuff both the neck and body cavity of the bird.

* Don’t cram too much stuffing into your bird. The juices from the turkey will cause the stuffing to expand a bit and prevent it from thoroughly cooking. You need some room for air to circulate in there. 

Be sure to check the temperature of the stuffing to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked. It should read at least 165 degrees. The meat should register between 175 and 185 - and be sure you’re thermometer is not touching a bone.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do you use a neti pot when you’re sick? The neti no-no...

Some people swear by neti pots to help keep things moving and ease congestion. 

However, if you’ve got the flu - don’t use it. According to Dr. Woodson Merrell, director of Beth Israel’s Center for Health and Healing in New York, using neti pots with a viral infection will hurt you rather than help you. He says they’re fine for colds only. 

If you do come down with the flu or another viral woe, crank up the steam and humidity. Viruses have a harder time surviving in humid conditions and keeping the air in your home and bedroom moist can help prevent the virus from spreading to other family members. 

Do you have a red room? Why you need one...

If you’d like to improve your home in just one weekend - paint something red. 

Red rooms are all the rage. Ask anyone who has one and it’s probably their favorite spot in the house. Deep red adds drama and warmth to a home, and is most effective in a small, cozy space. You’ll even LOOK better sitting in your red room. Research has shown that we appear younger, more attractive and even sexier when surrounded by red.

If you’re not quite ready to go full-on red, try adding some red touches in your favorite room. Pillows or a throw for the family room, a red tea kettle in the kitchen or a red rug and some towels in the powder room can add a nice dramatic splash of red.

Size does matter - technically speaking.

If you’re working on something that really matters, save it for the desktop. 

A recent study found that the size of the screen we work on can have a real impact on the quality of work we produce. Posture has a lot to do with it. We think more constructively and more confident and assertive sitting upright. The posture we often assume on a tablet is much more constricted and can inhibit performance.

If you’re limited to a tablet or laptop, look away from time to time and expand your posture. If you’ve got an important meeting or phone call to make, it’s best to step away from the screen and really stretch out before you do. Opening up your body helps to open your mind and the lines of communication. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

If you’d like to get ahead at work - wear this.

Would you like to get noticed at work? 

Dress like the boss. A recent study found that mirroring your manager’s wardrobe can subconsciously make them like you more. It’s only natural that we relate to people who share similar style and taste, and this study found that 68% of corporate managers had a positive affinity for employees who dressed to match them. 

Those managers also reported a heightened awareness towards the work and behavior of the look-alike labor - so be sure you’re on your game before steal your superior’s style.

What is up with the green juice craze? Health vs. hype...

Would you rather drink your vegetables than go to all of the trouble of eating them with a fork? 

It’s all the rage in some circles and retailers are cashing in. Stores like Starbucks and Whole Foods are stocking the shelves with these seemingly healthy green concoctions, consisting of enough fruits and veggies to choke a horse. It’s big business too. Because these produce drinks can’t be pasteurized, they’ve only got a shelf life of a day or two and cost anywhere from $9 to $12 a bottle.

So are the juice freaks paying for health or for hype? The general consensus among nutrition experts is the latter. We’re better off getting our daily dose of vegetables in whole form. A salad or a serving of plain old greens delivers a lot more nutrients. The pressing process strips these produce juices of precious protein and fiber - and those with fruit juice added can be high in sugar.

If you like to read, have we got some apps for you...

Whether you love to read, or dread it, you might want to get your head out of the books and into these apps. 

Mashable has a list of the best apps to improve or enhance your reading experience:

* Instapaper: This lets you download web text to read offline later. It also strips out all of the unnecessary elements for a reader-friendlier layout. 

* Syllable: This app has some amazing features that will actually help you significantly increase your reading speed and comprehension.

* Dictionary.com Dictionary & Thesaurus: Beside's it's obvious dictionary and thesaurus convenience, this app has a fantastic word-a-day feature and can improve your vocabulary within a few weeks. 

* Readmill: This one is poised to become the largest mobile book club ever assembled. Join the Readmill community to discuss and analyze whatever book you’re reading.

* Goodreads: Now that Oprah isn’t making all of your reading choices, this interactive social book review can determine what you’d like based on your read list. 

* Audible: No time to read? This app will read it for you, aloud. The audiobook app by Amazon has over 150,000 titles.

Need a shot of creative genius? Where to find it...

The next time you need to get some serious thinking done - head for a coffee shop. 

It’s not the caffeine that will boost your brain power, it’s the noise. Researchers have determined that the din of chatter, grinding and gurgling registers at about 70 decibels in a coffee shop and that’s a sweet spot for our brains. Background noise at 50 decibels or below is a bit too quiet, while trying to think in a noisier environment can be distracting. 

Just be sure you find the right seat for your cup of creative thinking. You don’t want to be too close to the frappuccino blender, as that registers at a distracting 85 decibels.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Like Mozart? You must be a genius!

Do you “like” Mozart? If you’d like to look smart, find that page on Facebook and click “like.”  

A recent study of American Facebook users analyzed “likes” and found they could help predict personalities with uncanny accuracy. Here are some of the findings:

* People with high IQs “like” The Godfather, Mozart, Thunderstorms, Curly Fries and the Colbert Report.

* People with low IQs “like” Jason Aldean, I Love Being a Mom, Lady Antebellum, Sephora and Harley Davidson. 

* People satisfied with life “like” Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Swimming, Indiana Jones and Jesus.

* People dissatisfied with life “like” Science, Stewie Griffin and the metal band Atreyu.

* Outgoing people “like” Michael Jordan, Flip Cup and Modeling.

* Shy people “like” Video Games, Programming and Anime.

* Drug users “like” Austin, Texas and Big Mommas Movies.

You’ve got a sore throat. Could it be strep? The do-it-yourself strep test...

Do you really need antibiotics for that sore throat? 

Before you run to the doctor for a strep test ask yourself these two questions: Do I have a fever? Do I have a cough? According to Dr. Andrew Fine, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Boston Children's Hospital, high fevers are a hallmark of strep infections. If you’ve had a fever in the past 24 hours, accompanied by a sore throat, get to the doctor.

That cough, on the other hand, is not a typical symptom of strep. Especially if there is no fever. It is estimated that as many as 70% of Americans who see a doctor for a sore throat wind up on antibiotics to treat it. Many experts think we’re overdoing it in that department and that only 5 to 15 percent of us will actually benefit from them.

Did you know that grapes could kill your pet? Household pet poisons...

You already know that chocolate can be deadly for a dog. 

Here are some other things lying around the house that could potentially hurt or kill your pet:

* Acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol and other medications, can cause liver damage in dogs. Cats are even more sensitive.

* Batteries can be toxic to both dogs and cats, leading to ulcers in the mouth, esophagus and stomach. 

* Detergents and fabric softener sheets can cause ulcers too.

* Ethylene glycol is found in antifreeze, windshield de-icing agents and motor oils. Dogs and cats are attracted to its sweet taste, but as little as a teaspoon in cats or a tablespoon in dogs can cause fatal kidney failure. 

* Grapes, raisins and currants - even grape juice - in small amounts can cause kidney failure in dogs. 

* Insecticides in flea and tick products can cause problems if not used according to labels. Insecticides that are meant for dogs can cause severe toxicity in cats.

* Kerosene, gasoline and tiki torch fluids can cause drooling, drunken walking and difficulty breathing in dogs and cats. 

* Mothballs can be toxic to dogs and cats, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. 

* Nonprescription medications, such as ibuprofen, can lead to severe ulcers and anemia, as well as liver and kidney failure in pets. 

* Onions, garlic, leeks and chives can be toxic in dogs and cats and cause anemia and gastrointestinal upset. 

* Prescription medications, such as antidepressants and ADHD and cardiac drugs, are commonly ingested by pets when pills are dropped on the floor or left on counters. Even a small dose can cause big problems. 

* Macadamia nuts, can cause lethargy, vomiting and difficulty walking in dogs. 

* Tobacco can be toxic to both dogs and cats. Ingestion of cigarettes or nicotine patches can lead to tremors, collapse and death. 

* Unbaked bread dough can expand in the stomach. The yeast in the dough can also produce alcohol, leading to seizures and respiratory failure. 

* Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener commonly found in chewing gum, breath mints and toothpaste. In dogs, it can lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar and liver failure. 

* Zinc toxicity can happen when dogs and cats eat metal or coins. Ingestion of even a single zinc penny can be fatal.

Does being cold make you sick?

If you think being cold can make you sick, science disagrees. 

Grandma’s theory that you’ll catch your death of cold has been studied from labs to the Canadian Rockies to Antarctica - and researchers can’t find a definite link. While frostbite and hypothermia are legitimate concerns, being cold alone will not make you sick.

However, cold temperatures could increase the odds you’ll catch a virus, regardless of how you’re dressed. That’s because certain viruses thrive in cold, dry air. If you touch or breathe them in, that hat and coat will provide little protection. More time spent indoors and close contact with other people’s germs pose a greater risk than venturing outside in cold weather, even with wet hair.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Are your eyes bothering you? Join the club. Why we NEED to blink more...

Have you blinked your eyes lately? 

Thanks to electronic media, cases of dry eye are reaching epidemic proportions. It’s normal to experience the burning, dryness, or even tearing associated with dry eye as we age - but now much younger age groups are complaining of symptoms. We tend not to blink much when we’re on the computer, driving, or watching TV and it’s taking a toll on our tear ducts. 

Dr. Robert Latkany, author of “The Dry Eye Remedy,” says we need to take blink breaks twice an hour during screen time. Shut your eyes for about 10 seconds and roll them around a bit to get them lubricated. Artificial tears can also provide some instant, temporary relief - especially if you keep them in the fridge. 

What if your dog runs off? There’s a device for that.

If you’ve ever lost your dog, it can be terrifying and heartbreaking. GPS to the rescue!

There are several canine tracking devices on the market now and they’re pretty effective at finding Fido if he makes a run for it. The devices can be attached to your dog’s collar and work off of either cell phone or radio signals. The cell models, such as the Tagg Pet Tracker, Zoombak and Secure a Pet are adequate if you live in an area where reception is good. You set up parameters and can find your dog on the smartphone app map. If you like to hike or explore with your dog, you might be better off with the radio signal model like the Roameo, Garmin or SportDog TEK. Their range is limited to 9 miles max. Dog GPS devices range in price from $100 to $200.

Who should extend their hand for a shake first? That depends.

A firm handshake is a no-brainer in business - but who should reach out first? 

The higher up. According to etiquette expert LisaMarie Luccioni, a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, a handshake should be offered by the person of higher authority to the person of lower status. If you’re the peon, give the big cheese a chance - but go ahead and extend if they’re slow on the draw. There is no rule regarding gender in business. In social situations, while kissing the woman’s hand is a bit old school, some still believe a man should wait for a woman to offer her hand for the shake.

When you are ready to shake, stand up, unless you physically can’t. Go in with confidence and aim to make firm contact web-to-web, between the thumb and forefinger. Resist the urge to inflict the politician two-handed shake on the first meeting. It can come across as phony and overbearing.

If you enter your ATM PIN backwards, will the cops show up? Let’s try it...

Hopefully, you’ll never be forced to withdraw money from your ATM at gunpoint.  

But if you are, will entering your PIN backwards summons the police?  Nope.  That’s an internet rumor that’s been floating around for a while.  While it is an urban legend, the concept is not.  A Chicago business man came up with the idea in 1994.  His SafetyPIN System would allow you to enter your PIN backwards, dispense the money as to not alert the thug, and simultaneously notify the police that a crime was in progress. He actually managed to get the Illinois General Assembly to adopt a "reverse PIN" clause in 2004, but it was optional for the banks and they didn’t go for it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Should you buy your funeral now?

Are your “final arrangements” in order?

While you should have your wishes in writing and money put aside for that - you should NOT go ahead and pay for your funeral now. According to AARP, there are a lot of prepaid funeral scams out there. That company may wind up dead and buried long before you need to be. Even if it’s not a scam, you’ll likely wind up paying more than promised, or worse, leaving your loved ones to foot the post-mortem bill.

The best approach is to pre-plan, not pre-pay for your final arrangements. You can put aside money to cover the costs in a payable-on-death bank account to give your heirs easier access to it when the time comes. 

Is Lite Salt better for us than regular salt?

Lite Salt may sound like a good idea if you’re watching your sodium intake - but it’s not for everyone. 

While Lite Salt, a trademarked alternative, does have less sodium, it also has potassium chloride which can be a problem for someone with a blood pressure condition. Lite Salt is also high in potassium, not good if you’ve got kidney problems. Check with your doctor before making the switch to a salt substitute. You might also want to avoid using substitutes when cooking for others who may have health issues.

Got a big problem? Strike this pose.

The next time you’re really stuck on something - cross your arms. 

This body language hack really does help when tackling something tough. In a recent study, groups of students were asked to work on some puzzles and anagrams. One group was instructed to keep their hands on their thighs, while the others were to sit with their arms folded. The students who folded their arms almost doubled their attempt time. That group also came up with more solutions than the hands-in-the-lap group.

Body language experts say folding our arms can trigger our determination and perseverance. Sit up straight and smile - and add optimistic confidence to your problem solving pose.