Monthly Archives: August 2018

A Love Letter to a Younger Me

Recently, my friend N sent me a collection of letters I’d written to her the summer we were 14. Talk about cringe-worthy!

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Note: Bob the postman played along; our correspondence continued all summer!

One thing I learned was that my writing style hasn’t evolved much since my teens. That was a bit scary. Also, that I was completely boy-crazy, which did not come as a shock.

These were my major interests:

  • Trying to sort out what appealed to boys and which girls they liked.
  • The Mets baseball team (I had no memory of being such a fan) and the Beatles, especially George. (I was obsessed.)
  • Sailing and tennis lessons. I never got very good at either, but apparently had fun: “Sailing is terrific, but I almost capsized last lesson! It was a panic – I turned too far & we almost turned over. Boy! Was my sailing instructor MAD!”
  • Trying to ascertain whether a 16 year old could possibly be interested in a 14 year old. (Spoiler: We did get together the next summer.)
  • Bad boys in general: “Last year, K got stoned once on the golf course with O, & also got picked up (with O) for trying to steal a car!!!!” I had a major crush on K, who was gorgeous. (I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face. But a guy who got stoned at 13? That was a surprise.)
  • Obsessing over whether I should say Happy Birthday to K: “Will he think I went to a lot of trouble to find out when it is? Or should I forget it? (We’ve known each other for 13 years.) I really don’t know. He might think I’m chasing him. And I’m not positive that’s his birthday. If it isn’t, he’ll think I like him (which I do, but he shouldn’t know, exactly.) If I don’t, he may think I’m stuck-up, or a snob. If I do, he might think I’m chasing him. What to do?????”
  • I wasn’t a complete airhead. I read a lot (in one letter, I recommend Huxley’s Brave New World) and played chamber music (cello) and chess. And I loved my summer science classes, especially when K and I were paired for dissection and swapped different fish parts on purpose to create two new species. OK, maybe that was less about science and more about the cute boy, but still….
  • Money went a lot further in the 60’s. I was paid $2.50 for 4 hours of babysitting three little kids.
  • I was a staunch Democrat: “J is such a jerk. He swears like anything. p.s. He’s for Goldwater!!!” (I was outraged.)
  • Boy-girl parties were a washout. Most of the boys wouldn’t dance.

As I was laughing, I developed a deep affection for this young teenager:

  • I was enthusiastic.
  • I was a good sport.
  • I was a loyal friend.
  • I had a sense of humor.
  • I loved to write.

So,

Dear 14-year-old Me:

You are a great kid. Some boys will like you. Some won’t. It will all work out; you have nothing to worry about. Develop your talents, try lots of new things, keep making friends, and enjoy the next few decades.

Oh, and you will always be obsessive; try to channel it constructively!

Love,

Older, Wiser, Adult Me

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Good News Monday: Climate Change

We’ve still got a long way to go, but trees are adapting to offset carbon emissions.  They’ve begun to use water more efficiently, which allows them to grow in size and thereby remove more CO2 from the air.

Keep reducing your own carbon footprint, though.  Trees can’t do it all by themselves!

 

Good News Monday

Dear Friends,

Are you as tired as I am of always hearing bad news? I’m planning to devote Mondays to sharing something positive.

Today: Contrary to a common perception that millennials (born between 1980-1996; e.g. my kids) are only concerned with partying and Instagram, consider:

  • 75% would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company AND
  • 84% say that making the world a better place is more important than achieving professional success.

Pretty cool!

More good news: It’s almost Tuesday 🙂

Dementia or Alzheimer’s?

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A few days ago DH and I watched the lovely and touching movie, The Leisure Seeker, which reminded me to share an interesting article.

My parents’ generation used to refer to this health issue as “losing your marbles”, which sounds more charmingly benign than the sad reality of cognitive decline. Whether you’re concerned for yourself, an aging relative, or a friend, I hope you’ll find it informative.

(SHARED FROM AARP)

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It? How to understand the difference — and why it matters

by Kathleen Fifield, AARP, June 25, 2018 

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” have been around for more than a century, which means people have likely been mixing them up for that long, too. But knowing the difference is important. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (accounting for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases), there are several other types. The second most common form, vascular dementia, has a very different cause — namely, high blood pressure. Other types of dementia include alcohol-related dementia, Parkinson’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia; each has different causes as well. In addition, certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia.

A correct diagnosis means the right medicines, remedies and support. For example, knowing that you have Alzheimer’s instead of another type of dementia might lead to a prescription for a cognition-enhancing drug instead of an antidepressant. Finally, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s if you’ve been specifically diagnosed with the disease.

What It Is

Dementia 

In the simplest terms, dementia is a nonreversible decline in mental function.

It is a catchall phrase that encompasses several disorders that cause chronic memory loss, personality changes or impaired reasoning, Alzheimer’s disease being just one of them, says Dan G. Blazer, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.

To be called dementia, the disorder must be severe enough to interfere with your daily life, says Constantine George Lyketsos, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center in Baltimore.

Alzheimer’s

It is a specific disease that slowly and irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills.

Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease takes away the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks.

A cure for Alzheimer’s remains elusive, although researchers have identified biological evidence of the disease: amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain. You can see them microscopically, or more recently, using a PET scan that employs a newly discovered tracer that binds to the proteins. You can also detect the presence of these proteins in cerebral spinal fluid, but that method isn’t used often in the U.S.

How It’s Diagnosed

Dementia

A doctor must find that you have two or three cognitive areas in decline.

These areas include disorientation, disorganization, language impairment and memory loss. To make that diagnosis, a doctor or neurologist typically administers several mental-skill challenges.

In the Hopkins verbal learning test, for example, you try to memorize then recall a list of 12 words — and a few similar words may be thrown in to challenge you. Another test — also used to evaluate driving skills — has you draw lines to connect a series of numbers and letters in a complicated sequence.

Alzheimer’s 

There’s no definitive test; doctors mostly rely on observation and ruling out other possibilities.

For decades, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has been a guessing game based on looking at a person’s symptoms. A firm diagnosis was not possible until an autopsy was performed.

But that so-called guessing game, which is still used today in diagnosing the disease, is accurate between 85 and 90 percent of the time, Lyketsos says. The new PET scan can get you to 95 percent accuracy, but it’s usually recommended only as a way to identify Alzheimer’s in patients who have atypical symptoms.

(Images from Pixabay.com)

Sourdough Made Simple

Sourdough has a reputation for being a bit tricky, so a lot of people find it intimidating. Thanks to my friend P, a fellow baking geek, I’ve been introduced to the Lahey method, which makes it super-easy to bake bread at home. I love this book!

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I’ve been experimenting with Lahey’s method for several weeks and my adapted recipe for sourdough is even simpler. It looks like a lot of steps but bear with me.

The genius part: Instead of folding/kneading your dough every few hours, you let your dough ferment overnight (18 hrs), do a second rise for 2 hrs and bake. No more being stuck in your house all day during the rising process!

STEP 1

All sourdough begins with a starter — natural yeast with a brinier flavor than the commercial yeast you find at the supermarket. Plan on 3-4 days before it’s ready to use. All you need is flour, water, air and time.

Mix equal parts water and flour in a wide mouthed container, cover it loosely so air can get to it, leave it out on your counter and wait. THAT’S IT. Really!

Once your starter is bubbly and active, try to make your dough within a few hours, before it loses potency. Thereafter, if you’re not baking regularly, dump out about 50-75% once a week, stir in equal parts water and flour, and start the process over.

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Starter is ready to use!

I encourage everyone to invest a few bucks in a kitchen scale and measure by weight rather than volume because 1) it’s easier and 2) it will guarantee consistent results. Remember, different flours have different densities so one cup of A may be slightly more or less than one cup of B.

Put your empty container on the scale, and set it to zero. Add 50g-75g whole wheat flour, 50g-75g bread (strong) flour, and 100g-150g cool water, resetting to zero after each addition. Don’t worry if you’re off by a gram or two as long as your ratio of total flour to water is roughly 1:1.

STEP 2

You’ve been patient and you now have over 100g of starter. Let’s get going.

Put a large bowl on the scale, zero it out, and add:

  • 600g flour (I like 475g bread flour +125g whole wheat or another grain)
  • 16g salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast (the kind you get at the grocery store)
  • 450g water
  • 107g active starter*
  • Optional: Add a generous handful of chia seeds and a tablespoon of caraway seeds, as I’ve done here.

*If this amount uses up most of your starter, replenish by adding  50g flour plus 50g water, mix well and set it aside to reactivate for a couple of days.

STEP 3

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Once you have a well mixed dough (it will be sticky; DO NOT be tempted to add more flour), loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it out at room temperature overnight for 18 hours. If you do this at, say, 4 PM, your dough will be ready for the next step at 10 AM the next day.

STEP 4

18 hours later, your dough will be bubbly and will come away from the bowl in long strands – this is the developed gluten. It will be loose and sticky; don’t add more flour!

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Those strands are the gluten

Dump it onto a lightly floured counter, and form the dough into a ball by tucking the edges under – using either a dough scraper or your (lightly floured) hands.

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The dark bits are the chia and caraway seeds.

STEP 5

The traditional method is to bake your dough in a pre-heated cast iron pot.  This is an easy alternative.

Divide dough into two balls. Shape each ball into a log and put them in a perforated baguette pan. For a free form shape, place your logs (or ovals) onto a baking sheet that’s been generously dusted with cornmeal. Leave plenty of room between them.

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Lightly dust the tops with flour. Cover the pan or baking sheet with a linen or cotton dishtowel (avoid terry cloth) or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise again for 2 hours.  After 1.5 hours have elapsed, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.

STEP 6

After another half hour (the full two hours), your dough will have puffed up nicely. Spritz your hot oven with water, put the bread into the oven and lower the heat to 475 degrees F.

You can spritz again after 2-3 minutes to keep the steam going and create a crispier crust. You can also score the dough at this point to let steam escape during baking but it’s not crucial.

Bake for about 25 minutes and check your bread – it should be a rich golden color. Depending on your oven this may take another 5+ minutes.

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Left: the bottom, showing bumps from the perforated pan.

To ensure your bread is baked through, check it with a kitchen thermometer – the internal temperature of the bread should be 205-210 degrees F.

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Nice and craggy with an open crumb

Cool. Slice. Eat.

 

Guest Post by Sleephelp.org : Boost Your Productivity at Work by Napping

Napping to improve your work life? Yes, please!

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It’s mid-afternoon, and your eyelids are starting to droop, but you’ve still got a good three hours before the end of your workday. As much as you want to give your employer 100 percent for a full eight hours, mental and physical fatigue can get in the way. But, there’s a simple solution that’s been used to help humans get through a long day for centuries – a nap. A growing body of research suggests that naps aren’t just for children.
Nap for Alertness
Whether you work the day, swing, or night shift a quick nap can help you stay more alert while on the job. Astudy conductedamong air traffic controllers on the night shift found that a nap mid-shift let to quicker reaction times, better alertness, and fewer signs of sleepiness. While participants didn’t enter the most restorative stage of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, they…

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Early Promise

I couldn’t attend my high school reunion last week, but thanks to generous friends who have shared memories, photos and excerpts from our literary magazine, it was almost like being there.

I especially enjoyed this witty story. Hope you do, too.

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