High-spirited Winter Holiday Cheer

Posted on Friday, December 18, 2015 by Larkspur

Photo of Irish Coffee, used under a creative commons license via FlickrI’m not a big consumer of alcohol. It’s not that I don’t like beer and wine and other spirits; they just don’t agree with my fair-skinned, allergy-ridden constitution. So instead, I daydream about delicious drinks paired with tasty party foods or holiday meals, and then occasionally make an exception to my habit of avoiding alcohol. With the winter holidays on the verge, I’m about to make one of those exceptions. Eggnog!  I love it – all that luscious heavy cream, frothed with eggs, darkened with rum and/or bourbon (or brandy, depending on the recipe) and tinged with freshly grated nutmeg. Mmmmmm. Really, what’s not to love?!

My mother had a passion for entertaining at Christmas time, and eggnog was on her list of things to make. She would haul her giant crystal punch bowl out from the corner cupboard and fill it with her version of this ambrosial concoction (borrowed from the American Heritage Cookbook – see recipe below), ladling it into matching crystal mugs to serve to the eager crowd. Continue reading “High-spirited Winter Holiday Cheer”

Human Rights Day 2015

Posted on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 by Reading Addict

Book cover for Where Do We Go From Here by Martin Luther King, Jr.In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 Human Rights Day in order to highlight the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as “the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” Now, I think that is a really great idea. Human rights – everyone should have them and they should be protected.

But what exactly is meant by “human rights”? In trying to answer that question I have learned that there are two types of rights: rights that are essential for a dignified and decent human existence, and rights which are essential for adequate development of human personality. Rights under the first category include the right to fulfillment of basic human needs like food, shelter, clothing, health and sanitation, and earning one’s livelihood. The second category of human rights includes the right to freedom of speech and expression, as well as cultural, religious and educational rights. Whew! I’m glad we’ve gotten that straight! I’m sure the book “The International Human Rights Movement: A History” could help explain the concept a lot more. Continue reading “Human Rights Day 2015”

The Art of Letter Writing

Posted on Monday, December 7, 2015 by Seth

Photo of a letter and pen by Ryan BlandingMy brother Michael and I were born about 16 months apart and have always been very close. When we started our adventures away from home, in the early 1990s, we began a series of correspondence by letter that has continued to this day. Back in the early days, we wrote each other once or even twice a week. We continue to correspond by pen and paper, although less frequently than in our youth, as we still live half a continent apart. Considered a “lost art” by many, both of us uphold the art of letter writing as communication, solace and even therapy. The library has many books about letter writing, and what better time to celebrate than December 7 – National Letter Writing Day! Continue reading “The Art of Letter Writing”

Remembering John Lennon

Posted on Friday, December 4, 2015 by Anne

Book cover for John Lennon: The Life“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us, And the world will be as one.” – John Lennon

It’s hard to imagine, but December 8 marks the 35th anniversary of the passing of John Lennon. As a member of the Beatles, his music sent a startling ripple through the music world. Lennon and his bandmates didn’t create rock and roll, but their role in popularizing it and helping to bring about the musical revolution of the 1960s can’t be denied. The music Lennon wrote during his Beatles years can certainly be credited with getting people dancing. As a solo musician, his music, which had evolved to reflect his interest in social activism, got people thinking.  Continue reading “Remembering John Lennon”

Three Books (and One Film) to Mark World AIDS Day

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2015 by Lauren

Book cover for And the Band Played OnWorld AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

This annual event also raises awareness about HIV/AIDS and promotes prevention and the search for a cure. Much misinformation still exists about who has the disease and how it is spread. Continue reading “Three Books (and One Film) to Mark World AIDS Day”

Pie Season

Posted on Friday, November 13, 2015 by Lauren

Book cover for A Year of PiesCrisp weather and turning the calendar’s page to November means it’s pie season. This time of year my extended family begins discussions about who will bring what dish to our Thanksgiving meal, but the question of who should bake the pies is never up for debate. My mother will bake one pumpkin and one pecan pie, and the crust will be made with lard – no butter or (shudder) shortening. The pastry will be flaky and perfect, and I, unable to decide between the two flavors, will end up having a slice of each. And then I’ll ask for another piece of pumpkin to take home and have the next morning for breakfast. Continue reading “Pie Season”

Kindness Makes the World Go Around and Improves Your Health

Posted on Monday, November 9, 2015 by Larkspur

Photo of a kindness mosaicYou’ve probably realized from your own experience that being kind brings you positive effect. We all know that warm, fuzzy feeling (known as “helper’s high” or “giver’s glow”) evoked from selfless acts of kindness and generosity extended to others. Well, it turns out that the benefits of being kind go way beyond that “feel good” feeling. Scientific research indicates significant physical and mental health benefits come from offering kindness to others. And interestingly, the bundle of benefits comes not only to those offering the kindness, but also to those receiving it and even to third party witnesses of kind acts. Continue reading “Kindness Makes the World Go Around and Improves Your Health”

We Never Outgrow the Need for Family

Posted on Monday, November 2, 2015 by Ida

National Adoption Month logoMore than 100,000 children in the U.S. are waiting for permanent homes and families.* November is National Adoption Month, and the motto for 2015 is “We never outgrow the need for family.” The focus this year is on older youth in foster care.

In keeping with this theme, here is a list of resources for those interested in expanding their families by adding some big kids: Continue reading “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family”

Let’s Travel: Oregon 101

Posted on Wednesday, October 21, 2015 by Svetlana Grobman

Photo of Multnomah FallsThe first thing my husband and I noticed while landing in Portland was how smoggy the city was. With the hottest summer on record and wild fires raging in Oregon, Washington and California, that was hardly surprising. Yet we had no time to dwell on it. We rented a car and drove to Multnomah Falls, located 30 miles away from Portland.

We humans are hardwired to be drawn to water, but waterfalls seem especially magical. Is it the sheer force of falling water? The cool glimmering beads that gently spray your face? The fresh smells and the haunting monotony of the sound? Who knows? All I know is that no picture can do justice to Multnomah Falls (at least not my picture 🙂 ). The falls are immense – the drop from the upper falls is 542 feet and from the lower 69 feet – and they attract two million visitors every year. Continue reading “Let’s Travel: Oregon 101”

The GMO Controversy

Posted on Friday, October 16, 2015 by Larkspur

Photo of seed corn bag, titled Better Living through Genetic ModificationAre you concerned about or interested in determining whether genetically modified organisms (GMOs, also known as GM foods) are safe for the environment and safe to eat? GMOs are very controversial; just look in the media for evidence. You can find no end of articles asserting data of their safety and benefits on one side of the debate, and just as plentiful are contradictory arguments that present otherwise. With GMOs it appears that the truth is a moving target, so it may be hard to trust that you can find an ultimate truth on which to base your decision-making. Still, making an effort to inform yourself of their pros and cons can help you determine whether to avoid them or not and whether to support any, all or none of their use should you decide to engage with your elected officials on this matter…because the GMO debate is a political one. Continue reading “The GMO Controversy”