Friday, September 30, 2016

Easy tips for smart snacking

(BPT) - It's hard to remember when the norm was three square meals a day, and snacks were relegated to nibbles at parties or as an afterschool bite to eat for kids. Today, whether young or old, snacks are a big part of our regular eating habits. In fact, a whopping 92 percent of us snack sometime during the day or evening, according to research by the Hartman Group. Even more surprising? We're no longer using snacks just once or twice a day to quell hunger between meals. Snacks have moved into meal territory, and now make up half of all our eating occasions.

When it comes to smart snacking, the foods you choose - and how much you eat - matters. One of your best bets? Fruit! Just 13 percent of Americans eat the 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit recommended each day, and snacks offer an opportunity to close that gap.

For the perfect pick, think fresh grapes from California. At just 90 calories per 3/4 cup serving, their delicious, juicy taste hits the snacking sweet spot. Heart-healthy and hydrating, they're a nutrition bargain compared to many processed snacks high in calories, fat and added sugar that tend to offer little health bang for the buck.

Plus, grapes are portable - ideal for munching anytime, anywhere. With grapes, there's no fuss, no muss - and no peeling or coring required. Whether added to the lunch sack to help end the midday meal on a sweet note, or tucked in the briefcase or backpack at the ready for when hunger strikes, grapes are a super snack.

If late-night noshing is your nemesis, go with California grapes for a tasty, healthy and guilt-free option. And if the ice cream carton starts calling your name, opt for frozen grapes instead - they're just like a mini-sorbet. Simply rinse grapes and pat them dry, then place them on a sheet pan and pop them into the freezer for two hours. Store any extras in the freezer to keep them at the ready for your next snack attack.

Fresh grapes are a delicious addition to heartier snack fare, too, adding color, crunch and a light touch of sweetness:

* Make a fresh trail mix by combining grapes with cubes of cheese and a sprinkle of chocolate chips and nuts.
* Toss grapes into your favorite smoothie recipe.
* Spread celery stalks with peanut butter and place grapes on top to for a mix of crunch and sweetness.
* Put together snack sandwiches: smear a dab of cream cheese on top of graham crackers and top with halved grapes.
If game day requires a more adult-style snack ­- perhaps perfectly paired with a beer or glass of wine - try this scrumptious flatbread. You'll love the combination of saltiness from the cheese and prosciutto balanced by the light sweetness of the grapes.

Prosciutto, Red Grape and Pecorino Flatbread
Serves 8 as an appetizer
4 prepared 8-inch naan breads
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano (divided)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
1 cup red California grapes, halved
1 cup arugula for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 500 F.
Brush the naan breads with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place on sheet pans. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the pecorino and the lemon zest, then drape the prosciutto over the top. Add the grapes, then sprinkle with the remaining pecorino. Bake until grapes blister, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, cut into wedges and serve.
Nutritional analysis per appetizer serving: Calories 250; Protein 12.5 g; Carbohydrate 26 g; Fat 10 g (36 percent calories from fat); Sat Fat 3.3 g (13 percent calories from saturated fat); Cholesterol 23 mg; Sodium 700 mg; Fiber 1 g.

New grandbaby? Learn how to help baby and mom thrive

(BPT) - Grandparents play a unique, important role in caring for family members of all ages. Here are some ways that you can help keep babies and moms safe and healthy.

Helping babies sleep safely
Grandparents can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of infant death. To help your grandbaby sleep safely, make sure you:
 * Always place your grandbaby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night.
 * Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.
 * Keep loose bedding, blankets, quilts, crib bumpers, soft objects and toys out of your grandbaby’s sleep area.
 * Do not smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your grand baby.

“Researchers have learned a lot in the past 20 years about how to keep infants safe while they sleep,” said Dr. Catherine Y. Spong, Acting Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which leads the Safe to Sleep(R) campaign to educate caregivers about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

“Grandparents often help parents take care of infants, including during sleep times, but they may not know that the recommendations for safe infant sleep have changed since they had young children,” said Dr. Spong. “It is important for grandparents and all caregivers to know how to create a safe sleep environment for baby.”

For more information about safe infant sleep, visit

Supporting moms and moms-to-be
In all the excitement over a new baby, sometimes a mother’s health, including her mental health, can be overlooked. Research shows that as many as 1 in 10 women experience postpartum depression. However, mood changes and other symptoms of depression can take place anytime during pregnancy, not just after the baby is born. Because of their unique role in the family, grandparents may be among the first to notice that something is wrong.

Moms’ Mental Health Matters, another NICHD initiative, describes the signs of depression and anxiety related to pregnancy and birth and offers ways to cope and seek help.
“New mothers may be hesitant to admit they’re feeling depressed or anxious, but supportive family members can make all the difference in helping to identify symptoms and encouraging moms to reach out for help when they need it,” said Dr. Spong.
For example, during pregnancy and after birth, a mother may:
 * Seem to get extremely anxious, sad or angry without warning.
 * Seem foggy and have trouble completing tasks.
 * Show little interest in things she used to enjoy.
 * Seem “robotic,” like she is just going through the motions.
 * Have trouble sleeping.
 * Check things and performs tasks repeatedly.
 * Have difficulty caring for herself or the baby.

If you notice any of these signs in a new mom, encourage her to talk with a health care provider — or offer to make an appointment for her. If you need to find a health care provider in her area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Locator at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). For support and resources in her area, contact Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4PPD (4773).

To learn more about maternal mental health and find resources, visit

Here’s the recipe for contentment in my kitchen

Crabmeat, tofu and fresh kale combine to make this elegant and earthy supper pie.

“Who is this man that prepares me a crabmeat-kale-tofu quiche in a crust of brown rice and sweet corn, sprinkled over with fresh Parmesan and Italian cheeses?” I wrote in wonderment. “All while beating me at Upwords????”
So many friends responded, I decided to share the recipe here, along with a bit of context and more appreciation.
Douglas is a capable and inventive cook. It was one of the first attributes he shared with me after we met in 2011 on, possibly because I had mentioned in my profile that I hoped to meet a man who could not only hold his own in the kitchen but also help me reclaim my own culinary enthusiasms. Frankly, I was burned out from making hasty, utilitarian meals during my 30-year marriage. I truly missed the sensual pleasures of the kitchen and the satisfaction of preparing simple, nourishing, interesting food, but I didn’t want to be the chief cook and bottle washer anymore. I dreamed of finding a partner for the kitchen, as well as for the rest of my life. Click here to continue reading.

Bestselling Author Publishes Witty Diary About Turning 60

Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-First Year: The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?

Ian Brown, a Toronto writer whose newspaper articles in The Globe and Mail and previous books have been widely praised, nonetheless worries about his legacy in a rich new book about turning 60: Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-First Year.
He also worries about what’s happening to his body, what’s happening to his health, his masculine appeal, his finances and whether he is making the most of the years he has left.

As do many of us boomers.

Brown said he was inspired to write a day-to-day compilation of thoughts on life at this age because he didn’t see that anyone else had. Plenty of other volumes, including self-help books, talk glibly about reinventing aging as a “younger future,” Brown says. But he wanted to write “original, truthful, sad but amused, authentic writing on the subject of getting older…”

Looking Aging in the Face While Turning 60

Brown notes that older adults have been treated in Western society as if they are invisible; we deny that people get older, even as each of us does. “I thought it might be an interesting experiment to stare in the face of that denial, and keep track, at even the most mundane daily level, of the train coming straight at us,” he writes.

I hate having regrets, but at 60 they show up, sharp and aggressive, like nasty dogs. Click here to continue reading.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Movie Review—Sully

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by Peter J. O'Connell

Sully. Released: Sept. 2016. Runtime: 96 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language. 

A jetliner crashes into a high-rise building in New York City as Sully begins. Is this movie about the horrors of 9/11/01? No, it is about a “miracle”--the “Miracle on the Hudson” of January 15, 2009. In that “miracle” Captain Chesley (“Sully”) Sullenberger, a pilot with long experience, landed a disabled jetliner on the Hudson River, saving the plane's crew and 155 passengers. 

But what about the plane crashing into the building? That type of image, which recurs several times in the film, is something that haunts Sully's mind after the events of 1/15/09, in almost a PTSD manner. The image at the movie's start is in a nightmare from which Sully (Tom Hanks) awakens sweating and gasping for breath.

Though Sully's plane's successful landing was much publicized at the time, the movie also deals with a situation occurring after the “miracle,” a situation of which few people were aware. That situation was the investigation of the incident by the National Transportation Safety Board. According to the movie, some on the NTSB felt that Sully should have tried to return to LaGuardia Airport or to an airport in New Jersey rather than making the risky landing on the river. 

The disorientating combination of the media and public's acclaim of him as a hero with the NTSB implications of misjudgment is what is causing Captain Sullenberger stress, anxiety and bad dreams. The quiet, modest Sully feels that he is not a “hero” but was just doing his job in a professional manner. And he feels that as an experienced professional, his judgment that the plane could not have made it to the airports if it had tried but, instead, would have crashed calamitously, perhaps in populated areas, was the correct one. 

Sully, in an interesting way, alternates the events of the jetliner's brief flight and dramatic landing with the events that followed. It is only after some time devoted to the NTSB issues and to the media and public's attention to Sully that we see a sequence depicting the near disaster that was turned into a “miracle” by the skill and courage of Sully and his crew. 

The troubles on 1/15/09 begin two minutes after U.S. Airways Flight 1549 takes off from LaGuardia. In a startling scene, a large flock of geese flies head-on into the plane's two engines, causing them to falter. Sully and his copilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), within a matter of seconds make the decision to land on the river.

At this key point, we shift in time to after January 15. Sully jogs past the carrier Intrepid and thinks of his earlier days as a military pilot. In a bar he is offered a drink named after him—Grey Goose vodka with a splash of water. Then we are back on Flight 1549 for an intense sequence as the plane lands on the Hudson, and frightened passengers gather on its wings, desperately hoping for rescue before the plane sinks under the frigid waters. However, the competent crew keeps order among the passengers, and New York City's outstanding first-responders go into action swiftly, saving all.

After the intense scenes out in the open, we plunge back into the enclosed intensity of the NTSB hearings as Sully and Skiles defend their actions. The turning point comes when Sully points out a factor that the NTSB did not adequately consider.

Sully is largely based on a book by Chesley Sullenberger. It is a film whose quietly professional protagonist is played by an actor expert in such “Everyman as Hero” roles. Tom Hanks has seldom been better. The same could be said of director Clint Eastwood, whose piloting of the picture is “quietly professional,” while maintaining intensity. Sullenberger, Hanks and Eastwood constitute a trinity of talent.

The movie's supporting cast is also fine, particularly Aaron Eckhart (whose massive mustache is more heroic than Hanks' modest one!), Anna Gunn as an NTSB official, and Laura Linney in the usually thankless role in movies of  “the wife on the phone.” Sully is a film that makes a “miracle” seem as real as it really was.

“Footnote” to the film: (1) Sully was released on the 15th anniversary weekend of the 9/11 attacks. (2) The film's treatment of the NTSB has been controversial. Some feel that the agency is portrayed as too prosecutorial and oriented to second-guessing. (3) While serving in the military, director Clint Eastwood was in a plane that crashed into the ocean, and he had to swim three miles to shore.      

Friday, September 9, 2016

Movie Review— Don't Breathe

Don't Breathe (2016 film).png

by Peter J. O'Connell

Don't Breathe. Released: Aug. 2016. Runtime: 88 mins. MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references.

Don't Breathe is a good title for this terrific thriller. It's good advice for some of the characters in the movie, and it reflects the fact that many in the audience may find themselves having to catch their breath at the intensity of the film.

Trapped would also be a good title for this movie. It's set in Detroit. Many have fled the blighted city--whole blocks have been abandoned, with only one or two occupied houses left on them. Yet some folks are trapped, for various reasons, and haven't yet been able to escape. 

Such are three young people. Money (David Zovatto) is a person of color caught up in the life of the streets. His blonde girlfriend, Rocky (Jane Levy), is a product of an abusive home—her mother used to lock her in the trunk of a car. Rocky longs for enough money to be able to flee to California with her younger sister. Alex (Dylan Minnette) has a crush on Rocky, even though she is with Money.

Alex's father works for a company that installs security systems. Alex uses knowledge that he acquires from that situation to help Money and Rocky break into houses. The trio usually don't steal enough to be charged with grand larceny if they should happen to be caught. One day, however, Money learns of a blind retired veteran who has been awarded a large settlement following the death of his daughter in an auto accident. The vet lives alone and is believed to keep the settlement money in his house—the only occupied one on his block. Money and Rocky overcome Alex's reluctance, and one night the three break into the home of the sleeping man, whom they believe is trapped in a disability that will make robbing him easy. 

Guess what? It isn't easy. The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) is a hardened combat veteran who hasn't lost his fighting skills despite his loss of sight. When he awakens, a grimly violent cat and mouse game of Blind Man versus the three youths ensues, and we become unsure of who is the cat and who is the mouse/mice. Who is trapped and who isn't?  Who is victim and who is villain? Who is protagonist and who is antagonist in the story? Our sympathies constantly shift between the aging, disabled American hero (Blind Man) attacked by criminals (the trio) and misguided, but basically good, youths attacked by a relentless revenger. 

The brilliant flux of perspectives and sympathies generated by the film make it far, far more than just another late summer horror release. The plot is based on creating suspense out of character and situation rather than manufacturing surprise and “jump scares.” This holds true even when there is a shocking revelation in the middle of the movie. Director/co-writer Fede Alvarez also interestingly evokes some mythic themes as the old blind man stalks the youths in the labyrinthine basement of his house.

Don't Breathe's cinematography is excellent. The scenes of devastated Detroit are haunting, and the filming in the Blind Man's house at night makes us “feel” the darkness without committing the mistake that so many thriller and horror films do of plunging us into Stygian gloom that makes it difficult to know what is going on. 

The acting, too, is excellent. Look for all three youths to become well-known, particularly Jane Levy. Though perhaps a bit too clean-cut looking for Rocky, she is definitely much, much more than a “scream queen.” And Stephen Lang has long been a highly praised character actor. Although he has only 13 lines in the entire film, his powerful presence speaks volumes, frightening volumes. When Blind Man tells the youths to “Get out of my house!” he makes the shotgun-wielding Clint Eastwood character's famous demand in Gran Torino (also set in Detroit) to “Get off my lawn!” seem like a polite, deferential request.

Don't Breathe is definitely a “do see” movie. 

“Footnote” to the film: From time to time, Stephen Lang appears on stage in his acclaimed one-man show, Medal of Honor, about the experiences of American heroes who have received that great award. 


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Farmers’ Almanac unearths some old, strange tips for its 200th edition

Image result for farmers almanac

The Farmers' Almanac has kept generations of Americans company through wartime and peacetime, through dizzying technological advances and through the return of interest in gardening, backyard chickens and otherwise working the land. And now that it is marking a big date -- the publication this summer of the 200th consecutive edition -- the Lewiston-based almanac’s publisher, Pete Geiger, decided he had to something a little special to mark the occasion. Click here to view the video.