Saturday, December 31, 2011

Have You Gained A Few Pounds Over the Holiday?

I received this new information in an e-mail message :-)


The correct way to weigh yourself:

I can't believe I was doing it wrong all these years.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

If It Is Thursday It's Going Green -Winterizing the Home

Remember the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair

With winter's arrival why not give some of these Do It Yourself (DIY) projects a try? The installation costs should easily be recouped with improved efficiency or later if you decide to sell your home. You'll be saving cash and going green at the same time.

1. Replace Your Showerhead

Install a new showerhead, and you could save more than 2,300 gallons of water annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Using less hot water will cut your energy bills, and your local utilities may provide a rebate, too. EPA vouches that models labeled WaterSense provide a satisfying shower. Your showerhead is a water-waster if it fills a gallon bucket in 20 seconds. Estimated Cost: $10 to $60

2. Add Aerators to Your Faucets

You can save another 500 gallons of water annually simply by replacing a standard aerator, which delivers more than 2.5 gallons per minute, with a low-flow one, with a flow of 0.5 to 1 gallon per minute. The low-flow aerators will cut water and energy usage while maintaining adequate water pressure. Estimated Cost: $2 to $10

3. Install a Water-Efficient Toilet

EPA estimates that a family of four that replaces a home's older toilets with WaterSense labeled models will, on average, save more than $90 annually on their water bill and $2,000 over the toilet's lifetime. For how to install tips go to ‘Bob Vila can help you’ online or you can hire a contractor for about $150. Estimated Cost: $200 or more

4. Switch to CFLs

As the days get shorter, we usually keep the lights on longer. If you have not already done this in your home now is a good time to switch from traditional incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Energy-Star qualified CFLs use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescents.

Start with your five most frequently used fixtures and you can save more than $65 annually. The good news is that the CFL bulbs last for several years and seldom have to be replaced.Estimated Cost: $2 to $15 for specialty bulbs

5. Install a Programmable Thermostat

With a programmable thermostat you can preset temperatures for your home that will automatically reduce heating and cooling when you don't need it as much. Energy Star says an average household can save about $180 annually on their energy bills by properly setting the programmable thermostat and maintaining those settings.

There is a low-voltage wiring installation that will involve 2 to 10 wires. If you don't feel comfortable following the instructions, a heating-and-air-conditioning contractor will probably charge you $75 to $150 for installation. Estimated Cost: $25 to $250

6. Stop Chimney Drafts

Even with the damper closed, in winter your home's heated air goes up the chimney and in summer hot outdoor air comes down. When you are not using your fireplace, plug the flue with a chimney balloon like the Draftstopper from Battic Door Energy Conservation Products.

For a really cheap alternative, you can make one out of an old seat cushion or a pillow placed in a heavy plastic bag. Stuff the cushion into the flue and tie a long tail to it, so you don't forget about it the next time you make a fire. J Estimated Cost: $55 for ready-made draft stopper

As we gradually change our habits of wasteful consumption we are simultaneously saving money and the environment.

”Don’t forget, “together we can make a difference!”


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Celebrating Kwanzaa: December 26 - January 1, 2012

Kwanzaa is a non-religious African American holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. It is celebrated for seven days: December 26 - January 1st.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. He founded US, a cultural organization, and started to research African "first fruit" (harvest) celebrations. Dr. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili. The traditional Kwanzaa greeting is "Habari gani?"

Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of blackness), which Karenga said, "is a communitarian African philosophy. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

“The first candle lit is the center black one that represents the first principle- Umoja, meaning "Unity," on the first day. To strive for, and to maintain, unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

On the second day, the second candle lit is the farthest red one on the left, this represents the second principle- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

On the third day, the third candle is lit on the farthest right green one which represents Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together.

We return back to the next red on from the left for the fourth day, representing Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

The fifth day, we light the next green candle from the right which represents Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Going back to the red side, on the sixth day, the next candle from the left closest to the black candle is lit representing Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

This falls on New Year's Eve also and usually when we feast. It is at this feast we have someone in the family recite, and usually an elder, reads:

Strive for discipline, dedication, and achievement in all you do. Dare struggle and sacrifice and gain the strength that comes from this.

Build where you are and dare leave a legacy that will last as long as the sun shines and the water flows.

Practice daily Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani. And may the wisdom of the ancestors always walk with us. May the year's end meet us laughing, and stronger.

May our children honor us by following our example in love and struggle. And at the end of next year, may we sit together again, in larger numbers, with greater achievement and closer to liberation and a higher level of life. Harambee.

On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, the last green candle is lit, which represents Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.”

The last day is no different, except that after the principle is discussed, the candles are extinguished and Kwanzaa is over.

Kwanzaa gifts, or zawadi, are usually given daily. The gifts recognize achievements of the recipient while stressing the themes and principles of the holiday. Gifts related to education, African and African-American culture, or the arts make good zawadi.

Happy Kwanzaa

Monday, December 26, 2011

Today is Boxing Day, December 26th

Today is Boxing Day, a traditional English holiday which extends Christmas giving.

Despite its name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with pugilistic competition. Nor is it a day for people to return unwanted Christmas presents.

Boxing Day began in England during the Middle Ages, and the tradition continued through the Victorian era. Wealthy family households would celebrate Christmas on Christmas day but this meant that their servants had to continue with their normal work and so, in effect, missed out on the celebration. To compensate for this the wealthy families would set aside 26th December as the time for their servant's Christmas.

Work duties would be dropped to a minimum with family members assuming some of the responsibilities of the servants such as keeping the fireplace stocked with coal, greeting visitors themselves and supplying the servants with a good Christmas dinner. The term "Boxing day" refers to the gift that the family gave to each servant - wrapped in box.

In the past people like the postman (mailman), refuse collector and milkman would call at the houses they serviced for a Christmas 'Box' but nowadays they are given a 'tip' when the homeowner sees them.

Even though many no longer remember the traditional reason for Boxing Day it is celebrated in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

My childhood memories of Boxing Day are that we spent the day together as a family, we relaxed, enjoyed our presents and ate leftovers from the Christmas dinner. Also our dad did not have to go to work on that day.

Boxing Day is just one of the British bank holidays recognized since 1871 that are observed by banks, government offices, and the post office.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On this Blessed Day Christ the Saviour is Born

Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ, the Saviour is born

Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night

Son of God, love's pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Noche de paz, noche de amor,

Todo duerme en derredor;

Fieles velando allí en Belén

Los pastores, la madre también,

Y la estrella de paz,

Y la estrella de paz.

Written by Austrian priest Father Josef Mohr -
Melody composed by Franz Xaver Gruber. In 1859

Wishing you and yours peace on this blessed day.


Friday, December 23, 2011

The History of the Christmas Tree

What does the decorated evergreen tree have to do with the birth of Jesus? The answer is ‘very little’. There are cedar trees in Lebanon but this is not even close to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

Centuries before the birth of Jesus the ancient pagans, Druids, Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews celebrated the Winter Solstice, (Dec. 21st), the day of the year that the Sun begins its ascent in the sky, thereby ushering a fertile time of planting and bountiful harvests. The evergreen tree represented eternal life and the promise of replenishment during the cold winter months. Apples and other fruit were hung upon the tree to represent the plentiful food to come. Candles were lit to symbolize the warmth and brightness of the sun. While the Christmas tree is generally associated with Christ, it predates the history of Jesus by many centuries.

Until about 1700, the use of Christmas trees appears to have been confined to the Rhine River District in Germany. From 1700 on, when lights were accepted as part of the decorations, the Christmas tree was well on its way to becoming a tradition. This Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

However, the custom spread slowly. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Some Fundamentalist Christian groups oppose Christmas trees and even the celebration of Christmas for their members. This includes the Jehovah's Witnesses. Part of the opposition is because the custom of decorated trees originated in Paganism. They also oppose trees because of a literal interpretation of the quotation from Jeremiah 10:2-4:

"Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathens are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (KJV).

The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.

Christmas tree farms sprang up during the depression. Nurserymen couldn't sell their evergreens for landscaping, so they cut them for Christmas trees. Cultivated trees were preferred because they have a more symmetrical shape then wild ones.

Trees and branches can be made purposeful as well as symbolic. The tree is a symbol of a living Christmas spirit and brings into our lives a pleasant aroma of the forest.

Today, the Christmas tree has become accepted by most Christians, by people of other faiths, and for those who do not follow an organized religion. It has become a popular late-December tradition and part of our present-day culture.

I enjoy the Christmas tree and have many fond memories of decorating the tree with my family when I was a child, and when my own children were growing up. But it is important to remember that the tree and the decorations have more to do with enjoying the celebration of the changing seasons and absolutely has nothing to do with the purpose of the Christmas season, which is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

However, to blend the two occasions an angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity.

That seems to be a creative way to make a peaceful solution to this dilemma -

don't you agree?


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bloggers Unite: National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day

Bloggers Unite:

Today is National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day

December 21st marks the winter solstice, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. Each year since 1990, this day has also been designated National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day, to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember our homeless friends and neighbors who have died the previous year.

Here in Buffalo, New York, the inclement weather is a problem. Those who sleep outdoors on the ground or in a sleeping bag, tent, or improvised shelter such as a large cardboard box, are in extreme danger from snow, sleet and below freezing temperatures. There are many reports of loss of toes, fingers, or a nose from frostbite, and even death during the winter months.

I live in the inner city and in my daily activities I come in contact with many homeless people. Many of the long time homeless are suffering from drug or alcohol addictions, chronic illnesses or mental illness.

Not all homeless people look like the men pictured here.

There are the newly homeless, those who have recently lost their homes and/or their employment that now find themselves living on the streets.

Each homeless person has a story, and most of their stories are more similar to the stories of those with homes than they are different.

Today I am thinking of a gentleman named Stan. I first met him two years ago when I was serving a hot meal outdoors to homeless and low-income people. He also came to a weekly food pantry that I volunteer at. He was awkward in his social skills but he was always polite – he rarely smiled. Stan is in his forties and is a loner. He walks stiffly upright with a military bearing and always carries two large shopping size bags, equally balanced, one in each hand. He told me that he had no family.

He lived in a room in a local boarding house and like so many others he planned his daily schedule by which soup kitchen was open and what times the meals were served.

In the spring Stan told me that he had lost his room because he couldn’t keep up the payments. He stopped coming to the food pantry (he no longer had a kitchen area to cook food). During the next few months I would see him walking around the neighborhood and he started sleeping overnight at a bus stop that was one street over from my house. When I drove home late at night I could see him sleeping on the wooden bench. I was concerned and prayed that he would come to no harm.

We are now in freezing temperatures and I haven’t seen Stan in a few months. I don’t know a lot about him but I do know that he was a decent human being and I enjoyed chatting with him. I miss seeing him and I still pray for his safety.

As I reflect for a moment about the kind of sad, desolate deaths we have seen here in the recent past. I recall that demolition crews found three frozen homeless men at different dates and locations, inside vacant houses in the city. Just this week a man was killed in a fire in an abandoned house. Last year a man was found frozen to death in a doorway downtown. As a small crowd gathered around his lifeless body many in the community recognized him, knew him by sight, but had never taken the time to ask him his name. No one came to identify him.

How many have died known only as John or Jane Doe?

One, whose name was known, James, 46, was found on a downtown sidewalk. He had been severely beaten and died a few hours later. The body of Clarence, 32, turned up inside an abandoned house.

Many homeless people are ‘invisible’ to local residents, workers or shoppers who pass them by without giving them a second glance.

To some extent there is a sense of camaraderie in the culture of the streets. Many of the homeless acknowledge each other but it is an unwritten rule, don’t ask too many questions of the other person. They will tell you just what they want you to know. No more, no less.

This city does have a Mission, the Salvation Army and homeless shelters. Emergency cold-weather shelters opened by churches or community agencies, which may consist of cots in a heated warehouse, or temporary Christmas Shelters. There are some homeless who choose to stay outside in the freezing weather.

Statistics tell us that the average age of death of a homeless person is about 50 years.

When people die in these desolate ways, what does it say about us as a community? How much should we care?

Perhaps if more of us took the time to learn their names and listen to their stories, we could work together to end homelessness in our community.

To those, named and unnamed, homeless who died on the streets of this country this year
- may their deaths not be in vain.

We will remember them today.

May they rest in peace.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Reflection - Fourth Week of Advent

The Fourth Week of Advent

The Christmas season - those weeks immediately after Thanksgiving through the first of January - is a time of great anticipation and hopefulness.

It is also a time of paradox, a contemplative time, an ambiguous season of bitter cold and cozy homes with family and friends gathered around the fireplace, of solstice celebrations and holiday lights, of reverence and loneliness, of renewal and dormancy.

At Christmas time we are called to lift our spirits with good cheer and merry laughter; to appreciate the commonplace and simple things, like an evergreen tree set against the backdrop of a steel grey sky. The senses turn inward. The days grow darker. We burn candles and recall old dreams, dreams of our youth or years to come. We enjoy the bounty of local farmers - pumpkins, gourds, apples, squash. Cold weather vegetables and herbs, like parsley and thyme, come into renewed vigor with the first frost. It is a time when too many hunger for a warm embrace, to be loved, and for kindness.

It is a time of evening carols and lessons, a time when special rose incense is burned, a time marked by contemplation, anticipation, waiting, watching, preparation in the Christian calendar for the birth of Jesus Christ. For a few short weeks, the world is sanctified with the fullness and richness of these paradoxes.

As a Quaker, we believe that there is "that of God" in each person, regardless of a person's race, creed, social status, gender, level of education, or whether a person believes in God or not. This belief is an integral part of Quaker faith and practice. It invites us to remember, to recognize the sacred nature of the human heart. It invites us into the self-revealing loving presence of God and of Christ. But how can we find this "Christ centeredness" in such paradox of the season?

For me, the spirit of Christ is the spirit of kindness, love and compassion. It is a consciousness that pervades heart and mind. The Light of Christ is a way of knowing the path of goodness.

Christmas reminds me of these important lessons and a deeper knowing of the Light of Christ!

A Seasonal Reflection -by Valerie Brown
From the Kirkridge Retreat Center

Take time to be quiet and to rest

Offer simple hospitality to others

Express gratitude


Saturday, December 17, 2011

March 2003 - December 2011 - IT'S OVER!

March 2003 - U.S. President George W. Bush stated:

"Every effort would be made to spare the lives of innocent civilians"

12/15/11 -we hear the declaration "IT'S OVER"

American Deaths
Since war began (3/19/03):4483

U.S. Wounded

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan

Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan

Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq

Journalists - Iraq

Academics Killed - Iraq

Sources: DoD, MNF, and

Never any evidence of 'weapons of mass destruction'.

4,483 U. S. Troops were killed in action

Over 1million Iraq citizens killed

$800 billion of US taxpayers money has been spent.

I declare this War as Bush's folly! May God have mercy on us all!