Things We Like: Weekend Getaways

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

A weekend getaway, wherever it may be, can be just what you need to rejuvenate your mind and body. Going somewhere new does wonders for the spirit. New sights, new foods, new people, and a break from the mundane are all selling points in my book. Don’t take my word for it though; there have been a number of studies that all show that people who go on vacations live healthier and happier lives. Vacationers are more resilient to stress, and are more productive at work. Sound like something you could benefit from? It does to me.

A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to partake in a weekend trip to Napa Valley, and I definitely feel like my life is a little better for having done so.

For wine lovers, a trip to Napa is somewhat of a pilgrimage. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a concentration of vineyards. While I definitely have a lot to learn about wine (and the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know), driving along Highway 29 is truly awe-inspiring. You’re sure to pass by wineries that you’re familiar with, or have at least heard of. It’s very cool to see where so many grapes are born, raised, and transformed into wines that are enjoyed throughout the world.

Even if you are not very interested in wine, the beauty of Napa is that is has something to offer just about everyone. The area is home to some of the most renowned restaurants, luxurious spas, and wide open spaces — which is a luxury in itself for those of us looking to get away from the congestion of city life.

I don’t know what it is, but I always sleep better on vacation. Usually exhausted from a day of adventure, I wake up looking forward to everything a new day offers. Good sleep also seems to follow me home, which is probably a symptom of recovering from all the excitement. With the end of 2013 quickly coming to a close, don’t let your vacation days go to waste this year. Instead, use them to go somewhere new to recharge your batteries and get a fresh perspective. You’re sure to feel better for it.

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Breakfast in Bed: Buttermilk Pancakes

Post by Alison Hein

Traditional buttermilk is liquid that remains after churning butter. (You can read about butter-making in a prior post.) It has a high lactic acid content that makes it tart and thick. When acidic buttermilk is mixed with baking powder it produces carbon dioxide, which facilitates rising and produces a light, airy dough in biscuits, breads and baked goods.

While I often create a “faux” buttermilk using regular milk and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, the real deal has a unique character and flavor that produces classic, fluffy pancakes. These griddled delights have a pure, simple taste that doesn’t require a lot of adornment – you can start to nibble on them straight from the pan.

And if you think a quart of buttermilk is more than you want to buy just to make pancakes, try making homemade salad dressing. Ranch dressing is easy and fresh. Use about a cup of buttermilk, a touch of sour cream and mayonnaise, fresh chopped herbs, and a smidgen of garlic and mustard. Shake it all together. Now you’ve got a tastier product than store-bought, and your friends and family will be impressed with your creativity.

But I got sidetracked from our pancakes. Just take my word for it. Buttermilk is the new / old product of the day. Pick some up and start cooking. Start with these Buttermilk Pancakes for a classic, fluffy breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
4 ounces (one half stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus additional for cooking

Preparation
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Gradually whisk in buttermilk, then the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add melted butter to batter. The batter should be thick, smooth and creamy.

Place a pan or griddle on the stove over medium to medium high heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan for the first pancake. Ladle batter into pan and cook until small bubbles appear throughout pancake, about 1 minute. Flip once with spatula and continue cooking until golden brown, another minute or so. Serve hot with real maple syrup.

Makes 8 to 10 4-inch pancakes.

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Bedtime Stories: Squids Will be Squids

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Squids Will Be Squids: Fresh Morals, Beastly Fables by Jon Scieszka.

Well, the holiday season is just around the corner! Maybe it is time to have your children brush up on their moral fiber. What better way to reinforce life’s lessons than with some good, old-fashioned fables? Even if you don’t recognize the name, if you have kids you know Jon Scieszka (pronounced CHESS-KA if you’re wondering). He has written and illustrated literally (okay, not literally) billions of kids’ books. He also is a huge advocate for encouraging reluctant male readers to find books that will appeal to him. To be honest, a lot of his works don’t appeal to me. But this collection I am pretty sure pleases me more than it does my son.

He begins the book by teaching us a bit about Aesop and how he used his fables both to inform and to speak out, under thinly-veiled metaphor, against the ruling class. What follows is a number of one-page fables accompanied by one-page illustrations and some rather unhelpful morals. They are actually quite hilarious. I think they are funnier than my kid does. One of my favorites is the Duck-Billed Platypus and the BeefSnakStik® which concludes with this memorable exchange: “I am one of only two mammals that lay eggs.” “Big deal,” said BeefSnakStik®, “I have beef lips.” Moral: Just because you have lots of stuff, don’t think you’re so special.

In short, this book is hilarious fun for old and young alike! Moral: Read this book to your children, or by yourself, tonight!

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Movies in Bed: Walking With Monsters: Life Before Dinosaurs

Post by Mark T. Locker.

When all the dinosaur shows have been watched (and watched and watched) but still you (or, more likely, your offspring/niece/neighbor) still long for more prehistoric CGI action, you can rest easy! Brought to you by the same chaps at BBC who created the much-lauded Walking With Dinosaurs series have a trilogy shining a light on the creatures who began all the fun. Beginning with my kid’s favorite (announced in a dramatic British accent): ARTHROPODS. For the uninitiated, that means scorpions and spiders and other fun things. Now, picture them the size of a Volkswagen and crawling out of the sea. ARTHROPODS.

This show follow the dinosaurs’ predecessors from the first fish to the dimetrodons, which I always thought were dinosaurs but apparently aren’t. My father-in-law, the eminent non-paleontologist grumbled, “Is it bigger than a dog? Then it’s a dinosaur!” Although I like his philosophy, I had to argue that elephants are bigger than dogs too. ANYWAY…if you or someone you love digs prehistoric creatures and you can handle the brutal truth of life in the Cambrian and early Permian periods, find this series streaming online. It’s fun and less played than the old dinosaurs.

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Things We Like: Sleeping Positions For Better Health

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

We all know that it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, and we’ve posted dozens of articles here on the Charles P Rogers blog to help you do just that. Today, we’re going to discuss another important element of a good night’s sleep: the position you sleep in. Keep reading below to learn more about how the most common sleep positions affect your health (and what they say about your personality).

The “soldier”: Flat on your back with your arms at your sides.
Widely considered the best sleeping position, lying on your back with your arms at your sides promotes a healthy spine and neck. However, people who sleep on their backs tend to snore more than others. Solider sleepers are usually more reserved, quiet, and have higher standards for themselves and others.

The “log”: On your side with both arms down.
The log is generally considered a good sleeping position; however, it can cause some neck pain as your shoulders put your head at an angle down towards the pillow. Loggers and are usually thought of as being easy going and sociable.

The “starfish”: Flat on your back, with your arms overhead.
Similar to the log position, starfish sleepers lie flat on their backs. Instead of leaving their arms at their side, however, starfish sleepers put them above their head — either on top of or underneath the pillow. While this position also promotes good spine alignment, some people may experience shoulder/neck pain over time due to the extra pressure put on the shoulders. Starfish sleepers tend to make good friends, and are good listeners.

The “freefall”: On your stomach, face down.
Sleeping on your stomach is said to help with digestion; however, it restricts breathing. After all, it’s pretty hard to breath through a pillow. As such, many people who sleep on their stomachs tend to tilt their head to one side or another which can put a lot of strain on your neck and back. This strain also causes many freefallers to experience restlessness, as they constantly adjust throughout the night in search of comfort. Freefall sleepers are typically brash and outgoing, but do not take criticism well.

The “fetal position”: Curled up in a ball on your side.
The fetal position is the de facto for comfort, and is by far the most popular position people sleep in. After all, it is the position we were first created in. If you’re having trouble with snoring or are pregnant, the fetal position may provide you with temporary relief. While the fetal position may seem like the most comfortable way to sleep, it can wreak havoc on your neck and back, and also restricts deep breathing. People who sleep in the fetal position are said to be tough on the outside and soft on the inside.

The “yearner”: On your side with both arms out.
Similar to the log, the yearner position is another popular sleep position. The yearner differs from the log in arm placement: they are stretched out in front, rather than being kept at your side. Yearners tend to be stubborn yet open-minded.

So if you’re looking for a better night sleep, you may want to try changing your sleep position. A new sleep position can not only help you sleep better, but can also help you stop snoring (which means your spouse will sleep better) or even get rid of that lingering pain in your neck.

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