It always amazes me that one of my favorite foods is ridiculously simple to make. Yet I can't make it.
It's maple syrup. All I would have to do is drill a small hole in the trunk of a sugar maple tree and insert a metal tube called a spile. When the weather starts to warm up, sap flows out of the tube. Collect 40 gallons, start boiling it down, and you'll eventually be rewarded with a gallon of syrup. The U.S. makes about two million gallons of syrup a year, as far west as Minnesota but mostly in New England and New York.
To do this myself, I'd need a healthy sugar maple, 10 to 12 inches in diameter. That's about a 40-year old tree. Unfortunately, I have only one maple, and thanks to the last few storms, it's in pretty sad shape.
Since I can't make the syrup myself, I did the next best thing: sat down with a plate of waffles and put in a phone call to Matt Gordon, the executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association. Here's what I learned about this year's maple syrup season, Quebec's infamous strategic maple syrup reserve, and -- no joke -- illegal syrup.
We’ve got no problem with President’s Day. George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? A day off? Awesome.
But what about the First Ladies? Hillary Clinton wasn’t the first to take an active interest in her husband’s work -- she might as have well been taking a page from Abigail Smith Adams or Eleanor Roosevelt. And not every First Lady was married to a President -- James Buchanan took his niece, 27-year old Harriet Lane, to Washington as his First Lady.
This week C-Span, working with the White House Historical Association, started airing a new 35-episode series about the women behind the men throughout 44 presidential administrations. “Every First Lady brings their unique perspective to this job,” said Mark Farkas, executive producer for the series. “If you didn’t, you couldn’t live through it.”
If you’ve got the time, why not tune in? In the meantime, here are a few of the highlights in the lives and careers of some of our fascinating and fabulous First Ladies.
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. George was actually Martha’s second husband. She was married to a wealthy man named Daniel Parke Custis at the age of 18, but became a widower. She didn’t particularly enjoy being First Lady, writing that while many women might be “extremely pleased” with the role, she’d rather stay at home because she valued her privacy. "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances." Wise words. Martha was also the first First Lady to appear on a U.S. postage stamp -- an eight-cent stamp in 1902.
I don't make New Year's resolutions, but if I did, I would make the same one every year: Eat. More. Vegetables.
When I was a kid, my mother would try to coax to me to eat salad. I'd reluctantly add a few bits of lettuce to my croutons, cheese and French dressing.
Mom won't recognize me now. Every day I put down two to three bunches of spinach, a couple of carrots, two cucumbers, and even a bit of kale.
My secret, of course, is that I’ve found a new and fun way to do it. I drink my vegetables.
I had always brushed off people who “juice” as crazy health nuts, which I definitely am not. But not too long ago, a drink in a particularly beautiful shade of emerald caught my eye. Curious, I had to try it, and it tasted like, well…grass. Fresh grass, but grass. Much to my surprise, I liked it. I was gulping down cucumbers, celery, parsley, and kale(!), and I liked it! Within days, I was craving it.
I never used to take so-called "cold and flu season" all that seriously. I would catch one cold a year, sniffle my way through it, and call it a day.
Then I had kids, otherwise known as vectors. Now I'll be sick half the winter if I'm not careful.
I know there's nothing I can do that will guarantee I won't get sick. But I try to stick to a few easy habits -- none of which require much time or any planning -- that help increase my odds of staying healthy.
1. Wash your hands. All the time. You've heard this, but it can't be stressed enough. And even if you wash your hands constantly, you want to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, because that's how most bacteria and viruses travel into your body.
I wash my hands after riding the train, before eating, before cooking, after being in the kids' schools, before surgery (joking)... the list goes on.
The CDC says you have to wash your hands for 20 seconds for it to be effective. That's about as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. "Happy Birthday" is now permanently stuck in my head.
When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced they were expecting a baby, there wasn’t just speculation about whether it will be a Prince or Princess. The bookmakers also started taking bets on what William and Kate will name their child.
Now, picking a baby name can be a tricky thing, as anyone who has done it knows.
Royal children are usually given “safe, historical names which are passed down through the monarchy such as James, Edward, Charles, George, Mary and Elizabeth,” according to the Cambridge News. They also get loaded up with a slew of middle names. William’s full name, for instance, is William Arthur Philip Louis. That gives the couple opportunities to pay homage to members of both families.
There are other considerations as well, according to the folks at BabyCenter.com. Does it sound right and is it compatible with your last name? Is it unique? Does it have a special meaning?
That’s all well and good, but I have a simple, foolproof formula for naming children -- and for that matter, pets.