Archives for January 2014

WHAT?! Synthetic Ears Give Accident Victims New Outlook

Can someone who has lost an ear in an accident ever look whole again? This article explains how we can now regrow and even “print” new ears.

Having ears is not something many of us think about; we just have them and that’s the end of it. But when accidents or disease happen, a missing ear can be unbelievably disfiguring as well as negatively impacting our hearing. The congenital condition of microtia, when a person is born without an outer ear, has spearheaded most research to date.

Ears can be printed using 3D printing

What is truly astounding is that ears can actually be regrown; regrown exactly like your original ear. But if this is not an option for you because of complicated medical reasons, it may be possible to just “print “you an ear with a 3D printer. How amazing is that?

How can an ear be regrown?

This is the result of the miracle of tissue engineering. Not only can ears be regrown, but soon cartilage, livers, kidneys and many “replacement parts” will be able to be generated in the lab for your use. There are at least two ways an ear can be regrown; on the back of a mouse, and on the patient’s own forearm. Deciding which way depends on the condition of the skin of the patient; whether it is healthy enough to grow a replacement ear.

The way it works is a “scaffold” is built out of a biodegradable material. Then cartilage cells are “planted” in the skin about 3 millimeters apart. What is great about the scaffold is that it can be shaped into any form needed, so ears can be customized. The scaffold can be “planted” on the back of a mouse (without harming the mouse) or on the forearm of a patient. If the ear is grown on a mouse, the mouse has to have no immune system so it does not reject the ear. If the ear is grown on a patient’s forearm, there is no worry of rejection since the cells come from the patient themselves. When the ear is ready, it is surgically removed and attached over the patient’s ear canal.

How are ears “printed” with a 3D printer?

First, a digitized 3D image of a human ear is taken and converted to a digitized solid ear by using a 3D printer. From this, a mould is made and filled with a gel of living cartilage cells. In about 3 months, the ear is completed, removed from the mould and is then surgically placed on the patient.

What about using rib cage cartilage to make a new ear?

When a patient’s best option is to use cartilage from their own body, this is a possibility. The procedure takes a bit longer, but the results are cosmetically better overall. Cartilage is taken from the ribcage of a patient, shaped in the basic form of an ear and implanted under the skin of the forearm. It is left there for about 4 months so the skin can grow over it. Then, it is surgically removed and placed over the ear canal. Gradually, over many months and surgeries, The ear is matched to the other ear.

What other ways to replace ears are being researched?

Bioengineers in Massachusetts are experimenting with living tissue from other animals besides human. They have built an artificial human ear by putting together tissues from cows and sheep, and then placing the tissues around a wire frame that allows the tissues to grow into the correct shape of an ear. The wire used is titanium and can be shaped with much detail. The ear is then placed on a mouse to grow until it can be attached to a patient’s head.

Bioengineering may be only in its infancy, but already look at the amazing things it can do. Imagine what will be able to be accomplished in 10 or 20 years!

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How to Boost Your Self-esteem Quickly

Self-esteem comes naturally to some, but seems so elusive to others. If you need to boost your self esteem, here are a few tips to help you.

If you’re tired of feeling bad about yourself, or just want some tips for those down days, these 7 practical strategies will help you take action to boost your self-esteem.

Tip #1: Think back to when you did something new for the first time.

Learning something new is often accompanied by feelings of nervousness, lack of self-belief and high stress levels, all of which are necessary parts of the learning process. The next time you feel under-confident, remembering this will remind you that it’s perfectly normal – you’re just learning!

Tip #2: Do something you have been putting off.

Like writing or calling a friend, cleaning the house, tidying the garden, fixing the car, organizing the bills, making a tasty and healthy meal – anything that involved you making a decision, then following through! A great way to boost self-esteem is to accomplish something new.

Tip #3: Do something you are good at.

Examples? How about swimming, running, dancing, cooking, gardening, climbing, painting, writing… If possible, it should be something that holds your attention and requires enough focus to get you into that state of `flow’ where you forget about everything else. You will feel more competent, accomplished and capable afterwards, great antidotes to low self-esteem!

And while you’re at it, seriously consider doing something like this at least once a week. People who experience ‘flow’ regularly seem to be happier and healthier.

Read also: Take this self-esteem test.

Tip #4: Stop thinking about yourself!

I know this sounds strange, but low self-esteem is often accompanied by too much focus on the self. Doing something that absorbs you and holds your attention can quickly make you feel better.

Tip #5: Get seriously relaxed.

If you are feeling low, anxious or lacking in confidence, the first thing to do is to stop thinking and relax properly. Some people do this by exercising, others by involving themselves in something that occupies their mind. However, being able to relax yourself when you want is a fantastic life skill and so practicing self-hypnosis, meditation, or a physically based relaxation technique such as Tai Chi can be incredibly useful.

When you are properly relaxed, your brain is less emotional and your memory for good events works better. A great ‘rescue remedy’!

Tip #6: Remember all the things you have achieved.

This can be difficult at first, but after a while, you’ll develop a handy mental list of self-esteem boosting memories. And if you’re thinking “But I’ve never achieved anything”, I’m not talking about climbing Everest here.

Things like passing your driving test (despite being nervous), passing exams (despite doubting that you would), playing team sport, getting fit (even if you let it slip later), saving money for something, trying to help someone (even if it didn’t work) and so on. Nothing boosts self-esteem like thinking about one’s success.

Tip #7: Remember that you could be wrong!

If you are feeling bad about yourself, remember that you way you feel affects your thoughts, memory and behavior. So when you feel bad, you will only remember the bad times, and will tend to be pessimistic about yourself. This is where the tip `Get Seriously Relaxed’ comes in!

Once you have tried out a few of these, consider making them a permanent part of your life. For most people, good self-esteem is not just a happy accident, it’s a result of the way they think and the things they do from day to day. Good Luck!

Self-esteem cartoon humor

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Four ways web stores can help you save on shipping

When you shop online, do you look only at the sticker price? Maybe you should also be concerned about how the retailer handles shipping costs.

More online consumers abandon shopping carts due to unexpected costs than for any other reason – those costs are usually shipping and handling. This is one of the main reasons why the average conversion rate for eCommerce websites is around four percent, according to Marketing Sherpa.  The good news for us consumers is that even if a store thinks it has reduced its shipping costs as low as they can go and still make a profit, there are several effective strategies that they may not have tried.

Save on shippingPlan their shipments in advance

When it comes to finding affordable shipping and handling rates, timing is everything. If they pay close attention to the standard shipping schedule of the carriers they choose, especially when it comes to weekend deliveries, they could find a bargain.  So if you want to save money, don’t worry about how fast a company ships; be more concerned with what they charge for delivery.

Even though it may seem to be more convenient to have shipments delivered on Saturday and Sunday, all carriers that offer this service charge expensive fees to go right along with it.  Keep in mind that you will always save more money with 3-day shipping than next-day shipping, according to the Wall Street Journal. If you as a consumer have the option, use an online shipping calculator, which can easily be found either on the retailer’s or the shipping carrier’s website, to calculate and compare delivery fees accordingly.

Save on shippingThey can search for competitive rates

Just as you can shop around for the best price on sandals, perfume, gadgets or whatever, so can the retailer shop around for the best shipping rates. You will get a better deal from a retailer who shops around for a lower price.

Postage rates and shipping expenses change rather frequently among carriers, because they are continuously striving to gain an edge on their competition. As a general rule of thumb, on products that weigh less than 5 pounds you can get the best deal with USPS (assuming, of course, that this is a shipment within the USA), according to However, for much heavier products, you will more than likely be able to get a better deal and faster delivery time by using UPS or FedEx.

Save on shippingBe cautious about international shipping

Even though you may want to shop on a global scale, it is important for you to remain mindful of international shipping rates and the increased cost of shipping across international boundaries and particularly overseas. Keep in mind that, unlike with standard domestic shipments, there are several other fees and charges that need to be factored into the equation when calculating international shipping costs. You might save a lot more by buying locally, within your own country.

So location is one of the first things to check when visiting an online retailer, especially when shopping for a product that is likely available form many websites. You can save money by avoiding

Getting the order right the first time

Although it might not seem to have very much to do with a store’s upfront shipping and handling charges, making sure that orders are fulfilled and shipped accurately the first time around is essential.  And it does play a role in the overall cost of shipping.  Why?  If a company has a lot of returns and reshipments, they will have to recoup that cost somewhere.  And somewhere is always you.

One study shows that close to 30 percent of consumers who receive an incorrect order from an eCommerce business never buy from that company again, according to You might be one of those 30 percent, and the odds are that the choice is a wise one from both a pocketbook and a stress-reduction perspective.

Check the company out online, and search specifically for reviews that talk about fulfillment – whether the right product arrived, whether it was damaged and whether it needed to be returned or exchanged.

Save on shipping

The Bottom Line

If you are able to save money on shipping expenses, or if your retailer is able to do so, you can increase save some serious money. It does pay to shop around and to look at more than just the sticker price of an item.

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Review: Yummy Young rice tea

Yummy Young rice tea by Karma Kisses got three thumbs up from our review panel, but they were unable to agree on what that intoxicating aroma was.

It came via courier, a plain brown paper wrapped around with packing slip paperwork. Inside was a box, and inside was a fancier box. Not garish, but nice and classy. You can see the presentation in the photos below.  When the review panel opened the inner box, they pulled out an envelope of Yummy Young rice tea from Karma Kisses Tea house.

Yummy Young Rice Tea as shipped

It would be fair at this juncture to disclose that A) Karma Kisses is a writing client of mine, and if this product sucked I would not be publishing a review, and B) the sample was provided free by Karma Kisses, but no other compensation was extended to me to do this review.

The review panel consisted of:

  • Mrs. Happy Guy
  • My mother-in-law
  • Barb, a family friend

I was not part of the review panel; my job was to turn on and off the video recorder. The reason there is no video in this post is because of how well I did my job.  Sigh.

The Yummy Young review

The review panel cut open an envelope of Yummy Young and immediately the room filled with a rich, exotic aroma. Thus begun a  discussion that would prove to be inconclusive, as to whether we were smelling Indian, Vietnamese or some other oriental scents.

Yummu Young package

The review panel was impressed by the ingredients (listed below). Barb is well-versed in organic and non-GMO products and gave her stamp of approval.

The water having come to a boil, it was ceremoniously poured over the tea; each panelist drew in the aroma, then tasted.

If I had done my video recording job properly, this is where you would be hearing a lot of “Ooh” and “Ah” and “That’s really nice” and “It’s sweet”. In fact, there was a lot of discussion over how pleasantly sweet the beverage is. Barb explained that several of the ingredients  probably lend sweetness, in particular the brown rice (compared to green tea or British style tea, for instance).

The only negative comment at all was on the presence of Stevia – a healthy, natural sweetener – because Barb was able to taste the Stevia, a flavour of which she is not particularly fond. Nevertheless, it did not impede her enjoyment of the tea and plenty of positive comments and compliments.

Overall, the ladies of the review panel gave three thumbs up and still could not agree on what country’s aroma they were enjoying.

Yummy Young Rice Tea

Yummy Young rice tea ingredients

  • organic whole grain brown rice
  • organic rice germ extract
  • organic red wine grape extract
  • organic apple extract
  • organic bilberry extract
  • organic aronia berry (chokeberry) extract
  • organic blueberry extract, organic sour cherry (tart cherry) extract
  • red seaweed astaxanthin extract
  • sugar-free sweet leaf extract (stevia herb extract, natural erythritol)
  • tree gum
  • natural fruit extracts
  • spices and flavors
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How to beat the dreaded winter blues even while buried under a ton of snow.

Yes, people get down in winter sometimes. But there are ways to beat the winter blues. Here are 11 of them.

Free #snowman to beat the #winter blues

The surprised folks in Cairo and Jerusalem who woke up to a coating of snow on the ground might have thought it was a joyful sight. But for those of us used to four months of snow – and this year it will obviously be five months, since it started in mid-November – “joyful” is not the word that usually comes to mind.

By mid-January, many people have had enough. There is even a term for the kind of funk people sink into: Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D. for short). Most people call it simply the mid-winter blues, but the fact is that the only color you see is white. Well, brown if you live in the city, but technically it’s still snow, so let’s go with white, OK?

11 tips to beat the mid-winter blues

Here are 11 tips to beat the mid-winter blues.

Get some sun. One of the things that gets us down is the lack of sun. The sun is less intense in winter time, and it is around for fewer hours per day. The worst is that the hours the sun is up are the hours that most people are indoors, at work. The sun gives us heat (warmth), light and precious vitamin D. Without sun, no wonder we get depressed.

Head south. If you can’t get sun in the north, like around here, head south. If you live in the south, stop – don’t move! OK, now everybody else, go south. If the sun heads south on vacation, why shouldn’t you?

Resort posters. If going south is too costly, do it the frugal way – plaster your walls with travel posters. Greece. The Caribbean. Costa Del Sol.

Hot paint. Even better, paint your walls in reds, oranges and yellows. You will feel warmer. And if you close your curtains, you might even fool yourself into thinking that you are not buried in snow.


Fire! Nothing is hotter than fire. In fact, that’s what the sun is made of – fire. So get the fireplace going and warm your toes. Don’t have a fireplace? Light some candles.

More light. Probably what we miss the most about summer is the light. We drive to work in the dark and we come home in the dark. It helps to have extra light at home. Pick a room you spend a lot of time in, and get some extra lamps. Bright, white fluorescent lights work best. Overlight that one room while you are in it.

Cod liver oil. Oops. Did I accidentally drop this item into the wrong blog post? No, cod liver oil is full of vitamin D, which we miss due to the lack of sun. Vitamin D has been linked to fending off the common cold, so it also helps us feel better by protecting us from feeling “under the weather”.

Sing summer songs.  Line up those Beach Boys tunes.  Get out your ukulele.  Summer music gets you in the mood.  Here is a great summer song video to get you started:


Challenge yourself. It is hard to feel sad while focused on trying something just a little beyond your abilities. Learn a new language. Learn a new sport (physical activity!). Learn to program computers. Try something you have never done before.

Get out! Leave. Right now. No, wait. First finish reading this blog post and share it on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Then get out. One of the things that depresses people about winter is feeling cooped up. Getting out, especially to do something physical like bowling or walking on coals (for warmth), is just the ticket.

Socialize. When you get out, make it a point to do something with friends or family. Nothing helps lift a person’s mood like friendly social contact.  You could make walking on coals a social outing, for instance.

Exercise. Being cooped up means we tend to spend more time seated or slumped and less time moving. The antidote could be a gym membership or the decision to go walking every day, even if it is cold outside. Walkng on coals would be even warmer, with the added benefit that it might induce a lot of hopping and running, as well.

Even fitness equipment at home is good, but better if you do things that take you out of the house.

As for the snow, you could always hire somebody to shovel it for you…but that would take away some precious exercise.

Dreaming of sunshine in the winter.

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How to keep your New Year’s Resolutions – the ultimate guide

New Year’s resolutions – so easy to make, so difficult to keep.  Here are some powerful methods of making those New Year’s resolutions finally stick this year.

So you’ve made some New Years resolutions, and this year you plan to actually keep them past January 10. But what’s so different this year from all the other years?  There will still be temptations.  There will still be days when you lack the time.  There will still be lapses of will power.

What will make this the year that you actually keep your New Year’s Resolution?

Here are a few clever strategies that you can use – starting right now – to give yourself an unfair advantage.

New Year's Resolutions - teamwork will help you keep them.Make a plan.

For almost any major change, you need a plan.  Sure, it’s easy to say, “I’ll just change.”  But then life gets in the way, and without a plan to follow, the resolution quickly slips to the bottom of your priorities.  The plan should answer these questions…

What steps will I take? You could just go cold turkey and throw out all your cigarettes or alcohol or sweets or whatever else might be your bane. But most people prefer to go gradual and need steps to keep from slipping backward.

Am I willing to make the effort?  Effort means work.  Effort does not mean “trying”.  Effort means doing more than just trying.  Effort means making it happen.  No change is easy.  No change is comfortable.  Are you really ready to make that effort over a long period of time?

When will I do this? If the change is adding something positive, such as time with family or getting fit, you need to block off the time.  Otherwise, you’ll get to the end of the day, week or month and find that it just did not get done.

How will I be reminded? One of the biggest challenges with keeping New Year’s resolutions is staying in focus.  You need to decide the best way to keep this priority in front of your face. One option is with goal-tracking software (click on the image at the end of this post for a simple goal-tracking software you can start using today.)

What to do if I fail? There’s no shame in falling down. Shame is not getting backup again.  Every day is a fresh start, but you need a plant to reboot. What’s you get-back-up-again plan?

Shout it out.

The more people you tell and the more often you tell them, the more likely you are to follow through.  Why is this?  For two reasons.  First, the more people who know and the more recently they are reminded, the bigger your support team will be.  Your friends will be there in greater numbers and more frequently cheering you on.  But also, you will be more invested.  You will work harder to follow through on your resolutions so as to save face.

Tell friends, family members.  That is a good start.  Those are the people most likely to help you, too.

Tell work colleagues.  Once they know, you will feel much more compelled to follow through.  Losing face at work is a much bigger deal than losing face in front of close friends.

Tell social media.  Post your resolution to Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.  Once everybody knows, you have more invested.  If you give regular updates, you will find some of your contacts to be very encouraging.

Start a blog. This is the power solution if you have a really BIG change you want to make. Now you not only are telling the world, but you are reporting to the world.  Many personal growth blogs have been started by someone chronicling their own self-improvement journeys.  Many personal finance blogs were born as part of someone’s determination to climb out of debt.

According to Enemy of Debt:

I founded EOD in April of 2008 in an effort to motivate and inspire financial discipline by focusing on behavior and truth…. My journey to debt freedom and financial independence began in January of 2008.

According to Debt Ninja:

“Maintaining a website about my financial priorities, habits, and opinions will benefit me 2, 5, and 10 years down the road as I will be reminded where I started and how far I’ve come.”

According to Girl Meets Debt:

“I also use to love shopping which is why I am writing this blog; to hopefully warn others not to make the same financial mistakes I foolishly did all through my 20s. Writing this blog will also keep me accountable and inspired to make smarter financial decisions as I enter my 30s.”

According to Yes, I Am Cheap:

I started this blog with well over $100,000 in debt after a failed business and some massive student loans.  This is my journey of getting out of it without filing bankruptcy.

According to Blond on a Budget:

“After years of swiping for anything I dreamed of owning or doing, my bad spending habits had finally caught up with me and I was left with more than $28,000 of debt to pay off. To try and stay accountable throughout my debt repayment journey, I decided to start this blog.”

According to Debt Roundup:

I created this website because I took an all too familiar journey to get out of debt.

Enlist help

Just telling people is not always enough.  Enlisting their help is often a big advantage.  Help can come in many ways.

Ask for reminders. Before you ask for a reminder, think about exactly how you want it phrased.  Often well-meaning efforts can have the exact opposite effect. “Remind me to eat less,” can end up feeling more like a nagging stress than a helpful weight loss reminder. However, “Remember you asked me to remind you not to take second helpings?” is much more helpful.  How can you be upset at someone for something they remind you that you specifically asked them to do?

Ask to remove temptations.  Asking housemates to keep sweets out of the house (or locked away in their own drawers, rather than sitting out on the counter) can help you stick to a diet.

Ask for actual help. To get fit, you might want a training spotter.  On diet, you might want someone to change the ingredients they cook with. To quit smoking, you might ask a smoker friend not to smoke in front of you.  On spending more time with family, you might ask family members to commit certain days or times to spend with you.

Offer help.

You could trade support.  I’ll support your efforts to quit smoking if you’ll support my efforts to get fit.  Often just the act of supporting someone else can make you stronger in your own efforts.  You feel more responsible and less susceptible to temptation.

Post a notice. You could post a notice at the office: “Got a New Year’s Resolution?  So do I.  Want to help support each other?”  And see who responds.

Post a very specific notice. “Want to get fit?  So do I.  Want to help support each other?”

Join a support group.  For such issues as weight loss, alcohol and drugs, fitness, smoking and such, there are support groups in most towns where the members help each other.

Pick just one.

There might be more than one thing you want to change.  Don’t try doing them all at once.  Pick one, focus on it like a Siberian tiger’s eyes zero in on an approaching rabbit, and make sure that the change is real and permanent before even thinking of making another change.

READ ALSO: The power of focusing your attention.

Remind yourself.

There are many ways you can remind yourself.  Here are just a few…

  • Sticky notes all over the house.
  • Goal-tracking software, like the one below.
  • Keep related magazines on the coffee table or in the bathroom.
  • Start a blog – that is a great way to keep yourself reminded.

Easy-to-use goal setting software…

Click here to get your copy.Easy-to-use goal-setting and goal-tracking software

Got any other reminder ideas to add? That’s what the “comments” section below is for.

So what do you say? Will this be the year that you finally keep your new Year’s resolutions?

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Six Sneaky Juicing Diet Tips

Are you considering a juicing diet? Juicing makes a very powerful supplement to a normal, healthy diet.  Here are some handy tips to help you juice your way to a better you.

Juicing is certainly not new, but recently it has taken off as new nutritional fads like the Paleo diet include juicing and CrossFit enthusiasts have taken to juicing, too. Fruits and vegetables are essential to any well balanced diet, and unfortunately, the majority of us are not meeting the recommended quantity. Even if we get enough fruits and vegetables, they often contain much fewer nutrients than promised.

Juicing - better supplements than packed-powder pillsSneaking extra fruits and vegetables into meals can be tricky at any age, but juicing has proven to be a popular and effective method to getting around that. While juice alone is not a fully-balanced diet, it is a superb way to top up one’s diet to ensure that yo get the nutrients you need.

Here are six sneaky tips you should know about juicing should be considered before you start your juicing journey.

Fun For All Ages

Juicing is not solely for fitness devotees – but for all ages. Children are reluctant to eat their fruits and vegetables, but yummy juices can turn them into fans of vegetables without them knowing.In fact, it is a time-honoured practice for parents to sneak fruits and vegetables into sweet drinks and gravy so that kids get nutrients they won’t take any other way.

This also applies to seniors. As you age, you especially need to keep nutrition in mind. Fluid intake is especially important in latter years.  Juicing provides both the vitamins and minerals you need and the fluids that elderly people often miss.

Juicing is a Supplement or a Dessert Replacement

Juicing should never be your only means of getting nutrients, unless a juice-specific cleansing is recommended by your doctor.  Consider juicing for the following:

  • A tasty snack between meals.
  • A supplement at meals – better than just popping a packed-powder pill.
  • Better than chips and cola when watching TV.
  • Breakfast when you don’t have time to sit down to eat.
  • A great mix with alcohol instead of a less-healthy mix.
  • Freeze them as popsicles as a dessert replacement.

Relying solely on juices can be actually detrimental to your health because you won’t receive the protein, fiber, fat or other micro-nutrients that your body needs from a larger variety of foods.

Learn To Conserve

Juicing can be expensive because it can take a lot of fruits and vegetables to make the amount you would most likely want.  The juices are also unpasteurized, so it is suggested to drink the juice on the day of. To sneak in the most bang for your buck:

  • Buy fruits that are in season.
  • Buy fruits when they are on special.
  • Freeze fruits for later. Tip: chop them up before freezing and place in a freezer bag.
  • Freeze juice in ice trays for later.
  • Freeze juice in popsicle forms for later.

Juicing Diet ≠ Whole Produce

The disadvantage of juicing is the nutrition you lose in the process, especially for fruits you might eat whole. The peel and seeds hold lots of nutrients – not necessarily the same nutrients as the flesh of the fruit – and eliminating them leaves you with only part of the fruit’s value.

Although there are many benefits to juicing as a supplement to a regular diet and as a replacement to less healthy foods, it does not replace the real thing.  A juicing diet is not a complete diet. You should still snack on fruits and follow your mother’s advice to “eat your vegetables” – both raw and cooked.

Whole fruit - Often the peel and seeds are stockpiles of hidden nutrients.

Potential to Fill Various Needs

The juice extracted has a lot of antioxidants and disease fighting elements. There are a lot of great juicing recipes out there to help you find what you are specifically trying to target and conquer.  Remember that juicing should be considered a supplement to an already “normal” and healthy diet.  So you can use juicing to target specific nutritional needs, knowing that a basic diet is more or less covered before even factoring in the juice.

Bonus nutrients

Want to sneak in even more nutrition?  And add some exotic taste at the same time?  Try adding spices.  I often add cinnamon to my juice.  Sometime nutmeg.  And coriander.  Maybe you have some favourite spices you can add, too.  Did you know that many spices are chock full of nutrients that you might not get any other way in your diet?

On days when I am lacking protein, I also add some whey powder.  But then if you’ve read my post on protein powder in soups and shakes, you would already know this, right?  Once again, this is NOT a replacement for getting protein from a wide variety of sources – meat, fish, eggs, dairy, quinoa, beans and nuts – but it is an excellent way to supplement on days when you are too rushed to fire up the barbecue.

These are six things that that first-time juicers should be aware of.  Do you have any other tips?  Please feel free to share them in the comments below.


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The Surprising Value of Vultures

The vulture shortage really did happen. It was a few years ago, but 100 percent true. As for the rest of the story…

Uncle Filbert and I were engaging in some leisurely small talk about the usual topics: what to eat for dinner, how the children were growing, the odd weather we’ve been having lately, and of course, the severe vulture shortage in India.

“It really has placed the country in quite a pickle,” Uncle Filbert observed.

I agreed. “Whatever will they do for Thanksgiving next year?”

“It’s a vulture shortage, not a turkey shortage,” Uncle Filbert explained.

“Well, at least they’ll have the pickle.”

Even vultures have value

Uncle Filbert ignored my wisecrack. “It is a serious, serious, serious affair. Carcasses are littering the streets.”

“Vulture carcasses?” I asked, trying to picture cyclists negotiating an obstacle course of knee-high black-feathered mounds.

“No, cow carcasses,” Uncle Filbert answered.

“Cow carcasses?” I was puzzled. “Cows don’t eat vultures. Er … do they?

“No.” Uncle Filbert assured me. “The majority of Indians are Hindus, and they neither eat nor kill cattle. I am sure it is against the law for cows to die. But cows aren’t too well versed on legal technicalities, and they go ahead and die just the same. Indians rely on vultures to clean up the mess, mess, mess.”

“Why don’t they just ship the dead cattle to America? People can’t get enough beef there.”

“You don’t understand,” Uncle Filbert cried, waving his hands. “Cows are sacred to Hindus. Imagine the sacrilege if McDonald’s got their hands on holy Hindu cattle.”

“Holy cow!” I exclaimed.

“Everything has a value. Everything is useful,” Uncle Filbert said.

“Even car alarms that won’t shut off?” I asked.

“I mean that without the vultures to eat the rotting cow carcasses, India’s environment is getting dirty, dirty, dirty. Hygiene has become as scarce as two-dollar movie passes and disease is banging down the door with a big, loud cow bell,” Uncle Filbert explained. “Imagine what would happen if America had a similar vulture shortage.”

America’s vulture culture

“We have vultures?” I asked?

“Of course we do. We give them gold plated briefcases and law degrees, then we set them free to keep the ambulance population under control.”

“Really? How do they do that?” I asked.

“They help accident victims sue each other,” Uncle Filbert explained. “Imagine for just a minute what would happen if America had a vulture shortage of its own.”

I thought about it for a moment. “Wouldn’t that be a good thing?”

“No, no, no.” My uncle cried. “It would be disaster. It would be horrible. The entire economy would collapse.”

“It would?”

“Yes, everything has a value – even lawyers. I know people like to crack cruel jokes about them, and you’ll probably throw a jab or two at their expense in your blog, but they really are useful.”

“They are?” I asked.

“Of course. We rely on the vultures to clean up the rotting ambulance carcasses. Without them, there would be decaying ambulance flesh all over our highways and icy front steps in winter. It would be an environmental disaster. Dirty, dirty, dirty.”

“What if we just stop blaming each other?” I wanted to know. “What if, when we slip on ice, we just close our eyes and imagine that it has something to do with the cold weather – you know, a natural occurrence, rather than a diabolical plot at City Hall to give everybody a sore tushy?”

“Saints alive! Don’t pronounce that word in your blog. Somebody will surely sue you,” Uncle Filbert panicked.

“What word?” I asked.

“Tushy. Yikes! I just said it, too.”

“But you also just said that everything has a value, that everything is useful,” I countered. “Even tushies. And even vultures. I suppose that means that even decaying cow carcasses must be useful for something.”

“Let’s just hope that the fast food chefs don’t find out.”

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