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I just read a very interesting article over at New Scientist. Hany Farid, a Dartmouth College professor  along with his colleague have come up with a proposed rating system for digitally retouched images. The rating system, which operates on a scale of 1 through 5, will enable viewers to understand how much, if at all, the images that they are viewing have been digitally altered. The scale will reflect minor white balancing or sharpening (considered minor alterations) through completely revamped digital images (major alteration).

I found this interesting because there is concern about the effects that photo retouching taken to the extreme by some advertisers and magazines are having on their audience, particularly young women. While I don’t have girls, I do totally understand and remember the frustration of looking at a magazine and wondering “why can’t I look like that?” while dieting or exercising to an extreme. In fact, I think I still do when I see some “perfect” actress model. The reality of it is that most women and even men in magazines and advertisements don’t, in fact, look like they do in the advertisement or magazine.

Professor Farid shows some pretty stark contrasts on his website between un-retouched and retouched images. Clicking the “toggle” button will allow you to go back and forth between the images. While no one is against photo retouching and enhancement, in fact it is amazing to see what can be altered and enhanced, it is nice to know that what you are looking at not only isn’t necessary reachable through dieting, exercise  and makeup, but is totally fabricated. It is an important thing to show the young people in our lives who can be overly and sometimes dangerously, obsessed with looking “perfect”.

We all enjoy looking at the pretty people in advertisements and magazines, it’s just nice to know that they aren’t necessarily any more or less perfect than you or I.

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We enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving with my sister and her family. We were honored to include recipes from those who are no longer with us. We are reminded of them with each forkful of a recipe that has been passed down. There is no Black Friday craziness in our house — I am not a shopper and definitely not a shopper that needs or wants to get up at some ungodly hour to stand on line to get some shopping done. While I don’t understand what motivates those that get up (or never go to bed) in order to secure a bargain, I know that I won’t be among them…ever. The closest I may get is doing some Black Friday shopping online (hey folks who were out in the middle of the night — you do know that you can shop online for usually the exact same deals, right? In your pjs and the comfort of your nice warm house).

I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and enjoyed the company of those we see often and those we see not too often.


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We woke up this morning to snow, a decent amount of it about 8 inches on the ground and more falling still from the sky. So, as someone recently said perhaps this is going to be the theme of the holidays this year, snow on the eve of each.  Suits me just fine. We had snow the evening before Halloween and then snow on the Eve of Thanksgiving, round it out with some snow on Christmas Eve and I’ll be one very happy little camper.

Needless to say we were feeling a little conflicted around the Heffernan house today….preparations for  Thanksgiving were beginning to feel a little like Christmas.

It of course didn’t help that one of the boys decided it was time to make some cinnamon buns and in order to do that we needed Christmas music playing in the background.  In addition to the cinnamon buns we took a stab at homemade jelly doughnuts.

Proofing by the woodstove.

The finished product……..

antipastoAntipasto. We used to have it at every holiday meal. A large (or maybe two) tray of a variety of meats, cheeses, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes that, as its name translates was served “before the meal”. Its origins are Italian but my dad, who enjoyed antipasto probably more than the meal itself, wasn’t. Irish as the inside of the Blarney Stone, although he had a smattering of mutt thrown in for good measure. I think he married into antipasto since my mom’s parents were both Italian and the holidays were clearly excuses to eat…a lot…especially of the things you only had but once or twice a year.

I can clearly remember the large glass trays that we used and the preparation. I bet every family has their own version. First, the layer of lettuce, then the layer of sliced tomato, then the layers of cheeses, provolone, some prosciutto, cappicola, some genoa salami, a sprinkling of pepperoncini, some cherry peppers, olives. There were additions but usually no deletions. The tray was piled high and hardly any of it was left over when the first course was through.We wouldn’t think of a holiday without it — I think my dad would have cried. I personally think it was his favorite part.

This afternoon, I was making up a shopping list for our Thanksgiving dinner. Nothing big — just our family and my sister and her family – as low stress and casual as Thanksgiving can get. I asked Tom who was sitting nearby if I was forgetting anything from the list and threw out an appetizer before dinner and then “antipasto?” It was like a blast from the past. I have not made an antipasto since my dad passed away. Why? I don’t really know, I’m sure that my boys would probably love it and enjoy it, but somehow it just wouldn’t be the same. Dad was the one that lived for the antipasto and I don’t know if it would be the same without him at the table to join us. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a subconscious sign of respect to recognize the fact that he no longer sits at the holiday table with us. I can’t seem to put my heart into it when he’s not here to enjoy it, considering it really was because of my dad that it was included with every holiday meal regardless of the occasion.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts.  We are ready for take-off. That’s right. We are officially one week away from Thanksgiving and the  start of the “official” holiday season. Note, that the commercial holiday season started sometime during the end of summer I think judging by the fact that Christmas music was blaring before Halloween in some places and winter clothes are pretty much going on clearance and it’s not even winter yet. If you don’t get to the store soon, you won’t be able to get this summer’s bathing suits because I am sure that they are going to coming full circle to next fall’s outfits fairly shortly.

The past week or so around here has been crazed to say the least. More crazed than normal, which for those of you that know me, says a lot.  Let’s just say upfront that I haven’t been at my best. Too much to do and quite honestly I am feeling run down and exhausted. A sore throat at the beginning of last week kicked things off on a wonderful note and it has not been fun since then and I still don’t feel back to normal. Throw in the mix the week before the high school play with two kids involved in that process and my head is just spinning. Add some teenage attitude and two kids with colds and well….you get the picture.

Tomorrow, company is a-coming. The MRU play is tomorrow and Saturday evenings — Tim’s high school theater premiere (Ta-da).

Company will be fun to catch up with and relaxing even though I am cooking the Thanksgiving dinner here in a week.

Full speed ahead…….

Patience is a difficult thing to teach children. It is hard to tell a two-year-old bounding with energy that she has to sit and wait for something. Similarly, when children become teenagers, it is likewise difficult to exercise patience – both for parents and teens. It is one of those things that unfortunately and hopefully, comes with age and experience.

Patience is the companion of wisdom ~~ St. Augustine

Speaking of patience, I engaged in one of the ultimate tasks of patience — planting fall bulbs. I planted well over one hundred  bulbs in the last few days. A task totally without any form of instant gratification. All those little bulbs are nestled deep in the soil, covered over with mulch and waiting, patiently, for their time to bloom. No visible sign to substantiate the work.

Patience is the key and will be the reward. Unless some chipmunk has its way in the interim, I will be rewarded in the spring with some beautiful flowers. All good things come to those that wait.

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Here are some pictures from the sunset a little while ago. I was wandering by a window and had to stop, grab the camera and take a few pictures. It signals the end of a very, very long week here at the T’s House.

Veterans Day is celebrated in the United States every day on November 11th. This year, the date is creating quite the stir, not only because it is Veterans Day but also because the date itself is 11/11/11 and specifically this morning at 11:11 a.m. it  will be 11/11/11 – 11:11 – same goes for 11:11 p.m. this evening. It is the last time in a century that the date will contain only binary digits – 1 and/or 0.

But why November 11th? Is there significance to the date chosen to celebrate the men and women who have left behind loved ones and friends to make our country and the world safe? Many of whom never returned home to their own families.

Yes. At the end of World War I, the armistice known as the Treaty of Versailles was to go into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. Hence November 11th, 1918 at 11 a.m. is considered the end of the war to end all wars.

Veterans' Cemetery

Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr

The day was originally celebrated with parades and celebrations of the end of the war and a brief cessation of all business at 11:00 a.m. in commemoration of the peace treaty. It was declared a federal holiday in 1938 and in 1954   “Armistice” was dropped and “Veteran” replaced it as a way to honor all those American Military personnel who served in all wars.

For a brief period Veterans Day was switched to another day to comply with the Uniform Holiday Act. It was however quickly switched back to the day which holds a special place in history.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

 To all those who gave so much of themselves and their families and continue to do so…….. Thank you.
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I love to bake. It’s sweet – usually quite literally. I love the holidays. It is however hard to believe that my inbox has been accumulating “cookie of the day” recipes since before Halloween. I really dislike this push to get us through the holidays — at this rate I’m sure that we will be finding Valentine’s Day hearts and candy crowding the shelves well before we’re ringing in the new year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays, it has always been a big part of my life and my family’s lives. But, really, can we just slow it down and actually enjoy them? My sister commented that it was difficult for my youngest nephew who is autistic to understand why Christmas trees were crowding the aisles of the stores already when they were still shopping for his Halloween costume. It’s difficult for me to understand as well. Thanksgiving is coming up, yet we are bombarded by Christmas all over the place. I realize that the stores are anxiously looking to increase sales in an economy that is less than desirable for any of us, but can we also enjoy the holidays without having to cut ourselves off completely from civilization.

Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

I know that there are those folks out there that bake or prebake or make and freeze their cookies well in advance of the holidays. To me, that’s a couple weeks, not a couple months. I can’t even think of holiday cookie baking before Thanksgiving rolls around and I’d like to think that I am not the weird one in this equation.

Try to relax, divest yourself of the commercialism and enjoy the holidays, one at a time instead of all at once, pretty soon we’ll just be celebrating Hallothankschristmasyear Day because it would be more time-saving — and then they can start putting out those Easter bunnies in December.

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The time change would stress me out as a child. I was always fearful, especially in the spring, that I would be late. I have issues with being on time, can you tell? I was always afraid that somehow the clocks would get screwed up and things would be out of sync and …..well anyway you get the idea, I gather I was a bit of a neurotic child. When the clocks “fell back” in the fall, it was always a different things, much less stressed out, much more relaxed. If time got messed up, the worst that could happen was that I would be the one that was early, and that was so much more reasonable in my little mind.

Grandfather Clock Face

Image via Wikipedia

Now, time seems to have taken on a different dimension in my life. I’m usually the one to change the clocks so I can rest easy knowing that it’s done and for the most part, everything electronic resets itself. Getting the extra hour of sleep on a fall morning is great, especially when our plans worked out that we have no particular place to be this morning, we attended mass yesterday afternoon and we therefore have planned for a lazy day. Laying in bed for a few extra minutes and not feeling stressed about anything…..a good way to start a Sunday morning.

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Article first published as ITunes May Owe You Money on Technorati.

Wouldn’t it be great if ITunes gave you money instead of you forking over cash? If you purchased an ITunes 99 cent gift card to purchase songs for $1.29 on or before May 10, 2010, you might be looking at some extra cash. A class action lawsuit brought by the law firm of Onder, Shelton, O’Leary & Peterson LLC on behalf of ITunes customers who purchased a gift card advertising 99 cent music are eligible to receive a one-time ITunes store credit. The credit in the amount of $3.25 will be given to all eligible customers who have completed an ITunes Class Action Lawsuit Online Form.

Although the firm is in the process of emailing potential class members, you don’t need to wait to receive the email in order to claim your part of this class action settlement. A class action settlement is a lawsuit brought by one or more plaintiffs on behalf of all those persons who are similarly situated. In this case, the plaintiff alleged that the gift card, which stated that if one purchased and used the gift card, a person would be able to purchase songs at the ITunes Store for 99 cents each.

The lawsuit contended that in April 2009, Apple raised the prices of certain songs to $1.29 and refused to honor the 99 cent gift cards.

Unlike most other lawsuits, there is no minimum age for claimants in this litigation since it is believed that most of the users and purchasers of the ITunes cards in question were children, teenagers or college students, who might otherwise be ineligible to make a legal claim.

If you would like more information on the background of the litigation please visit the law firm’s news release.

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With snow on the ground and Halloween behind us, it appears that retailers would like us to be full steam ahead for the holidays. Stores are already decked out with their holiday decorations and most of them were that way well in advance of Halloween. I say it every year to my kids, give me a list — tell me what you want because I don’t want to get caught up in the craziness that becomes the holiday season. Today is November 1st and in the blink of an eye, we will be turning the calendar yet again.

Central Cemetery on All Souls' Day

Image by rwhgould via Flickr

Today and tomorrow are the holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day — reflection and recollection of those who are no longer with us. It is hard to embark on the journey that ends with Christmas and New Years without reflecting and remembering those who are no longer present to share those holidays with us. In my own world, Christmas and my dad are pretty much one in the same; it is hard to not think about him during the holiday season. Christmas was indeed his favorite holiday, Christmas Eve was the night he proposed to my mother and he was such a kid with presents. In many cultures and countries, on November 2nd people visit the graves of their deceased relatives to remember and reflect. My dad’s grave is hundreds of miles from where I live today, but he and my grandparents will be remembered as if I were there putting flowers on the spots where they rest.

As we enter the beginning of the race toward the holidays pause to remember what the holiday season is all about. Friends and family — those that make us smile, regardless of where they may be today.

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