You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2012.

Here’s a day that rolls around once every four years, trying not to make a pest out of itself, like those other 365 days that show up every year. Since it takes 365 days and 6 hours for the earth to revolve around the sun, the 6 hours added up over four years make a leap day.

Some interesting Leap Day information:

  • Leap Day is the one day of the year that women propose marriage to men. According to the Irish legend, St. Bridget struck a deal with St. Patrick to permit women to propose marriage to men once every four years on February 29th. Traditions state that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal he has to buy her twelve pairs of gloves, so she can wear the gloves to hid her hands and the lack of an engagement ring.
  • Leap Day is considered unlucky in Scotland and it is bad luck to be born on Leap Day (as if you had any influence in the matter). On the up side however, there is an Honor Society of Leap Day babies.
  • There is only a 1 in 1,461 chance of being born on Leap Day.
  • It is considered bad luck in Greece to marry in a leap year.
  • The longest period between leap years was 8 years. Leap year occurred in 1896 and then again in 1904. There was no leap year in 1900 because of the way that leap years are calculated. Calendar years ending in “00” are only leap years if they are divisible by 4. 1900 wasn’t, but 2000 was. The next time leap year won’t happen will be at the turn of the next century since 2100 also isn’t divisible by 4.
  • Anyone born on February 29th is referred to as a a leapling.


Happy Birthday to any Leaplings out there! Enjoy your day!


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Duffy, Kidd, Diego and Lutheran. Do these names ring bells? They might, but not the way that you think. They are little known, but documented blood types. Researchers in the Biology department at the University of Vermont or UVM, as it is known around these parts, identified two new blood types to add to the list. What? Who knew? In addition to the blood types that all of us can rattle off without thought – A, B and O, there are many more — 30 in all. As of this month, that number now reaches 32.

English: Bleeding wound on thumb.

Image via Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Joshua Brown - UVM

Langereis and Junior are the two new blood types identified by University of Vermont researchers. While the two blood types appear to be predominant among Asian folks, knowing your blood type and having health care providers familiar with all 32 kinds can save your life.

Bryan Ballif, a biologist at UVM stated that the two new transport proteins are ABCB6 and ABCG2 and are the first new proteins discovered in ten years.  Both of the new proteins are also associated with anti-cancer drug resistance so these findings are not only important because they identify blood types but also may provide advancements in some types of cancer research and treatment.

According to a press release from the University of Vermont:

As part of the international effort, Ballif, assistant professor in UVM’s biology department, used a mass spectrometer funded by the Vermont Genetics Network. With this machine, he analyzed proteins purified by his longtime collaborator, Lionel Arnaud at the French National Institute for Blood Transfusion in Paris, France.

Ballif and Arnaud, in turn, relied on antibodies to Langereis and Junior blood antigens developed by Yoshihiko Tani at the Japanese Red Cross Osaka Blood Center and Toru Miyasaki at the Japanese Red Cross Hokkaido Blood Center.

After the protein identification in Vermont, the work returned to France. There Arnaud and his team conducted cellular and genetic tests confirming that these proteins were responsible for the Langereis and Junior blood types. “He was able to test the gene sequence,” Ballif says, “and, sure enough, we found mutations in this particular gene for all the people in our sample who have these problems.”

The research is quite an accomplishment and good news for those people around the world who have one of these rare blood types. According to Ballif:

Although these other blood systems are very rare, “if you’re that one individual, and you need a transfusion,” Ballif says, “there’s nothing more important for you to know.”

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Vacation is over — the week came and went pretty quickly considering. So did the company that came along with the week off. We had some family here that had to leave earlier than expected due to a family illness and some other friends who came for a couple days on a bit of a last minute excursion. Family that was supposed to visit us this past weekend wound up canceling due to sick children. It has been a bit of whirlwind, especially in light of the fact that the pain in my head and eye that I had been experiencing off and on which culminated in some wonderful ear ringing turned out to be sinus infection. The antibiotics and my digestive system are battling it out and I am stuck somewhere in the middle of all of it.

The “big” snowstorm we were supposed to get on Friday turned into more ice than snow, although we do have a six foot snowman in the front yard that Tyler and his friend built at midnight when we got back from a hellacious trip home from Massachusetts. It was not fun, not one bit, but the snowman, well it’s pretty awesome.

Now, we’re back to the grind. Back in the swing of things and all that jazz.

English: Atlantic Ocean (Feb. 6, 2008) Electro...

Image via Wikipedia

Happy Ash Wednesday. Today is the day that Catholics and many (although not all) Christians around the world can be picked out in a crowd. They are the ones with the black marks on their foreheads. I have to say that when I was growing up, this was one of the favorite days to go to church. Odd as that might sound, as little kids going to Catholic school, we got ashes put on our foreheads and spent a good chunk of time after that, comparing and contrasting our marks, trying to decipher the cross — sometimes it was apparent but sometimes, it simply appeared as a black smudge on your forehead.

Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season and starts counting down the 46 days until Easter Sunday.

Ashes are symbolic of repentance, sorrow and humility. We are reminded today of our mortality and humbled by the phrase “Thou are dust and to dust thou shall return” which is sometimes stated when the ashes are placed on your forehead (more when I was younger than now), although a more modern alternative isn’t quite as gloomy and speaks of repenting and returning to the Gospel.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of sacrifice and meatless meals. These are things that become engrained in you growing up. Fish on Fridays. Pizza becomes a meal staple, as does pasta.  My own house presents a bit of conundrum with the fish meals, since our youngest son is allergic to white fishes and my husband can’t eat shellfish, so we tend to lean to the meatless rather than the fish-full. Bummer since I happen to like fish, but c’est la vie.

Happy Ash Wednesday!


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Lioness and cubs / Felis leo

Image via Wikipedia

I am generally a pretty mild mannered person. I don’t much like confrontation so I do my best to avoid it. However sometimes, out of the blue, you get the hairs on the back on your neck to stand up and that weird feeling rising from the pit of your stomach. Your ire is raised.

This in particular happens when one of my kids gets hurt or disappointed. As a parent and particularly, a mom I don’t think that there is anything worse than seeing disappointment or pain register on one of your kids’ faces. There is some primordial response that rises from the depth of a mother’s very being when that happens. The desire to protect, to fix it, to make it all right and to see that those that caused the hurt or disappointment are punished. It’s strange, because you cannot understand why you are feeling this incredible fierceness, this overwhelming protectiveness. It can turn a mild mannered person into a bit of a crazy woman. Sometimes you know the person or persons who did it and sometimes you don’t — it’s a total stranger. In either event, I think other mothers would agree with me when I say that whoever they are, you can feel like you want to hurt them because they hurt your baby — even if your baby is a teenager and whatever happened was obviously a misunderstanding. Rational thought freezes somewhere in your brain when the mama lioness in you lifts her head to protect her cubs.  It’s odd that it happens automatically, without any warning or control.

Amazing how humans really don’t vary much from animals in some contexts. The desire to protect, to shield and to fix it are there in all of us — human or beast.

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It’s nice that the days are getting longer and brighter. Here are some pictures of the sunrise this morning … which was just beautiful. I just wish the sun got up before I did.

I am Vermont strong.

The phrase has become a mantra for Vermonters. Following Tropical Storm Irene, portions of Vermont were completely devastated as you probably remember, either from living it here or from hearing about it there where you are.  Two Rutland individuals came up with the slogan in an effort to create a viral Facebook campaign. Instead, the two started a whole lot more.

In the own words from their website, the two explain a bit about themselves and the origin of I am Vermont strong.

What started out as an attempt to create a viral Facebook campaign with an image and a strong message of hope has turned into a successful fundraising effort for disaster relief organizations. Lyz Tomsuden and Eric Mallette, two native Vermonters now residing in Rutland, created the I Am Vermont Strong image with simple intention of manufacturing good energies out of a bad situation.

“We really just wanted to see if we could help show the world that we Vermonters are a unfied front in the battle against the devastating losses suffered by our state in the recent hurricane.” commented Eric Mallette.

“From there, it kind of went crazy!” added, Lyz Tomsuden, who created the image. “First we noticed everyone we know on Facebook was changing their profile pictures to the ‘Vermont Strong’ image. That’s when the requests for t-shirts started pouring in… by the hundreds!”

All proceeds will benefit Vermont not-for-profits dedicated to helping with Vermont recovery efforts!

Yesterday, Govenor Shumlin signed a law creating the I am Vermont strong license plate. The plate, which costs $25 is available for purchase. Proceeds from the sale of the plate to go to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund. While it is my understanding that anyone can buy the plates, Vermont registered vehicles are permitted to replace their regular front license plate with the I am Vermont strong plate until 2014.

If you’re from Vermont consider purchasing a plate to support the effort. If you’re from away, but your heart lives in Vermont, consider purchasing a plate to show your support.

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Article first published as Another Reason To Think Twice Before Sipping That Soda on Technorati.


It’s been a few years now and I’m always hesitant to blog, or even talk about it, for fear of it somehow resurfacing, but for those of you who know me, you know that I had this horrible rash that I just couldn’t get rid of. Since I was eliminating things from my world and from my diet to try to figure this out, soda was one of the things that went first. Basically, it is high fructose corn syrup with flavoring. High fructose corn syrup is evil (in my opinion) and I try to avoid it. I mean if you see soda remove paint from cars, what the hell is it doing to my insides?

Now, there is a new evidence, (beside my own evil rantings) that you shouldn’t overindulge in the soda stuff.

Before you reach for that can of soda, think again. In addition to the fact that soda has been linked to obesity and heart disease, a new study out of Australia will make you think twice before consuming another fizzy glass.

While the study is preliminary, the researchers involved are quick to point out that soda alone might not be the sole reason for the increased risk in developing lung disease. According to Dr. David Katz, the director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University, in response to an interview with MedPage Today, “High soda intake is a good marker for poor overall diet, and poor overall attention to health.”The University of Adelaide in Australia has released a study preliminarily showing that soda can lead to an increased risk of lung disease. The study monitored 16,907 adults with an average age of 46.7 regarding their soda intake. It was determined that those people that consumed at least half of a liter of soft drinks consisting of soda, lemonade, flavored water and sports drinks, resulted in a higher risk of developing asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD. The participants in the study that drank one half liter or more of soda and other soft drinks per day were 14.7% more likely to develop a lung disease than those that didn’t who were 11.9% likely to develop such a condition.

According to the researchers involved in the study, “There exists a dose-response relationship, which means the more soft drink one consumes, the higher the chance of having these diseases” reported in the journal Respirology, where the study resulted were reported.

The study also demonstrated a link between soda consumption, smoking and an increased risk of lung disease. According to study results, smokers who consumed more than half of a liter of soda or other soft drinks per day were 6.6% more likely to develop COPD than those that did not smoke and drink soda.

Should you turn your back on your favorite soft drinks? Researchers are quick to advise that the study did not prove causality since they suspected that an overall unhealthy diet and lifestyle might be contributing to the health problems faced by study participants. Nonetheless, curbing your reliance on sugary soft drinks might be a healthy choice.

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Just a quick picture from the window. The light was hitting just right late this afternoon.

Doesn’t this look delicious? Let me tell you that it tasted as good as it looks. Okay, maybe it even tasted better than it looks.

I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine’s recipe for Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze. Start with a 3-4 pound beef brisket.

Part 1 – The Rub

Mix together

1 T plus 1 t kosher salt

1 t. ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Rub on the brisket and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. Then remove from refrigerator and let stand on counter for one hour.

Part 2 – Brisket


2 T. olive oil, divided

3/4 cup chopped onion

3 garlic gloves, crushed

4 cups beef broth

1 12 oz bottle of stout beer

3/4 cup bourbon (I didn’t have and used scotch instead — not a great differentiator of the brown liquors)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

Thyme 1 tsp.

2 celery stalks chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 T. balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat 1 T oil in an oven proof large pot. Sear brisket on both sides, about 5 minutes each side. Remove brisket to plate and cover to keep warm. Heat remaining oil in pot, add onions and garlic, stir until onion is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients to pot, return brisket to pot, cover and place into oven. Cook for approximately 4 hours, brisket should be tender but still together. Remove brisket from pot, use stick blender to puree remaining braising liquid. Remove 1/4 cup of braising liquid and reserve. Return brisket to pan.

Part 3 – The Glaze

Take 1/4 c. reserved braising liquid, add 1/2 c. apricot or peach preserves ( I didn’t have peach and apricot worked just fine) and 2 T. bourbon (I skipped the bourbon/scotch in the glaze and it tasted just fine to me)

Mix together with stick blender or regular blender. Spread over brisket (fat side should be up and cross-hatched). Return to oven and broil for approximately 10 minutes until glaze has caramelized.


This was delicious! We served it over jasmine rice with scallions on top and it was absolutely great. A lot of oven time but well worth it in the end. Highly recommend.


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Warning to all of you — I am going to rant.

Okay, you were warned and yet, here you still are.

As I was cutting up vegetables for a salad, I peeled the cucumber that I just bought from the store and started to cut it to find it all rotted inside. Yuck, gross and even more annoying — I just bought it! This wasn’t something lurking in my produce crisper for weeks. Although by the looks of it, it was definitely sitting somewhere for a while.

I love winter. Okay, let me re-phrase that or qualify it just a bit. I love winter when it snows. Otherwise, I really don’t see the need for the three D’s of winter– dead, dank and dreary. One of the biggest downsides to winter (in addition to our severe lack of snow) is that fresh vegetables just aren’t the same. I am the first to admit that I have gotten spoiled by the ability to grab my own vegetables right from the dirt in my own garden or the ability to go to the farmer’s market or CSA and grab equally fresh vegetables from some other local dirt. “Fresh” as in from the ground within hours (not weeks) of being picked. It is insulting and demoralizing to pay good money for something green and good for you to find that it is really rotten and bad for you (or for anyone as a matter of fact).

I appreciate the fact that I should be eating seasonally and filling up on those winter veggies (which really aren’t quite veggies at all for the most part in my book) but sometimes we long for something leafy… and green or crunchy and crisp — like that cucumber in the salad. While I am the first to admit that there is no comparison between store bought anything and homemade or homegrown, I do expect that when I do buy something produce-wise from the local supermarket that it is at least not rotting while it is in my shopping cart. The shelf life of the store bought “fresh produce” leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m sure that they could pump them full of something artificial and deadly and it might make it all that much better.

While I can’t exactly make summer vegetables grow here in Vermont in the middle of winter and our farmer’s market does an admirable job of trying to keep us in the greens as much as humanly possible, I still think that I should entitled to expect something more than I got in the cucumber I just cut.

I will be counting the days until the seeds of summer will be planted and grumbling all the while about the crappy selection of produce that I have to put up with in the interim, which is clearly the downside of winter.

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I bet that you think this post is actually about the Superbowl. It’s really not. It’s just that Superbowl Sunday was always our favorite driving evening. Our trips home from Vermont on Superbowl Sunday were peaceful. We would coordinate our “kickoff” with their “kickoff”. No one is on the road. No one. It is borderline creepy, actually. Everyone is always wrapped up watching the game, drinking to the game, eating to the game, yelling at their televisions — that no one is every really on the road. There was no traffic and it was a usually pretty traffic-free drive. Even the police for the most part seemed to have somewhere indoors to be on Superbowl Sunday.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 08:  The reflecti...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Driving the boys home this afternoon, and seeing the various houses with cars accumulating in their yards, I smiled to myself. Yes, this was “our” day to travel — Tom and I — great conversation, low stress driving, we didn’t need to scream at a television.

And as for the actual Superbowl — here’s my Superbowl rant.  I really haven’t forgiven the New York Giants for playing all these years in New Jersey and still having the nerve to say they are from New York — seriously, a little respect for Jersey, please. At least the New England Patriots are actually in New England.

‘Nuf said —- Happy Superbowl Folks — scream away at your televisions and enjoy.

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