Those Who Can't Make Gingerbread Houses Make Pretzel Log Cabins Instead

My solution to the failed attempts at making a gingerbread house was to make pretzel log cabin instead.  While it is supposed to be edible just like a gingerbread house, I used a glue gun to hold the pretzels and the pounds of candy in place.  This was so much easier than making a gingerbread house!  I wouldn't advise eating it, though.

After heading out to the Dollar Tree and Lucky’s to buy giant pretzels and every bag of hard candy that I could find, I cleared the table to make a mini-workshop.  First, I made the log cabin the same size as the large pretzel sticks to save time.  Using an Xacto knife, I cut out the 4 sides and 2 roof panels out of cardboard.  Then I hot glued the pretzels on the cardboard and the candy on the roof.  It was surprisingly easy and quick to do.  No winter log cabin is complete without a fireplace so I stacked hard candies to make the chimney. Then I made a pathway out of cinnamon hard candies, and lamp posts out of candy canes and gum drops.  Using extra pretzels, I made a park bench. After everything was in place, I sprinkled coconut flakes over the whole scene.  I finished just in time for it to be Jaclyn’s centerpiece for her Christmas party.

I hope to preserve this with Varathane so next year I can add on to it.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll start over again next year!

My Nemesis: Gingerbread Houses

It's true! Getting the gingerbread baked to the right doneness and the sugar glue to the right consistency seemed impossible for me. 

I even bought wrought iron baking dishes and kits, and they never worked.  The gingerbread would stick to the pans and by the time I got them “unstuck” – I had a pile of crumbs! When Nicole was a teen, she and her friends Bonnie and Katherine attempted to make a gingerbread house but it collapsed.  It was all in fun, but alas – no gingerbread house – that year…

Smells Like A Witch Hunt

Ever since the presidential election, I feel like I’m living in a surreal world – like a bad dream that I just can’t shake.  Every day we’re bombarded with shocking news about Trump’s picks for important positions in his cabinet. 

Sometimes I wonder if he’s doing this just to make us feel so overwhelmed that we do nothing, or if he’s doing this just before the holidays because we’re distracted.  But when I heard that Trump actually asked for a list of Department of Energy (DOE) employees who have done anything on climate change (attended meetings, conducted research, worked on projects), that creeped me out!  This smells a bit like the Salem Witch Hunts or the communist red scare of McCarthyismI really didn’t think Trump would proactively fire employees who were pro-climate change in our DOE.  Wow!

But I am glad that the DOE is refusing to release this information.  Well, it’s a temporary fix but it shows that “We the People” are not going to put up with this insanity!  This is a time where we need to get out of our comfort zones and stand up to this incoming-administration’s agenda before they rush us into catastrophic disasters that we will not be able to reverse.


EPA: Fracking is Bad

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally – and just in time! – confirmed what we’ve known for a long time: “Fracking can and does contaminate drinking water.”  Environmental groups have praised the EPA for acting on the recommendations of its Science Advisory Board and made public statements about the inherent harms and hazards of fracking. 
It’s no surprise that the incoming administration, and the American Petroleum Institute, are balking about the EPA’s recent statement.  The more they complain and fight the EPA, the more I know and trust that the EPA is protecting us against water contamination by fracking. 
I’m just worried sick about what Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick for the EPA, plans to DO with the EPA.  He is a climate change denier who will dismantle regulations on industry. What is a climate-change denier doing in the most powerful position in the EPA? Pruitt sued the EPA 12 times over regulations for curbing carbon emissions from power plants, methane from the oil and gas industry, and mercury from coal-powered power plants. Seriously?
When in doubt about a candidate’s intentions, just follow the money.  Pruitt received over $700,000 in contributions from – well, let’s say, they’re not environmentalists!

Big Win for Students with Learning Disabilities

After taking the heat from the public, the College Board has finally made it easier for students with learning disabilities to get test accommodations on the SAT. 

Starting January 1st, students who already receive test accommodations through an IEP or other plan will most likely receive the same for the SAT, PSAT, and AP tests. 

This is a huge step in the right direction.  English as a Second Language students will also receive accommodations soon.


Eat Your Veggies and Prevent the Flu!

It’s flu season and it’s time to eat your fruits and veggies!  Yup, EAT your fruits and veggies, not drink them or take them in supplements. 

Just read this interesting article from NPR’s Shots Health News that promotes tossing the supplements and eating your veggies and fruits.  When drinking juices, it’s difficult to determine when you’ve taken in enough nutrients and you can consume too many calories.  Too many calories can cause obesity, which lowers your immune system.  Oh that vicious cycle!  And, yes, get your flu and pertussis shots, wash your hands, and stay away from sick people. 

I actually use Clorox Wipes on door knobs, light switches, and faucets in my offices to kill germs.  Okay, I know that sounds crazy but I haven’t had the flu in years!


Tip for Buying a Used Car

Even though it can save you thousands of dollars, buying a used car can be stressful. 

I always wonder why the car is being sold because I don’t want to buy someone’s lemon! I just found this handy online tool that checks to see if there are any recalls on the car you’re considering buying.  By submitting the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you’ll find out if the car is missing any safety recalls over the past 15 years.

Keep this handy for the next time you need to buy a used car, or check your current cars to make sure you didn’t miss a safety recall on the cars you drive today.


Noises Disrupt Learning and Productivity

Whether it’s a student or a co-worker sitting next to you, we all know how annoying it is to deal with their “noises” throughout the day.  Does it negatively affect your performance?  Absolutely.

While most students don’t have classrooms to themselves (except at Merit Academy) or offices for just one person, you need to address the noise maker so you can co-exist peacefully. We’ve all had co-workers whose voices were so loud we couldn’t think while they were talking. And in class, there’s always that annoying student who doesn’t blow their nose but sniffles every 30 seconds. Gross!

One of my students, told me that after taking the SAT, he had to cancel his scores because he couldn’t concentrate during the exam.  Apparently, the student in front of him was blatantly cheating and the proctor didn’t notice.  My student said that he couldn’t help himself from watching the student cheat and looking at the proctor to see why the proctor wasn’t paying attention.  Even though he really needed to do well on the SAT, he couldn’t finish the sections in time with this distraction and knew he had blown the entire exam.  So sad.

So how do you deal with noisy, distracting people?

First, try to relocate your desk or seating assignment to remedy the situation.  If that doesn’t work, ask your teacher or supervisor to address the issue with the offender.  You can also get noise cancelling headphones to drown out loud sounds as long as it isn’t in a lecture hall where you need to hear the professor. Your productivity and success depends on your ability to filter out distractions. Be proactive to create the best learning and working environment for you.


Choose Sports that Don't Cause Concussions

I was never a great athlete – probably to the dismay of my athletic father – and my daughters were never interested in any contact sports known to breed concussions.  Thank goodness. I don’t even like to watch sports like boxing, football or hockey because watching people get injured and crowds of people cheering on what I consider “unsportsmanlike” behavior bothers me.  Okay, I know I’m a minority in this arena but hear me out. 
Just recently, I’ve talked to several high school students who have been suffered the consequences of concussions in sports such as soccer, football, and rugby.  They have frequent headaches and often miss school when they have migraines. Many students notice that they can’t remember things or that it takes longer for them to learn concepts after being concussed. These are 15- and 16-year-old kids. When I heard about how their coaches pushed them and fellow teammates pressured them to keep playing, I was appalled. 
Helmet sensors are proven to be inconsistent in detecting concussions, which can be dangerous, even lethal, in protecting our kids. One of my students did a project on how soccer helmets give the false sense of security, therefore, these helmets actually put players at a greater risks because they believe that they’re protected while wearing them and play harder than they would without them.  
Check out this video about football concussions and helmet research. I know it’s not PC to say this but I wouldn’t recommend that any student play a contact sport that might cause a concussion.  With all of the many other inevitable obstacles a child may face, why put them at risk for brain injuries that will negatively affect them for the rest of their lives?  There are lots of healthy ways to play team sports (basketball, volleyball, cross country running) and get exercise (martial arts, weightlifting, dancing). 

Smoking = Permanent Gene Mutations = Cancer

We’ve been told that cigarettes cause lung cancer for decades, but a new gene-mapping study by Mike Stratton from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, U.K. found that people who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day (20 cigarettes) will have 150 mutations in EACH LUNG CELL every year.  With over 70 known carcinogens in today’s cigarettes, smoking damages the genome and increases the risk of at least 17 classes of cancer because it damages the DNA in organs that are both directly and indirectly exposed to the smoke.

Even “social smokers” who might smoke as little as 4-to-5 packs of cigarettes in their lifetime will still get several mutations in every cell in their lungs permanently – even if they stop smoking.  Yikes!

Share this article with your kids so they completely understand the science behind why they shouldn’t experiment with smoking.  Then show them videos of the horrors of those with cancer caused by smoking. This video shows the top 40 scariest anti-smoking commercials.  It’s graphic but might be just what kids need to see in order to see the truth behind smoking.

Here are other videos: