Are you lucky? Do you think of yourself as lucky?

I am lucky. Really, really, insanely lucky.

But am I? I mean what does it mean when I say I am lucky? I can find a parking place 99 times of 100 in front of where I am going. I have never been in a car accident. I have a good job in a horrible recession. I have my health. I love my family and friends.

But is that the result of luck or my attitude? Naturally someone has studied this...ha.

From Lifehacker.com:
"My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good."

I think I actually do all of these things naturally...so that might just explain it.

Read the Lifehacker article by clicking this sentence. And read the original article from the Telegraph by clicking this sentence.


video about living in ANWR

So, this guy and his wife live in the Artict National Wildlife Refuge and they are totally adorable. There are two parts of the five part series are posted now on VBS.TV. And I think that their daughter lives in Kalispell...there were a few clues. Can you spot them?

I had never heard of VBS.TV, but they appear to have quite a few quality videos to check out.


tyranny of the plug

Whenever I am at the gym, I am constantly thinking that it is dumb that I am using energy to run the treadmill I am on. Shouldn’t it work like the hamster on the wheel, with my activity creating energy?

The comes along the "Tyranny of the Plug." Don’t you just love that name? Do you feel like you are a slave to the plug-in? We need energy for everything…not just working out. Dick van Hoff designed a chopper, blender, mixer, and lemon squeezer, made of cast iron, glass and wood that are hand powered! No need for electricity to run these guys. Lovely don’t you think?


paris and food: what more do you need?

Photo from Daniel Lebovitz.
My friend Melissa introduced me to Paris. We had lost touch, then Linda died, and then we reconnected. I count her as one of the blessings that happened after Linda died. Anyway, I flew over to meet Melissa, and we drank wine, watched Sex in the City, and hung out for four fabulous days. Oh we did some shopping too.

I ran across this blog, by some famous writer who I should know. (David Lebovitz, worked at Chez Panisse...wrote a book about living in Paris and food.) I don't really care about the famous part, but his stories about Paris and food are divine. Don't you just want to stop everything you are doing to make sugar-crusted popovers right now? Click here to check out his blog!

The sugar-crusted popovers sound completely over the top wonderful right now:

"Sugar-Crusted Popovers

Makes 9

Adapted from my recipe in The New York Times and Maida Heatter's Great Book of Desserts

I thought these wouldn't stay crisp for very long after they were baked and coated with the sugar. But the next morning, I was surprised when I pulled off a hunk and they're weren't bad. But they are the best the day they're made; leftovers can be stored in a container and snacked on the next day. You could freeze them in zip-top bags as well.

I don't have popover tins, but found these work quite well in standard-sized muffin tins. For this recipe, feel free to use salted or unsalted butter, depending on your preference.

For the puffs:

2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup (140 g) flour

For the sugar coating:

2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (60 g) melted butter

Softened butter, for greasing the pan

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Liberally grease a nonstick popover pan, or a muffin pan with 1/2-cup indentations, with softened butter.

2. For the puffs, put the 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, milk, salt and sugar in a blender and blend for a few seconds.

3. Add the flour and whiz for about 10 seconds, just until smooth.

4. Divide the batter among the 9 greased molds, filling each 1/2 to 2/3rds full.

5. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the puffs are deep brown.

6. Remove from the oven, wait a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then remove the popovers from the pans and set them on a cooling rack. If they're stubborn, you may need a small knife or spatula to help pry them out.

7. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Thoroughly brush each popover all over with the 1/4 cup (60 g) of melted butter, then dredge each puff generously in the sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat them completely. Let cool on the wire rack."


making due: part deux

The year of making do is moving right along. Since we re-committed last week we have only gone out to dinner and out to lunch once. I have taken a few lunches, and we have eaten breakfast at home everyday. We realized that we were not spending a ton of money shopping, rather we were spending money eating out too much.

Then, the other day this woman took the cake so far as eating at home for less: she is a freegan. These people search for food in the trash of grocery stores. Stores throw away a lot of food, because it is damaged or past its expiration date.

For years, Linda told us that milk was always good seven days after its expiration date. Only when I told Brent this, and he laughed at me, did I realize she told us this because the milk was almost always ok. If it went bad, well then we poured it out.

I am completely enamored with what this woman is doing. She also goes around at the end of the semester and picks up all the crap the college students throw out. She made $140 selling some books she found on Amazon! Nice.

Check out the blog, http://fruganliving.com/, by clicking here.


Eve's B&B

I wrote this for my writing class a few years ago...and since Gram, aka Eve, is on the brain, I thought I would post it!

We arrived at Eve’s Bed and Breakfast just after nine in the evening. Tired from a day of work, the flight to St. Louis, and a kampf with the car rental agency, we were ready to be pampered. And this is just what awaited us, as we stepped into what seemed to be an earlier time and place.

We walked into Eve’s home, which is outfitted in varying shades from white to beige. The sitting area to the right featured four mid-century, almost square white chairs, perfect for relaxing over a coffee and a book. The low teak wood table brought memories of conversation pits from the 60’s to mind.

Eve knew we were coming and had prepared a home cooked simple casserole of “Mexican Fiesta.” The baked dish’s ingredients—ground beef, zesty cheese, enough jalapeños to make you notice them, and salsa—harkened back to an earlier time. The dinner table, dressed in linens with huge glass goblets of ice water, featured one lit candle.

The next morning we lazed around in bed and awoke first to the smell of coffee from the kitchen and then to the smell of bacon. We sat down to candle light again this time for breakfast. The scrambled eggs were airy having been whipped in the mixer.

Lunch that day consisted of ham and cheese sandwiches on a mild rye bread, with old-fashioned potato chips. With potato salad and oriental cabbage salad rounding out the meal, we were ready to hit the town.

After partaking in the American pastime by doing a bit of consuming for the economy, we returned to take a nap before dinner. Two twin beds in ecru featuring starched and ironed sheets awaited us.

Dinner that night consisted of pork chops basted with apricots, applesauce, green beans with white onions and bacon, baked carrots, and one very large baked potato. The simple meal hit the spot. For desert we had apple brownies with fresh whipped cream on top.

To finish out our weekend we awoke again to fabulous smells, this morning of bacon and pancakes. The pancakes, while almost fried, were moist and airy. The fruit salad consisting of strawberries, peaches, bananas, mandarin oranges, and blueberries and came to the table in the same elegant glass goblets from the day before.

Eve’s B & B has been open for years, but unfortunately only to friends and family. I fall into the latter category, as I am her granddaughter. Continuing to work as a child-care provider, she “keeps the body moving” as she would say, keeping house and enjoying house guests. Even though she is in her eighth decade, she still drives and lives alone. Her first husband died in WWII, and the second was relieved of duty some time ago.

The presentation and quality of the comfort foods served at Eve’s Bed and Breakfast cannot be beat. However, don’t go visiting Eve expecting to count calories or to find excitement. Do go there expecting a charming hostess, almost decadent sleeping quarters, and a weekend spent relaxing.

Apple Brownies Recipe

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
2 medium apples chopped
1 cup flower
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and chopped nuts and apples. Sift together flower, baking soda, baking powder and, and cinnamon. Add to other mixture. Pour into greased pan. 8 x 5. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.


movitation at work

Brent ran across this study from the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge site. The article is a bit dated now, from 2006, but the points in it are just wonderful:

Three key goals of people at work

"To maintain the enthusiasm employees bring to their jobs initially, management must understand the three sets of goals that the great majority of workers seek from their work—and then satisfy those goals:

* Equity: To be respected and to be treated fairly in areas such as pay, benefits, and job security.

* Achievement: To be proud of one's job, accomplishments, and employer.

* Camaraderie: To have good, productive relationships with fellow employees.

To maintain an enthusiastic workforce, management must meet all three goals. Indeed, employees who work for companies where just one of these factors is missing are three times less enthusiastic than workers at companies where all elements are present.

One goal cannot be substituted for another. Improved recognition cannot replace better pay, money cannot substitute for taking pride in a job well done, and pride alone will not pay the mortgage."

All of these ideas ring true to me. I want to be treated fairly at work, have a sense of achievement, and get along with my co-workers. It is amazing how quickly your job can go from great to horrible if one of these is lacking.

Take a look at the rest of the article by clicking this sentence.

koreans in kazakistan

So I am sitting here watching the Olympics. Last night's men's ice skating to be exact. And I just learned about some amazing stuff:

1. Koreans live in Kazakistan.
2. They have a name: Koryo Saram.
3. They were forcibly removed from eastern Russia by Stalin in the first forcible removal of people in the 20th century.
4. Apparently, anyone Stalin did not like got sent to either Sibera OR Kazakistan.

More information can be had here (click this sentence.)

Here's a movie about it: http://www.koryosaram.net/.

Finally, why did the Olympics bring this up? One competitor is a Koryo Saram, 16 year old Denis Ten. He did well, but did not win.


Interview about Weight Loss from An Expert: Mark Kaiser

I did my first internet interview with my friend Maureen’s brother, Mark Kaiser. He recently graduated from a masters program in Sports Administration and is a national level amateur bodybuilder. I wanted to interview him about his nutritional philosophy because he is very adept at gaining and losing weight for competition. How does he do it? What advice would he have for my readers?

Mark’s Eating Habits
"As far as personal diet and ability to gain and lose weight it is not as easy as it sounds. I have a very slow metabolism naturally and I have learned some foods burn quicker than others. I eat 7 meals a day and I aim get around 7,000 calories of ‘clean’ food in a day. My caloric break down currently is around 500-550 grams of protein a day with around 400 grams of carbs a day."

I sent him the "11 Critical Conclusions of Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubs to get his comments on them. He has not read the book, but felt comfortable commenting. I post his edited responses after each conclusion from the book below.

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, does not cause heart disease.

I agree here fat is not the sole cause of heart disease but it does play a role. Studies have shown that if you consume a ton of good fats you will actually be healthier and have stronger joints. However the key word in that sentence is GOOD fats, not crap. Examples of good fats are those high in Omega 3 fatty acids, one can find these in salmon, almonds, natural peanut butter in extra virgin olive oil.

2. Carbohydrates do, because of their effect on the hormone insulin. The more easily-digestible and refined the carbohydrates and the more fructose they contain, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.

I don't agree with this at all. When consuming carbs one needs to focus on quality, long digesting carbs to fill their carb needs throughout the day. Examples would be oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and brown rice. Simple carbs will spike your insulin levels and if you spike them too high one will create fat in their bodies because their body can't float out the spike in insulin as quick as they need to avoid fat gain.

(Note from Nicole: This seems a little contradictory. I am not sure he really does not believe this.)

3. Sugars—sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful. The glucose in these sugars raises insulin levels; the fructose they contain overloads the liver.

I agree on this point here. High fructose corn syrup will be the death of anyone trying to start a diet if they aren't careful. Just because it is fat free/sugar free doesn't mean it won't get you fat. The FDA approves labels as marketing tools without really looking all the junk that is in a lot of these diet items. High fructose corn syrup is a unrefined sugar that wil raise your insulin levels to record levels and add fat to your frame as mentioned in the previous note (2). Pretty crazy how that much junk can be in a "diet" food huh?

4. Refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are also the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the other common chronic diseases of modern times.

I haven't researched the effect of particular foods that lead to Alzehimers disease. Personally, I am always a little bit sketchy on any food that “leads” to any terminal disease such as this-but then again I haven't read any health reports to clear my understanding on this topic.

5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating and not sedentary behavior.

There are a ton of things that lead to obesity. I feel that excess fat (I am not sure if he means excess fat on your frame leads to obesity or excess fat in your food?) and lack of mobility are the keys that lead to this. I feel that it is a mixture of your diet and what you do or decide to not do that leads to a huge weight gain.

6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter any more than it causes a child to grow taller.

I agree that excess calories don’t necessarily lead to people getting fatter. However, as I am sure you have learned so far in this interview I believe it is not only about what you eat or how you workout but it is a combination of the two in order to lose or gain weight. An average American guy consumes 2,500 calories a day. I haven't consumed LESS than 6,500 in a day in the past year with exception to dieting for my show-when I am trying to get my joints to heal faster I will bump it up to 8,000. All this food and I still have visible abs so yes I agree here.

(Note from Nicole: THIS IS CRAZY. Can you imagine eating 6500 calories? WOW.)

7. Exercise does not make us lose excess fat; it makes us hungry.
Exercise itself doesn't do a whole hell of a lot-it starts the process of gaining/losing weight.

How one gains or loses weight depends on what they do after they workout: their nutritional intake. Same idea for losing weight-when doing cardio it helps speed up your metabolism and makes you more hungry-this a good thing so eat!
(Note from Nicole: I think this is Gary’s exact point: exercise makes you eat.)

8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance.

I can't comment on hormonal regulation when it comes to fat imbalances, as this is not a topic that I have medical proof to stand behind.

9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and burn it for fuel.

I agree here. As I noted, spiking insulin levels will lead to excess fat gain-thus one needs to focus on complex carbs that are slow digesting or they run the risk of spiking their insulin too high.

10. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.

The first statement here is a repeat of number 9 and 2. The second part I agree with to a degree, simple carbs (fruit, chips, general crap) won't fill one up that's why they can eat an entire bag of chips "without realizing it".

11. The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be.

Agreed. If one is not educated on this point they make think “well if it is the fewer I eat the leaner I will be, then I will just not eat a single carb.” There are successful very low carb diets that some bodybuilders follow. One is the ketomorphic diet that I have heard works wonders with particular body types. Atkins is crap as it is not realistic to follow in my opinion. If one is concerned with their carb intake, many times these people are eating out or eating dessert too often.

* To get leaner, focus on diet. Remember look at the entire label and look for the diet killers, high fructose corn syrup being the main one.

* Focus on GOOD carbs, those that are slow digesting in nature that will make you feel full for longer.

* When doing cardio focus on interval training on the treadmill or whatever piece you are using-it will be a much tougher workout but it will burn at least twice the amount of calories you will burn if you go at a steady pace.

* Keep cardo sessions under 45 mins.

* Eat often-ideally every 3 hours without missing a feeding. You don’t need a sit down meal but something that will “keep the furnace burning.” Think a small protein shake or some quality bread with peanut butter. The goal is to keep the metabolism in anabolic (burning) not catabolic (starving) mode.

* Question trainers. If your trainer is stringing you along to keep the cash flow coming in consider hiring another trainer or, if necessary, hire me! I have done a ton of personal training online for people
in the past!

* Stay positive! Remember that there is not magic pill to a six pack stomach, it will take lots of hard work and determination to make it there but if your goal is set then stick to it no matter what the naysayers say-because they don't have the guts to do it themselves!

Thanks so much Mark. I really appreciate your taking time to do the interview. If anyone wants to get in contact with Mark, he can be reached at: kaisermarkd (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Interview was edited for content, clarity, and length.)



Look, I know it is Valentine's day, but I wanted to tell everyone how happy I am that January, and well the first two weeks of February are over. It was rough over here at the Latkins, crisis after crisis.

I got back from St. Louis on Tuesday. The weather gods gave me Wednesday and Thursday off. I worked Friday, and continued my recuperation from the month from hell yesterday and today.

So now that we are half way through February, I am declaring a drama free zone. No more drama, just smooth sailing.

How's your 2010 going?


family trees

While visiting Gram these last two weeks I got caught up on the past few months of Martha Stewart Living. I just love that magazine.

I ran across this little website in the magazine called My Family Tree and Me. You buy the tree and either fill it in yourself or have them print it for you. I think this will make a great gift for my siblings this year! I would also love to do one for Grammy.

What is funny is that family tress only grow I guess. I would like one with roots, so I could also put in the new generations!

(We have at least four feet of snow on our deck and it is super windy. Crazy weather.)


back from st. louis

Back in DC from St. Louis. Made it on the last flight in.

More soon.


cards for gram?

hello loyal readers,

i am asking a favor...would you mind sending my grandmother a get well card? she is doing well, but could use the moral encouragement.

eve murry
14644 rialto dr.
chesterfield, mo 63017

many thanks,


comments sought: KinderPort

One of my friends from the Bosch Fellowship is seeking comments on her MacAuther Foundation application. Follow the link below to learn more about the KinderPort...And please leave a comment.



new theory

I think God might send you crises when you become too self involved...as a way to get you out of your self.