Why Everyone should be scared out of their mind about melanoma

This is a guest post by my daughter, Zooey. She was working on her eighth grade English writing project and her legacy project that was inspired by her grandfather (my dad, Bill Wood, who is fighting Melanoma).

Imagine spending all day out in the sun without any sunscreen. Sounds pretty innocent doesn’t it? That one day in the sun can give a sunburn that can haunt a person the rest of their life. Most people don’t relaize how dangerous it is to spend all day out in the sun without sunscreen. Even if you’re outside on a cloudy day, it is always really important to protect the skin. This is important because of a really bad skin cancer called Melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when cells give skin a tan or a brown color. Melanoma can easily develop when skin is exposed to sun or tannning beds for long amounts of time. Researchers studying Melanoma realized that the more sunscreen that is worn, the less chance there is of getting Melanoma. People should also limit the amount of time that they’re outside and wear appropriate clothing like sun shirts and hats.

According to Melanoma Research Foundations, Melanoma does not discriminate by age, race or gender. Everyone is at risk but catching it early could save your life. Prevention is key. For example, if a small mole gets bigger and turns a different color, go to a doctor immediately. The sooner it’s treated, the better chance of the cancer going away. It’s a good idea to start taking care of the skin while young so healthy habits are made for a lifetime.

Right now there are many people who have been fighting this disease for years. Bill Wood is one of them. Bill Wood has been fighting Melanoma for many years and is currently talking to UNC and MD Anderson Cancer Center about another treatment option. In an interview with his granddaughter, Zooey, her shared the best way to prevent skin cancer and this is what he said:

Q: “What causes Melanoma?”

A: “Exposure to the sun without skin protection (either by sunscreen or clothing). No one knows exaclty how long the exposure must be to cause Melanoma but generally it can occur over long periods of time. As a cumulative effect of exposure to the sun.”

Q: “How do you think you got Melanoma?”

A: “When I was a young boy, I spent lots and lots of time outside without a shirt or a hat and wearing shorts while I played sports and spent time at the pool. When I was young, people didn’t know about sunscreen and I was probably thirty years old when I started to use it. I think I got Melanoma from many years of unproteccted exposure to the sun.”

Q: “What could you have done to make yourself safer?”

A: “Always wearing a hat, spending less time in the sun during the middle of the day and wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants would have helped reduce my overall exposure to the sun. I think I would have been safer and could have enjoyed those things.”

So yes, it’s easy to see why people should be scared out of their minds about Melanoma. Learning that this cancer is caused by unprotected exposure to the sun for long periods of time should inspire people to take precautions. By interviewing Bill Wood, readers can learn that they can be safer from the sun by wearing hats, protected clothing and sunscreen. The danger of Melanoma is that it can be fatal if it’s not treated quickly. There is hope that Bill Wood’s next treatment will help him to live longer. It is scary that there is no cure for Melanoma, that’s whey prevention at a young age is imperative.

Gemutlichkeit

Gemutlichkeit is my absolute favorite word in the world.

This feeling captures the holidays beautifully! Ezra Jack Keats wrote the most gemutlich book…Snowy Day about a small boy named Peter who experiences the joy of a snowy day.

We just returned from a trip in the mountains. Let me paint a picture…Christmas morning it was snowing outside, there was a fire in the fireplace, my children drank hot chocolate, I had a panettone bread pudding in the oven, and was wearing socks that an Austrian Oma made for me. Do you feel it? Very gemutlich!

This German word is used to express a state of warmth and coziness. Also peace of mind and good cheer. You can’t beat this feeling.

Here’s another gemulichen example from this morning… It was cold outside, the Christmas tree lights were twinkling, my children were laughing together, I was drinking a hot chai latte and finishing a good book, baked apples were in the oven. Very gemutlich!

This is so simple and so good…so gemutlich!

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 4 firm cooking apples, I like Gala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • optional…dried cherries, raisins & nuts
  1. Heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Pour the cider into a small skillet and bring it to a boil. Continue to boil over medium heat until the liquid reduces by slightly less than half.
  3. Use a melon baller to dig out the apple core, leaving about 1/3-inch of the apple intact at the bottom. Place the apples in apple bakers, pie pan or baking dish.
  4. Stir the cinnamon, butter and brown sugar into the cider syrup. Pour it into the apple cavities, allowing it to overflow into the baking dish. Bake the apples for 45 minutes, until they are perfectly soft but not caving in.
  5. Serve the apples with warm extra syrup spooned over them. If you want to, drizzle them with some heavy cream, or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream (if having for dessert).

Ich wunsche Euch einen schonen und gemutlichen January.

P.S. Cozy Winter Cocktails & Vail: Like Nothing on Earth

Best Halloween movies for kids & kids at heart

We love Halloween!! Nothing beats a weekend family movie night…especially if it’s Halloween time. What Halloween movies do you watch with your family? Which ones did you like growing up? On our kitchen counter there’s a list of Halloween movies to check off before the big day. We’ve almost checked them all off…two more to go. A good portion of our favorite movies are from the eighties. My husband and I love revisiting movies from our childhood and reveling in the nostalgia.

  1. High Spirits
  2. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
  3. Ghostbusters
  4. Hocus Pocus
  5. Beetlejuice
  6. Harry Potter
  7. Addams Family
  8. Monsters Inc
  9. Hotel Transylvania
  10. Gremlins
  11. Goosebumps
  12. Labrynith
  13. Casper
  14. Legend
  15. ET
  16. Poltergeist
  17. The Nightmare before Christmas
  18. Monster House
  19. Little Monsters
  20. Scooby Doo

P.S. Goonies is one of my favorites

Happy Halloween!

Be Mindful

My assistant principal does her very best to inspire our little school. I’ve been an elementary teacher for a loooong time! It’s so nice to come to work and know that we will laugh and smile because of something she’s cooked up! She is always dressing up and celebrating special days like national angel food cake, national coffee ice cream day and national chocolate cupcake day. This time she gave the teachers a different Simon Sinek quote on their door. My quote was, “When we help ourselves, we find moments of happiness. When we help others, we find lasting fulfillment.”


Simon Sinek is an author and motivational speaker about life, leadership, and doing the right thing. Sinek’s quote makes me think of how important it is to maintain yourself before you try to help others. My first thought was meditation…It’s like changing the oil in your car! We run better and are more able to help others and do our job when we’ve created space in our heads to focus, de-stress and be our best self. The essence of meditation is kindness…it softens the mind, nurtures the heart, and allows us to reconnect with the people and world around us. 


Sinek reminds me of Andy Puddicombe (the Headspace meditation co-founder). I think that Sinek and Puddicombe are both all about improving relationships and they way we live our lives.


Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the voice of Headspace. He says this about meditation…, “No chanting, no sitting cross-legged but rather just a really a quick and easy way to de-stress, focus and improve your relationships, sleep and overall way of living.”

Meditation is a part of my daily life. It helps me de-clutter my mind. There’s a healing and healthy feeling after I’ve meditated that helps me remember my connection to the universe and recover a sense of peace. I chase happy feelings! I chase them right into a ballet class. After I’ve carved out space to take ballet, I feel elated…like my true self. When I’m dancing, I’m speaking the hidden language of my soul. After this gift to myself, I come home a better mother, wife, teacher, daughter… It’s these moments of happiness that prepare us to help others.


I’m reminded of one of my favorite people, Grace Kelly. She said, “I would like to be remembered as someone who accomplished useful deeds, and who was a kind and loving person. I would like to leave the memory of a human being with a correct attitude and who did her best to help others.”

Grace Kelly had the right mindset and was mindful just like Sinek and Puddicombe.


Have you seen the documentary “I Am?”  It has interviews with prominent philosophers and spiritual leaders (including Archbishop Desmond Tutu) about what ails the world and how to improve it. It’s about how we should be compassionate and empathetic towards one another and shows through science how mankind’s true nature lies in helping one another and how some day maybe we can all be truly happy and help others. Everyone in the world should be required to see it.

Watching Tom Shadyac’s “I AM” can be a transformative experience. Shadyac says “The solution begins with a deeper transformation that must occur in each of us.  I AM isn’t as much about what you can do, as who you can be.  And from that transformation of being, action will naturally follow.”

The quote that my principal left on my door made me think about people like Puddicombe, Sinek, Shadyac and even Grace Kelly…what resonates with me and what I feel is natural is to be mindful to yourself so that you can be mindful to others. 

Book Fairies do exist

Our secret mission began on a cloudy summer morning. My daughter carried the package under her arm, hoping not to attract attention. I whispered, try to look normal. Zooey surveyed the coffee shop…a dark cozy table with summer flowers in a green vase. Looks good. Casually, she wandered to the table and laid the package (Judy Blume’s Blubber) on the window sill by the flowers. When you’re a book fairy, you can’t attract attention. Zooey would have turned bright read if she heard…Hey, kid, you forgot your copy of Blubber.

[Read more…]

Five ways to ensure a well written thank you note

 

A well written thank you note does not have to be complicated. It’s one of the warmest ways to show our appreciation to our friends and loved ones. Our grandmothers told us that it was necessary but once we write it, we know it’s the right thing to do and it makes the writer feel warm and cozy inside. A well written thank you note is just a small kindness, but they’re meaningful to those who receive them. 

  1. For notes to family and friends, strike through any formal part of the name at the top of the letter to keep things casual. This is what Princess Diana did because she didn’t want her notes to seem stuffy. Striking through name on formal stationery is a quick and easy way to make it a little more informal and a sign that you are a closer friend of that person.
  2. Always write out the date in the far right corner, opposite the salutation and begin the body of the note directly under the “r” in “Dear.”
  3. Use real stationary…it doesn’t have to be fancy but something neutral so that it can be used for many occasions and sturdy enough to be sent in the mail.
  4. A handwritten note is ALWAYS better than any electronic substitute. A handwritten note takes more time and effort than an email but it can become a keepsake. Some of my favorite notes become my bookmarks in my recipe books so I look at them often. 
  5. A punchy envelope liner acts as wrapping paper for your note. Make it even more personal by adding a picture…maybe include a picture from Christmas day opening the gift. 

All that said, don’t get too bogged down in the details. Any thoughtful note is a good one. Send a hug in the mailbox.

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A hand-written thank you note is a little treasure that won’t be forgotten

Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes) perfect for a winter morning

My daughter made me promise, “Mommy, pinky promise that we can make ebelskivers in the morning?” It’s after the holidays, I still have leftover egg nog and it’s 24 degrees outside…the weather couldn’t be better for ebelskivers! I’ve had my ebelskiver pan for a while now and I use them to make these Danish pancakes but it’s also great for meatballs! Ebelskivers have a light, airy batter, and a sweet jam filling goes nicely in the middle. My son prefers Nutella in his. Serve them hot with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top. Turning them over can be tricky…try using chopsticks or shish kabob skewers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk (or egg nog if you make them during the holidays)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup jam or Nutella
  • confectioners sugar, for serving

Directions: 

  • In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk, vanilla and 2 tablespoons melted butter until combined. Stir in dry ingredients. Do not overmix.
  • In a small bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff but not dry peaks form, about 3 minutes. This is my daughter’s favorite part…who doesn’t love using an electric mixer! Fold egg whites into batter.
  • Put ebelskiver pan over medium high heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon butter to each well of the mold (sometimes I cheat and use Pam for baking), add 1 tablespoon of batter. Top each well with 1 teaspoon of jam or Nutella, then top with another 1 tablespoon batter. Let ebelskivers cook until bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until tops are also golden, 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Repeat with rest of batter, then serve immediately with powdered sugar on top.

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The history of Vail: the no-named mountain

The 10th Mountain Division during WWII

WWII veterans Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton established Vail Ski Resort. They discovered a peak with a good location and snow that they called, “no-name mountain.” We know it today as Vail which opened in 1962 with one tottering gondola and five dollar lift tickets.

In 1957, Eaton led his friend Seibert up a deserted mountain of treeless bowls of powdery snow and skiing terrain so beautiful that Seibert said, “We’ve climbed all the way to heaven.”

Seibert, who trained for alpine combat was in the 10th Mountain Division and fought on skis. The 10th Mountain Division was charged with driving the Germans from the Alps. Seibert was hit by mortar fire in the Alpine Mountains of northern Italy, and his right kneecap was badly damaged. He was evacuated from the front lines and after three days, doctors said he would never again walk. Two years later, Seibert was a ski instructor in Aspen. Eaton was an Army engineer. After the war, Eaton worked on the ski patrol in many slopes, including Aspen, where he met Seibert and he mentioned his secret no-name mountain. Eaton told Seibert that, “It was the damnedest ski mountain he had ever seen and that the only reason someone hadn’t already developed it was because no one could see the top slopes or the miraculous Back Bowls from the valley below.”

Seibert handled business affairs and Eaton played an important role in designing Vail’s layouts. Eaton was in charge of mapping and cutting ski trails and building the original lifts. Seibert said, “I’m the founder of Vail, but Earl is the finder of the mountain.” 

Founders of Vail, Eaton in the middle and Seibert on the left.

Today, Vail is full of first, second and third generation residents. It’s the playground for ski enthusiasts from all over the world. Vail quickly grew to become one of the biggest and most popular snow sports destinations in the United States.  

Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the morning to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous…for they may act on their dream…and make it possible.” ~Pete Seibert

Thank you Seibert and Eaton for making the best and most varied ski resort. Vail is the ski trip of our dreams…it’s like nothing on Earth!

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Vail: Rites of Spring

Vail: like nothing on Earth

Ski Colorful: packing list

Robert Wyland…an artist inspiring future conservationists

Have you ever listened to a child critique art? They are the best…no filter, honest and very observant of things we might not see at their eye level. The conversations they have about art are priceless. One of my first grade students said while looking at a Wyland painting, “Look, I’m swimming with the turtle and I’m not even wet.” Every year during open house our elementary has a traveling art exhibit. This year we hosted Robert Wyland. Children could not pass by the beautiful art work without stopping to stare. We could only have the banners for one week but it gave children the chance to explore and hopefully recognize Wyland so that when they someday see one of his one-hundred Whaling Walls, they will remember studying Wyland.
Here are some questions, quotes and information about Robert Wyland to inspire you and your children…
 
Robert Wyland:

Wyland is a world-renowned marine life artist who celebrates art, science and conservation. He was the official USA artist for the Olympic games in England. Wyland has painted one-hundred Whaling Walls over twenty-seven years and he did them all for free. Did you know that he has used art and science education to inspire kids around America so they will take care the planet? He’s very passionate about teaching children and has painted with over one million kids in all fifty states and many countries around the world in the last twenty years. He wants to inspire children to protect, promote, and preserve our environment. Wyland’s paintings are a celebration of the wonder of our blue planet. His murals are designed to motivate environmental awareness and stewardship, particularly in children. Wyland says, “You can choose not to go into a gallery or a museum, but you can’t ignore a giant mural like this. If people see this beauty, I know they’ll want to get involved in protecting it.” 

Have you ever met a sea turtle face to face? How about a spinner dolphin or a blue whale? The ocean can be steps away, but their world couldn’t be more different from ours…dive in with Wyland without even getting wet. 
 
Wyland is all about educating children about conservation. Here’s some inspiration from him to help us teach our children to care for the planet…
 
Conservation tips:
When brushing your teeth, turn the water off while you are actually brushing. Use short bursts of water for cleaning your brush and this will save about 80% of the water normally used. 
A faucet that drips a drop a second is leaking 2,600 gallons of water a year…so fix the drip!
Did you know that it takes five-hundred years for one plastic water bottle to break down. Be certain your empty bottles head to recycling centers. Better yet, skip the plastic bottle and choose reusable water bottles filled from home!
Wyland quotes:
The ocean is an amazing, indescribable world filled with color, movement, emotion and light.
The only thing you can hope for is to enjoy every moment and try to keep the balance by giving something back.
Saving the planet is a cool thing to do!
If you happen to see a whale, it’s only because they want you to.
Water is life and we have to protect it.
 
Craving more? Here are a couple of little videos that I showed my class…

 

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Get Lost with your family in Lost Pines (part deux)

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Everything’s bigger in Texas…especially your vacation! Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa has a way of making families feel at home. This year, we brought our puppy with us and he fit right in with the alpaca.

Traveling in your own state is less stressful…it’s more like living part of your life somewhere else. It feels really exciting, especially when we feel good about taking the whole family (dog included).

On our first full day at Lost Pines we couldn’t wait to get started exploring and getting outside. My husband and I knew that we wouldn’t be able to get the kids out of the Crooked River Water Park so we planned our big activities (ziplining and horseback riding) in the mornings.

There are so many kid-friendly activities for all ages. My daughter couldn’t wait to go to the hair-braiding station and my son wanted to get up close with the resident longhorn. Parents can enjoy time to rest and relax at Spa Django while the kids enjoy Camp Hyatt.

There are nine Texas-style restaurants on site to enjoy. Shellers Barrelhouse and Old Bucks were our favorites.  They both have the Austin-style musical feel (with live music most nights).  We couldn’t get enough of the BBQ chicken and pulled pork sandwiches but made sure to save room for s’mores.

lostpinescollage2

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort offers their guests a Texas experience that makes you feel like you’re deep in the heart of the Lone Star State. There are plenty of ways to enjoy a Texas-style vacation with out leaving the property… Upon checking in we were given an activity calendar of all the things we could experience: tennis, full-service Spa Django, 18-hole Wolfdancer Golf Club, horseback riding, kayaking, trap shooting, s’mores by the campfire, nature hikes, zipline, rock climbing, biking, archery, wagon rides, face painting, balloon making…My children’s favorite was the Crooked River water park because “a river runs through it!” This water park has a sandy beach, waterfalls, a lazy river, and waterslides.

lostpinescollage

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Get lost with your family in Lost Pines