Friday, September 30, 2011

Streamline Your Reading with Google Reader

Every day, I use something created by Google to help me be more organized and work more efficiently. And one of my favorites is Google Reader.

What is Google Reader?

Google Reader is an RSS feed reader.

When you subscribe to an RSS feed, updates from the website or blog are delivered to your reader automatically, without your having to bookmark a bunch of URLs or constantly check the sites for new content.

Google Reader is web-based, so there is no software to install and you can access your account from any computer.

Here is what my Google Reader looks like when I log in (click on the image for a larger view):

On the left side, you’ll see some of the feeds that I subscribe to, organized in folders. In the main content area, the latest updates are featured, as well as content that I’ve starred (marked as favorites), shared with others by email, or read.

What Can You Do with Google Reader?

Google Reader saves time by allowing you to collect news and articles in one place, without having to visit different websites to retrieve them. It also allows you to expand your focus. Checking one or two websites each day may seem manageable, but twenty? That's where Google Reader comes in.

1. Subscribe to Blogs

There’s a blog for every subject and interest, created by people like you, as well as by companies and organizations.

Most are dedicated to covering a particular topic. I follow blogs about communications, healthcare, sewing,  and frugal living. Why? Because they help me to:
  • Stay current in my job field
  • Learn from others who pursue my hobbies
  • Learn how to live a greener, more conscientious lifestyle
In total, I subscribe to 73 blogs, and without Google Reader, I’d struggle to keep track of even two. To be honest, I didn't know that I followed 73 until I counted them for this article. My best guess would have been 20!

To find blogs, search for a topic in a search engine, followed by the word “blog.” For instance, if you’re interested in cooking, you might search for “cooking blog.”

Once you're at a blog that you like, look at the sidebar. Blog authors usually publish a boll roll, a list of blogs that they follow or recommend. Use their recommendations to discover similar blogs and build your subscription list.

2. Get News Updates

Every news publisher, from The Buffalo News to The New York Times has an RSS feed. You can subscribe by section, so that you receive only the content that’s of interest to you. For instance, you might limit your subscriptions to breaking news or to the lifestyle or job sections.

3. Automate your Web Searches

Maybe you want to know when a new cooking article is published on the web. Or you want to monitor mentions of your business. Rather than do a web search again and again, automate your search with Google Alerts.

Google Alerts does the searching for you and delivers the results to either your email inbox or to your RSS reader (set the delivery option to “Feed”).

Be warned that by choosing the email delivery option, you may get a flood of emails, depending on the popularity of your search terms. With Google Reader, you can look at your updates when it’s convenient for you, rather than every time you open your email.

How Do You Get Started?

Create a Google Account

To access Google Reader, you need a Google account. To sign up or sign in, go to

Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Now it’s time to create your subscription list. Once you find a site that you'd like to follow, look for the RSS icon.

Many frequently-updated websites have feeds (including this blog), and the feeds are usually indicated with an icon that looks like this:

When you click on it, you may see one of two things:

1. A selection of RSS readers to choose from:

In this case, click on “Google Reader” to subscribe to the feed and add it to your Google Reader dashboard. To view your feed, go to

2. The feed in your website browser (a Buffalo News feed is pictured below).

Subscribing to a feed that displays in your web browser requires a few steps:

1. Copy the URL:

2. Open a new window or tab. Log in to Google Reader at

3. Click on “Add a Subscription” below the Google header and paste the URL. Click “Add.”

The name of your feed will appear in Google Reader’s left sidebar, and the feed's latest updates will be displayed in the main content area:

Organize Your Subscriptions

Because I subscribe to feeds that cover different topics and for different purposes, I organize them into folders. These folders appear in the left sidebar.

To create a folder for your new feed, first click on the feed in your feed list, which is in the left column. Then click on the “Feed Settings” drop down, located above the blue content area.

Scroll down and click on “New folder…”

A dialog box will open that prompts you to name your new folder.

You can also can use the Feed Settings drop down to move a subscription from one folder to another or to unsubscribe from a feed.

View Your Updates

In Google Reader, unread items are indicated in bold.

To view all of the updates in a folder, click on the folder name.

For instance, I added this blog to my "Lifestyle" folder. By clicking on the folder name, I can see all of the folder’s updates in one window.

If I prefer to focus on one feed, I can click on the plus sign next to the folder and choose that particular feed. Here, I've clicked on the Live Well feed within the "Lifestyle" folder.

When you see something that interests you, click on the title of the article to expand the content.

If you scroll through your updates and decide that you don’t want to read any, use the “Mark all as read” drop down to indicate that those items have already been reviewed. That way, when you return to Google Reader, you won't need to look at those items again.

Tag Your Updates

Tags allow you to save and organize content for easy retrieval.

Let’s consider the fall festivals article shown above. If you wanted to save that article for easy access, you could create a tag.

Google automatically creates a tag with the folder's name (in this case, "Lifestyle"). But many times, you'll want to be more specific.

For this example, we'll create an "Events" tag to store articles that mention events.

To create a tag, scroll to the bottom of the article, and click on “Edit Tags." Enter the tag's name and click “Save.”

The tag now appears at the bottom of the sidebar. If you were to click on that tag, you would see the fall events article:

As you tagged more articles with the "Events" tag, those articles would display here as well.

Collect Your Favorites

To collect your favorite articles in one place, regardless of subject matter, you can “star” them. To do so, click on the star icon, which appears next to the article’s title.

To view your starred items, clicked on “Starred items” in the sidebar:

Share Your Content

See an article that you want to share with a friend or co-worker? You can email the article without leaving Google Reader.

Click on the the “Email” option at the end of the article. A dialog box will appearing, asking you for an email address to send the article to. You can also add a message if you wish.

When the recipient receives your email, the email address associated with your Google account will display. Make sure that it's something that you wouldn't be embarrassed for them to see.

Accessing Google Reader on Your Phone

When you find yourself waiting somewhere – in the car, in line at the grocery store, etc.– you probably wish that you had something to read. If you have a smartphone, then you do.

A Google Reader app is available for both Android phones and iPhones. Download the app and you can read and star your content just as you would on your computer.

That's it for the basics! This was a long article, but I hope that its been useful and illustrated the benefits of using Google Reader.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall Festivals and Events This Weekend

Western New York celebrates autumn's changing leaves and pumpkin patches with this week's festivals and events.

Which are you planning to attend?

Note: the Niagara Apple Fest has been cancelled, but plans are underway for next year's event.

1. Fall Festival at the The Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence

Time: Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to Dusk
Cost: $5, Free for Kids 3 and Under
More Information: Website

Don't miss out on the pumpkin weigh-off on Saturday, when The Great Pumpkin Farm will search for a world record pumpkin. Admission to the Festival includes entertainment including In-Jest Juggling, a magic show, Cackling Hen Revue Show, a petting zoo, and more.

2. Scare-assic Park 2011: Pirate Fest

Time: Saturday: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: $4 Members, $6 Non-Members
More Information: Website

Take a hay ride, watch a demonstration of medieval weaponry, and dig for fossils. The local Pirate Tavern offers “Scurvy Dogs” and soda for sale.

3. Salamanca Falling Leaves Festival

Time: Saturday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free
More Information: Website

Usher in the fall season at the Salamanca Falling Leaves Festival. Artwork by Native American artists will be on display. Enjoy live music while you (or your kids) participate in hula hoop contests, hot dog eating contests, and bed races.

4. The MAiZE - WNY’s Original Corn Field Maze

Time: Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: $8, Free for Kids 3 and Under
More Information: Website

Can you make your way through a corn field maze? Find out in Wheatfield's The MAiZE! Farm animals, pumpkin patches, and hay rides are also among the event's attractions.

5. Fall Festival at the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center

Time: Sunday: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
More Information: Website

Crafts and games keep the kids entertained, while adults enjoy a basket raffle and shopping at local craft vendors.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In the News: CDC Says to Get Your Flu Shot

Cold weather doesn't just bring snow showers – it also signals the approach of flu season. According to the CDC, flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, but most flu activity peaks in January or later.

To prepare for flu season, U.S. health officials are encouraging us to get our flu shots.

"There are too many illnesses and deaths from influenza each year," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "Everyone over 6 months should get a flu shot this year and every year."

The CDC says that the flu causes an estimated 200,000 hospitalizations and between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths in a typical year.

Expectant Moms and Seniors are at Risk for Flu

Pregnant women are especially encouraged to get the vaccine, as flu is more likely to cause severe illness, as well as early deliveries and underweight babies. 

"The influenza vaccine during pregnancy is safe for both mothers and for babies," said Dr. Richard H. Beigi, a spokesman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"Giving mom an influenza vaccination during pregnancy not only protects the mother, but also protects the newborn infant for the first six months of life. This is important because newborns less than six months of age are not eligible to receive the influenza vaccine, but are at higher risk for morbidity and occasional mortality."

In addition to expectant moms, people over the age of 65 are at greater risk of complications. In fact, it's estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people who are 65 and older.

Other people at risk include:
  • People with asthma
  • People with diabetes
  • People who have HIV or AIDS
  • People who have cancer
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
Vaccination is also important for healthcare workers and caregivers to help keep the flu from spreading.

Where to Get Your Flu Shot

Flu vaccines are available in doctors' offices, public health clinics, pharmacies and retail stores.

Catholic Health offers flu shot clinics throughout Western New York and at no out-of-pocket cost to you, whether you're insured or uninsured.

Administered by registered nurses, flu shots are available to persons 18 years of age and older. Appointments are required.

Schedule your appointment by calling (716) 447-6205.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Get Motivated to Exercise?

"I know that I should be exercising daily, especially since I work at a desk for 8.5 hours a day. But by the time I get home from work, I feel exhausted and want to relax. Are there any strategies that I can use to increase my motivation?"

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:

Probably the number one block to exercising is the mental block or perhaps lack of motivation to exercise.

Let's face it: between our working lives and home lives, especially if you have school-aged children, it is hard to find the energy and or time to start and continue with an exercise program.

However, we need to realize that exercising is important to maintain a healthy life.

Let's examine the tangible reasons to exercise. Scientific studies have shown that individuals who participate in regular exercise programs:
  • are less prone to injuries and illness,
  • have lower blood pressure,
  • have decreased chance for diabetes and heart disease, and
  • demonstrate a higher energy level than individuals that do not participate in regular exercise programs.
These items alone should provide impetous to begin an exercise program. So why is it so hard to start and maintain an exercise program? It usually comes down to two main reasons: lack of time and lack of desire.

Between our 8-5 job and 5-8 family time, when do we have time to exercise? The good news is that the United States Department of Health has determined that exercising 30 minutes a day is enough to maintain a healthy existence.

Furthermore, you can divide that time up through out the day into 10 minute segments and still gain the benefits of your exercises.

For example, while I am waiting for my son to finish hockey practice, I take a 15 minute walk around the area. This allows me to kill two birds with one stone and get half my daily exercise prescription in. I do other tasks throughout the day for the other half.

As for desire to exercise, that comes from within. When most people think of exercise, they think of a gym full of weights and people grunting and lifting and sweating and a lot of hard work. It certainly doesn't look like something that I would want to do, nor does it look like fun. That is the extreme of exercise for individuals who want to get "ripped." Something as simple as walking at a brisk pace can fulifill your 30-minute exercise prescription. You do not need fancy equipment or gym memberships to get exercise in.

Exercise should be something fun. If walking is not your thing, perhaps try bicycling. Maybe it is swimming, playing tennis, playing soccer, walking your dog, or even country line dancing! I've even seen that a competitive game of chess can burn calories due to the intense brain function involved. These are all simple activities that can fulfill your daily exercise prescription.

The bottom line is it should be something you like to do. This will make it fun and it will allow you to stick with it.

Although exercising sounds simple, it may not be easy. Find 30 minutes a day for yourself. Ideally, you want to leave your home and work life during this time so you can spend that time on you. Find physical activities that you enjoy doing, and to quote Nike, "Just do it."

– Richard Szabala PT, OCS

Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

5 Ways to Increase Your Energy

If you’re feeling tired or worn out, reclaim your energy with these energy-boosting tips.

1. Get Enough Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, what makes for a good night’s sleep depends on your age. Newborns need as much as 12-18 hours of sleep while adults need 7 to 9. Sleep requirements also vary by person, so don’t feel guilty if your spouse needs only 7 hours to feel rested while you need 9.

2. Eat Healthy Foods

Catholic Health’s Deborah Richter, a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus, recommends making healthy food choices to increase your energy.

Choose lean protein (low-fat lunch meats, for example), whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.

If you’re a coffee drinker, drink smaller portions, 2 to 3 ounces every hour or two, to get the maximum energy benefit.

3. Exercise

“Regular physical activity significantly improves your energy levels,” said Richter.

To incorporate exercise into your daily routine, take a 10-minute walk on your lunch break, turn your housecleaning into a workout, or volunteer to walk the family pet.

Be mindful of opportunities that present themselves throughout the day and push yourself to be more active, rather than taking the path of least resistance.

4. Find Your Passion

Passion is the key to feeling energized, said Catholic Health Educator Kevin McCue.

“So many people I talk to seem to have no passion in life. By finding something that you truly love to do, you tap into one of the greatest things in our human existence: enthusiasm. Find your passion and you will find more energy!”

Take up a hobby, or many hobbies, until you find the one that resonates with you.

Or go back to something that you used to enjoy but haven’t made time for recently. What roadblocks did you encounter and how can you overcome them? If time is an issue, can you pursue your hobby in smaller chunks throughout the day?

5. Be Positive

We all talk to ourselves – but research has shown that more than 70% of that self-talk is negative. And negativity is a big energy-zapper.

“You’re not motivated or inspired when you have negative self-talks,” said McCue.

He recommends taking negative statements and reframing them into something positive. If you’re feeling depressed about your job, think about how thankful you are to have one.

Make it a habit to give thanks for what you have. Every morning when you wake up, make a list of what you’re grateful for. Your positivity will put you in the right frame of mind to deal with the day’s challenges without depleting your energy stores.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family Events in Western New York This Weekend

1. War of 1812 Bike Tour

Time: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: $15 Members, $20 Non-Members
More Information: Website

See the city of Buffalo on two wheels! Grab your helmet and discover battlefields and monuments for a war that tore apart a continent.

2. Annual Civil War Living History Weekend

Time: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Cost: $5 Adult, $2 Child, Free for Kids Under 10
More Information: Website

Travel back in time at the Hull Family Home & Farmstead in Lancaster, dating back to 1810. You'll meet Union and Confederate military, civilian and medical re-enactors and watch demonstrations of 1860s-era weaponry and open-fire cooking. Exhibits, vendors and tours of the circa 1810 Hull Family Home are included.

3. Harvest Festival Family Day

Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Cost: $5 Members, $10 Non-members
More Information: Website

The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society's second annual Harvest Festival features demonstrations by blacksmiths and spinners and weavers. Activities include pony rides, pumpkin painting, and making corn husk dolls. Docents will offer free tours of the newly refurbished Oishei Pioneer Life Gallery.

4. Friendly for Families Film Night

Time: Sunday, 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Cost: $3
More Information: Website

Film Night at Hallwalls in Buffalo entertains kids with animated films in the gallery while providing juice, water and popcorn. Adults can enjoy the cocktails bar in the gallery.

5. Trek Tifft

Time: Sunday, 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Cost: Free; Suggested Donation of $2
More Information: Website

Take a guided tour of the Tifft Nature Preserve, which features Five miles of nature trails, three boardwalks, and a bird watching area.

6. Busti Historical Society Apple Festival

Time: Sunday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Cost: $3
More Information: Website

Learn about pioneer and 19th century life and see demonstrations of spinning and weaving, quilting, flax breaking, candle making, log hewing, and soap making. A live one-room school demonstration and a Civil War reenactment are also included in the day's events. Handmade craft items and locally grown produce will be available for sale.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In the News: Benefits of Eating Organic Foods are Unclear

This week, the Tonawanda News asked the question, is eating organic worth it? And the answer may surprise you.

Despite the general consensus that organic is better for your health, research has yet to prove the superiority of organic foods, which cost 78% more than non-organic.

Naheed Ali-Sayeed, chief clinical dietitian at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, says, "There’s very little scientific evidence that organic food is better. Most of what I’ve read is basically just articles that people have written, nothing scientific based."

What's important is eating fruits and vegetables in the first place.

“We still want you to eat a well-balanced diet, and if it’s not organic, it can still be nutritious for you to consume."

While organic foods may not be proven to contain more or better nutrients, the USDA Department of Agriculture says that organic practices are important for the health of soil, plants and animals and that it promotes sustainability.

Do you buy organic? And will you continue to do so?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Add Variety to My Bagged Lunches?

"I eat the same thing for lunch every day - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a 100-calorie snack pack and a banana. I'm tired of this routine and am looking for healthy foods that I can bring to work without any preparation needed (i.e. no microwave or toaster oven). Do you have any suggestions on lunches that are both healthy and filling?"

Registered Dietitian Amy Julicher Responds:

Adding variety to your daily meals is not only healthy, but can be done with relative ease.

Instead of a sandwich, try small whole wheat pita pockets. Stuff them with turkey or tuna, veggies (cole slaw mix, sliced mushrooms and peppers, mixed lettuces all work well) and a dollop of lite mayo or hummus.

Low fat cottage cheese mixed with fruit and served with wheat crackers and baby carrots is another option.

Change up your fruit choice as well; substitute the banana with other fruits such as apples, pears, plums, nectarines and oranges. Prepared fruit cups in natural juice (avoid syrup) are also a healthy and easy alternative.

Incorporating foods such as vegetables, low fat yogurt, low fat cheeses, hummus, and high fiber breads or crackers will still give you the nutrients your body needs while preventing you from getting bored with your routine.

If meal planning continues to be a challenge, you may wish to speak with a Registered Dietitian who can assist you with creating healthy meals that include a variety of different foods.

— Amy Julicher, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Sisters Hospital

Amy Julicher graduated from Buffalo State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and became a Registered Dietitian shortly after. She has worked as a staff dietitian at Sisters Hospital and as a Clinical Nutrition Manager at Mercy Hospital. She currently holds the position of Clinical Nutrition Manager at Sisters Hospital. She is married with two children and lives in Buffalo.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Are You an Innie or an Outie?

I've often felt that I'm incapable of small talk. I can't think on my feet, and when asked a question, my mind immediately empties. And, after a few hours with anyone, including a good friend, I'm ready to go home and read a book.

Up until a few weeks ago, I thought that there must be something wrong with me. Then I read The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney.

If you guessed that I'm introvert, you'd be right.

According to Lane, there are two types of temperament: extroversion, the most common type, and introversion.

Brain activity accounts for the differences between the two, as each use different pathways that influence where we focus our energies: inward or outward.

Extroverts are energized by the outside world. They prefer to have lots of friends and experiences and know a little bit about everything. They often speak quickly, and can become lonely or drained when they're secluded from people or the outside world. They find it difficult to relax and like a lively environment.

For introverts, the outside world can be exhausting. They need time alone to recharge and rebuild their energy reserves.

"They are not necessarily quiet or withdrawn, but their focus is inside their heads. They need a quiet, reflective place where they can think things through and recharge themselves," says Lane.

Introverts have a few close friends, rather than a network of acquaintances, and prefer to specialize their knowledge. They feel that they cannot speak on a subject unless they know all there is to know about it. For introverts, writing comes more easily than speaking because, Lane says, writing uses different pathways in the brain.

We can't change which temperament we're born with, but we can become more extroverted if the circumstances are right, especially if we have a mastery of the subject.

It happened to me when I was an English student at SUNY Fredonia. My assignment was to lead the class in a discussion for 45 minutes, and I'd dreaded it the entire semester. And then the moment came, and I had butterflies in my stomach as I switched seats with the professor, with me at the head of the class and she at my desk among the students.

As I spoke, my nerves calmed, and I soon found that I could speak readily, without consulting my notes. By the time my 45 minutes were up, I was reluctant to leave my chair. I could have gone on, if they had let me!

Part of my success was due to two factors: I knew the material and I was sitting down. Sitting, Lane says, is preferable to introverts because "standing requires more energy and increases their sense of exposure."

In fact, sitting is one of the author's strategies for coping at a party: perched on a chair removed from the crowd, she lets people come to her and feels more comfortable socializing.

What I loved about this book is that it makes you feel as if it's okay to take a break from the outside world, to be an introvert.

Because socializing depletes our energy, it's illogical to hold ourselves up to extroverted standards. We don't get the same energy boost from constant activity that our extroverted friends do.

And if we feel out of place, that's natural too – only 25% of the population is introverted, so we're three times as likely to be surrounded by extroverts than other introverts. But we're in good company. Famous introverts include Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Michael Jordon, Grace Kelly, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

If you're not sure which side of the spectrum you fall on, the book includes a short questionnaire to help you decide.

For introverts, it offers strategies for dating and improving relationships, parenting, socializing, and working (including the art of self-promotion, which is often challenging for introverts).

For extroverts, it provides an understanding of your introverted spouse, children, and co-workers and ways to better relate.

The Introvert Advantage is available at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

7 Things to Do This Weekend for $10 or Less

Buffalo, NY

1. Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

Time: Saturday and Sunday: 12:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Cost: $10 per person, $7 seniors and students, $5 for ages 6-18, Free for ages 5 and under
More Information: Website

See where Theodore Roosevelt was sworn into office and interact with exhibits at the Wilcox Mansion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.

2. Music is Art Festival

Time: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost: Free
More Information: Website

This outdoor event organized by Goo Goo Doll's guitarist Robby Takac features over 50 bands on 5 stages. You'll also see 50 displaying artists & organizations and over a dozen dance troupes. Music is Art takes place in Delaware Park across the street from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

3. Astronomy Program at the Penn Dixie Site

Time: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $3 per person
More Information: Website

View sunspots and solar flares and after dark using filtered telescopes at the Penn Dixie site in Hamburg.

4. Delaware Sidestep Tour

Time: Sunday: 10 a.m.
Cost: $10 per person
More Information: Website

This two-hour walking tour discusses the history and significance of Delaware Avenue's architecture. You'll see the oldest house in Buffalo and the remnants of the Rumsey estate, among other things. The tour begins at 414 Virgina Street.

If you prefer to get a later start, check out the Hamburg tour on Sunday at 2 p.m.

5. Twin Village Art Society's Outdoor Arts and Crafts Show

Time: Sunday: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
More Information: Website

Browse arts and crafts for sale while enjoying entertainment provided in the Lancaster Band Shell at Oxford Place.

6. Niagara Celtic Heritage Festival & Highland Games

Time: Saturday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: $15 on Saturday, $10 on Sunday
More Information: Website

At the festival's Town Commons, you can ride ponies, feed farm animals, learn about swordfighting and prepare for a battle against the British. Other activities include a free trolley tour to Olcott and a car show of automobiles produced in the UK.

7. Quaker Arts Festival

Time: Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More Information: Website

The Quaker Arts Festival at the Orchard Park Middle School features the work of over 400 artists and craftspeople from throughout WNY.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In the News: Why Marriage Can Cause Weight Gain

When I graduated from high school, I admit that I was a little nervous about the Freshman 15. People talked about it as if it were inevitable – something that came with your college syllabus.

But according to a recent article by CNN, college isn't the only time that you're vulnerable to weight gain. Women are most likely to gain weight during life transitions, and one of the most common is marriage.

Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicates that most weight gain occurs during the first year of marriage, when couples begin to mirror each other's eating habits. As couples eat together more often, the wife's portion sizes start to match her spouse's.

Your intake of carbs should be based on the size of your fist and protein on the size of your palm. Because his hand is likely bigger than hers, he gets the bigger portion.

Other weight gain triggers:
  • Holidays
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
Menopause is probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome in terms of weight gain. As you experience menopause, you burn fewer calories, possibly due to a drop in estrogen, meaning that you're more likely to gain weight.

But, just because the odds are higher doesn't mean that weight gain is inevitable. The article provides tips for keeping the pounds off at each of the four transitions.

As for me, I didn't gain weight until after I'd graduated from college and was married. My husband, Ben, is the cook in our household, and he tends to serve generous portion sizes. Once the food is in front of me, there's no turning back.

I lost most of the extra weight last year and have found that it's easiest to keep my weight in check if I brown bag my lunch. By limiting myself to only a few items and keeping portion sizes small, I reserve my calories for my biggest meal of the day. And since I don't leave the office for lunch, there's no risk of my heading across the street to the pizza shop.

Have you gained weight during a life transition? How have you battled the weight gain?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ask Us Anything: What Activities Will Keep an Elderly Parent Active?

"My elderly mom lives with me, and she is not as mobile as she used to be. She doesn't like to leave the house and spends most of her time watching TV. What activities can I do with her that she will enjoy but that will also help to get her up and moving?"

Registered Nurse Robert Mages Responds:

Keeping active at any age is important not only for the body but the mind as well.

Simply taking your mom out of the house can be encouragement for her to become more active.

A walk, even if you are pushing her in a wheelchair, will encourage her to look around, point things out and move a bit.

Also, senior groups through a local organization can encourage getting up and around, and being surrounded by friends may be all that is needed to cause excitement about being active.

Exercise and strength conditioning are also important, but activities such as these should be closely guided by a doctor or physical therapist who is familiar with your mother's current condition and health issues.

Indoor activities are beneficial too. They keep the mind fresh and the hands moving, which usually causes the body to follow. Things such as scrapbooking, clay, and board games can be paramount in causing us to think, move and stretch, keeping us sharp and limber.

Please remember that safety is of the utmost importance, and try not to push to hard or overdo it. Follow up with your doctor to be sure the activities are right, and most importantly, have fun!

— Robert Mages, RN

Robert Mages is the Nurse Manager of the Open Heart Unit and Critical Care Unit at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Strawberry Smoothie Showdown

The smoothie stand in the food court of the Galleria Mall has the best strawberry smoothies. Aside from strawberries, I'm not clear on the ingredients – I suspect that frozen yogurt might be one of them – but it tastes like a milkshake with only half the guilt.

Trying to replicate the smoothie at home, I set out to test four recipes, with only one rule: keep the bad-for-you ingredients to a minimum.

Here are the results:

#1: Strawberries, Orange Juice, Ice, and Sugar

The first recipe had an advantage with its no-fuss ingredients, all of which we usually have at home. And the preparation couldn't be simpler: blend and serve.

Unfortunately, the results were disappointing and this recipe turned out to be the least liked of the four.

It was sweet, but the orange juice overpowered the strawberries. If you've ever wondered what strawberry flavored orange juice tastes like, you're not missing out on anything.

After maybe 15 minutes, the ingredients began to separate, which added to the ick factor.

#2: Strawberries, Milk, Ice, and Sugar

The second recipe called for whole milk, which I didn't have, so I made do with skim.

It also required less sugar than the first (1 teaspoon as compared to a tablespoon). And that, I think, was its downfall.

In a word, this smoothie was bland. It had a thicker consistency than the previous smoothie, but it didn't taste like anything. And its ingredients separated over a fifteen minute period (so drink up quick!).

If given the choice between this smoothie and water, I'd take the water.

#3: Strawberries, Milk, and Yogurt

The third recipe substitutes sugar and ice with yogurt. It doesn't specify a flavor, but I went with the most logical choice: strawberry.

This drink was creamier than the others but not as cold. Despite the ingredients having been refrigerated, the smoothie was served at room temperature, which detracted from its taste.

As for flavor, the yogurt-and-milk based smoothie was as bland as its predecessor, but it had promise.

I placed mine in the fridge and added a spoonful of sugar, which made it nearly perfect.

#4: Strawberries, Milk, Ice and Smoothie Mix

The fourth smoothie recipe wasn't a recipe at all but a mix from the grocery store. It's a powder that combines with strawberries, milk and ice.

Looking at the list of ingredients, the powder contains a ton of sugar (and corn syrup solids). So, it's not what I'd call healthy.

The package also claims that it contains 3 servings, but as with the other recipes, we could only fill two glasses.

This smoothie was most similar to that served at the mall but couldn't duplicate it exactly. It tasted like strawberry milk – the kind that I used to make as a kid with the canned Nesquick strawberry powder. It was almost too sweet, if there is such a thing.

The Winner Is...

On the surface, it wouldn't seem like any of the above recipes are deserving of a win.

The first three had some flavor issues, and while the last was taste-bud-friendly, it's really just a candy bar wrapped up in strawberry packaging.

However, the yogurt smoothie had promise, as long as it's refrigerated. And I can probably live without the extra dose of sugar. I've found that when I eat something that doesn't taste quite right, the more I'm exposed to it, the more I like it. Maybe it's just a matter of getting my taste buds acclimated.

For instance, when I first began eating sugar-free applesauce, it was as sour as a Sour Patch Kid. But, as I ate it over the course of a week, it no longer tasted tart. Now it's my barometer for normal, and if I were to switch to sweetened applesauce, I'd probably have to get used to it all over again. I don't think that's a bad thing.

Do you have any favorite smoothie recipes to share?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Free Family Events in Western New York This Weekend

If you're still making your weekend plans, below are five free (or nearly free) things to do in Western New York this weekend.

If you have an event to recommend, tell us about it in the comments!

1. Thunder Niagara Air Show

Held at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Saturday and Sunday, The Thunder of Niagara Air Show begins with a ceremonial procession at 11 a.m., followed by the aerial acts at noon. Gates open at 9 a.m.

2. Niagara County Peach Festival

The peach festival at the Academy Park in Lewiston offers a parade, carnival rides, and stage entertainment. Peach shortcake, hot dogs, and hamburgers will be served. The festival will be held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

3. Central Terminal Toy Train and Railroadiana Expo (Cost for Adults)

A toy train exposition inside the Central Terminal's historic passenger concourse features toy and model trains, railroad antiques, DVDs, books, photographs and other associated ephemera.

The event takes place on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults with free admission for children under the age of 12. All proceeds from the show benefit the stabilization and restoration of Buffalo Central Terminal.

4. The Niagara Frontier Antique and Classic Boat Show and Race Boat Reunion

This Saturday, spend an afternoon at the Buffalo Launch Club on Grand Island and view antique and classic boats, classics cars and boating memorabilia. The boat show begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, but parking is $5.

5. An Evening in the Village

Walk down Williamsville's Main Street on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and enjoy music, sidewalk events and merchant specials. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Welcome to Live Well, a Wellness Blog from Catholic Health

Hi! I'm Amy Kirst, the Web Specialist at Catholic Health, and I'm excited to introduce you to Catholic Health's first blog.

We've created Live Well as a place to discuss living well in Western New York.

As the Catholic Health website states, "a person's health and well-being means more than just treating their physical condition."

For some, living well means being in good health. For others, it includes values like spending time with family and friends, travelling or giving back to the community.

So, while the focus of this blog may be on maintaining or managing your physical health, it will also cover topics that influence your sense of well-being (like overcoming a fear of public speaking).

If you're familiar with the Catholic Health website, you may have read Ask the Expert, our online Q&A in which our healthcare experts respond to your questions. Those articles have been moved over here.

You can now submit comments at the end of each article, either by using a screenname or by commenting anonymously, which allows you to ask follow-up questions while protecting your privacy. We'll do our best to respond to each comment, so feel free to go through the archives and ask what's on your mind.

One thing to note: if you look below the blog post title, you'll see an author's name; this one, for instance, says "Amy K." That means that I wrote the blog post and the opinions are my own.

As the blog grows, we hope to bring others writers on board (expectant moms or caretakers, for example) who want to share their experiences with others. If you know anyone who would be interested, please ask them to email me at

The blog will be updated several times each week, so keep an eye out for new articles, or better yet, subscribe to our RSS feed or email newsletter (just enter your email address in the box to the right). No spamming, promise!

In the News: Can Home Economics Help to Combat Obesity?

An editorial in the New York Times argues that Home Economics classes can teach students how to produce good, nutritious food.

"When few understood germ theory and almost no one had heard of vitamins, home economics classes offered vital information about washing hands regularly, eating fruits and vegetables and not feeding coffee to babies, among other lessons," wrote Helen Zoe Veit.

My own experience with Home Economics was brief. It was offered in the sixth grade, and we made brownies and hand-sewn teddy bears.

Everything I know about nutrition, I learned from Dr. Oz. I don't know how to cook, and if my husband doesn't make dinner, I don't eat or I pick something up from the store.

Could Home Economics have saved me? Maybe. But at that age, I wasn't interested in nutrition. I didn't have any influence over my family's grocery shopping, or none that I could tell. And because I was (and am) a picky eater, trying new foods made me nervous.

I probably enjoyed the brownie lesson a little too much, at least until I was thrown out of class for dipping into the batter mix. Scheduling Home Ec. before lunch was just asking for trouble.

My classmates didn't take Home Ec. seriously, probably because it didn't seem like anyone else did. We were never tested on the subject matter, and for the most part, that 45-minute period seemed like a diversion, a break from our textbook learning.

I do see the value in Home Economics – I have a library of books on cleaning – but it's more relevant to me as an adult. If I could take Home Ec. now, I'd jump at the chance.

Do you think that Home Ec. classes are beneficial? What was your experience? Share your opinion in the comments.
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