Friday, October 30, 2009

Taxing sugar???

Americans eat (and drink -- in the form of sodas) way too much sugar: refined & high fructose corn syrup is showing up more and more in processed foods from breakfast cereals to salad dressings. In small quantities, these may be harmless, but the trend in our increasing unhealthiness among Western nations is alarming.

Obviously, just as it's not healthy for us to eat loads of fats, we should not consume all this sugar that's hiding in much of our food, and it contributes heavily (pun intended) to childhood obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. I wrote about this on a previous reflection post, entitled Diet is a Four-letter Word.

Recently, I got to thinking about something I heard on the radio one morning while barely awake when the alarm came on: a proposed tax on sugar in drinks, a penny per ounce on sugary drinks. Is that a good idea???


It would make us more aware of how much sugar we're consuming.

Some people would indeed change their habits.

The pinch in the pocketbook is not a hardship to the extend that sugary sodas are not nutrition we need: they're not "food" we need to sustain us (in other words, real food is not being taxed).

The money collected in taxes could be used for a good cause (education about dangers of childhood obesity, for example).

Diet drinks are not necessarily any healthier. Maybe they should be taxed too?!? For more info, here's more about the link between diet sodas, weight gain and diabetes.

Taxation for behavior modification is controversial -- would it really change behavior, or would people just start getting used to it after the initial "shock", and keep up the unhealthy habits..?

Would "natural fruit juice" start replacing refined sugar in most drinks, allowing manufacturers to charge a higher price, yet without significantly affecting the desired outcome, i.e. people still end up just as overweight on fructose as they do on sucrose...

Would the government end up being a "sugar police"? Is sugar the last legal drug...?

Hey, we're evolutionarily programmed to like sugar: we all know our early human ancestors had a better chance of surviving (and escaping the sabertooth tiger) if they found foods high in calories. But that's not the situation we're in, now is it?

I admit that I love dessert as much as the next person -- but I believe it should remain a special treat, rather than an abused substance!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Time passing...

Where has the time gone? These last few weeks have just flown by, and I did not even properly acknowledge my husband's birthday. We started celebrating a few days early with our annual Oktoberfest. This yearly occasion calls for a keg of his favorite micro-brew, Moose's Tooth Fairweather IPA. Maybe that explains why I haven't blogged lately -- but we did finally finish that keg, and we even went out to eat on a real honest-to-goodness date (both of the school-agers were invited to parties, and we looked at each other and said something like "remember when we used to go on dates?...and needed a babysitter...") Alas, why is it that when you don't need babysitters anymore, you start to forget to go on dates...

October has nearly flown by. Halloween is around the corner, and I'm busy at work getting ready for the annual children's Halloween Party we host at the Nature Center, complete with a witch in the Hollow tree... I leave you with this picture of my kids (plus a few borrowed ones) taken a few years ago outside the yurt that I'm currently busily decorating for this year's event.
The tall one is Wolfman, and the skeleton is Liesl -- by now she's as tall as the masked man in black, who in turn is 6 feet tall! Time's a-flying by...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Birthday Pixie

Today my little, nay, long and lanky girl turns 12.
Happy Birthday, Liesl!
I remember well the day you were born: those alert big blue eyes taking in the world. You've always had an intensity about you -- even as a toddler you insisted on "self", doing by yourself anything your 3.5 year older brother did. With determination and grit you did it, too!

Now you're a young lady -- graceful, funny, still intense, and amazingly generous & wise.
Someday soon you'll be breaking boys hearts, but right now, you're perfectly happy hanging out with your family, friends, and pets (I know you'd have a whole zoo if we let you!).

You have a great sense of "self" -- don't ever let peer pressure take that from you. Stay true to yourself -- you're unique and wonderful.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let there be light (in a box)

Today the view beyond this computer screen looks something like this:

in other words, it's foggy and misting.
Our days are getting shorter and shorter, and before we know it, we'll be going and returning from school/work in the DARK.
Time to get out the Light box, which is an artificial lamp that many Alaskans sit in front of every morning to get our fix of the right kind of rays so that we make it through the winter without going mad or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

photo credits:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama

Woke up this morning with the news that President Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. This announcement came as a big surprise, and already there are negative comments floating around. Altogether, it seems that our president's efforts on behalf of world peace are appreciated more around the world than they are in his home country. The Nobel Peace website states that he was selected "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".
I don't envy the President's job -- it's got to be one of the toughest jobs in the world right now -- what a mess he has inherited! I, for one, congratulate him on being selected for this honor. It speaks of the high hopes much of the world has on his ability to affect positive change!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yikes, I was on the evening news!

I have to admit that I'm fairly camera-shy, but I did end up on the local evening news recently. The occasion was a story about the proposed expansion plans of the Nature Center where I teach.

Sooo -- if you're curious about what I look and sound like, and how taking a group of Middle Schoolers on a nature hike is a lot like herding cattle, go to KTUU and type "Eagle River Nature Center" into the search field on the upper right-hand corner (I hate to admit that I have no friggin' idea how to load a video onto this blog post).

And when you see all those bulges and are wondering if I've gained weight since you last saw me -- it's my uniform: I carry a first aid kit, radio and bear spray!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where is a good place to see wild animals?

Today I tackle the question "Where is a good place to see wild animals?"
It was yesterday's question on, a website whose sole purpose is to provide something for us bloggers to blog about -- never heard of it until I saw Solipsist's post, where he mentions me (blush!) when apparently dumbfounded with an answer to the wild animal question...

Everybody assumes that when you're in Alaska, you see wildlife all the time. In fact, many tourists are either too terrified to walk more than a few steps from their cars, fearing being ripped apart by a huge grizzly, or else they arrive, such as at my place of employment, with camera around neck, expecting or even demanding to see a big wildlife (moose or bear), figuring a sighting is guaranteed.

I received an email this summer from a German tourist who claimed that a bull moose crosses our parking lot every evening at 18:00 -- he wanted to know if that moose is still around during his upcoming visit. Earlier this summer, an RV-touring Swiss showed me a postcard (see picture on left) and said "I vant to fotograf a bear katchink lachs today." I had to tell her that these bears were photographed at the McNeill River Preserve, which is an expensive trip off the road system -- not in her (or our family's) budget.

I sometimes meet disappointed visitors such as one loud New Yorker who walked the whopping 1/2 mile to the Nature Center's viewing deck (it was the middle of a hot summer day) and demanded "I've been here 2 weeks and haven't seen any wildlife yet! -- where the hell can I see moose and bear?" When I suggested the zoo, he scoffed "I can go to the zoo back home!". I held my tongue, but was tempted to tell him "sorry, but our mechanical moose is currently out of order." Instead I patiently explained how dawn and dusk are better times for wildlife viewing...

The truth is that wildlife is shy, and that is a good thing! Even us locals don't see wildlife all that often, although I'm lucky to be able to say that I come across them at work occasionally. But it's not like I see them every day!

I can count on one hand the number of times that I've seen moose out of my kitchen windows, and I've lived here 10 years. I've seen black bears in my yard too, but again that's rare, and it usually means that somebody in the neighborhood left out garbage or grilled some awfully good-smelling salmon!

What is amazing is that we have moose and bear here in the first place! I leave you with a picture of a bull moose that I took this summer at our mailbox -- sure wish he'd show up with that German punctuality every day!

If you'd like to see a post with pictures I took of a moose re-arranging our lawn furniture, click here for a post I wrote last fall.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Keep out of the reach of children

Today I bought a new nailbrush, and as I was extricating my new purchase from its wasteful packaging material, I was struck by the warning Keep out of the reach of children.
Now let me get this straight: this item is dangerous to children? How, pray tell? Is it that a child could use it incorrectly, and hurt themselves in the process?

By all means, I will heed this warning and keep my children away from this dangerous item -- I would much rather have my children run around with dirt (and all those nasty bacteria) under their fingernail -- that is infinitely preferable, isn't?

Photo credit:

Eldest in Munich

She made it to Munich, and even to the "tail" end of Oktoberfest!

Here's my sister (in the dirndl) and my daughter -- you can see the family resemblance. How I wish I could be there too...

This week I'm cooking German food in their honor (see Borealkitchen, my other blog).

As we were sitting around a good German meal last night, the kids were comparing notes on their visit last summer to Munich and their Tante Elke, my younger sister.

Youngest: "She's like a darker-haired version of mom, and really funny."
Me: "How's that?"

Wolfman: "She's a trickster-version of you, mom! I love how she made fun of you. Like teasing your American pronunciation of 'genau'."

Eldest is blogging about her experiences in Germany on her blog Kitchensister.