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10 Tips to Avoid the Holiday Bulge and Inner Thoughts About Them

Do you find it almost impossible to stay conscious and contentious about weight and nutrition during the holidays? Of course you do. More than half of all Americans are overweight. All American’s are in this together.

You can take heart from a new government study which shows most Americans gain about a pound over the holiday. You’re not alone. The study shows that during the holiday period, for the people in the study, two main things influenced the holiday weight gain: level of hunger and level of activity. Those who reported being less active or more hungry had the greatest weight gain.

If you can stay focused on dealing with just those two things, you’ll probably win.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of weight gain,” according to Dr. Samuel Klein. He is Director of the Center for Human Nutrition as Washington University in St. Louis, MO. “Preventing the increase in weight is a lot easier and better than actually gaining weight and then trying to get it off again.”

The answer is simple. Eat less and exercise more.

The good news is that most of the people overestimate how much they had gained. Fewer than 10% gain 5 pounds or over.

The bad news is that although the one pound gained seems like a small amount, that weight WAS NOT LOST during the rest of the year and those single pounds accumulate over the years and add up to obesity.

Here are some helpful hints and tips put together by skinny people to help you avoid the tiny little weight watching issues you face during this joyous season [along with the thoughts going through weight watcher Wanda's head as she listened to the skinny people happily chirping out their advice. NOTE: Wanda isn't her real name.]

1).”You SHOULD stay active, darling. The best thing for you to do is to stick to your regular schedule and routine.” [Routine? Wanda's family doesn't have no stinking routine in November and December. Wanda doesn't have no stinking time for her regular yoga classes, workouts at the gym, long dog walks, you ninny, because in addition to shopping, home decorating and cooking, Wanda has to take every one of the kids to EXTRA practices and activity for pageants, concerts and freaking fund raisers! Wanda's too ACTIVE to stay active, darling.]

2). “Don’t let yourself get hungry. Don’t arrive at the party starving. Be sure you eat your normal, healthy meals, especially breakfast. A protein rich breakfast “resets” the body and starts it off not hungry. Don’t starve yourself, thinking you can “save up” calories. Fill up before the big holiday feasts with healthy vegetable snacks.” [Normal? There ain't no stinking "normal" in November and December, and Wanda's not sure she ever has normal, healthy meals. She's got a life to run. Wanda doesn't't't know where YOU'RE having Thanksgiving, but Wanda's family's appetizer table has God's own Cheese Puffs and Ruffles with sour cream/onion dip, Brie on sourdough and 80 plates of cookies and bowls of peanut M&Ms on every available surface! There is nary a vegetable snack in sight.]

3) “How can you keep the pounds off at calorie rich parties? Stay away from the food! Literally … stay on the other side of the room from the buffet table or appetizers tray. [Wanda liked this one. She'll just go plant herself in the bathroom and lock the door. Maybe she can find a place under the pile of coats in the back bedroom. A nap sounds nice.]

4). “Wear clothes which are slightly tight and your favorites. You’ll think twice about the third helping if you can’t let your belt out a notch. Always remember there’s about 8 pounds between dress sizes.” [What skinny sadist came up with this bright idea? Wanda bets she's a size 2, and hides an eating disorder!]

5). “Portion size is the real secret. Keep salad portions large and all other portions extra small. When it comes to sweets, think quality, not availability. Just because the candy corn is there doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Don’t be afraid to cut off “just a bite” of a high calorie treat. Put the rest back on the serving tray. If you’re the hostess, pre-cut high calorie items into tiny portions to help your friends. Just a bite may be plenty to satisfy you. [Just a bite! Just a bite? Wanda's stressed to the max and darn it, Wanda DESERVES a candy treat ... and a WHOLE one. Heck, Wanda's double stressed, so she deserves ...]

6). “You don’t need to be stressed. Take Time for You. Get a massage or a nice facial. Sit down and slip your shoes off.” [Don't you know Wanda's facing a month and a half on shopping overdrive and the only place to sit down is at the mall's fast-food court? McDonald's doesn't have a massage spa. If Wanda slips her shoes off, she'll NEVER get them back on again, you fool.]

7). “Keep up your food diary … every day of the holiday … it will help you pinpoint your special weaknesses. Just one 150 calorie chocolate chip cookie each day will add up to an extra pound in only 3 weeks.” [Wanda can't even find her food diary in chaos house. And, she really needed the information on the cookies. Thank you very much. Wanda just ate three, and she doesn't need any food diary to pinpoint this little weakness.]

8). “Only eat things you really want and care about. So what if your neighbor brought okra au gratin everyone’s raving about? Use that space on your plate for a homemade roll, hot from the oven. Put real butter on it. Life is choices. Treat yourself to what you want and LEAVE THE REST IN THE SERVING DISH.”[Good advice. How thankful do you think Wanda'd be after a feast of Brussels sprouts and tofu salad while she's passing the yams, potatoes and gravy to Aunt Lucille? Wanda bets Lucille's glad she got granddad's wiry build instead of those wonderful wide childbearing hips from grandma's "peasant" stock!]

9). Drink water instead of alcohol which has empty calories and lowers will power. Avoid sugary sodas which throw your metabolism into pendulum swings. [You didn't mention eggnog. Eggnog is OK, then, right?]

10). “Don’t eat while you cook. Those little “tastes” can turn into 1000 calories before you’ve blinked.” [Wanda just spent 304 hours in the kitchen, cooking. She HAS to taste everything before she serves it, or they'll hate it and won't love her any more. And besides, cookie dough doesn't have any calories, does it?]

Well, that’s all 10 pieces of holiday advice. Here’s just one parting thought from Wanda.

[Santa's fat and everybody loves him! The baby Jesus is fat, too. The turkey is so fat it can hardly stand up! Nobody buys a skinny Christmas tree, do they? Get a grip. Get a life. Have a HAPPY holiday.}

Avoiding the holiday binge

It’s the holiday season and you are starting to have pangs of guilt. You have been doing great all year and now is the time of indulgence Just thinking about the Christmas dinner has added on five pound to your hips. Your Uncle Harry has a heart condition and your Aunt Maye has to watch her weight. With all the health warnings about the horrors of festive food, you just want to veg out on the couch and forget about having the family over. You needn’t have to worry as there are ways that you can simulate a traditional meal that can be healthy and nutritious without your guest even knowing, so indulge because the tricks are here.

At only 80 calories a serving, smoked salmon is an excellent source of heart protective omega-3 fatty acids, which is said to lower your risk of a stroke. So serve this as an appetizer with dry flat bread.

Your main entree, the turkey, has a wonderful source of protein as well. It contains half the fat as red meats and provides the antioxidants selenium, which may protect against cancer. Purchase a fresh bird as they are minimally processed. Leave the stuffing out of the turkey and cook separately.

You can create a delightful stuffing using whole wheat bread, assorted spices, celery, onions, garlic, chestnuts and mushrooms and place in a baking dish. Instead of butter substitute with olive oil as we know what butter does to the arteries.

The side dishes to compliment your turkey should be roasted potatoes with the skins well washed and left on. Potatoes contain not only carbohydrates and vitamin C but B6 and potassium as well. A single potato provides more than 10% of your daily fiber needs.

Add a vegetable in the green family, go for the Brussels sprouts. Clocking in at only 10 calories each, their advantages are low in fat, high in fiber and a good source of vitamin D and folic acid. Sprouts also have compounds that stimulate the body’s production of cancer-fighting agents.

It is thought that the antioxidants in red wine may help protect against heart disease by lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol and reducing blood clotting. Red wine also contains high levels of resveratrol, a substance found in grape skins that may have cancer protecting agents.

Don’t forget to leave room for desert. Christmas pudding is full of dry fruit, which would count towards your daily five portions and is low in fat. Besides that, it is high in fiber, potassium and iron. It can run up the calories though, so stick to small portions and serve with a low-fat yogurt or custard.

Now sit down and enjoy your meal with family and friends without the guilt and Happy Holidays.

Why Does Time Go Faster as We Get Older?

 

by Philip Yaffe

It is a widely accepted adage that, “The older you get, the faster time seems to go.” But why should aging have this effect? After all, there is the parallel adage that, “Time flies when you are having fun.” But as we age, time flies whether we are having fun or not.

So what’s going on?

I have recently been trying to understand the phenomenon, because for the past several years many of my days have been extremely long, yet the years still seem to be accelerating.

To tackle the problem, I did an Internet search to see what others were saying on the subject. Nearly all the returns had to do with parenting. “Oh, they grow up so fast. The days are long, but the years are short.” This is perhaps a partial explanation; however, since the phenomenon occurs just as well to people who have no children, it cannot be the whole answer.

Some other comments had to do with getting religion. “I found God at the age of 30 and every day since I have been waiting to go to His kingdom. I am now in my 80s. Oh, the days have been so long, but the years have been so short.” Again perhaps a partial explanation; however, since the phenomenon occurs just as well to non-believers as believers, it cannot be the whole answer either.

Many comments were philosophical. They said simply to accept the phenomenon and live each day to the full. Good advice, but again no advance in understanding.

I then turned to science. I typed in the search words “psychology of time”. This turned up hundreds of articles, most of which were very technical, dealing with brain structure and functions, neurotransmitters and the like. To narrow the search, I typed in both “psychology of time” and “days are long”. And got nothing at all!

Finally, I decided to sit quietly and ponder the matter myself. This turned about to be a wise decision, because I think I found the solution. It’s really quite simple. It all has to do with “anticipation” and “retrospection”.

Whatever the nature of our individual lives, we all anticipate things important to us. Then after they happen, we look back at them. For example, most school children look forward to the long summer vacation, which always seems to be an eternity away. Finally, it arrives. Then, almost before they blink an eye, it’s over and they are back in school again.

Progressing from primary school to secondary school is another excruciating anticipation for a youngster, especially if the move is perceived as being an important step away from childhood into adulthood.

And so it goes. When anticipated, each new significant event seems to be excruciatingly far away. However, after the event, we regularly look back and exclaim. “Did it really happen that long ago?”

Our first love, our first heartbreak, driving a car, landing a job, marriage, etc. When we look forward, all these milestones seem impossibly far in the future. However once achieved, how quickly they recede into the past.

The older we get, the more milestones we have to look back on. So the farther and faster they appear to recede. So if sometimes the clock may seem to have stopped, the calendar always continues racing ahead.

For me, the high point of my life was joining the Peace Corps and serving as a volunteer teacher of math, physics, and journalism in Tanzania. I applied for a Peace Corps posting early in my senior year at UCLA. Processing the application took only about three months — perhaps the longest three months of my life. It seemed more like three years. I was accepted and sent abroad for two years – the shortest two years of my life, because I was having so much fun.

When I returned to Los Angeles, I could hardly believe the adventure was already over. The first week back seemed extremely long, because my heart was still beating 10,000 miles away. However, the weeks rapidly became shorter and shorter, then the first year, then the second year, and so on. I couldn’t believe it when the first decade had passed, then the second, and so on.

I went to Africa with the Peace Corps in 1965 and returned in 1967. More than 40 years ago!

I of course have had many other milestones in my life, which are all rapidly hurtling away from me. Even the most recent ones already seem to be covered in dust. I am now 65. I don’t feel old, but somehow I just can’t get my mind around the fact that many of these things already look like ancient history.

If accumulating milestones is truly the secret of the accelerating years, what do we do about it? Basically nothing; we just have to accept it. However, this is not necessarily a negative. True, the good things are coursing away faster and faster into the past. But so are the not-so-good things.

The story is told of the biblical King Solomon. He once called his wise men together and presented them with a challenge. “Find me a cure for depression.” They meditated for a long time, then gave him the following advice. “Your Majesty, make yourself a ring and have engraved thereon the words: This too shall pass.” He had the ring made and wore it constantly. Every time he felt sad or depressed, he looked at the inscription, which tended to lift his spirits.

“This too shall pass.” Indeed, it shall. Whether positive or negative, nothing in life lasts forever, even if it sometimes feels as if it will. We are certain of this because we know even life itself doesn’t last forever.

We are all born to die. What happens after that is the subject of considerable controversy. But whatever it is, we are certain it is going to happen, and that it will almost certainly be different from whatever we know today.

Since I am now in my seventh decade (I am 65), for me this inevitability will probably occur sometime within the next 20-30 years, and almost certainly within the next 40 years. This seems like a very long time. However, the years are accelerating, so when it does occur my most probably reaction will be: “What! Already!”

Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course in good writing and good speaking in Brussels, Belgium. His recently published book In the “I” of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional is available from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (storypublishers.be) and Amazon (amazon.com).

For further information, contact:

Philip Yaffe

Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 (0)2 660 0405

Email: phil.yaffe@yahoo.com,phil.yaffe@gmail.com

Things to Do When you Travel to Belgium

When you are planning a vacation to Belgium it is best to cover all bases before you get there. This includes planning out which sites and events you would like to experience while you are there. Belgium is the perfect destination for travel because it offers a little something for everyone including the most amazing sights, shopping, and of course the delicious Belgian chocolates that we all know and love.

It is hard to find a woman who doesn’t love to shop, and in Belgium there are plenty of places to get your retail fix. Brussels, Belgium offers everything from the classy designer stores on avenue Louise to the different funky fashion boutiques that are on rue Antoine Dansaert.

Visiting Belgium always includes tasting the different authentic cuisines that are offered. Brussels is home to one of the best restaurants in all of Europe. You can also enjoy a host of other bistros, authentic restaurants, and cafes which have catering for all tastes.

If you are into the night life or just a great beer, you have to visit some of the breweries in Belgium. This country is known for their Belgian beer and has been famous for its breweries since the middle ages when monasteries first began making beer. In total there are more than one hundred and twenty five breweries in this country.

Of course you can’t leave Belgium without tasting their world famous Belgian chocolate. When you hear Belgium that is likely the first thing that comes to your mind and it is hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy chocolate. Just about every single café and shop offers some type of Belgian chocolates.

After touring the country and tasting the different types of cuisine you will need a place to rest your head. The perfect place to stay while in Belgium is a quaint bed and breakfast which offers a room to sleep and breakfast in the morning when you awaken. They will not only save you time in the morning when you are looking for something to eat, they are also very well priced so you can save your money for the many attractions.

Rising to the Linguistic Challenge

 

 

by Philip Yaffe

 

 

This is a story about a young man growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s. He was a bit strange for a Californian of that epoch. He of course loved surfing, but he loved mathematics and physics even more. His dream from a very young age was to go to university and get a science degree. And that’s what he did.

 

 

In 1960 he enrolled at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). At that time (I imagine it is still the case), in addition to their choosing a major, university students were required to take so-called “cross curriculum” classes in other disciplines. In particular, at UCLA everyone was required to study a language.

 

 

This young man chose German because it was a language of science. This was a mistake. Not only is German a very difficult language compared to English, it is almost impossible to learn any language if you are exposed to it only in the classroom. This of course is the case in the United States, and in particular at that time English was so dominate that outside the classroom you would never hear German, or virtually any other language. Spanish in California was of course an exception; however, in the 1960s it was no where near as important as it is today.

 

 

Although the professor insisted that “Sie werden Deutsch lernen!” (You will learn German), our young man was not so certain. “Particle physics and differential topology are not easy subjects, but German is impossible. I spend more time and effort on this class and get less out of it than any other class I have.”

 

 

The professor of course was wrong. The young man didn’t learn German, and probably neither did anyone else. All he knew was that he was extremely relieved when the course was finished.

 

 

When he graduated, the young man joined the Peace Corps, the U.S. government organization established by President Kennedy to send volunteers to Third World countries to help them with their nation building. The young man was assigned to Tanzania in East Africa. As part of their preparation, all volunteers heading to Tanzania were required to study Swahili, the national language, three hours a day, six days a week for nine weeks.

 

 

“At last a language I will actually be able to use!” the young man exulted. So he really threw himself into it. He intensely studied every aspect of Swahili, grammar, vocabulary, syntax, diction, idiomatic expressions, etc. He was unquestionably the best student in the class.

 

 

When the volunteers got to Dar es Salaam, then the Tanzanian capital, four of them were put on a train and sent to posts in the middle of the country. At each stop, vendors swarmed around the train to sell bananas, tangerines, oranges and other local produce. With some difficulty, the young man was able to speak to the vendors, but he couldn’t understand their replies.

 

 

One of the other members of the group had unquestionably been the poorest Swahili student. At the end of the nine weeks, she could barely say “hujambo” (hello), yet somehow she understood what the vendors were saying. So the young man would speak, the vendors would reply, she would translate, and he would speak again.

 

 

“But this makes no sense. How can you understand them when I can’t?” he asked. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I guess I just listen to what they are saying.” Suddenly, he realized that his approach to languages had been academic, not practical. He was listening for conjugations, singulars and plurals, inverted verbs and other grammatical constructs, but not to what people were actually saying.

 

 

Once he recognized this, his progress was blindingly rapid. Within a very few weeks, he found that he was no longer translating through English. He was actually thinking and speaking directly in Swahili.

 

 

“It was like being released from prison. I saw my cell door swinging open and my mind being set free to fly out. I could literally feel my brain expanding!” the young man explains.

 

 

He now lives in Belgium and has gone on to master French, has a working knowledge of Dutch and German, and is currently turning his attention to Spanish.

 

 

“You know,” he says, “I used to be jealous of people who learned other languages as a child, not as an adult. But now I’m not so certain. I was 24 before I learned a second language. It wasn’t easy; in fact it was excruciatingly difficult. However, I had an experience that people who grow up speaking other languages cannot even begin to imagine. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would really want to change that.”

 

 

I was that young man. I am no longer so young; all of this happened more than 40 years ago. Having had four decades to reflect on it, I am now convinced that this life-altering experience firmly demonstrated two things.

 

 

First, under the proper circumstances, anyone can learn to speak other languages. Having grown up in a country as big as a continent with a single dominant language, I had fallen victim to the idea that learning other languages required high intelligence and/or special gifts. I am extremely happy to have discovered otherwise.

 

 

Secondly, I believe that the way languages are taught in the U.S. is all wrong. The objective of teaching students to speak the language is manifestly false. They won’t, because in most cases opportunities to use the language are lacking. Pursuing this objective therefore only demoralizes students and turns them against language learning per se.

 

 

American educators need to recognize that the best they can do is to acquaint students with a language and lay a foundation for them to rapidly start speaking it if they ever find themselves in a place where the language is actually spoken.

 

 

Language courses should teach basic grammar passively, i.e. so that students can easily recognize verb conjugations, singulars and plurals, formal and familiar pronouns, etc., then concentrate on helping students to comfortably read in the language, e.g. newspapers, magazines, novels, etc. If students know how to read a language, once they finish the course they might continue reading it, thus keeping their knowledge grammar and vocabulary fresh and ready to use should the opportunity ever arise.

 

 

Under current conditions, the moment they leave compulsory language courses, most students immediately forget whatever it is they might have learned, so everything is lost.

 

 

My own experience demonstrates the value of this approach. When I had mastered Swahili — and realized that I could master any other language I wanted to — I decided to try my hand at French. With some effort, I taught myself to read French while still living in Tanzania. When I returned to Los Angeles, I continued reading newspapers, magazines, and novels in French, so five years later when I moved to Belgium, I began speaking it almost immediately.

 

 

I am currently doing the same thing with Spanish. I have essentially no opportunity to speak Spanish in Belgium, but I now read it almost fluently. I occasionally spend a week on vacation to Spain. Each time I do, it takes only one or two days for my mind to switch to Spanish mode, so that I can begin speaking. Not fluently, but enough to get around. I am certain that if I were to spend a month or so in Spain, I would rapidly approach fluency.

 

 

Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course in good writing and good speaking in Brussels, Belgium. His recently published book In the “I” of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional is available from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (storypublishers.be) and Amazon (amazon.com).

For further information, contact:

Philip Yaffe
Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 660 0405
phil.yaffe@yahoo.com, phil.yaffe@gmail.com

 

 

How to Anticipate the Unexpected

 

by Philip Yaffe

According to the adage, “Travel is broadening”. In other words, when you leave your home and go somewhere else, your mind will expand because of the differences you will see. For me, the most valuable, mind-expanding differences are not the big ones that you might be prepared for by reading and education. They the little things that you would never even consider, so that they take you completely by surprise.

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, I never traveled because my parents were small business owners and had no time to go away for vacation. I was in fact 16 years old the first time I set foot outside of Southern California. After 10 years of planning and disappointments, we finally drove across the country to visit relatives who lived in a small town in Maine.

A few days before our departure, I came down with a severe case of mononucleosis. This illness makes you incredibly weak and constantly tired, so all you want to do is sleep. We just about decided not to go, but since it was a trip we had been planning for decade, we decided to give it a try.

After three days on the road (I had spent most of the time sleeping on the back seat), we arrived in St. Louis, where we also had relatives. St. Louis is on the Mississippi River and this was early July. If you know anything about St. Louis, you know it is an excellent place not to be in summer. It was extremely hot and extremely humid. However, since this was the first time — and probably the last time — I would ever see these relatives, I spent the next four days touring the city, picnicking, swimming, playing tennis, and engaging in a host of other strenuous activities.

Within a half-hour after leaving St. Louis, I completely collapsed and slept almost constantly the next two days before arriving in New York. The four days in St. Louis were a revelation. Before arriving, I could hardly move; after leaving I could hardly move. But while there, I was active beyond all expectations. I simply had never imagined just how much a person can actually achieve through sheer desire and will power.

A couple of weeks later, we were visiting with my Aunt and Uncle in Maine. One day my brother and I were walking around the town just to see what it looked like. We went into a local supermarket. Our attention was drawn to a big display of watermelons. Two things struck us. First, they didn’t look like the watermelons we had in California. Instead of being big and oval, they were long and sausage-like. But the real shocker was the price. You will have to adjust the figures; after all, this was a half-century ago (1958). The sign said 10 cent a pound. My brother let out a cry of dismay. “Ten cents a pound! That’s robbery!”

A man who was standing a short distance away came over and asked him, “Tell me son, where are you from?” “California.” “And what do you pay for watermelons this time of year?” “Oh, about 2 cents a pound, sometimes 1 cent a pound.”

The man looked my brother straight in the eyes and said, “Little boy, you’re lying to me. You’re lying. You’re lying”. It was a case of total incomprehension. The man simply couldn’t believe how cheap watermelons were in California. And we simply couldn’t believe how expensive they were in Maine.

However, the pièce de résistance of my revelations happened a few days later. We were on a lake, swimming, boating and barbequing when a thunder storm broke. Everyone ran into the house to get out of the rain. Everyone but me. I was transfixed, literally rooted to the spot. I stood there with the rain pouring down on me for what seemed like several minutes before I too finally ran into the house.

Why this strange reaction?

You need to understand that in Los Angeles, it is normal that not a single drop of rain falls in the city from about the first of May until the end of September. Because it was the only thing I had ever experienced, I grew up believing the word “summer” literally meant “hot and dry”. It was August, and it was raining! To me, this was against nature. It was like the sun one day suddenly rising in the west and setting in the east, rather than rising in the east and setting in the west as it had always done.

When I got back to Los Angeles, I was a changed person. Being a scientist by nature — I loved mathematics and physics — I was naturally skeptical about things. But I had not fully realized just how much there was to be skeptical about. Having experienced somewhere else, I better understood that things that seem normal and natural in one environment can be bizarre and unnatural in another.

This revelation has served me well ever since. It certainly helped me a few years later when I spent two-and-a-half years in Tanzania, in the East African bush. This was an environment not only different from Los Angeles, but different almost beyond imagination. I virtually lived in a mud hut, suffered through a drought, saw leprosy, and contracted both malaria and dysentery.

But the most surprising thing was, Tanzania had a one-party socialist government. Being a devout believer in multi-party, free enterprise democracy, this was an anathema to me. However once on site, I discovered that Tanzania’s one-party, socialist state not only worked, but for this poor developing country, this “bizarre” form of government was absolutely necessary.

The world is full of unexpected things. The best way to deal with them is to “anticipate the unexpected”. In others words, we must always be prepared to examine something that surprises us before criticizing or rejecting it. Otherwise, we are likely to make some serious mistakes of judgment.

I think the importance of this lesson was best summed up by a country preacher in the American Deep South. In his distinctive southern drawl, he once told his congregation: “It ain’t what you don’t know that causes problems. It’s what you do know that just ain’t so.” Amen.

Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course in good writing and good speaking in Brussels, Belgium. His recently published book In the “I” of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional is available from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (storypublishers.be) and Amazon (amazon.com).

For further information, contact:

Philip Yaffe
Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 660 0405
phil.yaffe@yahoo.com, phil.yaffe@gmail.com

To Brussels

Small Belgium is an embodiment of the Old Europe with its cozy cities, small houses and quite life rhythm. It’s a country with great cultural heritage, architectural monuments, and delicious national cuisine.
Brussels is a capital of Belgium and with its population of about 1 million is a relatively big city. It’s a cultural and political center of the country. Brussels is called “main gates” to the country. Here cross all the main routs inside the country and abroad.
The name of Brussels means “marsh city”. The first settlement was founded here in VI century on the way between Cologne and Bruges. During Hasburg rule it was the capital of the Spanish Holland. In XIX it became the capital of the independent Belgium.
Nowadays Brussels is mainly a city of businessmen and diplomats, a headquarter of European Union and NATO, it an interesting place for tourists too. It’s luxurious, cozy and historical city. The center of the city can be divided into two parts – Upper and Down. Upper town is full of broad boulevards and magnificent buildings. In contrary, downtown presents a labyrinth of narrow medieval streets around one of the most beautiful squares in Europe – Grand Place.
Almost all the attractions are situated within four blocks. Here you can see one of the most unusual and discussed fountains of the world – “Peeping boy”, visit numerous museums devoted to the history, art or something else. Various shops offer the most traditional Belgian souvenirs – chocolate and lace.
Brussels is a bilingual city – both French and Flemish are in use. In fact the French is used mush wider, but nevertheless all road signs and signboards should be duplicated.
On the outskirts of the city raises Atomium – a sophisticated structure covered with the aluminium panels. From its top on approximately 100-meters height opens an unforgettable panorama of Brussels and its suburbs. This building was established for the international fair of 1958 and symbolizes the structure of atom.
City hall building appeared in XV century – it took almost 50 years. A century later Royal palace was created. Now it houses municipal museum. Saint Michael is considered to be a saint patron of Brussels – its statue crown the spire on city hall roof and the most respected temples in Belgian capital is Saint Michael’s Cathedral.

An Overview of Belgium for Travelers

Located on the European mainland, Belgium often is short-shifted in discussions of Europe. Following is an overview of Belgium for travelers.

An Overview of Belgium for Travelers

Belgium is located on the coast of the North Sea between Holland, German and France. The name comes from the Belgae, a celtic tribe.

Belgium’s geographic location places it at the crossroads of much of Europe, particular in relation to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. As a result, the country has been heavily influenced by the powers that be in Europe during certain periods of times. You can find aspects of Romans, Celtics, Germanic, French and Spanish influences.

Ruled by various European empires, the cities of Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp were major commercial trading posts. They also produced some of the more spectacular artists in Europe, including Eyck and Rubens.

In modern times, the country is really three separate states with significant autonomy. The country is divided up into Flemish, Walloon and a smaller Germanic area. The Flemish are Dutch speaking while the Walloon are oriented to French. The divisions between these areas are significant and they have significant autonomy from the federal government. One might argue they are countries unto themselves.

The official name of Belgium is the Kingdom of Belgium. The country is located in Western Europe and covers approximately 12,566 square miles. Brussels is the capital of the country and has a population of approximately 922,000 people. The second largest city is Antwerp with 452,000 residents.

The people of Belgium are known as Belgians. Total population for the country is 10.4 million with a paltry annual growth rate of less than one half of one percent. The country is divided into three linguistic regions, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. French is the dominant language in Wallonia, Dutch in Flanders and German in the Brussels area. Most people of Belgium claim Roman Catholic as their faith, but Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Anglican communities exist. The literacy rate is 95 percent.

Belgium is an odd hodgepodge of influences. That being said, everyone seems to get along in these modern times and Brussels is a major financial center in the Europe.

10 Tips To Avoid The Holiday Bulge – And Inner Thoughts About Them

Do you find it almost impossible to stay conscious and contentious about weight and nutrition during the holidays? Of course you do. More than half of all Americans are overweight. All American’s are in this together.

You can take heart from a new government study which shows most Americans gain about a pound over the holiday. You’re not alone. The study shows that during the holiday period, for the people in the study, two main things influenced the holiday weight gain: level of hunger and level of activity. Those who reported being less active or more hungry had the greatest weight gain.

If you can stay focused on dealing with just those two things, you’ll probably win.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of weight gain,” according to Dr. Samuel Klein. He is Director of the Center for Human Nutrition as Washington University in St. Louis, MO. “Preventing the increase in weight is a lot easier and better than actually gaining weight and then trying to get it off again.”

The answer is simple. Eat less and exercise more.

The good news is that most of the people overestimate how much they had gained. Fewer than 10% gain 5 pounds or over.

The bad news is that although the one pound gained seems like a small amount, that weight WAS NOT LOST during the rest of the year and those single pounds accumulate over the years and add up to obesity.

Here are some helpful hints and tips put together by skinny people to help you avoid the tiny little weight watching issues you face during this joyous season [along with the thoughts going through weight watcher Wanda's head as she listened to the skinny people happily chirping out their advice. NOTE: Wanda isn't her real name.]

1).”You SHOULD stay active, darling. The best thing for you to do is to stick to your regular schedule and routine.” [Routine? Wanda's family doesn't have no stinking routine in November and December. Wanda doesn't have no stinking time for her regular yoga classes, workouts at the gym, long dog walks, you ninny, because in addition to shopping, home decorating and cooking, Wanda has to take every one of the kids to EXTRA practices and activity for pageants, concerts and freaking fund raisers! Wanda's too ACTIVE to stay active, darling.]

2). “Don’t let yourself get hungry. Don’t arrive at the party starving. Be sure you eat your normal, healthy meals, especially breakfast. A protein rich breakfast “resets” the body and starts it off not hungry. Don’t starve yourself, thinking you can “save up” calories. Fill up before the big holiday feasts with healthy vegetable snacks.” [Normal? There ain't no stinking "normal" in November and December, and Wanda's not sure she ever has normal, healthy meals. She's got a life to run. Wanda doesn't't't know where YOU'RE having Thanksgiving, but Wanda's family's appetizer table has God's own Cheese Puffs and Ruffles with sour cream/onion dip, Brie on sourdough and 80 plates of cookies and bowls of peanut M&Ms on every available surface! There is nary a vegetable snack in sight.]

3) “How can you keep the pounds off at calorie rich parties? Stay away from the food! Literally … stay on the other side of the room from the buffet table or appetizers tray. [Wanda liked this one. She'll just go plant herself in the bathroom and lock the door. Maybe she can find a place under the pile of coats in the back bedroom. A nap sounds nice.]

4). “Wear clothes which are slightly tight and your favorites. You’ll think twice about the third helping if you can’t let your belt out a notch. Always remember there’s about 8 pounds between dress sizes.” [What skinny sadist came up with this bright idea? Wanda bets she's a size 2, and hides an eating disorder!]

5). “Portion size is the real secret. Keep salad portions large and all other portions extra small. When it comes to sweets, think quality, not availability. Just because the candy corn is there doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Don’t be afraid to cut off “just a bite” of a high calorie treat. Put the rest back on the serving tray. If you’re the hostess, pre-cut high calorie items into tiny portions to help your friends. Just a bite may be plenty to satisfy you. [Just a bite! Just a bite? Wanda's stressed to the max and darn it, Wanda DESERVES a candy treat ... and a WHOLE one. Heck, Wanda's double stressed, so she deserves ...]

6). “You don’t need to be stressed. Take Time for You. Get a massage or a nice facial. Sit down and slip your shoes off.” [Don't you know Wanda's facing a month and a half on shopping overdrive and the only place to sit down is at the mall's fast-food court? McDonald's doesn't have a massage spa. If Wanda slips her shoes off, she'll NEVER get them back on again, you fool.]

7). “Keep up your food diary … every day of the holiday … it will help you pinpoint your special weaknesses. Just one 150 calorie chocolate chip cookie each day will add up to an extra pound in only 3 weeks.” [Wanda can't even find her food diary in chaos house. And, she really needed the information on the cookies. Thank you very much. Wanda just ate three, and she doesn't need any food diary to pinpoint this little weakness.]

8). “Only eat things you really want and care about. So what if your neighbor brought okra au gratin everyone’s raving about? Use that space on your plate for a homemade roll, hot from the oven. Put real butter on it. Life is choices. Treat yourself to what you want and LEAVE THE REST IN THE SERVING DISH.”[Good advice. How thankful do you think Wanda'd be after a feast of Brussels sprouts and tofu salad while she's passing the yams, potatoes and gravy to Aunt Lucille? Wanda bets Lucille's glad she got granddad's wiry build instead of those wonderful wide childbearing hips from grandma's "peasant" stock!]

9). Drink water instead of alcohol which has empty calories and lowers will power. Avoid sugary sodas which throw your metabolism into pendulum swings. [You didn't mention eggnog. Eggnog is OK, then, right?]

10). “Don’t eat while you cook. Those little “tastes” can turn into 1000 calories before you’ve blinked.” [Wanda just spent 304 hours in the kitchen, cooking. She HAS to taste everything before she serves it, or they'll hate it and won't love her any more. And besides, cookie dough doesn't have any calories, does it?]

Well, that’s all 10 pieces of holiday advice. Here’s just one parting thought from Wanda.

[Santa's fat and everybody loves him! The baby Jesus is fat, too. The turkey is so fat it can hardly stand up! Nobody buys a skinny Christmas tree, do they? Get a grip. Get a life. Have a HAPPY holiday.]

Joue De Vie – A Castle In The Loire Valley In France

Certainly the main attractions of the Loire are romance, history and architecture. The renaissance chateaux built by Charles VIII, Francois I, Catherine de Medici and other royals during the hundred years that the French court relocated to the Loire Valley from Paris it a distinctive storybook charm.

Like the river Loire, this vast region runs through the heart of French life. The lush Loire valley is supremely regal. Its sophisticated cities, luxuriant landscape and magnificent wine and food and wine add up to a bourgeois paradise. It is now classed as part of the world heritage of mankind by Unesco (from Chalonnes-sur-Loire to Sully-sur-Loire).

Overindulgence is no sin in this rich region.

Surly queens, foppish kings, evil princesses and scheming mistresses and aristocrats sculpted a flat riverbed valley into an enchanting fairytale landscape like no other place in Europe or the world, for that matter.

Unlike the chateaux of the Loire Valley, the Loire Valley wines are a perennial secret. Some of France’s best winemaking occurs here although few Americans are aware of it. Even many French are unaware of some of the wonders now being produced in the Loire Valley. But wine-shop and wine bar and sommeliers, and all the wine press from Paris, London Brussels and Tokyo in the know spend their vacations visiting the Val de Loire.

The Loire Valley is the location of Sir Mick Jagger’s favourite second residence a 16th century chateau called La Fourchette near Amboise. In London he may be affectionately known as the lead singer of Strolling Bones but in France is known as Mick de Fourchette, le pape du rock, le pere Mick, Le Seigneur de Fourchette, Dr. Jagger, sexy papy British and Mister Mick.

He comes here every summer. In under 70 minutes he is whisked from London in a chartered three-person taxi-plane. Here in this quiet backwater of the Loire Valley in Touraine with its caves, woods and vineyards, he can relax with family and friends. He is often seen at the village fete or playing with one of his grandchildren in a local cafe. He drives around in his Opel station wagon or little Nisan micra. He returns year after year for the quality, ambiance, and the unusual. He even plays cricket for Saumur when he is in Touraine.

Todays the vacation industry offers a great number of proposals on luxury vacations, such as romantic luxury villas, luxury home vacations, luxury villa vacations, the world cruise vacations, golfing villa vacation and fairytale chateaux vacation rentals.

The most popular luxury vacations are when you exclusively rent your own castle or villa and you stay there completely alone or with your partner or with extended family and friends all waited upon by staff who make you feel like royalty. Your vacation can be fully catered with delicious gourmet cuisine being served up for every meal.

An exclusive castle rentals can include staff if you require (the number varying depending on the size of castle). Luxury chateaux are fully equipped with all the conveniences of home. Additional amenities such as extensive DVD libraries and CDs with flat-screen televisions, cable television, DVD players if not standard can be requested. Baby equipment and babysitting can usually be provided. These items may also be hired provided advance notice is given.

Limousine transfers to and from airports can be arranged. The chateau can be stocked with any wines, groceries, or special dietary requirements or wine that you require. Hire cars can be delivered to the airport or the chateau.

Many of the visitors are repeat clients. The aim of renting a luxury castle exclusively is to make a holiday as stress-free and relaxing as possible. Luxury castle rentals are known around the world by discriminating traveller’s for custom designed vacations of extra-ordinary value and extraordinary value, and for personalized, dedicated service.