An Open Letter on Veteran’s Day

Initially, I want to make clear that this letter is meant for everyone. In this political time, everything becomes Republican versus Democrat, and the underlying messages get lost in “us versus them.” I don’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican. When I was a child, I was taught that whom you voted for was a private matter. This letter isn’t aimed at one political party, and it isn’t meant to tell you what to do. This letter is meant to make you think.

Recently, some were outraged by the so-called “war” on Christmas by Starbucks because they changed their holiday cup design. By trivializing the term “war,” the term loses its real meaning and minimizes the hardship suffered by those who have actually been involved in a war. Let me remind you of what the word “war” means. War means sacrifice – real sacrifice, not whether or not a business chooses to honor one religion’s winter celebration on a piece of paper that will just get thrown away. War means that soldiers answered the call. It means that some of those soldiers were forever maimed and scarred, and some paid the ultimate price. Has anyone died or been physically injured over the design of the Starbucks cup? No.

If you ask those who lived during World War II what it was like to live in the United States during that period, they will tell you about sacrifice. The same can be said of those immigrants who come to the United States from war-torn countries hoping for a better life. They all know the horrors of war and what it’s like to be at war. Know that when you over-use the term “war” to mean a difference of opinion, you diminish the meaning of the word “war.”

The world is a dangerous place, filled with those who would do us harm. This country currently is engaged in a real war thousands of miles away from your local Starbucks. Every day, soldiers are put in harm’s way so that we may continue to enjoy that cup of Starbucks at home. They are fighting this war because they took an oath to serve, protect and defend. Soldiers, veterans, and their families have all made, and will continue to make sacrifices for the rest of us. Some soldiers and veterans have visible scars, while others have returned home facing unimaginable scars that are not visible to the naked eye. They come home and try to adjust to living back home after witnessing so many atrocities, but they will never be the same people. They and their families have paid a price. Those are the real costs of war.

Today, I ask you to thank those who have served, remember what they fought for, and be aware that it minimizes their sacrifice to make everything a “war.” What those soldiers fought for are a love of country that we share and the rights protected by the Constitution. One of those valuable rights is the First Amendment right to express an opinion, and to disagree with those expressing different opinions. That precious right is not lessened by calling it what it is: a dialog, a discussion, an argument; it does not need to be elevated to a war to be meaningful. I ask you to recognize our First Amendment rights for what they are, and leave the horrors of war to real war.

Finally, I urge you to T.H.I.N.K. before speaking or posting something online.
T: Is it True?
H: Is it Helpful?
I: Is it Inspiring?
N: Is it Necessary?
K: Is it Kind?

Thank you for reading.

Disney’s No Selfie Stick Ban

selfiestickPlanning  a trip to any Disney park (California, Orlando, Paris, Hong Kong) this summer? Did you buy a  “selfie stick”(a popular extendable rod that attach to cellphones and cameras to allow users to take photos of themselves from a distance of about 3 feet) ? You might want to leave that selfie stick at home. Beginning Tuesday, Disney parks are banning the use of selfie sticks.

Disney goers must go through a bag check as they enter any Disney park. Those attempting to bring a selfie stick inside will be given a choice  of turning it in and picking it up later, or returning it to a car or hotel room.

Why has the happiest place on Earth ban the use of selfie sticks? It isn’t because they do not want you to take photos or only take photos in certain spots. It is because certain park goers decided it would be a good idea to use the selfie sticks while on rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Californa Screamin’. Recently the Disney’s California Adventure had to shut down the California Screamin’  high-speed roller coaster after a passenger pulled out a selfie stick mid ride. A very big safety risk to both the guests and Disney staff. It may seem like an overreaction but better to overreact than have someone impaled by a stick in the middle of a ride.

5 Essential Travel Apps

Traveling is meant to be fun. Unfortunately, stress takes the fun out of traveling. Here are five apps that help you make the most out of your travel.

1.    Tripit is your personal travel assistant. Once you book your airline ticket, hotel, car rental or even restaurant reservations online forward the confirmation email to plans@tripit.com. In a matter of seconds, Tripit creates your travel itinerary including maps, so all of your travel information is easily accessible in one place. The Pro version alerts you to possible ticket refunds for price drops, travel delays, and many other features. Available for Android and iOS smartphones. For more information visit: www.tripit.com. Standard version: Free. Pro version: 49.95 per year.

2.  Waze, a community-based free mapping and directions application helps you get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time. The mapping app avoids heavy traffic in real time with the help of other Waze users who report traffic, accidents, construction and police traps. Available for Android and iOS smartphones.

3.  Hopper assists travelers select the lowest airfare available from your home airport to any destination. Travelers with flexible dates can use Hopper’s color-coded calendar to spot the cheapest dates to fly. Not sure if you are ready to purchase your ticket? The Hopper includes a “Watch a Flight,” feature that sends a push notification when the price of a given route has reached its lowest price point.  Available for iOS. An Android version of the app is coming soon.

4. PackPoint produces the perfect packing list for any trip based on the number of days, activities and other factors.  The app creates an individualized packing list based on your answers to questions regarding your trip such as do you plan to hike or run? Is this trip for business?  PackPoint even looks up the weather so that users won’t forget a jacket or an umbrella.  For more information visit: www.packpnt.com. Standard version: Free. Pro version: $1.99.

5.  Postagram: You have taken that perfect selfie in front of the Seattle Space Needle. You want to send it as a physical postcard to your friends and family who still check their mailboxes for something other than junk mail. Upload your favorite vacation photo to Postagram, type in a greeting, and Postagram will print out the card and send it through snail mail for 99 cents in the U.S. and $1.99 worldwide.

Travel Tip: The Hotel Remote Control

Most travelers never give the remote control in their hotel room a second thought. We turn on the TV without giving it a second thought. After all, how harmful can a remote control be to our health? Studies have shown that the remote control is one of the top three dirtiest things in our hotel rooms that can lead to illness. Here are five ways to combat the germs.

1. Bring an extra ziplock bag. Place the remote control in the zip lock bag. The remote will still work, and the plastic bag will protect you from whatever germs are on the remote control. Most hotels have a recycling bin. At the end of your stay, recycle it in the bin.

2. Bring Clorox disinfectant wipes. The disinfectant wipes will work on your remote control and any other surfaces you want to keep clean. Be sure to clean the light switches by the bed.

3. Use the STAYConnect Mobile App by Lodgenet. Most major chain hotels use the Lodgenet entertainment system for their TVs. Download the STAYConnect Mobile app, find the code on the TV’s main menu. Your smartphone is now your hotel remote control.

4. Bring your device. You already travel with a smartphone and a tablet. Add a Chromecast, Amazon FireTV stick or Roku device so you can watch Netflix, Hulu and others. They are compact and easy to set up.

5. You are on vacation. Don’t watch TV, decompress, read a book, get out and explore.

Pike Place Market, Seattle

Stock-Fish-Throw

If you were expecting me to rave on about flying fish and the produce available at Pike Place Market… I am sorry to disappoint you. Let’s face it, those stories have been done to death. This story isn’t about fish, cherries, flowers, chowder, coffee, or “Pike Place Market Gum Wall”. This story is about expanding your culinary horizons so to speak. There are a few hidden gems in the market that if you know how, and what to ask, you can increase your culinary IQ exponentially with healthy, flavorful additions to your cooking repertoire.  

MarketSpice1

Market Spice has been a part of the Pike Place Market landscape selling specialty spices and teas since 1911. I consider the freshness and quality of herbs and spices just as important as the freshness and quality of your meat, poultry, fruits or vegetables. In short, you wouldn’t put old spoiled milk over your cereal, would you? Yet, a majority of home cooks use old, stale, and flavorless spices in their recipes robbing them of flavor and health benefits.

The first thing you should look for when finding a spice merchant is quick turnover. Just like fish, you do not want your spices hanging around very long. Market Spice manufactures all of their spices in small batches by hand, this along with their high traffic creates a very high turnover. Spices, particularly ground spices and herbs quickly lose their freshness, aroma, and flavor. As a rule of thumb, you should not keep your dried herbs and spices more than one year, and using them within 3-6 months from when you purchased them is even better.  In short, spices are not something you want to be buying in bulk, unless you are an incredibly active cook and are heavy handed with the spices. Remember, if you’re buying high quality spices, you will not need to use as much in your recipes. A little goes a long way.

If you are feeling adventurous, I highly suggest that you talk to the people behind the counter at Market Spice, ask them what they like to use, how they use it, and ask for a sample. The staff at Market Spice are passionate about spices, herbs and teas. They tend to have personal stories about different spices like cumin and spice blends like their signature kebob blend or harissa spice blend. Once you discover the world of spices you will never be able to buy grocery store herbs and spices again.IMG_0056

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Britt's Pickles

Besides Market Spice, Britt’s Pickles is a must-stop while at Pike Place Market. The store is in the Corner Market Building on Pike Place, just down the hall from Frank’s Produce and across from both Shy Giant Yogurt and B&B Ranch Meats. These are not your ordinary store bought vinegar cooked pickles. The pickle fanatics at Britt’s Pickles are hand making deli-style pickles, kraut, and kimchi the old fashioned way with no artificial preservatives in oak barrels. By naturally fermenting the pickles, versus cooking the pickles in vinegar, you keep the culture probiotic organisms that occur naturally in the pickle brine give you fantastic mouth-watering flavors without the vinegar overload that most people associate with pickles.

Britt's Pickle Counter IMG_0052

If you are like most people that visit Pike Place Market, you are an out of town tourist. The best way to save money while shopping at Market Spice and Britt’s Pickles is to stop at City Target located less than a block away and purchase a case of Ball mason jars with covers. This 10 dollar investment will save you many times over. In fact, Britt’s Pickles give you a discount if you bring your own container.  Not going to fill up a case of mason jars with herbs, spices and pickles? No problem, head to Cost Plus World Market and they sell individual jars in different sizes starting at about $1.50 per jar. Market Spice sells glass containers but they sell them for twice as much as those found at City Target or Cost Plus World Market.  Yes, you can buy spices and herbs without the glass jar but I have found that the aroma of the spices leeches out of the plastic bags and can quickly ruin your other spices not to mention permeate your clothes. Trust me your luggage, clothes, and wallet will thank you.  

 

Garmin Foot Pod

During Rock n Roll Seattle Half Marathon I was asked, “What’s that thing on your running shoe?” to which I replied, it’s a Garmin Foot Pod. The Garmin foot pod is approximately the size of a quarter that easily snaps onto your shoe laces. Why do I use a foot pod, when I already have a Garmin 910XT GPS watch? The answer is simple: accuracy, flexibility, and additional data that cannot be provided by having a GPS watch alone.

There are basic things required for any GPS to work. First, it needs to acquire satellite signals from several different satellites. The more satellites the GPS can acquire the more accurate it will be, but what happens when the signal is interrupted? Let’s say by a tunnel?  The GPS watch will do its best to calculate distance based on the information it has, however, because it loses the signal from the satellite, it loses accuracy.  A discovery made by many whom participated in Rock n’ Roll Seattle. Most of those whom I spoke with after the race, had a Garmin GPS reading of 13.5 miles or greater as their finishing distance, while my Garmin logged 13.22 this adds up to more than a quarter mile differential. My Garmin was more accurate than other participants with the same GPS watch because as the satellite signal faded, the foot pod continued to provide data to the watch until it could reacquire satellite signals.

The Food Pod itself is really easy to set up and maintain. There is no on or off switch that you have to deal with or remember to turn on or off. The battery is easy to replace and available at most drug stores for about $3.00 USD and lasts approximately a year or 400 hours of use. Pairing the foot pod is very easy. This setup will vary by device, so be sure to check your watch’s instruction manual for details.  Using the 910XT as an example, you’d go into the ANT+ menu and enable the foot pod there by pairing it.  Each foot pod is assigned a unique ID, which then connects to your watch, so there’s no interference with others at large races or the gym. Once enabled, you typically want to calibrate it for the highest levels of accuracy.  In general I recommend going to your neighborhood high school track but you can also use GPS to calibrate it if you do not have access to the track.

Once it’s connected, you’re good to go!  As long as you don’t adjust the position, you’ll never have to touch this menu again. There are only two times you will have to change anything on your watch, first is to turn off the GPS if you are working out on a treadmill indoors. This will save your watch’s battery. The second time is you will need to access the menus on your watch is when you replace the battery on the foot pod.

Not sure if your Garmin is foot pod compatible? Check it at: https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/shop-by-accessories/fitness-sensors/foot-pod/prod15516.html

The Garmin Foot Pod retails for $69.99 on Garmin.com but I have found Amazon has the best price at $46.34 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00264GKVQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00264GKVQ&linkCode=as2&tag=thevinetimes-20

Garmin Foot Pod on Sneaker
Garmin Foot Pod on Sneaker

Garmin foot pod