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Family, Friends & You Travel & Work

What’s all the “Twitter” about …

I just don’t “get” Twitter — a website that lets others follow you around.  Geez, one big reason I left home for the big city was because I DIDN’T want people to know my whereabouts.  To understand the Twitter phenomenon a bit more maybe this will help …

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Susan on Travel Travel & Work

London: Finally better pricing! Planning, theatre, museums, restaurants, hotels…

Fresh on the heels of Susan (our travel advisor) telling us to “Go to London in January,” she took her own advice, went there, returned and now reports to us the city’s discoveries and pleasures. An added enticement: The pound is currently around 1.45 to the dollar!

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Food, Fitness & Health Secret's Service Stefanie on Eating

The Best Farmstead Cheeses … You’d Never Guess These Cheeses Are “American”

ss_cheese.jpgIn my other life I may have been a mouse, because in my household there is one never-to-be-given-up food, and that’s cheese. Thus, when casually delving into a platter at a recent event, I was knocked out by tastes and textures that were totally amazing and unfamiliar to me. It turned out they came from Saxelby Cheesemongers whose only focus is America’s farmstead cheeses.

Similar to a winemaker’s persnicketiness, Saxelby’s pays special attention to the “terroir” of the cheese — it “should taste like the place it comes from.” This means that hints of the flowers, herbs and grasses on which the cows, goats and sheep feed determine the taste of the cheese, making for some beautifully dense flavors.Try some state-made Mecox Cheddar produced from raw cows’ milk on a farm in Bridgehampton for a “sublime, grassy finish.” Or, pick up one of their other cheeses from where founder Anne Saxelby once worked, like the powerfully gamey Fil-A-Buster from Westfield, Vermont, whose essence falls “somewhere in between butter, wet bark and pine needles scattered on a forest floor. Bound in birch bark to keep it from running all over the place… and it just barely does the job.”Added bonus! On top of the incredible tastes, you’ll also be helping to support small-scale, local farmers. Saxelby’s only does business with farms that have an average of 40 cows.

Check out their store located on the lower east side at the Essex Street Market (Delancey stop off F Train) in New York, or visit and order from them right here at their website, saxelbycheese.com. They ship.

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Family, Friends & You Food, Fitness & Health News to Know

Boredom is good for your brain

Boredom is good for your brain

With the non-flagging energies of the Obamas (not to mention the Clintons) keeping us in a state of awe, this New York Times article made me feel better:  “You’re Checked Out, but Your Brain Is Tuned in” by Benedict Carey*.  Here are highlights:

” … Scientists know plenty about boredom … Much of the research on the topic has focused on the bad company it tends to keep, from depression and overeating to smoking and drug use.

Yet boredom is more than a mere flagging of interest or a precursor to mischief. Some experts say that people tune things out for good reasons, and that over time boredom becomes a tool for sorting information – an increasingly sensitive spam filter … research suggests that falling into a numbed trance allows the brain to recast the outside world in ways that can be productive and creative at least as often as they are disruptive.

In a recent paper in The Cambridge Journal of Education, Teresa Belton and Esther Priyadharshini of East Anglia University in England reviewed decades of research and theory on boredom, and concluded that it’s time that boredom “be recognized as a legitimate human emotion that can be central to learning and creativity.”

Psychologists have most often studied boredom using a 28-item questionnaire that asks people to rate how closely a list of sentences applies to them: “Time always seems to be passing too slowly,” for instance.

High scores in these tests tend to correlate with high scores on measures of depression and impulsivity. But it is not clear which comes first – proneness to boredom, or the mood and behavior problems. “It’s the difference between the sort of person who can look at a pool of mud and find something interesting, and someone who has a hard time getting absorbed in anything,” said Stephen J. Vodanovich, a psychologist at University of West Florida in Pensacola.

Boredom as a temporary state is another matter, and in part reflects the obvious: that the brain has concluded there is nothing new or useful it can learn from an environment, a person, an event, a paragraph. But it is far from a passive neural shrug. Using brain-imaging technology, neuroscientists have found that the brain is highly active when disengaged, consuming only about 5 percent less energy in its resting “default state” than when involved in routine tasks, according to Dr. Mark Mintun, a professor of radiology at Washington University in St. Louis.

That slight reduction can make a big difference in terms of time perception. The seconds usually seem to pass more slowly when the brain is idling than when it is absorbed. And those stretched seconds are not the live-in-the-moment, meditative variety, either. They are frustrated, restless moments. That combination, psychologists argue, makes boredom a state that demands relief – if not from a catnap or a conversation, then from some mental game.

“When the external and internal conditions are right, boredom offers a person the opportunity for a constructive response…”  Some evidence for this can be seen in semiconscious behaviors, like doodling during a dull class, braiding strands of hair, folding notebook paper into odd shapes. Daydreaming too can be a kind of constructive self-entertainment, psychologists say, especially if the mind is turning over a problem …

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*The New York Times, Health, “You’re Checked Out but Your Brain Is Tuned In” by Benedict Carey, Tuesday, August 5, 2008, pg F5

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