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On the Road Again: Back On A Bike

I was almost at my six-mile mark, having just crossed a newly constructed, planked bridge– and there was the sign that greeted me: BIKE PATH CLOSED UNTIL SEPTEMBER 2015. Not what I expected to see when I reached IL-Route 25 and Stearns Rd. a week ago. It was my first ride south on the Fox River Trail from Elgin, Illinois. This was an exploratory test run.

I’d ridden north on the trail a few times, going as far as East Dundee. This was my first venture south on the trail. I’d set a goal to ride all the way to the south end of the trail by the end of the summer. Now with the trail closure, it looks like I might have to come up with a new challenge.

Close up of my new ride.

Close up of my new ride.

As a kid growing up in Florida, I rode my bike a lot. We lived in a new, sparsely populated subdivision with plenty of safe road to ride. We also made our own trails, even though it was pretty difficult to ride in the Florida sand and clay. On a rare occasion, I’d leave the subdivision and ride up the main road to the convenience store. Usually, picking up pop bottles along the way to redeem the deposit for penny candy.

Yes, I’m that old.

We lived in three different places when I was in my teens; all within four to five miles of the schools I attended. I didn’t ride my bike to class on a regular basis but sometimes I would ride there after hours or on weekends.

I also really loved to ride my bike after a good rain. I’d ride through puddles with the water and sand splashing; spinning off the tires and spokes– coating my calves and ankles.

That was so many years ago.

I’d only been on a bike a few times since then.

So what’s the sudden interest now?

Exercise. Exploring. A Challenge. Entertainment. Pick one.

Elgin, Illinois is a fairly, bike-friendly city. Downtown there are some bike lanes, many of which, strangely, don’t connect from block to block. The streets aren’t terribly congested most of the time, making them fairly safe and easy to ride. The bonus is that home is only about a half-mile from the Fox River Trail.

I’d seriously thought about getting a bike a number of times in the past few years. I was always afraid I’d end up not riding it enough to be worth the investment.  Then last November, we were at a charity event, anchored by a huge silent auction. One of the auction items was a bike, we bid— and the rest is history. I’m now the proud owner of a 2014 Raleigh Talus 3.0 Mountain Bike.

I was only able to go for a couple very short rides (last fall) before the weather got too cold and icy. My first real ride wasn’t until March— still cold— snow on the ground— at least the roads and sidewalks were clear. Maybe not so ironically, it was also rainy. We’d had a couple of warmer days, so I hadn’t really considered the weather when I went for the early morning ride. Besides the rain, the temperature was hovering around freezing and I hadn’t thought to wear gloves. After a couple miles, frozen fingers and wet with rain, I cut my ride short. Not to mention the burn in my legs from unused muscles I forgot I even had.

Out on the Fox River Trail.

Out on the Fox River Trail.

So far, I’ve only ridden about sixty miles total. I found a great fitness app, Runtastic, that uses GPS tracking to record and map my rides. In addition to mapping and distance, it also records elevation changes, calories burned, time and a lot of other information.

Biking is great exercise and a perfect way to clear your head. It’s also wonderful way to see the city and nearby trails. Riding on two wheels, you see things in a completely different light.

It’s never too late to reignite a passion for an old hobby or activity. It just takes the motivation to get out and do it.

In my next post I’ll share some photographs from my rides, so far; exploring the Fox River Trail.

Under The Spreading Ginkgo Tree: 321 Division Street

Our Ginkgo tree at 321 Division Street.

Our Ginkgo tree at 321 Division Street.

One of the priceless gems of our property at 321 Division Street is our ancient Ginkgo tree. I know it’s definitely over 100 years old (based on an old picture) and would guess it’s actually between 110 and 130 years old. The modern Ginkgo tree is often called a living fossil, a descendent of the species dating back to the Early Jurassic period.

It is well known for its fan-shaped leaves that can be frequently found in ancient Chinese art.

In the fall, I’ve watched all the leaves drop from the tree in one day. When it happens that quickly, it’s a spectacular sight. The species is known to commonly drop all its leaves in 1 to 15 days.

This year, our tree is acquiring much more of the deep golden color leaves than usual. In recent years, we’ve had warmer weather leading up to a hard frost that causes most of the leaves to drop still green.

Ginko leaves turning their fall colors.

Ginkgo leaves turning their fall colors.

The Ginkgo, or Ginkgo biloba tree, grows tall before its branch stretch out wide. Our tree is somewhere around 70 feet tall. The Ginkgo is known to easily reach heights of over 100 feet.

Ginkgo trees are either male or female; the male producing cones with spores that are highly allergenic. The female produces ovules and once pollinated develop into silver green fruit that turn orange when they are ripe. There is a large nut in the center of the fleshy fruit. Ginkgo trees can reproduce asexually as well, which is evidenced by our tree. The nearest mature Ginkgo tree is a block away and is female. We believe it to be an offspring of our tree.

Clusters of Ginkgo fruit ripen on the tree.

Clusters of Ginkgo fruit ripen on the tree.

The biggest drawback about our tree is the fruit. Our Ginkgo produces large quantities (hundreds of pounds) of fruit each year, The fruit  is smaller than a walnut.) Though a few do drop throughout the fall, most remain on the branches long after all the leaves have dropped and we’ve had several good freezes.

The fleshy fruit contain butyric acid, that when ripe and fallen, have a foul smell like vomit. On an unseasonably warm day, this smell can be detected over a block away. This odor only lasts a few days but because the fruit usually drop so late, we often have fruit under fallen snow and have to deal the the smell briefly in the spring as well.

Once established, the Ginkgo tree is quite hardy and resistant to disease and pollution. They do not survive (tolerate) shade though. An interesting fact I found was that six Ginkgo trees survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb (1945) when most every other living thing perished.

Our own tree sustained substantial damage as the result of  bad hail storm a number of years ago, losing nearly a quarter of its branches. We had an arborist come and prune the damaged wood and the tree remains healthy. He also researched and believes it to be one of the three largest Ginkgo trees in Illinois.

Ginkgo and Ginkgo Suppliment Health Warnings

In some cultures, Ginkgo is used in cooking or as a featured ingredient or dessert.

Several years ago, it was one of the most widely-popular dietary supplements on the market. Ginkgo biloba was sold to millions, promising great memory enhancement among other things. In fact, this is completely false. Though a few smaller studies reportedly show benefits in dementia and Alzheimer patients, most studies show no slowing or improvement with consumption. There have been no proven beneficial uses for Ginkgo in other touted areas either, such as lowering blood pressure .

There are also many dangers to ingestion and regular Ginkgo use in some people. Many people are highly allergic. Ginkgo has been studied and shown to be detrimental to some people’s health. Specifically, taking Ginkgo supplements can be harmful to people with blood circulation problems, pregnant women and people taking antidepressants.

Ginkgo can cause bleeding, gas, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and heart palpitations.

In addition, the over consumption of the seed (meat) can cause poisoning and convulsions. Some people are allergic to just handling the fleshy fruit, much like poison ivy.

So as a general warning, never start a regiment of dietary supplements without investigating them first. Most of the advertised new wonder drugs are marketing scams claiming unproven scientific results. Read the labels, ask your doctor and research online before taking a risk.

Our 100+ year old Ginkgo Tree at 321 Division Street in the fall.

Our 100+ year old Ginkgo Tree at 321 Division Street in the fall.

When October Goes

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Final color show of the year.

It was a perfect fall weekend here at 321 Division Street. We were treated to chilly mornings and warm, sunny afternoons. Perfect fall weather. Surprisingly, there is still quite a bit of color here, as the wind continues its dance with the falling leaves.

While doing some fall clean up and exterior painting, I took the time to do something I haven’t done in a very long time…. listen to one of my favorite albums.

No, not show tunes. It’s a jazzy, bluesy, smoldering album, perfect for this time of year. In fact, it was one of the first compact discs I bought as a college student– back in January of 1987, when I bought my first stereo system with a disc player.

Yes, CDs were new technology back then and just becoming available in retail stores. There was no internet or digital downloads– cassettes were the still the thing. Finding a store that carried CDs was difficult because the technology was still so new.

I wanted my foray into this new territory to be special. I bought three CDs, which was all I could afford at the time. They were: the John Barry soundtrack to Somewhere In Time, the Stephen Sondheim musical, Sunday In the Park with George and…. Barry Manilow’s 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe.

I know, some of you might be thinking Barry Manilow? But yes, I was a huge fan, and this album (his fourteenth) was a big departure from his previous pop recordings.

The studio recording of this album is somewhat legendary. It was rehearsed for three days and then recorded live, all in one take and released, as recorded,  in 1984.

In addition to Manilow’s solo work, it features gorgeous duets with Manilow and crooner Mel Torme and with the amazing Sarah Vaughn. It plays like a bar set in a dark, smokey jazz club of the past.

The entire song set is really solid but the tune I can’t get enough of is When October Goes. Manilow wrote the music to go with an unfinished lyric by the late Johnny Mercer. It’s a classic.

When October Goes

by Barry Manilow and Johnny Mercer

And when October goes
The snow begins to fly
Above the smokey roofs
I watch the planes go by

The children running home
Beneath a twilight sky
Oh, for the fun of them
When I was one of them

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years

I turn my head away
To hide the helpless tears
Oh, how I hate
To see October go

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years

I turn my head away
To hide the helpless tears
Oh, how I hate
To see October go

I should be over it now I know
It doesn’t matter much
How old I grow
I hate to see October go

I guess it’s pretty obvious why I’m writing about it now. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I do.

This is one of the few recordings that I highly recommend. A must have for anyone into standards, jazz or blues. You won’t be disappointed.

Our oak trees have dropped nearly all their leaves.

Our oak trees have dropped nearly all their leaves.

Autumn At 321 Division Street

Autumn Leaves.

Autumn Leaves.

Crisp morning air, full of the scent of falling oak leaves…

Fall is finally here! My favorite season. Surprisingly, there is an abundance of color– in spite of the short summer we experienced this year. With an unseasonably cool August, many of our Maple trees dropped the majority of their leaves more than a month earlier than usual without changing color. Temperature, rainfall and a whole slew of other factors can affect the amount and timing of fall color and nature is putting on quite a show.

We’re pretty much at our color peak right now, here in Elgin. How long it will last, will again, depend on a number of factors– but might hang around a little longer than usual is we don’t experience any extreme weather changes.

To top off this autumn color display, we had a great viewing opportunity, October 8th, of a lunar eclipse. I’ve seen many over the years and this one was unique from my past viewing experiences; with the full eclipse occurring at 5:30 am, fading into the dawn.

Enjoy it while you can. The snow will be here before you know it!

Virginia Creeper turning crimson.

Virginia Creeper turning crimson.

Autumn color at 321 Division Street.

Autumn color at 321 Division Street.

Porch view.

Side Porch view.

Color by our 120+ yr. old Ginkgo tree.

Fall color surrounds our 120+ yr. old Ginkgo tree.

Blazing color of our Burning Bush after the rain.

Blazing color of our Burning Bush after the rain.

Fall at 321 Division Street.

Fall at 321 Division Street.

Lunar Eclipse, October 8th, 2014.

Lunar Eclipse, October 8th, 2014.

Lunar Eclipse Over Elgin, at dawn. October 8th, 2014.

Lunar Eclipse Over Elgin, at dawn. October 8th, 2014.

Brilliant colors of Autumn.

Brilliant colors of Autumn.

My forest angle of the 321 Division Street

My forest angle of the 321 Division Street

Autumn at 321 Division Street. 125 years old.

Autumn at 321 Division Street. 125 years old.

321 Division Street : 125 Years Young

Plaque designating that 321 Division Street is officially part of the historic district.

Plaque designating that 321 Division Street is officially part of the historic district.

It’s time to celebrate two milestones at 321 Division Street.

This year, we celebrate the 125th birthday of the house and our 15th anniversary as its guardians. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here this long.

In 1994, Michael and I happened to be invited to a private party at this big, old, scary house we’d admired from a distance for sometime, never imagining we’d ever step inside. We both agreed it would be so cool to live in a place like this some day.

Flash forward four years: Michael just happened to overhear a woman going on and on to a friend of ours about a house that just went on the market. The more she talked, Michael realized she was talking about the house– and we wasted no time getting an appointment for a viewing.

The oldest known photograph of 321 Division Street. from the early 1900's

The oldest known photograph of 321 Division Street from the early 1900’s.

Built by John Newman in 1889,  Butterman’s, as it is often referred to; is a bit of a rare breed. It is a brick and stone Queen Anne, unlike the majority that are mostly wood construction. It originally  featured 14 rooms, eight fireplaces, over 30 stained glass windows, and 13 different types of wood. It is listed as one of the thirty-five most influential buildings in the Elgin Historic District.

At the time John Newman  built the house, he was also busy acquiring fifty-two creameries and is often credited for setting the Midwest dairy prices in the late 1800’s. He is most famous for his Spring Brook Creameries brand butter and served as President of the Elgin Board of Trade from 1894 to 1911.

Following the Newman family, the Ludwig family lived at 321 Division for many years. It sat empty towards the end of the 1960’s, was heavily vandalized in 1973, and considered a candidate for demolition. All the stained glass windows, many of the chandeliers, ornate door hardware and other intricacies were gone. Vagrants squatted in the house, starting a fire in the foyer by the grand staircase causing minor damage. Luckily, the Powers family came to the rescue, saving the house from demolition and  preserving and extensively renovating 321 Division into what became, for a time, an upscale dinner club known as Butterman’s Restaurant, which opened in 1976.

The John Newman House, 321 Division Street as it looked in 1998.

The John Newman House, 321 Division Street as it looked in 1998.

After a few successful years, the restaurant began to struggle and started opening primarily for private parties before closing completely by the early 1990’s as the owners fought to find a new, sustainable use for their treasure.

We’re only the third family to live here. Prior to our purchase in 1999 and sometime after 1994, it had become law offices, with the industrial basement kitchen rented out to a caterer. Even though we closed on the house in February, we weren’t able to fully occupy until all the renters’ leases were up, July 1, 1999.

It’s really been fifteen years.

The John Newman House, 321 Division Street, 2004.

The John Newman House, 321 Division Street, Spring 2004.

Owning an old house brings many joys and frustrations. Enjoying the unique beauty and character of the home is sometimes overshadowed by the constant upkeep. Something always needs attention. The romanticized notions of living in a place like this are certainly balanced by the hard work necessary to keep it going. Still, I can’t help but treasure and relish in the time we’ve spent here.

Our first projects after acquiring the house included the addition of a wrought iron fence with drive through gates and the removal of the parking lot that ran the entire west side of the property. Tons and tons of top soil had to be brought in after the asphalt was removed. At first, we planted the entire side yard with grass. Slowly, we’ve added to the landscape over the years, first adding a gazebo and then plantings and stepping stones– some of which I made myself.

I spend much of the summer and fall outside enjoying the grounds. There are currently more than 75 trees on the property and hundreds of shrubs and perennials in need of attention. The yard continuously evolves as things grow, creating challenges in deciding what to add or subtract in maintaining our little forest in the city. I’ve tried to create areas that look landscaped but at the same time maintain a natural feel.

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The John Newman House, 321 Division Street, Fall 2009.

Mother Nature certainly has her say, as new things spring up and old ones die off. I am constantly trying to keep up with her. I couldn’t even begin to count the hours spent planting, mulching, weeding, trimming and shaping our little sanctuary. I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert but I certainly enjoy the time I spend tending to it.

A home like this is a huge commitment. There are always projects and unique circumstances to overcome. Old houses are also harder to clean and keep clean. You have to learn how to pace yourself and not become overwhelmed, which i think happens naturally over time.

The John Newman House, 321 Division Street as it looks today. (Summer 2014)

The John Newman House, 321 Division Street as it looks today. (Summer 2014)

There’s no real way to measure an experience like this, except to say it was the best/worst decision we ever made.

Would we do it again knowing what we do now? Probably not.

Still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world. You really have to live it to understand it. It’s an ongoing labor of love. The rewards really can’t be put into words.

From parking lot to paradise. The transformation of the west side yard at 321 Division Street.

From parking lot to paradise. The transformation of the west side yard at 321 Division Street.

West side yard view from the second floor at 321 Division Street.

West side yard view from the second floor at 321 Division Street.

Front Porch at 321 Division Street in 1999.

Front Porch at 321 Division Street in 1999.

The front porch of the John Newman House, 321 Division Street as it looks today (Summer 2014).

The front porch of the John Newman House, 321 Division Street as it looks today (Summer 2014).

NYC May 2014- Day Ten: Purple Summer

Last Sunday Morning we met up with our friends Richard, Dennie and Alan and headed to a cafe in Hell’s Kitchen, to meet with some other friends of theirs, before heading to The High Line.

Unfortunately,  being Memorial Day weekend, the cafe was closed. This was actually okay because that gave us the opportunity to revisit Chelsea Market. (First visit for our friends.)

View from The High Line.

View from The High Line.

Chelsea Market is in the Meatpacking District, near the Hudson River and The High Line. The building is a full city block wide and long.

It’s considered a “neighborhood market with a global perspective” and has become one of the most visited destinations in NYC over the past fifteen years.

Once everyone had a chance to grab a knosh, we headed for our morning stroll on The High Line.

This was Michael’s and my second visit this trip and Boy, what a difference! So many people! It was a beautiful, sunny morning and the paths were packed with people from all over the world. I have to say, I’m glad to have experienced the park with both more– and fewer visitors… either way, there is still a relaxing, peaceful atmosphere about it.

The High Line

The High Line

We stopped at various points along the way to enjoy the views of the city, the Hudson River and of course the wonderfully ingenious layout of the park itself. One of the great things about all the green spaces in NYC is that they are all unique. They all provide a different experience and have their own distinct vibe.

It was brought up in conversation that Chicago is in the process of creating it’s own version of The High Line, called The 606; creating an urban parkway on the abandoned, raised freight rails of The Bloomingdale Line. It’s scheduled for opening this coming fall.

Michael and I split from rest of the group as they headed towards Macy’s and we headed back to Times Square before our show.

Violet-Playbill-03-14Violet I hate to ever pass up the opportunity to see Sutton Foster perform. She embodies honesty, sincerity and loads of passion in every role she plays. This was one of the reasons we scheduled Violet as our last Broadway show this trip.

Violet has been around for awhile, although this is its first Broadway production. I was not familiar with it and had no preconceived expectations of it.

Violet is the story of a girl with facial scar, that sets out on a journey to be healed by a TV evangelist; finding herself, instead, along the way. In the end there is always hope.

I loved the story, the music and the staging. Performances were also good all around. Supporting Foster’s outstanding performance as Violet are Joshua Henry (Flick) and Colin Donnell (Monty), both enamored by her. In the ensemble, Annie Golden gives one of those really rare stand out performances that sticks with you.

Between shows, we stopped back at The Counter to see our friend Amy (who was starting her shift) one more time and had one of their delicious build your own burgers. Then, we headed up 10 blocks to our final show of this NYC visit.

heathersHeathers the Musical No matter what your age, you’d have to practically be living under a rock to have not seen the cult-film, Heathers. Well, now Heathers is on stage in the form of a highly-entertaining Off-Broadway musical. We met up with our friends again and this was actually the only show that we all saw together, at the same time.

We all enjoyed it. Heathers is just crazy-fun. Even though I felt the pace of the performance was off a bit with multiple understudies in key roles, the show still works. Barrett Wilbert Weed leads the cast as the quirky, Veronica, commanding the stage at every turn.

heathers-the-musical-off-broadway-poster-17There’s some really good music in this– and I can’t wait for the album’s release date.

A happy and satisfying, last production in our ten day, seventeen show adventure.

Before heading back to pack, we stopped one last time at the 8th Avenue Shake Shack for Concretes. We said our goodbyes, headed back to our place, feeling very fortunate to have had such a great time.

This had been our longest stay in New York to date– and it’s never long enough. It’s always bittersweet saying goodbye to our home away from home.

NYC May 2014- Day Eight: Parks & Perfection

Entrance to Fort Tryon Park.

Entrance to Fort Tryon Park.

What better way is there to spend a Friday in New York than to venture away from Times Square, with friends, to visit friends? That’s how we spent the bulk of the day. The four of us ventured up to Washington Heights and Fort Tryon Park to visit our friends, Carrie and Joel. We’d never been up to that part of Manhattan before so it was nice to see something new. On previous visits, Carrie and Joel had always met us in Midtown, so we finally got to see their beautiful apartment too.

The George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park.

The George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park.

Fort Tryon Park was a great break from the noise of Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen and perfect for relaxing and conversation.

We decided not to go to the Cloisters but leisurely wandered around the park and had great views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. We chatted for awhile on a beautiful overlook and then headed to the Gaelic restaurant and pub, Le Cheile for lunch.

After lunch, it was back to Midtown for a little rest before our evening show.

If-Then-Playbill-March-2014-a-New-Musical-on-Broadway-Richard-Rodgers-Theatre-Music-Tom-Kitt-Book-and-Lyrics-Brian-Yorkey-with-Idina-Menzel-Lachanze-Anthony-Rapp-Jerry-Dixon-Jenn-Colella-Jason-Tam-Tam-0If/Then Written by the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning team, of Next To Normal, Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey, If/Then is one of the only completely original musicals this Broadway season. No contemporary writing team better expresses our inner feelings and explores the human condition with such insight and style.

You remember that girl, Adele Dazeem? Yeah, she’s in it. That’s the one and only, Idina Menzel. She’s not just in it, she is it.

Oh yeah, and remember that Mark-guy from Rent? He’s in it too. Anthony Rapp is reunited with Menzel in this fascinating production.

You know how you sometimes wonder, What if…? If/Then explores that question through two different scenarios , had Menzel’s character, Elizabeth made different choices. The action moves back and forth between the two choices in a beautiful telling of what might have been.

The entire supporting cast is wonderful. In addition to Rapp, it features James Snyder (we saw in Cry Baby) and the phenomenal, LaChanze (I saw previously in Once On This Island), were among the standouts. Jenn Colella (we saw in Chaplin) as Anne, is a performer to watch. I was extremely impressed by her impressive vocal skills.

The show is funny, moving and takes you on a journey none of us will ever experience— but some might wish they had.

If/Then is by far, one of the best, if not the best new show currently on Broadway.

The GMO Skinny: What You Need to Know about GMO: Genetically Modified Foods

Labels on bags of snack foods indicate they are non-GMOYou’re already eating them and most people don’t know it. Some of the food on your table has been altered to produce toxins— toxins that are entering your body. It’s not on the label and it may not be safe.

GM or GMO foods (Genetically Modified Organisms) are now making their way to grocery shelves, in restaurants and into your home. The biggest concern for consumers should be the results of studies showing the adverse affects of GM foods on the digestive system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive organs of the animals tested. They have also been linked to premature aging. The studies  show the consumption of certain GM foods have caused allergic reactions to other normally non-allergenic foods that didn’t previously exist.

What are GMOs?

To put it in the simplest terms, GMOs are plants and animals that are genetically altered by inserting or splicing the genes of different species with the goal of a specific result. For example, combining the genes of a fish and a potato. Scientists are crossing species barriers set up by nature. They are creating hybrids that would be impossible to occur naturally. It’s also known as Genetic Engineering.

Why GMOs?

The official reasoning behind genetic modification is to produce crops that offer improved yields, enhanced nutritional value, tastes better, have a longer shelf life, and are resistance to drought, frost, or insect pests.

Unfortunately, to date, there is no proof of any increases in the quality of GM foods either in yields, taste or nutritional values over Non-GMO foods. Modified GMO crops that have increased primary pest tolerance, start to be attack more readily by secondary pests, requiring further engineering  and genetic modification. Herbicide tolerance in GMOs, allows and encourages the higher usage of chemical herbicides on food crops to kill weeds, increasing their overall toxicity. The most common used herbicide is Monsanto’s Round Up.

The genetic engineering of plants often requires the alteration of more than one single trait, when that trait fails to completely fulfill its intended purpose or when multiple results are desired. Stacked traits in one particular GM corn hybrid has eight GM traits to alter insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

gmo-foods-smallGMOs are rapidly changing the natural balance of our ecosystem, causing a chain-reaction effect that cannot be reversed. The environmental effects of these changes may not be felt immediately but will take years to accurately measure and understand. Geneti modification cannot be undone. To better understand this, look at the serious long term affects the Japanese Beetle and West Nile virus are creating after being artificially introduced into other parts of the world other than their origin. They affect all elements of the environment (i.e. plants, animals, humans) directly, as well as the effects caused by the use of new chemicals introduced into the ecosystem in an attempt to combat them.

The genetic engineering of plants often requires the alteration of more than one single trait, if that trait fails to completely fulfill its intended purpose or when multiple results are desired. Stacked traits in one particular GM corn hybrid has eight GM traits to alter insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

 “Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.” – Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751

“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.” – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf

GMO labeling is not regulated or required in the United States. Legislation to require labeling is being fought by the major corporations that use GM ingredients in their products. Currently, 60 countries around the world, including the European Union, have very strict laws regarding GMOs, if not completely banned altogether. You can see a list of countries and what is banned: here.

The genetic modification of animals foods is best explained by the wide usage of antibiotics, growth hormones and outright genetic engineering; in addition to GMO feed used in animal production.

Currently, the largest commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include: soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), and corn (88%). This has resulted in GM ingredients invading 80% of our prepared foods.

gmo

The production and human consumption of GM foods is still in its infancy. Very few studies have been done to even begin measuring the effects it  has on people and the environment. The limited studies performed on animals show potentially dangerous and life-threatening consequences.

For More Information:

I highly recommend you download the full GMO Myths and Truths PDF file and read it carefully.

Here’s a detailed list of GMO Health Risks.

Here’s another link: Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food.

You can find and download a list of vertified Non GMO Product here.

 

Winter Dreams: A Photo Essay

We had a beautiful snow yesterday– so at my Dad’s request, I took the opportunity to shoot some photographs around the house. I hope you enjoy them! (If you click on the photo, you’ll be taken to a larger image.)

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Baltic Cruise Day Eight: Klaipeda, Lithuania

Klaipeda is an important port city because it is almost always ice-free. Before 1945, it was known as Memel.

Our tour choices were rather limited, so we chose “Fairy Tales & Legends of the Witches Hill and Amber Bay”. Sounds interesting, right? Well, if you were looking for excitement– the title was about as exciting as it got.

The Baltic Sea in Lithuania from the top of a sand dune.

The Baltic Sea in Lithuania from the top of a sand dune.

We stopped on the way to Witches Hill at a secluded public beach for a view of the Baltic Sea. Wait!? Haven’t we been cruising the Baltic Sea for eight days now? In spite of my sarcasm, it was a beautiful spot and I wouldn’t have minded just laying in the sun all day. To get to the sea, we had to climb slippery and steep stairs to the top of a dune to see the beach. I just thought it was odd that we stopped there and then climbed all those steps to take a quick look and then leave abruptly. (This got the complainers in the group going, right off the bat.)

One of the hand-carved statues on Witches Hill.

One of the hand-carved statues on Witches Hill.

We took the bus to our next stop and we went on a two mile walk through the forest of Witches Hill, that was absolutely beautiful. Most of the people in our group were complaining about all the walking and I think they missed the beautiful landscape in the process. There were huge hand-carved wooden statues of mythical creatures scattered throughout the paths but our tour guide didn’t do a very good job of telling any stories behind them.

I just really enjoyed the walk and the sweet, fresh air.

The forest of Witches Hill.

The forest of Witches Hill.

Row houses near Witches Hill.

Row houses near Witches Hill.

After that, we had a short break and I snapped a picture of some simpl, modern dwellings by a small garden and shop. The raised apartments didn’t look very big or very safe.

After that, we headed to Amber Bay for a brief talk with a pastor of a small church about the local community. This really got people’s eyes rolling. The bottom line was that it was an opportunity for him to solicit donations for the church. A church that only has five parishioners. I think our group was just happy to be able to sit in the church pews after the long walk.

Then we visited a weathervane museum that looked like a store, only none of the weathervanes on display were for sale. They did have other things you could buy though. We were offered shot glasses of syrup-thick amber tea and then we walked about a quarter mile along the bay.

A cottage along Amber Bay.

A cottage along Amber Bay.

It was a relaxing day but a rather disappointing visit to a country I doubt I will ever visit again. What I saw was beautiful. I just wish I would have seen more.