How Can We Get America Cooking? One Crumb at a Time

To cook or not to cook.

It’s a question that writer Peg Bracken lampooned in 1960, with the publication of “The I Hate to Cook Book,” which sold three million copies. Three years later, Betty Friedan would challenge women to explore a world beyond the kitchen and other housework in her seminal work, “The Feminine Mystique.” Fast-forward a half century, and it’s a question that we continue to ask ourselves, chew on and in many cases spit out. The most recent round in the debate surfaced last summer, on the heels of a study conducted at North Carolina State University.  The study prompted a round-table discussion at the New York Times. It’s provoked writers on both sides of the fence from Virginia Heffernan’s (perhaps channeling Bracken) provocative “What If You Just Hate Making Dinner?” to farmer Joel Salatin, who blames one naysayer’s indictment of home cooking on a cultural lack of priorities.

Many have lauded the pluses of regularly cooking at home: Precious time spent with loved ones and saving money, to name a few. However, others say they just can’t be bothered. That there isn’t one more minute in a time-starved day to dream up dinner, let alone whip one up in 30 minutes like those television chefs do. These voices cry mercy; they’re working overtime and the last thing they have time to do when they get home is cook. The problem is only made worse by unappreciative, non-participating family members who are quick to criticize the home-cooked handiwork.

Guess what? Everyone has a valid point. Part of cooking is stumbling, even if you dutifully follow the directions. In a time-crunched world that emphasizes perfection and performance, that’s a risk many of us don’t want to take but many of us who do cook do so out of necessity. Making dinner at home is an effective and tangible way to stretch your dollar. It’s a practical matter of getting food on the table and feeding yourself and your family, with kids or without. For the more than 17.5 million food insecure households relying on federal or food pantry assistance, cooking is the antidote to a diet of processed foods. It’s also one of the only ways many Americans can afford to eat organic, humanely produced, pasture-raised, local food, all of which costs much more when it’s prepared for us.

However, the rallying cries from the “I Won’t Cook” or “I Don’t Cook” camps are so noisy, in fact, we tend to ignore the silent majority known as the “I Can’t Cooks.” One important reason so many are not cooking is because we simply don’t know how. For the moment, let’s leave aside the stuff of celebrity chef competitions and Instagram. Cooking in an everyday context means boiling water for potatoes, carrots, pasta or rice. It means washing and drying lettuce to make a salad. It means chopping an onion and cooking it in oil to season lentils, spinach, an egg.

It’s the simple stuff that so many who came of age after the 1950s have never learned. In 2012, 43 percent of American food dollars were spent outside the home, the highest level since 1970 (when it was 25 percent), the first year the U.S. Department of Agriculture began tracking consumer food expenditures. Our country is in the middle of a diet-related health crisis. We’re grossly overweight, undernourished, and getting sicker from diet-related diseases: Thirty-five percent of American adults are considered obese and less than one-third of Americans are meeting federal dietary recommendations for daily vegetable consumption. (On average we eat about 1 ½ cups of vegetables a day, at least half of which come from potatoes and tomatoes.)

In 2012, 9.3 percent of American adults had Type-2 diabetes, about one in 11 people, up from 8.3 percent in 2010. (An additional 86 million Americans have symptoms of pre-diabetes.) Even military experts are concerned that the obesity epidemic is becoming an issue of national security. Could cooking or our lack thereof be linked to the collective state of our waistlines and blood sugar levels? A recent study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition says yes. New data shows that the more people cook at home, the fewer calories they consumed, even if weight loss was not a goal. They also consumed significantly more fiber and less sugar.

Cooking naysayers are understandably frustrated and fed up by the endless grind but is the answer to throw in the dish towel? To wait for the food industry, whose interests are clearly financial, to come up with more sustainable, affordable, healthier convenience foods? If you believe in urban gardening, farmers’ markets, and investing in local economies, all of which has brought food to the front burner of our collective consciousness over the past 15 years, then cooking must be part of the equation.

How can we get America cooking? One crumb at a time, literally. If you know how to cook, teach someone who doesn’t. Your son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother, cousin, neighbor, co-worker, dog walker. The local barista, fire fighter, supermarket cashier. It doesn’t matter how much you know. For the time being, you know more than the other guy and together at the cutting board, you will teach each other. Eventually your newbie will graduate and pass on your tips and tricks.

Professional chefs: Find time to offer free classes or demos in your community at a food bank, church, senior center or after school program or lead a tour of a supermarket or farmers’ market on the basics of stocking a pantry and storing perishables. If cooking nightly is impossible, don’t do it. Embark incrementally, maybe with one or two dishes, once or twice a week, and if a solo endeavor seems daunting, find a cooking buddy to share the labor, the cost of ingredients, and kitchen gear. Maybe you cook and eat that night; maybe it’s for the week ahead.

Think of cooking as an ongoing practice rather than a performance. Each time you cook, the process gets easier and more manageable. Only with consistency can we truly see how cooking can be a part of a regular routine, and include your community when you’re feeling confident. Host a potluck or invite a neighbor for dinner. Everyone needs to eat, after all. This could inspire your dinner guest to return the gesture and build on the momentum. Cooking can be as practical or as magical as you make it. It can be therapeutic or not. It’s up to you and it’s never too late.

Tip of the Day

Calorie saver! When recipes, such as dip, call for sour cream, replace it with plain low-fat yogurt. You’ll increase the calcium while reducing calories.

Daily Inspiration

 “Thou rulest the raging of the sea: When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.”

~ Psalm 89:9. This is peace-to be able to sleep in the storm!

In Christ, we are relaxed and at peace in the midst of the concussions, bewilderments, and perplexities of this life. The storm rages, but our hearts are at rest.


Tips for Overcoming Adversity

Whether we like it or not, adversity is part of life. Overcoming adversity is one of the biggest hurdles we face. As Havelock Ellis wrote, “Pain and death are part of life. To reject them is to reject life itself.” Problems, large and small, present themselves to us throughout our whole existence. Regardless of how sharp, clever, or happy-go-lucky we are, we will encounter struggle, challenges, difficulties and at times, heart wrenching moments. Is this meant to be a negative, cynical assessment of what we have to look forward to? Not at all!

In fact, thank goodness for adversity! Learning to deal with and overcoming adversity is what makes us who we are. Every challenge and every difficulty we successfully confront in life serves to strengthen our will, confidence and ability to conquer future obstacles. Herodotus, the Greek philosopher, said, “Adversity has the effect of drawing out strength and qualities of a man who would have lain dormant in its absence.” When you respond positively and constructively to your biggest challenges, the qualities of strength, courage, character and perseverance emerge from deep inside of you.

Of course, since we are human, it is very easy to get caught up in the self-pity, unfairness of life, or ‘why me?’ trap. When we do, we fail to recognize the opportunities for wisdom and growth that accompany adversity. However, as soon we allow ourselves to think more clearly, we are able to let go of self-defeating and unproductive thoughts and get down to the business of dealing with what’s before us.

The Tips For Overcoming Adversity:

  1. Be aware of, and accept that adversity is inevitable in life. To avoid or resist it will only make it persist. Everywhere you look in the world there is unmistakable struggle. There are floods, tsunamis, wars, and calamities of all types. Even within your own circle of family and friends there is death, loss and tragedy. Although pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. So what do you do?

  2. Build your internal resources. Before adversity hits, work on cultivating emotional strength, courage and discipline. When you make yourself aware that certain difficulties are inevitable, you can prepare yourself mentally for confronting adversity head-on. It would be no different from a warrior going to battle. He (or she) prepares himself physically and mentally for any possibility. He knows it could be ugly, daunting, and grueling, but he is equipped. More often than not, when you’re prepared for the worst, the worst never happens, or it’s much less severe than anticipated. Another invaluable inner resource is faith. Faith that everything will work out, faith that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and faith that “this too shall pass.” Everything in life has its place and purpose.

  3. Build your external resources. Build a support system of family and friends. When the going gets tough, we all need encouragement and support. We need someone to talk to; someone to help ease the burden. You would be surprised to discover how often a friend has had a similar experience and can help guide you through the difficult time. Even just knowing a friend is there when you need them can be most comforting.

  4. That which does not kill you doesn’t always make you stronger. Sorry Nietzsche! While I agree with Nietzsche, in principle, that what does not kill you will make you stronger, I do not necessarily agree with him in practice. For instance, if you do not have enough built-up resilience or experience in dealing with difficulty, adversity can crush you. On the other hand, if do you have sufficient resilience, then indeed it will make you stronger. How so, you ask? Resilience like any muscle is built up gradually and exponentially with repeated exposure to obstacles. If you lack practice in confronting obstacles (as when you choose to avoid them), one traumatic event can take you down.

To underscore this point, developmental research has shown that traumatized children are more, rather than less, likely to be traumatized again. Likewise, those who grow up in tough neighborhoods become weaker, not stronger, and are more likely to struggle in life.

  1. Take inspiration and learn from others who have dealt successfully with adversity. There are many inspiring stories of people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. They triumphed over their adversities to live successful, productive lives instead of surrendering to them.

Here are some examples:

Helen Keller: Lost her sight and hearing due to a mysterious fever when she was only 18 months old. She overcame her deafness and blindness to become a strong, educated woman who spoke about, and promoted, women’s rights.

Winston Churchill: Overcame a stuttering problem and poor performance in school to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and one of the most influential political leaders of the twentieth century. He was also known for his powerful and rousing speeches.

Wilma Rudolph: The Olympian born prematurely, the 20th of 22 children. She overcame double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio to become winner of three Gold medals in track at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.

Lance Armstrong: Overcame testicular cancer which spread to the brain and lungs (he was told he had only a 40% chance of survival) to come back and win the Tour de France seven more times!

don’t quit*** Lance has since admitted to taking steroids during his cycling career, however, he did still battle cancer and overcame immense odds. It’s unfortunate that his career was not as exemplary as his will to overcome adversity.

J.K. Rowling: Born to a poor family; left a bad marriage with a young baby to live on government assistance; wrote her first Harry Potter book and was turned down by most publishers until Bloomsbury Publishing picked it up. Need I say more?

Determination, resilience, and persistence enabled all of these great people to push past their adversities and prevail. If they could do it, surely the rest of us can summon the strength and courage to do overcome our adversities!

Points to Consider:

✓ The difficult times in life help us appreciate when things are going smoothly.

✓ Look for the learning opportunities in every adverse situation.

✓ Decide whether you will allow your experience to make, or break you. Depending upon how you choose to perceive it, it could go either way.

✓ Be prepared to accept the worst, should it occur. When you have prepared yourself mentally for the worst, it rarely ever happens, and if it does, it seems less so because you are better equipped to handle it.

✓ Cultivate faith, courage and resilience. The more of these qualities you arm yourself with, the lesser the impact of the adversity.

✓ Remind yourself that adversity is part of life. To Accept adversity, helps you overcome it.

Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life. When we resolve to confront and overcome it, we become experts at dealing with it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.

Essential Life Skills

Tip of the Day

Short on time! Use a microwave to quickly “zap” vegetables. Try baking white or sweet potatoes quickly this way.

Daily Inspiration

The happiness which brings enduring worth to life is not the superficial happiness that is dependent on circumstances. It is the happiness and contentment that fills the should even in the midst of the most distressing of circumstances and the most adverse environment.

“For with thee is the fountain of life: In thy light shall we see light.”

Psalm 36:9


You are in charge of own your career, no one else. So, if you want to position yourself in a certain education program, be on a specific team, or have a particular job, you need to learn how to make the most of your skills, talents, education, and abilities and prove yourself to others. Having self-advocacy can help you shape the plan you create for yourself, and land the right job, school, grades, team, etc.

Self-advocacy is understanding how you can promote your strengths and satisfy your needs while interacting in the world. As strong individuals, we have to understand what makes us special, our rare talents, and while doing so, we also have to understand what areas we need to strengthen and nurture.

You don’t have to do it all on your own! Grab someone you trust; a parent, a best friend, a teacher you look up to, or a school counselor, and ask them what they believe are your greatest strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to create a list of skills that you will work to develop further. Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses, be excited to turn them into strengths! Learning to become your own advocate takes time, effort, and belief in yourself.


Tip of the Day

Keep your family healthy! A diet rich in fruits and veggies may lower your risk for some chronic diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers. Make half your plate fruits and veggies!

Daily Inspiration 

There is no marriage that is beyond repair in the sight of God. We should first submit ourselves and then our marriage to Christ. We must humble ourselves and lay our pride and our desire to please ourselves first on His altar. Then God can restore feelings and bring healing to a marriage in trouble.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Mathew 19:6


New Ways To Refinance Private Student Loans

The private student loan market is opening up with the first real chance of offering refinances, or consolidation as it’s commonly called.

3 ways to refinance private student loans:

Earlier this year, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported a company called Charter One has been advertising an Education Refinance Loan with fixed rates as low as 4.74% and a variable rate of 2.31% above the one-month LIBOR rate. Those low rates are contigent on two things: A good credit score and a co-signer, so this offer is of no help if you’re falling behind on debts and your credit is shot. You can refinance anywhere from $10,000 to $170,000 in private student loans with 15 or 20-year repayment options. Federal student loans are not eligible for this refi offer. Private student loans should still be avoided at all costs, but this option may help you if you’re already stuck in one.

Now there’s also a new option for refinancing your private student loans from a consortium of credit unions. Visit and see what’s available. You may save a substantial amount of interest. A third option would be They claim to be the largest provider of student loan refinancing, allowing you to refinance both private and federal student loans.

Rules for student loan borrowing:

When borrowing for college, be sure to max out whatever federal loans you’re offered. Should your college expenses exceed your level of federal loans, consider going to a cheaper school, picking up extra work, or whatever else you have to do to avoid private student loans at all cost! Additionally, your total borrowing for a 4-year degree should never exceed your expected first year’s earnings after you start working in your field. If possible, start your degree out at a community college and then transfer to a “name school” where you plan to get your degree. You can effectively cut the cost of a college education in half by doing it that way.

Clark Howard

Tip of the Day

An 8-ounce steak is meant to be shared! Many restaurant menus feature 8-oz steaks (or bigger!). For women, 2 servings of meat or alternatives a day is recommended. Men should aim for 3 servings a day. One restaurant steak could be your meat for the day or two! When dining out, look for the smallest servings of lean cuts of meat, fish or poultry. Choose those that have been cooked by methods that require less fat such as baking, broiling, grilling, roasting and barbecuing, and avoid high fat toppings such as creamy sauces, gravy and butter.

Daily Inspiration 

“A sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

~ Luke 2:35

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

~Edgar Albert Guest

Tip of the Day

Use whole grains in a classic dish! Try a rice and beans dish with brown rice or use whole-grain couscous, quinoa, or bulgur instead.

Choose My Plate

Daily Inspiration 

Be filled with the Spirit, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

~ Ephesians 5:18-20

Language Matters: How to Communicate More Effectively With Your Team

For project managers, directors, and anyone else in a similar role, the words you use when speaking with your employees really matter. It’s not just what you communicate, but how you communicate it. The psychological impact of language is something that many professionals tend to forget, especially when up against a deadline or working with a difficult client. Using the right words and proper tone can help you improve the effectiveness of constructive criticism and even create a stronger bond among your team members or with your client(s). Also, it can result in a happier, more cohesive team, which leads to better work, happier clients, and a healthier working environment.

It’s what you say …

There are plenty of ways to say the same thing, but each way may come across completely different, depending on the words you use, your tone of voice, and your audience. This is especially important for project managers and others in leadership positions. After all, a director is only as effective as his or her team. Therefore, a solid understanding of the psychology of language can be an invaluable skill to pick up. For instance, let’s say you have a mock-up of a new infographic due at the end of the week for a fairly demanding client. There are plenty of ways that a project manager could request a status update from either the creative team or the account executive:

1) “Where is that mock-up? I need to see your progress immediately.”

2) “How’s the mock-up coming? Any questions on the assignment? Will you be ready to review at the end of the work day today?”

3) “When will you be ready to get me that mock-up? The account team and I need to review it before it goes to the client on Friday.”

Another example: A junior copywriter submits a draft that quite simply missed the mark. There are a few ways to address this:

1) “What was your line of thinking that lead to this concept?” (Note: Even if the initial draft missed the mark, the ideas behind it may still be solid, so don’t automatically dismiss things, especially from a junior team member).

2) “Did you even read the creative brief? This doesn’t even align with brand standards. Go back to the drawing board, and show me something good next time.”

3) “Hmmm, the client won’t like this.” (Proceed to take the draft and mark it up with disparaging comments).

Media buyers, social media managers, account executives, and other staffers aren’t immune either. While no one is perfect, it is how you approach mistakes or missteps that really count and that starts with the initial conversation about what went wrong and how to fix it.

… And how you say it:

Of course, the tone you use when you deliver your message matters as well, almost as much as the words you use. Even if you’re frustrated, being able to modulate your voice and speak slowly and deliberately can go a long ways when trying to keep things calm. People pick up on frustration. On the other hand, sometimes being a bit witty, flippant, or even sarcastic may lighten the mood, if that’s how your team generally communicates. This is a case of knowing your team and your employees, but sometimes a well-placed joke can ease the tension and make everyone relax.

Use “I” language and positive words:

This one can actually extend into all areas of your life, even outside of work. Speaking in “I” statements, placing the focus or blame on yourself (e.g., “What can I do to help you accomplish your tasks on time?” versus “You’re always late on deadlines.”) is less confrontational and won’t put people on the defensive as easily. Using affirmative words or phrases like “good start” or “I see where you were going here, but have you considered X” will help encourage the right sort of progress, as opposed to being negative and only pointing out what’s wrong with someone’s work.

Good language skills lead to great results and a happy crew:

Despite the fact that the esteemed philosopher and author Niccolo Machiavelli stated that it is preferable for leaders to be feared than loved, that isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to developing creative concepts or strategies. After all, you never want your team to be frightened to question leadership or broach new ideas. That’s how agencies stagnate. Using the psychology of language properly is one of the first steps towards creating a harmonious team that feels confident in their work and enjoys it. It leads to much better creative executions and results for your agency and clients.

Remember: Words do have power. Use them wisely.


Tip of the Day

Look and feel better! In addition to health benefits, physical activity can help you look good, get around better, and feel better about yourself.

Choose My Plate

Daily Inspiration

“If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

~ Exodus 15:26

Daily Prayer

4 Tips for Finding College Scholarships

A college education is expensive nowadays, and most students need financial help. Scholarships are a great aid, because it is basically free money. Whether you’re a high school student or you’re already in college, this guide can help you get connected with the money you need.

Here are some great ways to find scholarships

  1. Start local: Many high schools have special guidance counselors for college planning. In smaller schools, the regular guidance counselor may have a database of local scholarships. Local or regional scholarships have fewer people competing for them, so there is a higher chance of winning one. Larger companies usually offer scholarships to children of their employees, so check that out as well.

ARTICLE: Going to College: Your Guide to Campus Life and Money

  1. Read the fine print: You do not want to apply if you do not meet all of the eligible requirements. Some scholarships are very specific, so make sure you only apply to the ones that you qualify for.

  2. Use the web: There are many websites available to use in your search for college dollars. Most want you to fill out a profile to better match you with awards. It is worth the time and effort to complete these profiles, so you only get options that match you. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: is not only for college planning and SATS, but also has an arm that focuses on scholarships, Big Future. There is a huge database of scholarships here, so it is critical to fill out as many details as you can in the profile that is used for searching. is another great tool. Again, you need a profile to bring back the most accurate matches. Also, you can then see all the scholarships you applied for or may want to apply for in the future. They also have ‘contests’ that you can enter monthly or weekly to win money. (formerly College Prowler) can help you find colleges, as well as money. You have options to pick from what types of awards you’re looking for. This site also has some contests to enter. is not as robust, but does offer another choice. In the search for college funds, the more places you look, the better chance you have to get some extra dollars for your higher education.

A few other places to look are, College Week Live, Scholarship Experts, Got Chosen and College is Power.

  1. Get creative: There are scholarships for a wide variety of accomplishments!

Keep your eyes and ears open, and sign up for as many scholarship search sites as you can. Look at school, or even the local paper to learn about upcoming opportunities. Apply for only those scholarships you are eligible for. If you are diligent and apply, apply, apply, you should find some funding for your college years. Good luck!

Clark Howard

Tip of the Day

You can make luscious creamy sauces without lots of fat by using evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is made by removing water from fresh milk and then heating it to give it a silky, slightly cooked taste. Just like regular milk, it is a healthy choice filled with nutrients such as protein, calcium, and vitamins A and D. You can use evaporated milk instead of cream to make luscious, lower fat creations. For example, make mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, soups, chowders and more! Choose skim, 1% or 2% evaporated milk to add a creamy taste to your cooking without the cream.


Daily Inspiration 

“You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

~ Hebrews 5:12-14

Daily Prayer