Tuesday, November 25, 2014

War Between the Soups

On November 5, 2014 we had a war between the soups: Houston vs. Saigon. Patsy Brautigam demonstrated a wonderful tortilla soup made from a turkey carcass. With a little bit of fire and spice, we all enjoyed this very Tex Mex delight topped with tortilla chips. Huyen made a famous Chao Ca from white fish. This healthful soup is often fed to those who are feeling under the weather. It is easy to digest and delicious to boot. We all enjoyed a nice helping of this yummy soup. In the end, the soups were so different and nutritious that we proclaimed a tie.

Vietnamese Fish Congee Recipe

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fish, Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Birds

On November 19, we had a wonderful joint program with Children's and LIFE. Eric Duran, biologist from the Nature Discovery Center came to a packed house and taught the preschoolers and post schoolers (grown ups) all about vertebrates: fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Eric's obvious joy in teaching had the kids in awe and adults smiling and actually learning new things. One LIFEr said that she hadn't heard some of the terms since college. Did you know that hair, fur, scales and nails are made of keratin?

Lie to Me

On November 12, we were graced by a handwriting expert, Alice Weiser. She gave away her book, Judge the Jury, as a door prize. Alice is both a jury consultant and a cruise entertainer so we got lots of fun and interesting insights into how to tell if someone is lying. Alice believes so profoundly in one's handwriting that she wouldn't date her current husband until she had his handwriting analyzed. She had three experts do it and one of them said if Alice didn't want Ralph, go ahead and send him to her. Ha!

Did you know?

  • If someone doesn't connect his o's or a's he can't keep a secret.
  • If you cross your t above the stem and it doesn't touch, you are a dreamer and you dream big. If your t's form a loop, you are vain.
  • If you are lying, you will often pull an ear, blink a lot, swallow before answering, carotid twitch, and touch your face.
  • If someone is telling the truth, eyes might shoot to the left to remember.
  • If someone is lying, eyes might shoot to the right. 
Alice asked anyone in the audience who had small handwriting to come up. She spoke to one young woman with small handwriting and said that it is a sign of low self-esteem. She said that she had lots going for her and not to put herself down. We all enjoyed the humor of the program, but also the positive way Alice ended the show: Look yourself in the mirror each day and say "Darn I'm good, (elbow and knee back) YES!"

Black Troops in World War I and the Houston Negro Hospital

Joseph Stephen Cullinan, one of the founders of Texaco, built the Houston Negro Hospital (which opened in 1927) with his own funds and dedicated it to the memory of his son, John Cullinan, who had been a white officer leading black troops during the war. Professor Thomas Kelly winningly winds up our Gulf Coast Reads book Remember Ben Clayton by Stephen Harrigan.  We were all fascinated with this interesting program containing local history and a loving philanthropist father.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence

A photo of all of Gandhi's possessions when he died.
On October 22, we had the librarian at The Menil as our guest speaker. Eric Wolf explained that the library at The Menil is a very narrow and deep collection, unlike our own here at Lone Star College - CyFair Branch Library where we collect for a wide audience. Then he gave us a sampling of the exhibition on Gandhi at the museum. Abraham Korah liaised with The Menil to bring this program to us.

From The Menil: "Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence is the first international project to explore the resonance of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's (1867-1948) ethics of non-violence, or "satyagraha," in the visual arts."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Turmeric: Good for You

The Oct. 15, 2014 LIFE program had a large crowd excited to learn about the spice, turmeric. Usha Dontharaju, Reference Assistant at LSC-CyFair, in full Indian sari regalia, did not disappoint. We learned that this root spice is in the same family as ginger and it is used as a food ingredient and as a tonic for many ailments such as indigestion, liver detox, skin healing, brain function, antiinflammatory, lower cholesterol, anti cancer, and much more. Indian cooks use turmeric in small quantities while cooking, but they put the ground spice in practically everything. It is a beautiful yellow color and a neutral taste (it is not spicy like hot red pepper). 

Usha prepared a Lemon Rice dish. She had steamed rice prepared. In a frying pan, she put 5 teaspoons of vegetable oil. When hot she added about a 1/2 cup of raw peanuts and 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds. When fragrant, she added a teaspoon of chick pea flour, the juice of two limes (yes, they still call it lemon rice), two pinches of turmeric, a handful of curry leaves from her garden,and salt to taste. She combined the mixture with the rice. We all got to taste this delightful dish. Usha also prepared a turmeric facial mask (1 teaspoon turmeric and three tablespoons of homemade plain yogurt). This will color your skin yellow so don't put it on before a big party.

Usha had everyone laughing at her witty remarks,  admiring her cooking skills and learning about this miraculous little root. Some suggested she do a cooking program on You Tube. Bollywood here she comes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Latino First Responders Panel

Our first responders panel had our LIFE group begging for more gritty and gruesome stories from real life law enforcement. Sarah Cortez read some of her winsome poetry with such power in its simplicity. Christopher Hernandez read a passage about a mob and a homicide from his early experiences in south Texas. His tone and description is graphic and real. Hipolito Acosta of the INS described with passion some of his immigration experiences which were so dangerous and varied that Sarah exclaimed how can he possibly be alive? And the most fun was the Q&A afterwards where we could get more inside scoops.

The library purchased the following books:

Proof of Our Resolve by Chris Hernandez
Our Lost Border; Essays on Life Amid the Narco-Violence edited by Sarah Cortez and Sergio Troncoso
The Shadow Catcher: A U.S. Agent Infiltrates Mexico's Deadly Crime Cartels by Hipolito Acosta with Lisa Pulitzer

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sculpture and Remembrance

We kicked off Gulf Coast Reads today with forensic sculptor, Amanda Danning. The book by Stephen Harrigan, Remember Ben Clayton, is about a father who commissions a sculpture of his son who was killed in World War I. Amanda brought her personal thoughts about being a sculptor and gave a slide show of some of her favorite pieces showing remembrance throughout history. She even told us about the tempestuous love story between Rodin and Camille Claudel, both famous sculptors. Amanda covered all the bases: love, sex, power, bravery,  feelings, murder, kidnapping, and syphilis.
What is exciting is the technology available to forensic artists today. In the TV show Bones, we have a forensic doctor who works with an artist. Amanda said that the TV show’s depiction of the technology is quite over the top, but we are getting close. Amanda showed us pictures of bone fragments and how her talent assisted by modern technology allowed her to sculpt a bust of the Marquis Sablonierre, a French settler from the Fort St. Louis settlement from 1686 in Texas. He was killed by Indians and this gruesome tale mirrored the kidnapping in our book. What a way to start our Gulf Coast Reads month.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MELT Your Pain Away

On September 24th, Joy Brown presented the MELT method of hydrating and exercising fascia or connective tissue to make us flexible, firm, and fit. The MELT Method is a book written by Sue Hitzmann. Medical science is just discovering the value and benefit of our connective tissue and Sue has developed a self treatment so anyone can MELT and feel better. Joy had us working on our hands, which can improve the whole body. We had happy face squeeze balls to squeeze and give our joints pressure points. Joy says to drink a glass of water an hour in sips (gulps are too hard on the kidneys). Do MELT three times a week. Do focus on what is right with you, not on the parts that hurt or don't work. Do eat more plants to keep your ph a bit alkaline. Joy had everyone laughing and MELTing. Invest one hour to learn the MELT method for your health and well-being.

Contact Joy:
Website: http://www.danceplayheal.com
Email: joy@danceplayheal.com
Phone: 832.567.2646

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jason's Into Leather

Jason Moulenbelt, philosophy professor and leatherworker extraordinaire, showed the LIFErs how to make a beautiful leather card holder. What started out as knife making became leatherworking since Jason needed a sheath to put his knife in.  After he began making these for himself other wanted them, and thus began a new business.

In order to make these sheaths, Jason ordered tanned pieces of leather. Later he began making card holders, billfolds, belts, and other items from leather. He cut the leather to the size needed with a ruler, awl, and cutting tool. There are numerous steps to complete this project, including abrating the outside surface of the leather before gluing. He used a tool to make a groove around the sides of the leather in order to stitch, then using two threaded needles to make saddle stitches, with backstitching to begin and finish. The edges are then sanded to complete the finishing, a process called burnishing. Sealing with beeswax, pine pitch, and mink oil, then polishing is the final step. You now have a beautiful and durable product to be proud of.

Jason showed each step of the process with lots of funny stories that had the audience laughing. Everyone enjoyed the presentation, especially the winner of a card holder, Michael, whose name was drawn. Thank you, Jason, for an informative and enjoyable presentation!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Birding in Our Area

Birder and wildlife enthusiast Jeff Mohamed gave a pictorial presentation of the birds at Lone Star College - CyFair. We have egrets, herons, and even bald eagles. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Jeff discussed the changing habitat of the area and how we have lost some species, but we have gained some as well. Jeff's photography is beautiful and he has his own techniques about how to get close to a bird. Some birds you have to sneak up on and others you have to talk gently to them like the egrets. Did you know that Jeff actually came here from San Francisco because of the birds? What a story.

There are 880 species of birds in the US, with 650 of these in Texas and 420 in Southeast Texas. Some birds are here all the time and some are just passing through. There are so many birds here due to the different habitats and three migration routes through Texas. Lots of people visit Texas to see the wide variety of birds which is good for our economy.

Hummingbirds fly 600 miles across the gulf, sometimes hitching a ride on ships and other things to rest during their journey. They stop in our area to feed until they can make this trip, so put out your feeders and plant bright, colorful flowers for them during April-May and August-September.

There are many areas to check out different bird species such as Kleb Woods Nature Preserve, Katy Prairie, Bear Creek Park, and Brazos Bend State Park. Habitat changes contribute to our area attracting new birds, some which stay year round. The invasive birds that have come here are the European Starling, the House Sparrow and Pigeons. Some birds to look for are the Cedar Waxwings, Blue Jays, Rock Pigeons, Purple Martins, Western Kingbird, Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, and Osprey, among many others. Get out and enjoy these colorful birds with their variety of songs!

Want to know more about texbirding? Go to Jeff's blog: www.jeffincypress.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's Written in the Stars

Our astrology program by expert astrologer, Lilly Roddy, was so interesting and enlightening. Here is a brief summary of her presentation. Thanks, Judye for the following summary!

Astrology is an ancient symbolic language and what people do is learn how to interpret the symbols.

The 12 month calendar is 365 1/4 days per year. Seasons are Spring - March 20; Summer - June 21; Fall - September 22; and Winter - December 21. The Zodiac calendar is 360 degrees which is divided into 12 equal segments of 30 degrees each with the sun moving around it. The moon moves around the zodiac in about 28-29 days. Our days of the week are from the planets: Monday - Moon; Tuesday - Mars; Wednesday - Woden (Mercury); Thursday - Thor; Friday - Frea; Saturday - Saturn; Sunday - Sun. The moon is our emotional ego and the sun our male ego. Venus is desire (relationships, etc.)

Groups of Signs:
Aries - Cancer - Libra - Capricorn: Cardinal Signs (action oriented)
Taurus - Leo - Scorpio - Aquarius: Fixed Signs (persistent and determined)
Gemini - Virgo - Sagittarius - Pisces: Mutables (changeable, flexible, and adaptable)

Saturn's real timing:
7 years old - Beginning our journey
14/15 - Teenage (confront authority)
21 - We are legal (have a sense of authority)
28/29 - Young adult
35/36 - Authority figure
42/43 - Mid-life crisis
49 - Confront authority which is ourselves
58 - Next thoughts for life

The zodiac is a much more complex calendar system. By understanding how the planets are affecting your natal chart/birth chart, astrologers can help you understand the developing cycles and how to make the best use of them. Our lives are affected by so many things, and if we can understand them, it will help to adjust to life's changes. As they say, it's in the stars!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Essential Oils

Bennie Willis of doTerra Essential Oils came and gave us a short course in essential oils and how they are mankind's first medicine. These oils are pure and from nature, not chemicals manufactured in a lab. The over 400 compounds in lavender shows that it is a multi-useful oil, in fact, they call it the Swiss Army Knife of essential oils because it can help the body heal itself in so many ways.

Here are some oil blends and how they can help the body heal itself:

Lavender - headache, burns, better sleep, improve immune system, cure muscle spasms
Frankincense - this is the father of all oils - depression, cancer deterrent
Myrrh - this is the mother of all oils - circulation, menopause
Peppermint - sinus, oxygenating, alertness, digestion, cooling
Engard - sore throat
Melissa - cognitive support, anxiety
Melaluca - antibacterial (pink eye and ear ache)
Lemon - detoxification

Monday, August 25, 2014

Discover Costa Rica

Back Country Expeditioning or KINE 1172 was why Professor Ronnie Nespeca took ten intrepid students to Costa Rica in May. Costa Rica is the most diverse geographical area on earth. We at LIFE were spellbound by all the adventures these students had in Costa Rica: swimming in a volcano crater, kayaking the river, harvesting sugar cane and processing it, tagging and cataloguing bats, eating local fare, and living the pura vida. Those were ten very strong and athletic students who had an experience of a lifetime. It's great Ronnie is so organized and talented to be able to do a study abroad with nary a hitch. Thank you for coming to LIFE to give us our vicarious thrills. We especially loved the way Ronnie imitated the howl of the howler monkey. Wish we had that on tape. There is an unsolved mystery in Costa Rica. See the huge sphere in the picture? These multi-sized spheres have existed in Costa Rica since before the 1500s, but no one really knows where or how they exist. They are a symbol of wealth and power.

Cristina Loreto, one of our attendees, took this photo in
Costa Rica in 2007.

The library and Friends of the Library are psyched that Ronnie had
his students take one of our tote bags along for the ride.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Laughter Yoga

Certified laughter yoga instructor and founder of Houston, We've Got Laughter, came and gave us all a workout through breathing deeply from the lower belly and acting out all sorts of childlike emotions such as flying like a bird, growling like a lion, feigning anger and sadness, yawning and relaxing, and basically making fools of ourselves (oops, shouldn't have said that). "Laugh every day," says Lainie, who is also a mezzo soprano.

Benefits of laughter yoga are many: it relaxes you, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, strengthens the immune system, and much more. Learn more at www.houstonlaughteryoga.com

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dirty Tricks, Mudslinging, and October Surprises

One of our all-time favorite presenters, Professor Alex Smith, filled us in on Part II of his series on dirty presidential campaigns. With his surprising anecdotes and spot-on presidential impersonations, our LIFErs can't get enough of Alex's presentations and were asking him to come back for Part III. Here are the campaigns covered today:

1928: Herbert Hoover vs. Al Smith
These two rags-to-riches millionaires couldn't have been more different. Hoover's monotone voice and failure to engage with people drove his campaigners to create buttons that read "That Man Hoover - He's Human". On the other hand, Al Smith's man of the people personality and engaging speeches sometimes made him too energetic to sit still for radio addresses. However, Al Smith's admittance that he drank during this prohibition era and his Catholicism were factors against him. Some detractors even managed to spread the rumor that Smith had built a tunnel between Washington, D.C. and the Vatican. As we all know, Hoover was the winner in this election. To add something not often remembered about Hoover, he provided a great deal of humanitarian aid and food relief to families in Eastern Europe during World War I.

1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt vs. Wendell Willkie
In this campaign, FDR was "reluctantly" running for his 3rd term in office, which he actually wanted very much. Roosevelt's situation was quite different to that of Wendell Willkie's, who had never held elected office. In this election, each party had some powerful material on the other candidate, but it was believed that FDR and Willkie had some sort of agreement not to disclose the information on the other. FDR's Vice President, Henry Wallace, had written letters to Nicholas Roerich that expressed unusual religious interests, and Willkie's supporters threatened to publish these. Willkie also left himself open to attack however, with the information that he was having an affair, and so both sides decided not to disclose this compromising information about the other.

1952: Dwight Eisenhower vs. Adlai Stevenson
At this time, Eisenhower was a beloved American war hero who actually had to pick a political party in order to run for president, so he chose the party that spends more money on the military. Adlai Stevenson was championed by the previous president, Harry Truman, and was actually reluctant to run with his support. TV had grown in popularity during the campaign, and Stevenson's rambling, 30 minute addresses stood in stark contrast to Eisenhower's down-to-earth 20 second TV spots. As rumors spread about Stevenson, one long-kept secret came to light--Adlai had killed another teen when he was thirteen years old and he and some friends were playing with a rifle. No one knows how this information was discovered, but it could have helped lead to Eisenhower's landslide victory.

1960: John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon
The Republicans caused problems for themselves in this election by having just passed the 22nd Amendment, which limited a president to serving two terms. Had this law not been in place, Eisenhower could have easily won a third term. Instead, they chose to select the next best option, Vice President Richard Nixon, who touted his experience. This proved a problem when Eisenhower showed only lukewarm support of Nixon, and expressed the view that Nixon had done very little in office. Despite the claims that JFK was too young and just a spoiled rich kid, his popularity grew quickly. The first televised debate didn't do Nixon any favors either. It took place soon after a two week hospital stay for Nixon, who stood on stage with a 100 degree fever and appeared to be melting as his sweat mixed with the makeup he was wearing on-screen. In polls conducted afterwards, radio listeners would say that Nixon won the debate while TV watchers claimed that JFK won. The results of the election were about as close as they could possibly be, and there were some very shady operations in Texas, where many dead people seemed to have voted, and Illinois, where the votes just didn't add up right. In spite of all this, Nixon accepted his defeat and even put a stop to a series of exposé pieces being written on voter fraud in the election.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Experience the Chelsea Flower Show

Freddye did a great job photographing this 11 acre event.
Master gardener Freddye Kelly went to London in May for the annual (five day) Chelsea Flower Show and competition. This year's theme is World War I since it has been 100 years this year. These are not just pretty flowers--they have a purpose. There was a ten foot tall mural of Nelson Mandela made of flowers. Flower dresses worn by models. Arrangements to make you see the world in a different way. A pottery shed abandoned by a soldier as he went to war. These are showcases for artists/designers worldwide.

There are three major parts of the show: show gardens, artisan gardens, and fresh gardens. A history of the show is attached. Freddye's favorites are the iris and the peony. There are so many varieties from all over the world that even Freddye did not recognize half of the flowers.

Visit the Chelsea Flower Show website for more information: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show

Also check out The History of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


A fun, hands-on time was had by all today at LIFE, where Patsy Brautigam showed us how to make our own beaded bandanas. These stylish accessories are easily made with a bandana, some beads and Patsy's step-by-step directions. There are so many different colors and styles of bandanas and beads--this is a great way to put your craft skills to work and express your own style!


  • Bandana
  • Beads
  • Tape Measure or Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Stitch Witch (or other fusible bonding tape)
  • Craft Glue

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Tour of Texas State Parks

Numerous side canyons drain into the mighty Rio Grande and the carved-out landscape is surrounded by a beautiful desert wilderness.
Photo of Seminole Canyon State Park from http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/seminole-canyon
Our original speaker wasn't able to make it to LIFE today, so the wonderful Cheryl LeJune stepped up to introduce us to all the amazing things our State Parks have to offer. Cheryl is the chairperson for the Academy for Lifelong Learning here at CyFair, and she frequently volunteers with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

There are over 90 State Parks across Texas that offer a wide variety of activities and programs. If you plan on visiting any parks a few times a year, Cheryl recommends getting a Texas State Parks Pass, which grants unlimited free entry to any of the State Parks for you and your guests and only costs $70 for a year. The parks offer so many activities throughout the year, including birding, camping, hiking, and geocaching, to name a few. Cheryl has had the opportunity to visit many of our State Parks, and recounted recent trips to Big Bend, Seminole Canyon, and Bastrop. Bastrop State Park is still recovering from a wildfire in 2011 and while many of the Lost Pines have been destroyed, the park is open and welcoming visitors, and it's fascinating to see how nature is rebuilding itself.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife web site is a fantastic resource to discover more about the parks and make reservations, check it out here: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us  Many thanks to Cheryl for stepping in on such short notice and inspiring us to get out there and discover what all our State Parks have to offer!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stronger, Healthier, Better

Jim Guillory, engineer and muscle activation specialist, amazed and astounded our LIFErs this morning. Muscle Activation Technique gets to the root of the problem whether it's pain, mobility, or strength. Every joint in the body is moved using muscle. Trauma or bad posture can cause some muscles to fail. Jim can examine the entire body and pinpoint weak or failed muscles and with gentle palpation he can reactivate those muscles. Generally he sees most patients fewer than four times depending on how long the ailment has been going on. Ideally, he would rather see healthy patients to prevent pain problems in the future, but most patients wait until they are debilitated.

Jim has been in the business for 14 years and you can visit his website: jimguillory.com

His colleague, Travis Westfall, can be contacted by email at travis@jimguillory.com

Dance Salad

On Wednesday, June 25, LIFErs watched a video of Dance Salad 2013 with dancers from the Polish National Ballet (which hasn't visited the country since 1980), Italy's Spellbound Contemporary Ballet, and Barcelona's La Veronal. Every Easter weekend, Artistic Director Nancy Henderek and the Houston International Dance Coalition bring to Houston a rich mix of styles and imagination from all over the world. 

The video included choreographers Krzysztof Pastor, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Mats Ek, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Mauro Astolfi, Marcos Marou, Fernando Magadan and Uri Sands.

Jackie Alfred, publicist for Dance Salad, gave running commentary on the eclectic and avant garde pieces.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Indulge in Babycakes

Pam Panettiere, librarian and extraordinary cupcake baker, joined us today to share the history of cupcakes--as well as bringing along a delicious sampling of some of her own creations.

Did you know that we can credit the ancient Egyptians with the first cake-like creation? The earliest cakes used honey as a sweetener instead of sugar. Another important development in the history of cake was the Mayans' use of cacao to make chocolate. And, we have the Americans to thank for cupcakes, which were invented in the late 18th century when they were actually baked in cups. So much has been done with these versatile treats, and Pam has come up with many of her own ingenious recipes. Today she shared four different recipes with a very appreciative LIFE audience!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Summer Reader's Dream

Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop, came to give us her recommendations for summer reading. Valerie's stories and recommendations had our crowd transfixed. Her list sounds like a super winner so enjoy your summer reading and sign up for the HCPL Adult Summer Reading Program here.  You may even win a coffee cup. Check out Valerie's list of recommended reads below!

Codename: Operation Overlord

Photo courtesy of DVIDSHUB at Wikimedia Commons
To commemorate the seventy year anniversary of D-Day when the allied forces invaded Normandy (June 6, 1944), Professor Rob Coyle gave an interesting spin on the day. It was a day of doing all the wrong things for an invasion, but it had to be done. And even some of the right things that went wrong turned out ok. Rob made this abstract day so real and so very brave and brutal. We had replicas of seven days of newspaper front pages donated by LIFEr Gene Chism. Some of the stories were priceless. One English general was demoted when he had loose lips at a cocktail party and almost divulged the secret date of the invasion.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Brain Games

Today Claire Gunnels and Patsy Brautigam got our neurons firing with games and activities to keep our brains active and potentially increase intelligence. Claire referenced Dan Hurley's book, Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power, where he went on a quest to increase his own intelligence using a variety of methods.

First off, the group discussed a number of "old school" activities to increase brain power:

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Memorizing poetry
  • Memorizing phone numbers
  • Reading fiction
  • Learning a new language
  • Drawing or coloring
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Drinking coffee
  • Learning to play a musical instrument

Claire and Patsy also showed us a number of online and video games available:

No matter which method you choose, make sure you're challenging yourself!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cotton-Eyed Joe

Today the talented and energetic Sharon Samson and John Clement got us up and dancing, along with their lovely assistants Claire Gunnels, Patsy Brautigam, and Cheryl Lejune. They demonstrated the two basic parts of the Cotton-Eyed Joe line dance--a dance that has its origins in European folk dancing, as well as a few variations. Our LIFErs had a wonderful time trying out these steps to a variety of music pieces, and we all got a good workout as well! Sharon and John are a part of the Houston International Folk Dancers, and they always welcome new dancers. Find more information here: www.folkdancers.org

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stem Cell Power

LIFE got a treat today with both the indomitable Daniel Kaner and Anitha Iyer, a crack biology professor, both from LSC-Montgomery Biotechnology Institute. They focused on how their biotechnology classes learn intricate laboratory techniques to isolate cells and grow them for later use. They spoke of stem cells and how they are being used to treat various illnesses, from arthritis to growing new organs such as hearts and lungs.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Man's Best Friend, Indeed

Today we welcomed Bill and Olia Palmer and their amazing service dog, Coby, who introduced us to the many ways in which service dogs can help us. Olia and Bill met Coby, a yellow lab, six years ago as he was beginning his service dog training, and he joined their household about 6 months later. Bill has type 1 diabetes, and Coby is able to smell and alert Bill when his blood sugar is getting low. Coby has come to the rescue many times since partnering with Bill, and Bill has not had a low blood sugar seizure since Coby's arrival. Dogs are so fitting for service roles like these because their sense of smell is about 20,000 times better than that of humans, and they can be trained to tell us when they smell a particular scent. Believe it or not, the only other animals that are allowed to be official service animals are miniature horses, who are also excellent with training and can provide a great deal of support to people with specific disabilities.

Service dogs can work in many capacities, but are always trained to help one individual person with his or her specific disability. The different categories of service dogs include guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, mobility dogs, diabetic alert dogs, seizure alert dogs, panic assistance dogs, autism support dogs, and allergen sniffing dogs. For Coby's training, Bill sent the trainers a shirt he had been wearing when his blood sugar was low--the trainers then snipped the shirt up into small pieces and used these as targets, rewarding Coby when he identified these particular scraps. This trained Coby to recognize Bill's scent along with a particular smell associated with his low blood sugar, and alert Bill and Olia whenever he identifies that smell.

Bill and Olia take excellent care of Coby, the very deserving life saver. They make sure he gets enough exercise, take him for frequent check-ups, and make sure all his needs are met when they travel. Coby goes with Bill everywhere, including the grocery store, church, restaurants, and vacations. They carry Coby's training and health documents with them, as well as ADA documents in case they are questioned by business owners. As a general rule when encountering service dogs, do not approach the dog and expect to be able to pet them, it is important to realize that they have a job to do.

Olia ended the presentation with a recommendation for all of us: even if you don't need a service dog, having a pet can be so beneficial, both emotionally and health-wise. Many thanks to Bill, Olia, and Coby for such an insightful and inspiring experience this morning.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vietnamese Cuisine

Many thanks to Huyen Doan for cooking up a delicious meal of Egg Drop Soup and Vietnamese Meatballs, as well as her helpers, Jill and Nicole. The meatballs were served in sandwich form on sliced french bread, and the soup and sandwiches hit the spot for our large group of hungry LIFE members! The recipes for these dishes are included below. Huyen advised us to be very careful when stirring the eggs into the egg drop soup--only stir in one direction in order to create strings of eggs, rather than scrambled eggs. This was an especially informative and delicious program!

Vietnamese Egg Drop Soup

  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 can water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 bag frozen snow peas
  • green onion or cilantro for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • black pepper

In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth and water to a boil. Add the snow peas and salt, sugar, and black pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2-3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Stir the mixture into the stock and let it simmer for a minute or two until the broth no longer tastes starchy.

Beat 3 eggs in a small bowl and very slowly pour in the eggs and gently stir in a clockwise direction until they form and turn off the heat.

Garnish with chopped green onion or cilantro and serve.

Vietnamese Meatball Sandwiches

Meatball Ingredients:
Sauce Ingredients:
·         1 pound ground pork
·         1 can chicken broth
·         1 large egg
·         1 tablespoon cornstarch
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         ½ tablespoon sugar

·         1 medium white/yellow onion (chopped)
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         ½ tablespoon cornstarch
·         8 ounces diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
·         1 tablespoon sugar
·         1 tablespoon cooking oil
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         1 garlic clove, minced
·         ½ teaspoon black pepper
·         1 tablespoon shallots, minced
·         ½ teaspoon garlic powder
·         1 scallion, chopped

·         ½ teaspoon black pepper


Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Scoop 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture and form into meat balls, put each on a plate or tray

In a saucepan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil and fry the minced garlic and shallot until fragrant. Then add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, sugar, chicken broth, black pepper and tomato sauce. Cook until broiled and add meatballs. Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
(If you want thicker sauce you can add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.)

To make a sandwich, slice the baguette halfway to open, put the meatball inside and use the spoon to break it into chunks. Spoon the tomato sauce on top of the meatballs. Finish with cilantro and shredded carrots.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Facts about the Flight Deck

It was an honor to have Captain Paul Marshall, aviator and flight deck officer, show us a Discovery Channel video of an aircraft carrier in action and present in detail its operations. Who would have known that this is the most dangerous place to work in the world and also the most exciting. To see the aircraft catapulted off the deck at about 150 miles per hour was amazing. Nuclear powered, the aircraft carrier doesn't have to refuel for 22 years. Captain Marshall was on the Coral Sea carrier during the Vietnam war. He told a story about how he was initiated onto the flight deck. He failed to shelter himself when one of the planes was catapulted off the deck and he had to hang on for dear life or be tossed overboard. The intercom then said, "Welcome to the Coral Sea, Marshall!" Captain Marshall was asked lots of questions about his presentation. One person asked why he chose the Navy. It was because his older brother was in the Air Force and he didn't want to be a copy cat (they were very competitive). And longtime LIFEr Karen Gaide brought her nephew, Austin, who will join the Navy in July. Karen said she brings multi generations to LIFE as she usually brings her mom. We all thanked Captain Marshall for his service to our country.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stunning Succulents, Brilliant Bromeliads, Dazzling Daylilies

Master Gardener Freddye Kelly dazzled us with pictures of her lush garden and creative garden decor. We also learned factoids about bromeliads, succulents, and daylilies. What Freddye especially likes about all three of these plants is that they are easy to grow and maintain. All three types come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Daylilies do not come in true blue, so if anyone wants to be rich, hybridize a true blue daylily! And to top off this great program, we had a drawing for over 15 samples from the Kelly garden including iris, clematis vine, and cashmere bouquet. Thank you for your knowledge and generosity, Freddye. And remember, you are never finished in the garden, so enjoy the process.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

All the World's a Stage

Professor Jeff Wax of the drama department here at Lone Star College – CyFair came to LIFE and turned upside down our concept of what acting is. All you need for acting is a doer, a watcher, and a place. Thus, all the world truly is a stage. And I guess William Shakespeare knew what he was talking about. Jeff even invited two of us to perform! We are excited to see the college performance of the Pulitzer prize-winning play Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies which features two of Jeff’s students, a professional actress from U of H and our own speech professor Patrick Barton. Here is a picture taken by Jeff at dress rehearsal last night.

Here is what Jeff wrote to his colleagues describing the upcoming performances:

Dear Colleagues,
Our production of Dinner With Friends opens this coming Friday in the Black Box Theater.  There are four performances of the play:
  • Friday, April 11th at 7:30PM
  • Saturday, April 12th at 2:00PM
  • Saturday, April 12th at 7:30PM
  • Sunday, April 13th at 3:00PM

THE PLAY:  Donald Margulies’s Pulitzer prize winning play Dinner with Friends, is a deceptively straightforward, rueful suburban comedy about friendship, divorce and the minefield of middle age; a play that taps into the collective psyches of those of us who came of age in the ’70s.” Gabe and Karen, and Beth and Tom are two married couples whose lives have become inseparable - raising kids together, holidays together and enjoying countless dinner parties - until the day one marriage unexpectedly crumbles. Suddenly the four are forced to investigate their friendship as a group and as individuals, and examine the relationships within their own marriages. What initially seems a rather conventional glimpse at the perils of breaking up becomes an original examination of the terrors of staying together. In short, Dinner with Friends is a modern masterpiece about the path you choose, the millions you don’t and the detours that make it worth the ride.  *Recommended for mature audiences only.*
Please invite your students to attend this wonderful production, which I am confident will provide the opportunity for a stimulating conversation in your classes. Dinner With Friends is so unassuming and beautifully constructed.  It examines the dynamics of old friends, allegiances, love, endurance and the differences we all have faced with crisis.  Flee or fight?  Seek comfort from another or seek solace in solitude?  Blow things up and start over or rebuild what is broken.  It’s about expectations.  It’s about defining and sorting through which ties bind and which ties don’t.  It immerses us in the drama of everyday life. We appreciatively and effortlessly take the ride.  
Dinner With Friends features a strong cast of four actors including our own Patrick Barton.  If you have never seen a Lone Star CyFair theater production I invite you to come out and sample the quality of our work.

I look forward to seeing you at the theater.
All best,
Jeff Wax

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mason Jar Mania

What a great crowd of crafty community members today at LIFE. Dorrie Scott and Tracy Williams waxed poetic on the wonders of jars and all the myriad things you can do with them. They even created a Pinterest site called Mason Jar Mania. Carol Ann Maurer was particularly thrilled when she won Tracy's peppermint body scrub. Whether you paint your jars or just put a pretty lid on it, you will never be unprepared to give the gift of homemade goodness. You can bake a cake in a jar. You can layer a cookie mix in a jar. You can store crayons in a jar. You can make taco mix in a jar. You can drink out of a jar. You can sprout beans in a jar.

Many thanks to Jason Moulenbelt and Torie Van Wie for their donations to decorate our door prizes.

Carol and her door prize


Peppermint Body Scrub

  • 1 to 1-1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or other oil of your choice - grape oil is good because it doesn't have much of a scent)
  • 4-6 drops peppermint oil (or more if you like it more peppermint-y)
If using coconut oil, place in microwave-safe dish and heat until it liquefies (15-30 seconds should do). Combine oil and sugar--adding more sugar if you would like a coarser texture scrub. Add peppermint oil, stir and pour into your storage container. Enjoy your yummy smelling, skin-smoothing body scrub the next time you bathe or shower!

Note: Because you are using a product with oils, it will leave a bit of oil on your tub or shower. Use caution as this might make the tub or shower a bit slippery.

Tracy's Taco Seasoning (adapted from allrecipes.com):

  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1-1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. onion powder
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t. dried oregano
  • 2-3 grinds of sea salt
  • 1-2 grinds of black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together ingredients. Combine with 1 lb. cooked ground beef and 3/4 cup to 1 cup of water. Simmer 5-10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with your favorite taco toppings!

Tracy's Overnight Refrigerator Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt (I use vanilla flavored--if you don't use one that is sweetened, you might need to add some sort of sweetener to taste)
  • 1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries
Add all ingredients to mason jar. Cover jar with lid and place in refrigerator overnight. Go to bed. Wake up in the morning, open the fridge and enjoy your oats (either cold or heated in the microwave).

Note: After adding ingredients and covering with a lid, you can shake your jar to combine OR you can just leave them layered in the jar and mix with a spoon before serving. Either way works great but the layers are much prettier in the jar!