Help your heart by skipping the salt

Eat Less SaltThe Lake County General Health District visited us last week and suggested ways in which people can prevent or control high blood pressure.

One of their tips was to eat less salt.

While we need salt to live, most people eat way more salt than they need. The recommended daily amount of salt is 2,300 milligrams or about one teaspoon.

And it can be difficult to eat less salt. First of all, it’s delicious. Secondly, it seems as if it’s in everything.

So Lake County General Health District, with some help from the USDA, offered 10 tips for cutting back on salt.

1. Think fresh

Processed foods—like cured meats, pizza, canned soup and chili—tend to have more salt than fresh foods. You don’t have to cut out all processed foods, but eat fewer of them and more fresh food.

2. Enjoy home-prepared foods

If you cook at home, you’ll be in control of your food and know exactly how much salt is in there.

3. Fill up on vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits—fresh or frozen—are naturally lower in sodium. Eat them with every meal. (Keep an eye on canned vegetables though. They sometimes have sodium added.)

4. Choose dairy and protein foods that are lower in sodium

Fat-free and low-fat milk has less sodium than cheese. Similarly, fresh beef, pork, poultry and seafood has less sodium than deli meat or sausages. Also, opt for unsalted nuts and seeds.

5. Adjust your taste buds

If you suddenly cut back on all of your salt, you’ll be jones-ing for a deli sandwich and french fries in no town. Cut back on your salt a little at a time and your taste buds will adjust to this new normal.

6. Skip the salt

This one seems obvious, right? Just leave the salt off the kitchen counter when you’re cooking and the dinner table when you’re eating, and you’ll be less tempted. Try other spices and herbs like red or black pepper, basil, curry, ginger or rosemary, instead.

7. Read the label

Processed food is convenient, but it can also be unhealthy. Read the label and know exactly what you’re eating.

8. Ask for low-sodium foods when you eat out

Eating out can be tricky because, once again, you can’t completely control what’s in your food. However, you can always ask for a lower sodium version of a food, sauce or salad dressing.

9. Pay attention to condiments

Foods like soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressings and seasoning packets are high in sodium. Choose a low-sodium version of your favorite condiment and substitute carrots or celery sticks for pickles and onions.

10. Boost your potassium intake

Potassium is known to lower high blood pressure. Most people know that bananas have potassium, but so do potatoes, beets, greens, tomato juice and sauce, sweet potatoes, beans and orange juice.

Here are 10 tips for building a healthy meal from Lake County General Health District.

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A literary mixtape for Ohio

It began as a conversation with Belfast Central Library.

I mentioned a few of my favorite Irish authors and artists, and my counterpart in Belfast admitted to being less familiar with Ohio writers.

But this begs the question: If I had to pick a handful of writers to represent my state and make the literary equivalent of a mixtape, whom would I include?

800px-Toni_Morrison_20081. Toni Morrison

Let’s start with the obvious and by “obvious” I mean the only living person born in the United States to be named a Nobel laureate.

Morrison was born in Lorain and has a residency at Oberlin College, but it seems reductive to strap her to a particular place. Yes, she’s from Ohio, and I hope she thinks fondly of her home state; but you don’t need to be a buckeye to appreciate her writing. You just need to be human.

Beloved is her best known work, and it’s on the short list of books I’d recommend to anyone. However, if I’m being honest, I prefer reading Sula and Song of Solomon.

But any Toni is better than no Toni. You can even share her with your kids, thanks to some charming children’s books she wrote with her son, Slade Morrison.

American_Splendor_no_12. Harvey Pekar

I don’t know if any one author can embody an entire city, but Harvey Pekar got close.

What James Joyce is to London, what Naguib Mahfouz is to Cairo, what Lu Xun is to Beijin, Harvey is to Cleveland.

And what’s most amazing is that he didn’t set out to tell the story of Cleveland—at least, not at first. He only wanted to talk about his life. But by telling the stories of his coworkers at the VA hospital and his fight with cancer, he depicted the frustrations and hopes of an entire city.

If you need a starting point for Pekar, read American Splendorany of it, all of it. If forced to pick a favorite, I’d recommend Our Cancer Year.

Abierce3. Ambrose Bierce

Pekar wasn’t even the most cynical writer to come from Ohio. That distinction belongs to Ambrose Bierce.

Bierce was our Oscar Wilde—a provocateur, an invective. His words were so pointed, some people blamed them for President William McKinley’s assassination.

For an appetizer, read his short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek.” For a feast, try The Devil’s Dictionary. It’s composed of every pithy quip you’ll ever need to terrorize a dinner table. A few examples:

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are not as they ought to be.

Gloria_Steinem_at_news_conference,_Women's_Action_Alliance,_January_12,_1972

4. Gloria Steinem

Women everywhere (and people who care about the treatment of women) can claim Gloria as their own; but, yes, she was born in Toledo, Ohio, which makes her one of us.

While we may not think of Steinem firstly as a writer, she can and often did write brilliantly.

She wrote a 2-part expose about her experience as a Playboy Bunny that changed how many people perceived Hugh Hefner’s empire. Her collection of essays, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, will make you laugh, cry and grit your teeth. Hopefully, it will make you think too.

Calvin_and_Hobbes_Original5. Bill Watterson

Speaking of writers that can make me laugh and cry…

Ohio has a knack for producing sequential arts: Brian Michael Bendis, Brian K. Vaughan, Jeff Smith, as well as the aforementioned Pekar, all Ohioans.

And then there’s Bill Watterson. With his art, he made the most ephemeral thinga young boy’s imaginationtangible.

Calvin & Hobbes doesn’t need another elegy, but it could always use more readers.

(By the way, this means the same state that gave us Gloria Steinem also birthed the Get Rid Of Slimy girlS Club.)

Goosebumpscastwithstine6. R.L. Stine

If you think it’s presumptuous to include R.L. Stine in the same list as Toni Morrison and Ambrose Bierce, then you’ve never been to a Scholastic Book Fair.

In a pre-Harry Potter world, Goosebumps was every third grader’s favorite book series. We turned each lunch break into a book club meeting, as we talked about and swapped Stine’s books. (I should have never traded Monster Blood.)

Goosebumps may have been for kids. But, for a lot of us, he was the gateway to Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen.

Harlan_Ellison_at_the_LA_Press_Club_198607127. Harlan Ellison

Coincidentally, Stine was also my gateway to Harlan Ellison.

This is the the guy who wrote—let’s just say it—the best Star Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” (Even though he was displeased with edits Gene Roddenberry made to his script.)

He’s won Hugo Awards and Nebulas and Edgars. He pushed the boundaries of science fiction so far that people had to call it by another name, speculative fiction.

And he also voiced himself in a Scooby-Doo cartoon.

bialosky2

8. Jill Bialosky

Jill Bialosky is the increasingly rare triple threat.

Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction are all moving.

She was first known as a poet and her Intruder is one of my favorite poetry books of this still young century.

Her novels—House Under Snow and The Life Roomare both worth reading.

But it’s her memoir, History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life, that breaks me. Read it. Read it and feel.

Hart_Crane9. Hart Crane

You might not know Hart Crane, but your favorite writer probably does.

Tennessee Williams, Derek Walcott and Harold Bloom all thought of him as one of the most important poets of his generation.

His work was lyrical and beautiful, but dense and esoteric.

From Chaplinesque, one of his best known poems:

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen

The moon in lonely alleys make

A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,

And through all sound of gaiety and quest

Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.

Crane struggled with alcohol and depression, in part because he tried to suppress his homosexuality. He ultimately killed himself, jumping overboard while on a steamship in the Gulf of Mexico.

While it hurts to see genius cut short, we can still be grateful for what he left behind.

Sherwood_Anderson_(1933)10. Sherwood Anderson

A lot of the authors I’ve talked about have come from cities and their suburbs: Cleveland, Lorain, Toledo, Columbus. (The exceptions—Ambrose Bierce, whose Miegs County is almost as rural now as it was when he was born; and Hart Crane, who was born in Garrettsville.)

I compensate with Sherwood Anderson, whose Winesburg, Ohio is still the most enduring depiction of small-town Ohio.

His short stories overlap as our lives often do, each person thinking they’re the heroine or hero of their own story when, in reality, we’re all just part of the larger tapestry.

So that’s my list. It’s imperfect. It should have included Suzy Kassem and Christopher Moore and Andy Borowitz and Zane Grey, but 10 is such a nice round number.

But this is just my mixtape. Who would you include in yours?

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Meeting the girls of our American Girl Book Club

Lynn tries to fly her kite indoors during our most recent American Girl Book Club.

Lynn tries to fly her kite indoors during our most recent American Girl Book Club meeting.

There aren’t a lot of book clubs out there for elementary school-aged girls.

But considering how popular our American Girl Book Club is, maybe there should be more.

Since we started the book club last year, anywhere between a dozen and 30 girls have come to each meeting. A lot of them bring their dolls with them, but a doll isn’t mandatory.

Lindsay designs her paper kite during our American Girl Book Club meeting.

Lindsay designs her paper kite during our American Girl Book Club meeting.

The girls are always eager to talk about the American Girl book they’ve read over the last month.

They also make a craft. They’ve made everything from dream catchers to jewelry to guacamole to God’s eyes.

This month, we met Kit. Then we made paper kites, just like they used to do when Kit was a kid.

Kim Sidorick, our children’s services manager, had the idea for the book club after we held an American Girl-themed tea party two years ago. She thought the book club would help bring together girls with like interests who want to have fun.

After all, the books are classics and still circulate well at the library.

Giselle and Abby play a game, trying to drop a clothes pin into a bottle.

Giselle and Abby play a game, trying to drop a clothespins into a bottle.

Our last meeting of the year is Dec. 3. (The meetings are always 4 to 5 p.m. at our Main Branch on the first Wednesday of the month.) The girls will meet Samantha.

If you have a girl who is between eight and 12 years, then they can join the fun. They don’t need a doll or anything like that. However, they should read Meet Samantha beforehand so they can participate in the discussion.

You can register your child for the book club on our web site or by calling (440) 255-8811 ext. 221. Registration isn’t mandatory, but it makes it a lot easier for us to prepare if we have a good idea how many kids are going to be there.

All of the girls at our American Girl Book Club, like Layla here, are super girls.

All of the girls at our American Girl Book Club, like Layla here, are super girls.

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10 tips to keep you safe when shopping online

Keep yourself safe while shopping online this holiday season.

Keep yourself safe while shopping online this holiday season.

Online shopping can be convenient and thrifty.

It can also be dangerous.

You don’t want strangers using your money to buy their holiday gifts, so keep yourself safe by following a few helpful tips from MPL Librarian Mary Pelton.

  1. Make sure you’re on a secure, encrypted site. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to tell if a site is secure. Make sure the URL of the website  begins with https:// as opposed to http://. Some sites also use “padlock” icons to show they’re secure.
  2. Know who you’re buying from. Research the company’s reputation, return and privacy policies, restocking fees, and shipping and handling costs. All of this information should be stated on the company’s website. You should also check for reviews and buyer feedback if you’re buying from an individual.
  3. Only provide the necessary information when you’re buying something online. No vendor needs your social security number or birth date.
  4. Don’t use your debit card when buying online. Use your credit card. It comes with fraud protection. Also, criminals can do more damage with a debit card because it draws directly from your bank account.
  5. And only use one credit card for online shopping. This makes it easier to monitor your purchases. (Gift cards are another safe buying option.)
  6. Never—I repeat, never—send your account numbers or any other personal information via email. Email is not secure.
  7. Keep records when you shop online. Either save or print out receipts.
  8. Keep your security software and web browsers up to date to protect against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  9. Have good passwords—long passwords with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. This is good advice for email accounts too.
  10. Make sure you’re using a secure Wi-Fi connection/network whenever money is changing hands.

These tips come courtesy of Mary Pelton’s monthly Computers & Cookies series. In December, she’ll be offering tips for those who are looking to buy a computer or tablet—either for themselves or as a gift.

The talks are free and open to everyone. You can register for them on Mentor Library’s website.

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It’s Hip to Be a Square at Mentor Library’s Minecraft Club

One of our Minecrafters made a Haunted House during our last meeting.

One of our Minecrafters built a Haunted House during our last meeting.

Do your kids love Minecraft?

Do they spend hours building masterpieces from blocks?

Are they always trading strategies with friends or watching Machinima videos for new ideas?

If they do, then they would probably love our Minecraft Club.

Group shot 1

The club meets from 4 to 5 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of the month at our Main Branch. Our next meeting is Nov. 6.

Each session features a new challenge. Kids mine, explore and share strategies in the wide world of Minecraft on the library’s server.

For our two November Club meetings, we will be holding a Minecraft Thanksgiving Challenge. In this challenge the kids will have to build an entire village and farm in survival mode, much like the pilgrims did when they first came to America. (Of course, the pilgrims didn’t have to worry about cave spiders or fireball-spouting blazes.)

They are welcome to work in groups, or by themselves. At the end of the meeting, the group with the largest village and farm will receive a prize.

Tyler Coad and Aiden Unk Pumpkin

The club is for children from eight to 12 years old. Each kid must bring his or her own charged laptop, tablet or mobile device and have an active Minecraft account.

You can register your child (or children) for our Minecraft Club on our library’s website or by calling (440) 255-8811 ext. 221.

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