Business Buzzards

The other day I was reminded of the unlikely product that showed up at a nearby gallery only one block down the street during 2010. It didn’t take long for them to add art classes — I had been offering those since 1994. But a pretzel?! I developed my own amazing pretzel recipe. I twisted my SofTwizts completely on my own. Have you ever heard of a gallery offering pretzels? Me neither. What unmittigated gall. That “downtown” gallery included Philly Pretzels within a couple months after snoop-scouting my studio coffeehouse. Whenever mARTi came up with another innovative idea, it was quickly included in another local (or gov’t funded library) business.

The latest stab in the back was the obvious buzzard business picking by the people who became replacements in my long-standing location. After perpetrated abuse resulted in the evacuation for my safety and employees/customers, I witnessed my brains being picked publically, perhaps with the aid of customers I advertised to obtain ūüė¶
To add a twist of the knife of this knowledge, the location where the businesses I nurtured for over 2 decades — is back on the market within 1.5 years after my forced evacuation.

One of the advantages of an internet business is the sleuth-snooping will not directly impact my wallet and survival. When we speak of Cyber Space — that terminology gives me a bit of hope. I can create and help people around the world and my ideas are not as easily duplicated (except for downloading).

Snow, Smell, Smile

This season has been as unpredictable in Pennsylvania as usual.¬† We did however, get the snow that was in the forecast. ¬†There was 7.5″ in our “neck of the woods.”¬†¬†¬† It was a good snow for packing and creating snow sculptures — an activity I promoted in my former arts organization.


We were only inconvenienced for one day.  And that one snow day was a good time to catch up on blogs and online sales listings.


The smell of chocolate/peanut butter¬†and sugar cookies¬†in the next room¬†were¬†somewhat¬†distracting.¬† The end result — was delicious.
The “accidently” broken cookies needed a taste-testing. Lucky for me.

HeartPBcookies IMG_7457

The cookies on the left were enhanced with a dusting¬†of ¬†white crystals (ala Frozen).¬†¬†¬†I had a tradition of baking chocolate cookies on the first snowfall of the year.¬† I’m sure I will bring that activity back when I have my own home and kitchen for baking.


If you have any photos of your snow creations or cookies — be sure to send them my way.

I anticipate a box of baked goods for this upcoming holiday ūüôā


One of my favorites — crescent cookies!



What’s Up With Fat?

by Christina Major
Holistic Health Consulting

I love fat. Butter on my sweet corn right out of the garden (non-GMO & organic), olive oil drizzled on the beans (non-GMO & organic) and slightly marbled fat in the loin of the venison, oozing out to create a rich crust of fatty goodness…

If you just cringed at that dinner I had, you probably don’t want to read the rest of this newsletter. It’s going to challenge your beliefs.

Other than that, I’m not eating nearly all my veggies right out of the garden. Once I figure out how to get more garlic, onions and mushrooms out, I’ll not need the farmer’s market, except in the winter. And just so you all know, my garden is only about 250 square feet total, and about 1/3 is herbs.

Full Fat vs Low Fat

Have you chosen low-fat dairy, meats or even pretzels to get healthy? You just may be doing your heart more harm than good.

The low-fat craze started about 40 years ago when cholesterol was discovered to contribute to heart disease. It was an easy jump to think the fat we ate when right to our arteries and clogged our hearts.

The media loved it, the processed food manufacturers loved it and it was easy to count and avoid. It was easy to demonize all fats and people who ate fats.

But even then some people saw problems. Today, we have a whole generation sick because of a lie.

Even back in the 1970s, some nutritionist looked at farmers and wondered if fat actually caused heart disease. Most farmers at eggs, bacon and potatoes fried in butter for breakfast, with buttery biscuits, full fat, raw dairy and fatty meats as staples at dinner and lunch. Lard was not only normal, it was desired. Yet, farmer’s had some of the lowest incidences of heart disease.

Today, we know why. The fat we eat has nearly nothing to do with the fat in our arteries. So how does it get there?

When we eat fat, our bodies look at it first to see if we need it to build healthy tissues. From there, it is used to repair that paper cut or bruise. Then, we see if we need energy. If we do, our bodies take it for energy production. Then, we see if we need it for fat storage. Again, if we do, our bodies take it out. The rest is flushed down the toilet.

Here’s where they made the first mistake, way back when: Sugar is always absorbed fully and upsets the balance of fat storage. Sugars are the preferred energy source of the body, so it gets used before fat. It stores easier than fat, so it gets stored first. Sugar also is the biggest factor in triglycerides. It is sugar, not fat, that makes up the biggest chunk of it. Let’s get back to the fat and you’ll see how this relates.

So, what happened when a whole generation tried to cut out the fat? First, at that time, our sugar consumption quadrupled. You see, fat and sugar are our two main flavor sources. If you eliminate the one, you must increase the other. Therefore, all that processed food, now devoid of fat, loaded in the sugar.

So, as our sugars went up, so did the triglycerides. And then diabetes skyrocketed. Is it any wonder that the low-fat generation now has the biggest diabetes problem?

But the manufacturers went a step beyond. They began to add trans-fat, a new fat that wasn’t supposed to act like a fat. Except, it did and in the worst ways. These trans-fats clogged our arteries faster and better than regular, healthy fats. Conclusion: Trans-fat plus lots of sugars equals a huge heart disease problem.

So, back to the farmer: Those farmers worked hard and ate lots of protein, vegetables and fats; but not too many sugars and very little processed foods. Their bodies behaved exactly as they should and did not absorb extra fats. Farmers are among the healthiest people. Hard work and natural foods make the difference.

If you want to reduce your cholesterol, here is what I tell my clients: eat lots of natural fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and drink lots of water. It is what our bodies are made for.

Want to get healthy and save money? Sign up for a Free Health Breakthrough Analysis to learn how.

Try This Recipe:

Home Cookin’: Breakfast on the Go


2 cups cheese, shredded by hand, not from a bag
8 oz mushrooms, fresh sliced
‚Öď cup onion, sliced
¬Ĺ cup red pepper, chopped
2 tbsn butter
2 cups diced fully cooked turkey bacon or sausage, diced
8 eggs
1 ¬ĺ cups yogurt mixed with water to thin
¬Ĺ cup 100% whole wheat flour
2 tbsn parsley
¬Ĺ tsp basil
Dash of salt and pepper


In a medium skillet, sauté mushrooms, onions and red pepper in butter until tender. Cool.
In a baking dish, mix vegetables with cheese and meat.
In a bowl, beat eggs. Add yogurt, flour, parsley, basil, salt and pepper; mix well.
Slowly pour over the cheese mixture.
Bake at 350o F for 35-40 minutes until set.
Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into 6-8 pieces. Freeze individual servings for easy breakfasts!

Scramble Up Stress and Smile

Written by Christina Major*

There are some cultures that eat swans, and it’s considered a transformational experience. We don’t, at least I don’t.


I do eat their cousins, chickens and turkeys. And their eggs. They are delicious and good for you.


The science shows 1 egg a day, for most people, are healthy and can reduce cholesterol. They are filling and can help a diabetic control his or her sugar throughout the day.


Eggs can also relieve stress. Look at it; it’s sunny and yellow (or orange if you are getting the good, free range kind). The cholesterols in them help stimulate regular, low-level feel good chemicals. They are inherently warming for our system. While no study has been conducted on eggs and depression, I have noticed in my clients adding an egg always leads to feeling better.


Here’s a great way to add an egg to your day: Scramble 1 egg with some peppers, mushrooms, spinach and onion. Add a small side of sweet potato home fries. If you set up the night before, it can take a small 10 minutes to cook breakfast. Now, you have a hot, filling and healthy breakfast to start your day right!



*Holistic Nutritionist & Naturopathic Doctor

As an owner of a thriving nutritional and lifestyle consulting business, Christina knows health is not just a condition, but a true state of being! Her clients are people who modern medicine has swept aside; not truly knowing what is causing their problems.  Christina spends the time with her clients to really learn who they are and what is causing their problems.


Photo Phace Phriends

How do I, a creative spirit, find folks in a town where there are no past connections?

I spent the early part of the day looking at architecture in another area.  I drove back to my temporary town and stopped off for supper in the local pizza shop. My somewhat new assertive courage actually worked out fine today.

(broccoli, ham, tomato, cheese pizza)

I was¬†doing work on¬†my laptop when¬†I looked out into the room where seven young folks¬†congregated¬†after school. They sat around¬†a double¬†table with their beverages (and sandwich) while all¬†proceeded to peer intently into their cell phones.¬†¬†They were involved in a typical¬†social gathering with comments, jokes, belching, laughing, etc.¬†¬†A group photo shoot was a predictable event for the gathering with friends.¬† There doesn’t seem to be enough photos of themselves and/or their friends . . .

I assumed they just took¬†self-portraits, which would be posted on Facebook instantly, or later that evening. ¬†The teens¬†were certainly startled when I popped up from my seat and asked if I could also take a photo of them – but rather – if they’d be willing to be part of a creative photo shoot. ¬† ¬† I envisioned¬†a photo of their camera face-photos instead of their actual faces.

My animated energy¬†was spent¬†explaining “my vision.”¬† At least two in the group seemed to understood what I wanted to do for a photo.¬† Then one by one — light bulbs began to illuminate in their heads.¬†¬† “Oh, I get it”¬†one¬†girl was pleased with her sudden insight.
Next, someone would project the image in their head with words to the head next to them¬†until all 7 were “getting it.”¬† They even began to see the¬†tongue-in-cheek humor in the concept.

The gang gathered around me in the same way my students did when I teach group art lessons. ¬†This time, however, they had to help me with my technology. ¬† First I had to get them to disconnect from the WiFi. There was a huge drain on the connection with all those “smart phones.”

I think our meeting was a magical moment — well, to me, it was. ¬†Will I ever see the goofy gang again? ¬†Not sure. ¬†But if our paths do cross again, we can compare creative tech talk.


Here are my new phound phriends and their photo phaces.

Hey gals/guys, see if you can elaborate on this photo concept and send another version to me.   Most of you in the gang participate in sports.
One of you can contribute to this blog with a creative sports shoot — and hopefully have a “ball” with it.

Thanks for providing a phamiliar pheeling of phamily.


You’re on iCygnet Blog.

Charming Community Connection

Discovering charm in small town establishments has become more difficult in the last few years. The expense and multitude of regulations make starting a brick & mortar” business difficult. Surviving beyond start-up is an even more daunting challenge. ¬†I survived and thrived over 20 years in a small town.

I have always been drawn to unique, non-franchise style establishments. I understand the process of start-up, development, advertising, hiring, operating several businesses. A large gap exists between “cookie cutter” franchises and independent operations.
A chart and floor plan for where every item is to be placed — a standard for block stores —¬†keeps employees from feeling connection to their workplace.

This Wednesday, I visited Pizza Phi in Lewisburg, PA. It had the standard look of a town pizza shop. The employees were at their job — pleasant, but there was no phenomenal friendly service. ¬†As a customer, I was also not engaged in the establishment.



There is a spirit of spontaneity that will never feed my soul when I walk into other establishments.

I will have to build a new place with personality again — someday.

A Plate of Peace (or peas)

Food that Feeds the Soul
Written by Christina Major

In older times, soul foods were rich and hearty. They focused on what was not plentiful most other times, like meats, fats and fruits. You see, the typical diet of the average person about 100 years ago focused on vegetables. Hence, soul food was richer in nutrients and money.

Today, soul foods are the same, the rest of our diet isn’t. That’s why we have increased heart disease and other debilitating problems well over 1000-fold.

But sometimes these soul foods are needed. My grandmother made a lamb stew that was rich in vegetables and meats. It’s rich in nutrients and when sick, it was wonderful.

When you are down, it’s sometimes difficult to choose healthy foods over soul foods. I generally recommend skipping foods that were fried or have no vegetable component. When you are down, you need more nutrients to combat the stress.

A wonderful stew, slow cooked with lots of vegetables and spices can remind you of home and a simpler time. A rich chicken soup really does help to fight the common cold. This may be what is needed more for the body and the soul.

Christina Major, Holistic Nutritionist, Naturopathic Doctor, author, speaker,  radio personality & The Health Recovery Expert.  Join Christina for a free 20-minute Health Breakthrough Session.

Spice Up Your Season: 7 Surprising Benefits of Cinnamon!

Cinnamon was a regular ingredient in¬†weekly pastries in my original coffeehouse. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore it’s delights in the future.

Jules' Fuel


Despite the fact that he likes 90%+ of what I cook, the hubby always rolls his eyes at the quantity and array of seasonings that I use when I cook.

Especially when it comes to cinnamon.¬†I adore using it in almost everything ‚Äď steel cut oats, sweet potatoes, saut√©ed greens, thai dishes, smoothies, fruit & yogurt parfaits, eggs‚Ķ(okay, kidding on that one).

And as the defining spice of the Christmas season, there are more reasons than justtaste and holiday tradition to use enormous quantities of it.

Check out 7 surprising reasons to use more cinnamon for better health!

1. Blood Sugar Control

Get this ‚Äď studies show that cinnamon can improve blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, all markers of metabolic disease. This study¬†specifically shows that three separate groups taking 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon each day ALL had lower levels of these markers after‚Ķ

View original post 339 more words

Fresh Frozen Family Fig Food

This article is a repost by Mariam D. Pineno from Find The Write Words:

“Thankful from fig tree to taste buds, I‚Äôm sharing my revision of the old tried-‚Äôn’-true Pillsbury Prize-winning recipe for banana luncheon bread. My fresh-fig version spans the years from 1950 (the year before my marriage!), the publishing year of the 2nd Grand National 100 prize-winning recipes‚Äďto today.”

“In deference to a granddaughter who prefers nut-free goodies (brownies, breads, and even toll house cookies) a couple of today‚Äôs mini loaves will go into the freezer labeled Fig Bread (no nuts). Thankful for all family members, it is our pleasure to cater to all tastes. You can, too.”


“This recipe is adjusted for using frozen fresh figs which will add a bit of moisture as they thaw in the batter in baking. I cut figs in half before adding to electric food chopper. I cut up an extra 3/4 to 1 cup‚Äďfinely diced for texture. HINT: Frozen fruits are easier to work with unless you want to mash them like a ripe banana.”

    Pre-heat to bake @ 350 f  (50-55 min. for mini loaves)
    Mix together. . . . . . . . . .2   Cups sifted flour
                                                1 tsp. baking powder
                                                1/2 tsp. soda
                                                1 tsp. salt
    Cream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/2 cup shortening; add gradually
                                                 1 & 1/4 cups sugar, creaming well
    Beat in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 eggs, one at a time & 1 tsp. vanilla; Beat well
    Add . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 cup chopped and 1/2 cup diced figs
    Fold in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
    Spoon batter into greased (or sprayed) aluminum mini loaf pans. If doubling recipe for 3 plain and 3 with nuts, place one perfect half-walnut for ease in identifying ‚Äúwith nuts‚ÄĚ tins when baked.
    Bake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, checking with wooden toothpick to be sure it comes out dry, not sticky.
    “Cool thoroughly before slicing to serve. Or sneak a ‚Äúheel‚ÄĚ warm‚Äďeven if it crumbles. Hey, the cook can do that!”
    “Later, for Christmas, as fresh-figs do not a figgy pudding make, I‚Äôll tie on a combination of hot pink and moss-green ribbon around frozen gift loaves in see-through zipper-locked 1-quart bags. That‚Äôs my plan for sharing a gift in good taste (pun intended). What‚Äôs your food gift going to be?”

    Here’s the last part of my post Fun Fig Facts¬†from my blogsite iCygnet
    Just what do we do with all these peculiar delicacies?
    Here is a link of recipe ideas.

Fun Fig Facts

Most everyone has heard of the Fig Newton cookie — the dark gooey paste with a slight seedy crunch, nestled between 2 firm biscuit like cookies.

According to blogger, The Amai Life¬† “Even Nabisco doesn‚Äôt seem to have one singular solid story of where the Fig Newton originated from, but the best version states that a baker by the name of Charles Roser came up with the recipe for the fig filled biscuit. Then in 1892, James Henry Mitchell patented a machine that was¬† able to insert fig paste inside pastry dough. The machine was like a funnel within a funnel, continually spitting out fig paste and cookie dough, creating an endless filled cookie that could be cut into individual pieces. Imagine if Nabisco sold foot long Fig Newtons.”

What is this mysterious fruit that is rarely used in everyday recipes?  Are figs found in the produce aisle alongside blueberries, plums and strawberries?

There is a fig bush in my back yard.  It was a hearty year for the crop.   It is still producing the dangling bulbous oddities even after our first frost.

Here are some facts about figs.

More Fig Facts.

Just what do we do with all these peculiar delicacies?  Here is a link of recipe ideas.

Be sure to read about the health benefits for eating figs.

“Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer / We won’t go until we get some; / We won’t go until we get some; / We won’t go until we get some, so bring it right here!”¬† So WHAT IS figgy pudding?

Renew the Recipe

I learned to bake¬†in my late 40’s.¬†¬† I discovered a creative¬†area that¬†was probably lingering inside since childhood.¬† I would spend a week at my paternal grandmother’s house for a week and¬†would¬†watch intently how she would measure and handle ingredients and tools.¬†¬†¬†Gram would always¬†plan to bake¬†plenty of cookies and pastries and¬†was kind enough (and patient) to let me get my hands into the process.

When I first started baking for real, I was intimidated by the process not sure I could learn or handle yet another activity at work (already was operating 5 others).  Yet after a couple times reading recipes, I found the process fit my personality well.   Being a mindful student growing up, I follow directions well and worked till I had the best possible answer.   Baking required measurements, following sequential steps and there is an end result to test out at the completion of the process.

My prediciment was that I had to bake for OTHER people and they would have to be inspired to buy my baking.¬†¬†Nearly everyone likes to eat sweets, but that doesn’t mean they’ll pay for them.¬†¬† Well, within a short time, I had perfected one item after another that customers were buying, enjoying — waiting till the next batch was available — then requesting items.¬†¬†¬†¬† It was an honor for me to make pans of apple crisp, oatmeal, quiche, brownies, cookies, cinnamon rolls.¬† I even perfected a pretzel that was touted as the best around — quite a praise coming from a people who had an abundance of soft pretzels at their fingertips everywhere in my state of PA.¬†¬†¬† My baked items became comfort food for many that entered the door of my coffeehouse.¬†¬† My young employees were assigned items to make — and did so with pride.

I determined early on that recipes were only part of the process to create a great dessert.¬†¬† Other factors were the tools, pan, ingredients, temperature — even the time alloted to complete the desert during a shift of work.¬†¬†¬†What I started to do early on, is recreate the recipes that I researched, altered them to be unique for my establishment AND typed detailed instructions for completing the process.

The recipe shown¬†above is a typical copy of vintage recipe.¬† It¬†goes on¬†a “recipe card” size card.¬† There’s not much there to work with for instructions.¬†¬†¬† There is allot of assumed training and skill for how to actually make the pie.¬†¬†¬†I decided to make more detailed instructions, both to be sure I was consistent when baking and to be certain my employees had enough information to bake the item assigned to them properly.

Here’s an example of one of my more detailed recipes.¬† You are welcome to test it out and alter anything you’d like.



2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1 1/2 can cherry pie filling


1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2.      Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt in large bowl

3.      Cut in Crisco with spatula until a dry, crumbly dough forms

4.      Press about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of pan, making a firm even layer

5.       Bake bottom crumb layer for 5 minutes

6.      Carefully spread cherry pie filling in the crust without disturbing it

7.      Gently spread remaining crumb mixture on top of cherry filling with spatula

8.      Bake for 35 Р40 minutes, until top is lightly browned

9.      Let cool and cut into 12 pieces

10.  Heat lightly and offer with whipped cream if desired

Locating Lunch

A university town seems like a logical place to look for a lunch location. The main street had plenty of on-street parking, with meters. I made a drive-around to determine the most likely section of town to park. All situated, feeding the meter first with quarters, I proceeded to walk into a deli that was easily accessible. I stood at the counter, looked at the menu for about 5 minutes to make a decision. There was one customer ahead of me picking up pastries. The girl at the counter asked if I was waiting for lunch. When I answered yes, she informed me that lunch (the grill) closed at 3:00.

I turned around, headed out the door, turned left and scouted for another location. The buildings are jutted next to each other, intermixed with restaurant, retail, office, and apartments. The next location I spotted was a deli with hours posted on the window and door. I double-checked the door to clarify that indeed, lunch ended at 2:00. Hmm, am I seeing a pattern here?

I moved up the street another half block, saw a known sub-shop and a pizza shop a few buildings farther away. But before I could get within three buildings, I began to cough . . . cigarette smoke coming downwind my direction attacked my nose and lungs. I halted. The “smoking section” was fully operational (3 people). That’s what I call the outside of buildings now that there’s no smoking allowed inside (finally) — so — I made an about face, doubled back to B&N where I knew I’d get in and get served.

It was 3:30 pm. My standard lunch meal has been at 3 pm for probably 15+ years. For 20 years my private teaching schedule was from 4 – 10 pm, 4 evenings a week. Then, as a musician, 95% of my concert work has been evenings, weekends, holidays.

I suppose I will always be on the edge of time for work, eat, sleep. I have a similar issue with my end of workday. If I want to go out to eat after work — 90% of any restaurant, diner, cafe, deli, pantry, and coffeehouse — is CLOSED by 9:00. You may be thinking, “There’s got to be a pub open somewhere.” Yeah — but — I don’t smoke OR “drink”. I’d be happy to have a cappuccino at 10 pm except were “supposed to” drink coffee in the AM. Oh, how I dislike conformity.

Now, this is more like it — a midnight cafe.