Kick your Plantar Fasciitis, Once and for All!

Using Laser Therapy to Heal Foot Pain
What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is an irritation and swelling of the thick tissue (plantar fascia) on the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue originating on the bottom surface of the calcaneus (heel bone) and extending along the sole of the foot toward the five toes.The plantar fascia helps hold up the bones on the bottom of the foot, creating the arch. When this fascia becomes inflamed it makes walking painful and difficult. The pain is usually felt on the underside of the heel and is often most intense with the first steps of the day. Plantar fasciitis is commonly thought of as being caused by a heel spur, but research has found that this is not the case. On x-ray, heel spurs are seen in people with and without plantar fasciitis.

Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Foot arch problems (both flat foot and high arches)
  • Obesity
  • Running
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Tight Achilles tendon (the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel)

What treatments are available for Plantar Fasciitis

Western medicine typically treats Plantar Fasciitis with oral and/or injectable anti-inflammatories. These may temporarily reduce the pain associated with Plantar Fasciitis but they do not treat the cause of the problem, and by no means heal it.

Long term correction of Plantar Fasciitis is a two step process.

First: Heal the Damaged Fascia
Ending the pain caused by Plantar Fasciitis requires stopping the cycle of inflammation. Class IV laser therapy is an excellent method for this, because it is presently the only modality that can both reduce inflammation and heal tissue simultaneously. Laser treatments at Align Healing Center are done with the K-laser 1200 a Class IV Laser. This laser does not cut or burn but is gently absorbed by the tissue. During Laser Therapy the infrared laser light interacts with tissues at the cellular level, increasing metabolic activity and improving the transport of nutrients across the cell membrane. This initiates the production of cellular energy (ATP) that leads to a cascade of beneficial effects, increasing cellular function and health. This creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness and pain. As the injured area returns to normal, function is restored and pain is relieved.

Second: Correct the Foot and Gait Mechanics
This involves rehabilitation of the arch of the foot. Arch rehabilitation is achieved by utilizing specific insoles and/or specific taping of the foot in order to re-establish proper motion of the arch while walking, then specific strengthening and stretching exercises are used to rehabilitate of the musculature of the foot and lower leg to ensure lasting results.

At Align Healing Center we are having great success treating plantar fasciitis, sciatica, shoulder and neck pain, migraines, arthritis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, post surgical pain, sports injuries and more; even if it’s long-term residual pain. Even arthritis and degenerative disc disease sufferers can see long term benefits from this treatment without any of the negative side effects experienced with the long term use of medications.

Dr. Niele Maimone, DC is the owner and founder of Align Healing Center in Danville, CA. She has been active in our natural health & wellness community since 1999. For more information or to set up a consult call 925.362.8283 or visit www.alignhealingcenter.com.

In the Search for Perfection

Golfing great Ben Hogan has been quoted as saying that he never hit more than seven great shots per round. 2010 Remax World Long Drive Championship runner up Dominick Mazza told his dad after the competition that he felt he only hit one real solid shot in the competition and yet he blasted ball after ball 350 to 404 yards during the multi day competition to finish second.

I was asked recently to help an eight year-old girl, who by the way, has a very nice and strong swing to help her understand that she does not have to be perfect in order to play good golf. I thought this would make for a nice piece for all golfers at every level.

As I contemplated how I would address the issue the dad presented me regarding his eight year old, I began to realize that this is a pretty common challenge for all who play the game. And, to make a further point, I don’t think anyone has really ever had a perfect game. I know at the end of every really great round I have ever had, I could think back and count a few shots I would love to play over. I thought I would broach this subject to another golfer and it just happened to be another young golfer only ten years of age. As I talked to her about the challenge of golf and how difficult it is to hit every shot the way you want or the way you think you should hit it, she gave me some great insight that I want to pass on. She said, “I try to do my best. When I don’t hit a ball well or miss hit it, I don’t like it but I know that it is part of the game and that it will happen. I can accept that and then I just try to do my best the next time.”

My jaw dropped a little and then I broke out in a huge smile. She has the correct attitude. It’s realistic and healthy, and she proved to me that she is winning that part of the game that so many people struggle with. This ten year-old girl said it better than I could have. Perfection is a pursuit that many think they should be able to attain. Look at what Ben Hogan said about each round—and he was regarded as one of the best ball strikers of all time.

Hitting great shots are wonderful. They build confidence and it feels great. But in order to play well, more playable miss hits need to be realized and accepted. The bad ones hurt, but it’s how you handle the poor ones that can determine whether or not you are giving yourself the best possible chance to do well! Adopt the attitude of this brilliant ten year old and you too will play better and have more fun.

Early Unwrapping

From the PublisherI have a confession to make—I opened my best Christmas gifts early this year. Although to be accurate I really had no other choice because the best (real) gifts I received came incrementally over the course of this past year. I received so many in fact, it would be next-to-impossible to list them all.

The first gift I received came on January One, 2010. It was the gift of a new year. For reasons I can’t explain, some time before it arrived I had a premonition about receiving this gift and I became progressively
excited about it as the date approached. In fact, I became so excited I actually stayed up until 11:59 PM on December 31st, just so that I could unwrap it at the first possible opportunity.

As the time when I would receive my gift drew closer, much to my surprise, everyone I came in contact with seemed to be excited too. Apparently, we were all expecting the same gift. And when 12:00 AM,
January 1, 2010 finally arrived, that’s exactly what happened—everyone received the exact same gift. Incredible! At the precise moment that everyone unwrapped their gift “New Year’s” gift, cheers, smiles and kisses were everywhere, as worries and troubles and fears of every kind were completely blotted out. What an amazing gift!

My next gift came shortly after that one and it came in the form of a “realization.” It was the gift of understanding that each subsequent 12:00 AM held the same promise as that first one. By now you’ve
probably figured out what came next—yes, I continued to receive what turned out to be a wonderful string of “new” days, one after the other, each one filled with promise and the fact that events that occurred prior did not determine everything that would occur going forward.

As it turned out, I opened (early) a total of an additional 364 of these gifts in 2010. But that’s not all. I also received and un-wrapped a liberal measure of other gifts. Some of these were expected, like the
special celebrations of my son’s graduation from high school and my wife’s and my thirty-fourth wedding anniversary; some were not, like unexpected visits from old friends. And, as if that were not enough, I
also received numerous get-togethers and conversations with friends and loved-ones, and even the special gift of making some new friends!

Yes, I was blessed in 2010 with a great many gifts, all of which I opened early.

This holiday season, I wish for you the very best of everything that life has to offer. And I hope and trust that you, too, have already unwrapped the most precious gifts… “early!”
Eric Johnson

A Word About Speakers

It’s All About Enjoying the Holidays

Treat yourself and your family with great holiday gifts this year. A new audio system or simple speaker upgrade makes a great holiday gift. There are audio speaker solutions available for every budget.

Today there are many new choices for sound systems in the home or office, large or small. Let’s examine several solutions that can raise the bar for music and audio enjoyment with friends and during family events.

Playing music in the home during the holidays brings additional enjoyment to any gathering. Since some of you may be considering this type of equipment purchase as a gift, let’s talk more about what these products look like today. With so many makes and models available, it can be overwhelming when trying to make an informed purchasing decision. On a basic level, you chose a type, size, a color and one of several brands.

There are several types of speakers available. “In-wall,” “Inceiling,” and “Wireless” are three speaker options for consumers.

The first type we will consider are called “In-wall” speakers. These are among the least invasive and are perfect for blending in with room décor. They are flush mounted, out-of-sight, inside the wall. The speaker grills that fit over the front are very thin and barely noticed from a side view. They can be painted any color (or textured) for an exact match with room décor making them nearly invisible.

“In-ceiling” speakers are similar to the in-wall speakers. They are also flush mounted, but installed in the ceiling rather than in the wall. Once again, the in-ceiling speakers grills can be painted or textured so that they blend exactly with room décor.

Next we have “Wireless” speaker technology. This type of audio system uses your home or office wireless broadband connection to broadcast music, sports, news and weather from such sources as iTunes, Pandora, Rhapsody, SIRIUS Radio or Napster, which have become so popular over the past several years. Unless you have some skill or background with home or office networking, this type of installation is best left to a trained professional.

It’s possible for the do-it-yourselfer to install speakers, but for an exact match with existing equipment or a high quality upgrade, it’s best to get the advise of a credentialed audio expert. You may want to consider a gift certificate for installation in order to assure the best possible match. Professional audio consultants offer advice and present possible options.

While the big box stores provide a few brand names, workers are not always trained or highly skilled. Audio and video professionals provide a much higher level of service and have credentialing from organizations such as the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA).

Better quality speakers can take your music to the next level of enjoyment with family and friends. They can help make all of your holiday celebrations joyful and merrier!

Dave High is a LEED Green Associate with Karbon Consulting in Pleasant Hill. dave@hellokarbon.com.

2011 Ford Fiesta: It’s a Party on Wheels!


They say the world is becoming a smaller place and with natural resources being demanded by more and more countries, costs are increasing in the auto market as well. In Europe the price of fuel is nearly twice what it is here, so the call for smaller fuel efficient vehicles has been strong. That same cry is coming to America and success is being found by manufacturers including Mini and Honda. So how are our domestic brands reacting to smaller is better? For Ford Motor Company, the 2011 model year brings the introduction of the subcompact Ford Fiesta that has been very successful in Europe, and is finally available here.

The 2011 Ford Fiesta was designed and developed in Europe; with a Euro feel. In the past, automotive manufacturers would sell small cars but never make any real money on the sale. These were considered lost leaders and stepping stones for future up-sales. Those cars had low-budget features and quality; however, things do change!

Car companies know that Americans demand high quality features, gadgets, style, and comfort, so they are designing and building small cars that have bold designs, possess the comforts of home, and are loaded with features. For Ford, this has generated larger transaction prices and satisfied customers who are reaping the rewards!

In Fords 2011 lineup, the Fiesta is the smallest vehicle sold in the Ford stable, measuring 15-inches shorter than the Focus. The Fiesta, with a successful track record in Europe, is among the first of a fleet of vehicles designed and sold ‘oversees’ to finally make it to the U.S. shores. Ford believes the subcompact Fiesta will attract first-time buyers and even some baby boomers. To reach its main audience, Ford created a marketing plan that has been centered on social media including Facebook.

The 2011 Ford Fiesta is available in two body styles – Hatchback and Sedan and four trim levels. The trim levels are: SE Hatchback ($15,795), SES Hatchback ($17,795), S Sedan ($13,995), SE Sedan ($14,995), and SEL Sedan ($16,995). All prices include a $675 destination fee.

All models come with a 4-cylinder 1.6-liter engine mated to a 5–speed manual transmission that produces 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The Fiesta is also offered with a new automatic transmission technology that acts like an automatic, but gets the fuel economy of a manual transmission. This optional six-speed automatic transmission comes with PowerShift™ for $1,070.00 and earns an estimated 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. The Fiesta’s 4-banger engine manages to run 120 horses, which produces some pretty good get-up-and-go power.

Ford’s European design team carved out an edgy profile with sharp angles, a steeply ranked windshield and large aggressive headlamps. The front lower grille opening has what Ford calls a reverse trapezoid and large side intake ports delivering an in-your-face look. This dramatic style is favored by the young demographics that Ford is aiming at as new owners of the Fiesta.

A feature that in my opinion is an “about-time” for Ford is the remote key entry, which is where the door handle has a small black button that when pressed, detects the key fob in your pocket. This feature unlocks the (front) door and allows you to open the door without digging for a key. I understand this may seem like a minor convenience feature, but it has been available on both higher priced, and mid-range cars for a while, but as far as I can tell this is the first time it is available on a Ford.

The interior is sharply dressed with proud eagle-like arches incorporated into the center dash. A blend of black and brushed metallic trim-touches adds a sport flare and stylish quality. The ‘info’tainment controls are housed in a metallic shell center-dash, and runs the interior theme. Planted above the center dash is a data screen that displays everything from radio information to phone activity.

The front seats felt comfortable with a rich feel to the material, and had enough side and bottom bolsters to keep me properly positioned during turns. Overall interior quality was above what you would expect with plenty of soft-touch points. Ford added features that you wouldn’t typically find in a car this size including leather seat surfaces, SYNC voice activated system, heated front seats and lighted cup holders; to name a few.

Ride quality and handling of the Fiesta felt more confident than some of its competitors like the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa. When pushing it to the limit I felt a little understeer (which is when the car wants to go straight instead of turning), but nothing that couldn’t be controlled. During typical driving situations the car reacted and responded well.

Room for improvement:

  • No center arm rest

Cool Features:

  • Push button start
  • Smart key with remote keyless entry
  • The 2011 Fiesta safety equipment includes seven airbags: dual stage frontal, front seat side impact, side curtain and driver knee. Also standard is antilock brakes, electronic stability control, child safety seat anchors (LATCH) and tire pressure monitoring system.

    In Summary – The 2011 Fiesta is an important entry for Ford and its small car effort, since this category is growing in popularity. It has been designed and equipped to be profitable and delivers an upscale subcompact vehicle that is fun to drive and fuel efficient. The Fiesta is another example of Ford building a vehicle that people want, which meets and exceeds their expectations.

    For more information and a complete list of features and specifications go to www.autofastracks.com.

    Specifications

    2011 Ford Fiesta SES Hatchback

    Base price: $17,795 as driven: $18,890 (including destination and optional equipment)
    Engine: 1.6-Liter 4-cylinder
    Horsepower: 120 @ 6000
    Torque: 109 foot pounds @ 4250 rpm
    Transmission: 5-speed manual transmission with PowerShift™
    Drive: Front Wheel-Drive
    Seating: 5-passenger
    Turning circle: 34.4 feet
    Cargo space: 26 cubic feet
    Curb weight: 2575 pounds
    Fuel capacity: 12 gallons
    EPA mileage: 37 highway, 28 city
    Wheel Base: 98 inches
    Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
    Also consider: Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris

Dirt Gardener: Thanks for Asking

Dirt Gardner Image - Dahlia
Q. How do I separate and store the Dahlias that I have recently taken out of the ground? I planted one in April and it has multiplied into a clump of twenty to thirty bulbs.

A. Dahlias are actually classified as a tuber and not a bulb. A true bulb contains modified leaves called scales, a basal plate that develops roots and a shoot that emerges from the center. Dahlias lack the basal plate, scales and the roots and the new shoots develop from ‘eyes’ or growth buds. Tulips, Daffodils and Cyclamen are true bulbs, while Dahlias, and Potatoes are examples of tubers. You should first wash the dirt off the clump, exposing all the tubers. If the dirt is already dried, submerge the clump in a bucket of water. After thirty minutes, hose them off and let the clump air-dry. Next, you have two options: divide the clump into individual tubers now and store them or store the entire clump until next year. In April or May, the clump is divided two to four weeks before planting. You’re probably not going to plant all the tubers, so select the largest and firmest, discarding the rest. Each tuber must include a growth bud or ‘eye’. The ‘eyes’ are located along the narrow end of the tuber close to where it attaches to the main or last year’s stalk. With freshly dug Dahlias, the eyes are easy to recognize; otherwise, include a piece or section of last year stalk. All the fresh cuts should be dip in dusting sulfur to prevent rotting. Dahlias are stored in a cool, dry location in an open container in sawdust, sand, vermiculite or perlite. Dividing Dahlias is not as difficult as it might seem. It does have a high success rate.

Q. My cherry trees were traumatized last year with the Black Cherry Aphids. In the past, I controlled Aphids by putting a ring of the sticky stuff around the trunk. This year it didn’t help at all. Will the Lime Sulfur dormant spray keep me Aphid free next year?

A. Two applications of dormant spray, Lime Sulfur and or Oil, are recommended on cherry trees during the winter months. The dormant spray controls the over wintering insects such as scale, mites, and the Aphid eggs. Unfortunately, this dose not guarantees that you will be Aphid free next year. Aphids can over winter on many other woody ornamentals as well as perennials plants. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprise to see them again. Aphids are not that difficult to control if caught early. You need to monitor the trees in the spring for the first sign of curly leaves. Once they are detected, they are removed and you make three applications of Insecticidal Soap a week apart. This should keep the leaves pristine all season long. I’d still apply the sticky stuff, sold as Tanglefoot or Pest Barrier to the tree trunks. This prevents ants from ferrying the Aphids into the canopy as they feed on the clear sticky residue called ‘Honey Dew’ produced by the Aphids.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is www.dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at dirtgarden@aol.com or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523

“Twitter” – The Most Powerful Thing in the World!

I usually get people’s attention when I type the word “ TWITTER,” followed by the caption, “ What’s The Most Powerful Thing in the World?”

This is not only a true statement for Twitter. Experts in the advertising world are saying that this form of Social Media is exploding and twitter is currently ranked #11 in the world of the most “hit” websites. Twitter also disclosed for the first time earlier this week that it currently has 105 million registered users and 180 million unique visitors to Twitter.com. They also handle 800 million search queries per day. Mind you, this company started in 2006. Just when your son and/ or daughter enrolled as a freshman in college and graduated, the three founders of Twitter became multi-millionaires in four short years!

Now, I’m not saying, “don’t go to school.” GO! What I am revealing to you is that while most people think an education is powerful; or government is powerful; or the economy is the most powerful thing in the world; or God is the most powerful thing in the world… those are all incorrect! Ladies and Gentleman, the most powerful thing in the world is… (drum roll)…an idea.

Now, this is where some of you may sigh and say “Coach Ron, come’on! God… the economy… government?” Well, let’s get down to the real nitty gritty here: If people don’t pray, God is not going to come down and make you do anything against your human will. (Trust me on this. I asked Him for years) Ok, the economy. Coach Ron, do you know how many people were forced to stop working because of the powerful force of the economy? I sure do and mind you, ask the founders of Twitter if the economy hit them.

We’re not negating God, the Economy or the Government’s power. In fact, in my heart and mind, God is King! But the most powerful thing in the world is to circulate and use the gifts you have been given to create, dream and implement an IDEA (hear the spirit in which I’m writing to you) coupled with the help of prayer, the good hardworking consumers of America and a government, do something so powerful that it completely changes your life and millions around you! Here’s a free idea for someone, “How can you help someone else today?” Here’s another idea: pray for one!

“Passion is the power that creates life and brings you to your ultimate cause.” – Ron Kardashian.”

What’s your passion? What’s your IDEA?

Send me your thoughts this week by e-mail and someone will win a FREE coaching session on just how to make your dream a reality! Who knows, you could be singing…”Rocking Robin…Tweet, tweet, tweelydeet..” I sure am and want you with me! Used by permission. “The 30 second Solution.” By Ron Kardashian in book stores Fall of 2011.

Ron Kardashian

Ron Kardashian


Ron Kardashian is a life coach, fitness expert, educator, conference speaker, author, national television and radio personality, and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coach. Kardashian was one of America’s first life coaches. In 1994, he founded Kardashian Life Coaching & Personal Training and has since inspired hundreds to reach their full physical, mental and spiritual potential.

Kardashian has been twice nominated as Personal Trainer of the Year. He has been an honored speaker for the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Considered a “coach’s coach,” he has empowered executives to operate at peak performance; personally, professionally, and most important , spiritually.

Ron also heads a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation that is relentless in its efforts of bringing optimal health to people of all walks of life. This organization’s mission is to fight obesity and related diseases on a global scale. Across the globe, Kardashian’s unique approach has garnered amazing results, making him a powerful, voice of change for professional athletes, CEOs, political leaders, and clergymen of every age, religion, and creed. Ron lives in California with his beautiful wife, Tia, and two children.

For an appointment or bookings you can reach Ron at: info@kardashian.tv, or call 888.918.HEAL. Visit Ron’s website at www.kardashian.tv.

Market Fresh: A Sunny Spin on the Holidaze

Market Fresh
I feel like I’m living in one of those old newsreels, where calendar pages flip furiously to signify the passage of time. Okay, it’s December. I get it.

Like most of you I’ve been spending way too much time in crowded stores—not to mention hours spent shopping on line—but all of this only makes my weekly trips to the farmers’ market even sweeter. While loading up on this month’s cache of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables for entertaining and baking as well as daily sustenance, I often seize the opportunity to cross a few names off my gift list. Call it multi-tasking.

Just as boutiques and small specialty shops offer a more unique and pleasant shopping experience than elbowing your way through a massive department store, the farmers’ market provides a discerning alternative to sprawling supermarkets. At the farmers’ market you are sure to find top-quality locally-grown produce at a fair price…and without the distraction of Muzak, fluorescent lights, climate-controlled air conditioning, and pretty young things with perfume samples. Shopping in the fresh air—what a concept!

The people at Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association understand the plight of the harried holiday shopper, and recruit extra vendors to inspire you with tastefully selected seasonal items ideal for giving. The obvious choices are poinsettias and other living plants, holiday wreaths, and just-picked flowers at some of the best prices in town. All the makings for personalized gift bags or baskets are there, too—with products like bottles of California extra-virgin olive oil; plump sun-dried tomatoes; this year’s crop of California walnuts and almonds; golden honey; dried California apricots, raisins, and other popular preserved fruits, as well as glistening jars of jam and fruit preserves. I don’t know about you, but I would welcome any of these gifts over, say, a goofy coffee mug or a tin of imported cookies from the warehouse store.

I would even appreciate a gift-basket of tree-ripened apples or juicy oranges, with or without a big tartan-plaid bow. In simpler times it was considered A Very Big Deal to receive an orange in your Christmas stocking. And who can forget the kinder-gentler Don Corleone, deftly peeling an orange to delight his grandson? Californians tend to take oranges for granted…probably because we don’t need to look far to find an orange tree, if not a full-blown orange grove…but if you’ve ever been disappointed by a dry or flavorless orange, it’s time to reconsider your purchasing power.

Just when the fruit inventory at the farmers’ market appears less plentiful, citrus comes in strong—but beware. Not all oranges are created equal. They may resemble what you see at the supermarket, but the real test is in the taste. Farmers’ market citrus is grown locally, tree-ripened, and delivered directly to market by the growers—usually within 48 hours of harvesting. Fruit destined for supermarkets goes from the tree to a packing house, where it is stored for a while; then to a cooler, where it can be stored for months; then finally trucked an indeterminate number of miles to a grocery store warehouse, where it is stored once again until needed. Also consider that commercially grown oranges are often picked before they have attained optimum sweetness so they can be rushed to stores to meet the demand—and their skins are routinely dyed to cover green spots and give them a brighter, “fresher-looking” hue. Trying to out-smart Mother Nature takes a lot of time and labor….and it is the consumer who ultimately pays for it.

In a month laden with butter and chocolate and whipped cream with a heavy dusting of powdered sugar, a simple yet festive fruit dessert is often appreciated. Poached pears are always a favorite, but here is something that is totally refreshing…and a lot less work.

If you simply cannot resist the temptation to gild the lily, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint—or even a tablespoon or two of very thinly sliced fresh mint leaves.

Chilled Oranges in Marsala Syrup

9 medium California navel oranges
1 cup granulated pure cane sugar
21/2 cups sweet Marsala wine
1/3 cup orange-flavor liqueur, such as Triple Sec
1 or 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1/3 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
Fresh mint (optional)

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel away the skin from 1 orange, leaving the bitter white pith behind. Cut the skin into very thin strips. (Alternatively, remove the skin with a citrus zester.) Squeeze the juice from the orange and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the orange peel strips and boil for 3 minutes. Drain in a fine sieve, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Set aside.
  3. Using a sharp knife, slice the ends from the remaining 8 oranges and cut away all the skin and white pith. Working over a large heatproof bowl to catch the juices, cut the oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds. As you work, place the orange slices in the bowl. Pour in the reserved orange juice from Step 1.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, Marsala, orange liqueur, and cinnamon stick(s). Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has a slightly syrupy consistency. Stir in the strips of orange peel and the raisins, if using.
  5. Pour the hot syrup over the orange slices. Stir gently to mix with the orange slices and juices in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, until well chilled. (Feel free to make these a day in advance, if it’s more convenient.)
  6. To serve, discard the cinnamon stick(s). Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and arrange the orange slices overlapping slightly on a rimmed serving platter or in individual shallow dessert bowls, taking care that the zest and raisins are distributed evenly. Drizzle the Marsala syrup over the top and garnish with fresh mint, if desired. Serves 6-8.

Orange you glad to know….
–Contrary to common logic, the orange is not named for its color. The name comes from the Sanskrit naranga, which comes from the Tamil naru, which means fragrant.
–Oranges have long been associated with fertility and good fortune, as the lush evergreen tree can simultaneously produce flowers, fruit, and foliage. The fertility trifecta.
–Although oranges are native to Asia and now grow in warm-weather regions throughout the world, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer.
–Look for citrus that feels heavy for its size…this is a low-tech indicator of juice content. –Since commercially-produced oranges are often dyed, skin color is not an indication of quality.
–Plenty of varieties of sweet oranges abound this month. Valencia is an all-purpose variety best known for its superior juice; navel oranges are conveniently seedless. Exotic blood oranges have stunning ruby-red juice that is lower in acid. Then there are all those loose-skinned relatives from the mandarin branch of the family—like tangerines, clementines, and tangelos. Bitter oranges, like the Seville used for marmalade, are less common in the U.S.
–Almost all of the orange is usable: the flesh, the juice, and the aromatic skin. The spongy white pith is usually discarded because of its bitterness.
–Fresh-squeezed orange juice has a considerably higher Vitamin C content than canned, bottled, or frozen concentrate.
–Oranges will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
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The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM or visit their web site at www.pcfma.com.

Giving the Gift of Giants to Keep that Championship Glow

World Series Championships are rare. Naturally, the big fan on your holiday gift list will want to keep that glow of this season’s accomplishment burning until pitchers and catcher report for the 2011 season in February.

The easy solution is to purchase one of the quickly produced publications that recount the team’s miraculous run to the Western Division title from seven games back in August, and through the playoffs and World Series against teams most experts considered superior. Another more thoughtful approach would be to purchase one of three books selected by Off the Bench that capture the heritage behind Orange Fridays, The Freak and Aubrey Huff’s thong. These books give readers an understanding of how the Giants franchise came to be what it is today and made the Bay Area proud this fall.

Giants Past & Present by Dan Fost: Loaded with illustrations, most in full color, dating back to the team’s days in New York, Giants Past & Present is a lively primer on the history of the team that has won more major league games than any other. The Giants also have had more players enshrined as Hall of Famers than any other franchise, even the Yankees. In less than 150 pages, Fost covers the best players and teams in Giants history; some of the heartbreak; the best and worst trades; the ballparks the team has called home; and event features a chapter on its fans.

The real fun is the pictures. Readers can see all the Giants heroes from Hall of Fame manager John McGraw to Willie Mays to Will Clark to Barry Bonds to Tim Lincecum. Did you know that the team colors have not always been orange and black? In the early 20th Century the Giants wore purple, and in the 1940s the team wore red, white and blue as a salute to the war effort. Today’s uniform design is very similar to the style sported in 1958, the first season in San Francisco, but during the last 52 years it went through four overhauls. All are captured by Fost. Giants Past & Present is perfect for the fan on your list that is curious about how the Giants came to be what they are today, and wants to learn through historic photos and a simple, direct writing style. Fost’s book retails for $25 and is available on amazon.com and through MVP Books of Minneapolis. It is part of a series that captures most big league franchises.

The Giants of the Polo Grounds by Noel Hynd: This tome is for the serious baseball historian who is interested in exploring the team’s roots in New York up through the move to San Francisco. The 382 page paperback edition has just a few pictures and the text can be dense. It is also an exhaustive history of the franchise during its days playing in the most unique ballpark in the majors during what many consider to be baseball’s golden age. If the baseball fan in your house wants to learn more about Christy Mathewson and the 1908 pennant race, the dropped fly ball by Fred Snodgrass that cost the Giants the 1911 World Series, the feud between McGraw and Babe Ruth, the Giants role in the cancellation of the 1904 World Series, all the machinations behind Bobby Thomson’s pennant winning homer in 1951, and the glory of the 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933 and 1954 World Championship teams, then you can pick up this book new or used on amazon.com.

The Giants and the Dodgers by Andrew Goldblatt
: Every good story needs a villain, and the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers play that role for the Giants and their fans. Goldblatt lives in Berkeley and describes himself as a Giants fan. He even expressed some sorrow during a presentation attended by this reviewer at the cooperation provided him by the Dodgers as he researched his lively and informative book. The Giants and the Dodgers is meticulously researched yet maintains its sense of fun. Readers will understand how the rivalry grew and festered in New York and was purposefully maintained by ownership of both clubs when the teams moved west. Giant fans will enjoy reliving how the orange and black broke Dodger hearts in 1951, 1962, 1971, 1982 and 1997. The playoff wins in 1951 and 1962 featuring improbable ninth inning rallies in the deciding games are given special attention. The book is loaded with colorful personalities and gives detailed coverage to the very real dislike players on both teams felt for each other throughout the history of the rivalry. And while Goldblatt hints that that enmity has cooled somewhat in recent years, it still runs high amongst Bay Area fans, and those on your list who revel in hating the Dodgers while loving the Giants will enjoy this book. You can find The Giants and the Dodgers on amazon.com and through McFarland & Co. publishers at prices up to $29.95.

As you read this there are about 100 days until the 2011 Giants season opens April 1 at Dodger Stadium. By giving the fan on your list all three books this holiday season, you may even keep him or her occupied until that first pitch is thrown.

A New World Order

I believe that it is more critical than ever for U.S. based investors to pay attention to what is happening outside our borders and particularly in the emerging markets. There appears to be a widening divergence between the expected economic growth rates within the developed world and the emerging markets. According to investment firm PIMCO, GDP growth of the developed world is expected to be in the 1% to 2% range going forward versus 4% to 8% for the emerging markets represented by China, Brazil, Russia, India, and Mexico.1 This trend is nothing new, yet many investors are under exposed to the fastest growing regions on the planet. In my opinion, investments in the emerging markets provide one of the most attractive risk/reward opportunities available.

In my view, the emerging market economies still hold tremendous potential over the next couple of decades. They are undergoing a long term trend of greater economic importance and wealth creation. Emerging market economies have several positive tail winds in place when compared to the developed world: They are commodity rich, have a growing middle class with rising incomes, younger demographics, and ironically, less government debt as a percentage of GDP than the U.S. and the rest of the developed world.2 The rise of the emerging market consumer is expected to gradually replacing the U.S. consumer as the key driver to global demand. Consider the case of General Motors. For the first time ever, during the first quarter of this year GM sold more vehicles in China than in the U.S. But this is not just a China story. Emerging market consumers all over the world are vital to GM. So far this year, roughly 50% of GM’s sales have been outside of the traditional American and European markets.1

So how should investors approach the emerging markets? Consider increasing your allocations to emerging market equities and also investing in the large U.S. based companies that do a lot of business in the emerging markets. Often overlooked is your bond exposure to emerging markets. Emerging market corporate and government bonds appear especially attractive when compared to bonds here in the U.S. and the developed world. Not only are yields much higher on emerging market bonds, but there is a very good chance that emerging market currencies will appreciate versus the U.S. dollar. Investors may benefit from both higher yields and some currency appreciation. None of this is without risk however. Emerging markets have historically been volatile and there are always political and policy risks to consider. Despite the risks, a new world order is upon us. Investors need to embrace the opportunity to invest in those countries that are rapidly becoming a significant economic force throughout the globe.

1. PIMCO’s Emerging Markets Watch, October 2010
2. J.P. Morgan, Guide to the Markets, 4Q, 2010

Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a principal of Walnut Creek Wealth Management. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP® and should not be construed as investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Your comments are welcome. Damien can be reached at 925-280-1800 x101 or Damien@WalnutCreekWealth.com.