Why Americans Are Eating Less Hotdogs

A Reblog  |  By Paul Lukas | BusinessWeek  |  Americans spent $1.7 billion on hot dogs last year—and that’s just at supermarkets; it doesn’t count wieners purchased at restaurants and sports facilities or from street vendors. And no day is better for hot dog consumption than the Fourth of July, when Americans are expected to eat about 150 million of them—enough to stretch from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles more than five times.

While those numbers are impressive, overall hot dog sales are declining. According to figures from IRI, a Chicago-based market-research firm, sales dropped more than 3 percent in 2012 from 2011, following two consecutive years of smaller declines. Figures for this year are looking soft as well. The slump is surprising in light of the sluggish economy—hot dogs are usually considered the ideal recession foodstuff.

Ronald Plain, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri, offered a few possible explanations for the frankfurter’s failing fortunes. Hot dogs are particularly popular among children, for example, so America’s declining birth rate may be to blame. Changing immigration patterns and demographic profile may also play a role. Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, a trade group, sees other factors at work. “Higher raw-material costs are leading to higher retail price points,” she says. “Consumers are very sensitive to that.” Ryan Stalker, brand manager for Hebrew National, whose sales are off by 5 percent this year, agrees. “The biggest challenge facing our industry is the rising costs of goods, especially beef prices, over the past few years, which usually translates into softness in sales.”

None of this surprises Josh Ozersky, a food journalist and historian. He predicts the hot dog will become increasingly marginalized as the U.S. palate broadens. “I would be willing to bet that more Americans, and especially younger Americans, now eat nachos or tacos than hot dogs,” he says. But what about the many outlets that serve nachos on hot dogs? “That’s just proof of the desperate state of the hot dog!” he says. “That’s like a middle-aged actress who gets Botox and breast implants to try to stay relevant.”

One brand has bucked the downward trend: Nathan’s Famous (NATH), whose sales are up 17 percent from last year. “Naturally, I think it’s because we have the best hot dog,” says President Wayne Norbitz. “In tough times, if people are going to eat fewer hot dogs, they often choose a premium product. They choose to indulge.” Nathan’s also gets a promotional boost from its annual July 4 hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island.

The hot dog still has one stronghold: baseball stadiums. Fans can buy everything from sushi to barbecued ribs, but hot dogs remain the top seller at almost every big league ballpark. (The exception: Miller Park in Milwaukee, where sausage is king.) There’s also a smattering of artisanal dog restaurants, such as Bark, in Brooklyn. The owner, Josh Sharkey, bastes his hot dogs with “Bark sauce,” a concoction of smoked lard whipped with butter.

Even Sharkey says it’s not easy being in his line of work. “It’s a pretty tough business model, because it’s based on a low price point,” he says. “So it’s a volume business—you have to sell a lot of hot dogs.”

Image by: Getty Images | | Featured Imaged: by hotdogtruck.blogspot.com

Bloglink:  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-americans-are-eating-fewer-hot-dogs-173515942.html

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Six Writing Lessons From The Garden

veg gardenBy: Deborah Lee Luskin  |  A Reblog  |  I love to garden. It’s a meditative activity – something I can do while my mind freewheels. Last Sunday, I found myself thinking how preparing a small vegetable patch is like writing a book.

Lesson 1: Writing is Solitary.Scarecrow

For the first time in thirty years, I’m planting the garden solo. My husband helped me install the fence posts (just as he built the studio where I write), but he prefers to nurture the orchard. I’m on my own, just as I write by myself during the week while he’s off tending to his patients’ health.

Lesson 2: Selectivity is Good.

There was a time when we grew and preserved all our food – but no longer. We’re now supplied with locally grown produce from a neighbor’s organic farm, so I’m only planting high-value items that are harder to find in local markets – shallots and leeks, fennel, veg garden2escarole and Brussels sprouts – as well as items we consume in quantity – cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, hot peppers and a wide assortment of culinary herbs.

I’m leaving the prosaic vegetables – the zucchini and green beans, the carrots and potatoes – to the production professionals. In a similar way, I’ve retired from the teaching, managerial and editorial jobs that others can do as well as or even better than I can. No one else can tell the stories I imagine, so I’m concentrating on them.

Lesson 3: Limits are Helpful.

GardenPrep050513I started by limiting the scope of my garden. I’ve fenced off an eight- by sixteen-foot rectangle to keep the free-range chickens out, and to keep my intentions focused – and manageable. Our previous gardens were huge, time-sucking affairs, and sometimes we raised an equal quantity of weeds as tomatoes. Similarly, over the past year, I’ve drafted thousands of words about my character’s life. But recently, I’ve come to realize that the story I’m telling takes place over the course of nineteen months. So that’s what I’ll develop; everything else must come out, just like the weeds.

Lesson 4: Wrisundialting Takes Time.

At the outset, a hundred and twenty-eight square feet looks just as big as a 100,000-word novel, and turning it over with a hand fork appears as daunting as filling a ream of paper by pen. My husband offered to do this heavy task for me; he would have had the garden-plot ready in less than an hour. I thanked him and said I would do it myself. It took me three hours, during which time I meditated on how preparing the garden is like writing a novel. I stopped only for water and to take pictures for this post, which I was composing as I dug.

gardenprep10

Lesson 5: Small Tasks Yield Success.

A week earlier, I’d covered my plot with a tarp to warm the earth and kill weeds. The weeds continued to flourish, however, and the prospect of turning the soil by hand and pulling the weeds out by the root was too much. So I put the tarp back in place and working a small section at a time uncovered only a quarter of the space. After I turned those thirty-two square feet, I peeled the tarp back again, turning and weeding the next section. Now, the job was half done. I folded the tarp back again and again, always giving myself a small, measurable task that I could reasonably accomplish. Writing a book is just the same: I break each chapter into sections, and each section into paragraphs, each paragaph into sentences, each sentence into words. Each time I stuck the fork into the soil, it was a reminder that books are written one word at a time.

Working a small section at a time.

By the time I had raked the soil into beds and outlined the footpath with string, my neck was sunburned, my back was sore, and I was ready for a bath. I was done – for the day. I now had a well-defined garden plot with clearly outlined beds as weed-free as a clean piece of paper. Even though I was done-in, I’m anything but done. In fact, I’m just ready to start.

GardenPrep8Ellen, the novel I’m crafting, is further along than my garden. But the garden is a good reminder about how to maintain forward progress on this first draft. My afternoon preparing my garden yielded these six truths: 1) Even though I work alone, I’m deeply engaged with my characters; 2) every time I cut out a scene or a character or an unnecessary word, I gain a clearer sense of what aspect of the story to nurture; 3) knowing the limit of the narrative has helped me focus on the story I have to tell; 4) drafting the novel is taking a long time – and I make progress daily; 5) I experience the elation of success when I set myself small, measurable tasks; and 6) every time I finish a section, a chapter, an entire draft, I’m ready to begin another section, another chapter, another draft.  And even when that’s done – even when the writing and revision are finished – there’s another whole set of steps to see a book to completion, but those are chores of another season.

This growing season has just started. I tell myself, if I write word by word, weed by weed, my effort will blossom, and in time, I’ll see my book in my readers’ hands.

Meanwhile, I have a lovely garden bed ready for seeds.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Author Deborah Lee Luskin gardens and writes in southern Vermont and can be found on the web at www.deborahleeluskin.com

How to Grow Herbs Indoor

herb pot mint

Gardening Indoors Can Be Done Easily

A Reblog | The Tasteful Garden | Gardening Indoors can be done easily if you have the proper conditions in your home. The key to success is having enough light for the plants to do well. West and South facing windows provide the most light. If the herbs are not getting enough light they will just stop growing and may eventually have insects or diseases attack them.

Humidity

Another problem with growing indoors is humidity or lack of it. Our heating systems are primarily dry heat and the plants can suffer from lack of moisture in their leaves even though they are watered. This can be corrected by misting or washing your plant’s leaves every 2 weeks.

Most Herbs Prefer Temperatures from 65-80 Degrees

arrow green with textMost herbs prefer temperatures from 65-80 degrees and watering when the soil is dry to the touch. Never let your plants sit in a tray of water as their roots will drown. Also, make sure that the pots you use are large enough for the plant to grow for up to 6 months. Pots that are 8″ in diameter are best.

Moving Your Plants Outdoors

It is generally best to move your plants outdoors as soon as it is warm and they will really appreciate an afternoon of sunshine on warm days, just remember to bring them back indoors during the cool nights.

Preparing Perennial Herbs for Winter

In very mild winter areas nothing needs to be done except a light pruning, cutting off about a third of the plant to trim up and encourage a nice form for spring.

Cold Winter Areas

In cold winter areas, the annual herbs will die as soon as the first frost hits them. The perennials can last if they are hardy to your zone. Rosemary, Sage, Lavender and others need to be pruned (about a third) and then mulched with anything that will protect them from the cold and wet. Cover their stems and root systems with hay or leaves or pine straw to keep the freezing wind from doing damage.

Taking Cuttings of Your Plants

You can also take cuttings of your plants and root them indoors keeping them moist and in a humid environment until they are rooted and then pot them. Another option is to dig up your herbs and put them in large pots to bring indoors for the winter.

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Bloglink: http://www.tastefulgarden.com/store/pc/Indoor-Herb-Growing-d55.htm
The Tasteful Garden

Building a Bamboo Future

The founders of Green School gave the award winning design-firm, Ibuku, the task to build the world’s “Greenest School.”

Every step of the design and construction process was unique. Instead of traditional blueprints, architects build bamboo models to scale with bamboo sticks. The sticks were bent, cut, and woven until the perfect model was created. The usual onsite visual of bulldozers moving the earth was nowhere to be found. The land remained as it was.  Buildings were designed to rise out of the earth’s natural contour, ensuring as little disturbance to the surrounding environment as possible.

Green School in Bali - Instead of traditional blueprints, architects build bamboo models to scale with bamboo sticks

Given both the setting of Bali and the sustainable task at hand, it is hardly surprising that Ibuku choose bamboo as their building material of choice. It is one of the fastest and most resilient growing plants on earth, and as such, environmentally-friendly.  “With very few resources or attention, a bamboo shoot can become a structural column within three years,” says Elora Hardy,  CEO of Ibuku. “And a building built from that bamboo could stand strong for a lifetime.” (View Slideshow)

The choice of bamboo, created strong buildings but also allowed for unique designs. Unlike the typical four-walled, cement classrooms, Green School rooms were woven together, creating spectacular webs of bamboo. Every formation there is unique and more complex looking than the last. Dynamic spirals and shapes spring from the ground creating spectacular open expanses, reflecting the magic spaces present within nature.

Green School in Bali completed architectural design by Ibukuarrow green with text

The designers, architects and local Balinese craftsmen behind these living structures have done an excellent job in imitating and integrating the beauty and complex perfection of the school’s tropical surroundings. Buildings weave harmoniously through the beautiful backdrop, integrating with the environment instead of standing apart from it. Aesthetically these bamboo structures entice a great sense of wonder and achievement. They are bamboo works of art that stand as a true testament to the creative potential and infinite possibility that lies within this resilient building material.

GBTV brings you the second in a series of guest blogs from Green School in Bali.  Their first blog, Welcome to the Greenest School on Earth, was an introduction, not only to their building practices, but to their amazing concept in teaching. This blog takes us behind the scenes to the details of building with bamboo.

Visit Green School for more information, Like them on Facebook and follow on Twitter. Find out more information about Ibuku and their work with Green Village Bali.

Bloglink: http://greenbuildtv.com/blog/building-a-bamboo-future/#more-12016