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►  Nature vs. nurture: What molds a child?

After another emotional week in the life of a youth worker, I was approached by a parent who was concerned about her stepson’s sudden descent into serious anti-social behavior in school and criminal activity.

The parent is puzzled at this maladaptive behavior due to the fact that they are very active and involved parents who until now have had little or no problems with the teen who is in high school and on the verge of expulsion. Child development experts say this sudden shift in attitude and behavior is quite common when the child hits the turbulent teens.

I’ve worked with a troubled young man whose biological father had a long history of crime, yet the teen has had no contact with his father since he was an infant. His home environment at the time showed no alarming indications that would lead him to a life of crime or violence yet he would eventually spend time incarcerated as a juvenile. The question again was raised: What is the main factor in determining a child’s development? Is it nature or nurture?

Is it the genetic predisposition or is it simply the influence of the environment?

As in my case, some conditions are obviously unhealthy for the proper development of a child. I recall walking to school in the morning through a gantlet of addicts. There were crack-heads on one side of the street and winos on the other side. With no presence of my biological father and a severely unstable home environment, the odds were not in my favor. Being raised in an environment with conditions like these, some would say a child is destined for serious trouble. Except for getting caught stealing walnuts from the local grocery store as a preteen, I think I managed to escape such an environment with no real damage.

This is also evidence to the fact that regardless of the environment – whether abundantly filled with love and affection or near tragically unstable – it will have a vastly different effect on the individuals who experience those same conditions. Therefore it is darn near impossible to precisely determine how a child is raised will affect his development as an adult.

I’ve worked with young people from well-nurtured, stable and comfortable living environments with a two-parent household, no addictions, neglect or abuse that become teens who have self-destructed their lives and the lives of others before they have reached adulthood. As depicted in the book “Raised In Hell,” some individuals do have the fortitude to not only survive an extremely dysfunctional childhood, but succeed because of it.

Being raised without traditional love and affection may not be detrimental to one child’s development, yet it could have a severely damaging effect on another child.

Years ago a professor of sociology told me that raising a child is like baking a cake: “You can bake a good cake and choose to put any type of icing for additional sweetness or artistic appearance. But if you forget a key ingredient in the recipe, no matter how good the cake looks on the outside or how sweet the icing is, on the inside something is going to be noticeably wrong with that cake.”

You may have no control of the nature or genetics of a child, however you can nurture that child with fruitful elements that could help them grow into a responsible adult.

►  New hope for endangered eels, Japanese summer delicacy

The Japanese summer delicacy of roasted eel, braised with a tangy sauce and sprinkled with prickly mountain pepper, is in question as the creatures with their mysterious migrations become increasingly endangered.

Soaring demand for Japanese eel, or Anguilla japonica, helped put the creatures on the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” of endangered species in 2014. It’s spurring poaching of similar species off the U.S. east coast.

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But Katsumi Tsukamoto, “Dr. Eel” of the only “Eel Science Laboratory” at Nihon University in Japan, thinks he’s unlocked the secrets to eventually farming the eels, known as unagi, sustainably and profitably. Tsukamoto found out where the eels are spawning, and that helped researchers study conditions needed to raise them from the egg stage to adulthood.

The possibility of extinction, and soaring prices for grilled eel believed to help build stamina for enduring sweltering summer days, have dismayed many Japanese gourmands and the restaurants that specialize in the dish.

Despite their important role in Japanese food culture, until recently very little was known about the life cycles of eels, such as where they spawned and how tiny, nearly transparent glass eels manage to travel back to their freshwater habitats in Asia and elsewhere.

Supplies depend on wild-catching the juveniles and farm raising them until adulthood, a practice that has spread from Japan to Taiwan and mainland China as demand has surged.

Tsukamoto says his discovery of Japanese eel larvae and spawning adults west of the Mariana Ridge, near Guam, in 2009 has enabled him and other researchers to figure out the right diet and environmental conditions for spawning eels and their offspring.

Despite skepticism about the potential for such farming to work, Tsukamoto says three Japanese state-owned laboratories already are able to raise the eels from the larval stage and get them to spawn, completing their life cycle. But for now each lab can raise only about 3,000 to 4,000 a year. A lack of funds is hindering construction of the infrastructure needed to make such operations commercially viable by producing tens of thousands of eels a year.

The complete farming of eels and some other endangered species as a way to help them survive by relieving the pressure from soaring demand.

Fisherman Masataka Uchida, who sells wild caught “blue eel,” or ao-unagi, shrugs off any potential competition from farming.

Depending on the environment, some eels have a tough texture and pungent, muddy taste that even unagi aficionados may find off-putting. Uchida’s eels, with their pale blue-gray skin and soft pink bellies, have a highly sought-after, light and clean flavor that fetches premium prices even in the pricey unagi market.

Depending on the restaurant, Yuta Maruyama, an intermediate wholesaler who handles wild blue eel at Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish market, says a multi-course menu including grilled blue eel can cost up to 30,000 yen ($270) per person at exclusive restaurants, mainly in the flashy Ginza shopping and dining district.

The choice eels are often served in different styles to the traditional “kabayaki” eels which are grilled in a coating of dark soy sauce marinade. Restaurants that specialize in kabayaki, often handed down generation to generation, may offer both wild and farmed eels — with supply depending on what is available that day at the market.

At Hashimoto, a Michelin one-star kabayaki restaurant in Tokyo that first opened in 1835, the eels are all farm-raised the conventional way on the southern island of Kyushu, after being caught as glass eels.

Like farmed salmon, the farmed eels raised from wild-caught glass eels tend to be fattier. “They have a flavor that is preferred by most customers,” says Shinji Hashimoto, the sixth-generation owner.

Hashimoto says his kabayaki sauce is “light,” to allow the eel’s flavor to come through.

“The Tokyo palette has traditionally disliked sweet flavors,” he says.

To manage with fewer catches and higher prices, Hashimoto tries to get two servings out of larger eels.

After cleaning and slicing them open, the cooks skewer them to ensure they will stay together while cooking. They are grilled directly over hot charcoal, then steamed to soften the flesh. Afterwards they are coated in a sauce of soy sauce boiled with sweet rice wine, or mirin and then returned to the grill and basted three times before being served as “unajyu,” steaming hot over rice in a neat lacquer box.

The busiest days tend to be the Day of the Ox in the lunar calendar, the first of which in 2017 was Tuesday, July 25th. Hashimoto served about 150 customers that day.

“Even if the price rose to 10,000 yen (about $90) for one box of unajyu, Japanese people would still eat it once a year,” Tsukamoto said. “Why do Japanese people like unagi? Because we like soy sauce. The salty-sweet sauce, made from a mixture of soy sauce and mirin, is brushed on, is singed and grilled on the eel over charcoal - and that smell makes it irresistible.”

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►  How to replace a wooden front door with one that has glass panels

Q: We recently moved into an interior rowhouse. Although we have plenty of windows in the side alley, as well as the front bay and transom windows, I am still desperate for more light. I would like to replace the four-panel front door with one that has glass panels. The house is quite old, and I fear that replacing the entire door will be difficult. Is it possible to take out the raised panels and replace them with glass? Could this be accomplished in just one day?

A: It is possible to cut out the raised panels and replace them with glass, but whether you would save money or time compared with just replacing the door is debatable. To remake the door, someone would need to visit to measure what size glass panels to order, wait for those to arrive, and then go back to take off the door, do the work and then reinstall the door. To replace the door, the installer would just need to have it available, take down the old door and install the new one. Installation might involve fiddling with hinge placement or planing off a bit of wood to get an exact fit. But these are familiar steps for anyone who installs doors.

For a vintage-looking door with glass panels, you might want to shop for a French door at a store that focuses on used building materials, such as Community Forklift, a Maryland nonprofit (301-985-5180; The store typically has “1,500 doors” to choose from, a spokeswoman said. Prices for glass doors, including French doors, start at $15-$25, but at the low end the doors usually are missing a pane or have some kind of damage. Glass doors in good condition usually cost $35 to $65, although they go up to $95 or more if they are in mint condition.

The store does not recommend installers, but it does have binders filled with business cards of people who do various kinds of repairs and welcome jobs that involve the types of salvaged materials that the store sells. You might want to start by finding an installer, then get that person to help you decide on a door that would be a good fit. Besides getting a door of the right height and width, the thickness needs to match and the hinges need to be on the side where they fit your doorway, with the door swinging inward.

You might need a workaround for the mail slot that’s in your door now. One solution to that might be to choose a door with glass only at the top.

Q: My KitchenAid freezer is stuck. I had cleaned it out entirely because there was a lot of ice built up on the side. Now it is sealed shut. Short of removing all refrigerator items and turning it off, are there other options? The model number is KFCS22EVMS4, and the serial number is K12820673.

A: KitchenAid’s customer service folks recommend that you arrange for a technician to visit. That’s better than just unplugging the unit and waiting for everything to melt, because you could wind up with water on the floor that could lead to other problems, customer service representative Harpreet Johal said.

Johal looked up your model and serial number and found that it was purchased on August 31, 2011. The warranty covers different things depending on the time since purchase. You are now in the six- to 10-year period, which means that KitchenAid is responsible for replacing certain equipment but not for labor costs. Covered items are the compressor, evaporator, condenser, dryer and connecting tubing.

You can arrange a service call through KitchenAid (800-422-1230; or through a local appliance dealer. Through KitchenAid, a service call costs $80 to $100, Johal said. For a firm price, you would need to supply your address. If you hire someone locally and they determine that one of the covered parts is the problem, KitchenAid will mail the replacement part at no cost. But either way, you would need to pay to have it installed.

Besides offering phone help for care questions, KitchenAid also offers a chat service. Through that, Caleb H. in Tennessee suggested that the problem could have occurred because the gaskets were dirty or not thoroughly dried after cleaning. “They want to be sure their refrigerator is level,“ he wrote. “If that checks out okay, they would need to have a service technician come out to address the issue to avoid any damage to the unit.“

Johal’s reaction to that advice? “This is a troubleshooting step we have to tell you. But I don’t think it’s going to help.“

►  Smokers could turn to vaping if FDA regulates nicotine

Everyone knows cigarettes can kill. Yet 36.5 million adults in the U.S. still smoke.

So after the labels and warnings, the restaurant bans and the grisly ad campaigns, the Food and Drug Administration is exploring a radical approach to helping people quit: regulating nicotine in cigarettes. If the FDA follows through – something far from certain – the shift could prompt some to quit or, at least, switch to relatively safer products like electronic cigarettes or vaping.

Peruz Nazli, who sat on a bench near New York’s Central Park with cigarette butts around her feet, said she was delighted when she heard about the agency’s plans.

“It’ll be easier to quit,“ said the 59-year-old retail worker, who started when she was 14. “People look at us different.“

The FDA’s initiative may upend the $130 billion American tobacco industry. It’s also likely to set off a ferocious lobbying and legal war in Washington, and push the cigarette industry to develop products that rely less on burning carcinogenic tobacco and more on delivering doses of nicotine through cleaner vapor. Smoking-related illnesses cost $300 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Interviews with New York smokers suggested that few had taken notice of the proposal announced last week, but many said they would be more likely to switch to new delivery devices than to smoke diluted cigarette after diluted cigarette. Some have already made the change.

Kevin Cleare, 36, who picked up his first cigarette from a junior-high buddy when he was 13, turned to vaping three years ago on his doctor’s advice.

He quit smoking cigarettes for the first time three years ago but resumed for a few months amid a stressful breakup before turning to vaping. Now he’s “never going back,“ and vaping looks like a long-term option.

“I’m so disgusted with cigarettes – the smell, the taste,“ he said. “This is a fair, reasonable compromise.“

Over the past decades, U.S. regulators have banned smoking in many public places, sending smokers outside or into isolated corners. The rate of adult cigarette use has declined by a quarter since 1965 to only 15 percent, according to the CDC. Teens foresee life as a pariah and turn elsewhere, with daily smoking among high school seniors down to 5.5 percent in 2015.

Kids look at smokers and say, “You’re crazy. What are you doing?“ said Cleare, who works with teenagers at the New York City health department.

Encouraging the remaining wannabes to suck on vape gizmos that resemble digital tape recorders is a planned inconvenience.

“This is just another way in making it less satisfying,“ said Douglas Kamerow, a senior scholar at the Robert Graham Center for Primary Care Policy Studies in Washington.

Those who stick with cigs are an increasingly gray crowd.

After emerging from a Mercedes-Benz onto a Brooklyn curb, Trevor Carter reached for a cigarette. The car belongs to his daughter. In the back seat is his grandson.

Carter, 68, has smoked for 50 years, a habit he says is harder to break than cocaine or booze, both of which he kicked. If the retired businessman doesn’t give up smoking by year-end, he said, his girlfriend will dump him.

“I’m ready, but I can’t break the habit,“ said Carter. But he said he won’t try vaping or e-cigarettes, which mimic the traditional item. Instead, he’s “trying to quit the natural way.“

E-cigarettes are about 95 percent safer than smoked tobacco, according to the U.K. Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies. Vaping atomizers and e-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine, which then becomes vapor. They don’t contain carbon monoxide and tar, chemicals in cigarettes that hurt smokers’ health. The FDA plan would encourage the use of the stand-ins by delaying further regulation until August 2022, giving tobacco companies a chance to build up a range of alternatives.

After the FDA’s announcement last month, shares of the two largest cigarette sellers in the U.S., Altria Group Inc. And British American Tobacco Plc, suffered their biggest single-day drop since the recession, reflecting investors’ belief that companies aren’t prepared for the new era.

Vivien Azer, a research analyst with Cowen & Co. who follows the industry, said that despite the sell-off, companies are trying to adapt with new products that take them beyond the simple equation of flame plus leaf.

“Everyone seems to be leaning in heavily into ‘heat not burn,‘ “ she said.

In one study published in 2015, cigarettes with lower levels of nicotine reduced not only nicotine exposure and dependence, but the number of cigarettes smoked. The research, conducted over six weeks and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, studied 780 people who regularly smoked with no interest in quitting.

For now, younger smokers are caught between eras.

John Mastbrook, 33, a bearded Brooklyn bike messenger, started smoking at 12 in his native Fairfax, Virginia. He vapes from time to time to wean himself from the cigarettes he rolls himself. “It’s just a good alternative,“ he said.

Smoking refugees like Cleare who’ve switched to vaping recognize, though, that they may still spend their lives tethered to a habit they don’t want. He says he’s just “trading one vice for another.“

“I’m still obviously addicted to nicotine,“ Cleare said, pausing to cough into his arm.

►  One-drop cancer test promising but imperfect

A recently developed method of diagnosing 13 kinds of cancer from a single drop of blood can lead to early detection of the disease. The relatively inexpensive test puts less burden on patients, but it still needs further improvement in accuracy.

The new blood test was developed by a team of researchers from the National Cancer Center Japan in Tokyo and other entities. They began a clinical test of the method this month. Until now, there has not been a test that could detect so many kinds of cancer at one time.

The test builds hope for treatment at an early stage to reduce cancer deaths, and is also expected to cut down on medical expenses. The team plans to ask the government to put it into practical use as early as within three years.

“By using a blood sample taken for a comprehensive medical examination or other checkups, this new test can detect which type of cancer a patient has from an early stage. It is an unprecedented examination method,“ said Takahiro Ochiya, chief of the Molecular and Cellular Medicine Division at the National Cancer Center Research Institute, who leads the team for the new test.

The researchers focused on a molecular substance called microRNA, or miRNA, as the key to the new technologies. Cancer cells secrete specific kinds of miRNA, which differ depending on the type of cancer.

The team began the research in 2014. After obtaining ¥8 billion of government funds, the team examined secretion patterns of types of miRNA by using blood samples of 40,000 elderly individuals that had been preserved by the institute and other entities. The samples included those from cancer patients as well as people without cancer.

The team successfully detected the patterns of breast, colorectal, pancreatic, biliary tract, esophageal, liver, ovarian, lung, stomach, bladder and prostate cancers, which are major cancers among Japanese people.

They also detected patterns for glioma, which accounts for 30 percent of brain tumors, as well as a rare bone cancer and a type of soft tissue tumor.

The progression of cancer is indicated in four different stages from the early Stage 1 to the most advanced Stage 4.

The researchers were able to diagnose patients with breast cancer - including those at Stage 1 - by analyzing five types of miRNA, with 97 percent accuracy. The team also detected other kinds of cancer with at least 95 percent accuracy.

The quality of miRNAs in blood changes over time. Therefore, the researchers will examine “fresh blood” from about 3,400 people to finalize the verification of the blood test’s accuracy in the clinical trials that began this month.

The main purpose of the new test is to discover cancer at an early stage by a simple method. Currently, various other types of cancer tests are already in use.

One method is to measure “tumor markers” in blood. However since tumor markers are proteins produced when cancer cells die and dissolve, they cannot be detected until the cancer has grown to some extent.

Five types of cancers - breast, stomach, colorectal, lung and cervical - that are often included in medical checkups offered by companies and local governments are covered by a wide range of medical departments such as breast oncology and gastroenterology. X-ray machines, endoscopes and so on are used to check for those cancers, and the performance of such devices has been improving.

However, Tomio Nakayama, director of the epidemiology statics department at Osaka International Cancer Institute, points out, “Doctors who can skillfully read images [of test machines] to discover cancers are in short supply nationwide.“

The percentage of the population taking cancer examinations stood in the 30 percent range to 40 percent range on average nationwide last year, far below the central government’s goal of 50 percent. Experts say reasons for the low rates is that taking a cancer examination can be complicated and that examinations are not offered at some areas.

“In the miRNA test, 13 types of cancers can be tested for at once and the one test only costs about ¥20,000,“ Ochiya said. “We intend to speed up the process of putting the test into practical use.“

“It’s good news for people who possibly might be going to develop cancers,“ said Kazuko Hamanaka, president of Cancer Patients Support Organization, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.

There are some issues to be tackled for the miRNA method to be widely used.

Currently, the test method is thought to rarely miss cancers, but at the same time the test often gives “false positive” results, meaning a person may be thought to have cancer even if they do not. This is particularly problematic with breast cancer, for which about 20 percent of positive results were false positives, while the rates for the other 12 types were one-digit figures. This is because the researchers did not have access to enough stored blood from patients with noncancerous breast diseases for comparison, resulting in insufficient data.

“Further examinations [to confirm the presence of cancer] would be actually meaningless in 20 percent [of these cases], causing unnecessary worries,“ Nakayama said. “The rate should be decreased to less than 5 percent [for the test] to be useful.“

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►  Why always white trim? These designers are breaking the mold

Ask most designers what color they usually paint interior trim – no matter the wall color – and they will tell you the same: white.

My go-to trim color for years has been Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White, a crisp chalky tone that, when used for trim, makes any wall color pop. Occasionally, I will use Benjamin Moore’s White Dove, a softer, creamier white that works particularly well in more traditional rooms.

But lately I have seen several designers breaking the mold. They have gone bold and painted window casings, door frames, baseboards and crown moldings bright, saturated colors.

Most prolific in this gutsy movement is New York designer Steven Gambrel of S.R. Gambrel. Gambrel likes to choose a deep-toned accent color – plucked from another element in the room, such as an accessory or a fabric – for the room’s trim.

“Painting the trim a bold color better defines the scale of the room, and it gives the room’s architectural elements – windows and doors – more prominence,“ Gambrel says.

He thinks of a room’s trim as he would a picture frame: A strong-colored frame focuses your eye and outlines that which is most important.

Of course, to paint trim a bold color, it needs to be in good condition and worthy of the attention color will draw. Neither is a problem for Gambrel, who works with some of the most prominent architects living today and who typically remains involved in the architectural choices from the beginning of a project.

When Gambrel’s clients agree to go bold with a trim color, he always cautions them to wait until the room is finished before they judge it; only once the textiles, furniture and accessories are in does the room make sense.

“Painting trim against a neutral wall in an unfinished room feels too strong,“ Gambrel says, “but when you start layering in carpet, trims, art and objects, it all becomes more balanced.“

Balance is important to Gambrel, which is why when painting trim a bright color, he usually uses a textured wallcovering such as grass cloth or rough-cut plaster. The texture of the walls balances out the brightness of the trim; without the texture, he says, the room would feel too “jumpy.“

For trim paint, Gambrel once used only the glossy oil paints from Fine Paints of Europe, but he has switched to Benjamin Moore’s Aura semigloss paints, which are VOC-free. (He still uses Fine Paints of Europe for front doors and very special cabinet details.)

Designer Meg Braff likes to paint the trim a vibrant color in rooms that have lots of windows and doors because, she says, “it unifies the space and makes the room feel less choppy.“ But unlike Gambrel, Braff does not always keep walls neutral and textural. Instead she opts for vibrant wallpapers, which typically inform her trim color selection. In her rooms, the bright trim balances and anchors the busier wallpaper. In some ways it’s the opposite of Gambrel; he uses textured walls to balance the bright trim, and Braff uses bright trim to balance the vibrant patterned walls.

Braff also likes to use vivid colors for the trim and cabinetry of butler’s pantries and bars. She says these smaller spaces, particularly when adjacent to an all-white kitchen, turn into little jewel boxes.

Designer Katie Ridder paints trim bright colors, but she does so in smaller doses. Ridder likes to use bright shades on window mullions (the grids that divide windowpanes) to add color to a room. She does this specifically in more-open floor plans, when one room flows into another, thereby making it difficult to switch wall color. The other benefit of painting the mullions: You can skip the window treatments. This works well particularly in rooms such as kitchens where adding a curtain or shade might be awkward or bulky.

Before you decide to paint your own white trim a bolder color, know one thing: Painting trim is time-consuming. All those edges and windowpanes need to be taped, and the paint must be brushed on by hand; you can’t just roll it on as you do on the walls.

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►  For a deceptively simple cabbage and noodle saute, use kelp

The healthy noodle market is booming, thanks to low-carb fans, and so it’s no surprise that kelp noodles, which used to be a specialty-store item only, are now readily available at the neighborhood supermarket.

Kelp noodles are a sea vegetable with a neutral flavor that makes them versatile and easy-to-use. They have only 5 or 10 calories per serving, offering almost no macronutrients (protein, carbs or fat), but they do have a nice boost of minerals, mainly calcium (a serving offers 15 percent of the recommended daily amount) and iron.

The big benefit is finding a nearly calorie-free noodle substitute for your recipes. Kelp noodles are thin, clear and bouncy in texture; almost rubbery. So they are nice swaps in Asian noodle dishes like pad thai or spicy cold peanut noodles.

Because they are a sea plant, they need to be kept in water, so you’ll find them for sale in 12-ounce water-filled envelopes, usually next to the refrigerated tofu. Rinse and use the noodles without cooking — simply add to your recipes at the very end of cooking.

We love kelp as a swap for rice noodles, but they can easily extend outside Asian flavor profiles. One of our family favorites is a deceptively simple cabbage and noodle saute. Four ingredients are all you need to make this yummy side dish: cabbage, onion, butter and kelp noodles.

Saute the onion and cabbage in butter, and add rinsed kelp noodles at the end just to heat through. Charlotte, my pickiest vegetable eater, has loved this noodle dish since she was tiny. (For years, she thought the cabbage was also a “noodle” which helped the overall toddler appeal, I suppose.) I use butter because I think its flavor with cabbage is magical, but feel free to use olive oil instead if you wish, perhaps adding a little garlic in that case.


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Servings: 6

Start to finish: 15 minutes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large sweet white onion, sliced lengthwise, about 2 cups

1/2 large cabbage (green or red)

1 12-ounce package of kelp noodles

Pinch of salt or dash of soy sauce

Lemon juice (optional)

Cut the cabbage into 4 wedges, and cut out the triangular core at the bottom of each wedge. Slice each wedge crosswise into thin slices. Melt the butter in a very large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onion, and cook until wilted, about three minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the cabbage and cook until begins to get tender, about 7 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the pan, and cover, allowing it to steam for 1 minute. Uncover and keep cooking until the cabbage is tender, about three more minutes. Drain and rinse the kelp noodles, and cut with scissors if desired. Stir the kelp noodles into the cabbage, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt (or splash of soy sauce) and remove from heat.

Squeeze a little lemon juice just before serving, if desired.


Nutrition information per serving: 73 calories; 35 calories from fat; 4 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 86 mg sodium; 9 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 2 g protein.

►  Kids’ bedroom oases should reflect their personalities

Parents, do you want your kids’ bedrooms to be relaxing oases where they can decompress and escape the academic and social pressures of school? Don’t assume that means muted colors and quiet sanctuary.

Instead, designers say, let the room reflect your child’s personality, even if that involves some more vibrant colors and patterns.

“Many parents find that hot pink walls are better than hot pink hair, right? And it’s only a bucket of paint. Such a space allows kids to be themselves, and that is a calming thing in today’s world,” said interior designer Kelee Katillac, who enjoys designing children’s rooms and runs a studio in Kansas City, Missouri.

She and other designers recommend working with kids to create an organized, multi-functional and comfortable bedroom with an interesting color palette.



A first step to creating a great space for kids is defining what purposes the room must serve, Katillac said. Most kids do more than sleep in their rooms. They play, do homework and entertain friends there. Delineate a place for each of the room’s main functions, she said.

If a child intends to study in the room, supply a desk, chair and good lighting. Create a reading nook for the bookworm. For the kid who likes to have friends over, provide a seating area — even if it’s just cushions and a rug — and have mood lighting or even decorative string lighting.

Defining separate areas helps kids relax because it creates a sense of structure, Katillac said.



Wall color can impact your mood, said Sue Wadden of Sherwin-Williams in Cleveland. She recommends avoiding primary colors in favor of more natural or neutral tones like greens, browns, light grays or soft blues.

“It’s easier on the eye,” she said. “It’s easier on the brain.”

To promote relaxation, consider using softer or less saturated versions of the bright colors typically used in kids’ rooms, she added. If you’re concerned that your child’s color choices could get too bold, pick several colors you could live with and let them select from those, Wadden suggested.

You can also use other elements to add the pops of color that kids crave. Consider painting a colorful accent wall, or adding a vibrant rug or patterned comforter.

“Bring in brighter tones with secondary pieces,” Wadden said.



Let your child help choose the room’s theme, said Janet Paik, an editor with the online interior decorating website “If you want it to feel like their personal sanctuary, it needs to be their own space,” she said.

It can be easy and inexpensive to incorporate a favorite hobby, sports team or activity into the room. Decals, bedding, artwork and accessories can highlight a child’s interests, and are easy to change out as they get older, said Melisa White of Melisa White Interiors in New York.

Writable surfaces such as chalkboard paint or large marker boards also let kids customize their room.



Provide bins, shelving and storage that children can reach to take out and put away their things, White said. Everyone enjoys a tidy room: “Clutter can cause anxiety, although children may not understand that,” she said.

An organized room will help children relax, agreed Heather Turgeon, co-author of “The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep — Newborn to School Age” (TarcherPerigee, 2014).

“A lot of clutter and toys can keep kids’ minds activated, the same way having an office desk in your room or a pile of stressful papers beside your bed might do for you,” said Turgeon, a psychotherapist.



Consider including a shelf or bulletin board where kids can display items important to them, she said. When Katillac was working with a teenager who collects shoes, she put in shelving where he could set out some of his favorite pairs. That not only kept things orderly; it created a meaningful vignette in the room.

“Kids are very vocal about the things they like,” Katillac said. “Look at their interests and see if you can turn it into a piece of artwork.”



Ideally, the room should be media-free at bedtime, Turgeon said.

Create a communal charging station where the entire family charges electronics someplace other than bedrooms, she suggests.

“Have everybody say good night to their devices at least an hour before bedtime,” she said.

If children keep a computer in their room, try to separate it visually from the sleep space with a bookshelf, curtain or another creative design idea.

►  Pope Francis to Belgian Catholics: Stop offering euthanasia

Pope Francis has ordered a Belgian Catholic charity to stop offering euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals.

In May, the Brothers of Charity group announced it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia at its 15 psychiatric hospitals in Belgium, one of only two countries — along with the Netherlands — where doctors are legally allowed to kill people with mental health problems, at their request.

To qualify, people must be in a state of “unbearable suffering” and at least three doctors, including one psychiatrist, must be consulted.

The charity said in a statement that euthanasia would only be performed if there were “no reasonable treatment alternatives” and that such requests would be considered with “the greatest caution.”

“We respect the freedom of doctors to carry out euthanasia or not,” the group said, noting that this freedom was “guaranteed by law.”

The Vatican press office said this week that the pope had asked the Belgians not to perform euthanasia.

The Catholic Church opposes euthanasia and the Holy See has begun investigating the decision to allow the procedure, which was made by the group’s lay board of directors.

The Belgian charity’s administrative headquarters in Rome issued a statement in May, arguing that allowing euthanasia “goes against the basic principles” of the Catholic Church.

“This is the very first time a Christian organization states that euthanasia is an ordinary medical practice that falls under the physician’s therapeutic freedom,” wrote the charity’s superior general, Rene Stockman, who delivered the request from Pope Francis via two letters.

“This is disloyal, outrageous and unacceptable.”

Mattias De Vriendt, a spokesman for the Belgium charity, said it had received the Vatican’s request but had not yet responded.

“We will take our time in the next few weeks to evaluate these letters,” de Vriendt said. He said the charity’s hospitals had received requests from patients seeking euthanasia recently but could not say whether any procedures had been performed.

The vast majority of patients seeking euthanasia in Belgium have a fatal illness like cancer or a degenerative disease. While the number of people euthanized for psychiatric reasons accounts for only about 3 percent of Belgium’s yearly 4,000 euthanasia deaths, there has been a threefold increase in the past decade.

Critics have previously raised concerns about Belgium’s liberal approach to euthanasia while advocates say that people with mental health illnesses should be granted the same autonomy as those with physical diseases.

The American Psychiatric Association says that doctors should not prescribe any methods to people who are not terminally ill to help them die.

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