Why Read Books?

Book-1659717_640Whether it helps us reach new heights or it simply lets us know we’re not alone in our struggles, an inspiring book is often the best therapy.

So if you’re looking for a reason to smile, even just a few minutes of reading can make your day better and your life happier.

Here are some recommendations for some inspirational reading. 

  1. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E.P. Seligman.

Martin Seligman, an expert in positive psychology, says the four main components of well-being are: good relationships; engagement with what one is doing; positive emotion; and a sense of accomplishment. According to Seligman, being well leads to being happy, and while he didn’t write this as a self-help book, it is helpful in that regard. Mr. Seligman provides plenty of research and inspirational stories to illustrate each component. The journey to a happier life awaits you within these pages. If you enjoy this book, you might also want to check out Authentic Happiness by the same author.

  1. Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar.

Ben-Shahar teaches that happiness isn’t something that just happens, and it’s not an ending. Anyone can learn to be happy, and with the help of this book, that’s exactly what happens. Filled with lots of scientific research, spiritual enlightenment, and plenty of self-help tips, you can learn to apply Dr. Ben-Shahar’s principles to your own life and be happier than before.

  1. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.

Sometimes all we need is a few inspiring words to give us peace of mind and happiness, and that’s what you’ll find within these pages. They will lift you up, give you strength, and re-kindle your passion for life. You can’t help but feel better once you’ve read this book.

  1. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord.

If you’re looking for something a little more light-hearted, this book is it. It’s the fictional story of Hector, a psychiatrist who’s good at his job, but finds he needs to know more about what makes people happy. He sets out on a world-wide journey to find the answers he seeks. The result is a cute, fun and uplifting story that leaves you wanting more. The good news is, there IS more. Hector’s journey doesn’t end with his quest for the secret of true happiness. He also heads out to find the secrets of love and time in books two and three. And in case that still isn’t enough, Hector and the Search for Happiness is also a major motion picture.

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." – Walt Disney


Adapted from HappierDaily.com.



Happy Earth Day

Laura & ReggiWhen it comes to planning for the future, most people focus on health and financially stability for themselves and their family. But what about the health and stability of our earth?

Although it might not be a priority of estate planning, instilling an appreciation of nature and working to leave behind a better planet for our families and future generations is an important goal to consider.

Years of research have shown the many benefits of spending time outdoors and exploring nature for people of all ages. As we get older, keeping both our mind and body in good shape becomes increasingly important; exposure to the natural world can help improve short-term memory, boost the immune system, and even reduce the risk of an early death by promoting higher activity levels and a reduction in stress. For children, spending time outside allows them to build confidence and relationship skills, increase creativity, and even help with attention disorders and hyperactivity.

Personal health and wellness benefits aside, fostering empathy and appreciation for our natural world is more important now than ever. It is impossible to ignore the fact that our planet is in the midst of major changes, many of which are the consequences of human activity. Massive efforts are being made to reduce our plastic use, resource consumption, and carbon footprint, and at times all the “go green” messaging can be a bit overwhelming. However, what is important to remember is that you do not need to make a complete lifestyle change to have a positive impact; making small, simple choices can add up and will make a difference.

If you haven’t already, switching to reusable grocery totes is one of the easiest and most important changes you can make. Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but take more than 500 years to break down; in the meantime, many of them end up in our waterways along with tons of other single-use plastics, resulting in the pollution of our water supply and the death of over 100,000 marine animals annually.

Thinking of going through your closet for spring cleaning? Rather than throwing out last year’s fashion, donate to organizations like Goodwill or other second-hand stores. And when it’s time to upgrade your wardrobe, these same thrift stores can be a great place to save money and the planet. If you have items that are too worn out to wear, donate to organizations that can reuse or recycle the materials, such as a local animal shelter or Teracycle.

Speaking of clothing, consider switching to wool dryer balls to cut down on waste as well as wrinkles. Many newer appliances are already designed to use less energy and water, but choosing to run a load of laundry or the dishwasher only when they are full can help even more. And once the warm weather hits, installing dark curtains over large windows can reduce your energy bill by keeping the room cooler without having the AC blasting.

These small changes can help to leave behind an earth in which our children and their families can not only survive but thrive. And taking the time to get your family outside today is a simple way to improve your overall quality of life, build a connection and respect for our natural world, and create memories that will last long in to the future.

Laura Soder, Environmental Educator

Elmwood Park Zoo


Mom’s Scalloped Au Gratin Potatoes 🤤

Potato-casserole-2848605_640Here’s another of Mom’s great recipes.

Scalloped Au Gratin Potatoes from Gwen Bellomo


  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 C. milk
  • 4 C. thin sliced potatoes
  • 1/2 C. (I use more) onions
  • 1 C. shredded sharp cheese (orange colored)
  • 1 Tbsp. of butter
  • Pepper
  • Paprika

Blend soup, milk, and pepper. In buttered 1½ quart casserole, arrange alternate layers of potatoes, onions, soup mixture, and cheese. Dot top with butter, sprinkle with paprika. Cover, bake at 375º for 1 hour. Uncover, bake 15 more minutes, or until done.

If you make them, let us know what you think!



Whose Opinion Matters Most?

Balloon-1014411_640How many of us know that person who doesn’t seem to have a clue what they’re even talking about, yet continues to open their mouth…

Obnoxious, right?!

Everybody seems to have an opinion, but whose opinion really matters when you’re the one who has to make a decision?

Sometimes it’s nice to hear that someone else is on the same page as us. It helps us to feel like everything’s okay and can confirm our own beliefs when we’re on the fence. But what are we supposed to think when people’s opinions make us feel conflicted?

Well, what advice would you give a friend in your situation? Answering that can often get you grounded back to what you really think is right. So, don’t doubt yourself if people have different views than you. They always will. In the end, just trust your gut. It knows you best.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. “

People’s opinions are reflections of themselves – and because of that, your own opinion is probably best for you, and other people’s opinions are probably best for just them. You don’t need anyone’s permission to feel what you feel or to think what you think. You are entitled to your opinions just as much as anyone else is entitled to theirs.

What do you do when you totally don’t agree with someone’s advice?

Sometimes people who try to help us just miss the mark. However, whether you choose to take the advice or not, it may help you to just listen first, process next, and act last. You don’t have to follow through with what someone else says, but there IS an advantage to gaining new perspectives in life. We’re all different in our own ways, and the diversity makes the world go round.

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Steve Jobs.

Listen to others. Value everyone’s advice, but follow your instincts – they are rarely wrong.

Parts of this article first appeared in HappierDaily.com.

Workshop registration information: https://bellomoassociates.com/workshops/


What Those Symbols on the Dollar Bill Actually Mean

Dollar-1362243_640You probably see the dollar bill every day, but do you know the meaning behind the dollar bill’s design?

The pyramid on the dollar bill represents strength and duration. Some interpret the missing top as a sign that the country wasn’t finished yet. Similarly, the western face of the pyramid is in a shadow while the front is lighted, which some say indicates that the nation hadn’t explored the West or figured out what it would do for Western civilization yet.

When Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams gathered to design the seal (they were the first of three committees to make suggestions), they didn’t suggest a pyramid, but they did discuss an eye. They wanted the seal to have a symbol of divine providence, and the all-seeing eye shaped like the top of the pyramid is an ancient symbol of divinity.

Across the bottom bricks of the pyramid are the letters “MDCCLXXVI.” These letters aren’t random gibberish – they’re the Roman numerals for 1776, the year America declared its independence.

In front of the eagle – a uniquely American bird – is a shield, which is unsupported, to signify Americans should rely on their own virtue. The horizontal top bar of the shield symbolizes the federal government, and it holds together yet is supported by vertical bars that represent individual states (13 at the time it was designed).

It’s no surprise that the stars over the eagle represent the 13 colonies. But what’s surrounding them? The official description says it’s glory “breaking through a cloud” above the eagle, but current versions have a cloud surrounding the rays.

The eagle on the back of the dollar bill holds an olive branch (representing peace) in its right talon and arrows (symbolizing war) in its left talon. But on silver coins from 1801 to 1807, the eagle held them in opposite talons. European diplomats and journalists claimed putting the arrows in the eagle’s dominant talon was a symbol of aggression, and called it a reason to start a war, so America decided to switch the peaceful symbol to the dominant side on the dollar.

Unsurprisingly, the number 13 – the original number of American states – appears on the dollar bill. But you might be surprised by how many times the number shows up. There are 13 arrows, 13 olive branch leaves, 13 olive fruits, 13 stars above the eagle, 13 steps of the pyramid, and 13 bars on the shield. Plus, although this is probably a coincidence, “Annuit Coeptis” and “E Pluribus Unum” both have 13 letters.

The balancing scales on the Department of Treasury seal don’t represent a balanced budget (that’s handled by Congress), but are actually a symbol of justice. Under the scales are 13 stars, one for each of the original colonies. The key on the bottom signifies official authority.

Latin phrases appear a few times on the dollar bill. Above the pyramid reads “Annuit Coeptis”, which means “God has favored our undertaking”. Under the pyramid is the phrase “Novus Ordo Seclorum”, which is interpreted as “a new order of the ages.” On the banner the eagle holds is “E Pluribus Unum”, which also appears on almost all U.S. coins, which means “Out of many, one.”

On the front of the dollar bill, a one- or two-digit number appears four times. This number refers to the Federal Reserve Bank that printed the bill. A “1,” for instance, would mean it was made in Boston, while “2” refers to New York.

By the top left of the “1”s on the front of the bill, you’ll see a letter (A to H) and number (1 to 4). The combination refers to the position the note laid on the plate when it was printed. For example, A1 is the top left position, and H4 is the bottom right.

So there you have it. The next time you reach for a dollar bill, you may want to study it before you buy that coffee (assuming a dollar can buy a coffee any more).

Sources: philadelphiafed.org, kids.niehs.nih.gov, snopes.com, onedollarbill.org, greatseal.com

By Marissa Laliberte in rd.com (with modifications)

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Jeff Bellomo, Esq.

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