When we talk about cleanliness, we often combine grooming habits with hygiene. Society dictates certain standards of personal grooming, such as combing hair or masking body odor, that we unconsciously absorb. These habits might contribute to health, but they might simply be the result of doing it the way you’ve always done it.

Hygiene, on the other hand, refers to grooming practices that contribute to health or prevent the spread of disease. Habits like regularly flossing and washing your face can help you to stay healthy.

Personal grooming is largely a matter of personal preference, but researchers have determined the ideal levels of cleanliness for best hygiene.

So, how clean should you be keeping everything above your neck?

Note: Grooming patterns, hygiene standards, and social expectations of cleanliness vary wildly around the world, but this blog will focus on America.

Wash Your Face

Experts do not recommend using a squirt gun to wash your face. Or your sister’s face.

When it comes to cleanliness—to hygiene—one of the first activities that comes to mind is washing hands and faces.

In general, wash your face twice a day. According to Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia, “I tell patients that it’s important to wash your face in the morning and at the end of the day.”

Washing your face is an important tool to keep yourself healthy, especially during cold and flu season. In addition to removing dirt and sweat from your skin, proper face-washing removes germs that could spread illness. In particular, you can help stop the spread of airborne, respiratory infections (like Covid-19 and the common cold) by regularly washing off droplets from coughing and sneezing. Washing your face is particularly effective in removing allergens, bacteria, and viruses that spread through contact with mucous membranes (like pink eye).

Face washing

If you’re not doing it frequently enough you might notice a buildup of skin cells and clogged pores, which could result in acne. How often you wash your face often depends on your skin type, your goals, and (to some extent), your environment. On average, you should be washing your face one to two times per day. But do we?

According to a recent study, 55 percent of people say they don’t cleanse their faces each day, a statistic that most dermatologists would shake their heads at. The study found that 48 percent of Americans don’t use cleanser when they do wash their faces—and almost half admit to using shampoo or conditioner or hand soap instead. Not only are people choosing the wrong products (a.k.a., ones that aren’t meant for facial skin), but many are also using the same washcloth up to four times before washing it. (For reference, experts say you should use a clean cloth every single time.)

Note: Splashing one’s face with water in the morning isn’t washing at all.

A 2017 survey showed that 60% of men don’t wash their faces at all. Most men, along with 48% of women, admitted to often skipping facial cleansing before bed.

Which Brings Us to Oral Hygiene

oral hygiene
Veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth as often as you brush your own. Instead of mint, dog toothpaste often tastes like meat or peanut butter!

Good oral hygiene plays a surprisingly large role in maintaining overall health. It can help prevent endocarditis, periodontitis, and pneumonia. People with good oral hygiene habits have lower incidences of cardiovascular disease and fewer pregnancy complications.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day. However, fewer than 70% of Americans report meeting that standard. This means that more than 30% of Americans don’t brush enough.

Additionally, only 1 in 10 Americans brush their teeth correctly. Most people spend only about fifteen seconds per round of brushing. Studies have shown that you need a full two minutes of brushing to properly clean all tooth surfaces.

Frayed bristles can’t clean correctly, and even worse — they harbor all kinds of nasty germs. The American Dental Association suggests changing your toothbrush every three or four months.

Our modern standard of having perfectly white, even, straight teeth stems from black and white films. Because naturally-colored teeth showed up as gray on screen, many stars whitened their teeth or wore veneers. Ordinary people soon began to follow the fashion of bleaching and straightening their teeth for cosmetic reasons. Today, the American smile has become a $29.6 billion industry.

Electric toothbrushes may clean teeth and gums much better than a manual toothbrush. Either sort of toothbrush can be effective, though electric toothbrushes are easier to use effectively. People who use an electric toothbrush generally have healthier gums and less tooth decay. They also keep their teeth for longer, compared with those who use a manual toothbrush. But electric toothbrushes can be messy!

Listerine created the word “halitosis” as part of a marketing campaign to sell mouthwash. Humans have had bad breath for as long as we’ve had teeth, but a Listerine campaign in the 1920s turned it into a social problem. By gargling with Listerine, people could remove an invisible barrier to popularity, sex appeal, marriage, and career advancement. (Listerine also worked as a dandruff shampoo, cold remedy, and floor cleaner!)

oral hygiene

Daily flossing prevents cavities and helps to keep our gums in good shape.

Surveys conducted by the American Dental Association have shown that less than 50 percent of adults in the U.S. floss on a daily basis. In fact, studies show that only 30% of Americans floss at least once a day.

The majority of adults, about 68%, reported flossing at least once weekly. A 2023 Delta Dental national public opinion poll of 1,003 adults found that 20% of Americans never floss. A report published in the Journal of Periodontology found that 32% of adults reported no flossing in the past week.

What About Hair Care?

shampoo hygiene
“Shampoo” comes from the Hindi word chapo (चाँपो), meaning “to press, knead the muscles.” It was first used in English as a cleanser for hair in 1860.

With the exception of treating certain conditions like head lice or ringworm, regular hair washing is not medically necessary. The scalp naturally produces sebum, an oil that protects against infection as well as moisturizing the skin. In fact, washing hair too frequently can strip the sebum from the scalp and cause itchiness and flaking.

Today, most people’s hair hygiene routine stems from social or cosmetic reasons rather than health concerns. A recent survey conducted by LookFantastic found that 49% of women polled reported washing their hair every day.

Carolyn Goh, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA says, “There is no blanket recommendation. If hair is visibly oily, scalp is itching, or there’s flaking due to dirt,” those are signs it’s time to shampoo.

Hair texture plays a huge role in determining hygiene routines. People with thin or fine hair may need to wash more often. Those with thick, curly, or coiled hair might be more comfortable waiting longer between washes.

Experts recommend using the flat side of a hairbrush rather than the bristles to avoid breakage and split ends.

For the average person with straight hair, shampooing every other day, or every 2 to 3 days, is generally fine. Hair with a very straight texture is likely to start looking oily and limp faster, calling for more frequent washing.

People with curlier or wavier hair may be able to go longer between washing before their hair starts to look dirty. Some dermatologists recommend washing hair no more than once a week or even every other week. This will help prevent build-up of hair care products, which can be drying to the hair.

The scalp can produce varying levels of sebum, which also affects how often hair needs to be washed. Washing too often can cause the scalp to overproduce oil as well as upsetting the pH balance of the microbiome on the skin. According to dermatologist Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, “Too frequent washing of the scalp with harsh cleansers can upset that microbiome, and an imbalance in the microbiome can lead to scalp problems.”

And Last But Not Least: Facial Hair

The World Beard and Moustache Association hosts a facial hair competition every year.

Like washing the hair on your head, shaving the hair on your face generally serves no medical purpose. However, the presence or lack of facial hair is highly important to a sense of self-identity and social acceptance. Grooming or removing facial hair is an integral part to many people’s hygiene routines.

Having hair and not wanting it leads many people to bleach, shave, or wax to remove or disguise hair temporarily. Laser hair removal or electrolysis treatments kill hair cells below the skin surface for permanent hair removal.

Facial shaving in women is more common than you might think. It’s done to remove vellus and terminal hairs from the cheeks, chin, upper lip, and side burn areas. Facial shaving also provides mechanical exfoliation, which can help skin look brighter and cleaner.

Many women wax their chins or upper lips to remove unwanted facial hair. Using warm or cool wax to pull hairs out by the roots gives a longer-lasting smoothness, but the risk of side effects is higher. People have reported pain, rashes, sun sensitivity, or even scarring after facial waxing.

Some facial hair can be cleaned in the dishwasher!

Rather than removing unwanted facial hair, some people choose simply to bleach it. Lightening hair follicles reduces the appearance of facial hair but leaves it in place. Though generally easier and cheaper than waxing, bleaching hair still runs the risk of irritating skin.

Three out of four American women ages 18 to 34 have had facial hair removed or done it themselves in the last year. Most common removal locations are eyebrows (58 percent), upper lip (41 percent) and chin (21 percent), according to a 2014 survey by Mintel, which did not track removal methods.

How often a woman shaves her face is usually down to genetics and personal preferences. In general, the recommendation is that women shave their faces every 2-3 days if they like a clean shave and every 3-5 days if they’re just looking to style or trim.

A 2019 survey showed that more men [35%] than women [6%] shaved once or more daily (though razors marketed to women cost more).

Not every facial hair transplant looks natural.

The presence or absence of facial hair serves as strong indicator of gender in our society. For many transgender people, transitioning begins with the daily application or removal of facial hair. Hormone therapy can eventually help people to grow or stop growing facial hair on their own. Transgender women report laser hair removal as the most common form of facial procedure. Transgender men may turn to hair transplants to fill in hairlines and eyebrows as well as beards and moustaches.

Some cisgender men also use hair transplants to achieve their desired facial hair. Doctors move strips of hair or individual hair follicles from the back of a patient’s head to the jaw, cheek, or upper lip. Because this is such an expensive procedure, many medical tourists travel to Turkey for hair transplants.

During a June 2017 survey, 29 percent of men reported trimming or shaving their beard every day.

Bottom Line: Too clean or not clean enough? YES!

Sometimes you might need a little hygiene help from a friend for those hard-to-reach places.


I’ve been watching the U.S. Open tennis matches, and of course hearing lots of sports talk and announcements about various elite athletes—tennis and otherwise—past, present, and future. And I asked myself, “Who are these people?”

The World Sheepdog Trials will take place this weekend in Northern Ireland. The elite athletes in this competition display many of the same mental traits as those identified in human athletes.

I’ve written before about underlying mental traits that contribute to common personality types (such as optimists, pessimists, addicts, and cult members). As it turns out, whatever your favorite sport, your “heroes” are much the same.

Mental Traits of Elite Athletes

Coco Gauff

New sports science research reveals that there are consistent similarities among athletic super achievers, showing that it’s a lot more than sheer talent. Here are 7 of the top traits that help phenomenal sports stars thrive, that separate the best from the rest. According to the latest sports science research published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology and summarized by, here are excerpts of their points.

1. Supreme Concentration

Truly great athletes get into the zone when they need to. A mental state of total focus allows them to channel all their skills into competition when it matters most.

As sports psychologist Dr. Daniel Brown put it, “To concentrate on being a champion, your mind has to be developed to such an extent that you can really stay very tuned in to what you’re doing.”

Patrick Mahomes

2. Commitment to Excellence

Being a perfectionist can be seen as a flaw, but for elite athletes, an obsession with getting it right is a key ingredient to success.

Roy McIlroy

3. Desire and Motivation

To get to the top of their game, it’s often a long hard road that started with an enduring passion to make it happen. As NFL football player and coach Vince Lombardi put it, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.”

Michelle Wie

4. Goal Setting

Super-elite athletes always have goals beyond what they have currently achieved. As Michael Jordan said, “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”

5. Positive Mind-state and Optimism

High-achieving athletes are optimistic about their own growth and untapped potential. Sports stars have a great need to work on deficiencies, seeing weaknesses as golden opportunities for improvement. They can imagine success against the odds, envisioning achievement and reward. As soccer super-star Pelé said “The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.”

6. Confidence and Self-Belief

Ben Shelton

Professionals in athletics possess a steely inner strength and an unshakeable faith in numero uno. On the flipside, the greater an athlete’s confidence, the more willing they are to keep trying even when failing. Michael Jordan exemplified this belief in learning from failure, because without failure there’s little room for evolving new abilities.

7. High-Quality Relationships and Support

Last but not least, sports stars build strong relationships with people who have their backs. This can be the emotional support from friends and family, the deep camaraderie from training partners or teammates, or a great coach. As Los Angeles Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explained, “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.”

Further Mental Traits of Great Athletes

Katie Ledecky

The Sports Management Degree Guide also lists 20 characteristics of high performing athletes. There’s a lot of overlap with the above, of course. Here’s the list. (I’ve elaborated only on the ones that might not be clear in the previous list.)

1. Self Confidence

2. Strong Sense of Motivation

3. Inner Desire to Succeed

4. Natural Goal Setter

5. Self-Discipline

6. Optimism

7. Sense of Belonging

8. Natural Leader

Madison Keys
  • High-performing athletes tend to be natural leaders both on and off the field. Besides their focus and sense of motivation, they bring out the best in both themselves and those around them.

9. Willingness to Take Criticism

  • Top-tier athletes understand the importance of remaining “coachable” — that is, taking criticism at every opportunity and learning from it.

10. Humility

11. Ability to Manage Stress

  • The stress of losing, the stress of injury, the stress of embarrassing themselves, their coaches, their families — the list never ends—but high-performing athletes manage their stress. Whether that ability comes naturally or has been learned, these athletes are able to compartmentalize their worries to focus on the task at hand.
Mia Hamm

12. Low Anxiety

  • Related to (11): top-tier athletes tend to be low anxiety. They can change strategy or face a challenge without the debilitating nerves that have ruined many other talented people. For some, this is natural. For others, it’s the result of years of hard work spent learning to compartmentalize their greatest fears.

13. Strong Sense of Focus

14. Trust in the Process

15. Resiliency and the Ability to Learn from Setbacks

16. Vulnerability

Breanna Stewart
  • Vulnerable athletes realize that failure is inevitable, and that they can learn more from that failure than they do success. Each time a vulnerable athlete falls, or loses, or makes a game-ending mistake, their resolve to get stronger and better grows.

17. Perfectionism

18. Killer Instinct

  • Many wins come down to a corner cut, a gutsy pass, a risk taken. They have the courage to make tough, spur-of- the-moment decisions that often mean the difference between winning and losing.

19. Willingness to Fight

  • A final push of effort, even when the tank is empty, often separates the winner from the losers. High-performing athletes always cross the finish line having given their all.

20. Appreciation

Devon Singletary
  • High-performing athletes appreciate everything involved in their professions—the good, the bad, and the boring—because they get to continue chasing the goals and the dreams which consume them.

So there we have it: Those who claim to know these things agree that elite athletes are more alike than different. In terms of the most influential of agreed-upon traits, many experts believe that focus and concentration are the most important.

Bottom Line: October has more opportunities for sports lovers than any other single month. Get ready to appreciate what’s behind those great performances.

For more elite athletic performances, check out agility competitions, working dog trials, or dock jumping!


We are all decision makers. It’s inescapable. One of the primary dimensions on which decision makers differ is decisiveness/indecisiveness.

According to Merriam-Webster, decisive means having the power or quality of deciding; resolute, determined; purposeful.

During the first stage in any decision making situation, everyone experiences a transitory level of indecision. In the second stage, the more stable proneness regarding decision-making tasks comes into play.

Teeter-totter… which way to go?


Decisive people are confident decision-makers. They tend to make up their minds quickly and stick with their chosen course of action. What are the characteristics of a decisive person?

The paradox of choice: having too many options can make it more difficult to choose one.
  • They make decisions relatively quickly and don’t seem to stress over them.
  • They’re confident making decisions.
  • They tend to be more comfortable with risk, especially if it’s an informed risk.
  • They can be resistant to change once they’ve made a decision.

The decisive person is really good at being curious and asking the right questions, evaluating all of the relevant information available, and looking at it from multiple angles to determine the best decision and course of action.

Such people understand that deciding is only half the battle. They are also determined people who see their decision through. They act on it, and upon completion, analyze the results to determine how effective their decision was at solving the issue.

Other character traits might contribute to a person’s decisiveness.

  • Brave
  • Confident
  • Curious
  • Determined
  • Focused
  • Motivated
  • Perceptive
  • Responsible
  • Steadfast
  • Resilient


Someone who is indecisive has trouble making decisions. People who are only somewhat indecisive may take their time with decisions and want to consider their options before moving ahead. Extremely indecisive people may put off making decisions for so long that they run out of time, or keep waffling on choices they’ve already made.

What are the characteristics of indecisive people?

  • They have a hard time making decisions and may be very stressed when they have to do it.
  • They’re easily influenced by others with strong opinions (and may even prefer that someone else make the final call).
  • They may lack confidence in their decisions, even after the choice is made.
  • They carefully consider all the options and weigh the pros and cons of each.
Sometimes, everyone wants to go in a different direction…

Difficulty in making decisions can be caused by several factors, such as a fear of failure and a lack of confidence or information. Perfectionists often struggle with indecisiveness, putting off making any choice until they can be sure they’ve made the best one.

Too much information can also contribute to indecisiveness. When a family member suggests one course of action, a friend recommends another, and a coworker thinks a third path is best, it can be difficult to decide which advice to follow.

Having too many choices can also contribute to indecisiveness. When faced with choosing from forty varieties of coffee, a cafe patron is likely to be less satisfied with whatever drink they choose.

An indecisive person is deeply insecure and hardly ever takes chances. Leaps of faith are nearly impossible because they do not trust themselves to choose. Depression and anxiety lead the way to negative predictions and living in limbo.

A hallmark feature of being indecisive is struggling with self-doubt. Doubt can pervade and disrupt any aspect of life, be it careers, relationships, worldview, or identity.

All of these options look painful.

Executive Function Disorder

Indecisiveness can also be a symptom of an underlying issue. Mental health conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can cause difficulties with cognitive flexibility or inhibition control. Developments such as dementia, addiction, or head injuries can also interrupt one’s executive function, particularly by impairing a person’s working memory. In some cases, these conditions cause executive dysfunction.

Difficulties with working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition control can cause an inability to make decisions. In extreme cases, executive dysfunction can be paralyzing. Even minor decisions like when and what to eat for dinner become insurmountable obstacles. A person may experience time blindness, inability to focus, or difficulty determining which steps need to be implemented in order to complete a task.

In cases like these, a person may require extensive therapy and even medication to regain the ability to make rational decisions.

Some decisions are harder than others.

False Decisiveness

But decisiveness isn’t always smooth sailing. Consider the following decision-making traps:

  • Disregarding new information and making biased inferences. This closed-mindedness can manifest, for example, in poorer short-term memory.
  • Suffering confirmation bias—the tendency to rely on information that confirms what we already believe, and to discount data that may contradict our pre-existing positions.
  • Jumping from decision to rapid implementation seems to be what underpins the problems. When asked to consider the advantages and disadvantages of a course of action, those in an implemental mindset report few, if any, downsides.
  • The illusion of control. This is overestimating one’s amount of control regardless of feedback.
  • Everyone is susceptible to illusions of invulnerability (especially teenagers), which leads to downplaying risk.

According to research, business leaders are no less vulnerable than other research subjects to overconfidence. Using massive, multi-year surveys of CFOs, researchers found that respondents significantly underestimated the volatility of an overall stock index and the share performance of their own company.

The Trolley Problem

Downsides to Decisiveness

Sometimes decisiveness is dangerous. In business, the biases outlined above contribute to under-performing deals, cost overruns, and failed product launches. These shortfalls can be amplified by other biases. For example, if a decision-maker already believes in the merits of a particular course of action, the previously mentioned confirmation bias can skew how new information is interpreted.

Research by Jana-Maria Hohnsbehn and Iris Schneider at Technische Universitat Dresden indicates that “trait ambivalence” may actually lead people to overcome confirmation bias and correspondence bias. People who stop to evaluate all available options tend to make decisions or evaluations rooted in fact rather than leaping to conclusions.

Parallel dangers exist for decisive military leaders, politicians, doctors, lawyers, etc. In personal/friendship/family relationships:

  • Decisiveness may come across as domineering, pushy, uncaring, impulsive, stubborn, closed-minded, and more.
  • Indecisiveness seems wishy-washy, lacking in passion, lacking in spontaneity, unsupportive, dependent, clingy, and more.

While decisiveness is usually perceived as a virtue (and indecisive as a weakness), it’s important to remember that these traits exist on a spectrum. Extreme indecisive personalities and extreme decisive personalities can both create problems. Some situations do require more decisiveness. In others, indecision won’t present a problem, especially if the risks are high.

Bottom line: Remember that decisiveness (or indecisiveness) as a personality trait doesn’t necessarily correlate with good judgment.

Always choose cake.


These phrases are loaded with emotional meaning. Pretty much any English speaker would agree that friends of the heart must be better than friends of the road. I beg to differ.

Just so we’re on the same page:

  • Friends of the Road change as we move along the road of life.
  • Friends of Heart remain close regardless of distance and circumstances.

My basic premise is that they are different but equally necessary.

Friends of the Road

Why do friendships come and go? How does a once-bosom buddy wind up erased from your address book? Is a friendship that fades away necessarily a bad thing?

No. Some friendships are meant to be fleeting. A line from the novel Centennial says it perfectly:

“God, he wished he could ride forever with these men… But it could not be. Trails end, and companies of men fall apart.”
(Photo from the National Archives)

In other words, some friendships are meant to be transitory. Like college roommates coworkers, or people in military boot camp, sharing secrets and experiences, sometimes threats or dangers. When those life times come to a natural end, it’s time to move on.

friends on a bus

Life is rich with friends of the road who join us for a part of our journey, friendships formed due to time, place and circumstance. These brief—i.e., not lifelong—friendships can last for years. They are intense, necessary, and worth treasuring. In that time and place, you can’t survive without them.

Drifting apart from these friends can feel like failure. But a friend of the road is someone who is “walking the same road as you” in one way or several. Examples include neighbors, families from your child’s school, co-workers, etc. You spend a lot of time with them, share great memories, and genuinely enjoy your time with them. But if and when these friends take a different “road,” your time together ends. You lose touch. Your motivation and effort to do what it takes to maintain the relationship drifts off. Often these friends end up as fond memories and social media connections.

Is a friendship that doesn’t survive changed circumstances a “real” friendship? Yes. You genuinely love each other. Not forever is okay.

Friends of the Heart

dog friends

Friends of the heart are the traditional, everlasting ideal.

Please note: every friend of the heart starts as a friend of the road. But when the common road ends, the friendship continues. It makes no difference if you are 10,000 miles apart or haven’t seen one another for years, when you get together, it is as though no time had passed.

A friend of the heart is one who “strikes” you. You connect on a level that has depth. Even if your journeys take different paths, you remain connected. The friends of the heart live in your heart. They have touched your life in such a way that you will be different for having known them.

Lillian Rubin wrote a whole book on friendship (Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in our Lives). She says that the depth of a friendship – how much it means to us – depends, at least in part, upon how many parts of ourselves a friend sees, shares, and validates.

Friends of the road, friends of the heart, friends of the belly…

Friends of the heart are people you meet along the road whose paths end up forever intertwined with yours. They are not your family, but friends you can turn to in a moment’s notice, in joy and in sorrow, in illness or trouble. They see you, know you, and love you just the way you are.

Bottom Line: Make as many friends of the road as possible, enjoy them all, and treasure those friends who step off of the road and into the heart.


Fluffy bandits a.k.a. trash pandas a.k.a Pyroton lotor a.k.a raccoons are infamous for raiding garbage cans, even those with weighted lids. They are reputed to eat almost anything.

They look like cute, cuddly bandits, but they can be quite fearsome when approached. (More about that later.)

What Do Raccoons Eat

They also ate every single seed and the entire suet cake out of the bird feeders in my backyard.

Raccoons are truly omnivorous, and in the wild they eat about 40% invertebrates, 33% plants, and 27% vertebrates.

More specifically, when it comes to meat, raccoons eat more invertebrates than vertebrates. Some of the raccoon’s favorites are frogs, fish, crayfish, insects, rodents and bird eggs. Their voracious appetites allows raccoons to help control the populations of some pests, like yellow jackets and mice. When food is scarce (or they’re feeling lazy), raccoons will scavenge human trash or eat roadkill.

For plants, they like cherries, apples, acorns, persimmons, berries, peaches, citrus fruits, plums, wild grapes, figs, watermelons, beech nuts, corn, and walnuts. And they raid bird feeders whether food is scarce or not!

In more urban environments, raccoons will eat pretty much anything.

In fact, urban raccoons suffer some of the same consequences as humans when they share the unhealthy parts of human diets. Their access to drive-thru dumpsters and grocery store bins provide raccoons with plenty of fried, sweetened, and highly processed foods. A research team in Canada has found that raccoons in urban areas have higher blood glucose levels and higher weight than those living in wildlife preserves.

Raccoons in Cultural History

Long before Europeans came to North America, raccoons played a vital role in the lives of Indigenous people who already lived here. Our names for these animals today reflects this history. The English name “raccoon” comes from the Powhatan word aroughcun, meaning “hand-scratcher.” Further south, the Nahuatl/Aztec word mapachtli led to the modern Spanish word “mapache” or “one that takes everything in its hands.”

Several tribes, including Muskogee Cree (Wahlakalgi or Wotkalgi), the Shawnee (Sha-pä-ta’), Chippewa (Esiban), the Monominee (Aehsepan), and the Chickasaw (Shawi’ Iksa’) have Raccoon clans.

In many mythologies, Raccoon played the part of a trickster spirit, spreading mischief or using cleverness to escape danger. The Abenaki told stories of how the raccoon Azeban tricked other animals into giving him food or lost a shouting match with a waterfall. A Menominee story of a raccoon tricking blind men served as a morality tale for children. A Seneca legend of raccoons disguised as humans illustrated their intelligence escaping from an evil magician.

Raccoons in the Cooking Pot

from the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

In addition to starring in many American stories, raccoons have also starred in the American diet! Until the middle of the 20th century, people commonly trapped and ate raccoon along with many other small game animals that adapted to survive near humans.

Raccoons require very clever traps to outwit their nimble paws. According to historian Michael Twitty, enslaved people from West Africa adapted traps they had used for grasscutters, a West African bush rodent, to catch raccoons. Those traps were nearly identical to the traps Native Americans had been using to catch raccoons for centuries. The cooking methods both groups used for raccoon meat also greatly resembled West African culinary traditions.

In addition to providing people with a ready source of protein, hunting and trapping raccoons also helped to control the population of animals that would otherwise eat crops. Selling pelts also brought in some extra income. In some places, particularly in the North where raccoon fur is thicker, raccoon meat for the table was more of a byproduct of the practice of selling pelts. Mark Twain listed raccoon as one of the foods he missed most while traveling in Europe in the 1870s.

At one point, discerning consumers could find raccoon meat on the menu from cookbooks in Colorado to fancy restaurants in Maine. The spread of factory farming in the 20th century made beef, chicken, and pork more affordable and more popular in the American diet. There are some places where you can still find raccoon in the kitchen. I hear the best meat is in the hind-quarters.

Habitat (Natural and Otherwise)

Raccoons are very adaptable, living in a wide range of climates and habitats. They live quite happily in forests, marshes, prairies, and cities. Historically, raccoons ranged from Central America all the way up to what is now southern Canada. They typically make their dens in trees or caves, though they will also make homes in barns, abandoned vehicles, and other human-made locations.

A waschbaer in Albertshausen Germany

Raccoons have made themselves right at home in Germany, much to the dismay of German homeowners and wildlife control. Back in the early 20th century, a few people in German started raising raccoons for their fur. Bombs struck one of these farms during World War II, releasing dozens of raccoons into the surrounding countryside. In 1934, forestry officials released several pairs of raccoons into the wild in an attempt to increase wildlife diversity. Today, there are as many as a million of these waschbären (“washing bears”) in Germany, devastating local bird and turtle populations, destroying vineyards, and causing traffic accidents. German raccoons seem to be especially attracted to stealing beer, wine, and hard cider, getting noticeably drunk at festivals or breaking into kitchens and targeting beer.

Germany isn’t the only place in Europe where raccoons are making a nuisance of themselves. A similar story of fur farms and war has caused an invasion of raton laveur (“little washing rats”) in France. Authorities in Madrid called for a raccoon culling in 2013 “to control and eradicate this unwelcome invasive species” that has made itself unwelcome in Spain. Scotland lists raccoons as one of the top 50 invasive, non-native species. The European Union has classified Pyroton lotor, the North American raccoon as an invasive species and banned their sale and import.

Though they look similar and share many of the same habits and dietary preferences, North American raccoons and Japanese raccoon dogs (tanuki) are not related.

In 1977, the anime Araiguma Rasukaru, telling the story of a man who adopted a pet raccoon, became a massive hit in Japan. Fans of Rascal the Raccoon began importing at least 1,500 raccoons a month to Japan. After realizing that raccoons don’t make good pets, many people then released them into the wild. The descendents of those raccoons today have spread to 42 of the 47 prefectures in Japan. They destroy crops, damage historic shrines, spread disease, and steal from fish and produce vendors. North American raccoons have begun to displace native Japanese “raccoon” dogs, tanuki.

Cohabitation with Humans

Though raccoons are more than happy to live in human areas, they can be vicious when defending themselves or their kits. But generally, even if people try to scare them off with noise or lights, raccoons are bold and simply back off to return later.

Humans should be particularly cautious of approaching raccoons in North America because they are common carriers of rabies, roundworms, and leptospirosis, according to The Humane Society. Having a raccoon as a pet is not recommended, even if you’re the President.

Grace Coolidge with Rebecca the raccoon at the 1927 White House Easter Egg Roll

In 1926, Vinnie Joyce in Mississippi sent a raccoon to the White House, promising the Coolidges that it had “a toothsome flavor” and would make a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. Rather than eating the furry gift, Calvin and Grace Coolidge named the raccoon Rebecca, gave her an embroidered collar, and invited her to participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll. At the end of Coolidge’s presidency, Rebecca went to live in Rock Creek Park in Maryland.


Raccoons are round, fuzzy creatures with bushy tails and a black fur mask around their eye area. They are about as big as small dogs, about 23 to 37 inches and 4 to 23 lbs., according to National Geographic.

They are adaptable and use their dexterous front paws and long fingers much like human hands to climb and manipulate things. These front paws are hyper-sensitive, particularly when wet. Raccoons in the wild use this extreme sensitivity to search for food underwater from the banks of streams.

Even in captivity, raccoons will often rub their food underwater before eating it. Scientists believe that, rather than washing their food, raccoons are softening the vibrissae on their paws, allowing them to feel their food more carefully to ensure it is safe.

With their clever paws and intelligent brains, raccoons can open locks, figure out traps, solve puzzles, and get into almost anything containing food. In studies, raccoons successfully opened complex locks 11 out of 13 times and then remembered the solutions when presented with the same locks later.

Raccoons live around 2 to 3 years in the wild, though raccoons in captivity can sometimes live as long as 20 years. But they are always with us.

Rocket is not actually a raccoon. He is a cybernetically-enhanced alien species from a planet in the Keystone Quadrant. Unlike Earth raccoons, he has opposable thumbs!

Baby raccoons are called kits or cubs and are usually born in the early summer. Females have one to seven offspring and are only pregnant for 2-2.5 months. A mother and her baby raccoons are called a nursery.

At birth, raccoon kits are blind and deaf. For the first two months of their lives, babies live in their den and nurse from their mothers. At 12 weeks, they will start to roam away from their mothers for whole nights at a time. They become completely independent at 8 to 12 months of age.

Coonpath Road is near the town where I grew up. The implication that coons follow a circuit or path is accurate. They are active from dusk to dawn, and when they raid my bird feeder, it is near the same time every night.

Bottom Line: Raccoons are fascinating creatures, but best observed from a distance.


One of my daughters owns these dogs (currently and formerly) and works at the Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Colorado, which operates blood banks for dogs and cats. (More about cats next month!) And thus I learned about blood donor dogs.

Which Dogs Can Donate?

There’s no particular breed for blood donor dogs, but not just any dog off the street can donate. These requirements apply generally for donor dogs, not specific to Wheat Ridge:

  • Be between 1 and 8 years old.*
  • Weigh 50 pounds or more.**
  • Be healthy (based on a complete physical exam and blood work).
  • Be friendly, calm, and have a good disposition.
  • Be on year-round heart worm, tick, and flea preventatives.
  • Be current on Rabies and DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza) vaccines.
    • Dogs may require additional vaccines specific to a geographic location.
  • Some veterinarians allow blood donor dogs with chronic medications, assessed on a case-by-case basis.
    • Contact your local blood bank for a list of permitted medications.
  • Not be on a raw diet due to concern for salmonella transmission via transfusion.
  • Not have received a blood transfusion, or (for some programs) have no history of pregnancy.
(Note: Yumee’s doughnut of shame is entirely unrelated to his blood donation activities.)

*Retirement typically occurs on or around a pet’s 8th birthday. However, some exceptions may apply based on the discretion of a licensed veterinarian.

**Some blood banks have the ability to collect smaller units from 40-pound dogs. Contact your local blood bank regarding your pet’s enrollment.

I applaud all donor dogs! I happen to especially like Yumee, Bernadette, and Bruce because they are such lovable and loving pets. Not small animals, they nevertheless think they should be lap dogs. Whenever possible, they cuddle with humans and with each other as well.



They—and donor dogs in general—love being loved on by clinic staff, with lots of belly rubs and praise. Just as humans get juice and cookies after donating, blood donor dogs often receive treats after, as well.

Although some places maintain kennels of donor dogs, it’s common for donors to be the pets of a particular practice’s staff and clients.

The Wheat Ridge bank began with a kennel of rescued greyhounds. The dogs received full veterinary treatment, and after a year as a blood donor, stood ready for adoption. When HB1146 outlawed greyhound racing in Colorado in 2014, members of the community stepped in. Today, Wheat Ridge relies on pets of employees and clients.

When a Dog Donates Blood, Exactly What Happens?

Technicians gently placed the donor on his or her side atop comfortable bedding and soothe them while cleaning and prepping the area on and around the jugular vein. A dog’s jugular vein is prominent, accessible, and generally not sensitive to the needle.

Once the technician has sterilized and, if necessary, clipped or shaved, the area, they then draw blood through a needle into a sterile collection set.

Dogs with big neck veins make drawing blood easy.


Greyhounds have great necks and veins!
(Note: Bernadette’s cone of shame is entirely unrelated to her blood donation activities.)

Donating blood does not adversely affect most dogs. Unlike humans, dogs have a mobile reservoir of red blood cells in their spleens and can replace 1/3 of the donated blood immediately. They will regenerate the rest of the blood cells within a couple of days.

Although your dog can safely give blood every 30 to 45 days, blood donor dogs typically make a donation every 60 to 90 days. Dogs weighing at least 40 pounds can safely donate a half pint of blood every 4 to 6 weeks (see above). Dogs weighing over 50 pounds typically donate a pint of blood every 8 weeks.

Bruce Lee was a super donor. He donated a pint of blood every 6-8 weeks for seven years. You can do the math! Besides being a frequent donor, he was ideal overall. He’d jump up on the table, lie quietly, and wag his tail throughout the procedure!

Because of the great need for canine blood products, most banks encourage a dog to donate at least four times a year. Most veterinarians check to ensure that donors have an adequate red blood cell concentration before drawing blood. Like with humans, canine blood banks don’t want anemic donors!

Fortunately, most dogs never need a blood transfusion, but for those that do, it can be lifesaving. Many dogs need blood transfusions for surgeries. Also, for diseases where there is ongoing blood loss or destruction of blood cells, the dog may need repeated blood transfusions.

Canine Blood Types

Researchers separate blood donor dogs into at least 13 blood groups based on antigens, and dogs can have multiple blood types simultaneously. (The existence of these antigens mean that dogs that have received blood transfusions can no longer act as canine blood donors.) Veterinarians use the dog erythrocyte antigen (DEA) system. Ideally, transfusions should be between typed and crossmatched individuals.

Fortunately, about 1 in 15 dogs have “universal” donor blood, meaning they can donate to either positive or negative recipients.

About 70% of Greyhounds are universal donors. Boxers, Irish Wolfhounds, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Pit Bulls are other breeds more likely than average to be universal donors.

Dogs that need transfusions usually receive blood components. Laboratories separate whole blood into several useful forms; pRBCs, fresh-frozen plasma (FFP), frozen plasma for long-term storage, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), platelet concentrate, and cryoprecipitate.

Each component has multiple uses. For example:’

  • RBCs (red blood cells) are used for patients with acute chronic hemorrhage, hemolysis, renal disease, and bone marrow disorders.
  • FFP (plasma) contains clotting factors and albumen, and is used to treat bleeding due to anticoagulant rodenticide toxicity, liver failure, or congenital clotting deficiencies.
  • Cryopreccipitate (platelets) can be used in the treatment of some hemophilia and as a topical hemostatic in surgery.

When a dog donates blood, it is rescuing three fellow canines!

There was a national shortage of canine blood for transfusions during the pandemic, and demand usually goes up during the summer. To encourage donations, sometimes clinics and communities spotlight superhero dogs. For example, the Wheat Ridge newsletter once featured Bruce Lee as a super-donor. Local media noticed and spotlighted his blood donor heroism as well!

And when not donating blood, donor dogs just do what dogs do!


Bottom line: Dog blood donors are always welcome! Is your pet a candidate? Find a canine blood bank near you!


Is that even a thing? I asked myself that question after the night I slept more than eleven hours. First, I looked up what’s typical.

The Seven Sleepers, according to medieval Christian and Islamic legend, slept in a cave for 300 years to escape religious purges. (Illustration from the Menologian of Basil II)

Recommended Sleep by Age

The following table is from the CDC.

Age GroupAge RangeRecommended Hours of Sleep
Infant4-12 months12-16 hours (including naps)
Toddler1-2 years11-14 hours (including naps)
Preschool3-5 years10-13 hours (including naps)
School-Age6-12 years9-12 hours
Teen13-18 years8-10 hours
Adult18-60 years7 or more
61-64 years7-9 hours
65+ years7-8 hours

So, either I’m back to my middle school years, or I’m beyond the pale. No doubt the latter, but is that a bad thing?

Why Do People Sleep Too Much?

Reportedly, Albert Einstein regularly slept ten hours every night and napped frequently.

For people who suffer from hypersomnia, oversleeping is actually a medical disorder. The condition causes people to suffer from extreme
sleepiness throughout the day, which is not usually relieved by napping. It also causes them to sleep for unusually long periods of time at night. Many people with hypersomnia experience symptoms of anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their almost constant need for sleep.

Author Anne Rice suffered for years with obstructive sleep apnea, which may have inspired her interest and affinity in other creatures of the night, such as vampires.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something blocks part or all of your upper airway while you sleep. Your diaphragm and chest muscles have to work harder to open your airway and pull air into your lungs. Your breath can become very shallow, or you may even stop breathing briefly. You usually start to breathe again with a loud gasp, snort, or body jerk. You may not sleep well, but you probably won’t even know that it’s happening. This condition can also lower the flow of oxygen to your organs and cause uneven heart rhythms.

Calvin Coolidge took a nap nearly every day in addition to sleeping ten or eleven hours every night.

Not everyone who oversleeps has a medical sleep disorder. Other possible causes of oversleeping include:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription medications
  • Jet lag
  • Illness, such as a cold or flu
  • Extreme athletic exertion
  • Depression

Besides the conditions mentioned above, too much sleep — as well as not enough sleep — raises the risk of: heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity in adults age 45 and older. Any of these can carry an increased risk of death.

Sleeping Preference

Mariah Carey credits her fantastic singing voice to her habit of sleeping 15 hours every night.

And then there are people who simply want to sleep a lot. Individual sleep needs vary as widely as individual dietary needs, but “anything worth doing is worth overdoing” (as Mick Jagger, Ayn Rand, or possibly G. K. Chesterton famously said).

If long-term risks are too distant to motivate stopping, consider this: if you sleep more than you need to, you’re probably going to wake up from a later sleep cycle, meaning you’ll feel groggy and tired even though you’ve slept more. Research bears out the connection between too much sleep and too little energy.

LeBron James reports sleeping twelve hours a night for his best athletic performance.

According to Harvard Health, it appears that any significant deviation from normal sleep patterns can upset the body’s rhythms and increase daytime fatigue. The best solution is to figure out how many hours of sleep are right for you and then stick with it — even on weekends, vacations, and holidays.

The “Sleeping Beauty of Oknö” Karolina Olsson reportedly fell asleep in 1876, aged 14, and didn’t wake up until 1908, aged 46. (She may have been in a coma, kept unconscious by her parents, suffering from a head injury, or simply faking, but medical reporting in Sweden at the time never seemed to reach a definitive conclusion.)

How to Manage and Treat Chronic Oversleeping

After an overseer gave her a traumatic head injury, Harriet Tubman suffered from epilepsy and bouts of hypersomnia for the rest of her life.

But What If It’s Only Occasional?

During a golf tournament, Michelle Wie once slept more than sixteen hours. She regularly sleeps ten hours a night but prefers to get twelve hours or more.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, when you’re sleep drunk, your brain doesn’t make the transition to wakefulness. Your conscious mind isn’t fully awake, but your body can get up, walk, and talk. “People who have confusional arousal might act confused or have trouble speaking,” says Dr. Martinez-Gonzalez. “They might appear to be drunk, but they’re not.”

The CDC discusses sleep inertia. It is a temporary disorientation and decline in performance and/or mood after awakening from sleep.

People with sleep inertia can show slower reaction time, poorer short-term memory, and slower speeds of thinking, reasoning, remembering, and learning.

Bottom Line: Inviting as a warm bed can be on a winter night, as comfortable as it feels during a pounding rain, as luxurious as it can feel to just not get up, consider the price you may pay.

Robert Douglas Spadden (center) slept through the sinking of the Titanic when he was six years old. He woke briefly while being carried to a lifeboat, but his nurse told him they were going to look at the stars. So he went back to sleep.


As many of you know, my definition of a beach read is anything that is read while at the beach. So here we go, reads from my family beach week. This year we were twelve, ages 14-92. (For favorites of younger readers, see the latter part of this blog.)

Although a lot of required reading happened for an online master’s program in public health, I’ll spare you that list.

Without further ado, here are the pleasure reads, with comments when any were made. These fall into two categories: Brought Here and Found Here.

Brought Here

Found Here

For the Younger Crowd

Because my family isn’t getting any younger, I reached out to a friend for what her young relatives (ages 1 to 7) are enjoying. There’s been a bit of a theme all summer, even before they went to the beach!

Beach read
Beach read

Bottom Line: “Beach read” could mean any books read at the beach or books to prepare to go to the beach!

Adventures in Vietnam(ese)

Today’s guest blog was written by Kathleen Corcoran.
speaking Vietnamese
Why does Duolingo think I need to know how to say this?

Back in December 2022, my sister-in-law and brother asked if I’d like to go with them and their friend to Vietnam. After figuring out financing for airfare and updating my passport, the most important concern for me was speaking Vietnamese.

I’ve studied several other languages in my life, but speaking Vietnamese was particularly difficult for me. The US State Department Foreign Language Institute classifies Vietnamese as a “Category III” language, the second most difficult language for English-speakers to learn. They estimate it would take someone approximately 1,100 class hours to reach a working proficiency in Vietnamese. I think they were being optimistic.

Singing Vietnamese

In addition to availing myself of a textbook, a language learning program on my phone, multiple audiobooks and podcasts, and all the questions I could pester my sister-in-law with, I took Vietnamese classes at the local Buddhist temple. Our teacher made us practice singing phrases to each other to wrap our heads around the idea of tones in daily speech.

speaking Vietnamese
Vietnamese has 6 vocal tones and 11 distinct vowels.

I still tend to move my hands or my chin up and down when I’m trying to make my voice distinguish between a sắc (upwards) and huyền (downwards) tone. As you can imagine, I look a bit silly when speaking Vietnamese. However, I sound even sillier when I don’t pronounce the tones correctly.

Essentially, I’m saying, “Gwide meernong!” instead of “Good morning!” when I use the wrong tones. And then I wonder why people can’t understand me…

Speaking Child(ese)

“Don’t try to suffocate your sister in her poncho.”

My sister-in-law and her friend caught up with friends and family they haven’t seen in years. We spent a lot of time with children of those friends and family members, and those children often spoke only a little English.

I quickly learned a lot of Vietnamese for specific situations that never arose in my textbooks or language apps. “Hold my hand!” “Do you need to go potty?” “What a pretty dolly!”

I also, for reasons I could never quite figure out, stood out as a foreigner every place I went. It must have been my shoes. My obvious alien-ness seemed to translate into being American somehow. (A Danish woman I met at a hotel told me everyone also assumed she was American.) Any time I went out in public, children would run up to me to say, “Hello! What is your name? Good morning! How are you? I am fine, thank you!” and then run off, giggling madly.

speaking Vietnamese

A similar thing happened when I worked as an English teacher in another country. I’ve gotten pretty good at holding conversations in very slow, carefully enunciated English, following the dialogue patterns that show up most often in beginner English textbooks. And then I learned how to respond in multiple languages to the proud parents inevitably standing nearby. “Your child is very smart/ handsome/ clever/ good!”



When I went through the lesson on animals on the language learning program, I thought, “Why am I bothering with this? When are ducks and dragons ever going to come up in conversation?” I turned out to be quite wrong.

For some reason, those words stuck in my brain more than any others. Any time I saw an animal, the Vietnamese word flashed up in my brain and popped out of my mouth. Cat! Cow! Chicken!

The kids always found this highly amusing. The adults around me thought I was maybe a bit strange.

This came in quite handy when trying to order food. The words for living animals and types of meat are the same in Vietnamese, differentiated by a classifier. Con heo (pig) becomes thịt heo (pork). I was reading Vietnamese, even if I wasn’t quite speaking Vietnamese.

The Most Important Vietnamese

Very often, I tried speaking Vietnamese to order food and then had no idea what I was eating. I never had anything less than delicious, but I often couldn’t quite identify it.

I never figured out what I ate at this conveyor belt restaurant; I picked plates by color.
What combination of words resulted in kidney beans in my iced tea?

I learned key phrases to look out for, like “spicy” and “alcohol.” I never wound up in tears from fiery pepper sauce or accidentally drunk on something I hadn’t realized was alcoholic. I did find myself eating lots of combinations I wouldn’t have thought of and things I’d never have considered putting on a plate. Morning glories, sauteed with garlic, make a delicious addition to salad. Jackfruit, smothered in peanut sauce, tastes like chicken!

One time, I accidentally swapped the vowels in coconut and found myself drinking strawberry tea. I’m still not sure what I asked for when I received a bowl of flan, peanuts, and coffee.


speaking Vietnamese
It should be “Human Rights in Vietnamese Society.”

The last time I found myself immersed in a new language, I had very limited internet access and relied on pocket dictionaries to bridge the gap when my vocabulary fell short. I admit to being something of a Luddite still, and one of the first things I bought in Vietnam was a dual-language dictionary. However, people around me happily embraced the new tools available. Results varied.

My brother could take a picture of a menu or a shop sign in Vietnamese and read an English translation on his phone screen. According to his phone, the menu then offered him “delightful hot” and “pig bubbles.”

speaking Vietnamese
The peanuts are those little brown lumps at the bottom.

In Huế, a friend’s family offered to show us how to harvest peanuts! No one in the group who took us to the peanut field spoke English, so we did our best to follow the pantomime. (All I could do was to repeatedly point out the water buffalo in the next field.) Suddenly, we heard British woman’s voice behind us, telling us to “Follow the farmer’s instructions.” One of the cousins had opened a translation app on his phone and used it to speak to us.

Different Dialect(ese)

People in Vietnam speak a wide range of dialects and even entirely different languages. Most translation software, language learning programs, and textbooks focus on the northern dialect, spoken in Hanoi. When people in southern Vietnam tried to use my brother’s spoken translation app, the program spit out gibberish.

Huế sits about mid-way between the northern and southern borders of Vietnam. The dialect people speak there sounds quite different to the dialect people speak in Sóc Trăng, where my sister-in-law’s family lives. In Huế, my sister-in-law could only understand people speaking Vietnamese if they spoke slowly and enunciated.

The vocabulary, word usage, pronunciation, and even the vocal tones varied so widely from place to place that I found myself relying on written Vietnamese, which is the same in every region. In Sóc Trăng, way down south, I could almost understand people when they spoke. In Hội An and Da Nang, further north, people could almost understand me when I spoke.

My Future in Vietnam(ese)

Piles of pineapples!

I’ve decided (my husband doesn’t know this yet) that I’m going to retire to Vietnam at some point in the future. I’ll rent a house, offer English lessons, and eat all the mangoes and coconuts I can get my hands on.

Before I do that, I’ll have to up my skills quite a bit. According to a 2022 study by the Stockholm School of Economics, Vietnamese students outperform students in countries like Britain and Canada. Vietnamese teachers are among the best in the world, and they receive frequent training and support from the government and the Education Ministry.

For now, I’m going back to the temple for more Vietnamese lessons. Maybe I’ll be speaking Vietnamese properly by the time I turn 80!

This is my new retirement plan!

The Presidents’ Ice Cream

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July to be National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the July to be National Ice Cream Day. In doing so, he said, “Ice cream is a nutritious and wholesome food, enjoyed by over ninety percent of the people in the United States.”

But what about other presidents? Were they fans as well?

George Washington

He spent $200 on ice cream during the summer of 1790—which comes to about $6,600 today—and merchant records prove it. When he moved into the President’s House, he brought 309 pieces of equipment for making ice cream, plus tasting spoons, cups, and other paraphernalia for entertaining.

John Adams

From letters written by Abigail Adams, we know she and John ate ice cream with the Washingtons and perhaps made their own.

Thomas Jefferson

It would be hard to top Washington’s passion for ice cream, but Jefferson certainly left his mark as an ice cream devotee. In fact, historians credit him as the first American in history to write down a recipe for ice cream. It is one of only ten recipes in Jefferson’s handwriting. The recipe most likely dates from his time in France.

Although Jefferson himself did not note the source, his granddaughter recorded a virtually identical recipe later in the 19th century and attributed it to “Petit,” indicating that Jefferson’s French butler was the original source of this recipe. It is definitely in the French style.  After serving as Ambassador to France, one of the souvenirs Jefferson brought home was the vanilla bean. Jefferson may have introduced the United States to vanilla in 1789.

Vanilla Ice Cream

~2 bottles of good cream
~6 yolks of eggs
~1/2 lb. sugar
~1 vanilla bean

Mix the yolks & sugar; put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla. When near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar. Stir it well. Put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon. When near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel. Put it in the Sabottiere [the canister within an ice pail] then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. Put into the ice a handful of salt. Put salt on the coverlid of the Sabottiere & cover the whole with ice. Leave it still half a quarter of an hour.
Turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes; open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides. Stir it well with the Spatula. Put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee; then put the mould into the same bucket of ice. Leave it there to the moment of serving it.

Thomas Jefferson’s Recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream

Jefferson enjoyed ice cream so much that he had an ice house excavated on the White House grounds, in part to ensure that ice cream could be made during the summer months. Monticello had several ice houses for the same purpose. Jefferson likely helped to popularize ice cream in this country when he served it at the President’s House in Washington. There are no less than six references to ice cream being served at the President’s House between 1801 and 1809; several times guests described it being served inside of a crust or pastry.

Similar to Baked Alaska?

James Madison

Dolley Madison, fashion maven, oyster ice cream lover

A small man, James Madison wasn’t a voracious eater. But he seemed always to have room for ice cream. His wife, Dolley Madison, who was truly a trendsetting first lady, loved ice cream. No doubt, she did much to popularize the dessert in America, too.  We don’t know much of James Madison’s flavor preferences, but Dolley Madison preferred oyster. (At the time, there were no standard ingredients for ice cream, and early “taste testers” tried everything from grated cheese to foie gras.) In 1813, Dolley Madison served a “magnificent strawberry ice cream creation” at Madison’s second inaugural banquet at the White House.

Andrew Jackson

In celebration of his inauguration on March 4, 1829, Jackson invited the American public to the White House. He was “a man of the people.”  Overwhelming crowds ruined many White House furnishings and forced the new president to make a getaway through a window. They broke dishes and glasses, and generally wreaked havoc on the White House in the process. Of relevance here: among other things, the rowdy guests feasted on ice cream and cake. Staff moved the whisky punch outside, the celebrants followed, and staff handed ice cream and cake to those on the lawn through open windows.

“President’s Levee, or all Creation going to the White House” illustration of Andrew Jackson’s inauguration
by Robert Cruickshank

Martin Van Buren

In deference to the severe economic depression during van Buren’s presidency, the White House chefs offered relatively restrained menus to residents and visitors alike. However, van Buren’s daughter-in-law Angelica Singleton Van Buren, who performed as hostess at the White House, honored the president’s Dutch roots by serving desserts popular in the Dutch community. Called oliebollen or “Dutchies”, these little donuts often were filled with currants, raisins, or candied fruit. They are said to be life-changing with ice cream, maybe pecans sprinkled on top.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s second inaugural parade

Few in Washington, DC, partied like they partied at Lincoln’s second inaugural ball. The crowd of 4,000 attacked the 250-feet-long buffet table. They had much to choose from – including ice cream in “vanilla, lemon, white coffee, chocolate, burnt almonds, and maraschino” flavors, among other treats. The inaugural crowd descended like locusts on the feast, leaving the floor “sticky, pasty and oily with wasted confections, mashed cake, and debris of fowl and meat.”

William McKinley

While courting, McKinley once spilled a tray of strawberry ice cream all over Ida Saxton’s white dress. She didn’t hold it against him and married him on January 25, 1871.

Theodore Roosevelt

As president, Teddy Roosevelt liked to ride his horse around the estate of the presidential physician, Dr. Presley Rixey, in Arlington. Dr. Rixey had a log cabin on his property, where the president would stop for ice cream.

William H. Taft

Our stoutest president, Taft loved ice cream. First Lady Nellie Taft served it to guests in the Red Room three times a week. To ensure a ready supply, the Taft White House took measures: the Tafts not only added a large Peerless Ice Cream Freezer to the White House kitchen in 1912, but kept a Holstein cow on the grounds to ensure a fresh supply of milk and cream.

Pauline Wayne, the White House cow who produced as much as eight gallons of milk every day to ensure the First Family had a constant supply of ice cream. She also served as a Presidential Envoy to dairy farms and cattle shows.

Woodrow Wilson

His favorite food was strawberry ice cream!

Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge and his wife served ice cream at a 1924 White House reception honoring World War I veterans.

President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge eat ice cream at a White House garden party for veterans in 1924.
Library of Congress, Underwood & Underwood

Herbert Hoover

In 1923, Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover visited Seward, Alaska. While out on a walk there, Lou Henry stopped to share her ice cream cone with a small black bear cub. Not a recommended activity, but is it reasonable to assume that the couple enjoyed ice cream?

“Mrs. Herbert Hoover feeding a bear cub ice cream. Major Ballinger Aide to Pres. Harding holding bear. Alaska.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

During the Depression, the Roosevelts set an example of thriftiness in entertaining, with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt famously hosting a dinner that cost only seven and a half cents per guests. One of her favorite dishes to serve was cornmeal hasty pudding with ice cream.

In 1941, reporters at Roosevelt’s annual party for the press stayed till the wee hours. At about 1 a.m., ice cream was being served in the main hallway. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was standing behind the table, said ”Don’t you think it’s a little late for ice cream?” All took the hint and went home.

Harry S. Truman

Starting at age 14, Harry Truman worked at a pharmacy and soda fountain located on West Maple Avenue in Independence, MO, now the home of Clinton’s Soda Fountain.  According to their website, Harry Truman’s favorite was a butterscotch sundae with chocolate ice cream. I found confirmation that he worked there “as a boy” but not about his ice cream preferences and nothing about his actual job. So maybe this doesn’t contradict the info about Obama? (See below.)

Dwight D. Eisenhower

NMAH Archives Center Good Humor Ice Cream Collection 0451 Box 1 Folder 7 Photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower eating a Good Humor Bar, taken by International News Photos of New York.

There’s a readily available photo of Eisenhower eating a Good Humor ice cream bar, but I found no context and no other info on his ice cream preferences. It may have simply been a command performance for public relations.

The Eisenhower Library has a recipe for Mamie Eisenhower’s “Frosted Mint Delight“, one of Dwight’s favorite desserts. The recipe calls for a mixture of crushed pineapple and mint apple jelly, served frozen with whipped cream, almost like ice cream.

John F. Kennedy

JFK frequented Four Seas Ice Cream (a stone’s throw from the Long Dell Inn) and his favorite flavors were vanilla and peach.

As First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy preferred French desserts, particularly bombe glacée.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson’s favorite ice cream flavor was peach. Lady Bird Johnson famously served peach ice cream with lace cookies.

Peach Ice Cream

~3 eggs
~1 cup sugar
~1 pint milk
~1 quart whipping cream
~1/2 gallon soft peaches, peeled, mashed, and sweetened to taste

Beat eggs in a heavy saucepan until thick. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add milk and whipping cream. Mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture thickens and coats a metal spoon. Let cool.
Stir in peaches and pour into freezer can of a 1-gallon ice cream freezer. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Lady Bird Johnson’s Peach Ice Cream Recipe

A well known conservationist, Lady Bird Johnson chose flower-themed desserts for her daughters’ engagement parties. White House Executive Chef Henry Haller served “flowerpot sundaes” in clay flowerpots, which he filled with layers of sponge cake, ice cream, and meringue, topped with a fresh flower.

Richard Nixon

Though he adopted the practice of eating light, Richard Nixon always had room for ice cream. Newspaper accounts during his presidency reported that, even after large state dinners, Nixon frequently finished his evening with an ice cream sundae.

In 1969, Richard Nixon requested an dessert “no one had ever seen” for a dinner celebrating astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins at a reception in Los Angeles. Pastry chef Ernest Mueller created marzipan and raisin ice cream globes, covered them in meringue, and served the toasted balls in pools of blackberry sauce. By all reports, the astronauts greatly enjoyed their “Clair de Lunes.

Gerald Ford

Ford had a nearly heroic devotion to butter pecan ice cream.  Whenever he visited his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, his travel assistant Jon Nunn would make sure that butter pecan ice cream was always on hand. Every night he’d ask his aide, “I’ll bet there’s a little ice cream in the fridge, isn’t there, Jon?” And there always was.  

Ford once told his doctor he wanted to lose 10 pounds.  “That’s easy” said the physician. “Either give up your nightly martini or give up your butter pecan ice cream.”  The martini was history.

Jimmy Carter

Reports abound that Carter still enjoyed plenty of ice cream 3 months into hospice care—peanut butter ice cream being preferred.

Ronald Reagan

In 1984, as part of Presidential Proclamation 5219, Reagan said ice cream has “a reputation as the perfect dessert and snack food” and pointed out that nearly ten percent of all the milk American dairy farmers produce every year becomes ice cream.

A few years later, he named Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream) US Small Business Persons of the Year in 1988.  His well-known love of jellybeans suggests that his ice cream, whatever the flavor, would be sprinkled with jelly beans.

Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton loved ice cream and seemed to find an ice cream shop in every place he visited. On a visit to the Penn State Bakery Creamery, chefs allowed Bill Clinton to mix his own flavors, an honor they’ve granted to no one else. (He mixed Peachy Paterno and Cherry Quist.)

Since becoming vegan, he’s opted for raspberry sorbet.

George W. Bush

At a campaign stop in in Pennsylvania in 2006, George W. Bush ordered pralines and cream ice cream. When word got around, pralines and cream reportedly flew over the counter at that Pennsylvania ice cream shop for weeks and weeks. Although he prefers cones of praline and cream, he’ll eat vanilla custard  in a pinch.

George W. Bush reportedly shipped cartons of Blue Bell ice cream from the creamery in his native Texas to the White House and to the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Barack Obama

President Obama and then-Vice President Biden in 2010

As far as I can confirm, Obama is the only president to have worked the counter at an ice cream shop. At age 16, he worked at a Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu.  Scooping, scooping, and more scooping—hard on his wrists. In an essay about his first job, Obama admitted, “I was less interested in what the job meant for my future and more concerned about what it meant for my jump shot.”

When Barack Obama went home to Hawaii for presidential vacations, he’d enjoy confections from his youth – coconut ice cream and Hawaiian shaved ice.

Barack Obama is the only president to have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor named after him: “Yes, Pecan!” in honor of his campaign slogan “Yes, We Can!” In 2014, a Japanese ice cream company released a matcha tea flavored ice cream called “Obamatcha” to celebrate the American president’s fond memories of eating matcha popsicles as a child. A Russian ice cream company also released “Obamka” ice cream bars in 2016 in a rather odd bid to cash in on “chilling” relations between the US and Russia.

Donald J. Trump

This president likes ice cream so much as a dinner dessert that the White House ushers had instructions to always slip him an extra scoop.  In an interview with Time magazine, Trump boasted of having two scoops of ice cream with his chocolate pie while other diners got one.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden at a campaign stop in 2020

When campaigning for vice president, he once stepped to the mic and introduced himself by saying, “My name is Joe Biden, and I love ice cream.” It’s safe to say that hasn’t changed. His favorite is Graeter’s chocolate chip. This Cincinnati-based ice cream brand has been around for about 150 years. He claimed to eat Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream before public appearances for its performance-enhancing capabilities.

Bottom Line: Ice cream has been with us since before we were even a country. Eating it is practically a patriotic duty.