A New Year is Dawning

“Men should pledge themselves to nothing; for reflection makes a liar of their resolution.” ~ Sophocles

  resolutions 2013

Ahh, 2013 is quickly approaching. What does that mean to you? I recently heard someone ask a TV host “what resolutions are you NOT going to keep this year?” That was a rather pointless question. Why make any resolutions at all? I suppose we all would like to do or be something better in the coming year, but why wait until New Year’s Day to begin; why not start on your birthday, or on July 4th (Independence Day), or even March 15th (Ides of March) for example?

cartoon resolutionI thought it would be fun to research the history of “New Year’s Resolutions” to discover where and why this tradition began. One site I found interesting was http://billpetro.com/history-of-new-years-resolutions. My question is, why not make plans and have goals for the future, rather than setting yourself up for failure by making resolutions? I ask this because the future is so unpredictable. Many people do their best to stay healthy yet develop a sudden illness. We try and keep our children safe, yet some get injured through no fault of our own. A job offer that was “set in stone” falls through or a loved one passes unexpectedly.goals

How many of you are making resolutions or specific plans for the coming year? Some common ones I hear about are getting healthier and making more money. A few of mine include beginning a new blog and attracting a multitude of followers, getting my driver’s license (long story), starting a non-profit organization, traveling to Europe and having a manuscript published or at least have one ready to go.

Family 2012 

Before beginning a new year, it’s nice to reflect on the last 365 days. My husband and his partner opened a second restaurant, my daughter began her first year of college and I finally received my Bachelor’s Degree. In winding down, we celebrated a beautiful Christmas holiday with many family members at my sister’s house. If everyone were present, three generations, there would have been about 50 of us. We’re truly blessed.

I’d love to read about some of the resolutions, goals or plans you are making for 2013. They may give me ideas on how to become a better person, how to live life more fully or how I can be of more service to others.

Taking some time to relax by the fire on this cold winter evening, I’ll reminisce about the beautiful gifts God has provided for me this past year and look forward to an exciting and challenging future.

“Everyone has a choice to see life as a to-do list or a journey. The first leads to ‘work’ and the second leads to ‘adventure’. Which do you choose?” ~ Whitney Ferre

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Happiest of Holidays to You!

Tree2Wow, it’s Christmas Eve already. My daughter has been home from college since the 15th and I’m enjoying every minute with her (when she’s not out with her friends!) I didn’t realize how much I’d miss her…she’s matured so much since August. Home for the holidays – what could be better than that!

Last minute shopping, LOTS of baking and cookie decorating and a little more cleaning and I’ll be finished – all ready for Santa to come. Visiting family tomorrow will be wonderful. Brothers and sisters and their families I haven’t seen in a long time will be there too! How blessed I am to have such a large and loving family!

Since the tragedy in Connecticut on December 14th, I haven’t felt much like writing. Too many thoughts were going through my mind and I couldn’t decide whether to write about the holiday season or just wait and treasure the quiet moments shared with my loved ones. Although school is finally over, I have much planning to do for the future. Sometimes, the thoughts of it can be overwhelming.

I did receive a surprise package in the mail this afternoon from my niece andGhost Hunters Book (2) goddaughter who lives in California. She, like me, enjoys reading about the paranormal; however she is also a paranormal investigator. It’s ironic that I never realized this until a few years ago. This afternoon, I received an autographed book in the mail by the author of “Ghosthunting Southern California.” Sally Richards is a friend and member of their “ghost group,” Roadside Paranormal.

Okay, so this gift may not be what you would consider bedside reading during the Christmas holidays, but it’s great if you enjoy reading about ghosts and everything paranormal by the fire on a cold, dark night. I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as I find some quiet time when I’m not too exhausted from the holiday bustle.

To energize myself after the holidays, I have Chalene Johnson’s TurboFire workout to begin. That was a gift from my oldest brother who had great results from following the Beachbody workouts with Tony Horton. He’s 16 years my senior and in better physical condition than I am. That doesn’t say a lot for me and my exercise regime to date! However, what’s better than the New Year to begin a new routine?

My low-cholesterol eating plan has been working out pretty well. I’ve maintained a 4-lb. weight loss…not really too concerned about losing more until after the holidays. I just can’t resist the treats that are abundant this time of year. Moderation is the key and I’m permitting limited amounts of sweets while I continue eating lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in place of sugary foods.

White chocolate Cranberry cookiesI have to say I’ve made Teresa (Can’t Keep Out of the Kitehcn)’s White Chocolate and Cranberry cookies…and they’re delicious. Bringing them tomorrow along with a couple of others. My camera is so bad; can’t post too many pictures…but rest assured, dessert will be delicious!White chocolate Cranberry cookies1

 

 

My daughter, as tradition, opened one of her gifts tonight and loved the Vera Bradley travel case we bought her. It’s perfect for her little lotions and make up things and matches her purse. She was thrilled! Santa was good and we can’t wait till tomorrow.vera bradley

As long as we’re healthy and happy, what more could we ask? I hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful and peaceful holiday. My best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year! Thanks for reading!

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’ve been reminiscing the past year recently and when I came across this post, it precisely mirrored my thoughts. Thanks to Philosiblog for the post. Sometimes, others’ words fill the bare spots of your own conscience.

philosiblog

When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

What does that mean?
Once again, we have another Twitter-friendly shortened quote. The more complete version is “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

What is it that you are lacking in your life? Conversely, what do you have in your life which you take for granted? About what could, or even should, you be rejoicing? Your health, your relative wealth, your friends, your family? Even if you have none of those, you could rejoice in the quiet and tranquility.

So many of us focus on what we do not have, and overlook or even ignore what we do have. At least until it’s too late, right? I’m sure it never happened to you…

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Beat the Holiday Bulge!

Holiday weight It seems to happen every holiday season.

You attend parties and office gatherings to share a few festive moments with family, friends, colleagues and lots and lots of food. But when the holiday season is finally over, the bathroom scale reveals that you’ve gained some weight again, much to your chagrin.

Research studies show most adults gain some weight over the holidays. But don’t despair because this year can be different.holiday fat (2)

“I recommend to my patients that they just try to keep their current weight, as opposed to focusing on losing weight,” says Julia Renee Zumpano, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation. “Even though it’s hard to resist temptations all around you, there are simple steps you can take that can keep the extra holiday pounds off.”

How can you try to maintain your weight and heart-health during such a tempting time? Thanks to the Cleveland Clinic, these guidelines will help you survive the holiday hoop-la – this season and in the future ones to come.  

1. Get moving

One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity (*).To burn off those extra calories, kick up your exercise. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, increase it to 45 minutes. If you exercise three times a week, move it up to five times a week.

Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year (remember those iced reindeer cookies you had with lunch?). Here are some ideas to get you moving:

  • If you have a stationery bicycle or treadmill at home, dust it off and put it in front of the television or radio for some background entertainment while you’re exercising. Why not watch your favorite television show and exercise at the same time?
  • Go to the library and get a book on tape or CD, listen to it and read (so-to-speak) as you exercise.
  • Haven’t used your gym-pass in awhile? Hire a personal trainer to teach you effective calorie-burning techniques, or join that kick boxing class you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Go for a morning or evening walk alone or with a friend.
  • Put a little kick in your cleaning technique. Fire up some music and dance while you clean. Who ever knew cleaning could be so fun?
  • Have bad knees or other joints? Don’t worry – water aerobics or swimming is your answer! The water prevents your weight bearing down on the joints and is an effective way to burn calories.

(*) If you haven’t exercised in at least 6-months, check with your doctor first before starting.

2. Aim for seven-a-day healthy holiday food (2)

Making sure you eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day is a great way to help fill-up your stomach but not your calorie level. When compared to other snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies, gram for gram, fruits and vegetables contain fewer calories and tons more nutrients. What’s more – the fiber in fruits and vegetables fill you up faster than traditional snack foods. Pack your refrigerator with bags of cut-up vegetables and whole or cut-up fruits. Grab a bag while on the go or at work. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll eat your five-a-day before you snack on any cookies or other holiday treats. You’re sure to take in fewer calories overall.

3. Control the risk for temptation

Controlling even the slightest chance of coming in contact with ‘tempting’ foods is one way to effectively reduce your intake. While you won’t be able to control all situations, focus on the many ones you can. For example, do you keep candy or cookies at your desk or workspace? Do you frequent the dining room table or pantry where you store all your holiday goodies? Make a mental note of tempting places and try to control them. For example, make a pact with co-workers that goodies will be kept solely in the break room, not at the front desk or in various offices. Mentally plan out how you will avoid tempting situations. If you can’t avoid them entirely, see number 4.

4. Limit to one-a-day

While you can’t control every situation, you can control how much food goes into your mouth. If you are constantly bombarded with holiday parties and displays of desserts or candies you can still effectively help prevent overeating and weight gain. One way is the one-a-day method. Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season. Remember that you may have to compensate for it later in the day by reducing your total caloric intake or by burning a few extra calories while exercising. If you aren’t confronted with holiday foods that day, just skip your one-a-day – but don’t compensate and double-up on your serving the next day.

5. Always plan ahead – Never go to a party hungry

Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack such as a serving of your favorite fruit, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. When you arrive at the party, you won’t be craving hors d’oeuvres.

“If you’re going to a potluck dinner, bring a healthy dish to share such as a salad, veggie or fruit tray, or a low-fat pudding, Jell-O or fruit dessert,” says Zumpano. “That way, you’ll know you have at least one healthy item on the table spread.”

6. Be in charge of your party choices:

  • Small plate, please
    Be wise when choosing appetizers – a small portion of some appetizers may help you from overeating at dinner.
    “Pick up a small plate, and stick with vegetables, but limit or avoid the creamy dips,” advises Zumpano. “Restrict your intake of butter crackers, chips, cheese and meats. If you must have a deep-fried appetizer, eat only one small serving. Never go back for seconds. For dinner, fill half of your plate with salad and vegetables, one quarter with meat, and the final quarter with starch,” Zumpano says.
  • Avoid the sauce
    Avoid sauces made from cream, half-and-half or meat drippings. For salads, use oil and vinegar, vinaigrette or low-fat dressings. Broth -based or vegetable sauces are fine.
  • What about desserts?
    The best low-calorie choices are fruit, Jell-O, pudding, an unfrosted mini muffin, shortbread cookies, ginger snaps or angel food cake. If you must have a dessert with frosting, butter cream, cream cheese, or chocolate chips, limit yourself to one small cookie or one thin slice of cake.
  • Watch the drinks
    “Besides restricting your alcohol to one or two servings, you also need to restrict the type of alcohol,” says Zumpano. “For example, instead of high-fat eggnog, have a light beer or wine. After that, stick with calorie-free drinks such as water, unsweetened ice tea, hot tea or coffee.”

7. Say No Politely

Many times you feel forced to eat foods because people keep putting it in front of you. Learn to say no politely, such as “No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious”, or “I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful”. You’ll find saying no isn’t so hard to do after all.

8. Focus on socializing

Don’t stand around the food table when you are at a party – focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of focusing on foods. Conversation is calorie-free.

*9. Take a healthy snack with you while shopping

If you spend a lot of time shopping, away from home, you’re sure to encounter hunger pangs during the day.  Bring a water bottle and healthy snacks with you while you shop such as walnuts, almonds, dried sugar-free fruit, veggie sticks, etc.  With something to nibble on while shopping, you might find it easier to avoid fast-food temptations at the food courts or elsewhere.

*my own personal recommendation!  Helps me pass by my two mall  favorites…Starbucks and Cinnabon!

holiday bulge (2)Remember, the holidays are meant to celebrate good times with family and friends. Enjoy the holidays and plan effective strategies to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Achieving what you sought out for will give you one more good reason for holiday cheer! Happy Holidays!

Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic 2009

Pray for the LIttle Children

st gabrielIn light of the horrific, senseless tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I’d rather not post what I had planned. Rather, I’d like to offer my prayers and condolences to all those affected by this implausible catastrophe.

Once again, it begs the question “What is our world coming to?” When so many people defend the right to make violent movies and video games, how can the constant “in your face” brutality not desensitize people who are mentally unstable to begin with?

I will never understand what possesses someone to kill innocent children, yet alone others. My heart breaks for the parents and loved ones of those who lost their lives. It’s a very sad day.

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

No More Pencils, No More Books…

Well folks.  I believe I’m finished.  God has carried me through many years of reading, writing, classes, notes, research, essays, journals, lectures, study groups, accounting, marketing, management, computers, history, etc. and now I’m finished.  I wish I could say I’m in the running for a doctorate but alas, no, or should I say, not yet!   With all the extra education I’ve received in addition to my degree, I could certainly be an Honorary something or other…?

I appreciate everyone who reads my blog, “likes”, “comments” and has given me encouragement.  You’ve taught me more than you know.  I feel very blessed.

 THANK YOU!

Without further ado, I’ll be prancing around in the privacy of my home office doing a “HAPPY DANCE”  but you won’t be able to see me.  Hee Hee.  Just picture me clicking my heels and singing along with the following – one of my childhood favorites! 

I’m taking the rest of the evening off since I have bigger mountains to climb tomorrow!

Grazie & Buona notte!

Wonderful Team Member Readership Award

wonderful-readership-award

Last week, Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen nominated me for the “Wonderful Team Member Readership Award!”  I was ecstatic!

Unfortunately I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, nor how I should respond.  This was the second person that nominated me for something; I apologize that I did not act on the first.  My excuse is I was new and naïve…until now! 

I sincerely appreciate Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen for nominating me for this award.  I am extremely grateful to all of my “fans” who make awards like this possible.  If it were not for the “Likes” or “Comments” I’ve received on my pages, I’d feel like a virtual blogger in a haystack!

To all of you who have taken the time to read my posts, I offer a great big, warm

THANK YOU! 

wonderful-readership-award

So now, here are the rules for the award, which are fairly simple to follow:

Nominate 14 other blogs to receive the award.

Here are my 14 recommendations (in no particular order):

Keeping it Real Mom – Life of a Real mom with Real challenges

Bucket List Publications – Lesley Carter is Adventurer Extraordinaire

Rebecca 2000 – For those who go where no one dares

Dianne Gray – Acclaimed Australian author

The Jenny Mac Book Blog – Artful Young Adult writer

All Seasons Cyclist – Any and all things Cycling

Fiammisday – Fabulous fashions for mom and baby

To Be Aware – Self Awareness and Fulfillment

i Game Mom – Educational applications for kids

Watch Out World – Food, crafts and fun in the blogosphere

Patrick Latter – Wondrous Canadian Hiking Photography and more

A Lot On Your Plate -Ccreative & practical tips, recipes, and more

The Better Man Projects –  One man’s heartwarming motivational journey

Mix It Up and Make It Nice – Great baking and hosting blog

THANK YOU…THANK YOU…THANK YOU!!!

Burning the Midnight Oil (and a cookie too!)

Writers ClockThe semester ends December 15th.  I see my Professor for the final time on the 12th.  If I don’t complete the class, I can’t graduate.  Am I ready???

 Hell, yeah.  At this stage of the game, I feel I did my best.  Did I procrastinate?  Yes, well, sort of.  Did you ever get an idea for something you REALLY wanted to write about and once you began, decided you didn’t like the topic after all?  Hence the procrastination.

 I have books and magazines and copies and notes all over my desk.  Organized chaos!  I’ve been sitting at this desk for weeks amidst numerous interruptions. Marys Desk

 I needed a break…just a little one to clear my mind.  All I could see was the clock winding down…tick…tick…tick… What to do???  Bake some cookies, of course!

 cookiesBaking always inspires me!cookie tins

 I did something I normally don’t do, but in an effort to save time, I put two batches into the oven at once.  Halfway through I rotated them, top and bottom, so they would bake more evenly.  Big mistake.  The older pan on the bottom baked the cookies too fast.  So much for inspiration.

 When I removed the pans from the oven, I noticed a third of the cookies on the bottom tray were burned.  I don’t remember the last time I burned a cookie, it’s been THAT long.  And we know who always gets to eat the burned ones, don’t we??  It didn’t matter though because even the burned ones, albeit a little hard, tasted scrumptious.burnt cookie

 With that feat accomplished I was able to get back to the task at hand – finishing my assignments.  Dinner will take care of itself, meaning if my husband is really nice (and hungry), he’ll get take-out for us.  Steamed vegetables sound delightful!

 I’m getting sidetracked.  I have few more paragraphs to write, lots of editing and by midnight (nothing like pushing the envelope) I’m in the home stretch.  My fate will lie in my Professors’ hands.  Here we go!

 “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” ~ John Quincy Adams

Our Cat – Buried Alive?

It happened AGAIN!Reboarded floor with axe     Our XL sized cat, Mike (a female) decided to poke her nose where it didn’t belong. 

We’re still remodeling our dining room and I guess, while the rafters were exposed and the carpenter was busy elsewhere, Mike decided to go under the floor and through the rafters…somewhere.

The carpenter left three hours earlier, after first screwing down plywood over all the open spaces on the floor.   My husband thought he heard a tiny “meow.”  My cat may be large but she’s not a “meower.”  “Where the heck is Mike?”   “I think she’s in the floor!” he said.

Before pulling boardsGreat, our cat is buried alive in the floor.  This is the second time in two years this happened.  The only problem this time is that we couldn’t pull the plywood boards up.  They were screwed down with special screws which we had no tool for!

My husband rushed into the shed and brought back a …pick axe.  Really?  Guess he didn’t have a crowbar.  In any event, it took about fifteen minutes to pull the boards up but Mike was nowhere to be found.  We called her name, we searched with flashlights, and we even shook her treat bag…no Mike.Boards yanked up

I stuck my head in between the rafters in the floor with the flashlight but couldn’t see her.  There was one small hole in the corner – no, Mike was too big to fall down through that hole…wasn’t she?  OMG what if she DID fall through – that would mean we would have to tear out the wall downstairs to get her out.  There was no way to get her out from upstairs.  OMG…OMG….OMG.

 After more than an hour of calling her name, we decided to go into the kitchen to plan our next move.  Sure enough, who comes squeezing out from in between the rafters – yup!  That little brat!  She scared the heck out of us – especially me.  She was probably looking through the rafters watching me as I stuck my head down into there looking for her.  Of course I couldn’t see her – she’s black as night!  Damn cat.

Mike after being buried aliveI really wanted to yell at her but I couldn’t.  After taking a towel and cleaning her up a bit, she meandered over to her food bowl, plopped down and pawed the food into her mouth as usual – like nothing happened.  That’s a cat for you.  At least she’s safe.  I’m sure she’s saying – “Oh those humans – they make a big deal out of everything!”

I tell you, some days I’d like to exchange these cats for a bunch of kids…what am I saying?  Never mind, you get the picture.  Thankfully, all’s well that ends well.Mike on sneakers

 “Cats know how to obtain food without labor, shelter without confinement, and love without penalties.” ~ W. L. George

Where the Heck Did I Hide Those Presents?

hmmmOkay, let’s face it.  Many of us (let’s be honest now) have a bought holiday gift, possibly even wrapped it, and when the time came to put it under the tree, we couldn’t find it!  Maybe we bought it a tad bit early, catching a great sale.  We stashed it in the perfect “hiding place” so the recipient wouldn’t find it until that “special moment.”

 Time for the unveiling.  Christmas Eve or morning…everyone eagerly unwrapping their beautifully decorated packages and… what the heck?  Where are the leather gloves I bought after Thanksgiving?  What happened to the monogrammed ornament?  Damn, I could have sworn I bought a new crossword dictionary, DVD, pair of earrings, state-of-the-art gizmo, body lotion set, sweater, cashmere scarf and on and on!

 I used to be the “Queen of the Hidden Gifts” and “Master of the Stash,” hiding gifts in the attic, in storage crates, in the garage, out in the shed, anywhere I knew prying eyes wouldn’t either think of looking or couldn’t easily get to.  For the more common placeshiding gifts like under the bed or in the closet, the gifts were so meticulously wrapped, I would know in an instant if that sneaky someone tried to sneak a peek.  I was a kid once too!

 Alas, it never fails.  There is usually ONE gift that gets lost in the shuffle.  Last year it was a pair of jeans for my daughter.  I hid the wrapped box under the bed in the spare room; I had other gifts under there too which I remembered to put under the tree.  But this box somehow got shoved behind an “under the bed storage bin” and escaped my vision.

While putting away a blanket in March, I discovered the package.  OMG, what is this?  I didn’t care that it was wrapped; I impatiently ripped off the ribbons and tore open jeansthe paper.  There in the box, so carefully covered with sparkly holiday tissue, was a pair of designer jeans I bought for my daughter.  Ah, now I remember…I bought them online in November after receiving her Christmas list, swearing it was the last time I’d ever pay that much for jeans again.  They arrived early so I wrapped them up in a hurry and carefully hid them w—a—y  under the bed so she wouldn’t find them.

A light bulb went off in my head.  Easter was around the corner, so why waste the gift by giving it to her now?  I’d wait until Easter and put the re-wrapped gift with her Easter basket.  Yes, I still give my teenage daughter an Easter basket, usually filled with “girly” things, maybe a CD or DVD, a gift card and, of course, a delicious chocolate bunny.

Sure enough, Easter morning, my daughter wakes and with bright eyes dashes into the den to discover the basket…and a box?  Of course, she ripped open the now pale yellow and green wrapped box first.  “What’s this?” she asked quizzically.   I confessed.  My daughter just gave me a look and then laughed.  “It figures” was her comment.  I asked her to try them on after breakfast.  A week later, she still hadn’t tried them on.  “I don’t really like these, please don’t be angry.”  Are you kidding me?  My sharp comment was “They were on your list; you asked for them!”  Stupid me; didn’t I realize by now teen girls are fickle and change their mind like we change our underwear?forgetful cat

Fast forward six months.  Now it’s autumn.  The jeans, with the tags, are still in her closet, unworn.  My daughter is in college.  I’m ticked.  That pair of jeans was expensive but I knew by this time they would never be seen on my daughter’s bottom.  I halfheartedly folded the pair and gently laid it on top of the rest of the clothes I had in a bag set aside for charity.  Normally I donate to a different charity each year and unfortunately have witnessed some less than charitable behavior by staff members.  On three occasions, I’ve seen my bags of clean, carefully folded garments being torn open and rifled through, with the individuals removing what they want for themselves before putting the other items on the table for distribution or sale.

 Well, I couldn’t worry about it now.  Did it really matter?  It was my fault I misplaced the gift.  I can’t blame my daughter for changing her mind and I couldn’t find the receipt.  Hopefully, some young girl is now happily dancing around in those beautiful blue designer jeans, feeling like she’s “all that.” 

giftsThis series of events taught me two important lessons:  First, learn by my mistakes; second, giving should come from the heart, not the wallet.  Would I really have minded if the jeans cost $10 rather than the ridiculous price I paid for them?  This year, I’ve made a decision.  ALL presents will be kept in my bedroom, wrapped or unwrapped.  If the recipient wants to sneak around, find it and not be surprised on Christmas morning, so be it.  I’m also keeping a list of every gift I buy so I’ll be able to keep track.  Funds are limited this year so there won’t be as many gifts anyway.

 More importantly, from now on, I’m buying a couple of extra gifts to donate to charity.  They’ll be wrapped in brightly colored paper with beautiful ribbons and given to those in need, wherever they may be.   After all, this is the season of giving.

 “For it is in giving that we receive.”  ~ St. Francis of Assisi