Best Tea Travel Cup Saturday, Feb 28 2015 

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Tea drinkers, listen up. My son Joe gave me a cup that is perfect for tea-on-the-go. Once you try it, no doubt it will be your go-to tea infuser.

The usual way to make a cup of tea on the run is to throw a tea bag or tea ball of loose tea into a travel mug. After a few minutes you either have to pull the dripping tea out of the mug – and do what with it? – or leave it in there resulting in a strong, bitter taste.

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The Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser offers the solution. A tea basket hangs from the lid with a lever to raise it in and out of the tea whenever you wish. It’s simple and fun to use and dishwasher safe.

Pour hot water into the cup. Fill the basket with loose tea or a tea bag, snap the lid closed, screw the lid on the cup, and lower the lever. Although the cup is not a thermos, it is slightly insulated and will keep your tea hot longer than in a regular cup.

I use the infuser every day to prevent spills on my desk or computer. The 12 oz Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser is available from Aladdin  for $18.99 or Amazon for $18.71.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

The Great Brodien Magic Poster Wednesday, Feb 18 2015 

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The goal of gift-giving is to make the receiver feel special. Delicate flowers, scrumptious sweets, and sparkling jewels do the trick but our friends, Norm and Lupe Nielsen, wowed us far beyond that with their recent gifts to my husband, Marshall, and me. They sent each of us a poster with our faces inserted in the 1911 vintage magic poster known as American Beauty, which was once used by the magician, The Great Jansen.

Every time I look at the poster, I smile. It reminds me to be playful and enjoy all that life has to offer, especially dear friends who surround us with love and support.

Magic posters became popular during the Golden Age of Magic (1875-1930) to promote magic shows coming to town. The bright posters were printed in a process known as stone lithography, which produced intense colors never seen quite like it in any other form previously. Bold claims of the magicians’ upcoming feats added to the show’s intrigue.

The posters were torn down or pasted over after the shows, which is why those that remain, especially from popular magicians, are highly valued today. Nielsen Magic, owned by Norm and Lupe, sells an extensive assortment of both vintage and superb quality reproductions. You can visit their website at: http://www.nnmagic.com/

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Winning Prayers Thursday, Feb 12 2015 

My Korean friends, Agnes and John, and I share animated conversations. It’s always a pleasure speaking with them when I drop off or pick up laundry at their local dry cleaners. Agnes and John are fairly fluent in English but we often get stuck due to my not understanding any Korean and English being their second language. So we fill in with a lot of lively hand gestures and laughter.

Last night we talked about the lottery drawing and its 564 million dollar jackpot. The sum was the third largest Powerball and the fifth largest lottery prize ever in the U.S.

Agnes made the insightful comment that spending a few dollars on a ticket is good for our mental health. “We are winners when we have that ticket in our hands,” she explained while waving her imaginary tickets. “Until the drawing, we are happy and dream of how we will spend our riches.”

John added another profound dimension to the conversation. “Prayer is like that. We have great hope when we send out our prayers.” What’s more, he said, “that makes us all winners.” John knows that God doesn’t always answer prayers in the way we expect but always in our best interest, even if we do not understand.

So what’s your preference—spending $2 on a lottery ticket or 2 minutes on a prayer? Or perhaps you were one of the many last night who prayed right over their lottery ticket.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Real Life Sunday, Feb 1 2015 

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Midwest Mary is about real life. What we eat, wear, feel, and do as well as what inspires us. Everyday life rarely is a Hallmark picture, perfect card. We humans are flawed, so what we do and say is not often perfect. Although, that shouldn’t prevent us from striving to be all we hope to be.

My daughters, son-in-laws, and grandchildren recently came over for lunch. It was the first time we all got together since my newest grandchildren were born at the beginning of the month – my daughters had babies a week apart.

My vision was for us to sit around the table on this cold winter day enjoying steaming bowls of homemade lentil soup, pizza rolls, and fresh, crisp salad topped off with homemade cookies. After lunch, we’d move to the family room and soak in all that delightful babiness.

With four little ones under two, that didn’t happen. Someone was always, sleeping, crying, spitting up, wiggling, running off, eating, or needing a diaper change. We took turns grabbing a bite to eat and shuffling kids. Not what I envisioned, but heavenly.

And that’s everyday life.

(Photo: Tyler, Mary with Isabella and Nathan, Daniel)

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Online Exposure Tuesday, Jan 27 2015 

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Cyber Shadows

by Carolyn Nordstrom and Lisa Carlson

The first thing I learned from being married to a magician is that there is a lot going on right in front of me of which I am totally oblivious. Nowhere is this more evident than on the Internet.

Credit card and identity theft, access into our medical and other sensitive information, online bank robbery, and malware hitching onto our personal computing devices is rampant in the boundless entity known as the Internet. Even medical devices can be hacked. It happens in one click or less, often long before we are aware. No device, company, or government is immune.

In a recent survey, 94% of healthcare organizations admitted experiencing at least one data breach in the past two years. And one in five households contains botnet-infected devices which can include computers, smartphones and tablets. Once infected, botnet owns your machine and there is no way to remove or clean the device.

And it’s easy to do. A child can hack with little more than a bit of online guidance.

Carolyn Nordstrom and Lisa Carlson tell the scary reality of the Internet in their book, Cyber Shadows. Power, Crime, and Hacking Everyone. It’s certainly not a fun read, but a reality check for all of us. We are naïve to think we are totally safe even in our own little town. Being aware of our surroundings is imperative. Most of the people in the world are good, or at least not evil. But evil does exist, and in the vastness of the Internet, the number of those seeking to wreak havoc is significant.

Mark Sullivan, PC World contributor, says in a quote used in the book that our personal data is not our own. Every time we click on Facebook, a YouTube video, shop, apply for a credit card, listen to music, or supply personal information to our phone company, government, or employer, we feed a beast with an insatiable appetite for personal data that will be bought, sold, and analyzed.

So what do we do? What can we do? Our online presence is here to stay. We aren’t giving up our devices.

We become more aware, get educated, and hold an open discussion on the topic, suggests authors Nordstrom and Carlson. Perhaps in this era where privacy is dead and we all are transparent and vulnerable, we can embrace a society of truthfulness. At the moment, there are no easy solutions. But we are creative and can work on this together for the common good. Humans created the intricate, diverse, and expansive entity of the Internet, and therefore, should be able to control it.

(Reposted from Doyle’s Delights)

Repurposing Sunday, Jan 18 2015 

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Clutter stresses me out. I cannot think clearly when my desk, office, or home is in disarray. I function better in clear, open, clean spaces.

The utility closet with all the detergents has always been a test to my organizational skills. I had most of the cleaning products on a cart and rags in a basket, but things were so crowded together that it was difficult to find the item I was looking for or see how much we had of anything. By re-purposing some unused small furniture in my home, I discovered the solution.

An old CD case now clearly displays all the detergents, and a trash/hamper holds the rags. The slim CD case takes up considerably less space than the cart and items are easily identified and retrieved. I’m so excited, I have to periodically peak in the closet just to admire how neat it looks.

Look around your home and see how you may use something more efficiently that you already have .

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Our Favorite Article of Clothing Tuesday, Jan 6 2015 

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My husband once questioned why I buy inexpensive denim jeans, which I wear  nearly every day, yet spend considerably more on a dress for a handful of special occasions.

Jeans must be the most commonly worn article of clothing, at least in the U.S. Nearly every American owns a pair or more. We have dress jeans, everyday jeans, and work jeans in various shades of blue as well as black, white, and other colors. We also have a wide selection of styles including baggy, boot leg, skinny, casual, and dressy. Jeans are our go-to pants and worn everywhere from hiking trails to fine dining restaurants, churches, and the workplace.

Jeans were introduced to Americans in 1853 during the California gold rush when Levi Strauss, a 24-year-old German immigrant, made sturdy overalls from canvas for prospectors. After complaints about the rough fabric, Strauss used a twilled cotton called “serge de Nimes.” The fabric soon became known as denim and the overalls called blue jeans. Strauss received a U.S. patent on blue jeans in 1873.

The word “jeans” most likely comes from the French word for Genoa as serge de Nimes originated in Genoa, Italy and Nimes, France. By the 17th century, the fabric was commonly used in clothing of the working class in Northern Italy.

According to Wikipedia, after actor James Dean wore jeans in the movie, Rebel without a Cause, the pants became a symbol of rebellion and sometimes banned in theaters, restaurants, and schools. I remember as a young child in the 60s resisting my mother’s insistence that I wear my brother’s hand-me-down jeans. I thought then that they were only for boys. But it wasn’t long before they became part of my daily wardrobe.

Jeans popularity has endured due to their durability and longevity. We keep them for years, as they get more comfortable with wear and washing. Ironically, as we search for the best prices, they are our best wardrobe investment.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Peace in 2015 Sunday, Dec 28 2014 

DSCN0916As 2014 fades away, we look to the new year with optimism and anticipation. Whatever was good about the past, we hope it continues. Whatever was difficult, we pray is left behind.

Some of this is in our control, which is why we make New Year’s resolutions. The custom of assessing our financial, emotional, and physical health at the onset of a new year, and making plans to improve them, is our opportunity to begin anew. Some say there is no reason to make promises that will not be kept. But however long we follow our resolutions, at least we turn things around for a few months. We lose a few of our holiday pounds on our new diet, get a little stronger with an exercise program, and spend a little less money, slightly easing the credit card gift charges we made over the holidays.

In addition to the typical resolutions, perhaps in 2015 we might consider ones that promote a kinder, more peaceful world. We don’t have to do much to make a difference. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food kitchen
  • Donate gently or never used items
  • Avoid all books, movies, and online activities that include violence, cruelty, or profanity
  • Visit museums
  • Attend cultural events
  • Surround ourselves with gentle, loving people
  • Attend church services
  • Don’t participate in gossip in the workplace
  • Give thanks daily for what we do have
  • Clean the clutter out of our home
  • Smile at strangers
  • Think positively
  • Treat others respectfully
  • Check on elderly neighbors
  • Read inspirational books
  • Pray for peace
  • Try to be more patient
  • Avoid worrying about things that are not in our control

©2014 Mary K. Doyle

Time Out Saturday, Dec 20 2014 

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You are hereby given a time out. You are instructed to sit quietly and do nothing for at least 20 minutes. This is not a punishment. It is a mental health break.

‘Tis the season for running crazy: shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting, hosting, spending more money than we should, eating too many Christmas cookies, and getting even less sleep in our sleep-deprived lives. No wonder we approach the holidays sick, exhausted, and irritable.

We can’t experience much joy in this magical season when we are in such a weakened condition. Let’s do ourselves a favor and take time to rest and rejuvenate. In the big scheme of life, it doesn’t matter if there is one less greeting card, gift under the tree, or homemade dessert on the table.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

(Photo: Me, my mother, and brother, John Michael. Christmas 1955)

Turning Flaws Into Assets Sunday, Dec 14 2014 

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose, and that nose helped make him the reindeer we’ve grown to know and love.

The children’s tale of a reindeer with a glowing, red nose was written by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward. May’s Rudolph is much like he believed himself to be, an outcast who didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. Rudolph’s bright, red nose made him the brunt of bullying and excluded him from reindeer games. But in the end, it is that nose that saved the day when Santa needs him to lead the way.

The famous story was written for commercial purposes in 1939. The long-time department store of Montgomery Ward gave away coloring books every year for Christmas. To save money, May was hired to write a story they could use in one of these books and publish themselves. More than 2.5 million copies were distributed that first year alone.

The story became even more popular when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted the story into song. Gene Autry’s recording of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer hit the radios in 1949 and was the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.

Montgomery Ward turned over the story’s copyright to May in 1947, ensuring him financial security.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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