Hard Baked Sunday, Mar 29 2015 

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One of the pressing questions of the week is how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg for the family Easter egg coloring marathon. A sure-proof option is not to boil at all. I recently was reminded that eggs can also be baked, as I used to do in the center of my braided Easter breads.

The traditional method of preparing eggs for coloring, or simply eating, is to either boil them until cooked or boil them for a few minutes and then allow cooking to continue in the water after removing the pot from the stove top. You can see the recipes in a previous post, (Hard Boiled, March 30, 2012).Unfortunately, we never know if the egg is under or over cooked until we break it open. Most often the yolk is too soft or dry and edged in green.

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Another option is to place the eggs in a muffin tin and bake at 325 for 30 minutes. I usually buy brown eggs, but you will want white ones if you plan on coloring them. Remove and immediately submerge the eggs in ice water.

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If your oven is calibrated correctly, the eggs will be perfectly baked. The only draw back is that the egg whites get brown spots on them.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Friendship, Love, and Loyalty Saturday, Mar 14 2015 

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Shamrocks are perhaps the most common symbol of the Irish, but Claddaghs can’t be far behind. Americans from all nationalities are familiar with the intricate design, most often seen on rings, but it’s doubtful many know what it represents, much less how to say it.

The word Claddagh, pronounced klah-duh, is rich in meaning and tradition. The full Gaelic name actually is fainne Claddagh and symbolizes elements of a long-lasting relationship, specifically friendship, love, and loyalty. With these three qualities, all else, such as respect, compassion, patience, and understanding, are sure to follow. Since Roman times Irish mothers have handed down their Claddagh to their daughters in hopes that they find true love.

The Claddagh is comprised of three elements: hands which represent friendship; a heart for love; and a crown for loyalty. How the ring is worn also is symbolic:

  • Wear the ring on your right hand with the crown turned away from you to show you are single.
  • Worn on the right hand with the crown towards you says you are in a relationship.
  • If the ring is on the left hand with the crown turned away from you, it means you are engaged.
  • And when the Claddagh is on the left hand with the crown turned inward, you are married.

The story is that the first Claddagh ring was designed by a young man in ancient times from the village of Claddagh, Ireland who was separated from his beloved when he was captured and sold into slavery. While in captivity, he stole small amounts of gold from his master until he had enough to fashion the special ring. When the two were finally reunited, the young man was delighted to find his lady had waited for him. He gave her the ring as a sign of their enduring love.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

The Caregiver’s Disease Wednesday, Mar 4 2015 

Cover Image Nav Alz

The journey we take when we partner with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is turbulent to say the least. Our husband, sister, or mother needs everything we can possibly give them. They don’t realize it, and may resent or shun our help, but they can do little without assistance.

The statistics aren’t pretty. More than 30% of the primary family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s die before the loved one they care for. In this position we are taxed at an extraordinary level. The disease zaps us emotionally, physically, and financially because of the 24/7, day-after-day, often for decades, all-consuming demands and the sheer agony of watching our relationship fade away.

I know this path well. My husband Marshall has had Alzheimer’s disease at least eleven years. He now resides in an assisted living home specializing in memory care, and although I no longer have the full-time responsibility of his every need, there continues to be much I must do for him. At this point, I feel blessed that our love for each other remains strong, but I know full-well that soon can be taken away from me too.

My latest book, Navigating Alzheimer’s. 12 Truths about Caring for Your Loved One, is jam-packed with solid information and observations I learned along the way. It covers issues raised by many people who have approached me seeking answers for their own caregiving needs. Topics include the early signs of Alzheimer’s; important behavior for caregivers; the perpetual mourning we experience;  expected costs of caregiving; dealing with insensitive remarks from outsiders; guidelines for selecting appropriate caregivers and assisted living homes; and the importance of appreciating the gifts we do have.

The book is available at ACTA Publications, 800-397-2282 and Amazon.

Navigating Alzheimer’s certainly isn’t a fun read but offers an important resource and compassionate camaraderie for families dealing with loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

Click here to listen to an interview about this book with Dean Richards on WGN Radio.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

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

 

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