“Sew,” What’s Your Hobby? Thursday, Apr 12 2018 

Stamp collecting, flower arranging, gardening, playing a musical instrument, woodworking, gourmet cooking, bead working, antiquing, knitting, reading, painting, jewelry making, singing, writing, athletics, magic, playing chess or bridge, learning a new language.

If I had my way, I’d engage in one hobby after another. Currently, I’m hand quilting a massive bedspread for my bed. It’s the first quilt I’ve worked on in several years. Although the sewing leaves my hands in tremendous pain due to fibromyalgia and arthritis, I’m loving every minute of it.

The word, hobby, relates to an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation. Strangely, the word evolved from hobby-horse. The reasoning behind the shift is that the activity is like a favorite pastime, such as riding a hobby-horse, that doesn’t go anywhere. In fact, this is not so at all. Studies show numerous benefits from participating in a hobby.

Our hobbies often are what some people do professionally. We aren’t at that level or don’t have the time to pursue it to that extent, but the activity brings us pleasure and distraction from the tough stuff in our lives. Hobbies are our “time out” from obligations and promote a sense of calm and purpose. The activities help us structure our time. They offer an incentive to get our work done. We’re more efficient overall. And engaging in hobbies is more constructive than staring blankly at the TV.

In addition, hobbies create opportunities to make new social connections with like-minded individuals. And those social connections are an important key to happiness and longevity.

Here are a few more benefits of delving into hobbies.

Hobbies

  • Help us cope with stress, which is very important to our health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Relax the mind
  • Stimulate the brain with new challenges
  • Help us to build self-confidence
  • Offer us a sense of purpose
  • Ward off depression by bringing joy to our spirit
  • Promote a sense of the present as we focus on what we are doing at that moment
  • Can reduce mindless eating as our hands are preoccupied
  • Assist us in discovering talents we didn’t know we had
  • Promote productivity in other areas of our life because we are happier and more focused
  • Can provide additional income
    Help us transition to retirement
  • Prevent boredom and filling time with bad habits
  • Improve brain health and memory
  • Increase good stress known as eustress
  • Assist us with improved sleep
  • Offer opportunities to mentor and share our gifts produced from these hobbies
  • Make us more patient

If you are seeking a new hobby, look at local junior college and park district listings of classes and inquire what your friends enjoy. If you do have a hobby, please tell us! We’d love to hear from you.

(Do you follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

 

 

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Do You Believe in Leprechauns? Friday, Mar 16 2018 

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While driving through Ireland in 2005, our guide pointed to a field, laughed, and said that is where the fairies live. I asked him to stop the car and let me walk there.

“No! We cannot do that! I told you, that is where the fairies live!” he said.

Fairies are serious creatures in Ireland. In fact, 236 leprechauns believed to live in the caverns of Carlington Mountain are protected under EU law. The directive also protects their sanctuary including the animals and flora.

The sign posted reads, “European Habitats Directive. Plants, Wild Animals, and Leprechauns (Little People) are Protected in This Area. Please Tread Lightly. Hunters and Fortune Seekers Will be Prosecuted.”

Protection was established after a man named P.J. O’Hare was tending his garden in 1989 and heard a scream. He rushed over to find small, charred skeletal remains, a tiny, green suit, hat, and several other items. O’Hare gathered everything and placed them in a glass box in his pub, and, except for the coins, the items remain there until today.

The coins went missing for a while and were later discovered in a purse in a stone wall under repair by a man named McCoillte. After the find, McCoillte had several encounters with leprechauns. On one occasion he met a leprechaun named Carriag who claimed to be the elder of 236 leprechauns living in the nearby mountain. Carriag said that millions of others died because people stopped believing in them.

McCoillte and a group of friends fought for the protection of the leprechauns and surrounding area. Protection was granted in 2009 since the court could not prove the “little people” did not exist.

The word “leprechaun” may come from the Gaelic luchorpan, meaning small body, or leath-bhrogan, for shoemaker. Leprechauns belong to the family of fairies living in forts or fairy rings under circular mounds of earth. In Ireland, more than 40,000 of these mounds can be found across the country and are not disturbed for fear of bad luck. Nor are hawthorn trees or holly bushes cut down in the event that fairies inhabit them. Numerous tales of misfortune serve to deter inquisitors from harming the wee ones.

Some say that leprechauns, who are only males, are the unwanted fairies tossed out of the fairy community. They are solitary creatures who live and work alone. Because their workmanship as shoemakers is in much demand among the fairies, they’ve accumulated great wealth, hence their pots of gold. They also are talented musicians who play whistles, fiddles, and Irish harps.

Typically dressed in bright green, a white frilly shirt, and the softest leather shoes with gold buckles, the little guys top their red hair with a three-sided hat. Often, they also wear their brown leather work apron.

However, in the middle ages, leprechauns were thought to be male or female and dressed in red. They may have originally been underwater creatures. Some say they are descendants of Tuatha De Danann, a group of magical beings who served under the Gaelic goddess Danu long before humans arrived in Ireland.

Leprechauns are nearly impossible to find and even harder to catch. Should you be lucky enough to get your hands on one, don’t take your eyes off of him for one second! Leprechauns are intelligent, quick-witted, and cunning. They can distract you and be gone in a blink of an eye.

And if one promises to grant you wishes or direct you to his pot of gold, it’s not likely he’ll follow through. The little trickster is more inclined to turn those coins into leaves and your wishes into something purely for his entertainment.

(Do you follow my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books or my Facebook author page?)

Did You Hear the One About…? Monday, Jan 15 2018 

What is the tallest building in the world?
The library. It has the most stories!

Sorry, but that’s my kind of humor. I also find kids and pets pretty funny.

Laughter is good medicine. It actually induces physical changes in the body as it stimulates the organs while taking in more oxygen to the heart, lungs, and muscles. It also increases endorphins, relieves stress, stimulates circulation, and improves the immune system.

People who belly laugh on a regular basis have lower standing blood pressure and reduced hormones associated with stress. And laughter strengthens the immune system by increasing infection-fighting antibodies. It’s good for our brain, as well, as it stimulates both sides of the brain enhancing learning.

Laughter even burns calories. According to William Fry, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, one minute of laughter is equal to ten minutes on the rowing machine.

With so many benefits and no side effects, perhaps doctors should start prescribing a joke or comedy a day!

(Do you follow my blog, Mary K Doyle Books or my Facebook author page?)

 

Showing Gratitude Tuesday, Nov 7 2017 

We’re repeatedly being reminded to appreciate what we have. So many of our neighbors have lost everything to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, fires, and mass shootings. Our loved ones, friends, school, home, employment, treasures, church, and favorite shops, that we take so much for granted, can instantly be taken away, just as theirs have.

Are we paying attention?

We complain about the little struggles that really don’t matter. And often, those complaints are aimed at the ones we love the most. We wouldn’t talk to or treat our friends the way we do to our closest family members. Most likely, we know they will put up with us no matter what. But just because we can get away with it doesn’t make it right or fair.

With Thanksgiving approaching, let’s stop and reflect on our many blessings. This beautiful holiday and its opportunity to show gratitude is quickly disappearing with the earlier onslaught of holiday commercialism. Let’s not look back with regret. Take a moment to pause and acknowledge the long list of gifts we’ve been given.

Let’s especially think about the people in our lives. Pause before speaking, reacting, judging, or giving our loved ones a look of disdain. These people are our greatest blessings. Let’s treat them that way.

(Do you follow my blog posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

We’re All About Pumpkin Monday, Oct 23 2017 

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With the arrival of fall, we Americans are all about pumpkin. From soup and bread to coffee and dessert, we incorporate the fruit into every imaginable food.

Not only are pumpkins tasty, they’re healthy. A cup of cooked pumpkin provides 245% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 19% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. It also contains more potassium than a banana. Best yet, all that flavorful, filling pumpkin only totals 49 calories.

The roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, often called pepitas, are nutritious as well. They are rich in fiber, protein, vitamin K, phosphorous, manganese magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.

Pumpkin seeds found in Mexico date back to 700-5500 BC. Native American Indians used pumpkins as a staple in their diet for centuries before introducing them to the pilgrims. The Natives ate roasted pumpkin and wove dried strips into mats. The early colonists cooked pumpkin in stews and soups. They also baked a luscious pudding with them by slicing off the top, removing the seeds, filling them with milk and spices, and baking them in hot ashes.

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek pepon, meaning melon. The word  went through a series of variations after being translated into French and English. The American colonists’ were the first to use the word pumpkin.

Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbita genus along with cucumbers, melons, and squash. Edible and ornamental pumpkins are grown in nearly every state in the US, although Illinois grows more pumpkins than the other five leading states combined. Farmers plant seeds in April and May for a harvest that begins in late July and lasts through November for a total growing time of about 120 days. Vines can grow up to 30 feet long. Flowers are dependent on bees for pollination to become pumpkins.

Libby, owned by Nestle Company, dominates the North American market for canned pumpkin with nearly all of their sales from October to January each year. Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe is likely to be the most often baked.

(Do you follow my posts on my blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

Preparation for Flooding Tuesday, Aug 29 2017 

Our friends in Texas are under water and Louisiana is now at risk. Some evacuated and left everything behind. They’re now worrying if they will have a home or anything to go back to.

Others remained in place and are watching the water rise around them. Some already lost their homes and all of their possessions. They have nothing left.

And there are those who lost their lives or whose personal safety is at risk. They’re stranded without food or water. For all of them, the stress of the disaster will take its toll on them for their entire lifetimes.

Many of us have been in similar situations. There are floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires all around the world. No matter how much we sympathize and emphasize with other people’s situations, we don’t fully understand until we’ve actually been there.

Flooding can happen anywhere in the US, and in most areas, any time of year. Landslides and mudslides can follow flooding. Destruction can wipe out entire towns.

In preparation for floods:

  • Take photos of items in the home.
  • Purchase flood insurance.
  • Elevate the heating system, water heater, electric panel, and appliances.
  • Waterproof the basement.
  • Install a sump pump with a battery backup.
  • Keep gutters and drains free of debris.
  • Practice first aid skills and emergency response actions through training classes.
  • Stack sandbags around your property if there is a threat of flooding.
  • Store basic necessities in a bag or container. Include:
    • First aid kit
    • Special medical equipment for people with special needs
    • Prescriptions
    • Important documents such as medical records, passwords, legal documents, and pet photos and their medical history saved on an external hard drive or portable thumb drive and placed into a ziplock bag. Or secure paper documents in a bag.
    • Cash
    • Phones and chargers
    • Clothes
    • Food and Water
    • Priceless items, photos, irreplaceable mementos, and valuables depending on their size and transportability.

FEMA recommends evacuating prior to flooding, but if you have not:

  • Turn off the gas, water, and electricity. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or you are standing in water.
  • Do not drink tap water as it may be polluted.
  • Evacuate as soon as possible.
  • Do not enter flooded areas or wade through the water. Its depth can be deceptive. Moving water can carry you away and within the water may be dangerous debris, rocks, mud, and sewage.
  • Stay informed and monitor weather reports.
  • Know the evacuation routes and plan your source of transportation and destination.
  • Text SHELTER + your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter near you.
  • Practice how you will communicate with family members.

If trapped in a building, go to the highest point, call 911, and signal for help from the roof if possible.

If trapped in your car in the water, stay in your vehicle if the water is below the window or climb out the window and onto the roof if the water is rising.

If trapped outdoors, climb to the highest ground possible and onto a sturdy object.

For those of us untouched by the disaster, we can reach out to our neighbors by donating money to credible organizations such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities; donating clothes and other items to organizations such as the Salvation Army and AmVets; opening our home to those left homeless; and praying for them.

 

Taste That Shape Monday, Jun 26 2017 

Food is one of the pleasures of life. Most of us look forward to times of day and seasons that present our favorite dishes. But why we like those foods is complicated. All of our senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, in addition to taste—play a role. So does our memory and perceptions.

Marketers and chefs know the significance of visual presentation whether the food is packaged or plated. We are drawn into restaurants or the family table due to the aroma of what’s cooking. And that sound of the sizzle on the grill attracts us along with that smell.

The feel of foods is also important. Some like cold or hot dishes or foods we can hold in our hands. We also have our preferences of crispy, crunchy, or creamy. And how much we enjoy any of it is based on past experience. Comfort foods are linked to memories of earlier days.

I’m not a big fan of farfalle, also known as bow-tie pasta. As pretty as they are to look at, I prefer the firmer, tubular shapes of macaroni or penne. The texture, how the sauce sticks to the pasta, and the familiarity of childhood family dinners are only a few of the reasons these types of pasta top my list.

Scientists state that shape does in fact alter the flavor of foods. Molecules reach the tongue and nose at different speed and order with the change of shape.

A few years ago, the British company Cadbury updated the shape of their chocolates called Dairy Milk. The public strongly reacted claiming that in doing so the flavor changed. Cadbury responded that the recipe and preparation process remained identical. The only change was the shape of the angular chunks to ones that were curved.

Their goal was to allow the chocolates to fit into the mouth easier. But this also changed how quickly the chocolate melted and molecules were released on the tongue. The oils in the chocolate now are released quicker resulting in an oily taste.

When preparing foods, shape is even more significant. Dice vegetables and their texture changes, varying the taste, or at least our perception. Think of how differently raw, whole carrots taste from diced or sliced and also how they taste when cooked. And the more surface area of the ingredient, the greater the change. For example, we increase the browning or charring on a vegetable or piece of meat with elongated shapes of food.

The shape also affects aroma. The smaller something is cut, the greater the aroma, and as we know, smell is an important aspect of taste. Chop broccoli or cabbage and the smell of the sulfur can be offensive. Slice onions or mince garlic and we can almost taste them.

(Follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books or my author Facebook page.)

 

 

Rant on Comcast/Xfinity Wednesday, May 24 2017 

I’m cool as a cucumber, calm as a gentle stream. I don’t get road rage—I’m the most patient driver on the road. I rarely get rattled caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s or rambunctious grandchildren. I really am typically easy-going.

Until I had to deal with Comcast/Xfinity.

Working with them after my recent move turned me into an angry person I didn’t recognize. One day, I even lost my temper and was nasty with reps. My blood pressure rises just thinking about them.

There were problems with the cable. A second TV didn’t work, and I was repeatedly told there was something wrong with my equipment. All of it magically failed overnight while moving. Actually, after a visit, the technician said the error was on their end.

Most frustrating were all the phone issues.

  • Comcast said I’d have the same phone number I’ve had for 30 plus years. It was originally issued by Illinois Bell, so that tells you how long I’ve had it. After several HOURS on the phone with Comcast, and a week later, I was told the temporary number they issued me will be my permanent one. It happens, they say. Even moving only 2-3 miles from my last home. Had I been told of the possibility from the beginning, I wouldn’t have wasted so many hours dealing with reps who repeatedly told me it would be another 24-48 hours. I would have waited to print “Just Moved” postcards to include my new phone number.
  • It took ten days and multiple calls to get a rep to update my online info so that I could see my account online.
  • I had no voice mail for 16 days. The prompt said my number was unavailable.
  • Caller ID continues to identify me by someone else’s name. Yesterday Comcast said they aren’t responsible for that. It is the slow processing of the providers of those I call, such as AT&T.

No doubt, all this rambling and ranting sounds familiar to many of you as you’ve had the same experience with carriers. They aren’t life-threatening problems but still, intensely irritating, particularly because of the waste of time. I lost countless hours that cost me work and pay.

And it’s been unnecessarily stressful. All reps were pleasant as they read their scripts but few could reason beyond their prescribed steps. It took multiple contacts before anything was resolved.

I guess it is the sign of the times. I moved 8 times with my previous number with AT&T and it was as simple as lifting up the phone in my new home to find it all working. But today we deal with too much technology, too little employee training, and the fact that these providers are so much in demand they needn’t care how the consumer feels.

I apologize for the rant. As you know, I strive to write positive posts, so perhaps I can assist you with your next move by warning you. Perhaps if I’d known all of this was likely, I would have taken it more in stride.

Direct Sales: Your Business Your Way Monday, Apr 3 2017 

My husband, Marshall, used to say that sales is the one business that has no limits. You control your amount of income and the number of hours you want to put into your career.

When my children were young, I sold Avon and Tupperware. These companies allowed me to make some good money with the flexibility needed while caring for three little ones.

Today we have many home-based direct sales businesses to choose from. Along with some personal contact, such as home parties, most lean more toward the utilization of social media than door-to-door sales as Avon once did. But they all offer an opportunity to own a business, be your own boss, and make it as successful as you want it to be.

Every company has their own twist in this very competitive market. For example, Beautycounter offers safer cosmetics and personal care products. Pampered Chef is known for quality kitchen items. And my favorite, Young Living, carries a wide-range of pure essential oils. I promote Young Living while also pursuing my writing career, public speaking, and working as a trade rep for my publisher.  (If you decide to purchase or join Young Living, please use my full name as a reference – Mary Doyle Brodien)

Other home-based direct sales companies include Scentsy, Jamberry, Younique, tastefullysimple, 31 Bags, Norwex, Shaklee, Damsel in Defense, Stella & Dot, Rodan & Fields, Origami Owl, Lilla Rose, and Mary Kay.

Self-employment comes with as many challenges as there are rewards. If you’re interested in following the direct-sales path, here are some points to consider:

  • Will you be selling a product you personally use and value?
  • Is there a start-up fee or requirement?
  • Must you meet a certain quota?
  • Do you have friends, family members, and neighbors who you believe will be interested in what you sell?
  • Are you comfortable reaching out and talking up the products you sell?
  • Are you disciplined enough to market, sell, collect, and maintain records for tax purposes?
  • Do you want to work this business as your part-time or full-time employment?
  • If this is your sole income, can you support yourself when sales are low or non-existent?
  • Can you afford your own medical insurance?
  • Are the hours you hope to work this job doable with your current family/employment situation?

(To see my posts on topics relating to my book, go to Mary K Doyle Books.)

Quick Crisp Saturday, Feb 11 2017 

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Family cooks have brought about many of our favorite and comfort foods as the result of limited ingredients on hand, rethinking the use of ingredients, and errors in baking. You may know that the original chocolate chip cookie baker intended to make chocolate cookies but the chocolate never melted. The chocolate chip, instead of chocolate, cookie soon topped the list of all-time favorite treats.

I recently purchased a mega box of packaged serving size instant oatmeal forgetting how much I dislike it. Instant oatmeal makes a softer textured dish rather than the chewier old-fashioned version which I prefer.

So what to do with all this oatmeal? Today I turned some of it into a very quick Blueberry Crisp. I didn’t measure but can give you a general guide to follow.

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The simple recipe begins by spraying ramekins or a baking pan with non-stick spray. Toss blueberries or sliced peaches or apples (I used frozen organic blueberries), in a sprinkle of sugar. Fill dishes about 3/4 full. Blend a couple of tablespoons of softened butter and/or coconut oil with each package of instant, flavored oatmeal. (I used maple brown sugar.) If using unsweetened oatmeal, you will need to add sugar. You also may want to sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 until the topping browns.

Depending on the amount of butter and sugar added, this is a relatively healthy snack or breakfast that literally takes minutes to prepare. You can bake ahead and have them ready whenever you want. Just top with plain yogurt and serve.

(Check out my posts on Mary K Doyle Books or like me on Facebook to see all my posts.)

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