Hot and Smokey Tuesday, Jun 12 2018 

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Cinnamon, cumin, sumac, and cardamom. One of my attractions to different cultures is their cuisine. Tai, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, or Italian. I love them all! I thrive on the spices of ethnic foods and am excited when I discover a new one.

My newest seasoning of choice is chipotle powder. Chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno that has just enough heat and smoke to pack a great punch on everything from eggs and green beans to chicken and fish. Or try a few shakes over popped corn or even corn on the cop. 

For a quick, healthy snack, sprinkle chipotle powder on a mashed avocado. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of sea salt. Top it off with a bit of fresh cilantro and you have a special snack to enjoy with tortilla chips.

Venture out to your grocery store’s spice aisle and be brave! Pick up some chipotle powder or another spice that you haven’t tried before. Purchase the smallest amount possible and experiment. You may find that you are drawn to more vegetables and proteins when you literally spice up your life.

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

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“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?)

 

 

Think! Sunday, Jan 22 2017 

Many decades ago in a journalism class, I learned about media gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are the controllers of what and how the public thinks.Every level of the media participates in gatekeeping to some degree.From reporter to publisher, each person determines not only what information is to be promoted, but also the content and spin.The higher up on the gatekeeper ladder, the more that step controls.

Gatekeeping may be subtle or overt. Even the most unbiased reporter can’t help but be partial to a degree. Turn to any media source, and we note a more distinct angle. We recognize what side of the fence they sit on. Their view of how the world should be is injected into every story.

So much of our news coverage is speculation about what might happen. The emotional spin on possible outcomes creates public stress, anxiety, and anger rather than peace, unity, and positive action.

Know that when one story or clip is shown repeatedly, someone is manipulating our emotions. It is a form of propaganda. Think about the motive behind repeatedly projecting that piece into our minds. Why would someone want you to see that taken out of context?

It is all of our responsibility to seek the whole truth, to dig deeper. We must find more than the handful of stories we repeatedly are shown. To understand a complete story or situation we need to check multiple sources. Check out “facts” (rumors) on credible sources such as Snopes.com. At the very least, if you can’t or won’t verify your information, don’t pass it on.

(See info on my books on my website and all my posts on my author Facebook page.)

Your Next Home Wednesday, Jan 11 2017 

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There is little I understand about the housing market today. My house has been on the market for a year and a half. I’ve learned some important lessons along the way but other things continue to baffle me.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to hire a local realtor. The first year I used a very nice, experienced realtor from a distant suburb. We’d previously met, and I thought it would be good to work with someone familiar.

Unfortunately, he priced my home considerably higher than the local market would tolerate. I only had two showings over the year, and that affects the current rating of the home. Potential buyers question why the house has not sold by now.

I also have since learned that local realtors are reluctant to show a home with an outside listing realtor. I don’t understand why, but I guess it is part of the industry.

My current realtor sells well in this area. Katie’s priced the home competitively and staged it to present well. She suggested I remove my dated and religious personal articles. She also brought in a few accent pieces.

Katie also hired a professional photographer for clear, crisp photos. Home shopping today begins online, and that listing is key to getting buyers to look at the house.

Our home is spacious, bright, and open. It’s also one of the cleanest you’ll ever see. We’ve entertained considerably here as my husband and I have a large circle of family and friends. And Marshall had an extensive museum in our basement which drew more visitors than I can possibly estimate.

So this is what baffles me. I understand after seeing the home that a buyer may comment something such as “I don’t like the floor plan.” That’s something we feel when we enter a home, and often that can’t be changed.

What I don’t get is when they say:

  • They don’t want to live on a golf course.—This house is on a golf course, in a golf community.
  • I don’t want to live on that street.—They know the address when they view the listing.
  • The house is too big—The square footage is noted in the listing.
  • And my favorite, the buyer couldn’t get over that we had a microwave on the counter.—No worries, people! I won’t leave the microwave behind.

Then there is the kitchen—It’s bright, efficient, and basic. I’ve cooked more here than I can imagine any future homeowner ever will. Everything works and works well. But it appears that not only do current buyers want updated counters and high-end appliances, they want them to their particular specifications.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t give thanks for the blessing of living in my home. I can’t imagine that I will live anywhere more luxurious. It’s been a haven of joy and love. And we have wonderful neighbors. But now it is time for me to move into something significantly smaller.

May the next family here be as happy as we have been. Is that you?

(Check out my home here.And don’t forget to see my blog: Mary K Doyle Books.)

Socks, Please Santa Thursday, Dec 15 2016 

 

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The snow glitters in the blowing wind. Trees and decks and shrubs and ground are dusted in sparkling white snow. So pure, clean—and deceivingly inviting. The temperatures are frigid today, and so are we the moment we step outside.

It looks like we will have a cold winter this year in the U.S. Midwest and North, so we might think about adding socks to our list for Santa and purchasing a pair or two for someone in a homeless shelter. We’ll all endure the winter so much better if we do.

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Women’s fashions aren’t always thoughtful of what we ladies must endure. Live through a number of seasons and we encounter countless summers and winters when we are dressed for looks but not comfort. I know I’ve had too many summers when I was dressed too warm and too many winters when I could have had a few more yards of fabric on me!

A positive trend this winter season are knee and above socks. They’ve been out of fashion, and difficult to find, for many years. We have them back in full swing right now.

Neutral to an array of fun designs are available. We also have leg warmers again. I tried a pair yesterday, and I was amazed at how much warmer I was without the cold air penetrating my jeans. They were only $7 at Marshall’s, but the cute socks are more in the $15-$20 range.

(Why not check out my website or author Facebook page?)

 

Stop! Reflect! Give Thanks! Wednesday, Nov 23 2016 

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I’m not one to long for the past. My life’s been a mix of extremes—excellent and dreadful times. I look back on the good ones with gratitude and prefer not to relive those that were difficult.

However, I do miss the Thanksgivings of my childhood. Thanksgiving weekend was relaxing. We laid around through the weekend, savored the leftovers, watched tv, and visited friends and family. We were happy doing nothing! The Christmas chaos didn’t begin for weeks.

There’s no down time anymore. We clear the lavish Thanksgiving table without digesting that last piece of pumpkin pie, and are off and running through the New Year. There’s so much to do: shopping, wrapping, card writing, baking, cooking, and partying.

Please don’t let this very important holiday pass without a moment of pause. Reflect on our abundance and give thanks. Acknowledge our many blessings and appreciate the food and friendship around us. These are the riches of life.

Not Voting is Voting Friday, Oct 14 2016 

The current presidential campaign is not a proud moment in American history. Although there are voters who strongly favor one or the other of the candidates, many, perhaps the majority, find ourselves in a quandary. We dislike both candidates so much that we defend the one we believe to be the lesser of two evils. We are placing our hope for the future in someone we cautiously think will do the least harm to our economy, security, principles, and image.

The current point of contention between the candidates’ is their treatment of women. Both are trying to draw women voters to their side, not because of what they will do for women, but the despicable manner in which the other candidate treats them. One has video and sound tracks making demeaning comments about women and allegations of groping. The other is accused of bullying and intimidation after numerous women claimed her husband sexually assaulted them, causing a double-punch to those victims.

So many voters are so unhappy with both candidates that they will not vote at all. However, that does not change our responsibility to do so. In fact, it is as powerful as casting a vote because not voting is voting for the winner.

We can’t get out of our responsibility to participate in this election. We have to make a decision.

Please God, bless America.

Passionate! Tuesday, Sep 27 2016 

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Our passions are the frosting on the cake of life. Mine are evident from my blog posts. The majority are in regards to my family, faith, and writing. I also am passionate about healthy living and Alzheimer’s research and support.A day without at least one of these, is a sad day indeed.

My relationship with God is primary. My family is my greatest joy. And writing allows me to utilize my creativity in a ministry of offering readers credible information, guidance, and hope.

Living and breathing these passions is the fuel that keeps me going. I’ve faced, and am facing, a tremendous amount of challenges in several areas of my life, and I’m keeping afloat because of the blessings of my passions. They give purpose and value to my pain and growth.

Studies repeatedly find that people who have a purpose live longer and healthier. Our passions make us happy, and when we are happy, blood pressure and stress lowers, both of which positively impacts our health tremendously.They give reasons to drag ourselves out of bed. They offer an outlet to express ourselves and make us feel like our lives matter, what we do matters, we matter.

We typically have several passions. But if you are contemplating what yours might be, think about how something makes you feel.Most often, passions are ways in which we share the best of ourselves with others. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who or what means most to you?
  • Do you use your talents and gifts? How so?
  • How do you express your creativity?
  • What do you do for your closest circle of family and friends?
  • What types of goals do you set for yourself?
  • How do you help other people, animals, or our planet?

Making time to be aware of and delving into our passions every day brings joy. However, maintaining balance is essential. Anything we take to an extreme, can develop into an addiction.We are more than one thought or activity.I enjoy a piece of chocolate in the afternoon. But it wouldn’t be a treat if it was the only food I ate.

(Take a look at my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books, and author Facebook page.)

 

America’s Poor Thursday, Aug 11 2016 

My sister, Patti, a stock broker and financial adviser, often says, “It’s personal. The daily numbers are mostly irrelevant to investors. If they’re making money, then they feel the market is good. On the other hand, if their losing—not so good.”

Statistics typically tell such a story. Everything depends on how those numbers affect us personally.

The federal poverty level is a measure of income issued every year by the Department of Health and Human services. This level determines eligibility for certain programs and benefits, such as Medicaid and CHIP. The 2016 levels are $11,880 for an individual, $16,020 for a household of two, and $24,300 for a household of 4. In Alaska it is $14,840, $20,020, and $30,380 respectively. And in Hawaii, those numbers sit at $13,670, $18,430, and $27,950. No doubt, millions significantly above those numbers feel the poverty pinch.

The top 1% of the US population owns 43% of the country’s wealth. That leaves 99% with vastly lower income levels.In 2014, 14.8% of Americans were considered living in poverty. (However, the Supplemental Poverty Measure stated it was 15.3%.) That comes out to 1 in 3 Native Americans (two of the US’s poorest counties are located on Native American reservations), more than 1 in 4 African Americans and Hispanic Latinos, and 1 in 10 Asians and non-Hispanics living below the federal poverty line.

Women and children face the brunt of these numbers. If things continue as they are, more than half of all children below the poverty line will live in families headed by women, as two-thirds of the minimum wage earners are women, and one in seven women lives below the poverty line.

Three fourths of the poor are unemployed. The causes and cycle of poverty and unemployment are complex and many. Job shortages (there is only one job available for every 4 unemployed people) and job outsourcing, automation, limited education, illness and disabilities, elderly and children caregiving needs, inadequate transportation, over-spending/credit debt, and lack of mentoring lead the list.

I don’t know about you, but I believe it’s challenging to live at two to three times the federal poverty levels. Rent, utilities, food, insurances, medical, phone, and auto or travel expenses are basic needs yet take a substantial amount to keep afloat.

Food is the one area we can cut when short on funds. That results in a good number of Americans going to bed hungry. This is especially so for those who make more than the level to receive assistance but too low to purchase nutritional foods.

Children comprised 21.1% of this group and seniors 10%. Every county in the US note levels of food insecurities. The states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky are the hungriest. And households with children reported the highest rates overall.

If we have an extra buck, feeding and caring for the poor can be the best karma. Four out of 5 (79%) Americans live in danger of poverty at some point in their life. According to the government website, most Americans will spend at least one year below the poverty line between the ages 25 and 75.

(Have you seen my posts on Mary K Doyle Books and Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin or my Facebook author page? I also have a Facebook page for each of my books with information specific to that title.)

 

Know GMO Monday, Jul 18 2016 

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The more options science offers us, the more concerns we have in regards to ethics, health, and safety. Those concerns often create emotionally charged camps with opposing viewpoints. Such is the way with GMO products.

GMO, the acronym for Genetically Modified Organisms, and GE, the acronym for Genetically Engineered, refer to living organisms whose genetic material has been manipulated through biotechnology. Genes are isolated and added to cells in a laboratory to produce desired traits in new cells, altering the DNA.

Most developed nations, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, either significantly restrict or ban the production and sale of GMOs. They consider them to be unsafe.

But, according to the FDA, GMO/GE foods are as safe as non-GMO since all must meet the same food safety requirements. The FDA also states that the practices of selective breeding and cross-breeding have been in existence for thousands of years with the same intent of creating more flavorful crops with higher yield and resistance to insects and diseases.

Foods from GMO plants were first introduced into the U.S. food supply in the 1990s. Today, cotton, corn, and soybeans are the most common GMO crops. In fact, 93% of all soybeans, and 88% of all corn planted, are from GMO seeds. Other major GMO crops include potatoes, squash, apples, and papayas.

Anti-GMO activists, who refer to these crops as “Frankenfoods,” argue that GMOs may cause environmental damage and health concerns. The non-profit organization, The Non-GMO Project, describes GMOs as living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated through genetic engineering creating “unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature.” In addition, they say that contrary to public belief, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

Instead, The Non-GMO Project claims that there is evidence that GMOs do result in health problems, environmental damage, and violation of farmer’s and consumers’ rights. And there is great concern that  GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance. This results in increased use of toxic herbicides like Roundup, and the emergence of super weeds and bugs which require even more toxic poisons to extinguish them.

Since as much as 80% of conventionally processed foods contain GMOs, The Non-GMO project advises reading labels carefully. They offer the example of raisins that may be packed with a small quantity of oil which could present a high-GMO risk.

However, the ability for consumers to clearly identify products containing GMO ingredients is another dimension of the argument as companies are not required to disclose this information on labels (except in Vermont). A bill that recently passed will allow consumers access to this knowledge through some type of hidden labeling such as a “QR-code,” but this won’t happen for several years.

(The FDA states that GE/Genetically Engineered is the more accurate term. I use GMO in this post because it is more commonly used.)

(Have you seen my posts on Mary K Doyle Books and Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin or my Facebook author page? I also have a Facebook page for each of my books with information specific to that title.)

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