Healing, Hope, and Recovery Monday, Jan 18 2021 

Joe Biden certainly has his challenges ahead. According to his website, our 46th president of the United States’ lofty ambitions include the battle to control the COVID-19 virus, build prosperity, secure family health care, achieve racial justice, save the climate, and restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody a fair shot. The wisdom of his age and extensive service to our country as senator and vice president along with his happy disposition and ability to build friendships on both sides of the aisle as a moderate Democrat brings hope to a country in crisis. He’s also a devoted family man with an intelligent, educator wife, Jill, who will be our First Lady.

Biden’s strength and character are built on his foundation of (Catholic) faith and conquering life challenges and heartache. A courageous and humble man, he is quick to acknowledge his political failures and rectify them. His personal struggles, including a stuttering disorder and the sudden losses of his first wife and baby has made him stronger and more compassionate.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He played football and baseball in high school and was class president both his junior and senior year. He also played football his freshman year of college. Education didn’t come easy to Biden. He struggled and persevered through his studies receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Syracuse University.

Biden practiced law as a public defender and then at a firm before being elected senator of Delaware at the age of 29 in 1973. He was reelected to that position six times. He then served as vice president during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.

For our country to fully and more quickly recover, all of our support is needed. Joe Biden is inheriting a country in the midst of a pandemic that has taken more than 400,000 American lives and an economic crisis with an unemployment rate that has doubled since March, 2019. In addition, we have a deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, drastic income inequality, and tremendous national debt. Biden must also strive to remove all of the walls–the border wall, the need for a wall around our capitol building to protect our governing body and democracy, and walls between family and friends divided due to political division.

For the peace and prosperity of our country, whatever your political affiliation, please pray for God to bless Joe Biden and the United States of America.

***

Have you read “American Novena” on my other blog? Check out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders.

Recipe for Inner Peace Tuesday, Jan 12 2021 

Yoga, meditation, and lots of prayer. These are a few of the ingredients in my personal recipe for inner peace. When I’m stressed, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated, I center myself. Still and quiet, peace comes to me.

Historically, humanity doesn’t remain peaceful for long. Eruptions arise within our inner circle and the world at large more often than not. Between COVID, political unrest, and domestic terrorism, this certainly is one of the more intense periods of disruption we’ve seen in the U.S. for some time.

How can we remain calm and peaceful with so much going on? I believe we can outweigh the negative with positivity and goodness. The more peaceful we are within ourselves, the more we extend that tranquility far out beyond us.

Here are a few suggestions for promoting personal peace. Focus on one or mix them up for a relaxing cocktail. I’d love to hear what you can add to this list.

  • Begin the day with a positive thought.
  • Practice daily relaxation in a quiet setting.
  • Meditate.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.
  • Accept what can’t be changed.
  • Turn off the electronics.
  • Exercise.
  • Breathe consciously.
  • Forgive and ask to be forgiven.
  • Let go of petty disputes and disappointments.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry.
  • Avoid books, movies, and online activities that include violence, inequality, cruelty, or profanity.
  • Surround yourself with gentle, loving people.
  • Attend in-person or virtual church services
  • Avoid gossip and unsubstantiated posts.
  • Give thanks for your many blessings.
  • Smile at strangers.
  • Treat others respectfully.
  • Check on elderly neighbors.
  • Read inspirational books and other writings.
  • Pray for peace.

***

If I say I will pray for you, I really will. See my latest post, “Praying for Those on Your List,” on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Have you checked out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving?

Wish Big on This Bright Star Friday, Dec 18 2020 

One of the gifts of 2020 is a star so bright it lights up the night sky. Known as the “Christmas Star,” a planetary conjunction will culminate on December 21 and be especially vibrant and easily visible after dusk, particularly from Southern locations.

Approximately every 20 years, Jupiter and Saturn become aligned and appear to pass each other in the solar system in what is called a great conjunction. A conjunction is an apparent passing of two or more celestial bodies while a great conjunction refers only to Jupiter and Saturn. What makes this astronomical event so important is that it is the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623 but that one took place during the daytime making it nearly impossible to witness at that time. This one is also the first conjunction (not great conjunction) to be easily observable since March 4, 1226.

Henry Throop, an astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explains the phenomena. “You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium. From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month, and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

We can spot this “star” by looking toward the southwest just after sunset. Jupiter will appear to be the brighter planet. We can find Saturn slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21. The planets will appear very close together, but they really are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

With binoculars or a small telescope, we may also be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting around it. However, visibility will be minimized the farther north we are located. For example, those in our southern states will have a better viewpoint than those in the northern ones. Cloud coverage, city lights, and geographical obstructions will also impact visibility.

Astronomers such as Johannes Kepler, believe the Christmas Star that announced the birth of the Messiah, also was a conjunction. In 1603 Kepler stated that the Christmas Star actually was a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun that appeared to go backwards for several weeks. Other astronomers believe that the conjunction was between Venus and Jupiter, not Saturn and Jupiter.

The Christmas Star is a sign of hope and promise. Let’s pray this great conjunction brings us a hefty dose of both.

PS

If the star wasn’t visible in your location, check out some of these photos. I believe you can make your wish on these virtual images because we are in a virtual kind of year.

***

Check NASA’s website and follow them on Facebook from more astrological information.

Have you read, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” or “Pet a Pet to Ease the COVID Blues” on my other blog?

My newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Boosters, is the perfect gift for overworked parents, teachers, and other caregivers.

(Stock Image)

A Few Extra Bucks in the Pocket Thursday, Dec 3 2020 

Aging has its perks. Sure, time takes its toll on our bodies resulting in a full range of chronic aches and pains, but with age, also comes a few privileges. Senior discounts and early access to stores in this season of COVID are two of those little blessings. And I do enjoy shopping when I have stores such as Target, Jewel, and Aldi, and the availability of employee assistance, all to myself.

Most retail stores offer discounts on particular days. Kohl’s is every Wednesday while Walgreens offers senior discounts on the first Tuesday of the month, if you are a Balance Reward member. Signing up for that takes only a minute.

But think beyond retail. AMC has a senior policy. So do some utility, insurance, and phone companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile. I recently asked AT&T if they offer senior discounts. They do not (at least for my plan) but they gave me a $15 credit just because I asked.

Traveling? Check out Budget, Avis, Hertz, Delta, Marriot Hotels, and Motel 6. Attending a performance or going to a museum? Ask for that discount before purchasing tickets. You’ll be surprised how often a few dollars will be subtracted.

The trick to getting those reductions is to ask for them and follow their rules. The qualifications vary greatly from one company to another. Some simply respond to the request, while others need proof of age by showing identification. Others offer those discounts on special days or when booking through AARP. In fact, AARP can point you in the direction of many of these benefits.

Check company websites or call before shopping. You have nothing to lose by asking.

***

Pet a Pet to Ease the COVID Blues.

Thanksgiving Mussels Monday, Nov 23 2020 

The aroma of turkey roasting in the oven along with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie lures us to the kitchen every Thanksgiving. However, this traditional meal has evolved since the first historic dinner. According to the pilgrim writer, Edward Winslow, crustaceans and mollusks were an important part of that first feast.

Europeans ventured through North America and established settlements since the 1500s. Friendly and hostile interaction with indigenous people occurred from the beginning. The holiday we celebrate today goes back to an event between the English setters who landed in Plymouth in 1620 and wanted to give thanks sometime in the fall of 1621 for their first abundant harvest and the assistance of their neighbors.

The little documentation we have tells of a three-day celebration between 90 Wampanoag indigenous people and about 50 English settlers. The food was prepared by the only four women (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White) who survived the Mayflower voyage and first year in the New World. Young daughters and male and female servants likely assisted the women.

In addition to crustaceans, mollusks, and fish, one account states that the settlers hunted for fowl for the celebration. They returned with turkeys, venison, ducks, geese, and swans. Herbs, onions, and nuts were added to the meat before roasting.

Local vegetables likely included onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and carrots. Corn was ground, boiled, and pounded into a thick porridge that may have been sweetened with molasses. Neither white nor sweet potatoes were yet available in the area.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and cranberries. The pilgrim’s sugar supply was depleted by then, so no sugared cranberry sauce reached their table that year.

The settlers also lacked butter and wheat flour to make pie crust. That prevented pie or bread stuffing from being on the menu. Nor did they have ovens for baking. Some accounts do say that early English settlers in North America roasted pumpkins by filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices and baked the pumpkins in hot ashes.

Although the holiday did, and continues to center on food, the occasion was to show gratitude. This year has been a tough one for so many, but we likely have things to be thankful for, none-the-less. It’s a good idea to take a few moments this week to recognize our gifts and give thanks.

***

Looking for gift ideas for caregivers? How about the uplifting book, Inspired Caregiving, or The Alzheimer’s Spouse, or Navigating Alzheimer’s?

Do you know there’s a New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Exploding Squash Friday, Nov 20 2020 

It was a quick dinner—spaghetti squash with oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. And I wanted to make it quicker by baking the squash in the microwave. After washing and pricking the small squash, I placed it in the microwave for about 7 minutes. It inflated and sizzled, so I pricked it again with a fork. The squash exploded in my face.

Small burns covered my forehead, eyelids, cheeks, and chin. I ran cold water on my face and placed a cool compress on it. Even minor burns keep burning for some time, so it took about an hour before I could apply fresh aloe vera from a plant I keep in the house. I continued to dab aloe on the burns for several days. Vaseline also helped, especially on my eyelids.

Aloe vera has incredible healing properties. By the following morning, the burns were significantly better, and at day two there are only a few pink spots on my face. One area on my forehead blistered and opened, so that one may take a little longer to completely heal. Also, the impact of the explosion on my forehead and right eye caused throbbing for a couple of days.

To avoid risk of serious burns and squash seeds and pulp imbedded in your hair, skin, and clothes, follow the standard rule—carefully cut open the hard squash before baking. The problem with cooking since I was a young girl is that I know all the shortcuts and am not as careful as I should be. This incident is a good reminder that the few extra minutes to do things correctly can save a lifetime of needless suffering. I was very fortunate not to have more serious burns or damaged my vision.

Mayo Clinic recommends treating minor burns (no larger than three inches in size) by holding the burned area under cool (not cold) running water and applying a cool, wet compress on the area until the pain subsides. Absolutely do not break blisters. Should blisters break on their own, clean the area with water and apply an antibiotic ointment. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment. Once the burn is completely cooled, apply a lotion containing aloe vera to prevent drying. Cover the burn with a loosely wrapped sterile gauze. If needed, take an over-the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.

***

Have you read my last posts on my other blog: “New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease” or “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret?”

Faith-Driven Election Wednesday, Nov 11 2020 

The chaos, division, and anger may not show it, but in my opinion, the 2020 Presidential Election has been one of the most faith-driven elections in U.S. history. Voters examined issues such as immigration, racism, abortion, domestic production, environmental health, and the economy in relation to their interpretation of biblical and religious teachings.

Ironically, most of us fell into one of two camps. We took the very same ideals and saw them from completely opposite view-points. “Fake News” was suspect on both sides. Neither trusted, or continues to trust, information from the other. Each side believes they know God’s truth. Many feared the outcome if one or the other candidate won, and some believe that the end-times is now quickly approaching.

With the rise of COVID-19, severely diminished employment opportunities, vast economic disparity, and friends and neighbors divided on hot issues, toxic slander, and ill perceptions of the candidates, as well as each other, boils and spews across everything from social media to neighborhoods and homes.

Perhaps our best reference for what to do at this time is Jesus’ teaching about the greatest commandments. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He continued by saying the second is to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:34-40).

Following this guide, we should pray and listen to the Lord all day every day and treat each other with compassion and kindness. We also can strive to live each moment as if it is our last, which, for any number of reasons, may truly be. That would mean to avoid causing pain, injustice, or insult to anyone or anything at all times.

***

Have you seen the posts on my other blog, “New Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease,” “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret,” or “Through the Church Doors?

Check out my recently updated website with information on all of my books.

Nature Escape Monday, Oct 12 2020 

The Midwest is popping with color. One of my favorite escapes is a walk through nature. With the change of seasons in this area of the U.S., the scenery is never stagnant. A surprise awaits at every time of year, and this autumn is not letting us down.

This past weekend, my boyfriend, Paul, and I walked along the Batavia Riverwalk along the Fox River in Batavia, Illinois. The path is gorgeous at any time of year but autumn offers a feast for the senses. The meandering river, active wildlife, vibrant plant growth, and rustling, falling leaves participate in a well-orchestrated dance that can be seen, heard, and smelled.

An American Goldfinch, in its winter coat, calmly posed for us in a bed of wildflowers.

Geese lazily glided down the river.

A gull feasted on fresh fish.

And ducks basked in the October sun.

The river leapt over the little dam.

But the greatest surprise of the day was what I believe to be jasmine. It’s delightful fragrance announced its presence before we spotted the lush growth attracting hungry bees.

The Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk is a joint project of the Batavia Plain Gardeners Organization and the Batavia Park District in cooperation with the City of Batavia and the Riverain Apartment complex. Volunteers initiated the project in 1991 and continue to maintain it.

A short retreat to this sanctuary, or your closest park, forest, or prairie can offer well-needed respite. Join the volunteers or simply escape into nature for a boost of peace and happiness.

***

Do you know that October is the month of the rosary?

Our 1950-Early 1960s Moms Wednesday, Sep 16 2020 

One of my many blessings is a group of women who I’ve known since high school. Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, and I have supported one another through the ups and downs of life for almost 50 years. As an added bonus, we gained the wisdom of each other’s parents. All of our parents acted as our bumpers in the bowling alley of life. My friends and I could go to any parent, any time.

With the recent passing of Susie’s mother, our last living parent, I was reminded of the responsibilities of women in our early childhood. Homemaking was an exhausting full-time job back then. Mothers had little, if any, time of their own. Their life was about service to family.

When I was a child, visions of my mother included seeing her standing at the washing machine, ironing board, or wearing an apron at the stove. Mom was always working. She didn’t have the conveniences of a microwave, dishwasher, permanent press clothes, or even the ability to drive a car. She walked to the grocery store dragging her folding shopping cart and kids in toe.

Women’s work was labor intensive. Food was cooked from scratch, dishes were washed by hand, clothes needed knuckle-bleeding scrubbing on washboards before tossing into the washing machine, socks were darned, everything had to be ironed, and shoes were polished weekly. The work was never-ending.

Some vendors went directly to the homemaker. Vacuum cleaner, encyclopedia, magazines, and cleaning supply salesmen knocked on the door and gave their sales pitches. Milkmen dropped off the heavy glass containers of milk. Some vendors strolled the streets with push carts or small trucks while ringing bells or calling out their goods such as rags, fresh vegetables, and even bleach for sale, as well as knife sharpening.

During the school year, children came home for lunch. Mothers had only a couple of hours for their morning chores before they needed to prepare our lunches, clean up, and send us back to school for the afternoon. No doubt, it seemed that they barely got us out the door when we returned looking for snacks, needing help with homework, and asking the all-important question, “What’s for Dinner?”

What seemed like most of my childhood, my mother was pregnant. Mom was accomplishing her duties in hot summer kitchens and chilly winters with a growing belly. She had five live births and one stillborn, a total of 54 months of pregnancy in 13 years, which wasn’t unusual at that time. Reliable birth control was not available and any attempt at preventing pregnancy in our Catholic families was frowned upon.

One of my favorite memories of my mother is of her ironing in the living room and watching soap operas, with me at her side while I “ironed” doll clothes on my little ironing board. I was raised to be a wife and mother, just like Mom. However, I had no idea how exhausting her days were. Some women worked outside of the home in limited positions, such as nursing, secretarial, and teaching. However, once married, most “retired.” Wife and mother was their job.

Through all of this, women of the 50s/60s were required to look their best at all times. Most wore (circle or sheath/wiggle) dresses, pencil skirts, stockings, and pumps or stiletto shoes year-round, although pants were becoming popular on occasion. Waists were cinched with a belt or sash. Undergarments included girdles, bullet bras, garter belts, slips, and scratchy petticoats to make their circle dresses stand out.

When out of the house, women were certain every hair was in place and makeup was applied, especially lipstick. Accessories included pearls, clip-on earrings, broaches, gloves, a clutch purse, and often, a hat. Little boots could be worn in winter snow storms, but their outfits were designed for beauty, not comfort or warmth.

On behalf of all the “children” my age, we are most grateful to all the loving and hardworking moms. Their attention to providing us with nurturing homes is gratefully appreciated.

***

Photos: Mary, Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, 2020. Shopping cart and washboard. My parents, John and Pat Doyle, 1956. My grandmother (Florence McCarthy), mother, and Aunt Marlene, 1963.

***

Have you read, Love from a Distance,” my blog post on COVID restrictions on families visiting loved ones in memory care homes, on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

Jalapeno Popper Pizza Wednesday, Sep 9 2020 

Spicy, salty, smoky, creamy, and chewy. If you like jalapeno poppers, those yummy jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, I have a twist that you might enjoy at least as much. Jalapeno Popper Pizza was one more tasty use of my crop of jalapeno peppers that I discovered this summer.

Homemade pizza is easy and delicious. It only requires a handful of ingredients, especially if you use prepared dough.

I baked two variations of this recipe. The first one contained healthier ingredients, including low-fat cream cheese and turkey bacon, and was baked on the outdoor grill.

The second one was the real deal with full-fat cream cheese and pork bacon. However, I baked this pizza in a pan in the oven.

I used raw, crunchy jalapenos on the first pizza. The second time around, I sautéed them slightly before adding them to the crust which I preferred.

The healthier pizza was tasty but there’s no argument the fattier ingredients were more satisfying. However, the grill produced the best crust. Had I baked the second pizza directly on the pizza stone instead of in the pan, or on the grill, it would have been perfect.

Temperatures rise up to 700˚ Fahrenheit in my little, inexpensive outdoor grill. That is close in temperature to commercial pizza ovens which range from 700 to 800˚. Both options result in an excellent textured crust.

Traditional indoor home ovens can come close to this if a pizza stone is used. The stone should be placed on the lowest rack in a 475 to 500˚ oven preheated for up to an hour before placing the dough on it.

I baked the second pizza in a pan because it was easier to manage in and out of the oven but have since ordered a pizza paddle, also called a peel. This will enable me to move breads and pastries on and off the pizza stone or grill much more efficiently.

I chose the Weber 6691 pizza paddle because of positive reviews and the rotating handle which allows for easier storage. I bake bread and pizzas often, so I don’t know why I waited this long to purchase such a handy tool.

I tried to be conscious of measurements for you with this recipe but typically I do not measure when cooking for myself and loved ones. Cooking to taste is so very personal. When making this recipe, adjust for the size of the pizza and the preferred amount of cream cheese, bacon, and jalapeno.

Homemade dough or store-bought frozen bread or pizza dough works well for the crust. Some pizzerias sell their dough for home use, as well.

I made my Italian bread dough recipe for the crust. Two thirds of the dough was patted into a 16″ pie pan and the remainder was formed into a few small rolls. I allowed the rolls to rise before baking, but not the pizza crust.

I also baked the crust about 5-10 minutes before adding the toppings. This prevents the toppings from soaking into the dough and making it soggy, which is especially important when using traditional tomato sauce and wetter ingredients such as olives, spinach, and sausage.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this recipe and how you improved it for yourself.

***

Jalapeno Popper Pizza

(Makes one 16″ pizza)

  • 4-6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 6 oz. of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large or 3 small jalapenos, seeded and sliced
  • pizza dough for a 16″ pizza

Preheat oven to 475˚for at least 45 minutes.

Cook the bacon until crisp. Reserve the bacon grease. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Sauté the jalapeno slices in a few tablespoons of the bacon grease. Cook until softened. Drain and pat with a paper towel.

Roll or stretch pizza dough into a circle or pat into a greased pizza pan. Bake 5-10 minutes.

Remove the pizza crust from the oven and immediately spread the cream cheese across the crust. Sprinkle on the bacon and jalapenos. Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the crust begins to brown, about another 15 minutes.

Cool, slice, and enjoy.

*****

Check out my post, Riches to Rags, on St. Francis and the sweet town of Assisi, Italy and also my website for all of my books.

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