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?)

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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.)

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.)

Fishy Tradition Thursday, Dec 22 2016 

Hot dogs and parades on Fourth of July. Family dinner with turkey, dressing, and sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. Decorated evergreen trees, garlands, and stockings hung on the fireplace at Christmas time.

Some of our fondest memories are rooted in the ways we celebrate with family and friends.These traditions bind us together. We look forward to them, and we look back on those of the past.

One of the traditions practiced for generations in my family is a remnant of the Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes celebrated on Christmas Eve. The practice originated in Southern Italy in anticipation of the birth of the baby Jesus. Since the day was one of abstinence from meat, fish was on the menu, and the more the merrier. Seven different fish dishes is common but there can be more or less. Baccala (salted cod fish), shrimp, calamari, squid, octopus, mussels, and clams are often included.

I make two of my children’s favorite dishes-baccala salad and calamari in red sauce. Sadly, we rarely eat them together. Because of my family’s busy schedules, and the fact that we celebrate with a lavish meal at my sister’s home on Christmas Eve, I send containers of the delicacies home with each of them.

Both dishes are costly and time consuming to prepare, although today, the calamari is much easier as it can be purchased already cleaned cutting down considerably on prep. It only takes the time to simmer for several hours.

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The baccala salad is a longer process. The salted cod must be soaked for about three days to extract the salt, then drained, baked, flaked and dressed. It also is better after a day or more while it marinates.

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Merry Christmas to all of you, and thank you for reading my blog! Whatever your traditions, may they prompt fond memories and joy within you.

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

 

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