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.

The Dawn of Spring Saturday, Mar 19 2016 

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Color returning to our baby’s cheeks. The price of gasoline going down. Greenery poking through the dark earth. We search for signs of hope, and the dawn of spring does that in the gentlest ways.

Today marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, its earliest arrival since 1896. The season corresponds with the vernal equinox, the day when day and night are nearly the same. Equinox comes from the Latin aequus and nox, meaning equal night. Earth’s two hemispheres receive the sun’s rays nearly the same amount of time because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun. The equinox occurs at the identical moment worldwide regardless of the time on the clock.

Nature responds to the increasing sunlight with birds singing, trees budding, crocus blooming, and temperatures climbing. Resurrection, new beginnings, and life anew. Our spirit is lifted in anticipation of happy, sunny days.

©2016, Mary K Doyle

What a Woman Wants Saturday, Feb 13 2016 

 

IMG_1649Heads up guys—I have the secret for making your Valentine very happy.

The days of my husband, Marshall, showering me with lavish gifts are long gone. No more jewelry, flowers, or chocolates from my sweetheart. But he does give me everything I need from him.

Marshall was a generous gift-giver. He showered his loved ones with extravagant treats and never hesitated to pick up the dinner tab. The more money he made, the more he gave. He spoiled all of us, and himself, without going beyond his means. He gave what he had when he had it.

He’s been retired a decade, and unaware of the meaning of Valentine’s Day for many years. He still tells me he’d “like to do something nice for me.” But because of Alzheimer’s disease, those thoughts are fleeting and have no connection to significant occasions on the calendar. He no longer can show me how he feels with store-bought gifts.

What he does do is to tell me how he feels. Repeatedly he tells me how much he loves me and what I mean to him. Today he said that he lives for me. How romantic is that?

What a woman wants is to feel special. We want to know that our man holds us close to his heart. My love has done that for me every day since the day we met. No present is better than that.

So my suggestion to you is to say those things you hold in your heart. We need to hear it, even if we know. Don’t hold back this Valentine’s Day. Tell the one you love how dear they are to you.

And give her a little something to open. Those “I love yous” don’t get the rest of you off-the-hook for a gift.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

 

How to Keep That Resolution Thursday, Dec 31 2015 

Tonight’s the night to begin anew. The approach of the New Year raises hopes for better living, and we do this with resolutions, our part in making a change.

British psychologist Richard Wiseman found through his research that only 12% of us actually follow through with our resolutions. He also found why those who did succeed were able to do so. Surprisingly, our willpower had little to do with it.

Here are a few of the steps found to be effective:

  • Make only one resolution.
  • Write it down.
  • Set specific deadlines for small steps along the way.
  • Publicly declare your resolution. Telling friends and family makes us more accountable.
  • Reward yourself as you progress.
  • Don’t quit. If you stumble, pick yourself up and move forward

My resolution is to live healthier. One of the ways I’m doing this is by using skin and beauty products without harmful chemicals. Beauty Counter uses as many natural and organic ingredients as possible. Any synthetics are carefully researched to ensure safety. These items are some of the safest for consumers and the environment available anywhere. And they are effective and luxurious.

Thank you to my daughter, Lisa, for leading me to Beauty Counter. Why not check out their line for yourself?

Good luck on making your own resolutions!

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

What Time Is It? Saturday, Nov 21 2015 

My apologies for the lapse in posting. The last month and a half flew by vacationing with one of my daughters and her family; preparing for two different 75 minute talks, working a booth and presenting at a conference in California; revising one of my books; enjoying time with my son who was in town; and completing all the regular daily work, home, and family activities.

Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it speeds way past us. Other times it crawls slower than a turtle. The clock continuously clicks away at the same speed whether we are lost in a movie or worrying about our teenager out on a Saturday night. It isn’t time but our perception of it that changes with the events that are occurring.

Children perceive  the arrival of Christmas morning as endless, unlike middle-aged adults who feel like we just packed up those decorations. When we consider that a four-year old waited a quarter of their life for Christmas to come again, it’s easier to comprehend their anticipation.

The concept of time has intrigued philosophers since antiquity, although much remains unclear even today. Numerous in-depth studies have been made. Recent ones incorporate psychology, memory, biological functions, environmental changes, circadian rhythm, and the relationship between time as perceived and time as measured in physics.

Time is defined as the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues. It is the period when something occurs. Time is related to the complex experience of change. The succession of events and changes are separated by intervals called duration—such as the duration of a dinner, a walk through the park, or shaking someone’s hand.

Few durations are isolated. Most overlap. For example, we text while eating and listening to the radio.

We have no specific receptor for time, unlike our senses of taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Time perception is subjective. Psychologists believe there is a neurological system associated with sensory pathways governing the perception of time. It utilizes a distributed system in the brain. Since time cannot be directly perceived, it must be constructed.

The perception of time requires attention. New events appear to take longer because we must pay attention to them more intently. Older events are connected to our memory and already processed to some degree. Doesn’t it feel as if the trip going to a destination typically seems longer than the return home?

Attention to time comes with attention to the stream of time-data without losing concentration, which is why those with attention-deficit find it more challenging to gauge time correctly.

Time disorientation is common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This probably is connected to the inability to concentrate as well as the mounting challenge of reading clues such as the rise and fall of the sun and hands on a clock. The person with Alzheimer’s only knows how it feels to them at the moment, since they increasingly live in the moment. For example, it may feel like we haven’t seen them in weeks when in reality, we just walked out the door. It may feel to them as if they showered moments ago, when they haven’t showered in days.

Metabolic rate also may affect the perception of time. The larger the animal, the slower their metabolic rate, and the quicker their perception of time. Smaller animals metabolize faster resulting in a slower perception of time allowing them to perceive more events in the same time span.

©2015, Mary K Doyle

Hard Baked Sunday, Mar 29 2015 

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

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

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

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

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Friendship, Love, and Loyalty Saturday, Mar 14 2015 

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

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

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

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

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

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Time Out Saturday, Dec 20 2014 

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You are hereby given a time out. You are instructed to sit quietly and do nothing for at least 20 minutes. This is not a punishment. It is a mental health break.

‘Tis the season for running crazy: shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting, hosting, spending more money than we should, eating too many Christmas cookies, and getting even less sleep in our sleep-deprived lives. No wonder we approach the holidays sick, exhausted, and irritable.

We can’t experience much joy in this magical season when we are in such a weakened condition. Let’s do ourselves a favor and take time to rest and rejuvenate. In the big scheme of life, it doesn’t matter if there is one less greeting card, gift under the tree, or homemade dessert on the table.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

(Photo: Me, my mother, and brother, John Michael. Christmas 1955)

Turning Flaws Into Assets Sunday, Dec 14 2014 

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose, and that nose helped make him the reindeer we’ve grown to know and love.

The children’s tale of a reindeer with a glowing, red nose was written by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward. May’s Rudolph is much like he believed himself to be, an outcast who didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. Rudolph’s bright, red nose made him the brunt of bullying and excluded him from reindeer games. But in the end, it is that nose that saved the day when Santa needs him to lead the way.

The famous story was written for commercial purposes in 1939. The long-time department store of Montgomery Ward gave away coloring books every year for Christmas. To save money, May was hired to write a story they could use in one of these books and publish themselves. More than 2.5 million copies were distributed that first year alone.

The story became even more popular when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted the story into song. Gene Autry’s recording of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer hit the radios in 1949 and was the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.

Montgomery Ward turned over the story’s copyright to May in 1947, ensuring him financial security.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Pumpkin Everything Tuesday, Oct 14 2014 

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Pumpkin biscotti, latte, bread, soup, and even ravioli. This is the season for pumpkin everything. The fruit—yes, botanists consider pumpkins a fruit—play an important role in American fall traditions. Halloween is no more complete without a gutted and carved Jack-O-Lantern than Thanksgiving is without a pumpkin pie.

Some countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, use the term pumpkin to refer to the broad category of winter squash but here it typically means the large orange, round or oblong fruit, although we can find them in an endless variety of shapes and colors.

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It’s estimated that 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in the U.S. every year. Illinois is by far the top state for pumpkin production, raising 90-95% of them, mostly for Libby, a division of the Nestle Company. California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan grow most of the remainder.

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Pumpkins typically range in size from less than one pound all the way up to more than 1,000! They are native to North America. Most pumpkins are grown for eating and can be boiled, baked, steamed, pureed, or roasted. They are a good source of Vitamin A. The seeds are often roasted and salted as well.

The tradition of carving pumpkins is thought to have been brought from Great Britain and Ireland where they carved many different types of fruits and vegetables. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s when it is recorded that they were used as lanterns. Catholic children are said to have carved turnips to represent a face, placed a candle inside them, and walked door-to-door begging for soul cakes on the eve of All Saints and All Souls in honor of deceased loved ones.

(Information gathered from mayoclinic.com, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Wikipedia.)

(Photo of my niece, Kelly, with a giant pumpkin, taken by a friend.)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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