Cookie Diet and Exercise Program Friday, Dec 18 2015 

DSCN3249

I’ve been on a cookie diet. Since the middle of November, I’ve baked and eaten cookies day and night. I use only the finest ingredients—hormone-free butter, unbleached flour, organic eggs, fresh nuts, and—lots of chocolate.

Everyone has their favorites. I try to make them all and test frequently to ensure top-quality. The cookie sheets haven’t been put away in weeks. Double-dipped, shortbread, spritz with white chocolate, chocolate covered chocolate, sesame seed, candy cane, almond, pizzelles, and white and semi-sweet chocolate chip. There are many more I have yet to make.

There’s a considerable amount time and fine ingredients in these cookies. And all that mixing and lifting of heavy cookie trays takes a lot of energy, so I know I’m burning more calories than taking in. Right? I ask you, can this program be wrong?

So many cookies. So little time.

***

Here’s Grandma Roses “S” Cookie recipe, a family favorite. It’s a fragile cookie, and a little tricky to make, but melts in your mouth.

Grandma Rose’s “S” Cookies
2 Sticks Sweet Cream Unsalted Butter (I use 1 1/2 sticks butter and 1/2 stick margarine for a little firmer cookie.)
¼ Cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1 Egg Yolk

Mix ingredients. Mold into “S” shapes. Bake at 325 until set(not brown). Remove from oven. Cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar until fully coated.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Peace in 2015 Sunday, Dec 28 2014 

DSCN0916As 2014 fades away, we look to the new year with optimism and anticipation. Whatever was good about the past, we hope it continues. Whatever was difficult, we pray is left behind.

Some of this is in our control, which is why we make New Year’s resolutions. The custom of assessing our financial, emotional, and physical health at the onset of a new year, and making plans to improve them, is our opportunity to begin anew. Some say there is no reason to make promises that will not be kept. But however long we follow our resolutions, at least we turn things around for a few months. We lose a few of our holiday pounds on our new diet, get a little stronger with an exercise program, and spend a little less money, slightly easing the credit card gift charges we made over the holidays.

In addition to the typical resolutions, perhaps in 2015 we might consider ones that promote a kinder, more peaceful world. We don’t have to do much to make a difference. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food kitchen
  • Donate gently or never used items
  • Avoid all books, movies, and online activities that include violence, cruelty, or profanity
  • Visit museums
  • Attend cultural events
  • Surround ourselves with gentle, loving people
  • Attend church services
  • Don’t participate in gossip in the workplace
  • Give thanks daily for what we do have
  • Clean the clutter out of our home
  • Smile at strangers
  • Think positively
  • Treat others respectfully
  • Check on elderly neighbors
  • Read inspirational books
  • Pray for peace
  • Try to be more patient
  • Avoid worrying about things that are not in our control

©2014 Mary K. Doyle

Pack a Basket Friday, Aug 15 2014 

Some of the most romantic paintings visible at the Art Institute of Chicago depict picnic scenes without any wind, rain, humidity, or insects to interfere with a perfect day.

From the time I was a child until only about five years ago, my very large extended family gathered for an annual picnic. Around 50 relatives—aunts and uncles, first, second, and third cousins, parents and siblings—gathered to share food, games, and stories. It was all love and fun until the water toss. Then we became a family divided with every man for himself.

The word “picnic” (pique-nique) was seen for the first time in print in the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Orignines de la Langue Francaise. The word was used to describe a group of people who brought their own wine to a restaurant. It signified everyone contributing toward a meal.

Picnicking became popular after the French Revolution when royal parks were once again opened to the public. From then on, throughout the centuries people have enjoyed a day outdoors and a humble meal brought in a towel or nestled in a basket.

Today’s picnic basket usually consists of a cooler, which is much safer alternative to keeping foods fresh. A few other food-safety precautions include: taking only the amount of food you think you will use, separating raw and cooked foods, keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot, carrying extra water and disposable wipes for clean-ups, and disposing leftovers at the end of the picnic. It isn’t likely the remains will be uncontaminated or bug-free.

The food and activities set the tone of the day. Enjoy a simple meal of peanut butter and jelly or one as sophisticated as caviar and toast points. Fish, toss a Frisbee or ball, play croquet, or lay on the grass and relax to your favorite music.

Don’t let the season pass without packing a lunch and setting out for a park or beach. Shared with friends, family, or a special someone, these are the things that memories are made of.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Don’t Ask for Ketchup on That Dog Friday, Jul 18 2014 

The crack of a baseball bat and aroma of hot dogs heaped in condiments signal summer is here in full swing. And the two often go hand-in-hand.

Many a summer festivity, picnic, barbecue, and baseball game include hot dogs. It’s estimated that more than 7 billion hot dogs will be consumed this summer in the U.S. Americans eat about 60 dogs a year.

The creation of the hot dog is debated but the name is thought to have originated in Germany in the mid to late 1800s where it wasn’t uncommon to consume dog meat. Sometimes they also are called franks, after Frankfurt, Germany.

Today hot dogs are cooked sausages typically made from pork and/or beef, fillers, flavorings, and preservatives. The filling is encased in small intestines of sheep or sold without any skin.

Their more nutritious, but not so delectable, cousins may be made from chicken, turkey, or vegetarian ingredients. They may also be gluten-free, preservative-free, or organic.

Hot dogs can be grilled, steamed, fried, broiled, or microwaved. They are pre-cooked but should be served warm to avoid Listeria bacteria. My favorite dogs are Hebrew National 100% all natural kosher beef. They are tasty and relatively healthy.

Hot dogs can be topped with mustard, ketchup, onions, mayonnaise, relish, cheese, chili, or sauerkraut, but beware where you make your garnish selection. Areas and baseball parks, such as Coney Island and Fenway Park, offer their specialties with signature flavorings and toppings. In some areas of the country the dogateur will be highly offended if you request toppings outside the local cuisine.

The traditional serving in Chicago is a Vienna beef hot dog topped with mustard, chopped onions, sport peppers, fresh sliced tomatoes, a pickle, and a sprinkle of celery salt. One last important touch is that the delicacy be served in a poppy-seed bun.  You don’t want to frustrate a vendor in Chicago by asking for ketchup. It you really want it, you might ask them for ketchup on the side for your fries.

For a twist on tradition, order a corn dog, which is dipped in corn batter and deep-fried. Enjoy a plain hot dogged chopped in some baked beans or a mini-hot dog wrapped in bread dough and served as an hors d’oeuvres.

Nathan’s Hot Dogs holds an annual hot dog eating contest every July 4th. This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, proposed to his girlfriend before chowing down 61 franks and buns.

Hopefully, the young man does not practice every day. Although delicious, the tasty treat is not recommended as a daily diet. The American Institute for Cancer Research states that consuming one hot dog or serving of processed meat every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 20%. Hot dogs also are high in sodium, fat, and nitrites. In addition, hot dogs pose a choking risk in young children. The suggestion is to cut them into small pieces to reduce the risk.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

More than a Meal Tuesday, Jun 3 2014 

DSCN4599

My daughters, Lisa and Erin, took me overnight to the quaint, little town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to celebrate my big birthday. Since I am still recovering from pneumonia, we kept things fairly low-keyed. We spent the day relaxing at the pool and then went to The Baker House for dinner.

 DSCN4608

DSCN4611

Although the 17,000 square foot, 30-room Queen Anne Mansion was built in 1885, the decor is 1920s. Rich, dark woods, copper ceilings, and antique light fixtures adorn the opulent home.

 DSCN4609

DSCN4614

DSCN4628

The wait staff and some of the diners can be seen wearing period clothing. Guests are welcome and encouraged to don the vintage hats that hang on the walls.

 DSCN4602

Pre-prohibition cocktails and a limited but delicious menu is available. We had cheese fondue for an appetizer. Both of my daughters had pork tenderloin and potatoes, and I had honey mustard salmon with wild rice for dinner. Our waitress brought raspberry parfait for my birthday and we also ordered crème Brule. We were not disappointed. The food and atmosphere were so much more fun than an ordinary restaurant.

 DSCN4620

The Baker House is listed in the National Register of Historic places under its original name, Redwood Cottage. The lakefront home was built by Emily Baker as a summer escape for her and her five children. It was later a sanitarium for wealthy Chicagoans suffering from minor emotional disorders and addictions, a speakeasy during prohibition, and a hotel and restaurant with various owners. The current owners purchased the home in 2010 and renamed it after Emily Baker. They consider it their residence as well as a hotel and restaurant.

The Baker House is located at 327 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva. http://www.bakerhouse1885.com, 262-248-4700.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Shop the World Monday, Mar 17 2014 

In the middle of a major sewing project, my sewing machine’s light bulb went out. To you non-sewers, this might not sound like a big deal, but it is when you need that light to continue. I have a 40-year-plus-old Singer machine, so finding the correct bulb could have been a challenge. Fortunately, I drove a couple of miles down the road to a fabric store that carried the correct bulb and was back to work in an hour. Had I ordered one online I would have waited days to continue my project.

Living close to all of the major department stores as well as quaint boutiques offers a lot of shopping opportunities. Most of us enjoy a leisure day at the mall where we can see and touch items before purchasing. My guess is that there are fewer returns when we shop this way because it is clearer as to what we are getting. And if we don’t want our local shops to close, we need to frequent them and make purchases there so they can afford to remain open.

However, there is no doubt that online shopping has its perks. The ease and simplicity of shopping on tablets and smart phones is fun in a different way than in person. We can compare prices across a wider variety of items while comfortably in our jammies, if we so wish, avoiding crowds and saving gas and taxes. We also have those online reviews to help us make the best choices.

But those benefits don’t come without precautions. Here are a few steps to keep the experience safe and prevent costing us more than the price of our purchase:

  • Use familiar websites.
  • Look for the lock. That little icon of a locked padlock indicates a SSL(secure sockets layer) encryption.
  • Check the address. Secure sites start with HTTPS:// (not HTTP://)
  • Never email credit card information.
  • Never give your social security number.
  • Check your credit card statements throughout the month.
  • Keep your computer security up-to-date.
  • Never turn off your firewall.
  • Encrypt your home wireless connection.
  • Use strong passwords. Microsoft recommends 14 characters using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Use different passwords.
  • Don’t put an unknown flash or thumb drive into your computer.
  • Hold down the SHIFT key when you insert a drive into your computer.
  • Think carefully before opening attachments or suspicious emails such as ones that say they are from ATT or Yahoo and instruct you to click to update but do not address you by name.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Cozy Up with Caution Saturday, Mar 1 2014 

One of the benefits of this long, cold winter is plenty of opportunities to enjoy evenings by the fireplace or wood-burning stove. Between the warmth, earthy smell of smoke, and hypnotic dance of the flames, controlled fires set a relaxing and romantic atmosphere.

But there are some very important precautions to remember when using home fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. First of all, we should never burn household garbage, cardboard, plastics, magazines, or wood that is painted, rotted, diseased, or moldy. Nor should we burn pressure-treated logs or ones made from wax and sawdust. These logs produce harmful chemicals when burned and may damage wood-burning appliances. It’s also extremely dangerous to start fires with gasoline, kerosene, or charcoal starter.

The type of wood we burn also is important to consider. Some of the hardest woods, which include ironwood, rock elm, hickory, oak, and sugar maple, are longer burning. Firewood should be split into pieces no larger than six inches in diameter and safely stacked and covered. It also needs to be stored at least six months to dry for efficient burning. Properly seasoned wood is darker, has cracks in the end grain, and sounds hollow when smacked against another piece of wood.

Keep the doors of your wood-burning appliance closed unless loading or stoking the fire. Harmful chemicals, like carbon monoxide, can be released. Every home—especially those with wood burning stoves and fireplaces—need fire extinguishers, working smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors. Ashes from your wood-burning appliance must be removed regularly.

If smoke is coming out of your chimney either the wood is too wet or there is a problem with the furnace that needs to be checked immediately. Smoke consists of a mixture of gases, harmful particles, and toxic pollutants that can get into your eyes and respiratory system causing burning eyes, runny nose, illnesses such as bronchitis, and even early death. Expectant mothers, children, the elderly, and people with lung and heart disease are especially susceptible.

Although stoves and fireplaces manufactured after 1990 are 50% more efficient and result in less creosote build-up in chimneys than previous ones, new or old, wood-burning or gas, fireplaces generally are an inefficient way of heating the home, according to the EPA. The draft from the fireplace draws the warm air right up the chimney. They also cause the heater in homes with central air to work harder to maintain the temperature throughout the rest of the house.

Efficiency and dangers aside, these warnings are not to deter anyone from enjoying their fire. A healthy respect for the element and a few common sense precautions can keep everyone safe and cozy.

(Information gathered from the EPA – United States Environmental Protection Agency – Website)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Being a Part of the Magic Tuesday, Jan 14 2014 

This past weekend, my husband and I attended the 3rd annual Believe in Magic show presented by the National Association of Downs Syndrome. The entertaining and heartwarming show included a number of area magicians, a ventriloquist, and a face painter.

Magician Paul Lee organizes and hosts the annual show in honor of his niece, Teagan, who he magically introduced on stage. His protégé, Trent Rivas, a young man with severe cognitive challenges, also made Paul proud with his presentation of the Zombie Ball. And several other young people with special needs assisted throughout the show.

Believe in Magic and other shows, such as Jackie’s Magic that benefits a local county food bank, raise a financial total and level of awareness significantly greater than if the participants simply donate a monetary contribution. It’s a way of tithing with unique God-given abilities and gifts, time, and energy that promotes a heart-to-heart connection with the audience.

Most people don’t have the ability to produce an event such as Believe in Magic, but we all can contribute in some way. Showing up is vital. Without our attendance, no show would matter. We also can offer volunteer hours to organizations and individuals in need, donate financially, and most importantly, make a point of understanding the needs of others.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

When In Doubt, Throw It Out Monday, Aug 26 2013 

The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (48 million) get sick from food borne diseases. Of those people, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. With the upcoming holiday it is a good time to think about proper food handling. We need to be especially vigilant when serving outdoors where it is more challenging to keep surfaces clean and food at proper temperatures.

Food poisoning, or food-borne illness, is caused by eating contaminated food. The most common offending organisms include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Food can be contaminated at any point by several means. Meat and poultry contamination occurs during processing if animal feces contact the meat surfaces. Home and commercial canned foods may be improperly canned. Produce and shellfish can be contaminated from soil or water. A food may not be fresh and already spoiling before preparation.

And everything depends on the cleanliness and health of the food handlers and how the foods are served. Meats, gravies, and salads may be perfect until serving when dishes are not kept hot or cold enough.

We’ve all experienced occasions when one or more of a group becomes ill from a food but others do not. Food-borne illness depends on the organism, the amount of exposure, and your age and present health. Infants and young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases are more susceptible.

Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms can start soon after eating or days later. For example bad oysters may not make you ill for up to a week after consumption. Most often, symptoms improve on their own without treatment but they can last as long as ten days.

It’s time to call the doctor when you have a fever of more than 101.5, there is blood in the stools, weakness, diarrhea longer than 72 hours, difficulty speaking, or trouble standing.

If you are uncertain if food is contaminated or not, it is best to toss it. It isn’t worth the risk of becoming ill.

For more information go to mayoclinic.com or call the American Association of Poison Control Centers  1-800-222-1222.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Top 10 Ways You Know You Are a Magician’s Wife Monday, Aug 19 2013 

B-96

B-123(Notice all the blades through the box? I’m still in there.)

You may know that I am married to magician Marshall Brodien. Marshall is the creator of TV Magic Cards and Marshall Brodien magic sets. He also played the clown/wizard character Wizzo for 26 years on WGN TV’s Bozo Circus Show.

In our 18 years of marriage, I’ve entertained a steady stream of guests here to see Marshall and his magic, assisted Marshall on stage a couple of dozen times, and have attended countless magic conventions with him. All this magic got me thinking about how it’s influenced me. Here are my top ten ways.

***

Mary Doyle Brodien’s Top 10 Ways You Know You are a Magician’s Wife

You know you are a magician’s wife when:

10. There is a magic museum in your home

9. Your ceilings are decorated with playing cards

8. You act surprised when you see the same trick for the hundredth time

7. You are shopping and notice clothes that would look good on stage

6. You discuss eyeliner and face powders for reducing shine with groups of men

5. Everyone in your household, including the family hamster, is part of the act

4. A romantic dinner out includes disappearing salt shakers and card tricks for the wait staff

3. You’re not opposed to your husband coming at you with swords

2. You look at a box and wonder if you could fit in it

And the number one way you know you are a magician’s wife –

You don’t consider it abusive if your husband ties you up, stuffs you into a cloth bag, and locks you in a crate.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

(Photos by Stephanie Maurie)

Next Page »

%d bloggers like this: