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Salads for Health

I have a confession to make…vegetables are something I can do without. I’m all about eating healthy, but that doesn’t mean I can just pull a carrot out of the fridge, start munching on it and declare that that was the best thing I’ve eaten all day. Quite the contrary. I have to force mysef to eat them uncooked, with no seasoning.

Fruits, on the other hand, I will eat and eat with great relish. Same with sweets, but I won’t go there. I’m trying to forget about sweets. I was doing good until I got a text telling me my white chocolate raspberry cheesecake was ready to be picked up. It’s been taunting me from the freezer; calling me to indulge.

But back to vegetables. The only two things I can think of as to why I don’t relish veggies are that, well, it’s obvious I have quite a sweet tooth, but there’s another reason that I believe makes more sense; I was raised on homegrown vegetables.

Robust tomatoes bursting with flavor and juice; sweet corn-on-the-cob that’s so delicious, you can eat it raw; yummy okra that’s so tender and flavorful you can’t help but grab a handful and much on it right in the garden. And on I can go.

Supermarket veggies just don’t cut it. Pale, almost juice-less tomatoes are nowhere near the flavor of the ones I remember. It is with steely determination that I eat a slice, chewing it as quickly as possible so that I can get the torment over and be able to declare I ate some fresh veggies for that day. The same for cucumbers. They’re usually tasteless or there is a bitterness that leaves an aftertaste in the mouth.

But this leaves me with a quandary because I know I should eat fresh veggies everyday.

Thank goodness for smoothies and salads, oh, and wraps. But today, I’m going to focus on salads and share four of my favorite I’ve recently discovered. Well, one I’ve known about for a while, thanks to Olive Garden.

The first salad is one I randomly created. If it’s a replica of an actual salad idea floating around out there, it was purely unintentional.

I was thinking one day, about how to incorporate more fresh into my diet that would also not be time consuming. Various ideas came to mind, including a mixed greens salad with dried cranberries, raw pecans or walnuts, feta cheese and topped with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The final result? Well, let’s just say; I’ve been eating it almost everyday.

This next salad is one that my daughter told me about. I was bit skeptical at first, but discovered it really is as good as she said it was. The greens base is baby spinach, then top with sliced strawberries and drizzled with Brianna’s Home style Poppy Seed dressing. I added some feta cheese and raw, chopped pecans and, wow, it is amazing!

The next one is an inspiration from Olive Garden, the classic Caesar salad. We had iceberg lettuce as the base, sliced red onions, feta cheese, banana pepper slices and croutons, topped with Olive Garden’s signature Caesar salad dressing that you can find at any grocery store. We didn’t do this, though I probably will the next time, but you can add tomatoes as well. This is my son’s favorite salad out of all that I prepare.

The last salad that I’m going to share is one I discovered in a cookbook. This cookbook has lots of healthy, vegan recipes. I highly recommend it.

The salad is another spinach salad, only with mandarin oranges. Following is a picture of the salad and the recipe.

Oftentimes, I will prepare a standard salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, cucumber slices, and croutons, all topped with a homemade ranch dressing. To be vegan, this ranch dressing tastes pretty close to the real thing, especially if you use Vegenaise as the base, which you can find at health food stores.

And there you go; my go-to for healthy, delicious ways to eat my veggies.

I also love how much salads save me time, which is quite limited. Just a little chopping and it’s ready.

Drop a line or two in the comments and share what your favorite salads are. I’d love to try something new!


Time to Say Goodbye-The Joys of a Daughter

It is blog post writing time and I feel as though there is nothing to share…or, maybe it is a lack of motivation brought on by having to say goodbye to my daughter today. I won’t see her for another month and, well, that’s kind of hard. Okay, a lot hard. I know, it’s only a month…still though…

Of my two, she is the one who drives me crazy the fastest and yet endears herself to me so stinking hard. Oh, I love my son just as much; it’s just that he is different. Mr. Slow and Steady, he’s content to be to himself, doesn’t like a lot of change and prefers the same day-to-day schedule. I am a lot like him and together, we enjoy the peace and companionship of one another. She comes along and, like a hurricane, disrupts the continuity of the quiet life her brother and I have established,

For me, that’s a good thing, even if I don’t feel it is. Often, my son and I are too set in our routine and become too introverted. She shakes me out of that routine and it’s like the breath of fresh air I didn’t realize I needed. We go out to eat; we talk for hours about anything and everything; we make random trips to the grocery store, buy food we rarely get or have never tried and then have a blast discussing what we’re eating; we play pickle-ball, throw a Frisbee, take impromptu drives and sing along to our favorite music. It’s like time stands still and we enjoy those moments we have together.

But it’s not always like that. She is an intense person who sets high standards for herself and those around her and that has often been a source of conflict for us. I tend to be a lot more laid-back, which drives her crazy; she critiques, quite often, what or how I do or say things, which drives me bonkers. Yet, I love her for it; though I haven’t always had happy feelings about this part of her personality and have made plenty of parenting mistakes.

I wanted to make sure she learned to respect her elders but, oftentimes, my own approach was irritating and put her on the defense.

I am slowly learning, though, that for her, it is important she feels she is making a difference in the lives of those close to her. There is satisfaction and a sense of purpose when she sees someone benefited through the knowledge she shares. While sometimes I still have to guide her through the appropriate ways of giving advice, I love the leadership qualities I see developing in her. It has made me realize that we as parents can sometimes learn a few things from our teenagers. No one will be quite so honest and forthright as the ones closest to us, that’s for sure!

As I drove away earlier today, my eyes became wet and I felt sadness in my heart with the thought of her going in the opposite direction, but I hold her close each and every day.

And I thank God for my fiery, sweet girl who makes life all the more fulfilling!

Andrea Bocelli-“Con te Portiro” (Time to Say Goodbye)

Last Minute Winter

I grew up in the southeastern portion of the United States, but I’m still often taken by surprise at how much our weather can fluctuate. Earlier last week, we had temperatures near eighty degrees; yesterday, we had high’s in the low thirties and about 2-3 inches of snow. This morning it was nineteen degrees. And what about this next week? Well, we’re back up into the seventies by Thursday.

Yesterday’s snow was actually the first we have had this winter. It’s as if winter has been slumbering, then was suddenly awakened and realized it hadn’t been doing it’s job, so it decided to throw down some last minute snow. While a minor inconvenience (like having to drag the coat out after wearing short-sleeves and shorts earlier this week), it was quite nice to have something a little different. Not to mention, it was beautiful!

Bluebird house
Peach tree blossoms
Tulip poplar blossoms
Love the brilliance of the sun shining through the trees, casting shadows and light on the snow.

I enjoyed it while we had it but I have to admit, I’m looking forward to the return of warm weather. I have great admiration for those of you who have snow as your constant winter companion and enjoy it, but I certainly don’t envy you!

Have a blessed week!

Buddy and Mr. Skunk

The following short story is a blast from the past about a brindle pit bulldog that we grew to love.

He was quite intimidating with his two bottom canines protruding above his upper lip and growling as though he wanted to rip an arm or leg off. I unbuckled my daughter from her car seat and helped her down to the ground only to have her start wailing and clinging to my leg. I tried to assure her that the dog wasn’t going to hurt her but, deep down inside I too, was very nervous. He paced back-and-forth warily as I shut the van doors and shepherded both kids close to me. A gray-headed lady appeared from the house across the drive and fussed at the dog.

“Stop growling, Buddy. They’re not going to hurt you,”. She looked at me and then down at my wide-eyed children. Grimacing, she pulled a key out of her pocket and proceeded to unlock the door to the apartment I was there to look at. As short little legs and myself slowly climbed the steep stairs, Buddy and Camby, a honey-and- white-colored Corgi, bounded up them, nearly knocking my daughter over and sending her into another crying spell. Buddy growled, clearly not liking the shrill little-girl voice, which then elicited another command to be quiet from his no-nonsense owner. He obeyed, but kept his distance and his eye on these three strangers who had dared to invade his territory.

We decided on that rental, a barn-style apartment situated on twenty-one acres of wooded land. For the first couple of months, my daughter refused to go outside unless if either her brother or myself was out there with her. She was so sure that black dog was going to hurt her. No amount of coaxing could convince her otherwise.

One day, while busily washing dishes, it dawned on me that it was pretty quiet in the house. I wandered into the kid’s room and saw my son, but there was no sign of his sister.

“Where’s Sedona?” I asked.

“She’s outside, petting Buddy,” William replied. I could hardly believe my ears. I went over to the window that overlooked the driveway and, sure enough, right by the flowerbed stood my daughter and Buddy. He was in doggy bliss. His eyes were closed, his tail relaxed and hanging low. She was talking quietly to him as she scratched his ears, neck and down his back. I stood there a moment, soaking in the precious bonding moment before heading out to join them.

From that point on, we all became best friends with Buddy, who truly lived up to his name. Whenever the kids were outside, I could count on him to be close by, watchful and gentle.

But there was one thing about Buddy that took some getting used to-he stunk. It was a mix of doggy smell and soured puke that, after petting him, made you feel like you needed a whole body shower. Ms. Fuller tried everything, from baths to pills, but nothing would alleviate the stench.

Apparently, he didn’t like the smell of himself either and preferred the scent of eau-de-skunk, for he was perpetually annoying the little creatures whenever he saw them. It didn’t matter how many times he had been sprayed- which was a lot while we lived there- he could never let one of the annoying creatures waltz by without bullying it.

Unfortunately, he decided to do just that on one cool, spring morning. He and I had a habit of walking every morning at five-thirty. Our ritual went something like this-I would go over to the white garage doors at the end of Ms. Fuller’s large, brick home. One door she kept partially open so that Buddy could come and go as he pleased. It was to this opening I would come, bend down and softly call, “Buddy”. In a few short moments, I would hear the “tinkle, tinkle, tinkle” of the metal identification tag attached to his collar. He would press his body down as low as possible and wiggle out from beneath the garage door. Down the paved drive we would go and then out onto the gravel road, surrounded by darkness, the sound of gravel crunching beneath my shoes and the tinkling of his collar. By the time we had retraced our steps to the paved drive, the sun would just be starting to think about rising.

On this particular morning, Buddy and I had just arrived back at the paved drive. Heavy fog and semi-darkness exposed the silhouettes of the objects around us. Buddy happily trotted along, his tag clink-clanking rhythmically. Lost in my thoughts, it took a moment to register that the cadence of the clinking was increasing and he was no longer by my side. There he was, making a beeline for some object, without hesitation. I strained to see through the low, dense fog at what could be so intriguing. It didn’t take long for it to register what had caught his attention.

The small cat-like creature with it’s triangular head and bushy tail was standing perfectly still, facing Buddy as he barreled across the grass. With his tail straight up, Mr. Skunk was ready to let loose the yellow, smelly liquid, but Buddy paid no heed. As he continued on his trajectory, my thinking went through a rapid volley of circumstantial potentials. I opted to run, and fast! Maybe, I reasoned, if I ran fast enough, I could get out of there before any of the stench permeated my clothing or clung to my skin. So, I did just that. With all my might, I pushed my forty-two-year-old body into a full-on sprint and then ran fast and furiously, at least as fast as the old bones would let me. I congratulated myself on being quick-thinking and began slowing the pace. But the rapid clinking of Buddy’s tag urged me to pick up the pace once more. Why in the world I thought I could outrun a dog is beyond me, but at the time, I figured if I could just stay ahead of him, then maybe, just maybe I could still avoid the smell. Of course, he soon passed me and I slowed to a fast walk as the aroma of eau-de-skunk wafted back to me. I slowly walked the rest of the way back up the hill toward the house, scowling at Buddy as he stood there, panting and smiling his doggy smile with his tongue lolling to the side.

I opened the door, stepped inside and sniffed deeply. There was not a hint of the skunk smell! I smiled, pleased that I’d had the foresight to bust out of there quickly. My fears of having to join Buddy in his dirty, stinky corner of Ms. Fuller’s garage were put to rest. I cheerfully bounded up the steps, walked over to William’s bedroom door and opened it.

“Good morning, William!” I said, my smile reaching from one ear to the other. William stared at me, wide-eyed.

“What IS that smell, momma?! You stink!!”. He grabbed hold of his nose and waved his hand at me. Visions of Buddy and I snuggled up on his well-worn, flea-infested bed danced through my head as I dejectedly shut the door and headed for the shower. That dog! If only Buddy hadn’t gotten skunked!

Images: Pixaby on Pexels

Homemade Wheat Bread

There’s nothing like the aroma of bread baking. The smell wafts into every nook and corner, rendering anyone helpless to resist the fragrance of comfort.

Breadmaking used to be a weekly ritual when the kids were little. Anticipation was high, waiting for the golden loaves to be taken out of the oven so that buttered slices could be devoured. But the kids especially enjoyed helping make cinnamon rolls. Each would take his or her turn with the rolling pin and work the dough untill it was a large, flattened circle. Next, they would help me spread the butter, then sprinkle on the brown sugar and lastly, top it all off with cinnamon. I would then roll the dough and slice it, placing each pinwheel-shaped roll onto the pan.

Cinnamon Rolls
A Golden Loaf of Bread

We all enjoyed breadmaking day, especially me. Being one who likes to feel the dough in my hands, there was satisfaction in kneading it and feeling the changes as the dough transformed from a sticky mass to an elastic, smooth ball.

I miss those breadmaking days. Now, life is too busy for me to dedicate the time breadmaking demands. But recently, thanks to my medical leave, I was able to make bread again and, oh, how fun and wonderful it was!

Whether you have a bread machine or, like me, prefer to make it by hand, this simple recipe will work well.

Wheat Bread

  • 4 cups white flour
  • 4 cups wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Active Dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Mix white and wheat flour with salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

Combine hot water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Cover with Saran wrap and let sit until very foamy and bubbly

Yeast activated!

Stir olive oil into liquid and then add flour. Mix with a sturdy spoon until well-combined and you can easily pick up the dough. Place dough on a floured surface. At this point, I divide the dough equally into two balls. This makes it much easier to knead. Have some flour on hand to add to the dough, if too sticky. Begin kneading and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. It shouldn’t stick to your hands, but it should be easy to manipulate, not stiff and dry. If too stiff, add a little bit of water in small increments. Once dough is smooth and elastic, place in a bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in size.

Just after kneading. I put both dough balls in the same bowl, spraying the top of dough ball on bottom so that they don’t stick.
Doubled in size!

Once doubled, remove dough from bowl and knead, once more, on a lightly floured surface.

How to knead bread

Usually, I knead each for about five minutes; you want the elastic, smooth consistency. At this point, you are ready to form into loaves.

Place in oiled bread pans and let rise until doubled. The dough should rise above the bread pan edges, but not be spilling over. While rising, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once risen, carefully slide bread into preheated oven and bake until golden brown, which is about 45 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack, then slice, spread a little butter on it and you’ll never want to buy store-bought bread ever again.! Enjoy!

Autumn on the Water

Cool breezes over me flow;
Choppy waves dance below.
I sit in a bright blue cradle, floating
Free as the heron soaring.

Hillsides glow with autumn fire,
Leaves of red, yellow, orange, to the spire.
Soon they will fall,
Revealing bony fingers reaching tall.

I am in autumn’s lee;
What has will never again be.
What will is still ahead;
A mystery, a thrill, a curiosity to be fed.

Paddle slicing dancing jeweled waves,
Keel turning-gentle and brave.
Sunfish rises from depths below
And splashes a hello.

To his hello, À la prochaine;
Goodbye to the water, the heron;
To the moment that was mine,
And onward to what is more than just fine.

Discovering Love

Today is Valentine’s Day in America. For some, there is great anticipation in giving the one they love that special gift and card; for others, it is a hurtful reminder that the one they loved is no longer by their side. Others see Valentine’s Day, along with the long string of other holidays, as a money-making scheme. Maybe the latter are not too far off because, according to a February 2020 article in globalEDGE, consumers were expected to add $27.4 billion to the economy. That’s a lot of money for just a 24-hour period of time.

Despite the outpouring of money on Valentine’s, I would guess that each of us know of one couple in our sphere who have experienced a broken relationship. Yet one site I visited stated that divorce rates have been on the decline since 1970, according to CDC data, though the author contends that gathering such data is quite complicated and the fact that cohabitation is on the rise has to be accounted for, as well. Whatever the statistics, just listening to those around me has indicated that there is confusion about love.

I know for me, my younger self struggled to understand what love looked like.The attention of a young man was flattering; the feeling of butterflies felt strangely good and made me feel better about myself. Without realizing it, I had equated having a man’s attention as being love and and I allowed that attention to determinine the value of my self-worth. It was not a recipe for success. As I grappled with the pain of not feeling good enough in my marriage, I slowly began to realize I had had it all backwards.

After years of prayers and tears, it slowly began to dawn on me that my self-worth lay in the fact that God had created and loved me, rather than in the approval of people. As I grew to see more and more of how He was providing, and had provided, for all my needs-spiritual, physical, and emotional- the old tendencies of looking to others for affirmation began to slip away. Love began to take on a new meaning for me. It was no longer about acceptance and attention but about being at rest with the one you love. I learned to rest in God’s presence and discovered through His acceptance of me, my own acceptance of myself. I now had no need for someone to fill an empty void because I had allowed God to be in His rightful place in my life. I was finally comfortable with who I was and in being single for the rest of my life.

With that being said, we all long for a companion and certainly there is nothing wrong with that! But, oh, how much richer the relationship is when one’s heart has the proper priorities in place! The joy, peace, and calm assurance that results from God’s given order, brings healing to the heart rather than pain. That’s not to say there will never be conflicts and challenging times; the one we love will disappoint us at some point, but how much less likely each will be to cast arrows and intentionally hurt the other.

As you enjoy your Valentine celebrations, I pray that you will especially bask in the love of the One who created you and calls you His own!

Oh, and here are some fun science facts about falling in love. Enjoy!

Images: Pixabay on Pexels

The Exploding Thermos

Thick, slimy, green goo clung to the ceiling, with an occasional drop succumbing to gravity and landing into the sink below with a moist plop. Green splatters plastered the kitchen window, nearby cabinets and floor. A sweet, slightly fermented smell reached my nostrils as I walked into the kitchen; my stomach recoiled at the sight.

Moments before, I had tried opening a thermos containing a spinach and berry smoothie that I had stuck in the fridge several days ago and then set in the sink the day before. I twisted the lid with all my strength, but it wouldn’t budge. I contemplated banging a knife along the lid edge, but decided against it.

“I’ll have William take it off tomorrow,” I mused, setting the thermos back into the sink and limping my way to the bathroom.

I had no sooner picked up my toothbrush when a most peculiar sound echoed throughout the house-the whoosh of air, a loud bang, then…silence. Immediately, my mind went to Hobbs. I envisioned him climbing my new curtains only to have the whole thing come crashing down, including the curtain rod, leaving gaping holes where the screws used to be. With that picture in mind, I limped toward the kitchen yelling, “Hobbes! What have you done now!”.

Scanning the kitchen floor, my eyes immediately found Hobbes who was innocently sitting by the trash can, sporting a matching look of surprise. I still considered him guilty and began making my way toward him, but the plop and sickening sweet smell distracted me. I slowly turned my gaze from Hobbes to the sink area. An explosive splatter of chartreuse goo greeted me; in only a matter of seconds I made the connection. Inadvertently, I had created my own chemistry experiment and set off a bomb.

Each moist plop made me cringe with disgust and, inwardly, I groaned. It was almost ten o’clock and cleaning up green, nasty goo was the last thing I wanted to do after a tiring day of driving, but it had to be done or I would be scraping this stuff off.

As I dragged a chair over, I made a mental note to pick up a step ladder some time in the near future and suppressed images of my falling off the thing and acquiring an additional broken bone. Carefully I stood on the chair, reached up to the ceiling and began wiping. Actually, it was more like smearing. Green slime coated the dishcloth and a residual thick film stubbornly clung to the ceiling.

I wiped, rinsed, wiped, rinsed and wiped some more until every trace of chartreuse slime was eradicated. I then turned my attention to the sink.

The culprit was filled with frothy, bubbling green slime overflowing the sides; it’s lid lying close by, the catapulted victim of fermented plant gas. I can only imagine how epic it would have been to see the explosion in action.

Excitement over and the kitchen once more clean, I shooed Hobbes out of the chair and slid it over to it’s place at the table. As I did so, a memory of another self-perpetuated explosion came out of the depths and I chuckled to myself. I am the queen of incidents and accidents. Along the way, I’ve had to learn to laugh at myself and not take the mishaps so seriously.

And who doesn’t love a moment to laugh when all else around us is so trying?

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones”- Proverbs 17:22

A Second Chance

For the past three weeks I have been banned from working and I can’t exactly say I was devastated when the podiatrist gave me the news. Instead, my mind began swirling with the decisions I’d been wanting to make about writing that this time would allow me the opportunity to do.

You see, the work I do to pay my bills is not my dream job, by far. Instead of doing the hard task in high school of narrowing down my interest of writing to career possibilities I, instead, daydreamed my way through high school about the man who would sweep me off my feet, marry me and we would happily raise a family together. End of story.

Here I am, thirty-two years later and, while I did get married and have two kids, it certainly wasn’t happily-ever-after. I went back to the company I had worked at before kids and almost four years later, here I am, a production technician which is a nicely-packaged way of saying production worker. Day-in, day-out, the same repetitive work that is both boring and liberating. At times, I feel like a caged animal, pacing back-and-forth, maddened by the possibilities on the outside; possibilities I could have explored when I was younger.

Yet, at the same time, it is liberating because quite often, I can mindlessly focus on the task at hand, thus rendering my mind free to roam.

But even that comes at a price. While my mind creates and dreams, the caged feelings intensify because of lack of time to actually pursue what is swirling in my head. As time continued, work began feeling quite constrictive, exhausting and mind-numbingly boring. I desperately felt the need for a break, a break to think and act.

Thus when the doctor gave me the news, I hardly knew what to think about having so much time. But I did know one thing, I didn’t want to waste these three weeks. In desperation, I prayed for God to show me which direction to take my writing-Copywriting? A writing degree? Book writing? Blogging?

As always, He didn’t fail me. As one day passed, then two, the desperation I felt increased. Fears of, once more, repeating my past tendency to indecision and narrow-mindedness and ending life with mediocrisy, plagued me. But I chose to trust and by day three, clarity ruled.

The long-debated question of how to use my passion for writing is finally settled. These past three weeks have been a very satisfying time of blog writing, learning about writing, and revisiting a story started. As I consider whether to get a Bachelor’s in English, or simply learn everything I can as I write, I do know one thing-it’s not too late to pursue one’s God-given purpose. One-step-at-a-time, He leads and with it comes peace.

The lovely boot!
My faithful companion