Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

St. Nick, Advent, and Why Do We Give Gifts? December 6, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:13 pm

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! A popular guy the world over, he really was a saint…in so many ways. Considered the “first Santa,” good ole St. Nick wore a red coat like Santa, had a white beard, and loved to share and give. He’s also mentioned in the classic “The Night Before Christmas.” Who knew?!

 

A very rich and generous man, St. Nicholas heard that a poverty-stricken dad was going to have to sell his daughters into slavery so the saint that he was he secretly tossed bags of coins into their house. The money landed by their stockings, which were traditionally hanging on the fireplace to dry. This, my friends, is why we hang stockings on fireplaces and put treats in them!

 

 

still-seek-him

And why do we give treats and presents? Well, think of the 3 Kings, or Wise Men as they’re traditionally known. They brought gifts to baby Jesus and by giving to others, we model their generous act. As I mentioned yesterday in my blog, our daughter only gets three presents at Christmas, which has been our family tradition all her life. If three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they are certainly good enough for the rest of us!

 

 

I’m writing this in what many Christian churches call Advent. This past Sunday was the second Sunday of Advent and on it a second candle on an Advent wreath was lit. The purple candle is called the “Bethlehem Candle,” demonstrates Faith, and reminds us of Mary and Joseph’s treacherous journey to Bethlehem that was filled with worry but faith.

 

On the first Sunday of Advent, which begins the season of Advent four weeks out from Christmas, a purple “Prophet’s Candle” is lit as we focus on Hope and Jesus’ coming. This coming Sunday’s pink “Shepherd’s Candle” reminds us of Joy and the birth of Jesus. On the last Sunday of Advent, the “Angel’s Candle” of Peace is lit. Some Advent wreaths also add a fifth white “Christ Candle” is the middle, which is lit on Christmas. Advent officially ends on Christmas Eve.

 

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” During Advent, Christians patiently await the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. An Advent wreath is made up of various evergreens, representing continuous life, as well as four candles that symbolize the four weeks of Advent. Three candles on the wreath are purple and one is pink. They signify Christ being the light of the world and the contrast between darkness and light.

 

Growing up my family didn’t really celebrate Advent and my childhood home never had an Advent wreath or the other popular item, an Advent calendar. We basically had Jesus and Santa.

 

 

All of these things explain some age-old traditions and also demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. It breaks my heart to see the real reason for the season become increasingly “offensive” and secular, and my hope is that by sitting back and understanding why we have days off in December and why stores love this time of the year, we will realize that there is so much more to it all than just time off, shopping, and Santa. I have hope.

 

Traditionally Christmas December 5, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:50 pm

 

Farmhouseismystyle

 

I saw a message the other day on my neighborhood NextDoor site with a post from a woman who wrote she’s a mom who loves to decorate and put up tree ornaments during the holidays to supplement her income. I thought, “genius!” Boy would I love to put her talents to work. Don’t get me wrong, I love our Christmas decorations and all our beloved ornaments, but they are quite a quiet stress. The weary world rejoices? Maybe when you’re all done decorating. Amiright?

 

With that being said, what are your thoughts? Do you happily anticipate the holiday décor deluge or do you quietly dread doing so? I’m totally somewhere in the middle and each year I bring them out and put them up. And, in perfect sync with my OCD mind, most of our décor is grouped: nativities, snowmen, nutcrackers, angels, reindeer, Santas, and even little white things. Our mantel is too and is one of my favorites.

 

 

  My mother-in-law started me years ago collecting Byer’s Choice Carolers and to this day they sing away on our mantel and still remind me of her. I throw in our year-round golfer caroler cuz why not and I have a separate girl caroler in our kitchen cuz she’s a cooking caroler. She stands next to my cooking Santa, cooking Mrs. Claus, and cooking nutcracker. Again, all with their like buddies. What’s on your mantel? Do you decorate by theme?

 

 

Then there’s the tree. We are a real tree family but every year I debate suggesting a fake one. And then, our real tree goes up, is adorned with treasured ornaments, and I’m always grateful for a real one. Is your tree real or fake…em I guess “artificial” is the PC name. Silly me. (Bonus tree info: if you’re looking for a beautiful kid’s holiday book, check out “The Night Tree.” They’ll love it and you’ll love it.) 

 

 

 Above is the beginning of my brother-in-law’s tree. He starts out with golf course bag tags from all over and then adds traditional ornaments. It’s a very fun theme and one he really enjoys doing. As for our ornaments, they are all very sentimental. No fancy or themed-tree in our house. We have ornaments from the beginning of our married life, ornaments of and for our daughter including her first one and many she made, some from our own childhoods, tons from our travels, others were gifts, and the rest are just a potpourri of memories. Our topper is a beautiful angel I bought our first year of marriage and despite a fall one year that broke her head off (easily glued back together), she still stands strong and is very special to me. Something else that’s very special to me is the memory I have of our childhood tree always having one of those old-school star toppers. What about you? What’s your topper? Does your tree have a theme? 

 

 

 

Tradition has it, that regardless of what kind of tree you have, gifts go under it. Where tradition bends a bit, is when those gifts are opened. We open on Christmas Eve but I know many of you open them Christmas Day. One tradition we have in our family is that Kristen gets three presents and three presents only. That’s been the case since she was old enough to remember and is the case still today in her adult years. It seems like so many kids get anything and everything they want and under the tree is a somewhat obscene pile of gifts, but when Kristen was a baby I read the “only three gifts” story and it’s simply that if three were good enough for Jesus, they’re good enough for us. It makes shopping a bit easier and a bit more intentional. 

 

 

Last but not least, there’s the baking. Raising my hand here in full disclosure that I am not a baker. I have some traditional goodies I make each year, and thankfully my husband and daughter’s favorite is my Holly Treats, shown above, that are similar to Rice Krispie Treats and just as easy to make. I also have a really good and pretty simple recipe for Ginger Snaps that a former neighbor shared with me.

 

 

A yummy tradition I don’t make (maybe this year!) but always have around are Biscochitos. Bisco what? These yummy cookies are a Santa Fe and New Mexico tradition that my mom always made as did moms and grandmas across my hometown. Similar to a sugar cookie or Snickerdoodle but with anise, Biscos are Christmas and it’s just not Christmas without them.

 

 

 For me, it’s all about memories made and making more. It’s never an easy task to decorate for the holidays, but the thought of not doing so is not an option. Take your time and think about why you’re doing it. Not for show and not for dough…unless it’s cookie dough. Nope, you do it for your family and for Him. We may be weary through it all, but we can still rejoice.

 

 

That’s pretty much the message in a popular Bible verse. It is one of the most popular scriptures and is often quoted in both secular and non-secular worlds. It talks about being patient, kind, and honest and not being envious, proud, or rude. It was read during my wedding and I had to memorize it to be initiated in my college sorority. It is, 1 Corinthians: 13. So many of us have heard it, know it, and love it. But, did you know there is a Christmas version? It’s not found in the bible, but it’s well worth a read. Enjoy!

 

 

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Version

 

If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls

but do not show love to my family, I am just a decorator.

 

 

If I slave away in the kitchen baking dozens of Christmas cookies and them on a beautifully

adorned table but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook.

 

 

If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, carol in a nursing home, and donate to charity

but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing.

 

 

If I attend holiday parties but do not go to church, I have missed the point.

 

 

Love stops cooking to hug a child.

Love sets aside decorating to kiss a spouse.

Love is kind during the holidays though harried and tired.

 

 

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas place settings,

perfectly strung outdoor lights, or a picture perfect tree.

 

 

Love doesn’t ask family to get out of the way but is thankful they are in the way.

 

 

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists,

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those who aren’t.

 

 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

 

 

Love never fails, even at Christmas.

 

 

Don’t Take a Holiday from Being Thankful November 30, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:27 pm

Gratitude is peace

Thanksgiving is officially over and now it’s a full- throttle Christmas mode. But how ‘bout we say goodbye to the Thanksgiving holiday but not the idea of being thankful? Everywhere I looked the past few weeks I saw the quote “There is always, always, something to be thankful for.” If that’s so and if so many people believe that, why is it we celebrate thankfulness only one day a year…a day that is immediately followed by a day when we go on shopping frenzies to buy all those things we think we have to have and things we think might make us happy? Does having more equate to more happiness? Does being happy equate to being thankful? Do things that frustrate us have to make us unhappy? Not always on all counts.

 

 

Grateful4

I’ve been frustrated the past few days but today I’m thankful for the very computer I’m writing this on. You see, I’m old school. Yes, I have a laptop but I’m still attached to my trusty desktop. And it died this week. Ten-year-old HP tower was fried. And I cried. But, thanks to the trusty geeks (they call themselves that) at Best Buy, I have a new one and one that was installed in my house by a phenomenal geek.

 

Funny how we’re grateful for the little and random things we perhaps never think about. I’m so thankful for Best Buy and its staff. I’m so very grateful that we could afford for me to just waltz into a store and purchase a new computer. (Merry Christmas to me?!) I’m grateful for all the reasons I even need a computer, including the writing of this blog. There are so many things I’m thankful for now that I think about it and am thinking we should all be thankful for more than just one holiday in November.

 

 

 

Grateful6

As Jimmy Buffet sang, we need to change our attitudes. This is also the philosophy behind a great book titled “FISH!” In the bestseller, a high-stress and non-energetic corporate office team is compared to the fishmongers in Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. They may not have the most sought after jobs, but they are famously happy and thankful for their place of work. It’s a philosophy filled with lessons of being grateful and joyful.

 

Lessons learned.

 

 

Grateful5

An attitude of gratitude should be our goal and it starts with both the head and the heart. If you think you are blessed, you’ll likely feel blessed. If you love more than you long, you’ll feel loved. If you fill your life with things and people who build you up rather than tear you down, you’ll feel positive and thankful. Maybe instead of trying to “keep up with the Joneses” you might ask yourself if the life you are living is a life you would want someone else to have. Chances are your life is pretty darn good on many levels so being thankful for it is today’s Plan A. Plan B is to make “thanksgiving” a reason to celebrate 12 months a year; not just one day a year.

 

 

 

So. before you go out, stress out, and max out your credit card on holiday shopping and entertaining, sit back and be thankful…truly thankful. Be thankful you have a job even if it’s not your dream job. Be grateful you have a place to live even if it’s not your dream house. Be appreciative that you have a car instead of complaining about traffic. And always remember that so many out there have less than you but could very well be more grateful and happy than you. Be thankful for all of it and all of them. Even the geeks.

 

One Potato, Sweet Potato, Yams! November 22, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:16 pm

Have you finished your Thanksgiving Day grocery shopping? Are the pies baked? (Mine are in the oven as I write.) Did sweet potatoes or yams make the cut? I love them both and whichever is picked for Turkey Day I’m okay with as they are both healthy and yummy. Healthy and yummy, but different and not interchangeable.

 

 

The popular saying is “puh-tay-toe” “puh-tah-toe,” but this time of year it switches to sweet potatoes or yams. So, as we get ready to celebrate all things thankful, let’s say thank you to both! Both are critical Thanksgiving Day side dishes and chalk full of nutrients. Okay, maybe not when mixed with brown sugar and marshmallows, but when done right, they really should be part of not only your Thanksgiving menu, but your year-long diet.

 

First things first: sweet potatoes aren’t yams and they’re not even true potatoes! According to my Concierge Choice Physicians newsletter, a potato is considered a “tuber” and a sweet potato is actually a root vegetable. Both potatoes and sweet potatoes grow under the soil and as for yams vs. sweet potatoes, they are both root vegetables but belong to two different plant families.  And by “plants,” we’re talking real plants.

 

The sweet potato is from the morning glory family while the yam is related to the lily. Who knew?! Yams are generally more starchy and less sweet than their sweetly named cousins and they grow much larger. And other than Thanksgiving Day tables in the U.S.A., where you’re from may dictate which one you eat and cook with. Yams are commonly used in African, Asian, and Caribbean cooking while sweet potatoes are generally more popular in New World meals.

 

 

We all feel better when we order those “healthy” sweet potato fries instead of regular fries and many of you consider fresh sweet potatoes healthier than those canned cubes soaked in syrup, but ironically many of the popular canned yams you see this time of year are technically sweet potatoes. If you’re picky about one or the other, check the label. When buying fresh ones, you’ll also want to check your choice.

 

 

As you peruse the produce department, know that yams have long, tapered shapes and skin that looks like bark on a tree. They have a neutral flavor, tough flesh, yucca-like texture, and are best when boiled in savory recipes like soups, stews, and chilis.

 

The most common varieties of sweet potatoes have smooth orange or reddish skin, orange flesh, and a sweet flavor. But of course!  Surprisingly, both (even the canned ones) are healthy depending on how you prepare them. Let’s start with yams.

 

 

Yams are linked to many health benefits including boosting brain health, reducing inflammation, improving blood sugar levels, inhibiting the progression of both osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and reducing cholesterol and LDL levels. A single yam also packs nearly 370 percent of your daily Vitamin A requirement and even canned yams are great sources of fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, and antioxidants. Canned yams in syrup are non-GMO, contain no preservatives, and are certified by the American Heart Association as a heart healthy food.

 

 

But what about all that syrup in the canned variety? What’s really in it? Basically, sweet potatoes, water, corn syrup, and sugar. Ick, right? No worries! You can actually remove the sugar by rinsing the pieces in water before cooking because pieces of sweet potato don’t absorb sugar. Whatever is in the can stays on the surface of them prior to rinsing, which can also get rid of much of the syrup. Perhaps best of all is the fact that canned sweet potatoes are already cooked meaning Aunt Carla’s famous Sweet Potato Casserole cooks fast and who doesn’t want at least a few Thanksgiving dishes that cook quickly? One more tidbit: about three unpeeled fresh sweet potatoes or yams are in a standard 29 ounce can.

 

 

Sweet potatoes on the whole have a higher concentration of most nutrients, have more fiber, and are generally more nutritious than yams. In fact, they are considered “nutrient dense” in that one cup of a baked sweet potato with the skin on provides more than 50 percent of your daily Vitamin A, C, and magnesium requirement and more than 25 percent of your Vitamin B6 and potassium requirement. Vitamin C supports your immune systems and helps absorb iron. Diets low in Vitamin C can increase your risk of anemia and no wants a low immune level. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with antioxidants that protect your body from inflammation and possibly even cancer, heart disease, and aging.

 

Sweet potatoes are also good for your gut as they are loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber and their antioxidants promote healthy gut bacteria growth, the former may lower the risk of colon cancer and the latter is thought to limit conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

 

The eyes also have it with sweet potatoes! What food do we immediately think of as good for the eyes? Carrots, right? What color are carrots? Orange. What color is the flesh of a sweet potato? Orange. And yes, you guessed it; that orange color is due to high amounts of beta-carotene, which your body converts into Vitamin A and uses to form light-detecting receptors inside your eyes, much like it does with carrots. And, how ironic that both carrots and sweet potatoes are root vegetables.

 

 

In the end, can you substitute sweet potatoes for yams and vice-versa? The bad news and short answer is “no,” so do your best to use what is listed on any given recipe. The good news is, those canned yams are not as bad as you maybe once thought they were. Want a sweet dish? Go for true sweet potatoes. Want a more savory dish? Opt for yams. Want it in a hurry? A canned variety is the way to go. However you say it and whatever version you use, I hope your sweet puh-tay-toe/puh-tah-toe/yam casserole dish is yummy! Let’s be thankful for it all.

 

Lastly, I’ve never made one but many swear by Sweet Potato Pie and sometimes even in place of my beloved Pumpkin Pie. If you have a Sweet Potato Pie recipe to share, please do!

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and here are a few recipes you might enjoy. I personally leave out the pecans in most but am including them for your preference.

 

Ann’s Perfectly Baked Sweet Potato

Wash potato and cut off both ends.

Put in cold oven directly on rack and above cookie sheet and then heat to 425.

Cook for 1 hour and then turn off oven but keep potato in oven for 30 more minutes.

Top with butter or toppings of your choice.

 

 

 

Candied Yam Soufflé

Sandra Lee

Ingredients

1 stick of butter

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup chopped pecans

2 large (40 oz.) can large yams or sweet potatoes, drained

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground nutmeg

1 12 oz. jar marshmallow topping (or mini marshmallows)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.

Add brown sugar and pecans and simmer for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, place drained yams in large bowl and mash finely.

Pour sugar/pecan mixture over yams and stir until thoroughly combined.

Add cinnamon and nutmeg and stir.

Transfer to a metal pie pan and top with marshmallow topping or marshmallows.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and raise oven temp to 400 degrees and bake additional 10 minutes.

Watch carefully to keep from over burning.

 

 

 

Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserole

Crust Ingredients

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup flour

¾ cup chopped nuts…pecans preferred

¼ cup melted butter

 

Sweet Potato Ingredients

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup salt

½ t vanilla

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

¼ cup butter

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine crust ingredients and mix in bowl. Set aside.

Pour sweet potato mixture into buttered baking dish.

Sprinkle crust mixture evenly on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Allow minimum 30 minutes to cool before serving.

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Casserole

The Sandy Show & The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

4 whole medium sweet potatoes

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

2 whole eggs

1 t vanilla extract

1 t salt

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup pecans

½ cup flour

¾ stick of softened butter

 

Directions

Wash potatoes and bake at 375 about 30-35 minutes or until fork tender.

When done, slice open and scrape out flesh into a large bowl.

Add sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt and mash slightly.

In separate bowl, combine brown sugar, pecans, flour, and butter and mix thoroughly.

Spread sweet potato mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with crumb mixture on top.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Praline Sweet Potatoes

Texascooppower.com

Potatoes Ingredients

3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 t vanilla extract

½ cup milk

½ cup (1 stick) melted butter

 

Topping Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup flour

1/3 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter

 

Preheat oven to 350 and butter 9 x 13 baking dish.

In large bowl, combine potatoes with brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and butter.

Pour into prepared baking dish.

In small bowl, combine pecans, brown sugar, and flour.

Stir in melted butter until crumble forms.

Scatter evenly over top of sweet potatoes.

Bake 30-40 minutes and until topping is golden brown or crunchy.

 

 

 

Heart Healthy Chipotle Chili

Orlandodietician.com

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 cups peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the same can)
2 cups water
2 teaspoons vegetable base
2 cups chopped kale (remove the hard stems)f
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
Fresh ground pepper to taste

6 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt (optional, for topping)

 

Directions

In large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion and garlic. Sautee 3 minutes then add butternut squash, parsnips, and sweet potato, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook and stir occasionally for 10 minutes. Add in chili powder, cumin, cocoa and cinnamon. Cook for one more minute.

Stir in tomatoes, chipotle peppers, water and vegetable base. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add kale and stir until wilted. Add black beans, cook an additional two minutes and add pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop (one tablespoon) of Greek yogurt on top.

 

 

 

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
Orlandodietician.com

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato (skin on)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the potato well and cut into thin strips.

In a large bowl or mix together the spices and olive oil. Toss in the potatoes and coat with spice mixture (you could also do this in a large plastic bag).

Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn and bake on the other side for an additional 15 minutes or until fries are browned and crisp.

 

Disclaimer: Always check with your health provider before adding anything to your diet or nutrition plan.

 

A Feast Safe for Fido November 20, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:13 pm

happy-thanksgiving-pets1

Thanksgiving is mere days away and you know what that means: food. Lots of food! And, as much as we love all the turkey and fixings, most are not good for something else we love: our pets.

 

Thanksgiving also means lots of people and kitchen chaos, which means you may not pay attention to what your dogs eat or sneak on the side. But if you want a day without a pet emergency room visit, you might want to take note of some do’s and don’ts of Thanksgiving for pet owners.

 

Basically, the rules include no pets in the kitchen, stuff your turkey but not your pets, no booze hounds, and take out the trash!

 

 

pet-care_thanksgiving-safety-tips_main-image

When talking turkey, it’s tough to not give your dog a little nibble of the bird but just make sure it’s fully cooked, skinless, boneless, and has no tracings of twine or foil. The skin can be especially dangerous for Fido, as it will have spices, sauces, and fats that are both dangerous and hard to digest.

 

Bones, even those cooked like neck bones, are the worst and if ingested, will wreak havoc on a dog or cat’s digestive track. They splinter inside an animal and could lead to that dreaded emergency room visit.

Lastly, be sure to double bag and wrap-tie the turkey carcass and toss in an outside bin.

 

What’s the other Thanksgiving Day standard? Pumpkin pie! The pie is my favorite but raw yeast dough will not be your pet’s fave. If ingested, the yeast converts sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide, gas, and alcohol, which can result in a bloated almost drunken pet and one with severe pain. This could be life-threatening and comes into play when making rolls and other bread items as well.

 

 

Nutmeg is a key ingredient in pumpkin pie and yams, but it is a big no-no for dogs. In fact, the seasonal favorite can cause seizures and central nervous system problems if ingested by a pup. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes themselves are fine in moderation; just make sure they don’t have any nutmeg or other spices.

 

Sage is also a popular Thanksgiving Day spice but it’s equally dangerous. It contains oils that upset a pooch’s tummy and should be avoided.

 

Along those same lines are onions and garlic. These two are pretty commonly known as bad for dogs, but just in case you didn’t know it, keep them away from your four-legged friends at all costs. Both contain sulfides that are toxic to dogs and can lead to anemia. Between the two, onions are more toxic than garlic and cooking them does not reduce their toxicity.

 

When I think of the holidays from my childhood, I remember my parents always had a big bowl of nuts on the coffee table. They were in a special wooden bowl and were not shelled. An old-school nutcracker and shell picker were always part of the set-up but now in hindsight, it’s nuts to have nuts laying around if you have dogs, which we always did.

 

Nuts, especially walnuts and macadamia nuts, are uber dangerous for your dog. If a bad reaction occurs, a dog will be unable to stand, will vomit, suffer tremors and an elevated heart rate, and will have both a fever and weakness within 12 hours of digesting the nuts. Thankfully most symptoms go away but why risk it? Keep those nuts up high people.

 

 

Other things you should keep away from your pets

Drippings and Gravy

Turkey Stuffing

Raisins and Grapes

Mushrooms

Corn on the Cob

Butter

Chocolate

Alcohol

 

 

It’s not all bad news though and there are plenty of Thanksgiving Day treats that can be safely added to your mutt’s treats menu, including:

 

Boneless, skinless and well-cooked turkey meat (no skin)

Sweet potatoes (plain)

Plain pumpkin puree (great year-round for dogs that are “plugged up”)

Green beans (great year-found as meal filler for overweight dogs)

Cranberry sauce

Carrots (raw or cooked but plain)

Apples

 

If you think your precious pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4436. It’s a number you should probably keep handy all year long.

 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and one with safe and happy pets!

 

A Berry Good Thanksgiving Tradition November 17, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:21 pm

I’ll be spending Thanksgiving this year again with my husband’s side of the family along with our daughter, which has become an annual tradition I’ve grown to love. Another tradition I love is the serving of cranberry sauce alongside the turkey, dressing, potatoes, green beans, pies, and the likes. In fact, it’s something I’ve volunteered to bring again this year along with the cranberry and Brie cups I’ve included the recipe for below. I was never a big fan of cranberries back in the “open a can and pour out the log” days, but I’ve grown to love them with each new recipe I’ve discovered as well as my tried and true one. What about you? Yay or nay on cranberry sides? And what exactly are those little red berries that we generally only eat once a year?

 

The small, red, and tart fruit is actually very healthy and we can thank Native Americans for them, as they mixed cranberries with deer meat waaaay back in the day. They may have even shared some with the Pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving Day.

 

History also notes sailors used cranberries as a source of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, and more recent studies suggest cranberries promote gastrointestinal and oral health, raise the good HDL cholesterol, and may even help prevent cancer.

 

 

The very first official harvesting of cranberries was by Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall, who planted the first commercial beds in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816. Many of today’s cranberry bogs are in fact more than 100 years old!

 

Cranberries grow on low-running vines in sandy marshes and are one of only three commercially grown fruits native to North America. The other two being blueberries and Concord grapes. During harvesting, the berry marshes are flooded, special equipment is used to knock the berries off the vines, and then they float to the surface. Most of the world’s cranberries are grown on some 50,000 acres in the U.S. and Canada and are harvested in September and October. Perfect timing for fresh cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving!

 

Each year, Americans eat about 400 million pounds of cranberries with 20 percent of them consumed over Thanksgiving. The fruit can be eaten both fresh and dried, and is popular in muffins, trail mixes, cereals, salads, and of course juices.

 

So what do you prefer? Fresh or canned? Whole berry canned or jellied? I prefer the whole berry and fresh but if you like that blob of gelled stuff, here’s a fun way to make it festive using cookie cutters:

 

 

And just in case you don’t have enough food planned (LOL!), here are some yummy recipes that use cranberries. Use them this week or all year long!

 

 

Cranberry Brie Cups (Great for Thanksgiving morning!)

1 8 oz. tube crescent rolls dough

1 8 oz. wheel of brie (can substitute cream cheese)

½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce

Optional: chopped pecans on top

 

Preheat oven to 375 and grease mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out crescent dough and pinch together seams.

Cut into 24 squares and place into muffin tin slots.

Cut cheese into small pieces and place inside crescent dough.

Top with a spoonful of cranberry sauce.

Bake until crescent pastry is golden, about 15 minutes.

 

 

Festive Pineapple Cranberry Salad (My favorite!)

1 can mandarin oranges

2 pkg. raspberry flavored gelatin

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce or 1 12 oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries thawed and boiled.

1 apple, chopped

Optional: chopped pecans

Drain oranges and pour juice into sauce pan with 3 cups cold water. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Add dry gelatin and stir 2 minutes. Stir in cranberry sauce. Pour into large bowl and add oranges and apple. Refrigerate 1 ½ hours or until slightly thickened.

 

 

Three Ingredient Cranberry Relish

(Anthony Bourdain calls this, “Delicious and truly one of the easiest recipes in the world.”)

Wash 1 large orange under warm water. Dry and coarsely chop skin, flesh, and pith. Remove seeds. Combine orange and 12 oz. fresh cranberries in food processor. Pulse until mixture appears grainy. Transfer to bowl and fold in 1 cup sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

 

Tangy Cranberry Meatballs (great use for any leftover cranberry sauce!)

Leftover cranberry sauce

¼ rice vinegar

2 T ketchup

2 T soy sauce

2 t Worcestershire sauce

1 t brown sugar

¼ cup water

2 lb. pkg. precooked cocktail-size meatballs

 

In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except meatballs, cook on medium low, and stir until smooth.

Add meatballs and cook until heated, about 10-15 minutes.

 

 

Cranberry Nut Bread (my mom’s recipe)

2 cups fresh, whole cranberries

2 T butter

2 cups sifted flour

1 cup and 2 T sugar

1 ¾ t baking powder

1 t salt

1 egg, well beaten

1/3 cup orange juice

1 t grated orange rind

¼ cup water

Cut cranberries in half. Melt and set aside butter. Sift together dry ingredients. Combine egg, orange juice, and water. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquids. Stir in butter. Add orange rind and cranberries. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

 

 

Cranberry Salsa Dip

1 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

½ cup sugar

Green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 lime, juiced

Pinch of salt

2 8 oz. blocks cream cheese, softened

Put all ingredients except cream cheese in food processor. Pulse until ingredients are chopped coarsely. Put in airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. After, spread softened cream cheese on serving plate and spread salsa over cream cheese. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

 

 

Cranberry Hot Tea

1 48 oz. can cranberry juice cocktail

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup orange juice

1 cup lemonade

1 cup pineapple juice

Cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Serve warm with cinnamon stick garnish.

 

 

Cranberry Punch

2 bottles cranberry juice

1 ½ bottles water (using juice bottle to measure)

2 cans frozen orange juice, thawed

Juice of 3 lemons or 9 T lemon juice

1 pkg. red hot candies

Whole cloves and sugar to taste

Put all ingredients in pot and heat on low until red hots melt. Transfer to crock pot to serve and keep warm.

 

 

Cape Cod

Mix 1 part vodka with cranberry juice to taste in highball glass and fill with ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

Variations:

Sea Breeze: add grapefruit juice

Bay Breeze: add pineapple juice

Cosmopolitan: add triple sec and serve in martini glass

 

 

Cranberry Kiss Cocktail

1.5 oz. cranberry vodka

2 oz. cranberry juice

1.5 oz. simple sugar

Lime wedges and mint leaves

Muddle 3 lime wedges and 8 mint leaves in a shaker. Add other ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with floating mint leaves.

 

Tis the Season…for Thanksgiving! November 15, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:38 pm

Beyond Words

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.  Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. 

Thankfulness may consist merely of words.  Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Henri Frederic Amiel

I’m sad. I’m a bit mad. And most of all I’ve had it. I’ve had it with Christmas taking over Thanksgiving’s important November role:  that of being the holiday of being gratitude, family, and friends. And food. And football. And fall. And simply one day for festivities and fun.

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  I love the food, I love the football, I love the family and friends, and I love fall.  I don’t love that people are already putting up Christmas trees and Christmas lights. Don’t get me wrong, I also love Christmas, but there’s a time and a place for everything.  And a month.

October is for Halloween.

November is for Thanksgiving.

December is for Christmas.

Holidays shouldn’t mix and match.  We don’t mesh…

View original post 238 more words

 

Tis the Season…for Thanksgiving!

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:35 pm

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.  Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. 

Thankfulness may consist merely of words.  Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Henri Frederic Amiel

 

I’m sad. I’m a bit mad. And most of all I’ve had it. I’ve had it with Christmas taking over Thanksgiving’s important November role:  that of being the holiday of being gratitude, family, and friends. And food. And football. And fall. And simply one day for festivities and fun.

 

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  I love the food, I love the football, I love the family and friends, and I love fall.  I don’t love that people are already putting up Christmas trees and Christmas lights. Don’t get me wrong, I also love Christmas, but there’s a time and a place for everything.  And a month.

 

October is for Halloween.

November is for Thanksgiving.

December is for Christmas.

 

Holidays shouldn’t mix and match.  We don’t mesh Valentine’s Day with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, so why Thanksgiving and Christmas? I don’t get it and it’s just wrong to be serving your turkey and dressing as you turn on the lights of your Christmas tree.  I know many of you disagree with me and countless of you may have already started your Christmas decoration deluge.  It’s bad enough that retail America starts with the Christmas stuff in October, but it’s not the Christmas season just yet!

 

Thanksgiving is very important.  Giving thanks and being grateful always is, so devoting an entire day to doing so should not be overshadowed by any other holiday or event…including Black Friday, the day we want everything after the day of being thankful for what we have.

 

For those of you who don’t know or have forgotten its origins, the very first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in answer to their prayers for an end to the drought so they would have food. Those same pilgrims worked side-by-side with their new neighbors, Native American Indians, in a show of ultimate acceptance and teamwork.  These are important moments in our nation’s history and deserve to be saluted…all by themselves.

 

So please, do us all a favor and put away your lights and ornaments for just one more week.  Let’s all give Thanksgiving the holiday and the honor it deserves.

 

Agree or disagree?  Please let me know your thoughts on this.

 

Thanksgiving is History November 6, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:44 pm

As we gather round our tables and TVs later this month in celebration of the uniquely American holiday that is Thanksgiving, let’s take a minute to learn why we’re doing so and take another minute to actually be thankful, even in this most unusual and tumultuous year.

 

 

Appropriately, the very first Thanksgiving was preceded by a series of tumultuous events, starting in September of 1620 when a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England carrying 102 passengers. The group consisted of an assortment of religious separatists who were seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and were joined by others lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in a New World. You could say the Mayflower was filled with the original faithful and capitalists.

 

 

After a very treacherous 66 day trip, the Mayflower dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod and one month later crossed Massachusetts Bay where who we now call Pilgrims established a village at Plymouth.  It still was rough going though, as during that first brutal winter most of them remained on board and many got sick. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring.

 

 

The following March in 1621, surviving settlers moved ashore and were later visited by various Native Americans who taught them how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish, and avoid poisonous plants. In November, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited their Native American allies for what is now considered America’s first “Thanksgiving.”

 

In 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation when he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to our war of independence and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It wasn’t until 1846, however, that Thanksgiving became a national holiday when Abraham Lincoln made it official during the height of the Civil War. His proclamation entreated all Americans to ask God to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of this nation.” Lincoln deemed the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day, but in 1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression.

 

 

As I write the I can’t help but think what our former leaders would think if they could see us today. Washington would probably cringe that our Constitution is being disparaged by many and in many ways and Lincoln would think his words sadly ring as clear today as they did back then. Racial and civil strife. Heal the nation. Chills, right? And as for Roosevelt’s move, it was probably a wise one for the times, but how ironic that the holiday meant to stimulate gratitude is followed by a day when we’re cajoled to spur retail sales all our own. We’re so thankful and yet want so much.

 

 

Yes, there is always, always something to be thankful for. So this year, let’s try to count really our blessings. Count our joys instead of our woes, count our friends instead of our foes, count our courage instead of our fear, count our health instead of our wealth, and count our smiles instead of our tears.

 

Thanksgiving Fun Facts

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be named the national bird instead of the bald eagle.

The tradition of the president pardoning a turkey every year started with Harry Truman.

More than 250 million turkeys are raised in the U.S. with more than 40 million gobbled up on Thanksgiving.

Male turkey gobble; females cluck.

The original Pilgrims and Native Americans probably shared rabbit, chicken, fish, goose, pigeon, squash, cabbage, beans, nuts, onions, eggs, and cheese at the first Thanksgiving, with not a green bean casserole in sight.

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

 

Chalk It Up to Chakras November 4, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:18 pm

I’m no ancient spiritual, holistic, or New Age guru and consider myself devoutly faithful and religious, but I recently came upon something that piqued my interest. I was in New Mexico visiting my mom, sister, and niece and we were at an art/craft show when I saw a necklace I really liked. Pictured above, it’s a simple chain with seven colored beads dangling on the end. I thought it was so pretty and told the artist I wanted to buy it. It was then that I learned it’s a “chakra necklace.” Being that I’ve been a yoga devotee for many years, I was familiar with the term “chakra” but my knowledge was rudimentary. Until now.

 

 

 

Chakra (cakra in Sanskrit) means “wheel” or “disk” and consists of a complex and ancient energy system in our bodies that originated in India. Popularity has increased with the growth of yoga and New Age philosophies but they were first mentioned in the Vedas, a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Don’t get me wrong, this cradle Catholic is very religious and spiritual and I’m not jumping off the beliefs bridge; I just love learning new things. And, if along the way I can improve how my body functions and how my mind works, I’m all for it.

 

I’m here to share what I’ve learned and am pretty sure many out there know much more and can both add to and possibly correct some of this, but I’m giving it my best shot.

 

In short, chakras are energy points in our bodies. They are often referred to as spinning disks of energy that are in their best form when they’re “open” and aligned. They correspond to our nerves and major organs as well as areas of our bodies that affect our emotional and physical well-being.

 

 

 

 

Some say there are 114 chakras but the seven major ones that run along our spines to the tops of our heads are what most people refer to and talk about. Each of these seven has a corresponding number, name, color, health focus, and specific area of the spine from the sacrum to the crown of the head. It is believed that for a person to function at their best, chakras need to stay open, or balanced. If they get blocked, you may experience physical or emotional symptoms related to a specific chakra. One way to unblock or rebalance chakras is by doing certain yoga poses, breathing exercises, and mediation practices. Bingo! Now I truly understand why we do all those poses and breathing in yoga. It all makes sense. To clarify even more, let’s look at the seven major chakras.

 

 

The root chakra, or Muladhara, is located at the base of your spine. It provides a base or foundation for life, helps you feel grounded and able to withstand challenges, and is responsible for your sense of security and stability. A blocked root chakra can manifest as physical issues like arthritis, constipation, and bladder or colon problems. Blocked root chakras can also result emotionally through insecurity about finances, basic needs, or our general well-being. When it’s in alignment and open, we feel grounded and secure both physically and mentally.

 

 

The sacral chakra, or Svadhisthana, is located just below your belly button. This chakra is responsible for you creative and sexual energy and is also linked to how you relate to your emotions and the emotions of others. Issues with this chakra can be associated with urinary tract infections, lower back pain, and impotency. Emotionally, this chakra is connected to our feelings of self-worth, pleasure, and creativity. When balanced, you enjoy life and the fruits of your labor without overdoing things.

 

 

The solar plexus chakra, or Manipura, is located in your stomach area. It is responsible for confidence and self-esteem as well as helping you feel in control of your life. It is often considered the “bravery” and “boundary-setting” chakra. Blockages in it often result in digestive issues like ulcers, heartburn, eating disorders, and indigentsion. It’s also the chakra of our personal power, meaning it’s strongly related to our self-esteem and self-confidence.

 

 

The heart chakra, or Anahata, is located near your heart in the center of your chest. It should come as no surprise that it is connected to our ability to love and show compassion and feel connected to others. Blocks in our heart chakra can manifest in heart problems, asthma, and weight issues. It is the middle of the seven chakras, so it bridges the gap between our upper and lower chakras and when out of alignment, it can make us feel lonely, insecure, and isolated.

 

 

The throat chakra, or Vishuddha, is located in your throat and is related to our ability to communicate verbally. Voice and throat problems, including those having to do with our teeth, gums, and mouth, may indicate blockage. Blocks or misalignment can also be manifested through dominating conversations, gossiping, speaking without thinking, and having trouble speaking your mind and standing up for yourself. When in alignment, you will speak and listen with compassion and it will literally help you speak up in a smooth, confident, and authentic way. When balanced, the throat chakra allows you to openly and lovingly speak the truth and gives a voice to your personal preferences, beliefs, and values.

 

 

The third eye chakra, or Ajna, is located between your eyes. Think of this chakra as having a strong gut instinct as it’s responsible for our intuition. It’s also linked to imagination and connects us with our ego and our soul. Since this chakra is physically located on the head, blockages show up as headaches, sight or concentration issues, and hearing problems. People who have trouble listening to reality or tend to be “know it alls,” may also have a block. When open and in alignment, one will follow their intuition and see the “big picture.” When this chakra is balanced, you’ll feel in tune with the physical and spiritual world, as it is believed to be our human connection to the divine, aka God in my case.

 

 

The crown chakra, or Sahasrara, is located at the top of your head. It is linked to every other chakra (and therefore every organ in this system) so it affects not just all of those organs, but also our brain and nervous system. It is considered the chakra of enlightenment and represents our connection to our life’s purpose and spirituality. Personal habits such as poor physical alignment or posture, eating unhealthy food, or self-destructive behaviors result in an imbalanced crown chakra. Prolonged imbalance may lead to physical disease and illness, musculoskeletal issues, and mental health challenges like depression or anxiety. Those with a blocked crown chakra may seem narrow-minded, skeptical, or stubborn. When this chakra is open, it is thought to help keep all the other chakras open and bring about personal bliss and transcend suffering, otherwise known in the Buddhist tradition as “Nirvana.”

 

Opening and healing these chakras is key, and my amazing yoga instructor Nicki Simonich with www.inneressenceyoga.com is the expert healer and teacher. As she says, through life, these energy centers can become out of balance and show up in our days as things like lack of self-confidence, a creative block, or even a sense of not being safe. She coaches her clients to find their best inner selves and lives.

 

 

“Often when working one-on-one with clients for Trauma Informed Yoga Therapy and even Life Coaching, I can see how their struggles form a pattern connected to a certain chakra and together we work to bring balance back in,” she says. “For example, those who have experienced a trauma in their life will often experience a sense of not feeling safe and secure. This shows up in the Root Chakra being out of balance and can be worked on by grounding oneself with standing yoga postures that focus on the legs, hips, and feet. Mantras such as ‘I am here now’ can also be supportive as well as other tools and techniques.” (A mantra is a word or phrase repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation for inspiration and motivation.)

 

 

 

So, where do we go from here? How do we keep these chakras open? One, you can contact Nicki, as I mentioned earlier, as a great way to promote chakra balance is to create alignment in your body through yoga poses, breathing practices that encourage the flow of energy, and meditation to bring about clarity of mind. I try to do all of these on a regular basis, the first two coming through my yoga class and the latter coming through my daily prayer and devotionals. To each his own on all of these, but I thought I’d share a few yoga poses that may help unblock specific chakras. Even I’m learning here and it’s so wonderful to grasp why each pose we do in yoga has a reason behind it. On that note, let’s go with some yoga!

 

 

Root chakra. Being that the root chakra is the base chakra and reflects our foundation, Tree Pose or any balancing poses like Mountain or Warrior are great for establishing a strong relationship with our bodies’ foundations.

 

Sacral chakra. Poses that strengthen your pelvic floor, where the sacral chakra resides, such as Bridge or deep hip openers like Pigeon are great for strengthening an opening your sacral chakra.

 

Solar plexus chakra. The solar plexus chakra is all about your inner fire and your core so poses like Plank, Boat, or Triangle are great for firing up your abs and creating more balance in this chakra.

 

Heart chakra. This one can open up all the other chakras in a sense and helps us open up better to others, so heart opener poses like Camel are key, as are Cow Face, High and Low Lunge, and Humble Warrior, which help open your chest, shoulders, and arms.

 

Throat chakra. Plow and Fish poses are great ways to open up your throat chakra as both open up the back and front sides of your neck, where the throat chakra resides.

 

Third eye chakra. This chakra rules your ability to dream up different life possibilities so poses like Forward Fold and Eagle, which involve getting your upper body intimately connected with your lower body, are great for third eye opening.

 

Crown chakra. It’s perfect to end with this, as the pose that’s best for the crown chakra is the pose that ends all yoga practices: Savasana. This relaxing pose helps strengthen your crown chakra by connecting you with your eternal self…your soul…and reminding you where you came from and where you can go.

 

 

So back to my pretty necklace and other chakra items…which can come in various styles and items other than jewelry. What’s their purpose other than being really pretty? Come to find out wearing a chakra necklace can be both an uplifting and stylish experience and as Nicki told me, they are not just pretty colors but tools of healing.

 

 

Made up of seven crystals – most often jasper, carnelian, citrine, rose or clear quartz, aquamarine, lapis, lazuli, and amethyst – they are thought to bring healing and clarity to those who wear them and when they come in close contact with the skin. Many believe a chakra necklace helps strengthen the spirt and encourage positive vibes in our bodies while also clearing our minds. Wearing one is also considered a way to open blocked chakras and keep good energy flowing in your body. They reportedly provide balance and emotional strength, remove internal doubts or fears, and can bring you more in tune with yourself and the world around you. I’m also guessing that if you want to strengthen a single chakra and put focus on its opening, you could choose a solitary stone related to it and wear it.

 

Lastly, fun facts about Chakras per Nicki: the bottom three are more connected to your earthly experience while the top three are connected to your spiritual experience. The middle, which is your heart, is what bridges your earthly and spiritual self.

 

 

That’s a lot of power in one little necklace! I’m all for hoping it does all that when I wear it or hold it but just in case, I’ll continue to wear my cross and a medal now and then and pray to God to keep my chakras open, my body healthy, and my mind at ease. Namaste!

 

If you are interested in learning more about working to bring balance into your Chakra system, Nicki offers a 20 minute free consultation at www.MindBodyTruth.com. She also hosts wonderful Zoom yoga classes at www.inneressenceyoga.com