Happy Friday everyone!
Wednesday’s Words of Wit & Wisdom February 27, 2014
When you respect others, others will respect you.
When you make time for others, others will make time for you.
When you neglect someone, you too will be neglected.
When you are rude to someone, they will probably be rude to you.
If you are kind to others, others will probably be kind to you.
When you try to understand others, they will try to understand you.
If you apologize earnestly, you will be forgiven.
If you listen, others will listen to you.
If you appreciate others, you will be appreciated.
Always remember you reap what you sow and you get what you give.
To be loved, be lovable.
One Smart Cookie February 25, 2014
Have you bought your Thin Mints yet? What about some Trefoils? You know what I’m talking about: Girl Scout Cookies!!!!
Every year from January through March you’ll run into Girl Scouts everywhere selling those boxes of delicious cookies. In fact, during those months, Girl Scout cookies are the number one brand of cookies in the U.S., beating out even Oreos, the most popular cookie the rest of the year. That’s a lot of Thin Mints!
The funniest story I’ve heard in a long time and a true stroke of genius is the one about some enterprising scouts in Colorado and California setting up shop outside marijuana dispensaries. Yep, it seems sales outside pot shops far out weight those outside grocery stores and restaurants. Hats off to the young ladies for capitalizing on some basic capitalism. Now that deserves a patch!
Okay…back to the actual cookies. Here then are some tips and tidbits on Girl Scout cookies for today’s Tuesday’s Tip blog:
- Most people agree that Girl Scout cookie sales began in 1917 in Muskogee, Oklahoma when a troop baked and sold cookies in its high school cafeteria as a service project.
- In 1942, Girl Scouts sold calendars instead of cookies due to sugar, flour, and butter shortages and rations during World War II.
- Nearly 200 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies are sold each year.
- Thin Mints are the biggest sellers, making up 25 percent of all sales, followed by Samoas/Caramel deLites at 19 percent.
- During peak bake times, Girl Scout cookie producers bake nearly 5 million Thin Mints per day.
- Shortbread cookies have been around the longest while Peanut Butter Patties have been sold for more than 30 years and are among the top 10 best-selling cookies in America.
- The same cookies may have different names (Samoas/Caramel deLites, Do-Si-Dos/Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbread/Trefoils) because two licensed bakeries – ABC and Little Brownie- make the cookies and can choose the names.
- ABC is proud to report that all of it cookies are cholesterol free and have a trans-fat value of zero grams per serving; its Thin Mints, Thanks-A-Lot, Lemonades, and Peanut Butter Patties are vegan; and all of its cookies are certified kosher.
- Jennifer Sharpe of Dearborn, Michigan holds the record for the most cookies ever sold. The then 15-year-old sold 17,328 boxes in 2008 and of the $21,000 her troop raised for a 10-day tour of Europe, $14,000 was thanks to Sharpe.
- For every box of cookies purchased, more than two-thirds is used by local Girl Scout councils.
- As of 2005, 71 percent of women in the U.S. Senate and 67 percent of women in the House of Representatives are Girl Scout alums.
My daughter was a Girl Scout and I remember her selling cookies. I always made of point of making sure she was selling the cookies and we always liked going to places where twenty-somethings ate, as they might not have Girl Scouts in their apartment buildings or neighborhoods. They ate them up…literally! I still think a college dorm would be the perfect place to sell the cookies as college kids love them and the price of one box is right in their budgets!
Yes, you may be still working on dropping those extra pounds you gained over the holidays, but take a break and support your neighborhood scouts. Where else can you buy an incomparable and beloved Thin Mint and support an American tradition at the same time? Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?
Proud Moments February 24, 2014
“They pulled it off.”
Veteran sports anchor Al Michaels had that to say as the Sochi Olympic games came to glorious end last night. Yes, they did, despite so much skepticism. Not only did the Russians pull it off, they left the games with more medals than any other participating nation. The U.S. finished second and had a successful medal haul, despite disappointing games by the likes of Shaun White, men’s hockey, and women’s figure skaters.
The Closing Ceremonies also proved that Russia has a sense of humor, as it made fun of itself as shown in the above photo. As many of you recall, one of the rings did not open up during the games’ Opening Ceremonies, so in an effort to “make a funny,” dancers did the same thing during last night’s ceremonies. Loved it.
I love the Olympics. I love the competition, the history, the fashion, the stars in the making, and the pageantry. I watched almost every night of the Sochi games and will miss doing so now that they are over. What is it about the games that hooks me every four years? So many things.
There’s nothing like seeing an American awarded a gold medal, stand on the podium, and tear up as the national anthem is played. It never gets old. Then there’s the Olympic theme music. Who doesn’t twinge with excitement hearing the initial drum “dum, dum, dum dum dum” followed by those horns?
I’ve always loved the Olympics. I vividly remember Nadia Comaneci, Torville and Dean, Mary Decker Slaney, the Mahre brothers, Katarina Witt, Mary Lou and Kerry Strug, Dan Jansen, Mark Spitz, Tonya and Nancy, Florence Griffith Joyner, Greg Louganis, Mia Hamm, Olga Korbut, and Bruce Jenner long before he became a Kardashian. I’m a patriotic gal and the Olympics brings out the best in all things patriotic…and sometimes the worst.
Who remembers the old days of rooting hard against the East German swimmers and Soviet pairs skaters? It’s just not the same rooting against Australian swimmers and Canadian figure skaters. There’s a reason the “Miracle on Ice” is still, to this day, one of sport’s most beloved moments. Would it have been the same if we had beaten Norway? Probably not. Many even forget the game was not a medal game. It was merely and nearly more important than a medal.
I’ve always believed finishing fourth in the Olympics is the worst. I’d rather finish 12th than fourth. Just think, in fourth position you were maybe one-one-hundredths of a second away from winning an Olympic medal or maybe a clean landed triple axel. THAT much. Yep, I feel for Gracie Gold right now.
Something else that’s changed is the fact that Summer and Winter games are now held in different years, meaning one or the other is staged every other year. It used to be you had to wait four long years for both. I tend to like the winter Olympics more for some reason, although I do love gymnastics and swimming. I’m just not a big track and field fan so the second week of Summer games is never one I look forward to watching every night. Still, I tune in and I cheer.
The Sochi games were special to me for another reason: I have a longstanding fascination with Russia. As I’ve blogged before and as my friends and family are aware of, I studied Russia a bit in college, I often have Russian-themed dreams and coincidences, and visiting the country is near the top of my Bucket List. Someday I say. Someday.
I would also love to attend the Olympics themselves, although I think the odds of me going to Russia are higher than those of me witnessing the Olympics in person. I’d like to also add that I am thrilled the 2014 Olympic winter games went off without a hitch and free of any feared terrorism, gay rights demonstrations, or any other distractions. If for only a few days of sun and snow, the world seemed like a better, happier place. A place where politics slept and cultures mixed. As NBC’s Chris Collinsworth said as the Closing Ceremonies wrapped up, “The world has shrunk, just a little bit.”
Thank you Olympians. You made us proud. See you in two years.
An Overwhelming Blessing February 16, 2014
I have had an extremely busy last few weeks and today is the first day in many that I’ve actually been able to slow down and catch up. What a luxury!
I’m one of those people who doesn’t mind a little alone time and I love being in my house. I am never bored and I never run out of things to do. Still, I can tend to get a bit too “OCD” and rather than focus on the task at hand, I mentally worry about all the tasks yet to be done. I’m a big “cross it off your list” kind of gal but that list can tend to overwhelm me.
It all reminds me of a prayer I heard and that I need to remind myself of today and every day, and one I hope you enjoy:
“I Am Overwhelmed”
I woke up this morning with my list of things to do swirling in my head, but just when I felt the twinge of being overwhelmed, I reminded myself that all I’m doing is managing my blessings.
My cluttered kitchen table, the unmade beds, the mound of laundry…they are all just blessings requiring attention.
My stressed out child, my hard-working but short-tempered husband, even the dog that leaves tufts of hair and chewed up treats everywhere…they are all blessings.
It’s all how I choose to see my life and how I choose to feel about that list.
My life is not perfect but I l clearly have nothing to complain about.
I will not let my list wreck my life.
If I am overwhelmed, it is only by how much God has done for me.
Looking for Love? February 14, 2014
Are you looking for romance this Valentine’s Day? Then you may want to move to Spain. Research by author Chrisanna Northrup revealed that the land of flamenco and paella is the most romantic country in the world. Where does the USA stand in matters of all things romantic? Not so good.
Here’s a quick comparison:
- 77 percent of Spanish couples say the cuddle several times a week, while only 17 percent of American couples do so.
- 72 percent of couples in Spain kiss passionately several times per week while in America the same holds true for a mere 20 percent.
- In Spain, 62 percent of couples display PDA several times a week but only 18 percent of American couples enjoy sharing affection publicly as often.
So, what gives? Maybe it’s the Latin in all those Latin lovers. Maybe it’s the sherry. Maybe it’s the simple love of life and all things joyful. Maybe Americans are just too uptight and tightly wound.
Whatever the case, it seems that our ability to keep the spirit of Valentine’s Day going for the other 364 days in a year is weak. One surprising finding Northrup found while researching her book “The Normal Bar” is that by simply calling each other pet names goes a long way. In addition, character is more important the physical chemistry and those who feel they have a lot in common with their spouse or significant other are happier. So are those who give and receive back rubs. Yep, back rubs. A whopping 74 percent of the happiest couples surveyed regularly give or receive back rubs. I’m down for that!
Vacations and dates are also important but sadly only 44 percent of American couples hardly ever or even never go on a date and a miserable 75 percent of us never take a romantic vacation. Perhaps most alarming is the fact that the richest couples surveyed were less likely to be happy than those with less money. Couples earning $20,000 a year or less argue less frequently than those who earn between $250,000 to $500,000. I guess money really can’t buy happiness. But we already knew that, right?
So it’s wash board abs and Victoria Secret model bodies we all want in our partners, right? Wrong! Smart USA reports that seven of 10 Americans would actually prefer their spouse speak another language than look like a model and three in five would rather their partner gain 20 IQ points then lose 20 pounds.
Where are many of these couples meeting? On-line! In fact, the University of Chicago reports that 35 percent of couples who got married in the past seven years met online. Wow!
What would St. Valentine think? The third century Roman priest is the reason we celebrate the annual February day of love. After being thrown in jail by the Emperor who wanted all men to be in the army and not get married, which Valentine disagreed with, Valentine would send letters and sign them, Love Valentine. Valentine strongly believed people needed to get married and was eventually killed on February 14, 269.
So as you hug your valentine today, think of loving St. Valentine, all those romantic couples in Spain and dream away. I’ll be joining you.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Olympic Fashion Finds and Flops February 10, 2014
Can we talk? Can we talk about the dreadful Ralph Lauren-designed sweaters team USA is sporting at the Sochi winter games? Oh. Em. Gee. Really? That’s the best we can come up with – embarrassing “ugly Christmas sweater” sweaters?! At least this time they were made in the U.S.A.
If you must do sweaters, at least do them like Andorra’s traditionally-styled Nordic ones:
I’m fully aware it’s the winter games and not fashion week, but these are indelible outfits and at least some countries got it right. Germany looked fabulous and fun if not a bit flashy in their rainbow hued Bogner-designed jackets and pants. (And no, Willy Bogner says they are not in protest of Russia’s anti-gay laws so don’t even go there.)
Also classic yet stand-out statements are Canada’s vibrant red toggle coats and Sweden’s cobalt blue ones. I’m always a sucker for cobalt and I love the diagonal zippers and crazy pants.
On the other hand, what was France thinking? I’m all about khakis…on the golf course! Coco Chanel must be rolling in her grave knowing the fashion capital of the world presented something along the lines of Dockers. Blasphemy!
Two other countries have gotten mixed reviews. I personally think Russia’s “Santa coats” were perfect for the host team and Lithuania’s lime green get-ups have won me over. Just sayin…
Although a sporting event above all sporting events, Olympic “Opening Ceremonies” are also a fashion face off. Designers fight for the right to outfit a country’s team and pay big money to do so. Having their designs front and center on a global stage is a marketing dream…unless those designs flop. Calling Mr. Lauren. The 1980s are on line two and want their sweaters back.
Fashion designers aren’t the only ones outfitting the world’s top athletes this year. American speed skaters will be donning aerodynamic suits designed with the help of Lockheed Martin and the U.S. luge team’s clingy uniforms were created by comic book publisher Valient Entertainment. I also love the fact that the U.S. free skier team will be sporting North Face jackets that have a star shape sewn inside made with fabric that has been to Mount Everest.
All team designs (with the exception of those worn by American figure skaters, who are allowed to choose their own costumes) are approved by the United States Olympic Committee using requirements set by the International Olympic Committee. (The rules can be found in a 33-page book called “Guidelines Regarding Authorized Identification” if you’re desperate for reading material.) In most cases, only one manufacturer’s logo is allowed on any one piece of clothing or equipment and they are reserved for specific areas of each such as the chest or arm. In addition, size matters. Clothing logos must be no more than three square inches and those on equipment can be no larger than six square centimeters. Guidelines also say that one year’s outfits must be different from those of any previous games and the use of national colors is encouraged.
So what say you? Do you like the USA’s sweaters? What country sported your favorite?
Finally, if you’re really all about Olympic fashion this year, you might want to consider “sporting” the latest trend: dressed up track pants and jerseys as seen here:
Happy shopping and let’s go U.S.A.!!!!!
That Other Church February 2, 2014
As my trusted readers know, Sunday’s are usually reserved for my weekly “Sunday Scripture” blog about something spiritual. Well, today I am breaking tradition and am writing about that other church I worship in: the church of football!
Today is “Super Bowl Sunday” and I can’t even imagine not writing about the big day. I love football. I grew up rooting for the Denver Broncos so I couldn’t be happier than to root for them in today’s big game against Seattle.
There’s only one other team I’d rather be cheering on in a Super Bowl, and that would be the Buffalo Bills, Smitty’s beloved hometown team. When we were first married, the Bills were amazing. They had big name players and they went to four Super Bowls…in a row. Yes, they lost all four of them but no other team has accomplished the difficult feat of just getting there four consecutive times. Sadly, the Bills have never been back. In fact, in Kristen’s young memory, they have never even made it to the playoffs. Still, she roots for them and wears her Bills beanie proudly on cold Norman, Oklahoma days. Someday she says, someday.
Buffalo’s Anchor Bar & Grill
But, Buffalo is part of every Super Bowl, whether the Bills are playing or not. It’s all thanks to a woman named Teressa Bellissimo and a little thing called wings. You know them, you love them: chicken wings. They originated at Teressa and her husband Frank’s “Anchor Bar and Grill” in Buffalo on a whim but today they will be found at watch parties coast-to-coast. It’s estimated that just today, Americans will eat more than 1.2 billion of the little fried snacks. So many in fact, that a recent survey showed wings are the favorite Super Bowl food, beating even pizza.
On March 4 of this year, the Anchor Bar will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the wing. Legend has it that the late-night arrival of the Bellissimo’s son Dominic to their restaurant lead to the creation of the wing. Dominic brought with him several college friends so Teressa needed a fast and easy snack for them. She came up with the idea of frying the wings and tossing them in hot sauce. The wings, normally tossed aside and used merely for chicken stock, quickly became the stars of the place. Today they sit right alongside legs, garnished with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.
In addition to the celery and blue cheese, there are other wing traditions. Number one, don’t call them “Buffalo Wings.” They are simply “wings.” Number two, don’t bake them. True wings are friend. Number three, they are never breaded, but rather simply coated in hot sauce and vinegar. Like Buffalonians themselves, wings are simple yet substantial.
Smitty and I have discovered a few local places that make good wings, but nothing compares to the real deals up in Buffalo. They are bigger, crispier and just better. They are also hot! Growing up, Smitty actually remembers putting his lips in snow just to cool them off!
I asked Smitty a couple of days ago if he wanted to grill steaks for the Super Bowl. Nope, he said. We’re getting pizza and wings. Of course. What was I thinking!?
On a side note, I’d like to congratulate former Bills’ player Andre Reed for his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.
It’s about time.
Former Bills’ quarterback Jim Kelly and two of his “wing men” Andre Reed and Bruce Smith
For the Love of Marriage February 1, 2014
Happy February everyone! Oh yes, the month of Valentines and love. It’s also the month of our my wedding anniversary. This February 15, Smitty and I will be married 28 years. Wow. That’s more than half of my life! I’ve always considered anniversaries much more significant holidays than birthdays. In today’s world of disposable marriages, I am always in awe of those who stay married despite the common ups and downs of doing so. It hasn’t always been easy for me and Smitty, but with God as the third person in our marriage we have somehow stayed together and I hope we always do.
Just last week we celebrated our anniversary in Las Vegas when I flew out to meet him after his week-long business trade show. Yes we gambled, ate well, and saw a fabulous show (Cirque de Soleil’s “LOVE”), the highlight was perhaps a long white limo. Moving on a suggestion from my friend Ana, I surprised Smitty with a limo ride to the famous Little White Chapel in Vegas where we renewed our vows. It was corny, but it was also cool.
The next day we were sitting at the lobby bar at Paris watching a group of young men clearly celebrating a bachelor party. We ended up befriending them and at one point the groom sat down with us and asked us the secret to staying married. Hmmmm, we thought, what is the secret? Tolerance? Acceptance? Forgiveness? Love? Humor? All of the above?
Today, as I’m catching up with life on this quiet Saturday, I remember to fulfill my New Year’s Resolution of reading a chapter a month of two books, one of which is Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.” Amazingly, February’s topic is marriage. Get out! Really?
Rubin writes about her own marriage, marriage myths and truths, and marriage tips. I found the tips – quit nagging, don’t expect praise or appreciation, fight right, no dumping, and give proofs of love – fascinating and thought-provoking.
Say No to Nagging
Just the word nagging is yucky so it should come as no surprise that nagging doesn’t work. End of story. It’s important, Rubin says, for a couple to remember that tasks don’t have to be done on their own personal schedules. If it’s really important for something to get done at a certain time for you, do the task yourself. Not only will you enjoy not having to nag, the job will be done, which will lead to your happiness! It’s also important to remember that life in a marriage is not always fair. Couples often get in the habit of what’s called “unconscious overclaiming,” where we overestimate our contributions. Just do your job and don’t keep score or track of what your spouse is doing. It all evens out in the end.
Learn to Live Without Praise
Keeping score can also lead to a constant need of praise and appreciation. Rubin says “get over it.” Expecting what she calls “gold stars” for your efforts is probably a sign of either vanity, insecurity, or both. What’s amazing is that those who tend to need praise are the very ones who are the worst at giving it! Rubin suggests doing things for yourself, not for the “team” or for your spouse. What sounds a bit selfish actually isn’t. If you tell yourself you cleaned the kitchen for you, or you go to that job for you, you won’t need praise and you will be proud of yourself.
Still, couples will inevitably fight. The key is, fighting right. How a couple fights matters way more than how often they fight. Key number one: if you’re going to fight, only tackle one issue at a time. Don’t let arguing over finances spill into an disagreement over weekend plans. Also, avoid saying things like “you never” and “you always.” Finally, know when and how to bring an argument to a successful end. Don’t let it go on for hours and don’t end it without resolving it. Simply saying “I don’t want to talk about it anymore” will only make it fester and make matters worse.
Don’t Be a Dumper
According to Rubin, one sure way to add fuel to the destructive fire is to forever “dump” on your spouse. You know, those desires to unload your insecurities and struggles on your husband or wife. Come to find out, spouses just don’t want to hear it. Yes, bring major issues and worries to light if you need genuine support or are seeking true advice, but the “my back hurts today” or “Sally at work annoyed me again today” grumblings will more than likely fall on deaf ears. This fact though, is not the negative result. The negative result is the dumper always feeling unloved or ignored. Letting off steam is not beneficial at all, in fact, Rubin notes that studies show expressing anger doesn’t relieve it, but instead amplifies it. By simply refraining from being a constant dumper, you personally eliminate your odds of feeling angry. Again, do it for yourself. And , put a real effort into sharing happy stories with your hubby or wife, not just woes and worries. Keep in mind that it takes five positive marital actions to offset one destructive action.
It’s also important to remember that men and women simply see things differently. Remember, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? A female generally has more feelings of empathy then her male counterpart and men don’t want to listen if they don’t feel they can “fix it.” Knowing your wife is sensitive may help a husband listen more attentively and knowing her husband just isn’t good at doing so may give her a new perspective.
When asked the secret to a happy marriage, so many say “happy wife, happy life.” Even the pastor at our Vegas vow renewals said so. But, even if “momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is somewhat true, momma needs to make sure she is happy inside. True happiness has a very strong influence on marriages, as happy people are more forgiving, helpful and tolerant, while unhappy people are more defensive, withdrawn, and self-absorbed.
Show Them the Love
Part of the vows I wrote in Vegas included the line “I promise to love you even when I don’t like you.” That is sometimes a tough one to show…not feel, but show. Whatever you feel in your heart others will only see in your actions. It’s imperative that spouses show love to one other…often. This can be anything from an “I love you” as you walk out the door in the morning, to a goodnight kiss, to a kind or email, or to complimenting them in front of others. That last one is perhaps way underused but oh so powerful. Tell your spouse you love them. It’s a marriage must!
I’m a hugger. Smitty is not. Hugging relieves stress and creates bonding, so from now on, I’m going to hug for me. I like hugs so I’m going to give them. After all, every time you give a hug you get a hug!
When we were in Vegas, I bought a beautiful bracelet as an anniversary present. I love it and cherish it, but something just as meaningful happened yesterday. I was doing something in the kitchen and Smitty was in his chair watching golf. Out of the blue he said “I really liked that wedding thing you did in Vegas.” Hello! Scoop me off the floor! Those simple words made my day.
Hugging and kissing are sure fire ways to show love, but in marriage, thoughtfulness trumps lavishness. Small gestures often mean just as much as grand ones. It’s those tiny little treats and courtesies that keep a marriage alive, but so often spouses take each other for granted. Why is it we are so considerate to everyone in our lives but take everything out on our spouses, or worse, ignore them and their needs?
So, the secret to a happy marriage? There really is no one full-proof way. It’s basically a puzzle you constantly work at putting together. Father Pretto, who married us, told us to never go to bed mad. I think those who are happiest married are those who are each other’s best friends. BFFs enjoy being together, laugh together, and cry together. Try to be more grateful, more easy going, more enthusiastic, and more fun. Be less negative, angry, and irritable.
It’s important to incorporate a no snapping (one of my weaknesses), no criticism and no nagging atmosphere in your home, and I think it’s also essential to add simple silliness to your marriage. In my Vegas vows I of course promised to support and respect Smitty, but I also promised not to dry his golf shirts or cook with mushrooms if he promised to take out the trash and to not walk in front of me!
Spending quality time together is also imperative. Our friends Doc and MB have had a Thursday evening date night for going on 20 years now. I totally admire their doing so, but Smitty and I are homebodies. I would rather watch a great football game or movie with him then try to think of something to do once-a-week. Whatever works for the two of you, do that. I really like the idea from Rubin’s book of having one outside activity you do together (golf, tennis, running, etc.) and one inside game.
Finally, although it’s easy to focus on the annoying things about your spouse, try instead to think about the things you actually like about him or her. Even if it’s just something like “he has a full head of hair” or “she can cook mean lasagna.” Rubin talks about this in her book and really woke me up when she said to consider how you would feel if your spouse physically or mentally couldn’t do those things that bother you. Gulp.
Happy and successful couple ultimately boast mutual trust and respect and shared interests and values. The “3 C’s” come into constant play: commitment, communication and compassion. In the end, it’s all about commitment. Those vows you said are binding words. No one said marriage would be easy or even fair. It’s what you make it. It is more than the vow you once made, it is a choice you make every day.