Sunday, January 24, 2010


Can you think of a better word to describe a large group of women descending on a little island town, determined to spend some time with friends and with God, recharging, relaxing, and refreshing? It's fitting, and it was precisely the theme of this particular winter women's retreat. Fearless through the seasons of our lives, through life's challenges, and even in fashion (!)...these were some of our topics of discussion and learning the past couple of days. Even our worship leaders added to the focus of the weekend with their name: Fearless Heart (formerly known as Crimson, for those of you familiar with our local talent). Between sessions, we managed to fit in a dessert progressive "dinner", some down time, and a lot of fun growing relationships with each other playing games, sharing meals, and laughing almost non-stop. We also discovered an eatery where the delicious bruschetta pizza was a hit, and a little boutique where Yellow Box bedazzled flip-flops were buy one pair, get the second for a penny! It's amazing how fast we shoppers did the math and doubled up to make the most of THAT deal. :-) I'm happy to be back home with Johnny, retreating from the retreat to get a good night's rest before heading back into the regularly scheduled program. It's good to get away -- sooo good -- and it's just as good to come back home!

Judith is in chocolate heaven!


Vanna, oops, I mean Alvesa, drawing even more attention to the wonder that is flowing chocolate.

Ta-da! Polished and ready to roll.

Can you match the feet with the faces? (I am looking mighty tired in this photo!)

Gotta love the icebreaker games!

Sharing my scarf with Kaylynn, and looking a little more bright-eyed this morning!

I have multiple photos I would LOVE to add to these, but I fear retaliation from the subject of said photos. There are some times in life when a little healthy fear is a good thing. ;-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My nerdiest post yet....

....which I'm seriously considering deleting, because, besides me, who really CARES? I am laughing so hard that I've actually typed all this out! But then again, all my blog meanderings have meaning for on with the true confessions.

Although I don't always abide by what I've learned, I have a passion for healthy eating. My family would say it's an obsession. They are used to hearing my little-known-facts regarding food; seriously, I'm the Cliff Clavin of nutraceuticals. I just really love all things nutrition-oriented, from learning how the natural chemicals in food benefit the body all the way to experimenting in the kitchen when I've found a recipe that tempts both my inner health food nut AND my taste buds. I know from experience that I feel better, sleep better, and think better when I'm living out what I've learned about diet. I fall off the wagon just like anyone else, especially around the holidays, and I won't say that every snack or meal fits the profile, but I try, and for the most part, I enjoy it. Here are a few healthy changes I made last year that I'm still having success with.

1. I eat breakfast. I used to be notorious for skipping this meal. I found out that not only do I perform SO much better all day long when I have breakfast, but nothing keeps metabolism humming along better than stoking the engine with some good, long-burning fuel. I'm not talking about sugary cereal and milk either. An egg plus a couple extra egg whites with some whole grain toast, a stack of protein pancakes, or my favorite shake are my stand-bys.

2. I drink more water. I think my thirst mechanism is a little off-kilter. I don't get thirsty very often at all, although I will say that now that I'm drinking more water, I find myself wanting more water. For me, it was an acquired taste!

3. I have added more protein. I'm not talking about a high-protein diet here, either, but my diet before was really carb-heavy and light on protein.

4. I've added more good fats. Anyone heard of Udo's Oil? It's a mixture of omega 3's and 6's in their correct ratio made from several plant oils. I love the stuff because it makes me feel full longer and it doesn't taste bad. Sure, any oil is going to pack some calories -- but I really think I eat less junky fat and junk food altogether when I'm putting Udo's in my shakes. I've lost a few pounds (this was before the holidays, however!!) while using it, and that's one of the big benefits according to the company who makes it. Apparently their studies showed that adding a tablespoon of Udo's per 50 pounds of body weight per day, with NO other changes, helped people lose weight. Now, that's alot of oil! I don't use that much -- maybe a tablespoon a day. It is not heat stable for cooking, but it can be put in soups and stews AFTER they're cooked.

5. I try to eat the equivalent of six small meals a day. I learned this when I had gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy. It's really how we should eat all the time for keeping our blood sugar levels more consistent and warding off the insulin resistance we tend to get as we age. My version of it usually looks more like three meals and three hearty, healthy snacks when I'm doing it right.

6. This is my favorite new thing: my healthy shakes. I've played around enough to figure out which variation I like best, and I usually have it as a meal replacement (breakfast or lunch) or one of my snacks. Here's what's in them: Simply Orange juice, egg white protein powder (vanilla flavor), old fashioned oats (uncooked), Udo's Oil, a combination of fruit (usually a handful of frozen blueberries and a few frozen strawberries, or one of those with a banana), and a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon (up to about a teaspoon). I add ice in the summertime when I am using fresh berries. So I have some good carbs, good protein, and good fat, along with the phytochemicals and enzymes in the fruit. I know there is a lot of natural sugar in the juice and the fruit, but it's combined with some low-glycemic index foods which should counteract its tendency to spike blood sugar levels. This shake keeps me full for hours and it is delicious!

So what's on my nutritional agenda for 2010?

1. Play around with spices that have been discovered to have a profound effect on health. I don't know the first thing about using turmeric or curry or any number of spices with intimidating names.

2. Experiment with green and white teas. Not a huge fan...yet.

3. Keep looking for clean-eating (meaning whole foods, not processed) recipes that are delicious and quick.

4. Do some research on good eating-out options. As much as I'd love to cook every dinner, it isn't gonna happen. I'd love to be better prepared to make good choices in any restaurant or (gasp) fast-food drive-through!

If anyone actually READ all this...Wow! Thanks! If not, at the least it is eye-opening for me to see that baby steps do lead up to some pretty good progress in a year's time, and it's good to have some goals in mind to continue. Bon Appetit!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Comic relief

It's always a bittersweet moment when the college-aged kid goes back to school after a long break at home. On the one hand, there's the sweet side: No more half-sleeping with one ear open until the last chickadee returns to the nest late at night (even though you tell yourself it is NOT necessary -- it's something that just doesn't shut off magically when a kid grows up), being able to find the bedroom floor once the kid's belongings are packed up and hitching a ride back with him, and a welcome break from sparring on various hot-bed topics on which we do not see eye-to-eye...yet. ;-) Then there's the bitter side: Missing the near-constant stream of comings and goings (with and without the accompanying friends), the funny stories, the hugs, the just getting to see a loved one on a daily basis. This is not my favorite type of rollercoaster ride!

During my invisible, emotional tug-of-war, my silly dog did something that still has me tickled and therefore not dwelling on the "bitters". Conner and I were in the middle of a good-bye hug when Charlie started jumping into the air with all his might, right next to us at about waist level, communicating what he always manages to communicate: "WAIT just a minute, you're MY mom, hug ME, hug ME, hug ME!" I started giggling and Conner addressed him by saying something smart-alec, to which Charlie responded by talking back with an equally smart-alec, grumbly growl, which totally cracked me up. Somehow it doesn't come across as funny here in writing as it did when it played out! Thanks anyway, Charlie, for brightening up a wistful moment with your antics. You may have kept me out of the "bitters" altogether this time around!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Here's to You, Mama and Daddy!

On this day, I am celebrating my Mama and Daddy, who are no longer with me, but whose anniversary I remember every January 13. Today would be their 65th! Their story is one I always envisioned as shrouded in romance and mystery when I was growing up. They eloped their senior year of high school because my Daddy was about to ship out to the Philippines during the second World War. The secret was being kept from my Mama's father, who apparently would not have allowed the marriage to take place, although my grandmother knew that Evelyn had plans to marry Bill one Friday evening when she was supposedly spending the night at her best friend's house. It seems that everyone in the family but my grandfather was aware of the plans. When my parents showed up back in school the following Monday, all eyes were on them, as my Daddy's younger sister had not done her part to keep it to herself! One can imagine the gears turning, but my older sister didn't make an appearance until three years later. When I was a teenager, I asked my Mom questions about that first weekend, as any curious kid would. For instance, I wanted to know if my Daddy took her back to her friend's house, or what exactly did they do about a wedding night? She answered with a smile, "Now, Kelly, that's really none of your business." She never did clue me in!

My Daddy was a football and basketball star. My Mama was just a shy, pretty girl. They were only teenagers when they married, but it was a lifelong love. When their 50th anniversary was coming up, my sisters and I decided that my parents deserved the wedding reception they never had. So we threw a big party, complete with wedding cake, punch, garter, and grandchildren, and we all had a blast. Everyone had been asked to write down the memories they shared with my Mom and Dad, and we put all those great stories in a big album for them. I would have to say that it was one of the proudest moments of my life to have been a part of the planning and pulling off of such a fun event celebrating two people who'd beaten the odds!

We helped my Mom care for our Dad when his health failed in later years, and then we girls did the same for our mother further down the road. It is amazing to realize that it's been fifteen years since our big party! Even more so to look at how our lives have all changed. How grateful I am to have celebrated these loved ones when I was able to...and how glad I am to be reminded to do just that. Have you celebrated someone you love today?

Monday, January 11, 2010


Thought I'd post that we are finally thawing out down here in the usually-balmy, golden-crescent, gulf coastal plains! Layer upon layer of clothing, double socks, a warmed-up bed buddy around my neck...this is not my normal attire, especially in this particular phase of my life! This morning, on my way to work and running just a couple minutes behind schedule, I was bewildered to find that my windshield, back window, and all the side windows of my car were all iced over. I don't know why it surprised me, since this arctic cold snap has been freezing us out for days now. I think it's because I hadn't been out that early since it hit last Thursday. So frantically I warmed up the engine and turned on the defroster, while also enlisting some help from Johnny to pour some warm water over the glass. Worked like a charm and I was still able to seat my first patient right on time. During this unplanned episode, though, I lamented, once again, that we MUST get this garage free of the camper we no longer use, along with piles of other stuff that are basically cast-offs that haven't made it to Goodwill just yet. I have managed to tolerate climbing in a sauna/oven/car during the past couple of summers and lived to tell about it, but if this colder winter weather is a trend, then a space must be made for my little Camry, and pronto.

I have said a sad farewell to many of our tropical plants that obviously have not survived this time around. I suppose we should triple our yard budget for the spring if we want to avoid the bald flower bed look which we are sure to start out with.

So, according to the last weather report I heard, our area should be free of bone-chilling temperatures for a couple of weeks, until the next blast is scheduled to arrive. Hopefully our scorched nasal passages will be back to normal by then and ready for another heater-induced drying out.

In the meantime, I may get out of the house for something other than the bare necessities. I hear the department stores have begun selling their summer wares -- maybe I'll go look for a swimsuit. ;-)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Halfway to Each Other

Awhile back I posted about my not-so-secret desire to experience Italy, and how my blogging blast-from-the-past friend Teri, who had a similar longing several years ago to see Paris, has inspired me to stop putting it off and start bringing my daydreams a little closer to reality. Teri's blog of all things Parisian (and, okay, "other random thoughts") and the tidbits from her many vacations in France has made it seem not only doable, but downright MUST doable. (I know that word looks funny, but it really is a word...I looked it up.) Around the time that I found Teri's blog, I happened upon a book in Barnes and Noble while I was picking up a birthday gift and really didn't have time to look it over carefully. The beautiful cover and the title, along with the subtitle, was enough to completely pique my interest.

Since the past couple of months have been the busiest of the year, I only managed to read snippets here and there, but it worked for me because of the way it's written. The author wrote it in the form of a journal, telling bits and pieces, painting a picture of her family's experience in Italy during the year they unplugged from the hustle and bustle of American life and dove into Italian culture headfirst. Though it's the author's first book, I loved her writing style; every time I read an entry, I felt as though I had taken a little mental vacation of my own to a faraway, beautiful place. The journey of the author's marriage and the transformation of her family really drew me in. It wasn't always a pretty picture, either, but no true story is without its moments of brutal honesty. I finished the book wishing for more, and to me, that is the mark of a good read.

Who hasn't wished at one time or another to live a different life in a faraway place? Losing yourself in a someone else's experience is the next best thing...and it certainly opens up a world of possibility in the realm of dream vacations!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010: Ready or not!

Seems a little strange to remember that New Year's Eve a decade ago, we were all wondering if the world would go on as we knew it after the clock struck Y2K...TEN YEARS? Already?

We spent New Year's Eve with the same friends this year that we did ten years ago...and just about every other New Year's Eve in between that we've been here in town. Some traditions are just meant to be carried on! Gumbo at the Coles' house with lots of chatter and games being played, as usual, but this year we did do a little party-hopping, too, and wound up at the Smith's house to actually ring in the New Year. I was yawning by 11:00, thinking about our warm, cozy bed, but I did manage to keep awake for a New Year's kiss before we headed home.

For some reason I wasn't on top of my game and forgot all about taking photos that night...but I do have some pictures of a gathering at the same place with basically the same people a couple nights before New Year's Eve that I'll share here. Our oldest son, Garrett, and his lifelong friend Sam, along with their adorable wives, were able to spend some time together on this night before Sam and Ashley returned to their New York City life after Christmas break. The party was an opportunity for all of us to hang out with Sam and Ashley and the rest of the Cole family. It was poker night for the guys and movie night for the girls....with time for catching up figured into the equation.

Other New Year's highlights: Conner's girlfriend Valarie came to visit for a few days and we enjoyed learning how to play Gin Rummy from the two of them, playing "I Doubt It" (yes, it's the nicer name for that particular game!) and just getting to know her a little better. I fixed a big ol' traditional New Year's dinner of glazed ham, black eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, sauteed greens, and cornbread and we had my in-laws and my sister over to start the new year off right. It was yummy if I do say so myself -- although I am beginning to tire of the leftovers! It's all good though when I don't have to cook. ;-) Valarie had sent us some white crocus bulbs through the mail a few weeks before Christmas (isn't she sweet?!) and I was able to show her how they'd grown and started to bloom.

So, now, I'm wanting to go to bed early and wondering HOW on earth I'm going to go to sleep with all the hooting and hollering going on in the kitchen! Johnny is helping Conner and his friend David hone their Liar's Dice skills and they're obviously having a good time. My thoughts are bumping into each other and my eyes are tired, so I'll save the rest of my New Year's pontifications for another post. Happy New Year!