Who Gives a Fig? You Will, Once You Give These a Try!

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Today’s post is short and sweet, actually quite sweet indeed! In my ongoing quest to eat cleaner, I’ve been on the lookout for a healthy but delicious treat to make and give for the holidays. This weekend, I found it: Dark Chocolate Salted Figs from Snack Girl blogger Lisa Cain.

First, the recipe:

Dark Chocolate Salted Figs

Ingredients:

  • Dried figs, One Package (about 40)
  • Baker’s Dark Semi-Sweet Dipping Chocolate, One 7-oz. tub
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

  • Lay a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  • Melt chocolate according to directions.
  • Dip 1/2 fig in chocolate, put on plate, and dust with salt.
  • Refrigerate for 1/2 hour and serve.

Nutritional Information:

Makes 40 figs. Nutritional Info (one) = 62 calories, 1.0 g fat, 13.8 g carbohydrates, 0.8 g protein, 2.0 g fiber, 62 mg sodium. For those of you on Weight Watchers, they’re two points a piece.

Warning: These are addictive. They are super rich, but still, I could not eat just one. Delicious!

Now, the good stuff; figs are good for you! Here are just a few things about figs that make them good for you:

  • Figs are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure.
  • Figs are a good source of dietary fiber, which can such as lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  • Figs are a fruit source of calcium (79 milligrams in an 8 oz-wt serving), a mineral that has many functions including promoting bone density.

Hope y’all enjoy these as much as I do!

For the Love of Buddy – Part 3

By: Shannon Shull

I promise this will be my last blog entry focusing on my crippled dog. But, I absolutely could not resist sharing with you the unique way that my, now Bionic Buddy, sleeps. Ever since he was smacked in the road and brought back to being, thanks to a surgery that placed a metal plate and many screws into his tiny hips, well, I think you’ll see by my pictures that our little Bud has acquired a very different way of sleeping.

Buddy Passed Out in the Kitchen Doorway

Buddy Sound Asleep at my Feet by my Desk on Hardwood Floor

I have to admit that I’ve become quite obsessed with getting pictures of Buddy in his range of unique sleeping positions – it honestly cracks me up and I cannot help but want to take his picture. I mean this dog can be smack dab in the middle of a room on the hardwood floor and be asleep laying flat on his back!  Half the time the dog looks dead when he sleeps!  I’ll come across him in the craziest places, on his back, feet straight up in the air and sound asleep.

We have this kid chair that we’ve had since our days in California – I used to like to sit in it when I was pregnant with my 2nd child so I could be close to the floor to play with my 1st baby, but up just enough so that I could actually stand back up with my big prego belly. Well, as you’ll see by the pictures, our Buddy has now claimed this chair. He will twist himself into this chair and I swear you wonder where his head is – it’s quite entertaining watching him climb into the chair and get himself positioned! And it’s unbelievable that the dog is comfortable and will actually sleep like that for hours.  The family will be hanging out together, I’ll get up in the middle of one of our family shows and someone will say, “What are you doing?!” and you’ll hear the response from one of my children, “Oh Mama’s just taking Buddy’s picture AGAIN.” I seriously can’t help it – I’ll be utterly exhausted and ready for bed but if look over at the kooky dog and he’s in one of his crazy positions, I have to take a picture!

Buddy Sleeping in His Chair - Can You Find His Head?

Buddy says, "Stops Waking Me Up With That Flash!"

I can assure you, our pet is no typical dog – he’s one of the most outstanding, bionic buddies on the face of the planet. Now, if I could only figure out a way to make money off the little rascal! Hmmmm…..

Share stories and pictures with me of your pet doing wacky things! Hey, it may not be an ultra important subject, but I figure if it brings a smile to someone’s face, then it’s worth the time and effort!   Cheers to you all and thanks for reading about my little Buddy. I hope I was able to bring a smile to your face!

Buddy Passed Out Flat on his Back Up Against the Door

Buddy - I Promise He's Not Dead!

Being Kinder Than Necessary

By: Brady Evans

Brady Evans

Last week, my husband and I were victims of an act of such hate that I was brought to tears.  Our horses accidentally got out of their pasture.  We received a very mean note from a person who lives nearby.

I was so shocked.  I didn’t know that people could be so mean.  The fact that the haters acted anonymously probably gave them courage to lash out with such force toward us.

I talked the situation over with family and friends.  Most were angry on my behalf.  Most declared that if they knew who did this to me they’d take revenge on my behalf.

One person said, ““Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle (T.H. Thompson and John Watson).”

This quote can be interpreted two ways in our situation.  At first I thought, “Seriously!  This was the last thing I needed right then.  I have so much on my plate.  Jobs, relationships, finances.  These haters had no idea about all of that.  Why did they choose to lash out like that?”

Second I thought, “Those poor people.  They must have tormented souls.  What is going on in their hearts and minds that would make them be so mean?”

This time of year is a time when we ought to celebrate togetherness, but I’ve found that holidays often bring out the worst in people.  People are rushing around, stressed by having to host parties, stressed by having to buy gifts, stressed by having to see family members they haven’t seen all year.  It would all be a little easier if we showed kindness to the strangers we meet in the super markets and the grocery stores.  Have patience and understanding for each other, because the snapshot you are experiencing is just that: a piece of the whole story.

With that, I’m going to leave you with a wonderful recipe for your leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.  It’s healthy and screams fall, autumn, and togetherness.

Vegetable Pot Pie with Pumpkin Whole Wheat Crust (inspired by Clean Eating Magazine)

Ingredients

for the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons butter or healthy butter substitute

for the filling

  • 2 red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup chopped green beans (fresh or frozen)
  • 1-2 cups leftover cooked turkey
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp oil

Instructions

  1. Prepare crust by mixing flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Cut in butter and mix until crumbles appear.
  3. Add pumpkin puree and mix with a rubber spatula until just combine.
  4. Cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  5. In a large sauce pan, heat 1 tsp oil to medium.  Add potatoes, then celery, and onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes.  Add green beans and peas.  Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree and cooked turkey.  Cook 3-5 more minutes.
  6. Add flour and mix to coat thoroughly.
  7. Stir in milk and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  8. Cook 5-8 minutes or until thickened.
  9. Stir in tarragon, salt, and pepper.
  10. Prepare a pie plate by spraying it with cooking spray.
  11. Add filling to pie plate.
  12. Remove crust from refrigerator.  Using a floured cutting board and rolling pin, roll crust out until 1/4″ thickness.  Make sure the crust does not stick to the surface you are rolling it on and use more flour if necessary.
  13. Invert the cutting board onto the pie plate when you’ve achieved the desired thickness of the crust.
  14. Crimp edges, removing extra crust if present, and cut 4 slits in the top.
  15. Place in an oven preheated to 375* for 25-30 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Bet You Like It Too

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

Being a mom, I find myself teaching lots of lessons, bestowing pearls of wisdom and telling my child to just trust me.  One of these conversations that we have often is about how our taste buds can change over time.  Something that you don’t care for today, may be your favorite when you’re an adult.  I believe this and I test myself from time to time.  (However, I don’t think I’ll ever find any tolerance, much less fondness, for celery.) This summer, I confronted one of my long-time dislikes on the beach at Kiawah.  Yes, I had a tomato break-through.

After all these years of total disdain for raw tomato, I took the plunge and tried it once again.  What do you know?  My taste buds had changed, sure enough.  (My 5-year-old was delighted to learn this, as it validated that what mommy says is actually right from time to time!) What attracted my attention was the brilliant red of this tomato. It was perfect.  Now, I find myself almost obsessed with getting these beautiful scarlet orbs before winter sets in.  You know what happens then: grocery stores display those pitiful orange, anemic-looking fruits trying to convince us that it’s just like a South Carolina summer tomato.  Yeah, right.  Nice try. Even the finest of restaurants have to use those same tomato imposters until summer returns.  What I learned this year is that this awful color is largely responsible for my (former) tomato dislike.

So, now I’m on board with the rest of you and find myself actually craving BLTs.  Forever, I thought anyone who could make a meal out of a tomato, some bacon and lettuce was a little off-kilter.  But, here I am today, a BLT believer.  I continue to try to experiment with the sandwich, without changing it into something else. Today, I made a special trip to the grocery for a tomato.  Yep, the craving is in high gear.  I have some mayo marrying with tarragon.  I have peppered and cooked the bacon.  It’s time to build the sandwich.  You’ll have to excuse me. I’ll get back to you shortly…

…Okay, I’m back.  That hit the spot! I have become quite a good BLT maker, if I do say so myself.  The tarragon is a wonderful touch.  It’s one of my favorite herbs because it adds that herbal flair without being overpowering.  I always make my chicken salad with tarragon mayo.  Lately, I’ve really been into peppering bacon.  It seems to meld with the meat and have more spice that way.  I think it works best when you microwave it.  And, last but not least, the tomato.  I like to add a bit of sea salt to enhance the flavor.  And, it draws out some of the natural juice which flavors the bread nicely.

So, I’m an amateur BLT builder and novice tomato enthusiast, but I’ve joined your ranks.  And it all started with that shrimp salad croissant on the beach.

A Family Tradition

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Wow!  Thanksgiving is almost here and with that comes the knowledge that November is almost over and Christmas will be here in about a month.  Part of what makes this season so special for so many are the traditions that we have developed with family and friends.  In honor of those traditions, I thought I would use this posting as an opportunity to share with you one of my family’s most treasured of traditions.

For some of you, you may have a tradition of pulling your Christmas tree from the attic or the garage.  Others of you may make a run to your local grocery store or roadside lot to choose an already cut tree.  Still others prefer the trip to a rural community to one of South Carolina’s choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms.  For my little family, the latter is the true beginning of our Christmas season, for every Thanksgiving afternoon, we venture down a dirt road in Monetta, South Carolina to Tom Sawyer’s Christmas Trees where we choose our tree from the many different varieties they offer.  And, before you ask ~ yes, Tom Sawyer is both a real, live person and that is his real name!

When you arrive at the tree farm, you are generally greeted by Tom’s brother, George, who can direct you to the different fields that hold the different varieties.  In the fields, you will most certainly come across Tom and, often, his son, Ben.  Some weekends you may find my brother, Ritchie, or another “family member,” Alan, assisting customers as they choose and cut that perfect tree.  A trip to the Wreath House to survey the wreaths, garlands, and bows will find you warmly greeted by Tom’s wife, Debbie.  Often, Debbie is assisted by her sister-in-law, Evelyn, or her daughter-in-law, Becky.  Another member of the “family” is Brenda, who also lends a friendly face to the Wreath House.  And some weekends, you may even find me.

You see, our family tradition of getting our tree from the Sawyer’s does not end when the tree is netted and safely stowed in or on top of my mini-van; on the contrary, it begins on Thanksgiving afternoon each year.  I am so fortunate to have known the Sawyer family for as long as I can remember and they have graciously allowed me to become a part of the “tree farm family” each holiday season.  Being a part of this wonderful group of people really helps to shape, mold, and personify the adage about giving being better than receiving.  I am unable to truly put in to words how wonderful it is to see the smiles on the customers’ faces as they choose the perfect tree or the perfect wreath or even the smiles generated from something as simple as choosing the perfect ribbon for their wreath.

These customers truly give me the greatest gift each season.  Their happiness and excitement is infectious and now I can barely imagine a Christmas season without being with the Sawyers and the rest of our tree farm family.  It is more than a seasonal job; it is a family tradition.  So much so that my almost 6-year-old son states, emphatically, that he is ready to put on his “tree farm” jacket and go to work on the farm this holiday season!  And for the Sawyers, this is far more than a seasonal venture, the planting, pruning, care, and maintenance of the tree farm is a multi-year, year-round process.  It is truly a labor of love and a tradition for them.  They welcome each family with open arms and look forward to seeing those same, often growing, families return to their fields each and every season.

If you and your family are in search of a new tradition, I suggest that you make the trek to Monetta and see what Tom Sawyer’s Christmas Trees has to offer: choose and cut trees, wreaths, bows, wagon rides, and some of the most peaceful countryside you have ever seen.  For more information about the environmental benefits of purchasing a live tree and general information on all of South Carolina’s tree farms, please take a few minutes to visit the SC Christmas Tree Association website at www.scchristmastrees.org.

Best wishes to all of my fellow bloggers, their families, and our readers as we venture into the 2011 holiday season: May you all have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  I look forward to seeing you at the farm!

For the Love of Buddy – Part 2

By: Shannon Shull

So now that I hopefully have your heart strings in a bit of a tether after my blog entry, “For the Love of Buddy – Part 1”, I’d love to put your heart at ease… My fellow animal lovers and/or sympathetic, supportive blog readers, take note! My little Buddy is A-Ok! After a long, grueling healing process – the dog that could’ve easily been left for doggie heaven is now alive, well and most importantly – healed and immensely loved. This little bugger has taught my little family many a lesson, whether it be to hang in there – the excruciating, healing wait is worth the while, or to lighten up and just enjoy the little things in life. Our little Buddy reminds us to take light, to chill out and enjoy life.

See the proof in my video that our once broken pup is now our “Bionic Buddy” –

“All of the animals except for man know that the principle business of life is to enjoy it.” ~ Samuel Butler

Isn’t that a great quote? If only we could be reminded of that principle more often and actually apply that principle! Those little moments when you run around the house playing fetch, tag and wrestling with a rascal dog are moments in which I’ve learned need to be cherished, because they remind me to take a “daggome” breathe and not take life too seriously. I should really take heed of my own advice here, because I have to admit – especially lately – I have not been very good at taking a moment to chill and enjoy life!  But, you know those folks who take the time to play with or love on an animal and they seem to enjoy the heck out of it? Ever asked them if it was worth the effort? Worth their time? Probably not, because you were possibly too caught up enjoying watching them, watching a human and a pet enjoy the little things in life. Nothing wrong with that – as I’ve said before, if we let them, these little rascals can bring us a whole load of happiness. And this is coming from a human that’s not your average crazed animal lover. But I tell ya what, after experiencing having my own pet be crushed by a car and then saved by the grace of love…well, a certain appreciation happens that’s just well…unavoidable.

There’s a saying that has always rung true in my experience in life. “The purity of a person’s heart can be quickly measured by how they regard animals” ~ Anonymous. It isn’t the tell-all of a person’s inner being by any means, but you sure can get an idea of a person by how they treat animals.

It seems I constantly run into folks who are mentioning their dear pets and sharing tales of either their silliness, aggravation or sweet stories of friendship and such.  Pets are a big part of a whole lot of people’s lives. Do any of you happen to have a touching story of pet triumph? A pet that saved yours or someone’s life in some way? A simple story of an animal that made ya smile? I’m eager to hear your special pet tales – come on, do share!

Stay tuned for my next blog that will demonstrate the crazy way my dog now sleeps after having been smacked by a car. You will not want to miss the pictures I will be sharing! And after my next blog, I promise to lay off the pet talk and get back to other super cool, passionate things. Seriously, I promise.

Tips for Productivity

By: Summer Brons

Although I [usually] consider myself a relatively productive individual, blog posts and articles with tips for being even more efficient always seem to be some of my favorites. It’s interesting to see how others balance their busy schedules and find small ways to get ahead. Thus, I thought it might be fun to share a few tactics I try to implement for myself:

Prepare for the day ahead. I find that my weekday mornings go much smoother when I’ve taken a few minutes out of the previous evening to get myself on the right track to start the day.

I can waste more time than anyone I know staring at a closet full of clothes, completely incapable of choosing an outfit. I also excel at getting dressed, hating everything I’m wearing and then changing clothes 12 times before I finally settle on something I’m still not thrilled with. If I force myself to choose an outfit the evening before, I know exactly what I’m slipping into after my shower and can get on with my morning.

The same goes for packing a lunch before heading to bed. Not only am I saving money and gas by taking food to work with me, if I’ve prepped it the night before, I can simply snag it from the fridge and head out the door once I’m ready to leave. This is far more efficient than scurrying around the kitchen trying to put together a reasonable meal before work in between bites of breakfast, making coffee and letting the dog out.

Make a to-do list. I know, I know, people have sworn by to-do lists for years. I’m unfortunately not one of those people. I’ll occasionally scribble out a list with lofty ambitions of accomplishing everything I’ve deemed worthy of committing to chicken scratch, keeping a pen close at hand so I can smugly cross one task off a time … and rarely find this fantasy as my end result. I’ll either abandon the list once I’m busy enough that I don’t have the time nor inclination to refer to it anymore, or I’ll forget about it entirely. But when I do actually write a coherent to-do list and stick to it? The results are pretty amazing.

If you want to be super detailed, organize your to-do list into multiple categories so you have an outline of exactly which tasks are absolute necessities, and others that won’t start any fires if they’re pushed off to tomorrow’s list. You can make a list for your entire day and a separate one for your workday once you get to the office. By day, I work in project management and if I didn’t have a legal pad next to me at all times, I’d be lost.

Decide on your non-negotiables. Work is obviously a non-negotiable for your day. Anything that requires you to be there at a particular time is probably going to be something you can’t exactly reschedule without repercussions, but you can use this concept to your advantage to squeeze extra time out of your day.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear people complaining about how they just “don’t have time” to workout. I completely understand that sometimes the day just slips away and suddenly the plan to run five miles was lost somewhere between happy hour and laundry, but if you treat your workout as an obligation instead of an option, you’ll be surprised where you can find extra time. Waking up one hour earlier (or staying up one hour later, depending on the hours you keep) can offer just enough time to get your heart rate up and burn a few calories.

The same can be said for anything else that you know you really SHOULD be doing, but often don’t. Whether referring to your creative endeavors, a repair project around the house, even just a few quiet minutes alone to read a novel – consider it a must-do instead of a “If I have time, I’ll try to get to it.”

Quit putting everything off.  Procrastinating is fantastically easy to do, which is probably why so many of us do it. But instead of repeating myself, for this tip I’m going to refer you to my last LMC blog post, “Changing With the Leaves.”  In short: stop saying you’ll change your ways “next week” or “starting in December,” and just do it right now. You’ll be surprised how quickly a change can take effect when you decide to act on it rather than just think about it.

I’m certainly not saying that I do all of these things without fail, but they are a few of my favorites to keep in mind when I’m looking for ways to get things done. What are a few of your own techniques for managing your time?