What’s On Your Bucket List?

By:  Katie Austin

It’s hard to believe 2012 is almost upon us!  I find myself during the week after Christmas literally wrapping up the holiday festivities and planning what I would like to accomplish in the near year.  One thing I do not do is make resolutions or promises at the start of the New Year.  For me, these are too easy to break, leaving myself to feel that I did not hold true to things I set out to do.  So, what do I do instead?  I created a bucket list.  That’s right – a bucket list!

Now, I know many of you are thinking a bucket list is something that you jot down when you are terminally ill.   This is what many of us think as described in the 2007 movie about two terminally ill men that escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.  I admit that I created my own bucket list when waged my own war against breast cancer during the summer of 2010. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it and sat down one day to write out my own bucket list so that I would have a checklist.  I eventually beat my breast cancer (yay!) and have since then used my bucket list as a reminder of the things I would like to do or see.

One of the items on my bucket list was to attend a book signing.  I had never been to one and so I jotted it down.  Before I knew it, that fall I found myself standing in line to purchase one of Sarah Palin’s books.   I spent a few hours in line, met some of the most amazing people and to top it off, I got the chance to meet her, she signed my book and we spent several minutes talking about my breast cancer battle.  She couldn’t help but ask as I had little hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows and a pink breast cancer awareness shirt.  Not sure, but I think that gave it away.   She stopped the book signing line just to ask me how I was doing and to tell me that she was proud of my fight.  Wow – I couldn’t believe it!  I not only got to check off one of my bucket list items, but will be forever changed by meeting her, the people I stood in line with and the opportunity to do something that I normally wouldn’t do.

Maybe that’s what it’s all about?  No matter how you do it, it’s taking time out of life’s busyness to stop and think about what it is that you want to do, what in life we want defining us.  It’s asking the question, “What would I like to do that I haven’t done?”  Without this time of year I wonder how often we would simply move through life, never stopping to reflect on where we have been or what we would like our future to look like.

So, if you were to create a bucket list, what would be on it?

No matter what is on your list, my wish for all of you is to have a blessed New Year that is filled with many laughs, smiles and wonderful memories to fill your memory jar.

In Memory Of My Father, Richard Baldauf

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

On Sunday, December 11, my father, Richard Baldauf, lost his brave struggle with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). I am feeling so many emotions, but instead of focusing on me, I want to share an amazing story of God’s grace that I experienced firsthand

Mary Pat Baldauf

Five years ago, my father was diagnosed with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), a form of dementia that shares characteristics with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.  From day one, I felt helpless because Dad could no longer enjoy the many things we used to do together like talk politics, do puzzles or work around the house. Up until this summer, I felt bad that I couldn’t do more for him, but that all changed when I found Gizmo, a rescue Pomeranian pup who changed Dad’s last six months in a way that I couldn’t.

Dad never really had indoor pets, but for years had a loving Chow mix named Lucy. As Dad’s illness progressed, Lucy came in during the day to keep Dad company. Unfortunately, Lucy was diagnosed with cancer in November of last year and died at home the following February. My mother, sister and I gave Dad some time to grieve, but we were anxious to get Dad a new canine companion, perhaps even a little lap dog. We made several attempts and even brought one home for a trial visit, but Dad was adamant that he didn’t want another dog.

As Dad’s somewhat rebellious daughter, I wasn’t going to take Dad’s refusals lying down. My sister and I kept our eyes open and even checked local rescue websites, but we hadn’t been able to find the right dog. Then one fateful Saturday, I was shopping at Harbison and stopped by PetsMart on a whim. There were several rescue groups on site, but I only saw puppies and larger dogs. I sighed in disappointment and decided to try again later.

On my way out, I spotted one last rescue group, Fairfield County Animal Adoption Center. At first glance, I saw no small dogs, but a volunteer told me they did have a rescue Pomeranian named Gizmo, but he was outside being walked. As we waited for his return, she told me that Gizmo’s first home was with a wheelchair bound man and that the dog would sit in his lap all day. That was my first tinge of hope. Dad used a walker, and any dog who rode in a wheelchair probably wouldn’t mind a walker. She went on to explain that when Gizmo’s owner passed away, the dog went to an abusive home where he was beaten with canes and brooms and generally neglected.

At that time, in walked a volunteer with a precious little bundle of fur that was Gizmo. I may’ve been on the fence before, but I was immediately determined to adopt Gizmo for Dad. I tried to call my sister to get a second opinion, but couldn’t reach her; I just took a giant leap of faith and adopted Gizmo. Janice screened me well and asked a lot of questions, but thankfully was as convinced as I that this was meant to be.

Fast forward to Mom and Dad’s house, where I walked in with Gizmo.  Dad had no more made that funny face and started to say no when Gizmo jumped in his lap; the rest is history. Within the hour, he was telling us, “This is my dog!” And indeed, Gizmo was Dad’s dog. He took to Dad immediately, and in the coming days, their bond grew exponentially. Quite simply, Gizmo gave Dad unconditional love and friendship that truly enhanced his quality of life in his final days.

These are just a few of the examples of how amazing Gizmo was for my dad:

  • Gizmo stayed by Dad’s side practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the day, he sat on Dad’s lap in the easy chair in the living room, and at night, slept right beside him.

    My dad with his faithful companion, Gizmo

  • Gizmo made it easier for Dad to have guests.  With Gizmo, he always had something to talk about.  He could easily make conversation about the dog, while remembering current events or previous visits were more difficult for him.
  • In addition to the love he provided, Gizmo also became Dad’s smallest care giver.  On many occasions, Gizmo sounded the alert that help was needed. Once, when Dad was struggling to get out of the bed while Mom was making breakfast, Gizmo ran into the kitchen and barked until Mom figured out what he was trying to tell her.
  • Gizmo was loyal to Dad to the end. Gizmo camped out on Dad’s bed, and even when Dad could no longer speak, he nearly always had a hand on Gizmo. Even after Dad passed, we couldn’t pry Gizmo from Dad’s side, so we let him stay and say his goodbyes.

These days, Gizmo is still supporting Dad – this time by pouring out his love on my mother. He’s already sleeping with her, and with Gizmo there, Mom is never alone. For my sister and I, visiting Gizmo is like having a little of Dad right there with us.

In the opening, I mistakenly suggested that I found Gizmo. That’s not quite right. I was just God’s conduit, a way for Him to deliver the gift of Gizmo to my father. There are a lot of things I don’t understand about God, but this I know for sure: God bundled up his grace and love in that sweet, furry package especially for Dad.  And for that, I am most thankful.

What Inspires You?

By: Shannon Shull

What inspires you? Outside of the love you have for your children, your partner and family. Really think about it…what, in your personal life, really taps into your inner being and brings you great joy?

Well, for me personally…when I listen to the soulful singing of Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Tory Amos or Adele, they inspire me to want to strengthen my own voice and share it thru song. No cheese here, music literally fills me up, it lights up my soul.

Nancy Wilson

When I watch Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines or Mikhail Baryshnikov dance – they inspire me to such a degree that it literally makes my muscles twitch. To watch Baryshnikov dance is to watch a super-human…the man is a dance god in my eyes. His talent takes my breath away.

Mikhail Baryshnikov

When I read the works of Rebecca Wells, Steven Press field, Veronica Franco, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Guadalupe de Saver, Shakespeare – it is an indescribable escape.

Shakespeare

When I see a Gustav Klimt painting it takes me away, releases my imagination.  He paints with passion.  The bold, richness of the colors he uses catches my attention and activates my mind.

Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"

And when I see actors like Jimmy Stewart, Gary Oldman, Leo DeCaprio, Hugh Jackman or an actress like Elizabeth Taylor, Kate Winslet, and my all time favorites, the comedienne geniuses Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, I am truly astounded by their talent and inspired to tap into my own. They’re ability to transform themselves rocks my world.

Gary Oldman

Lucille Ball

I’m a creative, artistic person so this passionate kind of talk comes easily for me. But whether the passion comes easily for me or not, I know it’s good to recognize the things in my life that inspire me.  So I’d like to challenge you to really think about the things in your life that truly inspire YOU.  Think about your favorites, think about the things that make your heart smile…think about the things you know you should spend more time doing or admiring.

Ready…set…GO allow your true self to be inspired!

And please share what inspires you with us here on EveryWomanBlog.com!

Here are examples of some of my inspirations –

Enjoy one of my singer idols, the incredible Nancy Wilson…

One of my absolute favorite dance pieces by the dance gods Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov…

See my ultimate dance crush, super human Baryshnikov, in one of his most brilliant works of art…

Hard Candy Christmas

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Years ago Dolly Parton sang a song entitled “Hard Candy Christmas” and while some may argue over the meaning of the lyrics, I tend to think of them as comparing a break up to being, financially, poor.  Sometimes, those two go hand in hand.  However, while being unable to provide or receive expensive gifts, she sings about, essentially, being “fine and dandy” and talks about every day, normal things and seeing them as gifts to be treasured.  I find this song to hold great meaning for me this year.  This is my first (gasp) “divorced” Christmas and, obviously, my financial situation is different than it has been in previous years.  Coupled with a brand, spanking new heating and air unit, funds are a little tight.  I’ve tried to ensure that Santa is bringing wanted gifts to my children; however, there are no overly expensive items to be placed under the tree.  Thankfully, they didn’t ask for anything too expensive anyway.

There are lots of other people in our lives that we would like to shower with gifts at Christmastime, especially this year as they have meant so much to us.  They have supported us, encouraged us, and consoled us.  Buying very nice and expensive gifts is not really in the budget though.  Normally, I’m not an overly crafty person.  Although, sometimes, I like to fancy myself being this creative and craft genius; alas, I am not!  But, I decided that this year I would try my hand at creating some special and unique Christmas gifts for family and friends.  And you know what?  I’ve loved putting my time, energy, and heart into making these gifts instead of spending tons of money (that I don’t have anyway).  I’ve been excited to see the looks on the faces of my family, friends, and children’s teachers as they have opened these “hard candy Christmas” gifts.  I hope that these gifts will provide them with years of enjoyment and good memories.

Have you handcrafted any Christmas gifts this year in an effort to cut back?  If so, I’d love to hear about what you have made.

In closing, again, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and I pray you each have a blessed and prosperous New Year in 2012.  I leave you with a few photographs of some of the items I’ve made this year and, also, the lyrics to “Hard Candy Christmas:”

Hey, maybe I’ll dye my hair
Maybe I’ll move somewhere
Maybe I’ll get a car
Maybe I’ll drive so far
They’ll all lose track
Me, I’ll bounce right back

Maybe I’ll sleep real late
Maybe I’ll lose some weight
Maybe I’ll clear my junk
Maybe I’ll just get drunk on apple wine
Me, I’ll be just

Fine and Dandy
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down

I’ll be fine and dandy
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow get me way down

Hey, maybe I’ll learn to sew
Maybe I’ll just lie low
Maybe I’ll hit the bars
Maybe I’ll count the stars until dawn
Me, I will go on

Maybe I’ll settle down
Maybe I’ll just leave town
Maybe I’ll have some fun
Maybe I’ll meet someone
And make him mine
Me, I’ll be just

Fine and dandy
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down

I’ll be fine and dandy
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down

I’ll be fine and dandy
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down

‘Cause I’ll be fine
(I’ll be fine)
Oh, I’ll be fine

Chili for Celery Haters

By: Brady Evans

Sometimes, I’ve learned, it is a good idea to keep your mouth shut.  I was sitting around a campfire with friends one recent evening while this chili was simmering on the stove.

Somehow our chatter drifted to the conversation of foods we hate.  One of my guests professed to hating celery.  Oh no.  This recipe had fully 3 stalks of celery in it.

I had a decision to make: should I confess that there was celery in that night’s dinner or not?

Dinner was served outdoors while we mingled around a campfire.  The light was dim so I’m not sure if my celery-hating dinner guest noticed the presence of the vegetable in our dinner or not.  What I did notice was the HUGE serving he ate and the many compliments to the chef he gave.  Celery or not, this chili was a hit.

Beef and Bean Chili (adapted from Jamie Deen’s chili seen on Apple a Day)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. mixed ground beef and Italian sausage, browned and drained
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 c. chopped celery
  • 2 (28-oz. 830 mL) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-oz., 450 mL) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP ground cumin
  • 1/4 c. chili powder
  • 1 TBSP dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 (14.5-oz., 450 mL) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz., 450mL) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • In a skillet brown ground beef and sausage, drain and set aside.
  • Spray large pot with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, red bell pepper, and celery. Saute briefly.
  • Stir in tomatoes. Add cumin, chili powder, oregano, and Cayenne (if desired) and cook for about 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Add the beans and browned meat. Partially cover, and let simmer for 4 hours.
  • Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Style Tips for a Better You in 2012

By: Staci Rutherford

As I reflect on the past year and begin preparing for 2012, naturally, I want to improve myself – both inside and out.  I am ending 2011 with a short list of resolutions that I hope will be relatively easy to achieve – save more, spend less, exercise more, procrastinate less, eat healthier, etc.  Sound familiar?  It’s also the perfect time for a makeover, so I came up with a few style tips to share.

1.  Find Your Signature Look
To find your signature look, you must first identify your personal style.  Refer to your style icons (mine are Rachel Zoe, Nicole Richie and Zoe Saldana), images from fashion magazines, and blogs that inspire you (my daily reads include What’s Haute, Wendy’s Lookbook, Karla’s Closet and The Glamourai).  Start a wish list of clothing and accessories that catch your eye when browsing the Internet or shopping around town.  There is also a popular website called Pinterest, which lets you organize and share images you find on the web.  You can browse “pinboards” created by other people to get inspiration from others who share your style and interests.

Nicole Richie

Zoe Saldana

 2. Reorganize Your Closet
I previously shared tips on cleaning out your closet.  Get rid everything in your closet that doesn’t fit your style.  Anything worn only every once in a while should also be cut.  The goal is to build a wardrobe of flattering pieces that reflects your style.  Invest in non-slip skinny hangers in your favorite color.  I bought a few sets of hangers in my favorite shade of pink and it has totally changed how my closet looks.  Check out the picture below.  My clothes look much neater and it actually saves space.  I also coordinated all of my clothes by color, which makes it easier to see what I have and to determine what’s missing.

3. Make Sure Your Clothes Fit
One of the most important elements to having fabulous style is fit and proportion.  Always try to play up your best features whether you have sexy cleavage, great legs, or sculpted arms, use clothes to highlight what you love most about yourself.  Be sure to try clothes on (sometimes a size larger or a size smaller) before buying them because you can never tell how great something looks on a hanger.  Keep in mind that you can have clothes tailored to fit your body type.  It’s totally worth the extra money.

4. Incorporate Color
Everyone can wear color – you just have to find the right hues that complement your skin tone.  Have fun trying on new styles and silhouettes.  My signature look is mixing vibrant colors and prints, and layering accessories.  Once you color coordinate your closet, creating new outfits will be easy and fun.

5. Change Your Hairstyle
If you have been wearing the same style for more than three years, it’s time to change it up!  The right haircut and style can drastically improve your appearance.  It will instantly boost your self confidence.  If your hair stylist is partially to blame for your style rut, don’t be afraid to try someone new.  I recently switched stylist and am pleasantly surprised at how many people have complimented me in the last few weeks.

Ladies, 2012 is almost here, and it’s time we look and feel our absolute best!

I Am So Sick of the “E” Word!

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

America is in the economic doldrums.  Have you heard?  Of course you have.  We’re all living it.  We are living it to the point that we really don’t need to hear it anymore.  But, the media has trained us all so well to insert the “E” word into our vocabulary so much so that I think I hear it at least 5 times a day.  I am so sick of the word economy that I am consciously trying to eliminate it from my word repertoire. “E”nough already!

At one time, the word economy had a happier, more pleasant connotation.  It meant “Hey, I just got a great deal!”  or “Wow! This is a great price.”  Or “I managed to stretch my household budget because of my sense of economy.”  Now, it’s just a negative, ugly, worn-out description of this looming monster that is slowly trying to kill us all.  Well, I realized today that for me, the true meaning of the word does in fact still exist.  And, I’m not alone.  That’s right, I am one of those “coupon people” you’ve all been hearing about.

I won’t even attempt to teach the basics and certainly not the fine nuances I’ve learned over the last couple years here.  But, I will give total and complete recognition to a lady in Irmo named Jenny Martin.  She is the creator and owner of the most amazing website on Earth, http://www.SouthernSavers.com.  Since I discovered Southern Savers, I have learned the “tricks” of the trade.  It will blow your mind how elementary it all is and then smack yourself in the head like I did with an exclamation like “Why didn’t I figure that out?”  Since my coupon awakening, I’ve cut our household budget by at least 60%.  That’s pretty significant, if you ask me.  And, nothing beats the rush of walking out of a store with a receipt longer than your arm and having dropped a fraction of the cash than the person in line behind you!

So, today, I spent some time organizing and adding to my coupon notebook.  As the holidays approach, I will be stocking up on items needed for the parties, family get-togethers, special treats for the little one, etc.  But, it’s also a great time to build up reserves.  You know something?  It’s awesome to be in the middle of a recipe and realize you just used the last of the olive oil or soy sauce or Dijon mustard last week, but no biggie…you just open a cabinet and continue on.  That’s when you realize how truly valuable and cool couponing is.

If you haven’t joined the Coupon Nation, do yourself a favor.  Visit www.SouthernSavers.com, spend about 30 minutes educating yourself and then send Jenny a little message letting her know what a difference she’s making in the world.  Especially in the age of the “E” word.