The Spice Rack(et)

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I’ve been grocery shopping since I was a teenager.  As my mom’s real estate career took off and she had to work late at times, my dad, my sister and I became very domestic. Dad learned to cook, I started reading cookbooks, and Katherine and I did all the shopping.  When my dad decided to teach himself to cook, he went all out.  He didn’t have any interest in making french toast for supper or making a killer spaghetti and meatballs. No, he decided to cook the dishes he likes to order in a restaurant, so it was Veal Oscar and Lamb Chops with Pesto Cream for us!  He also came up with some dishes, and my sister and I made the list for those meals and all the other stuff in between.  Armed with that list and a blank check, we’d hit the Irmo Winn Dixie and shop away.  Interestingly enough, even though we had a blank check with us, we became meticulous label readers and comparison shoppers.  Each week we would come home and unload all the bags onto the counter so we could visually survey just how much we’d been able to buy for “our” money. I can’t put into words how valuable and educational this experience was for us.  And it carried us into, and has remained with us through, our adulthood.  Just the other day, I saw just how much that experience had taught me.

Cayenne pepper I needed cayenne pepper. As I often do, I stood in front of the spice area in the store and started scanning the shelves from top to bottom.  I’ve known for a long time now that this is an area of HUGE profit in the grocery biz.  Most people arrive at the spices, spot what they need, conveniently right at eye level, pick it up, toss it in the basket and off they go.  NO!  BACK UP!  YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG! That’s exactly what “they” want you to do!

Packaged herbs and spices are one of the biggest rackets in the grocery industry.  If you’ve ever grown herbs yourself, you know how little it costs. Most major grocery chains have their own private label, which I truly believe, comes from the same place as the brand name spices. For the most part, they carry the usual suspects (basil, oregano, sage, garlic powder, etc.) and some of the more interesting and special herbs and spices.  Then, there are the pretty little glass jars that attract most people’s attention.  They look much prettier than the grocery store brand, and they are much more interesting than the old school ones that are still in the little metal canisters that we all remember from the 60’s & 70’s. I imagine it being like that scene in “Finding Nemo” when Marlin & Dory happen across the spooky, terrifying fish with the hypnotic light on the end of its antennae…it’s so pretty.  So, most folks see the pretty little bottles, grab that cayenne and continue on without a second thought.

Zatarains Cayenne Pepper If you continue scanning those shelves, like I did the other day, you may find some pleasant surprises.  In this case, I wanted cayenne pepper.  The little glass jar of pepper (at eye level) was $4.49.  Just one shelf down (about hip level) was Zatarain’s cayenne for $1.49.  Same number of ounces, same ingredient, different shelf, dramatically different price.  See, that’s what “they” are banking on. They have studied our nature and know that most people will spot what they seek, grab it and go.  But, seriously, a $3.00 difference?  It’s simple robbery on the spice route!

Look one shelf down and you’ll encounter the special blends such as Cajun spice, blackening spice, or Creole spice.  The price tag is offensive to me.  Read the label and you’ll probably find that you have all those spices at home in your cabinet right now.  You don’t need a sketch of Prudhomme on the label to make it authentic.  But, the advertising and marketing geniuses are betting that you either don’t know this or are too lazy to mix up your own stuff.

Ok, I have one concession to this rant.  Maybe you (I, we, they) are simply too busy or just not inclined to spend this time or attention to this matter.  No big deal.  Do your own thing, ride your own ride.  But, if you’re like me most of the time, you want to find the true value, the true deal and spend an honest buck. If that’s you, devote about 5-10 minutes to really check out your grocery store’s herb/spice aisle.  You may be surprised and enlightened by what you discover.

I Am A Heart Attack: LMC’s New Heart Health TV Commercial

At Lexington Medical Center, we are pulling out all the stops when it comes to promoting heart health in 2013. We’ve produced a new television commercial designed to make a big impact. Within the commercial, the viewer meets his or her future heart attack. The concept for the commercial involves the personification of the heart attack, i.e., the heart attack as a person. It speaks to us and tells several important truths about the bad lifestyle choices many of us make that may lead to a heart attack. We’re proud to share our new commercial with you below:

The “New” Working Mom

By: Roshanda Pratt

r8 bloomShe arises at 6 a.m. to get the children ready for school. By 8:30 a.m. she is back home, preparing for a meeting with a potential client and putting in a load of laundry.  This is a brief description of the “new” working mom.  She is known as a “mompreneur.” According to Biz Online, Ellen Parlapiano and Pat Cobe, two leading authorities on women-owned businesses, coined the term back in the late 1990’s.  Entreprenuer.com defines a mompreneur as a female business owner who’s actively balancing the roles of mother and entrepreneur. According to statistics, women make up the fastest-growing segment of small business owners today.  There are many reasons why women venture into the business world.  For some, it is an opportunity to provide a better service or product than is currently available, while others want to be their own boss. For most, it is the opportunity to make more money.

As a mompreneur, my reason for leaving the traditional workforce to work from home is solely to pursue my passion and to create a legacy for my children.  My husband and I want to give our children greater opportunities or a better start in life than we ever had.  What a blessing to pass on not only generational wealth, but a business idea in which our children could further expand.  Isn’t this what Sam Walton, Truett Cathy and Jerome Monroe Smucker did?  For too long, the business world has been left up to the men.  But there is an emergence of women who are not just staying at home, but making it profitable.

However, this “new” working mom requires a considerable amount of discipline, time management and support.  For example, I work up until 30 minutes before the children get home from school. This allows me to transition my thoughts from work mode to being plain old mom. Then comes homework, dinner (which is sometimes prepared by my husband), baths and preparation for school with some goofing off in the midst of it, and then it is back to the work grind until sometimes midnight. Since I have roles both as a business owner and a mom, I must work hard at not only one job, but two. In no way am I minimizing my friends who work outside the home, in particular single mothers. In fact, let’s take a moment right now to applaud our sisters who are working hard both outside and inside the home. We celebrate YOU!

Even though I have many roles, including acting as a referee in the disputes over toys, serving as a taxi driver, reviewing additional problems while returning client phone calls, and finishing up a project or blog post, I would not trade my “work” life.  It has been a juggling act between maintaining a family life and growing my media and marketing business, but the lessons I have learned and the legacy it will create for my children is priceless.  The other day, I asked my oldest daughter, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She told me a school teacher. I asked her, instead of being a teacher why not own the school?  My daughter may not have understood at the time, but I am putting an image in her that she does not need to work in a job that already exists; she can create one. Is this not what every woman wants; a chance to create her own thing?

What do you think? Is there a difference between mothers who work from home versus those who work outside of the home?

Ro 🙂

My New Go-To Breakfast: Overnight Oats

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I was hoping that things would settle down after the holidays, but now it’s just a different kind of busy! I’m working on some upcoming stories on a local romance writer and a Lexington Medical Center green building, but for now, I want to share my favorite new recipe: Overnight Oats.

Refrigerated oatmeal may sound a little odd, but trust me, it’s a fabulous, fast, healthy start to your morning. On Sunday, I make five jars and have breakfast for the whole week. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Overnight OatsOvernight Oats
Ingredients (1 breakfast)

  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use plain light soy)
  • 1/4 medium banana, sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup fruit of your choice (fresh or frozen ok)
  • Honey to taste

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients in a container. (I use an eight-ounce Mason jar because I like using glass, plus they are so cute!)
  2. Cover, shake and refrigerate overnight.

Instructing Zumba on a Cruise Ship

By: Shannon Shull

When one of my fellow Zumba instructors told me that Celebrity Cruise Lines was working with Zumba Fitness to book instructors for their cruises, I jumped at the opportunity. After a  strenuous audition process, I was thrilled to be offered a gig on the Celebrity Summit! They first offered me a position on a 2-week cruise but I had to turn them down. There was no way I could be away from my kids for that long. Fortunately, they offered me a week-long cruise that I was able to schedule. I have to admit, I was very nervous since I did not know what to expect. Every ship’s Cruise Director and Activities Manager do things a little differently, plus the number of classes you teach usually depends on the number of days the ship is at port and at sea. Needless to say, it was quite the adventure and I just had to be prepared to do my thing!

Ship Pool Deck

I am so glad that I took the plunge and accepted the job because it ended up being such an amazing experience. On my first night on the ship, I met with Manuel, the Activities Manager, who filled me in on the schedule and then interviewed me on-camera. The interview played on the main ship channel on all the TVs in each room and around the ship. All of my classes were on the main pool deck’s stage – the stage of the open sea! Some folks would show up in their work out clothes ready to Zumba and other folks would see all the fun we were having and join in from the pool, the bars and the dining areas. Each class was like performing a show! If people weren’t dancing, they were watching from the pool, the balconies, etc., and some were even taking pictures. Of course, it helps that everyone on a cruise ship is on vacation and, therefore, in party mode! The air was always electric with happiness and fun.

Zumba!

The one thing it took some getting used was the ship’s movement; when a ship is at sea, it moves and sways A LOT. Attempting to dance on a moving object took some getting used to. In some of my video footage from my classes, you can see the water in the pool dramatically sloshing back and forth. Dancing on a rockin’ ship certainly presents a challenge for the muscles and your equilibrium. Such a weird feeling! It took me days after returning home to get over the occasional sensation of being on a moving object.

Rockin Out to Air Guitar

The funny thing is that before I taught my first class, the crew kept warning me about the Caribbean heat. Shoot! That Caribbean heat was nothing compared to the heat of the indoor pools where I teach Aqua Zumba back home! Yes, the sun on the ship was hot, but the wind of the sea was glorious! I discovered very quickly that I had to wear a hat when I taught to keep my hair from whipping around like crazy, but it felt great and kept me cool enough that I didn’t walk away dripping sweat after each class. When I teach Aqua Zumba, I don’t get the privilege of getting in the water; I have to teach from the side of the pool and those indoor pool rooms are like steam bath saunas! Once I start dancing, I’m usually literally dripping sweat by the 2nd or 3rd song, and I’m not even a big sweater! When I walk away from teaching an Aqua Zumba class, my clothes are wet with sweat and I look like a red-faced, stinky mess. When I first started teaching Aqua Zumba it took me months to condition my body to teaching in that environment. But goodness do I love it – regardless of the heat, I have so much fun teaching it that I get over the sweaty part. So my point here – teaching Zumba on the deck of a ship was the ultimate experience. I could handle those conditions any day.

It would be such a privilege to serve as a Zumba instructor on another cruise! I really hope I get the opportunity to do something like this again. It was such a blessing to meet and dance with so many fabulous people from across the world. And it definitely was an honor to represent Zumba and to work with the incredible Celebrity crew. What an awesome cruise line. They definitely made me feel like a celebrity!

Lentil & Mushroom Stroganoff

By: Brady Evans

I think if sour cream had a different name my husband would like it a little better. It isn’t doing itself any favors by masquerading as something delicious gone rancid. My husband just doesn’t like it. At all. It is forever hidden in the back of the fridge even when recently purchased, and I only secretly add it to recipes he’ll be eating.

LentilsI lie. He LOVES sour cream…when he doesn’t know about it. The same sort of story goes for lentils. So they make somewhat frequent appearances on our dinner table. Long story short: he thinks he hates both items until he takes a bite, and then he loves them both.

Mushrooms? I’d be risking our marriage if I served those. I don’t.even.go.there. When I whipped up a dish containing a delicious trifecta of sour cream, lentils AND mushrooms, it goes without saying that my husband was not even in the same state as me.

This dish is so good. It includes the two meatiest vegetarian entities to replace red meat in a stroganoff that will leave any eater, vegetarian or not, feeling ultra satisfied.

Lentil and Mushroom Stroganoff (adapted from Cate’s World Kitchen, who adapted from Jamie Oliver)

Ingredients

  • Stroganoff2 cups lentils
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Cooked rice or pasta

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain and rinse the lentils and set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium high. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and turn heat to low. Cook 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms, paprika, and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, another 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are browning and soft.
  5. Stir in the lentils, parsley, and vinegar and cook, stirring, for a few minutes.
  6. Stir in the sour cream, cooking just until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve over pasta or rice.

Failure! Failure?

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

I loathe the word failure.  By nature, for me, “failure is not an option.” So, as I paused to reflect on 2012 and those resolutions I made, and posted here for the world to see, I had to determine whether they had been a lesson in torture or triumph.

First, I took a few minutes to actually reread the post, not quite remembering what I written.  I had resolved to be healthier, be more organized, and to stop being ashamed of my failed marriage.

When I started thinking about those items, I first thought, “Oh, great Crissie ~ you FAILED!  Miserably!”

But, then again, did I?

Okay, I will be honest ~ when it comes to being healthier, I did not do well, at all.  I rarely got to the gym and my self-imposed ban on sweet tea and soda, well, it fell by the wayside.  So, I’m trying again.  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Tonight the boys start a karate class and I will start kickboxing.  Yes, I promise, I will keep you posted on how that goes.

In regards to more organization; honestly, I didn’t do as well here either.  But, when I got down to the nitty gritty, I didn’t totally fail.  It has taken me 34 years to really realize that, while I am a pack rat and a hoarder by nature, that I CAN break the cycle and I CAN get rid of things.  To that end, I have thrown away more things this past year.  I have not stored as much stuff or held on to things that are, really, meaningless.  I’ve realized that being more organized is a process, which, after spending 34 years collecting “stuff,” is going to take time. So, I’m going to give myself a little pat on the back for this area because at least I have started and I believe, in the end, I will succeed.

Now, to the area where I think I have made the most progress and had the most success.

Essentially, my goal was to stop being ashamed of the fact that I am divorced.  I AM DIVORCED.  I am divorced.  Divorced.  Single.  But, I am not dead, and it is time to hold my head high.  And, I think that I did accomplish this goal from 2012.  Sure, I hate being divorced, but not because I desire my “old” life back; I hate being divorced because I still don’t like divorce in general.  But, I have taken comfort in knowing that in my own situation it was a last resort, and it is not the end of the world, and I am still alive and well.

I can honestly say that I feel like I came alive in 2012.  I lived life to the fullest.  I started going to church more often, when I was home (the boys and I traveled to the coast a lot this past summer).  I had shied away from church activities because in some ways, I didn’t feel as if I belonged anymore.  But, I do belong.  My children belong.

And, I’ve started dating again, somewhat, in small baby steps.  But, that is not an area that needs to or will be rushed.  I’m in no huge hurry to be married again, although some day, I would like that, simply because I enjoyed being married, but not because I HAVE to be married.

Now, I look back at 2012 as a lesson.  A lesson in life.  A lesson in areas that need a little work and areas that just need to keep going at the pace at which they are moving already.

2012 was NOT a failure.