Celebrate the Best of 2014: Make a Memory Jar

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

 Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

– Robert Brault

At the end of the year, I’m often filled with regret. My mind is on the money I didn’t save, the races I didn’t complete and other the lofty goals I didn’t achieve. 2013 was a little different, though, thanks to the “memory jars” I started last January.

The concept is simple enough. You find an empty glass jar or container. Every time something good happens or makes you smile, write it down, fold it up and put it in the jar. On December 31, open your jar and celebrate your wonderful year.

I saw the idea featured on someone’s Facebook wall, and it stroked a chord. I spent some time finding the perfect glass container (a decorative glass block with an opening in the top from Hobby Lobby) and colored slips of paper (a colorful twirl memo pad from Staples). I decided to do two memory jars: one for home, one for work.


It was hard to get into the habit at first, but it soon became second nature. And almost immediately, it changed my mindset. I found myself seeing things differently, always being on the lookout for that “memory jar moment.” I also included sticky note messages, fortune cookie predictions and ticket stubs.

On December 31, I emptied both of my memory jars. What fun it was to read the many good memories of 2013 and focus on them instead of those inevitable regrets and unfinished business. These were just a few of the entries that made me smile:

  • “Flipping the calendar to a new month”
  • “New growth on my jade plant”
  • “Freshly popped popcorn”
  • “Today’s meeting was postponed, leaving my Friday lunch open”
  • “When knowing where to find the answers is just as good as having the answers yourself”

Join me in starting a memory jar this year. You’ll be glad you did, I promise!

When Illness Beats You Down, Gives You A Scare And Makes You Think…

By: Shannon Shull

Since I started teaching school full time in August, I literally have not stopped. My schedule has stayed consistently full. Between the busy-ness, life’s stresses and not being able to shut my brain off, I can count on one hand how many nights I’ve actually slept well. In addition, my normally great regimen of working out has gone down the tubes. Several times I’ve caught myself (or my mother) saying, “I don’t know how you’ve stayed well with such a nonstop schedule!” I had moments in which even I was shocked and knocking on wood at the fact that I had stayed so overworked and under-slept and had managed to avoid sickness.

However, I recently had a reality check as I battled with illness…

Day One: Life has a funny way of making a person slow down. And unfortunately for me, it tends to be sickness that knocks me down and forces me to chill in order to finally get the rest my body demands. I’m feeling pretty darn rough, but am I’m hoping that rest and meds will quickly get me back into gear. The substitute has been scheduled, my lessons have been lined up and I know a trip to the doctor is required.

thermometerDay Two: This is NOT fun. My throat freakin’ HURTS. The visit to the Minute Clinic helped ZERO – won’t know for another 24 hours if I’ve tested positive for Strep or Flu. The quickie tests in the clinic room came out negative. Though I have a fever of 101, the Minute Clinic cannot prescribe antibiotics unless you test positive for something. I know my body. I need antibiotics. L

Day 3: I’m worse, as expected. I can hardly speak my throat hurts so bad. My mother convinces me to go to my childhood family doctor. Fortunately, my new house is right down the road from the doctor’s office. My awesome doc, who gets the pleasure of seeing me look absolutely AWFUL after not seeing each other for probably a good 15 or more years, takes one look at my throat, literally winces and says, oh yes, I don’t even have to swab you, it’s Strep. And get this, no lie, as I’m sitting in the room, waiting for the nurse to return to give me a hardcore antibiotic SHOT in my rear, the Minute Clinic calls and says my test came back positive for Strep! Ya think!? Argh…. I’m given a shot and an antibiotic to start taking. I’m told that thanks to the shot, I should start feeling much better within 12 hours. Upon leaving the doctor’s office, I get the shakes. I haveave no clue why, but I can’t stop shaking. It’s weird & kind of scary. Maybe it’s the fever? The shot? The infection in general? Who knows… My fever spikes when I get home and I literally feel as if fire could shoot out of my cheeks.

Day 4: It’s been well over 12 hours…. I’m still not better. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m worse. I don’t know how much longer I can take this. 😦

Day 5: At this point, five days into my illness, I sit here on my couch at 4am in the morning because the intense pain in my throat, ears and neck keep me from sleep. I know I will have to contact the doctor as soon as the office opens and I fear I may have to make a trip to the hospital. After a high-powered antibiotic shot and two different other antibiotics, I’m still not better. I’m worse, actually. The infection seems to intensify. Just when I think it can’t get worse, it inevitably does. I’m honestly trying not to lose my mind. I usually pride myself on having a high tolerance for pain, but a tough goddess can only take so much. I’m scared.

Will I ever be able to swallow again without the feeling of razor blades slicing my throat and shooting pain into my ears and neck? Will I ever be able to speak again without sounding like there’s something stuck in my throat?  It’s kind of like when you lose your voice and you have those moments when you wonder if you’ll ever be heard again.

My mind races – do I have something worse? Will I ever be normal again? What will happen? Am I being over-dramatic? God, I hope so.

As I pace the floors, I promise to take better care of my overworked self. I have visions of eating healthier, being stricter about getting more sleep, getting more exercise. The only thing that keeps me strong and makes me suck it up is the mantra I say to myself…”If you survived the indescribable pain of childbirth twice, you can handle this!” Shut up, suck it up and take action to find a solution to the pain. I push forward with a determination that this coming weekend I have to be able to enjoy every precious moment with my children. I have to be the healthy, present me.

2 ½ more hours until the doctor’s office opens…

My precious mother shows up to take me to the doctor. I can hardly see straight, I’m so uncomfortable. Infection literally coats my throat. The nurse cannot believe I’m back and worse. My doctor takes a look at me and does a double take. I have a severe case of Strep. I’m given a steroid shot. Now both bum cheeks are sore on top of everything else! But I don’t care, I’ll tolerate whatever it takes to get rid of this infection and feel better. The doc doubles my antibiotics, prescribes a magic mouthwash solution to help with healing and to help numb my mess of a throat, and (thank God) prescribes a pain medicine.

Day 6: I think I’m getting better. Am I? It’s honestly hard to tell. At this point, I wonder if I’m getting used to the pain or if I’m finally getting better. I’m going to assume I’m getting better. I’m going to tell myself I AM getting better, daggomit!

Day 7: I’m fever free, the meds are strong in my system and I can finally swallow without wanting to cry. Thank you God and the heavens above! I can get my babies for the holiday break and though I am so very weak, I have a renewed sense of being due to the fact that I can actually eat, speak and swallow without feeling the razor blade pain. Of course, now my stomach is a wreck thanks to all the strong meds, but I will tolerate it and be thankful that the intensity of the illness is hopefully over!

Day 8: Gradually getting better and better. Still have spots of infection on my throat but I’m definitely on the up and up. Though some of this positive energy may just be due to the excitement of precious time off with my children and the spirit of the holidays, I will continue to take good care of myself and stay positive that I will eventually get back to my normal self.

I tell ya folks, when I say I have a new appreciation for health, I really mean it. To be healthy is such a blessing!

In closing, I hope that you all will count your many blessings and never take good health for granted! Take good care of yourselves and attempt to actually rest over the holidays. We’re all so guilty of overworking ourselves. Take deep breaths; leave the busy-ness aside long enough to just “be.” Allow yourself to have quality time with your family. Allow yourself to get personal time to reflect and be thankful. Rest. Live. I certainly know that I will try my best to do so over this much needed break!

How a Deck of Cards, Dice & Dominoes Can Help Keep Your Eating in Check

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

On first glance, a deck of cards, dice and dominoes may seem more suitable in a casino than your pantry. Now thanks to a recent feature on EverydayHealth.com, you can use Dicethese and other everyday items to picture proper portion sizes.

You may be eating better, but if you’re not controlling your portions, you could be sabotaging your weight-loss and healthy eating efforts. But because no one wants to use measuring cups and scales for every little thing, the real trick to portion control is learning to eyeball portion sizes of common foods.

To summarize Everyday Health’s handy guide, here’s how you can use everyday items to help picture proper portion sizes:

Food Portion Size Everyday Item
Meat Three ounces Deck of cards
Rice Half-cup Cupcake wrapper
Pasta Half-cup Rounded handful
Fruit Half-cup Light bulb or baseball
Vegetables Half-cup Tennis ball
Baked potato Small Women’s fist
Cheese Half-Cup Four dice or two dominoes
Red wine Four ounces Tea cup
Dark chocolate One ounce Pack of dental floss

Meet Our Soon-To-Be Every Woman Bloggers!

Every Woman Blog

When we started the search for our new Every Woman bloggers, our goal was to select five wonderful women to join our current roster of bloggers. However, we received so many amazing entries that we had to raise that number to six! Congratulations to all of the women who have been selected to become Every Woman bloggers! We can’t wait for the blog’s readers to get to know them better and for these amazing women to share their lives with us.

Below is a sneak peak at the women who will join our amazing group of Every Woman bloggers:

  • Lara Winburn: A mom who works both in and outside the home, Lara has two young children who keep her on her toes!
  • Leah Prescott: This mom of three is learning to navigate the world of homeschooling and will share her experiments and successes teaching her children.
  • Chaunte McClure: This minister and seminarian is an aspiring voiceover artist who has a sudden desire to try out arts & crafts projects.
  • Lydia Scott: A mom to a gaggle of teenagers, Lydia has overcome health issues and has accomplished significant weight loss.
  • Sherree Thompson: An experienced blogger, Sherree will share tips on gardening and finding locally grown foods to help families eat clean.
  • Sydney Yarbrough: This 23-year-old loves fashion and design. An experienced crafter, she’ll share her many DIY projects and homemade jewelry.

Please stay tuned to learn more about our new Every Woman bloggers in the New Year!


By: Brady Evans

When my sister-in-law said she was gifting us two horses I didn’t dare ask what color my horse would be.  Little did I know that such a question is totally normal and expected in the horse world. Just because I didn’t dare ask what color my horse would be didn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed when I saw my all brown gelding. “Sorrel” is what they call it. Sorrel is the most common horse color there is. I had dreamed of some spotted horse, majestic with a silver mane.

Sorrel horseIt didn’t help his case that he’d accidentally gotten too skinny while under the care of a hired hand and he had a scraggly mane and tail from lack of brushing and overzealous playmates in his herd.

Scraggly horseWe decided to give him a bath. It was April in South Carolina and he still had a very thick winter coat. With some encouragement, we could help that coat fall away and encourage new, beautiful growth. Cinco’s name was originally Spitfire, though he didn’t know it, because he probably wasn’t called by his name very often. I gave this 5-year-old his first bath and you could almost see the fear in his eyes. I was as scared (of him) as he was. He danced around the water, picking up his feet, putting them down without regard for mine. He was sweet, scared, and unbroken.  He just didn’t know what to do.

I spent a lot of time with Cinco in the round pen on our property. At the time, I lived here alone with the horses since our house in North Carolina had not yet sold, keeping my husband out of state.

CincoMy sister-in-law is an amazing trainer but is also a very busy woman. So, after a 12-hour crash course in breaking a horse, she was off to Connecticut and I was left to accomplish this task very much on my own.

The truth of the matter was that the process was too good to be true. Cinco’s heart is so open and soft. He’d had no bad experiences with people and was open and willing to do anything I asked of him. We learned from each other and we took our time. All the while, Cinco gained weight, got stronger, and began to fall in love with his new home.

Today, a little over two years later, Cinco has blossomed into such a perfect horse that I feel like I, as an imperfect horsewoman, am letting him down.

CincoHe is our most inexperienced horse and yet he often finds himself leading the way on brand new trails with his head high, confident, and beautiful. Under the right leadership, I know he could be an amazing horse.

Cinco & BradyI’m thankful and lucky to say, however, that I truly believe he wants no one on his back other than me. A boring, brown, horse? I think not. He is my majestic horse that I dreamed of all along.

Cinco & Brady

Celebrate The Holidays In The Midlands

 By: Rebecca Stephenson, Guest Contributor 

Happy HolidaysIt’s the most wonderful time of year, but it can also be the laziest. If you just sit by the fire and watch holiday movies, you will miss out on all of the unique events happening in our area. Grab your friends or family and check out some of the great activities going on this holiday season:

  1. The hugely popular Columbia Christmas Pageant will take place on December 13th at 7 pm, December 14th at 2 pm and 5 pm, and December 15th at 4 pm. The event, which typically has over 250 participants, will be held at the First Baptist Church at 1306 Hampton Street.  
  2. The whole family can participate in the 2nd Annual Lexington, SC Jingle Bell Run on December 14th. The opening ceremonies and group warm-up will start at 8:45 am at the Moore Orthopaedic Clinic. Grab your best holiday costume and join the fight against arthritis!
  3. Experience the magic of the holidays at The Lights of Cayce in Lexington. The Cayce City Hall will be lit up with thousands of beautiful lights and holiday displays until December 31st.
  4. Take your whole family or a group of friends to see the spectacle at Holiday Lights on the River. Running until December 31st, Saluda Shoals Park will be lit up with more than a million lights and animated light displays every night from 6 pm to 10 pm until December 31st!
  5. Put on your skating shoes and head over to Main Street Ice at Boyd Plaza in Columbia, open until January 20th. The open-air ice skating rink is right in front of the Columbia Museum of Art and is open every day of the week.

Have you heard of any other exciting holiday events in our area? Tell us what’s going on and share the fun with other Midlands women!

Every Woman Blog Contest Entries

We’re so excited about all of our Every Woman Blogger contest submissions that we wanted to put them all in one place. Check out the great entries from the brave women Bloggingwho put themselves out there. Who would you like to see featured as a permanent blogger?

Ashley Byrd-White:

Quarter Life Crisis….it’s real and boy is it challenging! After receiving my master’s degree in 2012, it seemed like things were only going up! I was engaged to my high school sweetheart, working in my chosen field, and living in Buffalo, NY. Things were going pretty well! I had all the hope in the world for my future, my life, and the impact I was about to make on thousands of college students. My commencement speaker, mentors, and teachers only reinforced these ideas. Life was going to all sunshine and roses!

My fiancé was finishing up his master’s degree in the education field. He had the passion and drive to become an excellent social studies teacher upon completion. Unfortunately, teaching jobs in New York are harder to find than a needle in a haystack. After turning over every snowflake in New York, we had no choice but look elsewhere for him to get a job.

“What do you think about South Carolina?” my fiancé asked me after he had gotten back from a teaching recruitment fair in Buffalo, NY. “South Carolina,” I thought…I have no family there, no friends there; I have never even been there. But, I knew he needed a job and he seemed excited about this opportunity. I eventually began to entertain the idea and looking for possible jobs for myself.

Well, apparently the job search stars aligned in our favor and directed us to South Carolina because 3 months after our search began, we moved. I took an extremely rewarding position at the University of South Carolina helping students give back to their community through alternative break trips and helping women college students with their leadership development. My fiancé took an 8th grade social studies job in Richland (funny…teaching South Carolina history).

On top of the move (which was difficult in itself seeing as though I had never moved in my life!), leaving on job, starting a new job, leaving my family and friends, and starting totally brand new in an area I had been to only twice…we were on the tail end of planning a wedding for September…in NY. Thankfully, we won the family lottery because our families worked in our absence to finalize everything and our day was better than we could have ever expected.

So, here I am. A 25 year old Yankee turned Southern Belle, newly married as of September, and really trying to figure everything out. To say that my commencement speaker, mentors, and teachers had the painting of my future right would have been a lie. Things have been less than sunshine and roses and more like cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

In the midst of all the confusion, a few things are certain. 1. I love my husband and have relied on him to help me through these crazy times. 2. I love my job and love that at the end of the day I really do make a difference. 3. I feel it is important for me to share these feelings with others because I know that, at some point, us young women feel this serious confusion about who we really are, where we go from here, what matters, and how can we plant roses among the meatballs…even on cloudy days.

Lara Clark Winburn:

Last week I think my toddler stole my debit card (what does a three year old buy online?), I took my cell phone for a swim (yes, I tried the rice, no it did not revive my lifeless Siri), and my 10 month old came home from daycare in a bathing suit and a sweatshirt (because he had no change of clothes). Can someone say “Mother of the Year?”

The bright side….no debit card is an interesting budgeting tool, being disconnected can feel a little liberating and the bathing suit and sweatshirt were coordinating colors.

This is not a banner week, just typical.

I am just like every woman trying to maintain my sanity, my health, my sense of humor, and a happy home. One catastrophe averted at a time.

I work both inside and outside the home and on a weekly basis I have thoughts of quitting or getting fired from both jobs.

My life nor my blog posts will be considered exotic but they may be funny, touching and at least illustrate that we are all just doing the best we can. I love life, try to keep on the sunny side, and have an exceptionally good time along the way – even if it sometimes feels a lot like every day is Ground Hog’s Day.

Leah Clayton Prescott:

Hi Columbia! You would love to read my posts for Every Woman Blog because they will make you feel sane, organized, and totally Zen in comparison! I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama to sweet seven-year-old twin girls, an energetic 18-month-old boy, and a cute but out-of-control beagle. At this stage, I feel like every day is a painfully hilarious struggle to survive. Here’s an example of a typical day from several years ago, back when my twins were still in diapers:

There isn’t enough Prozac or Febreze to fix this terrible, awful, horrible, no-good, very bad day. Why, oh WHY is it times when I have my sights set SO high on getting SO much done that the entire world seems against me? Let’s go chronologically, shall we…

6:00 AM Psychotic beagle wakes me up, running around the room for no apparent reason. Take off her collar so it will stop jingling, then put her on my bed, which is typically off limits. She proceeds to jump up and down and run around the house so that I cannot fall asleep.

6:35 AM I fall back asleep finally, right before the girls wake up, grumpy as usual.

6:50 AM Try to entice the girls with TV, but wind up having to fix breakfast ahead of schedule, then spinelessly give in to feeding them in the living room. I feel like I have already compromised my values and I haven’t even had my coffee yet.

7:30 AM Since things are already on a downward spiral, it seems like the appropriate time to prepare for the inevitable Walmart trip.

9:30 AM We’re finally ready to go. Leave front door.

9:45 AM Leave drive-way. Yes, it does take that long, I swear. Have you ever tried to carry two toddlers to the car along with their accompanying accessories while simultaneously blocking a headstrong beagle from escaping the front porch? It’s no wonder I have tendonitis. In both wrists.

But wait, there’s more! Check out my entire “Flashback Friday” post here: http://2ndgenhomeschooler.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/flash-back-friday/

Alyssa Daniel:

I am a single mom after a 22-year marriage. It has been a struggle at times, but completely worth it. I believe that I would write an interesting blog because of my unique perspective. I came from an abusive relationship and survived. I have three beautiful children, 18, 9, and 6, who give me three completely different views of life. I am starting over and rediscovering who I am, and who I want to be. Come with me as I discover my future, help me shape who I become. We are in for an interesting adventure.

Christy Irons:

I think I would be a great blogger because….

  1. I have almost 7 kids (5 adopted, 1 homemade, 1 adoption in the works)
  2. My children are hilarious and regularly talk about elephants pooping babies (not kidding) or Chuck E. Jesus (Chuck E. Cheese’s) or Foxers (boxers) or Princess Diarrheas (Princess Diaries, the movie)…
  3. My only homegrown child insists he IS adopted.
  4. I could use this platform to continue to shamelessly promote foster care, domestic and international adoptions.
  5. I love my family. I love candy. I hate weird smells and centipedes and cleaning toilets. I love my gross pajama-pants-that-are-the-opposite-of-sexy. I love naps. I love to share way-to-much about life around here. I am every woman…


Chaunte McClure:

Me, me, me. I wanna do it. I wanna do it. I would love to be a blogger for Lexington Medical Center. I love to inspire and encourage women through my stories and God’s word. I’m a wife, seminarian, minister, marketing professional, and aspiring voiceover artist who has had a sudden desire to do an arts & crafts project. (Thanks Pinterest!) What it’ll be, I don’t know. Will it look like the beautifully finished product in the photo? Umm…maybe not, but it’s worth a try. I’ll never know until I try. I enjoy writing and it has become an outlet for me. It’s therapeutic. I’d love to share it with others!

Angel Rae Tomsic:

Hello there Every Woman readers, my name is Angel and I’m a mom of two precious toddlers and expecting another bambino very soon. And I mean very soon. Our little family moved here a couple of years ago for my husband’s career and the adjustment hasn’t always been easy. I’ve been a stay at home mom since the move and trying to restart a career at the same time. If anyone thinks being a homemaker is easy, they’re wrong. Every day is an adventurous challenge especially when you’re living in a new area and more than 600 miles away from the family and friends and the support system you used to have. Why pick me as one of your bloggers for Every Woman? I’m living the challenges a lot of women are facing right now. I might make you laugh, cry or see your area through a pair of different eyes. When I say I know or understand it’s because I’ve been there, have done that or am experiencing it right now. I sometimes feel people just assume certain things, but I don’t do that because everyone has a story to tell. I was a journalist at one point in my life, and I’m willing to share some of my stories with you.

Lydia Scott

If for no other reason, there will definitely be plenty to talk about if you decide I’m the blogger for you:

  • I’m middle-aged (but you did NOT hear me say that!).
  • Have two kids and two step-kids between the ages of 9 and 15, with three of them in the teens (feel free to add me to your “please help is woman!” list!).
  • Have a “trial run” ex-husband and a studly, amazing LAST husband that I actually went to high school with for a year, although we didn’t know each other.
  • Have ex-in-laws and in-laws (who totally rock, by the way!).
  • Have been a stay-at-home-mom-on-disability in the past and am now a full-time employed mom to what feels like a gaggle of teenagers.
  •  Have (4) cats and a dog. One of these cats is known as “the furry demon also known as Tonka the destroyer.”
  • Have had and have BEATEN Postpartum Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure. In fact, I was released from ALL restrictions as of this past June! Woohoo!!!
  • Have been a fat girl my entire life and finally lost about 125 lbs so far with about 80 more pounds to go. This is tough since me + cooking food = heaven.
  • Have had gastric bypass surgery that I learned to eat AROUND. Yes, you heard me…I ate around that sucker!
  • Am an active eBay seller with plenty of ummm…”stories”…from our experiences.
  •  Am the annoying person who keeps stumbling across odd but cool stuff other people don’t always think about. Did you know there are BLUE spiders??
  • Obviously have plenty to say, hahaha!
  • Know how to use bullet points, especially for rambling monologues.

That’s probably more than enough to send y’all running for the hills, but if you do decide to subject yourself to more, you know where I am!

Sherree Thompson:

Hey! I’m interested in blogging for y’all. I think I would be a great fit because, frankly, I’m pretty normal. I already have a blog about food, being a mom, and gardening. Mostly I just write things that are related to finding local food, from local farmers. I try to help everyday families eat better by showing them what I cook each day or night through my photo log. I like to give tips on what’s a good buy where, or if I see a sale going on organic foods I’ll pass on the info. Eating real food is something I have always done and just want to get other people to see how easy it can be.

Feel free to visit me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eatgoodsupper on my website at http://www.eatgoodsupper.blogspot.com or on Instagram at @eatgoodsupper.
Be warned, since I have two young children (ages 2 &4), I rarely edit what I write. I’m getting better but, well, you will see when you read my blog.

Cynthia Wass Shepard:

Hi Lex/Med.

I think I would make a great blogger for y’all! My tagline on twitter is “Creating fitness wherever I go.” I have the BEST job in the world. I teach fitness classes and am a personal trainer in the Columbia area, I host fundraisers, I volunteer at local schools and events, but mostly I connect with other women about getting & STAYING healthy.

Whether it’s in one of my classes or meeting a client out at Lake Murray Dam for a walk or a run, I truly LOVE the Midland’s because there is SO much one can do to stay fit!

Each class that I teach is an opportunity to talk to women about how important it is to take time for themselves, to carve out a fitness time, to plan to eat healthy and to live moderately.

My message is all about NOT depriving yourself, to get RID of the guilt that so many women carry, and to get them to know themselves and to move forward with realistic and achievable goals.

Over 700 people are on my Facebook page these days, and I love hearing their stories. Whether it’s getting off a medication, losing 10lbs or 100+lbs, or discovering new friends or connecting with old one’s at class; these are the things that make fitness “stick.”

Thanks for your consideration!

Sydney Yarbrough:

Hello Lexington Medical Center! I’m Sydney.

At 23, I’m a certified cat lady and foodie.I look up to those people I see out running early in the morning when it’s 30 degrees outside. While I admire their dedication, I am (sadly) not one of those people. I like to sip my coffee beside my heater in the morning while watching Kathie Lee & Hoda and catching up with emails and blogs on my iPad. I am an avid pop culture follower. I love celebrity news and fashion. As much as I love fashion, I love yoga pants. My favorite part of the day is throwing those on, pulling my hair up in a bun, & setting sail on a brand new DIY project. I recently started designing & making jewelry, but that’s another post entirely.

I am a visual person, so I document a lot of things through pictures & videos. My visual tendencies also cause me to gravitate toward all things pink & sparkly. IKEA, Target, & Disney World are my happy places (although my wallet begs to differ). My wallet woes have caused me to become an avid couponer and deal seeker. If there’s something on sale or a treasure hidden in an antique store, I will find it.

I love design. Interior design, graphic design, fashion, make-up…there are so many forms of artistic concepts that interest me. I’m on a mission to teach myself about all of them.

Holiday Greeting

By: Katie Austin

It’s that time of year when we begin baking an assortment of holiday treats, decorating the house and planning gatherings with family and friends. This is, without a doubt, my favorite time of the year! The only exception is that I miss the warmer temperatures, but in the south, that can happen too.

Part of Christmas, for us, is sending out Christmas cards. One of the reasons I love to send them out is that it shows the personal side of the season. Social media is everywhere and, yes, it would be easier to send a Facebook email or Instagram picture or even a YouTube video, but I also know that we all enjoy receiving a card in our mailbox or in person. If you don’t have time and want to save money, you can always use an e-card to send your holiday greeting. I do use American Greetings to send e-cards for different occasions since I can easily schedule them ahead of time.

This year, I am using a combination of a holiday picture card and crafting something by hand. I want to be creative, but I also know that sending a picture card is a great way to send pictures in the mail to loved ones.

First, I used Shutterfly to create and purchase our family holiday picture card. The website is super easy to understand, quick to upload photos, and then uses a step-by-step process to walk you through creating your card online. You can create just about anything on their website using your pictures! Within a short period of time, your idea becomes a reality and before you know it, the package arrives at your doorstep. Note – if you want to use Shutterfly, don’t do what I did last season and wait until mid-December, as you will pay more to have it shipped to receive it on time.

Family card

Ok, where was I… Oh, yes, I was telling you about our holiday picture card. I am also creating homemade Christmas cards to give to family when we exchange gifts. I perused Pinterest and several other internet sites to get ideas and tap into my creative side. My favorite card that I found was on the HGTV website.

This is just one of MANY homemade card ideas that I found online. If you go to Michaels, AC Moore or any craft store, you will find a section for making your own cards. I make my own greeting cards for birthdays and other occasions by using what I find in the craft store. This is my first year making homemade holiday cards so we will see what I come up with. 🙂

Do you make your own holiday cards? If yes, what do you send or give out to family and friends? Do you have something online showing your creative talent? If you do, post the link here so that we can share with our Every Woman Blog family.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!

12 Strategies to Avoid Weight Gain This Holiday Season

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Santa Weigh-InWeight-wise, the holidays can pack a powerful punch. The amount may vary according to the study, but it’s a fact: the average American gains weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, as much as seven to ten pounds. This is horrible news to someone like me, who is not only trying to maintain a loss, but hoping to ring in 2014 a couple pounds lighter. Following are twelve strategies that I’ve used – some more successfully than others, I might add – to lose weight during the past few years. I’ve modified them a bit for the holiday season, and share them with you in hopes that you may find one or two that help you during this scrumptious season.

  1. Plan and Prepare:  Plan around holiday socials and celebrations. If your office is holding a potluck for lunch, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast and plan on a lighter dinner. It’s especially important to prepare and pack healthy snacks and meals when you can to counteract the times when you can’t.
  2. Eat to Savor, Not to Stuff: Eat holiday favorites mindfully. Give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday foods you love, but eat them slowly while tasting and enjoying every bite. Practice the three-bite rule to keep your cravings in check. You’ll get that amazing first taste, a satisfying middle one, and then a lingering third bite.
  3. Relish the Experience: Food is such a big part of holiday celebrations, but it’s not the only thing. Enjoy your time with friends and family. Bring a board game. Start a new, non-food related holiday tradition.
  4. Think Before You Drink: Did you know that a 20-oz. eggnog latte has 620 calories? Punch, hot cider and eggnog can be high in calories, too. If these beverages are an important part of your celebration, enjoy them in moderation. Make water your standard drink of choice.
  5. Back Off the Booze: Cocktails, beer and wine not only have a high calorie count, but having too many can loosen your resolve and lead to overeating. If you indulge, drink slowly and drink plenty of water before and after.
  6. Keep a Healthy Arsenal: During the holiday, our offices are full of food. It’s hard to say no. To avoid temptation, bring a healthy snack like a small bag of almonds or a container of Greek yogurt to work.
  7. Move It: Increasing your physical activity level during the holidays is a straightforward and effective weight control strategy. If you already exercise, turn it up a notch during the holidays. Don’t exercise? Start. Even daily walks will help.
  8. Eat Before You Go: Never go to a celebration or big meal hungry. Drink a couple of glasses of water and eat some fruit or raw veggies before heading out. If you aren’t ravenous when you arrive, chances are you won’t inflict as much damage when you hit the buffet table.
  9. Bring Your Own Healthy:  You may not be able to control every menu, but you can bring a healthy dish to share. That way, you know there’s at least one thing you can enjoy guilt-free. Your hostess will always be grateful for another dish, and no one has to be any the wiser.
  10. Pace Yourself – It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is getting full. Set your fork down between bites, chew your food thoroughly and sip some water. Enjoy the company of the people around you at the party. Getting caught up in conversation is a great way to avoid overeating.
  11. Let It Go: If you do overindulge, let it go. Beating yourself up over a “slip” from healthy habit can set the stage for a full tumble off the wagon. Instead, focus on what you did right and compliment yourself. Return to healthy eating habits the next meal instead of blowing the rest of the day with the “I’ll start tomorrow” excuse.
  12. Go to Bed on Time: Sleep routines sometimes go haywire over the holidays. But recent research ties weight loss to keeping a regular sleep schedule, showing that those who go to sleep and wake up at regular hours have lower body fat than those who don’t.

Do you have a strategy to stay on a healthy track in the face of holiday temptation? Please share in the comments below so others can benefit.  Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!

In the Middle: A Brave New World


Artwork by Madi Ray

Artwork by Madi Ray

The inspiration behind an original piece of work, inspired by middle school students and created by a drama teacher taking a chance on a vision.

A note from that teacher…

“I admit, I’m the kind of person that hears a song and sees the stage – music sometimes affects me in such a way that I will literally produce a whole show in my mind as I’m listening to it. I see the stage and everything happening on it. I become so inspired that the vision takes over. This was the case with this show, except that I was had several sources of inspiration. I was listening to the band 30 Seconds to Mars and I couldn’t stop thinking about the middle school students that I teach at Chapin Middle School.

When some of the songs set my mind and my imagination into high gear, I felt compelled to host conversations with my students about the things they face at this stage in their precious lives. These conversations proved to not only be entertaining, but incredibly eye opening. I realized very quickly how crucial this time in their lives really is. They are literally stuck in the middle of childhood and what I like to call, “teenagedom.” What happens to them at this point in their lives – who they’re influenced by, what inspires them, the confidence and knowledge they gain, among many other things – all help to define who they are as they take this roller coaster ride that is adolescence.”

Ok, yes, that teacher is me. I can, with great relief, say that the show was a big success. Let’s just say that after opening night, I was a crying, overwhelmed, incredibly thankful, exhausted mess. I was so fearful that my vision might not come across to our audience – that they wouldn’t “get it.” I took a big chance and I certainly don’t claim that the show was perfect by any means. However, I can say with confidence that I was overwhelmed with pride that my students and I were able to pull off my vision and were able to truly entertain and touch our audiences.

7th Grade Cast

7th Grade Cast

The show’s promotional description states that it is an intriguing selection of monologues, scenes and videos with quote-worthy narration in between, straight from the hearts and minds of teens. Comedic and dramatic material from middle school teens’ points of view on school, relationships, role models and life ‘in the middle’…from coping with the epidemic boy band fever, fashion blunders and guys trying to look “hot” for picture day, to overcoming adversity – like bullying, cancer and the loss of a loved one, this is war and these kids are experiencing a brave new world!

In the program, I stated that I would let the show speak for itself and hoped that it would touch the audience, warm hearts, make everyone laugh out loud and motivate everyone to applaud the passions and talents of these truly fabulous middle school students. (And, maybe it would help people to remember to have a little more patience for their moments of adolescence insanity!)  🙂

8th Grade Cast

8th Grade Cast

The compliments following the shows were amazing. They still bring tears of joy to my eyes since I was not only able to entertain and touch an audience with our little show, but was able to inspire and provide a positive performance experience for my students; one that I hope they never forget.

I must say, these amazing humans who are currently “stuck in the middle” have certainly inspired me beyond words.  I am honored and privileged to have been in this priceless position to make this vision of mine come to life. Hopefully I’ll be able to share many more experiences with the EveryWomanBlog.com readers!