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!

Naan

By: Brady Evans

It is awfully easy, I find, to get into a cooking rut during the winter. For me, the shortening of the days and the addition of more horse chores during fall and winter (horses can just eat grass during the spring and summer! They require feedings during the other months of the year.) mean dinner becomes an afterthought.

The default seems to be meat-heavy-dishes that just don’t excite me. What does excite me, though, is fresh bread. I knew planning a meal around a yeasted dough would get me excited to be in the kitchen (as opposed to dreading this final chore of the day). Thinking over types of breads I’ve not made, I settled on naan.

Naan

 

This dough is super easy to work with and I adore that it is “baked” stove-top rather than in the oven.  This leaves your oven free for baking cookies!

Naan (As seen on 3squarechef)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 c warm water (warm tap water is fine)
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

Instructions

  1. Whisk together warm water, yeast and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Let stand for 10 minutes to proof.
  2. Sift flour and salt together, then add the yeast mixture, half of oil (2 tbsp) and yogurt. Mix dough with a wooden spoon.
  3. Place turn out on a floured counter and knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in size.
  5. Punch down dough, then knead for 5 minutes. Divide into 8 pieces. Let rise for another 10 minutes.
  6. Roll each piece into an 8 inch round.
  7. Brush each side of the naan with remaining oil. Heat skillet on medium-high and cook each naan round for 2 minutes per side until puffed and golden. Serve immediately.