Give Thanks for Leggings and Salsa (And Some Other Important Stuff)

By: Lara Winburn

Thick-and-Chunky-Salsa1I am very blessed, and I am thankful every day for my life’s many gifts. I am thankful for the best friend and partner that I am married to, the precious babies that call me “mommy,” a best friend that keeps me sane, a good job with good people, a roof over my head, and many sweet friends strung around the world that keep me updated with their many “statuses.”

But there are a few things that I am thankful for that are a little less traditional. Maybe they’re even a little trivial, but worth giving thanks for all the same.

In the World of Fashion

I am thankful…

…for the wedge. I am 5’4 and have no tolerance for uncomfortable stilettos.

… that leggings and tunics are still on trend (not just skinny jeans). I am especially thankful for those this Thursday around 3 p.m.

…for the long and flowing maxi dresses (see craft beer and chips & salsa below).

In My Mommy World

I am thankful for…

…that time between 8:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. when both kids are asleep and truly look like cherubs.

…the “sleep sheep” (though I will never understand, nor be able to explain, why that sheep can make a whale sound).

…more modern technology: DVD’s in the backseat on long road trips.

In Some Space and Time

I am thankful for…

…when I can visit the restroom alone, not necessarily for any particular reason, just to grab a moment to be alone.

…the ride from daycare to work when I am quiet and optimistic that today will be the day that I am organized, thoughtful, and full of grace….before reality sets in as I realize I have on different shoes or forgot to sign a permission slip.

In the Kitchen

I am thankful for…

…chips and salsa, salty enough to make my hands swell.

…caffeine to help with the less-than-cherub times – normally between 2 a.m.- 4 a.m. –with my one-year-old. Sometimes he hates sleep and me.

…the emergence of craft beer (see forgiving fashion trends above).

…the occasional cold Diet Coke, so fizzy it burns. Please do not tell me how bad they are for me; it falls on deaf ears and the damage is done.

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with all of the big things: love, family, and time together. I also wish you a side of quiet time with long naps, stretchy sorta-pants, and a craft beer –  or at the very least, a quiet trip to the bathroom and enough caffeine to keep you going.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Happy Pre-Thanksgiving

By: Chaunte McClure

In less than a week, airports will be packed, grocery stores will be super busy, and families will be preparing a heaping helping of turkey, dressing, ham, green beans, pumpkin pies, velvety mashed potatoes and other traditional delicacies to enjoy together at the dining room table on Thanksgiving Day. Well, that’ll be the routine for most families…

There are those who are less fortunate and won’t have the privilege to prepare a meal, have dinner at someone’s home or perhaps even have a meal. The kind people of Keepin’ It Real Ministries recognized this sad reality and did something about it. Last Sunday, the organization, with the help of volunteers, served a pre-Thanksgiving dinner to more than 400 homeless men and women, and a few children, at Columbia’s Finlay Park.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Seeing the homeless kids really tugged at my heart and I couldn’t help myself but to get down to their level to strike a conversation. Although they had little say, it was obvious that what they had just received meant a lot to them. Their faces lit up like a child’s does on Christmas morning when he or she opens gifts, and all it took was a plate of warm food, a backpack and people willing to make it happen. That’s ministry. God wants us to be among those who are suffering so we can be ministers for Jesus Christ.

The more than two hours spent in the cold organizing, plating food and distributing backpacks were worth the smiles I saw and the expressions of gratitude I heard.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Whenever I participate in this type of mission, I always have to thank God. Lord, thank You for the roof I have over my head. Thank You for the food I can eat daily. To be in the presence of so many people who don’t have a place to stay really helps me appreciate the state I’m in, even if I think it’s not the best.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

As we enter the holiday season, I hope you will find opportunities in your community to serve. Keepin’ It Real Ministries will serve dinner to the homeless again on Christmas Day and the ministry is in need of volunteers. Will you help? The Christmas meal will be served at the Sumter Street Transit Station on the corner of Sumter and Laurel Streets at 4 p.m. If you’re interested, give Oscar Gadsden a call at (803) 406-0724 and let him know you want to help.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

A Clean Eating Thanksgiving Tradition

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

cranberry sauce

Since I’ve only been really cooking a few years, I have yet to build a huge arsenal of clean holiday foods. This recipe for Lemon Cranberry Sauce is the exception to that rule. I found the recipe in Clean Eating, and I’ve made it for at least the last three Thanksgivings. I’m making it again this year for both my work and my family Thanksgiving. I found Sucanat at Whole Foods, but I’m sure it’s available in other healthy food stores.

LEMON CRANBERRY SAUCE

Serves: 10

Hands-on time: 5 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes (plus chilling time)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup Sucanat
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from half of the lemon. (NOTE: Remove colored part only, avoid the white pith.) Cut peel crosswire into thin slices. Save remaining lemon for another use.

Set aside 1/2 tsp lemon peel. In a medium saucepan on medium, combine remaining lemon peel, cranberries, Sucanat, 3/4 cup water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most cranberries have burst, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a resealable container or serving dish and set aside to cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve chilled. Before serving, garnish with reserved 1/2 tsp lemon peel.

Nutrients per serving (3 tbsp Lemon Cranberry Sauce): Calories: 73, Total Fat: 0 g, Sat. Fat: 0 g, Carbs: 18 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugars: 16 g, Protein: 1 g, Sodium: 57 mg, Cholesterol: 0 mg

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!

Thanksgiving Traditions

With Thanksgiving only two days away, we wanted to hear how you, our readers, celebrate Thanksgiving. We asked the Every Woman Bloggers about their favorite way to celebrate the holiday. Check out what they had to say and then tell us about your own special traditions. Do you cook a special recipe every year? Play football before the big meal? Simply enjoy connecting with your family? We want to hear!

Thanksgiving

Katie Austin

Our Thanksgiving tradition is to get the family together for dinner and take our turn telling each other what we are thankful for. Beside the scrumptious food, that is my absolute favorite part about Thanksgiving. Then, after we have eaten dinner, we gather around to watch football or play a board game. At the end of our Thanksgiving gathering, I find myself taking in all the wonderful moments that make our family special.

Brady Evans

Our family doesn’t have any long-standing traditions. A part of me always wanted something concrete to depend on like getting the Christmas tree, watching the parade, or visiting with a specific group of relatives.  We, however, drift around on Thanksgiving, visiting different arms of the family each year in no set pattern. Meals vary from being catered to being eaten in a restaurant to being eaten at home and though the Macy’s parade is always on in the background, no one pays close attention. So I guess the tradition has become just spending time with our loved ones, whomever they may be.

Crissie Miller Kirby

Our tradition varies from year to year. We alternate Thanksgivings, spending one year with my family, and the following year with my in-laws. Regardless of where we are, the day is about being with family, catching up and just being together; something we all need to do a better job of.

We continue the Thanksgiving holiday by traveling to Monetta, SC and choosing a live Christmas tree from Tom Sawyer’s Christmas Trees. If we are in the Midlands for Thanksgiving, we get our tree that day. If we are on the coast for Thanksgiving, then we typically go out before Thanksgiving, tag our tree and go back when we return to actually cut it down and take it home.

Mary Pat Baldauf

For years, my family celebrated with my grandparents and extended family members at my grandparents’ house. Perhaps one of the most cherished traditions was the “kids’ table,” a card table with mismatched chairs where the grandkids ate. Over the years, the grandkids grew up, but we still always ate at the “kids’ table.” One year, we mixed things up and some of the kids got to sit at the “big table.” You know what we found out? The kids’ table was a lot more fun. We have sadly lost my grandparents, and we now celebrate Thanksgiving with family friends. They, too, have a kids’ table, and each year, I rediscover its magic as I take my seat there, a forty-seven year old “kid.”

Elizabeth Webber Akre

I’m not sure exactly when this started, but I think it was sometime in the 80’s. One year my Aunt Jennie made a sweet potato in which she mashed the potatoes with some orange juice concentrate, topped them with a sweet pecan topping and baked them. From the first time these showed up, it became THE ONLY sweet potato dish accepted by any of us. Aunt Jennie always gets this bashful look on her face because she says it was just some recipe she picked up one day and made. But, like it or not, they have become well-known to many, even to those outside of our family, as simply “Aunt Jennie’s Sweet Potatoes.” 

My Aunt Jennie’s sweet potatoes have become the end-all, be-all sweet potato dish. In 1988, I spent my fall semester living with a family in Rennes, France. On my Thanksgiving phone call home, I learned that my mom had offered to make the sweet potatoes that year, AND SHE DIDN’T MAKE AUNT JENNIE’S RECIPE. Seriously, I heard about it from my sister, each cousin who got on the phone and, most emphatically, from my Uncle Tommy (married to Aunt Jennie). Yes, everyone was most displeased. Lesson learned. I think the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Seeing The Foundation

By: Shannon Shull

Best Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here, so our minds have turned
To what time has taught us, to what we’ve learned:
We often focus all our thought
On shiny things we’ve shopped and bought.
We take our pleasure in material things,
Forgetting the pleasure that friendship brings.
If a lot of our stuff just vanished today,
We’d see the foundation of each happy day
Is special relationships, constant and true,
And that’s when our thoughts go directly to you.
We wish you a Thanksgiving you’ll never forget,
Full of love and joy—your best one yet!

–Joanna Fuchs

 I don’t know who Joanna Fuchs is, but I do know that her poem here really touched me. What really stood out is the line about the thought of seeing the foundation of each happy day. I read that and my mind immediately thinks, well, not all days are happy. But then I think about how even if we’re having a tough day, we should always think of the foundation of that day. The what, the who, the how we made it through that day. Whether we recognize our own inner strength that allowed us to survive hardships, those special people who made our day worthwhile or the recognition of all the things we have to be thankful for. If all our “stuff” just vanished today, would we see the foundation of our day?

I’ve made some major mistakes in my life. Some I still pay the price for. Though I know that there is a reason for everything and my God has a plan for it all, even our imperfections, some days it would be all too easy to consistently beat myself up over things.

My only saving grace is to recognize all the things I do have to be thankful for. Yep, it’s the foundation of my days that get me through the pain. The special, constant and true relationships with the precious, loving people in my life, help to hold my sanity together. The innocent and priceless love of these precious beings I gave birth to and the pride I have for their amazing accomplishments and total beauty, inside and out. The weekly joy I get from being a teacher and seeing the looks on these students’ faces when I’m able to inspire them and they sing my praises. The sheer fact that I have a roof over my head and can pay my bills thanks to a secure job in my dream career.

ThanksgivingWhen the negative aspects of my life start to over-run my heart and mind, I have to fall back on the foundation of my day. If I fail to do so, then the inner demons would surely carry me away.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I challenge you to recognize the things that truly create the foundation of your days. I wish you a Thanksgiving you’ll never forget, definitely full of love and joy and above all full of thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gingerbread Cake

By: Brady Evans

This past weekend my husband and I attended a wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, but I think we both had the most fun the following night at a karaoke bar with the bride and groom, the rest of the bridal party and close family and friends.

Now, my husband is nothing like me when it comes to singing. I’m an embarrassment to mankind while he’s quite a pleasure to listen to. He’s played music professionally for years now, writes original music, has copyrights in the Library of Congress, and has opened for the Indigo Girls (remember them?). You would think he’d be thrilled to do karaoke.

He was hiding his talent like I hid the deliciousness of this gingerbread cake on Thanksgiving Day. It was a new recipe and a foreign concept to me – gingerbread CAKE (not cookies). I wasted more than a few breaths making excuses: I might have overbaked it; it’s a new recipe; I messed with the original ingredients.
By the time we all took our first bite, however, it was obvious that no excuse needed to be made; it was a darn good cake.

Gingerbread Cake

I’ll make it again very soon- possibly for Christmas morning because the leftovers were especially delicious with coffee. Oh, and by the way, my husband finally braved the stage and did exceptional (as expected) renditions of “No Woman, No Cry,” “Thunderroad,” and “Rocketman.”

Gingerbread Cake (adapted from So Tasty, So Yummy)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot water

Orange Glaze

  • powdered sugar
  • juice from one orange
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Instructions

  • Gingerbread CakePreheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch round pan.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.
  • In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Blend into the creamed mixture molasses mixture. Stir in the hot water completely. Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Bake 30-33 minutes in the preheated oven or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  • Make orange glaze by combining enough powdered sugar (2-3 cups) with the juice from one orange to make a pourable glaze. Sprinkle in orange zest and pour over cake.