Our Lucky Collards

By Shannon Boatwright

img_1063It’s the new year, and we’re all eager to kick start our year with positive thoughts, wishes and goals of good health, abundant happiness, and financial security. One of my traditions is to cook a new year meal that “promotes” and “represents” all these things. Black eyed peas, collards, pork chops/ham, cornbread, and grapes are the staples for our good luck meal. My favorite is the collards. I always like to buy my collards from local farmers: they’re the best, the real deal, and even the most affordable.

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Over the years, family members and friends have taught me all sorts of tips and tricks to making the best collards ever. These tricks range from making sure to wash the collards 3 times (I wash mine 4 times and use some vinegar when I do the last two washes), to cutting the collards into the shape of dollar bills (I like to pretend mine are $100 bills), to putting chunks of ham in the collards as they cook.

I like to cook two batches. For one (my favorite), I just use chicken broth, good ole Lawry’s seasoning, fresh garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. This year we actually had some leftover ham, so I put some ham chunks in as they cooked to add to the flavor. The other batch I make super spicy, with pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and whatever our favorite hot sauce is at the time –whether it’s Sriracha hot sauce or Tapatio’s hot sauce.  The collards are always my favorite part of the meal because it’s something I typically end up cooking literally only once a year.

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This year I scored a total win with my parents. I actually got my Dad, who has always claimed to not care for any cooked greens, to try my collards. I had to do a little convincing, but he loves spicy things, and I think when he saw my spicy collards cooking, he couldn’t resist. Let’s just say, I got him to come around, and he officially admitted that he likes my collards! Plus, my Mama declared that my regular collards were the best she’d ever had!

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Though there has been a bit of a collards shortage this year due to the hurricanes and cold weather, you can still find some. And guess what, if you didn’t get your good luck new year meal in yet, it’s still January, so you’ve got time! I’d love to hear about any cool, good luck foods you and your family eat to bring in the new year, so do share!

Here’s to a new year full of wealth! Wealth in health, happiness, and money!

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.

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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!

I Resolve Not To Make A Resolution

By: Roshanda Pratt

I hate resolutions. I feel like a broken record because I think I said the same thing last year. Honestly, the reason why I hate them is because I stink at them. You may know what I mean. You decide on the cusp of the New Year you will break a nasty habit like nail biting (which I am still working on) and then crash and burn by July. Experts say if you make it pass the end of this month you have a greater chance of keeping your resolution. Dictionary.com defines resolution as “a resolve or determination; the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc., the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.”

For several years now, I have boycotted the dreaded resolution. Instead, I have opted to make goals. Well, aren’t they the same thing? No, not really. Dictionary.com defines a goal as the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

Personally, I have found that my good intentions of resolving to do this or resolving to do that had a lot of well-meaning determination but very little aim. Instead, I have decided to make goals to work toward. I try to make small changes every day that add up to real change. I try to make specific goals, since experts say they see more attainable than vague goals.

My 2012 Goal ListHere’s how it works: Most often by November, I know the goals I want to achieve in the New Year. Within the first week of the New Year, I sit down at my computer (before I used to write it out), and name all the things I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. The list will include family, personal, spiritual and professional items. It will also include goals that I may have come close to or did not fully happen from the previous year. I strongly believe that if a goal is attainable, you should not drop it just because the year has ended. Instead, you should keep putting it on the list until it happens. Then when it does happen, I put a check and the date. This also serves as encouragement to me through the year.

My 2013 Goal ListPutting it in list form keeps me focused on one thing at a time and holds me accountable to myself, as well as those who see my list. I actually post my list near the bed. I can see it first thing in the morning to continuously remind me of my expectations.
Some of the things on my 2013 Goal List include: getting passports for my husband, younger daughter and son, running a 5k, getting a Mac computer, giving more, and taking a few courses of study.

Whether you set goals or resolution I wish you much success on your journey to a better you in 2013. Remember these words by Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Happy New Year!
Roshanda