Thursday, December 31

Half-Priced Hope...Happy 2010!!!

As 2009 winds down

a new year **and decade**
just a whisper away

this was on sale **50% off Christmas clearance**
it's big...not an ornament

I love the whole idea of it.
Half-priced HOPE...for the new year!

Hope for the possibility
of new opportunities & experiences.
New lessons to be learned...
old lessons to be refined.

Happy **and hopeful** New Year!

Wednesday, December 23

FAVORITE recent FINDS under FIVE dollars...and FIT TIP (#62)

Fun **recent** discoveries
that put a **happy holiday** smile on my face.

Fluffy **winter** White Vintage Collar...antique mall
$5.00 **after 50% discount**
Handmade **crochet, with little pearls along the edge**

Frothier...Ross $4.00

Froth-i-er [fraw-thee-er] to make foamy.

Pour skim milk into glass vessel,
**not above black line**
heat in microwave 30 seconds.
Set **hot** vessel on cork pad...
**hand** pump lid/lever until frothy.
Pour over hot chocolate.
fat-free foamy fab-u-lous-ness!
**say that fast 3 times**

Unbleached Baking Cups...Sprouts $1.00/box **60 cups**
Besides the great natural color **that I so love**
other facts:
no chlorine, no toxins, 100% biodegradable, 100% compostable, microwave safe,
and can even be used without a muffin pan **hmmmm**

Twine Balls...thrift store $1.00 each
Found in original packaging.
**have you checked the price of twine lately?**
Various gauges...I bought them all!
**yes, I went back to the stinky store**

Old **love** Notes...sewing box, secret compartment $0
To: **7th grade** Jordan
From: Various **7th grade** Females

Knowing my sons didn't keep such things
around **at that age**
I'm thinking the little sister **hey Kendal!**
tucked them away in the secret hiding place...
for future use. **and forgot?**
I found them, and smiled!

Pop/Rock Holiday Favorites CD...Walmart $5.00
Sugar Ray **love Mark McGrath** sings Little Saint Nick.
Other performers include:
Collective Soul, Everything But The Girl, Jewel and more.
High energy Christmas tunes.
**some I've never heard before**

FIT TIP (#62): Peppermint Prescription
**in a NASA-funded study** During simulated driving scenarios, participants reported that peppermint lowered their feelings of fatigue or anxiety by 20%.

Peppermint & cinnamon each decreased frustration by 25%, increased alertness by 30% and made the ride seem 30% shorter.

Not a gum or candy person? Buy peppermint or cinnamon aromatherapy diffusers for the car.

Sunday, December 20

Holiday Hooks...and FIT TIP (#61)

What I do with a bunch of candy canes...

Break off the "hooks".
Melt dipping chocolate
and dip.
Don't forget to add
festive sprinkles.
I don't stop there.
I grab a bag of
honey wheat braided pretzel twists
and dip them.
**every last one of them**
Adding sprinkles to some.
Leaving some plain...oh-so yummy!
For friends & family.

And what becomes of the "hooks"?
Put in a zip lock baggie
and crush **until powdery**.
Add to hot chocolate.
More festive-ness!

P.S. If some of your lovies
don't like peppermint...
try Bob's Original
Cherry Rainbow Candy Canes.

FIT TIP (#61): Do Good, Feel Good
Acts of altruism can lend a little pep to your step. Many studies have found that service and volunteer work can boost your energy in six ways. It enhances:
...happiness satisfaction
...sense of control over life
...physical health
Abe Lincoln said, "When I do good, I feel good".

Thursday, December 17

Did You Know?...and FIT TIP (#60)

--Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" (in 1843) in just 6 weeks.

--"Jingle Bells" was first written for Thanksgiving.

--Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia plants are non-toxic.

--If you received all the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," you would be the recipient of 364 presents.

--The first artificial Christmas trees were made of goose feathers and dyed green.

Antique **15 dollar** table w/book shelf. Before...

**I have a thing for black paint**

FIT TIP (#60): Interval Training...
which is alternating bursts of intense activity with bursts of lighter activity--is a good way to burn more fat.

For example, if you normally walk at a moderate pace, add in spurts of faster walking. Work up to adding in spurts of jogging. This strategy will burn overall more calories and more fat.

Sunday, December 13

Collections @ Christmastime...and FIT TIP (#59)

I've used bits & pieces of my collections
to decorate for Christmas this year.

I have a collection of vintage musical instruments.
I used the **full-size** trumpet
**inspired by Stone at Thanksgiving**
as the centerpiece of the tree.

I love old books.
Sometimes it's the title that I'm drawn to.
Other times it's the cover and/or color that attracts me.
Occasionally it's the inscription on the inside...

The Good Shepherd (1940) and
The Story of the Other Wise Man (1920)
are beautiful reminders of the
true meaning of the Christmas season.

I combined some of my cloches & black pedestals
for a centerpiece in the dining room.
I didn't have a pedestal **in black** the size
of one of the smaller glass domes...

but, I did have:
a black candlestick & appetizer plate...
and glue.

I now have the perfect pedestal
for one of my vintage trumpeters.

FIT TIP (#59): Tune In
Music is one of the most effective ways to change a bad mood, decrease tension, and increase energy.
Research suggests that music effectively distracts you from feeling fatigue.

Consider this: Runners in one study who listened to music while on the treadmill ran faster than those who jogged in silence.

Try this: Burn a CD of your favorite songs and play it when you need a pick-me-up.

Sunday, December 6

Tis the Season...and FIT TIP (#58)

Can hardly believe December
is almost a week old!

Celebrations have begun...
parties, dinners, goodie exchanges.

Thanks to our local ABC affiliate,
I share:

8 Holiday Goodies to Avoid
~Swedish meatballs
~Cheese straws
~Pecan pie
~Fruit cake...**um, no problem**
~Stuffed potatoes
~Pot roast...**yup, fixed one of those this week**
~Creamed spinach...**probably anything creamed**

FIT TIP (#58): Holiday Stress Reduction

Happy celebrating!

Monday, November 30

Slice of Heaven...and FIT TIP (#57)

My little chairs...

were in heaven this past week.
Me too!

My vintage trumpet was also thrilled.
**oh what beautiful noise, I mean music, we enjoyed**

Phoebe, not so much.

So many blessings
this season of Thanksgiving.
Including the safe return
of my loved ones to their abodes.

My little chairs miss them already.
Me too!

FIT TIP (#57): Give Your Back a Break (#2)
**tip from the Detroit Pistons' trainer**
Steal a towel. Sitting beats up the disks in your back. A rolled-up hand towel tucked between the small of your back and your chair will take the pressure off.
**also aids in proper posture**

Sunday, November 22

Five Guys & Four Sisters...and FIT TIP (#56)

"What are the odds?" sister #3's husband
asked out loud.

Five Guys came to town,
new to the east side of the Valley of the Sun...

and 4 **out-of-5** Bracken sisters
showed up, on the very same evening
at the very same time,
**without planning it**
to welcome them to our neck of the woods.

We are a friendly bunch, ya know?
Sister #1 ** AKA me...birth order**
running holiday-type errands,
called sister #4, to meet up
**join forces**
in completing the last of Saturday's tasks.

As a reward for jobs well done,
we headed to the new burger & fry joint.
**sustenance, right?**

Imagine our surprise,
as we walked in through the back door,
and bumped into sister #3 and hub.
**are you keeping track?**
Surprised mainly because they had been
hiding away at a Scottsdale resort
all weekend.

We ordered our grub and joined them.
Within minutes, sister #2 and her entire clan
**including Lynds & fam, but minus Ashley**
walked through the front door.

Five Guys and Four Sisters!
You have to know it was unplanned.
Otherwise, sister #5 would
have surely been there.
**and quite possibly Mark & Jacki too**

REVIEW of the FIVE GUYS: Dang Good
**4.5 burgers out of five**
I will definitely return.
Ordered mine with grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes and A-1.
The fries almost taste healthy, and come regular or cajun seasoned.
**all food accompanied by great tunes**

P.S. My hamburger heart **I seldom eat burgers, honest...Heather, are you listening?** still belongs to IN-N-OUT.

FIT TIP (#56): Give Your Back a Break
**tip from the Detroit Pistons' trainer**
Check your mirror. Set your rearview mirror just a little too high so that every time you check it, you sit up straight.

Wednesday, November 18

Two Are Better Than One...and FIT TIP (#55)

**a few months ago**
I met this little guy
**through a dog rescue association** and
fell in love!
**I wasn't even "in the market"**
The perfect pet **in my eyes**
~~a yorkie...they don't shed
~~not a puppy...enough said
~~itty-bitty...4 pounds
The adoption was set in motion.

Then..."they" introduced me to her:
~~a yorkie
~~not a puppy
"they" mentioned that two really are better than one.

And I have to agree.
Meet Milo and Phoebe.

FIT TIP (#55): Splish Splash - Water Therapy
Splash some water on your face or take a shower when you're feeling burned-out, according to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Apparently, a little H-two-O refresher can instantly help take the edge off when you're feeling overwhelmed AND increase energy.

Saturday, November 14

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends...and FIT TIP (#54)

Woke up the other day with a
sore throat, itchy eyes, runny nose,
and all-over feeling of ICK.

Instead of feeling better once I
showered, dressed and got to my office...
the ICK feeling continued to grow.
One of my friends delivered a big bottle of
Bragg raw-unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar.
He swears it's a cure-all for "whatever ails you".

Another friend dropped off Kleenex Ultra Soft and
some of my favorite sweet treats.
Best tissues...hands down!
**Charee introduced me to them during allergy season**

Another friend brought over dinner & a movie. comfort food & entertainment!
It worked. It all worked.
Thank you, friends!

With all kinds of ICK going around,
I highly recommend the Bragg Vinegar "treatment".
**2 tablespoons followed by a glass of water, 2-3 times daily**
Kleenex Ultra Soft a necessity, and
goodies & movies to help the medicine go down!

P.S. The label on the vinegar reads:
"With the Mother"
10 points to anyone who can explain that one!

P.S.S. The back of the label has the recipe for
The Vinegar Health Drink.

FIT TIP (#54): Feedback Loops
One of the greatest things about our body is that it responds to what we're doing through mechanisms called feedback loops.

Tell your body you want to watch House reruns all night, and it responds by downshifting energy productions.

Tell your body you need to walk around the neighborhood, and it responds by giving you the energy you need. And then your body teaches your brain that it wants to walk.

This is how healthy behaviors become automatic habits. The first few times, you may have to coax yourself out the door...until it gets easier.

Sunday, November 8

If You've Ever Been Tempted...and FIT TIP (#53)

If you've ever considered trying one of "my recipes"
please, pretty please...
let this be the one!
The two main ingredients
**that I'd rarely used until recently**
poblano peppers & polenta
are now among my favorites.
When given the choice **from here on out**
I will always choose the poblano over
the bell **as in peppers**

And the die for...seriously.

polenta-stuffed poblano peppers

**start to finish: 30 minutes**

4 plum tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 poblano peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
sea salt & pepper
1/2 cup polenta
1 10-ounce package frozen corn
1/4 cup soft goat cheese (2 ounces)
4 scallions, sliced

On baking sheet, toss tomatoes, onion and oil: turn tomatoes cut-side down. Place peppers on sheet, cut-side down. Broil until tender & charred, stirring onions and turning tomatoes and peppers halfway through, 5 to 8 minutes.

Puree tomatoes, onion, cinnamon, 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper until smooth. Spread half the sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange peppers cut side up.

Prepare polenta, following package directions. Stir in corn, cheese and all but 2 T. of scallions.

Divide polenta among peppers. Top with remaining sauce and bake at 400 degrees until heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions before serving.

My choice of polenta:

FIT TIP (#53): Exercise on the Brain (part 2)
Chronic back pain can cause you to lose up to a teaspoon of gray matter per year. Best way to beat back pain: Build muscle in your lower back and abdominals.

Wednesday, November 4

Hate to Admit it, but...and FIT TIP (#52)

--I have a thing for white paper towels--
**and own a good size stash to prove it**
I realize it's not
environmentally correct, but...
I try to make up for it in other ways.
p.s. I mainly use cloth dish towels **versus paper ones**
in the kitchen.

--I'm not the faithful follower of DWTS
that I once was--

I only watch it with the aid of a DVR remote...
**finger on the FF button**

--I kind of like Donny Osmond, again--
and I hope he wins!
**I hope you're not disappointed in me, Charee**

--I have discovered THE BEST chicken wings--
**since Papillons**
from a hole-in-the-wall eatery,
located in a SHADY, little shopping center.
p.s. By shady, I do not mean "lack of sunshine", ya know?

--I like hole-in-the-wall eating establishments--
**ahhhh, Elmer's**

--I cut off a big, black truck yesterday--
just so I could pull into Sonic
and order a cherry limeade w/crunchy ice.
**after all, it was 92 degrees**

--I am so pleased that Shaq is no longer a Sun--
Enough said about that, and now...

FIT TIP (#52): Exercise on the Brain
Normal aging drains neurotransmitters and shrink brain cells.

Getting your heart rate up can reverse this process by increasing blood flow to the brain to improve memory and brain function.

TRY THIS: Eat an apple a day to keep the neurologist away. Apples contain quercetin, an antioxidant that protects your brain.

Saturday, October 31

Nothing Spooky Here...and FIT TIP (#51)

Total blast having Gavin & Stone in
the Valley of the Sun as
October slips away.

**for Chloe...we missed you**
Monkeys separated by Superman
**AKA Gavin, Stone, Dallen**

Monkey or not,
these are the most kissable cheeks.

To touch or not to touch...
that is the question.

**as Stone meets Milo & Phoebe**

To touch, of course!
**c'mon now**
Was it ever really a question?

FIT TIP (#51): Meditation...
builds on deep breathing, and takes it a step further.

When you meditate, your brain enters an area of functioning that's similar to sleep, but carries added benefits you can't achieve as well in any other state...including the release of certain hormones that promote health.

Also, the mental focus on nothingness keeps your mind from working overtime, thus decreasing your stress level.

Thursday, October 29

Fall Dippin'...and FIT TIPPIN' (#50)

Enjoyed a full house of out-of-town visitors this week.
We indulged in all kinds of delish eats...
including the following:
Toffee Apple Dip
~8 oz. cream cheese, softened
~8 oz. toffee bits
~3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
~1/2 cup granulated sugar
~1 tsp. vanilla extract
~6 large apples
Stir first six ingredients together in sauce pan over medium heat. Allow to cool. Dip apples (or slices) into mixture. Set aside until the dip sets up. Also works great with pears.

Sweet Pumpkin Dip
~2 cups confectioners sugar
~8 oz. cream cheese, softened
~15 oz. pumpkin pie filling
~1 tsp. ground cinnamon
~1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Combine sugar and cream cheese until well blended. Beat in remaining ingredients. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Serve with gingersnaps. Yummy!

FIT TIP (#50): Great Strides...five ways to get more out of your walks:

-1-Bend your elbows. Your arms will swing faster, helping your legs to move faster.

-2-Keep your stride short. Don't take long strides that feel awkward.

-3-Think heal-to-toe. Push-off with your heal. Toes should leave the ground last.

-4-Keep your abs pulled in and tight.

-5-Include interval training. Incorporate periods of very brisk walking followed by slower, recovery times.

Wednesday, October 21

Look Who's Hanging Around

My **scary people** vintage photo banner.
Truly hope you don't recognize any of the participants!

Came across a quick & entertaining read
For the most part, I happen to agree...

**in no particular order**

~Raisins--Little boxes of stuck-together shriveled globs are not what little kids schlep around the neighborhood for.
~Candy Corn--The fruitcake of Halloween; it just never goes away.
~Toothbrushes--Complimentary bristles on a stick do not remind "treaters" to brush.
~Smarties--Fruit-flavored, but fruit does not **should not** taste like dust.
~Apples--Before the "poisoned candy scare", evil people handed out apples.
~Tootsie Rolls--Looks like chocolate and sort of smells like chocolate, but not chocolate.
~Misc. Wrapped Hard Candy--Something about them feels past the expiration date.
~Dum Dum Lollipops--See previous entry...misc. wrapped hard candy.
~Laffy Taffy--It gets all stucky to the teethy and doesn't even taste that goody.
~Anything Fun-Sized--Since when is one bite fun?
This list brings back such vivid third-grade memories!
And personally, I like fun-sized candy bars.
**could have something to do with my "portion control" obsession**

Sunday, October 18

Not Your Daddy's Farmhouse...and FIT TIP (#49)

Old McDonald has nothing on this farm.

To my surprise & pleasure,
this is what I drove by the other day...
not far from where I grew up.

Wanting to share **with you**
I swung my car around and
pulled out my camera.

My neighbor knows the owners.
He said...
if they had seen me,
they would have invited me in.

Oh, how I wish they would have seen me!
**I want in**

FIT TIP (#49): Take Your Time
Try to take at least 20 minutes to complete a meal. This is how long it takes for your brain to recognize that your stomach is full.

For example:
Have you ever whipped up a second batch of pancake batter **by request** only to discover all tummies are full & content by the time the platter of warm pancakes are ready for consumption? Me too!