Happy New Year!

By Katie, 11:59 pm

Hope you’re celebrating in style. 8-)

Word of the Year for 2011

By Katie, 5:34 am

Yesterday I looked back on 2010, noting the achievements I reached, the challenges I faced, and the lessons I learned. Today I want to turn my gaze forward.

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve made them before, on a somewhat superficial level, but they never meant much. That’s because I associate an official Resolution with a whole lot of pressure. And I’m not one of those people who “works better under pressure.” I get all antsy and worked up and end up achieving very little.

So naturally I was very drawn to Christine Kane’s idea of trading in the traditional New Year’s Resolution and instead adopting a softer, more relaxed intention for the year ahead. That intention is encapsulated in a Word of the Year.  

A few days ago I settled on my Word of the Year, the word that embodies my intentions for the upcoming 365 days. My word is RELEASE.

 (Source)

The above photo is of a Chinese Finger Trap. Have you ever played with one of them? The more you pull and pull and pull to try to get your fingers out, the more trapped they become. You can only get out of it by releasing the tension, by letting go.

How’s that for a metaphor for life?

As funny as this may sound, I honestly believe that in terms of my hopes and dreams and goals for my life, I’ve simply been trying too hard. I make plans and lists and schedules. I plot it all out on a timeline or an Excel spreadsheet. I work and work and work, and then get frustrated when all that work isn’t working. And then I end up stuck.

So in 2011, I hope to be guided – gently and naturally – by the word RELEASE. I want to take a step back and trust my intuition even more than I do now. I want to lean into my gut, tune into my heart, and listen to my God who lives within me. I want to experience change without changing at all.

In Sarah McLachlan’s song “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,” she sings these lyrics:

Peace in the struggle to find peace,
Comfort on the way to comfort

This is essentially what RELEASE means to me. It means letting go so that the journey can bring just as much joy and contentment and fulfillment as the destination; indeed, so that the journey can become the destination.

What word or phrase or idea embodies your intentions for 2011? What is your Word of the Year?

Be sure to check out this great Word of the Year post on Weightless!

Looking Back on 2010: Accomplishments, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

By Katie, 5:44 am

As 2010 draws to a close and 2011 opens its doors, I’d like to take a few minutes to look back on the past year. Sometimes the best motivation and encouragement comes from seeing how far I have come, in terms of my accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned. I like to think about them through the lens of whole-self health.

Accomplishments

Body

While the obvious one would be that I completed a half-marathon, I’m actually most proud of the fact that I have been doing my best to honor and respect my body, even in light of several life changes that have certainly thrown me for a loop (in particular, the transition from full-time graduate student to full-time desk worker, suit included).

Mind

This year I started Health for the Whole Self, graduated from Towson University (below) with my master’s degree, started a full-time job, and even got a raise there! I also continued my journey to live more mindfully, with greater awareness of my thoughts and emotions.

Spirit

This year has been filled with highs and lows, but I’m glad to say that both ends of the spectrum have brought me closer to God. I’ve found myself on my knees crying to him, and on my feet praising him. In both cases my faith has been strengthened.

Challenges

Body

As mentioned above, the switch from full-time student to full-time desk worker hasn’t been easy on me. I’m still trying to adapt, figuring out how best to honor my body’s desire for movement in light of my new schedule. I’m working on it!

Mind

This year I saw the return of some of my tendencies toward stress and anxiety. At times this led to unhealthy, unwelcome thoughts and behaviors, but for the most part I handled it all in stride. I’m way more proactive about this sort of thing than I used to be, which is a very good thing!

Spirit

Full-time job + Blog + Husband/Family = BUSY. And there have been times when I’ve allowed my other jobs and interests to take priority over my relationship with God. But that’s not the hierarchy I want in my life. It’s a constant process of keeping perspective.

Lessons Learned

Body

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned this year is that our bodies aren’t meant to stay exactly the same throughout life. Circumstances change, priorities change, goals change…and our bodies adapt along the way. As long as I’m taking care of this vessel I’m living in, I’m happy!

Mind

I’ve certainly learned that mental and emotional awareness is not a destination; it’s a never-ending journey!

Spirit

This one’s a lesson I’ve been learning over and over again…one of these times it’s really going to stick! I keep learning that God really does love me (and you!) more than I can possibly comprehend. When I am able to grasp even just a glimpse of that love, it changes everything.

What’s one of your 2010 accomplishments, challenges, or lessons learned?

Before and After Photo Shoots (Your Suspicions Were Right)

By Katie, 5:33 am

The new year is approaching, and you know what that means…

Diet Advertisements! :roll:

Since so many people declare weight loss their New Year’s Resolution, it’s no surprise that January 1 brings with it an onslaught of advertisements for diet products. And those ads are sure to include lots of “Before and After” photos. You know the kind – in the “Before,” the person is pale, frowning, slouching, and looking all-around miserable. But in the “After,” the person is tan, standing up straight, smiling, and loving every little thing about life!

I’m sure you’ve already questioned the authenticity of those photo shoots. In some cases, it looks like photos of two entirely different people! In other cases, you suspect a lot of Photoshopping and airbrushing was involved. Well, folks, those suspicions have been confirmed.

Just another reminder that what you see isn’t always accurate. Indeed, it rarely is.

How about instead of vowing to lose weight this year, we instead vow to take care of ourselves as best we can by respecting and honoring our bodies, our minds, and our spirits? And while we’re at it, let’s vow to continue to be critical viewers of the media, refusing to be tricked into feeling bad about ourselves for no reason at all.

It helps me to remember that these companies want only one thing from me: my money. Choosing to feel good about myself without dieting is a whole lot healthier…and cheaper too! ;-)

I bet you weren’t surprised by that video, were you? You always suspected those Before and After photo shoots were bogus, right?

Be sure to check out the blog Before and After: A Real Life Story, which takes the traditional “Before and After” concept and turns it on its head in really insightful ways!

Above and Beyond: My Christmas Presents

By Katie, 5:03 am

Wowza! 8-O

I’m absolutely blown away by the amazing gifts I received for Christmas this year! My family and friends really went above and beyond. Here are some highlights. (Please keep in mind that I have a pretty big family!)

A personalized gift basket!

A new ornament for my collection:

Silicone Bakeware…can’t wait to give this stuff a try!

Cookbooks. :-)

And some more humorous reading material. :lol:

Two beautiful bracelets:

Herbs from my sister-in-law, who personally grew, picked, and dried them!

She also pickled some peppers. :-)

There were a couple of experiential gifts, which are always the best! There’s a sailing experience…

…and a Valentine’s Day cooking class…

VALENTINE’S DAY WINE DINNER:
“COOK WITH YOUR HONEY”


…and tickets to a Chris Tomlin concert in March – can’t wait!

Apparently my desire for a toaster oven didn’t fall on deaf ears. :-)

Also, I collect Willow Tree Angels…have you seen them before? This year I got a nativity set!

And all of the bakers out there will understand why I gave a loud yelp when I opened this one! 8-O

See? I told you they went above and beyond! Wowza, indeed!

If you celebrate Christmas, what was one of your favorite gifts, either to give or receive?

Merry Christmas!

By Katie, 5:53 am

I hope your day is filled with love, gratitude, and joy…and a little laughter too. ;-)

 (Source)

Happy Holidays!

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Idea! Chocolate Drop Pretzels

By Katie, 5:32 am

You’re finished your holiday shopping, right??? ;-)

Well, just in case you’re a procrastinator, I asked my cousin Kelsey to share with us her favorite holiday gift: Chocolate Drop Pretzels. Take it away, Kelsey!

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So, what do you do when Christmas rolls around and you’re short on cash but have an abundance of love, joy, and holiday cheer? Well, I head to the kitchen (well, first I head to the grocery store, and then to the kitchen ;-) ). My signature holiday gift has come to be my Chocolate Drop Pretzels.

I like to put them in cute holiday tins (but you could also use holiday baggies, or cellophane, or any sort of packaging you like). I give them to just about everyone…and everyone LOVES them. There are lots of recipes for these pretzel treats on the Internet, but I have found that after making what seems like hundreds of batches over the last few years, my own twist on the recipe seems to work best. Here’s how I do it.

Set out your cookie sheets, and cover them with wax paper.

Once you’ve covered your cookie sheets, lay out as many mini pretzels as you can fit on your cookie sheet.

Then, place chocolate “wafers” on the pretzels. You can use chocolate, white chocolate, or dark chocolate.

In the mean time, pre-heat the oven to 200°.

Once you have a wafer on each pretzel, place your pretzels in the oven for about 2 minutes and 45 seconds to 3 minutes.

Next, take  your pretzels out of the oven and place an M&M on top. 

These pretzels are very easy to make once you get in the swing of things, and they are a real hit! Here are some flavor variations that you might like to try:

  • Use dark chocolate wafers with the Cherry Cordial M&Ms
  • Use milk chocolate wafers with Peanut Butter M&Ms (you could also use peanut M&Ms but these are a little large, so they don’t work quite as nicely). These are also tasty with white chocolate wafers
  • Use milk and/or white chocolate wafers with Mint M&Ms

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Mega yum! Thanks for sharing, Kelsey! :-)

Do you ever give homemade goodies as holiday gifts?

AND

You ARE finished your holiday shopping, right? ;-)

A Story of Giving

By Katie, 5:48 am

Loved reading about all of your baking blunders!

As we approach Christmas Day, I can’t help but think of this story told to me a few years ago by my supervisor at an old job. We’ll call him Andrew.

Andrew was eating a late lunch at a nearly-empty Subway in Washington D.C. At one point he looked up from his meal to see a filthy woman walk through the door. Her skirt was stained and tattered, and she smelled of garbage. The caddy of random belongings she wheeled behind her made Andrew realize that she was probably homeless and living on the streets.  

She sat down at a table across from Andrew, so that making eye contact was nearly inevitable. Once she had caught his gaze, she gruffly asked for $20.

Acting as he had been taught, Andrew refused to give the woman cash, assuming she’d use it to buy drugs and/or alcohol. But if she’d like a sandwich, he said, he’d be more than happy to buy her any one on the menu.

The woman didn’t want a sandwich and grew visibly irritated at the suggestion. In a huff, she got up and walked out of the Subway.

When Andrew had finished his lunch and walked out of the shop, he was confronted with the homeless woman again; she was curled up on the street next to her caddy of belongings. Curiosity got the best of him – he wanted to know why she had asked for $20 specifically instead of just for money in general. So he knelt beside her and asked. (Andrew is one of those people who feels perfectly comfortable striking up conversations with strangers.)

Surprisingly, she gave him a very direct answer. There’s a store down the street, she said, a little less gruffly than before, and it’s selling jeans for $20. I can’t go another night on the street in this skirt…the men won’t leave me alone.

Andrew was stunned, as he realized that this woman, homeless and vulnerable in her skirt, was probably being sexually violated every night. He had wanted to buy her a foot-long turkey sub; she had wanted a pair of pants to better protect herself from sexual assault. It was a request he never could have anticipated.

He gave her the $20.

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I have always found this story very jarring. For me it is a story about the assumptions and judgments we often make about people in need. It’s about where we automatically place blame and how we diagnose situations with which we are probably not familiar. Thank goodness, I have never been homeless. So how would I know what a homeless person really needs? Why should I make assumptions and judgments about that person’s choices? About that person’s life?

This isn’t to say that we should or should not give money to homeless people on the streets, as I believe there are compelling arguments on all sides of that question. I think the lesson here is much more broad: Give freely, give compassionately, and give without judgment. It is not up to me to decide who is or is not deserving of my help, for I can never know the whole picture. My job, rather, is simply to show compassion for those less fortunate than I am, by sharing myself with them – my prayers, my time, and my resources.

As Christmas approaches, I cannot stop thinking about that woman Andrew encountered on the street. Her story makes me want to give.

What makes you want to GIVE this holiday season?

Baking Blunder

By Katie, 5:35 am

This isn’t exactly what I intended. :-?

At least they still tasted good! ;-)

Have you had any baking blunders this holiday season?

Sacrificing Health for Thinness: A Look at Vintage Cigarette Ads

By Katie, 5:12 am

A lot of people say that they are pursuing weight loss in an attempt to “get healthier,” and certainly in some cases that’s the truth. But it’s also the truth that many people engage in decidedly unhealthy activities in the pursuit of skinny.

In my personal history, those unhealthy activities included diet restrictions, over-exercising, and – during a particularly dark time – attempts at purging (sometimes successful, sometimes not). Others might add laxative abuse and the use of diet pills to that list.  

And then there’s smoking.

Today we can all agree that smoking is downright bad for you. But, as these vintage advertisements show, there was a time when cigarettes were considered a completely legitimate form of weight control.

I’m conflicted when I see these ads. On the one hand, I’m glad that smoking cigarettes is not portrayed in this light anymore. On the other hand, I wonder how far we’ve really come; unfortunately, I think many people are still willing to sacrifice their health in the name of thinness (as I once was).

So I think it’s worth stating loud and clear: thinness does not equal health, and health does not equal thinness. Taking care of ourselves so that our bodies reach their natural weights is a good thing; damaging ourselves in order to look a certain way is not.

Did these advertisements surprise you?

Do you think people are still willing to take unhealthy measures in order to lose weight?

All images are courtesy of Sociological Images, originally from the Stanford School of Medicine.

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