We have the opportunity on the daily to make a positive impact on the world around us.
Whether one goes through their day searching for good deeds to be done,
or simply takes advantage of random opportunities to spread love,
every action (or inaction) has a resounding impact.
The question is: Is your impact today going to be positive, negative, or indifferent?
I have been told that one person can't make a difference.
I affectionately call these people "dummies"...
Those who actively try to hold the rest of us down,
those who would rather watch you drown than help you soar, those who can't grasp the power of positivity to create change.
Whether it's a great recipe found, or an uplifting story to share, you can be sure to find it here.
Let's start a Positivity Revolution, and drown out the dumb!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Boycotting Black Friday

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

This is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. Mostly, because it involves over-eating and socially acceptable day-drinking. Plus, unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving provides a day to be with the ones we love, and reflect on what we are grateful for, without the materialism of forced gift-giving.

I've been appalled that year after year, stores are opening earlier and earlier for Black Friday. This year, there are even a handful of stores opening today at 4 and 5 o'clock! Yeah, hanging out with your family ALL DAY might not be everyone's cup of tea, but come on! The only thing that can possibly compel a business to rob their employees of time to be with their families is greed; pure and simple. And we as consumers allow it by ditching our loved ones and lining up to give these stores our money. It's not what this holiday was ever about, and it seems that most have allowed the meaning to become lost, overshadowed by the promise of a great deal.

So, I am boycotting Black Friday in its entirety. The entire concept of shopping for Christmas on Thanksgiving is what's wrong with us as a nation. We have everything, but think we need more. We have this incredible opportunity once a year to really enjoy each other, to take a step back and breathe, to be in the moment and reflect on how amazing our lives are.

Why not take today and appreciate what you do have?

I'm grateful for my good health, my warm home, my loving boyfriend, my talented sister and her shining light of a daughter. I am grateful to have a good job, and all the things that go along with it. I'm grateful to have girlfriends who I would trust with my life, and a family who wishes I was close. There are too many things to list (Matt has the pleasure of hearing all of them later)!

My hope is that each one of you have a wonderful holiday, full of love and laughter and very much food.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Day-Drinking

Holiday drinks are always high calorie nightmares for those watching their intake. But...it's the holidays, and much more enjoyable to pretend that calories don't exist; indulge; and start anew January 2nd. That gives us a full month of guilt-free deliciousness... Hooray! This is going to be our 2014 go-to for the season of parties and weekend day-drinking: Captain and Cider.

The recipe I found called for an ounce and a half of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum, and 8 ounces of cider. I picked up some all-natural apple cider and we simmered the Captain, along with a couple cinnamon sticks. It ended up being a little strong due to the adorable little mugs we used, but that's something I can easily get over, haha. I have these neat little pots with spill-proof lips that my dad gave me, which made this an easy and "oops-free" way to drink our way into the holidays!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lazy Hair

I try to shy away from posting pictures of myself online, I'm no model and I have to admit that I get a little judge-y when girls go selfie-crazy. But... I had a really good hair day, so I figured it couldn't hurt to post just a couple!

This was actually the result of pure laziness with a touch of good luck, I really just didn't feel like straightening all my hair. I pulled half into a loose bun and after securing it with a ponytail holder, I pulled the edges around and used about a thousand bobby pins to secure it and make it into a prefect round donut.

Boom! Easy-peasy, and perfect for work.

It's a Woman's World

Working in an office full of women has taught me a few important things, some good and some bad:

1) Women cry. A lot. The nice thing is that if we spurt a few tears during the course of a very-stressful day, there's someone there to give you a hug and a tissue.
2) Women need to be constantly assured that they look good. This is an easy one, tell a coworker she's pretty or has a nice dress on, she'll cherish that nugget for the rest of the day. You know when she lugs out her shiny boots and struts around the office? She's fishing for a compliment, and you both will feel better if you just give it.
3) Women judge everything. The same way a woman likes to be told she looks great, she loves even more to unjustifiably, ceaselessly judge. It doesn't matter if your pants are too shiny or if you have bags under your eyes, she'll point it out, maybe even trying to hide it within a "compliment". "You look so tired," has got to be my favorite.
4) Women who are threatened by you will try the hardest to make you feel bad. (See #3.)
5) Women (the good ones, at least) have the ability to let you vent vehemently about work or personal issues, and then pretend it never happened. As long as they are trustworthy, your stories go into a vault, and then you can go back to normal. Women don't treat you like a crazy person after (like, ahem, men).
6) When you take just a little bit of time to get to know your female coworkers, they will turn into your Mama Bear and go to war for you. I don't know if this is actually true across the board, but I must say that I don't hate being "Mama Beared" by my colleagues.
7) It is important to give everyone on the team appropriate and regular praise. After all, they spend the majority of their time away from families who probably don't appreciate all the things they do at home; so why not make them feel good about what they do at work?
8) No matter what you do, or how nice you are, there will always be someone who doesn't like you. This can be hard to deal with, especially because women can be vicious. But, as Oscar Wilde said, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

The Queen of Fail

Some may not agree with this, but I believe that failing can make you a stronger person, and uncovers the opportunity to create a better version of yourself...IF you know what to do with these little nuggets...

I fail often, and it gets frustrating...until I remember that I can learn a lesson and try again. I take mental notes constantly; every time I get that yucky feeling that "It" could have gone better. And you know what, the next time, "It" does go a little bit better (usually, haha).

Instead of fearing failure, why not embrace the inevitable, many blunders you make in your life?

Every day, every moment, in fact, presents a chance to turn it all around. (Is that line from a movie? I think it is...) There is an unending opportunity to take the things that you aren't thrilled with in your life and fix them. To be a good person, a forgiving partner, a more involved family member. It takes action, awareness, and most importantly, kicking yourself off your pedestal.

No one is perfect, but that doesn't mean you can't strive for perfection. Not fearing failure is freedom, pure and simple. What was your most recent failure?

Bacon-Hat Deviled Eggs

I don't eat deviled eggs often, mostly because we don't throw enough (read: any) parties and the thought of a mayonnaise-filled egg makes me want to barf.

Thanks to my best friend The Internet, I found a few recipes and tricks that make deviled eggs easy and healthy! On Ruhlman's blog, I found a fabulously helpful post about deviled eggs, including how long to boil them for (until just boiling), how long to simmer them for (about 15 minutes), and the importance of an ice bath after. He also shared the tip that when you slice the eggs in half instead of lengthwise, and cut off just the tip of each end, the become even more adorable (my words), and easier to fill!

This deviled eggs recipe uses only a few ingredients: half of an avocado, 1/8 cup or so of Dijon mustard, and some lemon juice to brighten up the taste. Salt and pepper should be added to your liking, as well. This will fill about 4-5 eggs, so duplicate as needed. After mixing your ingredients in a bowl, spoon it into a plastic bag and cut just the tip off, making a faux pastry bag. This is my absolute favorite trick of all time, and I use it for everything!

Pipe the filling into your eggs, and sprinkle with fresh or dried parsley flakes. I also added a piece of bacon to each egg, which made them look like they were wearing little bacon hats...YUM!

Fat Side

I'm not embarrassed to say that editing and uploading these pictures makes my mouth water. This was our best brisket yet, and I have finally committed to keeping a "Smoking Diary" to keep track of our best meats, and the blunders to be avoided. The way that we're going, I'm going to have a booklet of PURE GOLD in a few years! And I might weigh 800 pounds, but it would be totally worth it. I cheated on the store-bought mac and cheese and dinner rolls, because after babying this brisket for eight hours, it's hard to worry about anything more.

This was a 2.7 pound brisket that I bought from Giant Eagle. I don't think there's any sense in spending more money by going to a specialty meat store, since brisket isn't a great cut of meat, anyways. So until we open a gourmet smoke shop, supermarket meat works just fine! We preheated our smoker to 200 degrees (we've found on the electric smoker, going lower than the recommended 225 seems to work best), and popped the brisket on at 9am, fat-side down. I had rubbed this baby down the night before, and we let it come to room temperature before starting to cook. We found it rose in temp quickly, then held at 156 degrees for most of the day, which caused us a bit of panic. Apparently, this is completely normal for a brisket to rise quickly and hold its temp, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier to not mess with!

We let it cook for about nine hours, hoping the temperature would rise to 185, but it just never got there. So this was super moist, but a touch chewy. Next time, we plan to cook at 210 degrees, and I may change it to fat-side up. I've read through smoking forums that recommend both ways, no one seems to have solid evidence as to what is consistently best for the fat side. So, stay tuned! I accept the challenge of the brisket.

Curiosity vs. Anger

I have this wonderful quote in my office that says, "Be curious, not judgmental."

I work in an office where the majority are women, and it seems that in this industry I chose, this is quite the norm. I'm not saying all women are bitchy, but as part of the fairer sex, I do know that we can be overly-sensitive. I also participate (accidentally, mind you) in the phenomenon that I like to call "Zero to Crazy". This is when one seemingly innocent or insignificant thing happens, and it sets off a quick-reacting string of thoughts that leads to CrazyTown. Sometimes it takes a full day to get to CrazyTown, sometimes it only takes a few minutes. In fact, I was just there last night! It took a couple hours to make the trip, and luckily the visit didn't last the whole evening...but I'm afraid that story belongs to a different day, and a different post.

The reason I searched out this quote about being curious is because it is SO easy when communicating via email with needy clients and competitive women, to misconstrue the smallest note or comment. I've written before about how women should be lifting each other up, but this can't happen without communication. And communication without immediate judgment. So instead of seeing red when someone does something seemingly stupid or mean, I take a deep breath and a step back. If I were to approach the situation without emotion, what was this person trying to communicate? If I can't figure it out using logic, I ask. Every once in a while, the person was really trying to be shitty. But 90% of the time, it was innocent on their part and just misunderstood on mine.

Can you imagine if everyone took the curious road, instead of immediately assuming they knew the intent of the other person? We could spend so much more time getting things done, and eliminate unnecessary strife and drama.

The Good Kind of Squash

I used to be a very picky eater. My mom was a health-food nut, and even though I'll eat all kinds of "disgusting" veggies now, it wasn't something I wanted any part of when I was a kid. They also hadn't invented edible whole-grain bread back then, so I was stuck with sprouts-and-cucumber sandwiches between two slices of cardboard. It's surprising that I didn't get beat up every day at school!

It seems that each year that's gone by, I've added more foods to my "OK" list. First it was green peppers, then red peppers, mushrooms, sushi (I know that's not a vegetable, but whatevs), and now, squash. Specifically, spaghetti squash. This recipe is my veggie favorite, and when I'm cooking for just me, it's a healthy and easy dinner! (The boyfriend is still riding the "veggies are gross" train.)

Take a small-ish spaghetti squash and poke holes all over with a fork, then microwave for about 8 minutes, so you can cut it without the danger of slicing your finger off. (The first time I made this, I tried to cut it while raw, and realized 1) that I am not The Hulk, and 2) I am smarter than the squash. So, I microwave it first to make it a bit easier and safer for my piggies.) Using a towel to remove, because it will scorch your little fingers, place on a cutting board and cut in half length-wise. Then, place face-down in a glass casserole dish with about a 1/4 inch of water, and pop in the microwave for another 8 minutes. While this is cooking, slice up your fave veggies (I used red onion and Roma tomato).

When the squash is cooked, you can use a fork and just shred off as much as you want to eat. Toss the squash strands with EVOO, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning to taste, and your veggies. Pour a glass of vino and trick your brain into thinking you're eating actual noodles! If you smother it in marinara, it's even better.

Happy eating!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dangerous Confidence

Matt and I made the 5-hour treck to Michigan this weekend for his wonderful mother's birthday celebration. As we were driving at a responsible speed for all of these five hours, we witnessed oh-so many terrible drivers. Not terrible like, "Hey there, you didn't use your blinker," but terrible as in, "Pleeeease pull that person over before they kill someone." I rarely root for cops, but there were a couple times yesterday that I was hoping for one to materialize. How come they are always there to speed-trap you on your way to work in the morning, but there's no one to reprimand that tailgater at 90 miles per hour? All you can do is look on and hope they don't come near you.

It's always been a slightly terrifying experience driving in Ohio. I see accidents every day, and I guarantee my blood pressure spikes on the 30-minute drive to and from the office five days a week. How much less stressful would your drive be if you knew that people were not using their vehicles as weapons? If you knew that someone wasn't going to cut you off, would you be more willing to let them into your lane? If you knew that the car in front of you wasn't going to break check you, would you continue to tailgate? I'm making a Pledge to make my driving safer, by realizing that my massive vehicle is in actuality a deadly machine if misused.

I pledge not to text, or read texts while in motion; I pledge not to use my vehicle in an aggressive manner; I pledge to understand that a moment's distraction can mean a lifetime of regret.

What do you pledge?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Celebrating Life and Death

“ On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations. ”
—Frances Ann Day, Latina and Latino Voices in Literature(Latina and Latino Voices in Literature, Greenwood Publishing Group, page 72)

Today is "All Souls Day", when families can go to the cemetery and adorn the graves of their relatives with beautiful flowers. Living across the country from my family and friends makes it impossible to physically visit the final resting places of those loved and lost over the years; and truthfully, All Souls Day is not something I would have been interested in participating in when I lived in Colorado. I was much more inclined to pretend that death didn't, or wouldn't, happen.

Of course, memories float in every once in a while about friends who have died too young, or family members I wish I could give one more hug to; but the last few days I've been deliberately thinking about those I've lost. It always hurts, but why not choose to celebrate the time we had together instead of pushing those memories away? All Souls Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate the life that was, and I've decided to embrace this tradition.

Death is not something I deal with well. It is so much happier to pretend life will go on forever, than to realize that death comes to us all. I've always wanted to change my thought process surrounding the inevitable. I know the reason I get so sad about death is because I'm terrified for this wonderful life to end; it's pure selfishness. I don't know how I will survive when I lose my sister, or Matt, or my mom, or my best friend (to be honest, I hope I die first). It makes my heart hurt just to think about a world without those I love the most in it, and even more to know almost for certain that I will experience that pain.

BUT...The Day of the Dead and the celebrations that follow provide me the opportunity to face death somewhat fearlessly...I choose to celebrate life AND death.

Pizza for Breakfast

I woke up this morning to a clean kitchen and my boyfriend cooking eggs. "Let's make breakfast pizza!" He exclaimed.
I. Love. His. Face...
The only thing I might love more is pizza in the morning!

We pre-cooked a Pillsbury thin-crust pizza, then topped with 6 cooked eggs, 1/5 of a red onion, 4 strips cooked bacon, and strips of cheddar cheese (I was too lazy to grate).

Sprinkle everything you want on top of your pizza dough, and cook at 350 degrees until melty (about 10 minutes). I think next time, we may spoon a thin layer of sweet barbecue sauce or pesto over the crust first, just to help the eggs stick. You couldn't ask for a more delicious way to start your Sunday!