Special Interest

Forget SMART Goals, These are KIND Goals

BE KIND. No, it’s not an acronym. This is my goal for 2012. Be Kind.

Simple, yes? I got the idea of a “word goal” from Rachel Wilkerson, who is all about the verb goals. Rachel says that verbs are great goals or resolutions because verbs are what “get things done.” I think her logic makes perfect sense, but of course I couldn’t just pick a simple verb. No, I chose an adjective. Kind is a description. But throw “be” in front, and by God if I don’t have a verb on my hands after all!

So, what does “Be Kind” mean? Well, that’s just the beauty of it. Being kind applies to nearly all aspects of your life. (Well, I guess if your goal for 2012 was to be more assertive, “be kind” wouldn’t be such a great goal, but this gal knows how to speak up for herself and those she cares about. Just ask my boss.)

This year, 2012, I have declared the year of kindness.

I will be kind:

To my health
by snacking on more raw veggies
by resting, so I don’t wear myself thin so often-even if that means I’m “lame” sometimes
 
To my body
by training with intention for my first 1/2 marathon (February) and at least 2 more sprint triathlons 
by spending time on my yoga mat at least once a week-either at home or in the studio

To my mind
by reading even more, especially nonfiction
by watching more documentaries and seeking out the hidden from view issues in our modern world

To my soul
by traveling domestically-hello road trips
by attending more cultural events
by living in the moment more and fretting about the future less

To my blog and readers
by finally getting my self-hosted site live
by posting 3 times a week consistently, with worthwhile content
by expanding my knowledge, connections and ideas through attending a blogging conference

To my future
by continuing to save at least 10% of my income each month
by finishing my professional license requirements and determining my next plan of action for continuing education

To my world
by supporting and advocating for local farmers/ranchers and all businesspeople
by investing in companies who have the same values as me
by researching/starting my own small garden in the summer

To my students
by listening to and being patient with them all, no exceptions
by striving to instill in them my own love of learning and puzzlement at the world’s wonders

To my family and friends
by staying in touch, even when we lead busy lives
by staying in touch, even when we lead busy lives (yes, that one is worth saying twice)

I hope that 2012 is very kind to you, dear readers. I plan on ensuring this year is kind to me, because what you give, returns in kind.

Love to all,
~the striving to be kind gal, Jess

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Giving is Better than Receiving

See that stylish outfit? No, it’s not my sweet rags for Christmas dinner. (heck, it’s so warm in Florida right now just the thought of a sweater makes me, well, sweaty) The outfit isn’t even mine. It’s for the Christmas Angel I chose off the Giving Tree at my church.

For years my family has chosen several Angels, which are essentially wish lists from disadvantaged children and families, after which my mum and I would hit the mall/Target to fulfill the list and have a blast playing in the toys and clothing sections of the stores I had long out grown.

This year as my family was choosing Angels, it hit me. “Um, Jess? You are a grown woman. You have a full time job, you pay your own bills, you tithe to the church independently, isn’t it time you stopped mooching off your parent’s charitable acts?” Duly noted, inner-monologue, duly noted.

So I chose an angel reading “outfit for a 15-19 year old girl.”  Perhaps shopping for toys would have been more fun, but as a high school teacher that is my demographic and I love my kids, so this just felt right. And you know what friends? Clothes shopping for a mystery girl is so fun! Perhaps I went a bit overboard at Forever 21 buying for my angel, because I couldn’t stop with just a dress (which is a halter style, so she can wear it all year long) and sweater. I had to add those great shoes, a sweet color popping bracelet and a cute little owl necklace as a cute nod to her giver, me! (I’m an FAU alumni, Go Owls!) Oh and of course I fell for the lip glosses in the bowl by the register, so in the bag it went! (Let’s not talk about the final bill, ok?)

I hope my Angel Girl loves her Christmas gift. Giving is so much more fun that receiving in my opinion, mostly because I love to shop! Oh and I love making people happy. Really Christmas is a win-win time for me.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have a joyful and blessed holiday with friends, family and all those you love.

Love to all,
~the little Christmas Elf Gal, Jess

PS. Speaking of giving, I went non-traditional with my co-worker gifts this year, since most of them are all watching their eating I didn’t think my usual treats of toffee, cookie dough balls or cheese biscuits would be well received!

I got a steal on oil cruets from a restaurant wholesaler and then filled them with dried chilies and peeled garlic cloves. Instant flavored oil! I also included a recipe card full of suggested uses for the oil with each bottle.

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On, Special Interest | Leave a comment

Food and Wine 2011: The Do’s and Don’ts Edition

We all probably know by now that I think the EPCOT Intentional Food and Wine Festival is a huge DO in my book.

I only go every single year, and refer to the festival as it’s own season. This year I was getting worried that it was going to be the year that I became the DON’T by missing it for the first time in 6 years! First it rained, then I was sick, and then I ran a triathlon.

But wait, attending a huge food festival is totally a DO after a big race, so bestie Jenna and I loaded up after my tri (and a blessed 2 hour long nap!) and headed out to the Happiest Place on Earth to meet up with a few other friends to eat, drink and be mousey merry all around the world!

Here are a few of my tips to make your experience at F&W a huge DO!

DO stop by the awesome cranberry bog, sponsored by Ocean Spray.

DON’T be too disappointed that the cute Ocean Spray guy (Justin Hagan) isn’t there, even if he is your future husband.

Isn’t he just the cutest? 
I’ve heard from sources that in “real life” he is just as goofy as his commerical character!
DO stop by the Canada stand to get a cup of Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup.

This may have possibly been the best batch I’ve had, as this soup is a staple for me at F&W. 
DON’T mind my chipped “tiger striped” nails, leftover from Homecoming week at my school of employment! 

DON’T bother stopping at “neighboring” Greece, because they took both the Spanikopita and the Boutari Santorini wine off the menu this year. Boo.

DO get your seafood and comfort food fix all in one amazing dish with Ireland’s Lobster and Scallop Fisherman’s Pie.

This small portion is incredibly filling, has a fantastically complex flavor profile for such a traditional and rustic dish and is even prettier mixed up!

DON’T get suckered into standing in the left hand line at the Ireland stand….it is the beer line and all they have is Guinness. I adore Guinny, but I’m not about to stand in line for 25 minutes for a beer I can get at nearly any decent bar/restaurant!

DO brave the line at France. The Escargots Persillade en Brioche and Sparkling Pomegrante Kir are a must every year!

DON’T be sad that the rest of the usual “festival crew” (aka the drunk and rowdy boys) are too busy doing tequila shots in the “not so secret anymore and now packed” taqueria in Mexico to come join you, because you won’t have to buy double plates for sharing this year! More for me = a huge DO.

DO get your beer fix at the Belgium stand with a refreshing Hoegaarden because the line is short, the smells of waffles are free (and totally satisfying!) and Belgium beer is delicious! 

DO get excited about the new Portugal stand, at first.

DON’T bother with the Calamari Salad with Fennel, Smoked Paprika and Olive Oil because while it sounds tasty and refreshing, it’s just an oily mess with no hint of fennel.

DO recover from the Portuguese mess by stopping at the Hops and Barley stand to pick up the Sam Adams 16th Anniversary Festival Beer-Boston Ale and Pumpkin Mousse with Ocean Spray Craisins and Orange Sauce.

DON’T worry about the let down of the 16th anniversary festival beer, since it tastes just like regular Sam Adams Boston Lager, because the Pumpkin Mousse is really the star of the show.

I would have named the “mousse” a trifle, since it also included some layers of spice cake, but what ever you call it every tiny bite was a tasty combination of classic fall flavors, without being too sweet. I would certainly get this again and am considering making something similar for an upcoming work social.

DO ask a friendly fellow park goer to take the picture of your group, as we all know “if you don’t take a picture, it didn’t happen.”

DON’T forget to jump back up on the bench, since your cute boots won’t be shown off if you are standing.

DON’T bother getting the Kiebasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream if you’ve ever “met” the lovely Mrs. T and her frozen pierogies, because I’m fairly certain that these are the same thing.

I’ve raved about this dish in the past, but I’ve declared this year to be the last that I visit the Poland stand.

DO stop at the South Korea stand and get the Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw if you’ve taken my advice and skipped Poland. DO email me to remind me of how wonderful it is, how bright and tasty, the perfect balance of savory, sour and spicy with a wonderful crunch. I knew this dish was a DO when I tasted it for the first time in 2010, so DON’T make my “I ate too much already” rookie mistake.

Any day spent with my best friends, enjoying tasty treats and eats is a DO. So, DON’T miss out on all the yummy tastes and “travels” that EPCOT has to offer during the International Food and Wine Festival.

Love to all,
~the, “I guess all those years of Glamour subscriptions are rubbing off on me” gal, Jess

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In English Class

I wasn’t going to write about September 11th today.

I actually was going to prattle on about dinning with zebra butts, but that post can wait for another day.

See, I don’t like getting carried away with media hype, and considering I’m part of the media (a teeny, tiny part) I was actually dreading this weekend and all the memorials and specials.

Then on Friday we had a moment of silence at the school where I teach, and all the administration took turns reading a passage about what happened on 9/11/01.

And it all came rushing back. When the announcements had finished, all 20 of my freshman students looked at me expectantly, as I usually say something after the announcements have completed.

I was in 10th grade English, which was held in a tiny classroom in the library.  The librarian came down to our classroom to tell us that “something was happening” at the World Trade Center in NYC. Our teacher wouldn’t let us put the TV on, even though we begged. So, one at a time we took turns sneaking out of the room (our teacher was older and not always wise to our shenanigans) to watch the TV in the library. It was “my turn” when the first tower collapsed. I will never forget that moment, just as my Mom will never forget where she was when JFK was assassinated.

At this point I got choked up, which I think shocked myself more than my students.

The rest of the day we didn’t actually have classes, we just watched CNN on all the classroom TVs. I remember being scared, which I scolded myself as being dumb, since no one was going to bomb or crash a plane into our tiny, rural school. I was scared because none of my teachers could tell us what was going on. The holders of all the answers didn’t know what to tell us, because they were just as rattled and frightened too.

When I asked my class how old they were on 9/11/01, they replied they were 6 years old. Most of them said they didn’t even remember what had happened that day. I told them they were lucky.

But I think I am the lucky one, because I still understand why we are/were at war with Iraq and why we are in such a huge financial mess as a country. I might not like the actions our government leaders have always chosen, but I will never forget the moment that started it all.

Love to all,
~the thoughtful gal, Jess

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Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold?

Or is it the other way around? I could never remember.

Oddly enough when I have sore throat, nothing makes it feel better than food. Yes, I know I am werid. Thank you very much.

Here is what I fed my summer cold over the weekend:


72% dark chocolate and Wensleydale cheese with apricot

The best tasting antioxidants around! 

Sweet Milky Tea

 Soothing on a sore throat and opens up airways with the heat.

Wasabi Explosion Mix from Fresh Market
This tasty blend of rice crackers and wasabi peas clears out my sinuses and tastes like crunchy sushi! 
Love to all,
~the, “I really hope this is my only cold of the summer” gal, Jess
Categories: Snackage, Special Interest | Leave a comment

Secret Santa Gift Exchange- From Washington to Florida, with Care

So, I was that kid that loved pen-pals (thanks to fbook, my American Girl Pen Pal, Kat and I still stay in touch a few times a year!), the “mail the cat around the world project” and of course Secret Santa exchanges. Needless to say, when friend and fellow blogger Amber told me about the Secret Santa Gift Exchange back in October I gladly signed up and then promptly forgot about it.

I mean, all I had to do was choose a $15 gift to send to another blogger, whose contact info I would receive later on, and mail it in time for Christmas. No long handwritten letters, sticky collages or cheesy pictures with a stuffed cat and writing in a “travel-log” before shipping to the whole thing off to the next kid in line. This was going to be a snap.

Then I got my contact info for the gift exchange. I was to be the Secret Santa for Krista, of Daily Happenings. Turns out Krista is an awesome Mom of two lovely boys and loves art and requested “crafty items” as her gift. (Me, being me I just said “surprise me” back in October).

Oh no, craft items? Um…..help? You just saw the extent of my craftiness the other day, and well, I didn’t want to let Krista down, and figured a $15 gift card to Hobby Lobby would be kind of a cop out. Oh wait, and we don’t even have a Hobby Lobby in Florida! Needless to say, I came up with a little something, something care of Perpetual Kid, which I’ll let Krista tell you about here.

I was pretty anxious then when I got my package all the way from Washington State, that Krista would have sent me a lump of coal, in response to my lack of crafty themed gift, and the woman totally knew how to win my heart, through my oh so sweet tooth.
 

Yum, yum, yummy.  Candy cane brownie mix, hot chocolate, a Christmas mug and chocolate spoons? Hello sugar coma. Oh, and perhaps there was a bag of Reese’s candy, but you didn’t really want to see a picture of that now did you? Oh, you did? Well, sorry. I ate them. So, I’m actually not sorry.

A big thank you to my Blogger Santa Krista! I’m off to bake those brownies for my favorite Christmas Eve Party of the year!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Bloggie Good Night!
~the little blogger elf herself, Jess

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Celebrating 15 Years of Heart Heath

15 years ago I was in a pediatric intensive care unit unsure if I would be able to wake up on Christmas morning in my own bed. What 9 year old doesn’t dream of open heart surgery for Christmas, right? ha. What my parents and I didn’t know, was that the outcome of my fateful December 4th date with the operating room would end with the implantation of a pacemaker-the 3rd generation of which I still sport (it was another Christmas “gift” my senior year of college).

What I choose to celebrate the weekend of December 4th every year is the fact that I live a “normal” life (haha, that is the kicker kids- check the header- What is Normal, Anyways?). But in terms of a “heart kid” I am more like a “normal kid.”  I don’t take daily meds (well, heart related ones), I only have to attend annual in office visits to my cardiologist (and yes, I still visit the peds clinic!), I am only limited to avoiding contact sports, sky diving, scuba diving and arc welding (so, yes, I had to change my career dream of being a marine biologist who could weld too-seriously- but I was a kid, so I may have changed my mind in time, regardless of the pacemaker). Oh and I always get a “private security screening” (aka, frisked) at the airport, since they freak out if I try to go through the metal detector. Perks, people, perks.

So about that celebrating. I choose to spend my 15 year anniversary post open heart/pacemaker joy with one of my college roomies and bestie Abigail (and hubby George!) in Charlotte, NC.

We gossiped, we ate, we photographed, we fell down on sleet covered streets (ok, that was just me), we ogled at orchids, we ogled at jellyfish, we acted our shoe size and played with balls (both large and small. tehehe), we ate, we pole danced (ok, only Ab did really….I invented a new move called the lemur-it’s really sexy….not- and only have really sore arms to show for it), we loved on the dog (or maybe I just harassed her, but the little squirrel loves me anyways) we ate, we watched movies, we blogged, we cooked (ok, she cooked-I took more pictures), we ate, we slept late, we laid on beds of nails, oh and did I mention we ate?

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate, or with better company.

Enjoy the Semi-Abnormalness:

Love to all,
~the “card carryin’, pacemaker totin’ heart kid” herself, Jess

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Shout out to my 211 Ladies

I don’t know what I would do without these amazing women in my life.

 March 2010- Young, Fun, Fabulous Teachers out for Spring Break!

We only got to spend a whirlwind weekend together in SoFLA celebrating Ashley’s Mum’s 60th Birthday party (big recap to come!) and it makes me so happy to know that even when we will be turning 60 we will still be besties for life, no matter where life takes us.
Thanks to some grounding conversations with Ash today (you have no idea how our simple chat really brought me clarity!) I’ve got a decent grip on what the next 2 year of my life will look like. Of course I know that those plans will probably get dumped upside down at some point in the next 730 days give or take a month, but I’m ok with that too.
Here’s the gist.
I will live up being young, fun, and single by:
  • working hard and playing even harder
  • traveling….seriously. 
  • Saving money while I can, but focusing on life experiences….you can’t get more of those, money can always be come by.
  •  Not letting living in the boonies be a crutch. I can and will run a half marathon in February (short term goal, obvs….but this had been weighing on me too.) 

    Wow- I feel better.

    Happy Sunday!

    Love to all,
    ~the, “I know goals are flexible, but I need them anyways” gal, Jess

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Uptown Girls….

I know, I know, I’m such a tease…..I told you all about the wonderful time I had in Charlotte NC, and shared some great meals with you and then just like that hussy in high school I left you hanging, with just a glimpse of cleavage suggestion about sharing my Uptown Adventures with you all. Well, let’s put the blue blog balls away and get on with it, shall we?

So, on the last full day of my trip to visit Abigail and George, “us girls” rode in to work with George, since he works in the heart of Uptown. While he plugged away, doing amazing computer things I won’t even pretend to comprehend Ab and I created our very own walking tour of Uptown….well, we were going to go on a guided tour, but the tour guide was on vacation. Not to be discouraged we grabbed maps and set off on foot. 7 hours later and a couple “wrong turns” we had trekked the whole area, South to North and back again…..oh and we got some good photos too. I’ll get on with those and keep the jibba-jabba to a minimum for this post.

Most of these are Abigail’s….I noticed we were taking very similar photos, but hers are always better than mine, so you can assume if it’s “good” it’s hers! (Thanks for letting me share, love!)

The next two are actually mine….I’m really pleased with how they came out, so I have to brag a little.

The Future-one of the Four Titans 
So, I obviously liked “The Garden” a lot! PS. Do you spy Abigail in this collection? 🙂
“Cascade” is actually moving art…think a giant grown-up’s mobile. Loved it, could have sat for hours and watched!

The “Crayola Room” in Wachovia II. While a great spot for jumping photos (and getting strange looks in the process! LML) it actually documents the building of the Wachovia Buildings. I have a thing for industrial photos (and color-duh!), so I LOVED this room! Makes me, ahem, jump for joy!
The rest of these are all from what became my favorite place in Uptown: The Green. The entire area (probably 2 blocks by one 1 block) is between the beautiful St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the end of the Wachovia Buildings/Shops. A great literary theme is continued throughout in the details of brick work, brass art and landscaping, all of which are just so beautiful and relaxing. Ab and I spend about 3 hours here total during our day of adventures…some how we just kept wandering back. See why for yourself:

By the end of the day, post art admiring, post street foodie fair crashing (just got freebies: iced coffee, a tiny taste of omgamazing gelatto, and Fage (my fave yogurt!) with peaches) what are girls to do but go back to the best Green Space in the Queen City and photowhore build up Abigail’s photography portfolio? Here are my three favorites from a series at the Fish Fountain in St. Peter’s courtyard. (for more of the photoshoot that day check out my About Me page)

Love to all,
~the tease city explorer, Jess
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Dinner turned Breakfast

Hi all and Happy Friday!

I woke up with one thing on my mind today: broccoli!

Last night I had a simple dinner of grilled chicken and broccoli and this morning the little bit of leftover broccoli was was just calling my name from the dark recesses of my refrigerator.

Plate o’ Yum: One scrambled egg, plus egg whites loaded with broccoli and a side of toast with butter? Now that is what I call putting that leftover broccoli out of it’s misery breakfast!

Ironically the guest post I have up on Your Nutritionista features scrambled eggs, too-what can I say, I love eggs!- as an example of how to deal with condiment addition. Go check it out!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play carpenter’s assistant!

Love to all,
~the “so maybe I like eggs as much as condiments”, gal, Jess

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