Another Year Gone

The end of another year is only weeks away. What have you done with your time? Isn’t that the burning question we ask ourselves as we reflect on the year passed, while remembering our new year resolutions from almost a year ago and cringe as we measure ourselves up to those ambitious start-of-the-year goals?

Maybe not everyone is cringing. Maybe some, or most, accomplished everything they set out to do this year. But maybe some, or most, haven’t. Either way, the good news is another year is about to begin. If you’ve achieved all your goals then it’s time to make new ones. And if you haven’t achieved your goals then you have another new year to resolve to do everything you failed to do this year.

Isn’t it great the way the calendar works?

But no judgments passed. Life is tough and unpredictable. I think it was Jon Bon Jovi who said “have a plan, but write it in pencil.”

I personally don’t make crazy, unattainable new year resolutions, unless you consider resolving to read 52 books in a year crazy and unattainable, then yes, yes I do. Although I didn’t come close to reaching that goal this year, it will still be on my list for next year. I am determined.

I also didn’t achieve my goal of finishing the book I’m currently writing. I’ve made strides but still don’t have an ending, and it’s hard to finish a book without an ending. Sometimes I wish words would just write themselves.

I joined a gym in October. I beat the new year rush. Ha. No, I just really like to walk, and I knew it’d be getting too cold to walk outside for very long. So I joined a gym. Something I haven’t done in over ten years because I had a treadmill, but it broke.

In the two months that I’ve been going to the gym I’ve found there are two kinds of people in this world. No, not the fit and unfit, but those who wipe down a machine after use and those who keep their sweat marks there for the next person to enjoy. UGH. Don’t be that person. Wipe down your machine after use.

I am curious how much more crowded the gym will be come January 1 when all those newly promised resolutions of getting in shape bring droves of new people through the doors and how long it will be before those ambitious new members start to disappear. Hmmm.

But I don’t feel I’ll have a problem sticking to a gym routine as long as I stay healthy and don’t over do it. (I have a condition).  What I  do anticipate I’ll have a problem with is sticking to my meditation routine.

I wasn’t very consistent with my resolution this year to meditate at least fifteen minutes a day, every day, and this bothers me even more than not reading 52 books or finishing my novel because I know at least I put the effort into the latter two, but I got lazy with my meditation practice. I’ve been off and on with it for years. Sitting alone with yourself and your mind for even as short of a time as fifteen minutes can be a struggle, but like last year, I am going to resolve to do it once again.

What are your resolutions and will you stick to them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vegan Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving I am forgoing my usual vegetarian turkey roast from Quorn for a homemade vegan roast I saw on YouTube. There is nothing wrong with the Quorn meatless turkey other than it is made with milk and eggs, two ingredients I am trying dutifully to keep off my plate.

Since most of the pre-made vegan Thanksgiving turkeys out on the market have gluten in it, I am left with making my own “meat” this year.  I searched YouTube for vegan thanksgiving meals, aiming for the ones that didn’t include any gluten ingredients and found one that looked delicious and seemed pretty easy to make.

I usually like to do a practice run with new recipes before I make them for special occasions, but since I’ll probably be the only person eating my vegan dishes (no one else has expressed an eager wiliness to eat my vegan roast made of lentils and mushrooms), so I’m okay if things don’t come out perfectly.

If you’re interested in this dish, I’m posting the video below. The only thing I will need to alter is instead of layers of puff pastry, I had to buy a gluten-free pie crust mix. Hopefully it is just as delicious.

 

 

There are three other vegan dishes I’m making – garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, and mac-n-cheese. The mashed potatoes and stuffing don’t taste too different from their non-vegan counterparts. With regards to the stuffing, I have to substitute for gluten-free and egg-free bread, which I found at Aldi. And for the potatoes, I bought unsweetened Almond milk and vegan butter. I may throw in some nutritional yeast otherwise known as, nooch, for the vegans out there down with the lingo.

I had found a good garlic mashed recipe on YouTube about a year ago. It’s a dual recipe that includes a lentil loaf. I have made the loaf many times, and my non-vegan family members love it. I would make the loaf tomorrow, but I’m kind of sick of it because I make it so much.  I want this meal to be food I don’t eat very often. My sister always takes home the leftovers for “meatloaf” sandwiches the next day, so she may be disappointed.

Sorry sista, next time.

Here is the recipe I am going to use for the garlic mashed potatoes, but you should really give the lentil loaf a try too.

 

My mom makes my gluten-free stuffing for me, so I don’t have a recipe. I think it’s the same as she makes for the regular, she just uses my bread, and it is delicious.

I’ve tried many different vegan mac n cheese recipes, but the one I am sharing is probably the best, but it will take some trial and error for you to figure what’s best for your taste buds. This recipe calls for cashews, but I don’t have any on hand and really don’t feel like going to the store to get some, so I will be making this dish without the nuts, but it should taste just as good.

The other thing I will be doing differently is baking this dish at the end after adding a package of dairy-free cheese to the top. I bought a package of Daiya shredded cheese. I am picky about the way I cook this cheese. I feel it tastes best when it is cooked slightly longer than it states. This goes for the Daiya frozen pizzas, too. I cook those for 17-18 minutes instead of the 10-15 minutes recommended. To me, the cheese consistency is better when cooked longer.

So I’ll put a package of cheese on top the macaroni and bake it at 400 degrees for maybe twenty minutes or so. I’ll keep an eye on it until I see the cheese at the texture I like.

Here is the recipe for the mac n cheese.

 

I was going to make vegan gluten-free brownies for dessert, but instead, decided on buying a Daiya dairy-free chocolate cheesecake. I’ve had their cheesecakes before, and they are delicious.

 

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There it is.  My Thanksgiving feast. No living beings were harmed or tortured for me to enjoy a nice meal, and for that, I am sure the animals are THANKFUL.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

The 24-Hour Dominance of “A Christmas Story”

Since 2004, the cable channel, TBS, has been playing a 24-hour marathon of the movie, “A Christmas Story,” starting on Christmas Eve night looped all the way through Christmas Day. In 1997, this holiday favorite used to feature its 24-hour dominance on TNT.

In 1997.

The movie is a bonafide holiday hit. A classic. And even though I probably haven’t watched it from beginning to end since I was nine (which by then I’d probably seen the movie 1,985,789,121 times), this 24-hour holiday feature loop plays in the background, on my TV, whenever my TV is on.

When you know a movie as well as most people know “A Christmas Story,” merely catching glimpses here and there will bring you right back into the story as if you’ve been lying on the couch, with the dog snuggled in your lap, watching since scene one.

For me, just hearing the scenes play out from a small screen in a room I may not even be in, stimulates the Christmas spirit in me. I’m taken back to the days I used to write Santa long letters of my most coveted toys and leave treats for him to eat on the night he’d come to drop off all my gifts.

I was a young child the first time I saw “A Christmas Story.” And that may be why anytime I see the movie on TV, or just hear the familiar words from across a room, it triggers a feeling inside that is calming and nostalgic.

The fact that the movie is set in the 1940’s may also contribute to my endorphin-like sensation that, for the moment, everything is gonna be all right, whenever that movie is on. The story takes place during a time that is often looked back as “the good old days.” Or, “a simpler time.”

Well, what could be a more simpler time than when we were kids?

So, right off the bat there are two things that automatically make “A Christmas Story” endearing to me. One, I saw the movie for the first time through non-jaded eyes when I was a child, and two, the story is set during the “olden days.”

Even though history tells me life was hard and not so great for a lot of people during those times, and even though, for many personal reasons, I wouldn’t want to live in those old days if given a choice, a sense of tranquility takes over me almost instantly when I watch an old movie. In some strange way the scenes on screen are very familiar to me, even though I’ve never lived it.

As a kid, I loved the part in “A Christmas Story” where the friends dare each other to do something because what kid didn’t do that?

I once put a cicada in my mouth, on a dare.   I once lay across the middle of a dirty, busy road in a white jacket on a dark night, on a dare. And I once made a funny face behind the back of a teacher, on a dare. (And yes, I got ratted out by my fellow-classmates.)

But I never stuck my tongue to a freezing pole in the dead of winter. I don’t know if it’s because I was never stupid enough to do something like that, or because nobody ever triple-dog dared me to do it.

 

 

 

 

Here’s to Another Clean Slate

Here’s to another New Year. Another clean slate.  A time to put the bad, the regrettable, and all we may want to forget to the side and start anew. Fresh. A rebirth, if you will.

Although I’m not sure all those sentiments are possible, I think people need to believe that at the stroke of midnight on a specific night changes everything. When we pop the champagne, put on glitzy hats, blow our paper horns, kiss strangers, and celebrate into the wee hours of the next morning, we are toasting to an end.

Maybe the year concluded on a high-note for you and you salute good luck’s continuation. Or, possibly, you’re crossing your fingers for a shift in the universe that will be more favorable to you and the path 2016 sets you on.

Either case, each scenario comes with hope. That’s what the New Year does. It gives us hope.

“Here’s to a year of better health!”

“Here’s to a year of much happiness and success!”

The month of January is the beginning of a new you, if you want it. A month filled with promises to ourselves. For the next few weeks, gyms across the country will be crowded with new faces, forcing not-so-subtle grumbles from regulars who now have to wait to use their favorite machine.

But no worries, regulars. Statistics show crowds will taper off after a couple weeks as the thrill of setting promising resolutions mixed with the excitement of a “new you” to go along with the “new year” meets reality.

And most of the time reality bites (one of my fave movies!).

The simple fact may be if you hated going to the gym in 2015, you will most likely hate going just as much in 2016.

And that’s okay.

I hate the gym, too. I’m a homebody who prefers to do as many activities as I can without leaving my house. This includes exercising. I have workout tapes, a yoga mat, a treadmill I resolve to fix some time this year, and a stationary bike I sometimes use.

I won’t make a resolution to go to a place I hate, but rather, I’ll change my intentions in the areas of my life that may need more dedication. I’ll ease myself gradually toward the changes in my life that need improving. But I’ll do it through meditation, not by guilt or external pressures.

It’s okay if on this third day of the new year resolutions may have already been broken.

Forgive yourself.

The truth is, we can give ourselves a clean slate any day we want. Every morning we wake we can sit silently with ourselves, and still our minds, and set goals, intentions, for each day.

We should celebrate each new day the way we do each new year.

 

 happy new year

Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

The unusually warm weather for this time of year is making it very hard to believe that Christmas is only a few short days away. Two weeks ago I went to the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. The gorgeous trees with its lights synchronized to classic Christmas music, and the entire production with all its festive decorations certainly helped to get me into the Christmas spirit.

But despite the Illumination and all the houses I drive by dressed in green and red costumes with front lawns pinned with giant plastic Snowmen and blown-up Santa Clauses, I still feel that the holiday has crept up on me.

All this even after I purposely made sure I went to see the movie, Krampus, just to be certain the Christmas spirit stayed with me. And maybe it did a little because for a couple days after seeing that movie, I walked around the house yelling, “I believe! I believe! Do you hear me, Krampus? I believe so you don’t have to come for me on Christmas morning.”

Still, I think I’ll lock my bedroom door when I go to bed on Christmas Eve, just in case. And Phil may not know it yet, but he’s definitely sleeping in my room that night, even though my dog prefers a certain family member over me. This little habit of my baby favoring someone else took time for me to accept, and I am often compelled to remind Phil that I was the one who took him from that over-crowded shelter, with its constant barking and utter chaos, and gave him his furever home. 

But I don’t say that to him because I don’t want Phil to remember his life before he had a home.  Because dogs live in the moment, I’m quite certain he doesn’t dwell on the past or wonder about what the future holds. He lives in the “here and now” and as long as that “here and now” consists of lots of comfy blankets, bowls of food with scraps of chicken or steak, fresh water, a tennis ball and a soup bone smeared with peanut butter, Phil doesn’t worry about the future, only the “here”. 

I love that about dogs. Their ability to move on, even from the most abusive pasts, and love and trust again, absolutely amazes me.

This Christmas I’ll be thinking of all the dogs in crowded shelters, waiting for someone to come rescue them, many with only days or hours left to their lives.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog for Christmas, and remember they could be a 15-plus years commitment, please consider visiting your local shelter. If you can’t afford to care for a dog right now, but would like to have one, please consider fostering. The shelter provides everything for the dog. There is no cost to you, except to love the dog. If you don’t have time for an animal in your life right now, please consider sponsoring a shelter dog or cat.

All of these will help to save a dog’s life.

If you’re looking for a puppy, please know that shelters have lots of puppies, too. You don’t need to go to a pet store or a breeder for a puppy. But the more time I spend around animals, the more I appreciate and love older dogs. Puppies are cute, but it’s hard to explain the feeling that overcomes me when an older dog looks me directly in the eyes and licks the top of my nose.

It’s as though they’re saying, “I’ve known and met a lot of humans in my life, but not all of them have deserved a kiss on the nose, but you do.”

Aww….nothin’ beats that.

Since Christmas has sneaked up on me, I will be running around tomorrow, and possibly early Christmas Eve, picking up last-minute gifts.

And to be sure that I am in the holiday spirit come Christmas morning, tonight I will watch a couple of my favorite Christmas movies, It’s a Wonderful Life and You’ve Got Mail.  Okay, maybe You’ve Got Mail isn’t technically a holiday movie, but it does have some Christmas scenes in it and it is sweet and revolves around books and online romance, a couple things I know very well (only one is kinda unfortunate).

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

 

phil in front of tree phil santa hat 2 phil santa hat cute phil santa hat tree

 

 

 

This Thanksgiving I’m Thankful for the Good Guys…We Need More of Them.

Hundreds of people have been protesting in the streets of Chicago since the release of a dash-cam video showing a young black teenager, Laquan McDonald, being fatally shot sixteen times by a single officer.

Although the incident had occurred over a year ago, in October 2014, the public is only seeing the video now, and it contradicts news reports given at the time the event took place. The public was told the teenager suffered a single shot to the chest, and that he had lunged toward the officer with a knife in his hand, forcing the officer, Jason Van Dyke, to act in self-defense.

The video told a different story than the initial reports (lies), and now first-degree murder charges have been filed against the officer.

It’s true that the young man had a knife in his hand, but none of the officers’ lives were in danger, as the boy was walking away from the police when he was fatally shot, sixteen times.

Other cops are visibly seen in the video, watching as this young man was overwhelmingly shot to death. Why didn’t those officers correct the erroneous reports first given to the public?

After watching the video, it’s clear that the story was fabricated to protect a dirty officer.  The officer wasn’t charged for thirteen months (400 days), was able to go on with his life while collecting a paycheck, as his murderous secret was kept hidden inside a tape.

Would anyone of authority within the Chicago Police Department have released this video had the CPD not been ordered by a judge to do so?

There’s a lot of protection going on by the Chicago Police Department, unfortunately, it isn’t always geared toward the people the Department made an oath to serve and protect.

In 2012, the CPD suffered a huge backlash by the public when the Department was found guilty of covering up the attack of a female bartender by an off-duty Chicago police officer. The city (taxpayers) were ordered to pay the bartender 850,000 dollars because other officers failed to do the right thing and turn in one of their own, even though “one of their own” had beat an innocent woman, treating her like a rag doll.

The video of the attack, like the video depicting the death of McDonald, is disgusting. But just as disgusting are the efforts made by unscrupulous officers to keep bad cops safe –the “code of silence.”

I remember watching the news when the officer, Anthony Abbate, exited the courthouse, and seeing all the cops cars and officers forming a line shielding this dirtbag from reporters and cameras. Mind you, these were on-duty cops, on taxpayers’ dime, standing guard for a corrupt cop who believed he was above the law.

Would these officers have defended this no-good cop so vigilantly if it were their wife, sister, daughter, or girlfriend the burly officer was caught on camera kicking and punching the shit out of?

Bad cops cost cities much more than money from lawsuits (the family of Laquan McDonald received a 5 million dollar settlement  from the taxpayers), they cost a city its integrity. And that’s nearly impossible to get back, especially when that city’s corrupt history keeps repeating.

I know there are good cops out there, honest cops, who risk their lives protecting the people and their neighborhoods.

So, this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to those officers, the good guys (and ladies).

We need more of them.

 

 

Below is a You Tube video of the attack by Abbate on the female bartender.

 

 

Happy Halloween!

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Whether you’re going to a Halloween party, haunted house, trick or treating, or just staying in and watching a Halloween marathon ( I did that yesterday, and Michael Myers terrifies me just as much now as he did the first time I saw 31 years ago), be safe, but have loads of kick-ass fun.

Whether you’re dressing up as something funny and goofy, or scary and morbid, or slutty and inappropriate, have loads of kick-ass fun. If you’re going out and not dressing up as anything, you’re kinda boring, but still, have loads of kick-ass fun, (if that’s even possible for bland people who go out on Halloween, and don’t dress up).

As I wish everyone a safe Halloween, please remember to keep the day safe for your pets, as well. Little kids ringing the doorbell all day, shouting for candy, can be extremely stressing for animals.

And if your pet doesn’t want to wear a costume, please don’t force it.

I once tried to dress Phil, my pit-bull mix, as Superman. That didn’t go very well. But I didn’t force it, even though I really wanted him to wear the costume because he looked frickin’ adorable in it. But when I saw how much the costume bothered him, I took it off him. Yes, while begrudgingly removing his costume, I may have mumbled something to him about how all the other well-behaved dogs in the neighborhood were wearing costumes like their mommies asked, and how I didn’t see why it was such a big deal for him to suck it up for one day, but still, I didn’t force him to wear one.

And I have never attempted to dress him in silly costumes ever again. Although, I do throw the threat out there, when he’s being a naughty dog, that I will do just that.

I’ll calmly say to him, “Remember that time when mommy tried to put that Superman costume on you, and you really, really, hated it?”

Suddenly, I have a well-behaved dog again because he remembers. He will always remember the horror of what was the Superman Halloween costume.

Yes. I have found a way to use Halloween to my advantage in getting my dog to obey me. Don’t judge me cuz it works!

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

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Photos courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net