Thanksgiving Day: From The Inside Out

“Something wonderful begins to happen with the simple realization that life, like an automobile, is driven from the inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful with where you are, rather than focusing on where you would rather be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present. Then, as you move around, try new things, and meet new people, you carry that sense of inner peace with you. It’s absolutely true that, “Wherever you go, there you are.” 

-Richard Carlson

To prepare for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to…

Stop trying to make everything perfect!!

Hubby and I have been hosting holiday dinners for over 20 years.  I use to stress and beat myself up over making sure that every little detail was perfect.

Crisp table linen, a visually pleasing spread of desserts, a spotless home, plenty of food, a beautifully set dining table, and then some.

Although I’ve always adored decorating my home for each occasion, cooking ridiculous amounts of food, and having the over-night house guests, sometimes I stressed and fussed over details that no one even noticed… stuff that didn’t matter.  So I did what I could and focused on what mattered most; the meal.

From the time I got up on Thanksgiving Day, I reminded myself to stay present. To be aware of every moment…  my invigorating morning shower… the warm water clashing on my back…. the scent of lavender…Mmm.. a reflection of the sun and the odd-shaped shadow on the bathroom wall.

Being mindful and present supports a lifestyle of wellness. When we exert energy anticipating possibilities that we cannot control, we miss out on the daily pleasures of interacting with people around us. Our loved ones smile, kind gestures, affection, or a call for help.

Routinely focusing on the present takes practice and mental muscle. The more we practice, the better we become at it.  One way to focus is to try to concentrate and engage one or more of your five senses:

  1. What do you smell?
  2. What can you taste?
  3. What do you hear? What kinds of sounds (i.e., leaves crackling under your feet, the sound of running water, a child’s laughter, the distant echoing of an ambulance siren, or in silence the sound of your breath).
  4. What do you see?  Notice the details of colors, shapes, the sky, or a person’s eyes.
  5. What can you feel?  Textures that are hot, cold, soft, hard, etc..

Being comfortable with doing my best, accepting my best and staying current allowed me to make the most of my day with my family. I think I listened more than usual and captured more intimate moments throughout the day.

Our home was packed! Bodies were everywhere.  I concerned myself less with crumbs on the floors and coasters on the table and more on getting to know my little cousins and catching up with the adults I haven’t seen in years.  The noise from the 11 kids running through the house shooting nerf guns, screaming and laughing personified quality family time. I laughed all day.

Vegan Challenge Update

This was my first Vegan Thanksgiving.  Except for four family members, everyone came from at least four or more hours away.  Which meant I did most of the cooking.

The day was undoubtedly a mental test for me. Was I ready to bypass the 5 pounds of baked mac & cheese and the two deep fried turkeys?  My plan to cook additional vegetables for myself and five other Vegans worked well. My two favorite veggies were prepared by my cousin’s husband; roasted brussels sprouts with sweet onions and olive oil and roasted cauliflower and carrots with olive oil, Vidalia onions, and turmeric!!

In addition to the above tasty vegetables, Thanksgiving dinner included, two-deep fried turkeys, honey-ham, baked chicken, broiled salmon, shrimp cocktail, kale/collards with smoked turkey, vegan kale/collards, hot stuffing, mild stuffing, potato salad, baked mac & cheese, black-eyed peas, roasted butternut squash, spaghetti squash, traditional candied sweet potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes (with cinnamon & nutmeg only) , and plain white sweet potatoes with coconut oil.   The list of desserts is too long, but there were plenty.

Here’s my plate!!  Everyone was surprised that I did not cave into the mac & cheese, but I was cool with not eating it and consciously enjoyed every bite of the food on my plate.  It really is amazing what we can do when we set our mind to something.

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It has been over one month since I started my Vegan challenge.  My major hiccup occurred last Saturday on a quick visit to Jersey.  We ate at a fantastic seafood restaurant, Doc’s Oyster House in Atlantic City.  Majority of the menu options is seafood.  The offerings for a salad were of little interest to me… probably because I was beyond starving and I’ve eaten at Doc’s before.  This would probably be the last time I visit this restaurant in a long time, so I ordered the special, which scallops.  The servings are large portions, and I could only eat half my dish.  I took the other half home, and my girlfriend ended up eating it. Although the food was delicious, the entire time, I kept thinking, “I’m eating seafood.”

I did, however, learn a valuable lesson.  Before dining out at specialty restaurants, I should carefully read the menu online and make my selection beforehand.  While writing this post, I went to their website and re-read the menu.  I saw options that I missed when I was in the restaurant.  I don’t know if I missed the items because of the ambiance and the dimmed light or because I got caught up in the moment or I just wasn’t paying attention.  Either case, I know that mistakes happen and I learned from the error so, all is good.

Below are some photos with brief captions from Thanksgiving Day.

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Quiche… pre-Thanksgiving Breakfast from the best bakery,  Sweet Brown Suga!

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These two beauties are my cousins.  They are also Vegan.

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Thanksgiving morning… help from my cousin in the kitchen.

Aunt Miriam & Aunt Clara

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Breakfast and school work.

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Even my little cousins enjoy a variety of fruit.

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An early text from another cousin.  He deep fried two 15 pound turkeys.

Holiday punch in the making…  designated bartender.

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Thank God for relatives who like to cook. She was a big help.

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Every woman can appreciate a man who can cook (healthy) in the kitchen.

Seconds, please!!

Loc inspiration from my favorite cuz! He’s also the Deep Fried Turkey expert.

The buffet line.

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Dining room. Photographer:  Ess.n.cee

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Dining room Photographer:  Ess.n.cee

Punch without the punch (alcohol). Photographer:  Ess.n.cee

Cousins!!  Some met for the first time.

Trying to get everyone to pose was a bit challenging.

This munchkin  Loved my mom’s doll baby and wasn’t trying to give her back.  

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Runway ready!

One of many attempts to get a good pic!  Lol!

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Seriously focused!

LOVE!

Two car fanatics!

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Love, Love, Love!  My daughter and our 84-year-old aunt haven’t seen each other in over 15 years!

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My nephew, his son, and auntie!

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Delivery of the ham and two turkeys in style!

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A toast to family, friendship, and a splendid day!

I hope that you found gratitude in your Thanksgiving Day!

Smooches!


How To Cook Two Meals In Two Hours

Today, between 3 O’clock this afternoon and 5 p.m., I danced around to my favorite tunes.

While dancing, I took to the kitchen and cooked two meals.  One for my family (hubby, our 14-year-old son, and G’mom Dynamite) and one for me.

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate that cooking doesn’t have to boring, laborious, or time-consuming.  The hardest task is deciding what to cook and how much time you want to spend cooking.

Cooking is fun but I don’t like complicated recipes that require major prepping and using expensive and exotic ingredients that I probably won’t use on a regular basis.

So what’s the deal for dinner?   …something for them that included meat and a meatless dinner for me.

I decided on mozzarella chicken sausage for them.  I’m not crazy about buying the pre-cooked stuff so to balance the meal out, I decided to add an abundance of colorful and nutritious veggies to the dish.

 

 

I sautéed one red and one orange pepper, one jalapeno pepper and one large sweet onion in olive oil.  To be honest with you, I really wanted to hog the veggies for myself but I know I needed to add them to the meat.  The meat by itself…  was not an option.

In another pan, I sautéed the chopped chicken sausage, then added the veggie blend, chopped tomatoes, and finally the fresh baby-leaf spinach.

After adding the spinach, I stirred the ingredients together for about five minutes; then turned the heat off.  Oh my gosh!  Look how beautiful this dish is.

So, what else was cooking?  Since I wanted a meatless meal, I cooked brown rice with turmeric for me.  Earlier in the day, I tossed one onion, two jalapeno peppers, ginger, black-eyed peas, and vegetable broth in the crock pot.  I also seasoned the peas with garlic powder, Himalayan salt, and black pepper. I cooked the BEP on high for five hours.

My cousin stopped by and sampled the… I’ll call it…  Mozzarella chicken sausage and veggie dish.  Instead of eating the bow tie pasta that I made for my family, she tried a little of it over the rice and gave it two thumbs up.

This plate is G’mom Dynamite’s plate.  She enjoyed the kale (yay, more veggies) with the sausage over the bow-tie pasta.  She also sampled the black-eyed peas.  🙂

 

My son and hubby enjoyed the dish without the black-eyed peas.

 

Leftover black-eyed peas

 

Finally!  Here’s my meatless meal.  Home made black-eyed peas over brown rick with turmeric and a side of kale.

Dinner is served and everyone is happy!!  Except for the crock pot dish, everything was cooked in under two hours and… I also burned more calories while dancing and cooking.

For the readers who don’t like cooking, trust me, you can do this!

Thanks for stopping by and remember…. Keep it moving!

Smooches!

 

 


What Food Labels Really Say

Earlier today on my Instagram page, I shared a picture of a product label.


I tell everyone to read the label on everything you consume.

My mom enjoy’s grapes and she eats a lot of them. The purpose of this update isn’t to throw any particular company under a bus.  Instead, my intentions are to educate you (and me) on why we have to stay diligent in reading labels and doing research on any product we consume (internal or topical).

The more research I do, the more I realize how confusing the lingo and the process is. I am certain this is all by design.  So let’s try to dissect this mess!

Nature’s Partner, a self-proclaimed, family business who grows fruits and vegetables.

The label says: Grown & Packed By VIDEXPORT S.A. DE C.V. * Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico


VIDEXPORT is a produce marketing company and is a partner of Nature’s Partner.


The grapes are a “product of Mexico” and are distributed by Giumarra in Los Angelos, CA.

A closer look at Giumarra reveals that the Black Seedless Table Grapes are grown and exported from Mexico, so I think the mention of Los Angelos on the label is for consumers who think they are buying from the US (a marketing tactic).  At a glance, the label will trick you. Sidebar:  If you wear reading glasses, when you shop for food, start taking your specs with you.

Check out this out!  Some of Giumarra’s produce is USDA Certified Organic while others are not.  😦


Hot peppers, cucumbers, honeydew melons, and grapes are the only products that are NOT USDA Certified Organic.  This makes me nervous and should do the same for you.

Lastly and according to the label, the grapes are

“treated with Sulfur Dioxide for fungicide use”

I am not a science person but I researched Sulfur Dioxide or (SO2) and learned the following about Sulfur Dioxide:

  • It is a chemical compound that is a toxic gas found in the atmosphere.
  • The largest source of production in the air is from the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities.
  • Short-term health exposure and affect the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult.
  • Children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma are particularly sensitive to effects of SO2.
  • Environmentally it can harm trees and plants by damaging foliage and decreasing growth and contribute to acid rain which can harm sensitive ecosystems.

So what’s the bottom line?  Do your best (as I do) to buy locally grown produce and freeze them for later usage. If you are more adventurous and like the idea of playing in some dirt, try growing some of your own produce.

Try to buy produce that is grown and distributed in the US.  Produce grown in other countries are difficult for our government agencies to regulate.  They can pretty much do and say anything they want.

Read food and beverage labels.  If you don’t like what you’re read about a product, write the company and/or stop buying the item.

Follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on twitter and facebook. The agency posts updates on their pages.  You will be surprised by what the information posted on their web page.  The facts are published but consumers rarely make time to read it.

Acquire knowledge, apply it to your life and share with everyone that you know.  Us consumers have to stick together.  When we stick together we have a voice that makes a difference.

Although I grew up helping my mother in our large garden, I haven’t gardened in years. I still have fond memories of picking fresh green beans, peppers, tomatoes, corn, and more from our garden.

Although, it’s been many years I am happy to share with you that this summer, I will start my first vertical garden as well as, a vegetable container garden. I think this a simpler approach to gardening that will work for me and my elderly mother will enjoy helping out. The enormous amount of chemicals used to grown fruits and vegetables have inspired me to return to my roots.

Additional Reading

Organic Standard

Sulfur Dioxide

When to plant


How Much Sugar Are in These Crackers?

After leaving the gym one morning, I stopped by Shoprite my local grocery store to pick up a few items.  

After paying for my groceries, I am about to walk out the door when an elderly man stopped me.  As he approached me, he held a box of crackers in his hand. Pointing his finger at the label he says…

  

Excuse me honey, can you tell me how much sugar are in these crackers?

I was not wearing my reading glasses, so to read the label and to see the sugar content, I had to focus really hard. 🤓

Sir, according to the label, the crackers contain only one gram of sugar per serving, but if you are watching your sugar intake, I don’t recommend you eat them?

Really?   Why is that?

I point to the first ingredient, Enriched Flour.  “Do you see this here?” 
I try to give him a quick synopsis and tell him that the white flour is a starch, which isn’t the best choice for him. I explain that the starches are going to eventually break down in his body into simple sugar.   

He is shocked and says he is not going to buy them.  I tell him to look for “whole grains.” 

Of course there is so much to it then eating whole grains but I did not have the time to say all that I wanted and needed to say. 

My time was limited but I desperately wanted to take his hand and walk him aisle by aisle through the store to show him healthier options.  

Food labels are tricky and deceptive. The labels are colorful and are strategically designed to get our attention to buy their products.  It  seems that every aspect of this country is about profit. 

Healthy living is sacrificed for greed and for profit. 

Just look at Martin Shkreli.  The jerk… I mean CEO of Turing Pharmaceuicals.  He jacked up the price of a prescription drug designed to help save the lives of HIV patients.  He tried to increase the price from $13.50 per pill to $750.00 per pill!  What the heck!!

GREED!!  

The intentional trickery and lies told by food manufacturers is disturbing.  Consumers must read food labels; however, the education does not stop with reading labels. The process of educating oneself is ongoing and there are many valuable sources available online and in print.  Below are a few sites to check out but there are many. 

I also enjoy reading the free magazines from The Vitamin Store.  Several  magazines are located at the register and they are full of resourceful information.   

As I said in the beginning, I wish I had the time to walk the man and others like him through the store to help them to find healthier alternatives.  Hmm…. Maybe that’s something I could do on the side.   

Just remember, don’t be so quick to believe the pretty little lies they tell you on the colorful packaging.  Dig deeper to find what’s really in the food.   Just because the words “natural,” “low calorie,” “organic,” or “sugar free” are printed on a package, doesn’t mean that is true. Sadly, food manufacturers and companies can make all kinds of outlandish and untrue statements about their products.  The practice should be unlawful but it is not.

Some of these companies are such blatant liars, I can’t stand it!  If you stand close enough to me in the grocery store, you can overhear me saying, “liar! Liar!”   Lol!  I’m laughing but it is true.   

My rule of thumb is if an item has too many ingredients listed, for the most part, I leave it alone.  If you don’t already know, there is a large amount of the first ingredient listed on a label.  So when you see sugar as one of the first, second, or third ingredients written in anyone of it’s 61 forms, toss it pack on the shelf. 

Yes!!  According to Sugar Science, there are “at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. I didn’t know that!  Some of the most common names are:

Sucrose

High-fructose corn syrup

Barley malt

Dextrose

Maltose

Rice syrup

Americans consume 66 pounds of added sugar each year, on average.

Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged food.

Okay, my sugar rant is over. I could go on and on, but I will end with a friendly reminder to read the food labels and educate yourself.   Don’t cheat yourself by putting bad stuff in your body.  The body is like an automobile, the better you care for it, the better your body will perform for you. 

For the most part, the better you care for yourself, the better you will look and feel.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by and remember to keep it moving!