Happy National All or Nothing Day!

Celebrate this day by throwing caution to the wind and going for broke.

Think of one goal you would like to accomplish but feel fearful or hesitant to do so. It could be writing a novel, running a marathon, eschewing sugar, improving your technology skills, learning a new craft, decluttering your home…

Decide to make the necessary changes and then take that first small step.

Here are ten quotations to inspire you:

Even the greatest was once a beginner. Don’t be afraid to take that first step. Mohammed Ali

The most effective way to do it, is to do it. Amelia Earhart

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Anne Frank

Well done is better than well said. Benjamin Franklin

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.
Estée Lauder

Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned. Peter Marshall

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. Mark Twain

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu

You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great. Zig Ziglar

Happy National Meatball Day!

Today is National Meatball Day, a day set aside to celebrate meatballs in all their incarnations: Spaghetti and meatballs, Swedish Meatballs, Meatball Sub, Meatball Pizza, Turkey Meatballs, Lamb Meatballs, Porcupine Meatballs…

I’m sharing a family-favorite recipe. While I prefer to use lean ground beef, any combination of veal, pork, and regular beef will work. I usually eat the meatballs with pasta, but they can be thrown into a soup or eaten on their own with an accompanying side dish or salad.

Ingredients

1 kilogram lean ground beef
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 cup Romano cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 onion, finely chopped

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Grease two large baking sheets with canola oil.

3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

4. If the mixture is too soft, add more bread crumbs.

5. If the mixture is too hard, add more milk.

6. Form into balls and place 1″ apart on the baking sheet.

7. Bake for 10 minutes on each side.

Yield: Makes 35 to 40 meatballs.

Buon appetito!

Warming Up with Avgolemeno

Today is National Homemade Soup Day, a day devoted to celebrating those warm bowls of comfort that nourish our bodies and souls. Take some time to make your favorite soup or experiment with a new recipe.

If you’re open to experimenting, try Avgolemeno, a Greek lemon chicken soup that releases endorphins while warming up our insides. Packed with protein and Vitamin C, this soup is a staple in many Greek homes throughout the winter months. (Pronunciation Guide for Avgolemeno here)

You don’t have to limit yourself to one season. Avgolemono is a great go-to dish whenever you are feeling under the weather and need a quick pick-me-upper.

Here’s a tried-and-true recipe from my mother’s kitchen:

Ingredients

5 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup Italian arborio rice*
1 lemon, juiced
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste

* Feel free to substitute orzo or any small shaped pasta.

Directions

1. Pour the chicken broth into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.

2. Add the rice and cook until chewy, but soft. Italian arborio rice will take about 20 minutes.

3. Take the saucepan off the heat and set aside. Let it sit for five minutes. If the rice mixture is too hot, it will curdle the eggs.

4.In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until frothy and then add the lemon juice.

5. Add the rice mixture, a spoonful at a time, to the egg mixture. Stir well.

6. Season with salt and pepper.

Servings: 3-4

More Soup Recipes…

Broccoli | Celery | Asparagus | Lazy Woman’s Soup | Vegetable Quinoa | Watercress | Zucchini and Watercress

Happy National Homemade Soup Day!

A piping hot bowl of soup is my favorite way to incorporate vegetables into my diet. I especially like puréed, low-starch vegetable soups that are quick and easy-to prepare.

Today, I’m sharing my recipe for Zucchini and Watercress Soup.

Diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2006, I make every effort to incorporate thyroid-nourishing foods into my diet. I enjoy eating most of the iodine-rich foods, but I struggle with watercress. Its pungency doesn’t sit well with my fussy taste buds. While experimenting, I discovered that adding zucchini and almond butter to watercress results in a creamy alternative that hits my sweet spot.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups chopped carrots
1½ cups chopped celery
4 cups of zucchini, diced
4 cups of vegetable broth
¼ cup unsweetened almond butter
2 cups watercress, chopped
Handful of parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onion and garlic in a large soup pot.

2. Add the celery and cook until translucent.

3. Add the carrots and zucchini and sauté for three to five minutes.

4. Add the vegetable broth and stir in the almond butter until well combined.

5. Increase the heat and bring to a boil.

6. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the zucchini is tender.

7. Add the watercress and parsley. Simmer for about five minutes.

8. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool.

9. Stir in the lemon juice.

10. Remove from heat and purée the soup in batches using a hand or immersion blender.

Makes 6 servings, about one cup each.

More Soup Recipes…

Broccoli | Celery | Asparagus | Lazy Woman’s Soup | Easy Avgolemeno | Vegetable Quinoa

Happy National Humor Month!

In 1976, comedian and author Larry Wilde founded National Humor Month. His intention: Share the therapeutic benefits of humor with the world.

Humor plays an essential role in our overall health. Everything from a giggle to a deep-rooted belly laugh can improve the quality of our lives. The benefits include lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormone levels, triggering the release of endorphins, and improving cardiac health.

One study conducted by Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California suggests that laughter can even help tone our abs. When we are laughing, the muscles in our stomachs expand and contract, similar to when we intentionally exercise our abs.

Continue reading on the Soul Mate Authors blog.

In Praise of Napping

Today is National Napping Day, a day created by Camille and Dr. William Anthony in 1999 to spotlight the healthy benefits of catching up on quality sleep. Dr. Anthony noted: “We chose this particular Monday because Americans (and Canadians) are more ‘nap-ready’ than usual after losing an hour of sleep to daylight saving time.”

The benefits of napping are many, among them improvements in mental health and working memory (the ability to focus on one task while retaining others in memory) and reduction of coronary mortality. In a recent Greek study, researchers discovered that participants taking daily naps had a 37% less chance of contracting a fatal heart condition.

There is, however, one major disadvantage to napping: A nap is not a permanent solution to reaching daily sleep quotas. Sleep specialist Dr. David Dinges notes: “Naps cannot replace adequate recovery sleep over many days.”

Also, long naps (more than 30 minutes) can result in sleep inertia. As these nappers awaken from deep periods of sleep, they can experience grogginess and disorientation. While these feelings will dissipate within thirty minutes, they can affect performance in high-level tasks.

Afraid of being labeled lazy and slothful, some nappers downplay or conceal this daily practice. Non-nappers hesitate to start the practice, fearing they will develop some form of sleep inertia.

Wherever you are on this continuum, take a few minutes and read about ten high-powered historical figures who celebrated their napping and resulting productivity.

Winston Churchill

Sir Winston regarded a nap between lunch and dinner as essential for maintaining the kind of clear thinking he employed during World War II. In The Gathering Storm, he wrote: “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge took what can be considered one of the most famous naps in English literature. After waking up from a three-hour nap, he stumbled to his desk and penned the poem, “Kubla Khan.” He believed in seizing the thread of a dream immediately upon awakening and then taking action.

Leonardo Da Vinci

While painting the Mona Lisa, Da Vinci slept only hours each night and took 15-minute naps every four hours. He criticized people who slept long hours each evening, commenting that there’s plenty of time to sleep when we die.

Salvador Dali

The founder of the micro-nap or what he called “slumber with a key,” Catalan artist Salvador Dali napped to stimulate his creativity. He started by sitting upright in an armchair, holding a heavy metal key in his hand. He then placed a metal plate upside down underneath the hand holding the key. Once that was in place, he allowed himself to fall asleep. Once that happened, he dropped the key which hit the plate and made a loud noise. All of this occurred within one-quarter of a second, enough time to revive his physical and psychic being.

Thomas Edison

All that Edison could manage was three to four hours of sleep each night. To compensate and inspire creativity, he power napped throughout the day, adopting a variation of Salvador Dali’s method. Edison held a handful of ball bearings that would clatter to the floor and wake him.

Albert Einstein

Einstein claimed that he needed 10 hours of sleep each night and frequent naps throughout the day. Like Salvador Dali, he practiced micro-napping; each nap lasted only seconds and was designed to boost creativity.

John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy enjoyed a one- to two-hour nap each afternoon. Blinds were drawn, and no interruptions were allowed; his staff had strict orders not to disturb him for any reason.

Napoleon

While Napoleon could go for days without lying down for a full night’s sleep, he had the ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Right before battle, he would sleep like a baby, oblivious to approaching cannons. After the battle was over, he would sleep for eighteen hours.

Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the most influential First Ladies in U.S. history, Mrs. Roosevelt sat on committees and gave speeches. Before each speech or public talk, she would sneak in a nap to refresh her mind and body.

Margaret Thatcher

During her tenure as Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher slept four to five hours each night and had a scheduled one-hour nap each afternoon. No one dared disturb her during that time.

Happy National Napping Day!


Celebrating Our Canadian Flag

Raised for the first time on February 15, 1965, our national flag is 54 years old.

On July 1st of this year, Canada will celebrate its 152nd birthday.

A discrepancy that can be explained by our history…

For almost 100 years after Confederation, Canada flew the Red Ensign, a design based on the flag used by British naval vessels and Canada’s Coat of Arms.

In the early 1960s, Canadians started to voice their concerns about a flag that didn’t recognize our sovereignty. Aware of the public discontent, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson decided to make the creation of a new Canadian flag a priority.

At the time, I was in elementary school. My teacher—and many other teachers across the country— assigned a “Flag Design” project. While there were several artists in the class (not me), I don’t recall any exceptional sketches. I’ve often wondered if any student sketches were part of the thousands of submissions made to Ottawa.

A fifteen-member bipartisan committee was created to pick the most appropriate design. The submitted designs featured union jacks, Fleur-de-lis, maple leaves, and beavers (the most common element). Almost all of these submissions were eliminated, leaving three possibilities.

Here are the two semi-finals:

The winning design (our present flag) came from Dr. George Stanley, a professor at Royal Military College in Kingston.

10 More Interesting Facts…

1. King George V proclaimed red and white as Canada’s official colors in 1921.

2. The flag is twice as long as it is wide. The white square and its maple leaf make up half of the surface of the flag, equal to the two red bars combined.

3. The French nickname for the flag is L’Unifolié, which means one-leafed.

4. In 1982, Canadian mountaineer Laurie Skreslet brought the flag with him to Mount Everest.

5. In 1984, the flag was launched into space by Marc Garneau, the first Canadian astronaut on the NASA space shuttle Challenger.

6. In 1996, February 15 was declared National Flag of Canada Day.

7. The flag at the Peace Tower (Ottawa) flies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s changed daily, usually early in the morning and by a designated employee who has received training on how to perform the task. Flags on the East and West Block are changed weekly. Once a flag is taken down, it is sent to the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services. Canadians can request these flags by emailing minister@pwgsc.gc.ca or faxing (819) 953-1908.

8. Anyone who wishes to receive a flag that has flown on the Peace Tower will be placed on a 10-year waiting list. The wait is five years for a flag that has flown on the East or West Block.

9. The role of flag-bearer for Canadian teams attending international sporting events is a special honor reserved for outstanding athletes like Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who proudly represented Canada at the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2018.

10. The largest Canadian flag ever made was unveiled at a football game in Hamilton between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts in 2009. The flag was 38 meters by 76 meters and required at least 80 pairs of hands to carry it on the field. The flag cost $15,000.

Happy National Flag of Canada Day!


Happy Family Literacy Day!

In 1999, ABC Life Literacy Canada, a non-profit organization, introduced Family Literacy Day to “raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.”

This year, ABC Life Literacy is encouraging families to take 15 minutes out of their day to prioritize learning.

Here are ten suggestions on how to achieve this goal:

1. Start reading aloud to your newborn. Children become attuned to the sound of your voice and the tones of the language you speak as their hearing develops.

2. Ask older children questions about the story to ensure comprehension.

3. Encourage oral storytelling by providing prompts: “What did your doll or teddy bear do today?” “Tell us a story about the Christmas/Halloween/Valentine’s Day party at school?”

4. Record or write down your children’s stories. Use an app to convert them into a book, animation, or slide show. While read or watching the end product, point out new words, story structure, and grammar.

5. Turn off the television and use that time to read together.

6. Organize a children’s book club in your neighborhood.

7. Make regular visits to the local library. Check the events calendar for more information about activities and crafts offered.

8. Keep teenagers reading by providing magazines and newspaper articles that appeal to their interests.

9. Invite children to participate in activities such as making shopping lists, sending e-cards, or checking directions on Google Maps.

10. Volunteer your time in local literacy groups. You could read to children, tutor adults, or help with administrative tasks.

Find out more information about ABC Life Literacy Canada here.


Honoring Grandma Moses

Born this day in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson Moses was the third of ten children. As a child, she attended a one-room schoolhouse that is now the Bennington Museum in Vermont. She took art lessons at school and was encouraged by her father at home. At a later age, she wrote, “I was quite small, my father would get me and my brothers white paper by the sheet. He liked to see us draw pictures. It was a penny a sheet and lasted longer than candy.”

As a young wife and mother, Moses applied creative touches to her home. She used house paint to decorate a fireboard, created beautiful quilted objects, and made embroidered pictures of yarn for family and friends.

At the age of 76, she developed arthritis and was forced to abandon embroidery. She turned to painting, focusing on episodes of farm life she had experienced firsthand. A prolific painter, she created over 1,500 canvasses in three decades. She was “discovered” in her eighties.

Here are ten of my favorite quotes from Grandma Moses:

A strange thing is memory and hope; one looks backward, and the other forward; one is of today, the other of tomorrow. Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter, it paints pictures of the past and of the day.

I like to paint something that leads me on and on into the unknown, something that I want to see away on beyond.

I’ll get an inspiration and start painting; then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.

A primitive artist is an amateur whose work sells.

People should take time to be happy.

Life is what you make it.

If I hadn’t started painting, I would have raised chickens.

I look back on my life like a good day’s work. It was done and I am satisfied with it.

Even now I am not old. I never think of it, and yet I am a grandmother to eleven grandchildren.

I would never sit back in a rocking chair, waiting for someone to help me.

Happy National Grandma Moses Day!


Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!

Celebrate this National Day by treating yourself to a cookie (or more) containing those tasty bits of chocolate. If you’re looking for a quick-and-easy recipe, try this family favorite from my mother’s kitchen.

Ingredients

14 ounces brown sugar
14 ounces white sugar
1 pound Crisco
7 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
12 ounces chocolate chips
7 cups Monarch flour
Dash of Salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cover the bottoms of cookies sheets with aluminum foil.
3. Beat sugar and Crisco.
4. Add eggs and continue beating.
5. Add flour and continue beating.
6. Add the remaining ingredients and continue beating.
7. Shape into balls and drop on cookie sheets.
8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy!