April 22, 2019

Getting Our Hands Dirty

On the rare occasion that my husband and I take a lunch break at the same time, we will sometimes go for a walk. This happened today and we were excited to take a few minutes to get outside and do something good for ourselves. 
The path we usually walk is a one-mile figure eight loop at a nearby park. We were a quarter of the way around when I started seeing large amounts of litter scattered around the path. The more we walked, the more litter we saw.

Litter really bugs me. I don't understand the thinking behind tossing something aside for someone else to clean up. Especially when there are trash cans around. The more I thought about it, the madder I was getting. 

As we rounded the trail loop, something white and billowy caught my eye. It was an empty grocery bag. 

"Oh boy," my hubs said. "I know what happens next." He laughed as I grabbed the bag off the ground...knowing it would be the perfect thing in which to collect all the litter we were seeing! I asked him how he knew I was going to do that, and he said he just knew because he knows me. 

He was chivalrous enough to carry the bag for me as we continued our walk, now having a receptacle to collect the litter. Then I randomly remembered that it's Earth Day, and felt like our small act was for a good cause. 

As we passed a runner who saw what we were doing, he shouted "Y'all are awesome!" which felt pretty good. 

I promise I'm not sharing this to make you think we are some kinda civic heroes because we're not. But there is a point to my story. 

We filled and emptied the grocery bag three times with litter and then for a substantial pile, we dragged a rolling trash can over and picked that up as well. Afterward, I looked around at the (mostly) litter-free area and enjoyed the sight of grass, flowers and sky. 

I'm not gonna lie....it felt good to do something good. Sometimes this is reward enough. 

But just beyond the good feeling was a tinge of something else....let's call it self-righteousness. 

A tinge that prompted me to think thoughts that began with: 

I cannot imagine....throwing my trash down on the ground

What kind of person just....leaves their garbage for someone else to clean up?

I would never be the kind of person who....throws down litter in a beautiful park 

Most of us would probably agree that tossing trash out the window or throwing it down on the ground is wrong. We might also agree that picking it up is right. 

But if doing the right thing leads us to feel self-righteous, we've completely missed the point. I feel certain this can apply in so many areas. 

Let me say it again: 

If we only do what's right because it makes us feel self-righteous, we've completely missed the point. 

If doing the so-called right thing makes us think we can sit in judgment of others who are so-called wrong, then we are so-called mistaken. 

It's impossible to get inside anyone else's head. We don't know why people do the things they do. We don't know what they are struggling with, what kind of gut-wrenching challenges they are up against, and what lies they've been told or led to believe that have shaped their every pattern, behavior and thought process. 

We give ourselves the benefit of every doubt, but how often are we so quick to judge the actions of others because they are doing something that we'd supposedly never do? 

Some might say I have every right to judge them....since I was the one touching all their dirty trash and dragging around a giant garbage can on what was supposed to be a leisurely lunch walk. But it doesn't work this way. Judging others was never our right. 

What we can do is try to help. To show love. To make people feel less alone. To pitch in and get our hands dirty when it will make someone else's struggle a little easier or help them experience a bit more beauty. 

April 17, 2019

Simple Ways to Make Easter Brunch More Special!

Easter is a special time and if you're celebrating with a gathering of family or friends, I have some simple ways to make your occasion more special!

From food to drinks, to setting a lovely table, make your Easter celebration truly memorable with these simple, and easy additions.

Something to Nibble Before the Main Meal 

There's nothing more annoying to a cook than having your guests camp out in the kitchen and try to sneak bites of food before you are ready to serve them. 

I remedy this by always having something for guests to nibble before the main meal. This way, if people arrive at your house absolutely starving, and things happen to be running a bit behind (hey, it happens to all of us), then they are placated with snacks. 

Charcuterie and cheeses, nuts, olives and other salty snacks make a great option for nibbling. Pickles and popcorn are also good to incorporate. Having a mix of different things means there's something for everybody. 

I try to avoid sweet options since this has a tendency to ruin the meal. 

Simple & Delicious Peach Bellini

Nothing says brunch like a Bellini, and you can make this one with spirits or as a nonalcoholic version, which is friendly for all ages! 

For the nonalcoholic version, all you need is peach nectar and ginger ale. To give it more of a spirited twist, sub the ginger ale for Prosecco or champagne. Simple, light and sweet....perfect for spring!

Semi-Homemade Goodness 

Finally, take some of the pressure off your Easter meal prep by opting to serve some items not made from scratch. Store-bought isn't always my go-to, but when what I can buy is better than what I can make, I always go for store-bought. 

Unless you love to bake homemade bread and have a foolproof recipe, I recommend picking up some Callie's Charleston Biscuits to serve at your Easter meal. Callie's proprietor Carrie Morey is a pal of mine and her biscuits are beloved the world over. Knoxville folks can find them at The Fresh Market, or click here for a store locator in your neck of the woods. 

And if you bury the package in the bottom of the trash, I won't even tell that you didn't make them yourself! Carrie won't either, I'm sure ;) 


Easter is more than a time for pastel candy and dresses, Peeps and deviled eggs. It's about hope, and love. And new life. So no matter what's on your table, or who is seated around it, I hope you hold the most important things in your heart this season. 

April 3, 2019

Easy Ways to Beat Stress

Did you know April is National Stress Awareness Month? Stress is such a loaded topic these days....we all have it and say we wish we didn't. Some of us wear it like a badge of honor. Some of us legitimately have it from external sources and others of us create it in our daily thoughts, behaviors and actions. I'm not pointing any fingers here....except maybe at myself.

Want to decrease the stress in your life? Here are three fun & simple ways!

Eat to Beat Stress 

I found this recipe on The Dinner Shift, a great blog with all sorts of tasty recipes. Sort of a riff on the traditional loaded cheese fries, it incorporates several ingredients that are supposed to help you beat stress and anxiety: sweet potatoes, black beans and avocados. 

I love sweet potatoes and try to eat them as much as possible. What I didn't know was that they are a mood booster because of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps reduce free radical damage to brain cells. Sweet potatoes can also prevent oxidative stress which is common in emotional conditions like anxiety and depression. The carbs in sweet potatoes help with serotonin production. 

Black beans are another stress fighting food because they are rich in magnesium, which has a relaxing effect on the body and brain. Some experts say magnesium deficiency can lead to stress. 

Finally, there is research that shows low levels of Vitamin B can contribute to feelings of anxiety, which can also lead to stress. Avocados are a great source of B Vitamins, so slap on some avocado or guac to give this dish more flavor. 

So, combine these stress fighting ingredients and whip up your own loaded sweet potato fries, with black beans and avocado! Add cheese, black olives, jalapenos, or whatever other toppings you like! Yum. 

Drink to Beat Stress 

I'm not talking about that type of drinking. In fact, I have found that alcohol does very little to help with stress....it just takes your mind off things for awhile and then eventually you have to deal with the it again. The drink I recommend to beat stress is a turmeric latte. 

It may be too early to say, but some researchers are suggesting that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may help combat anxiety. 

I've been making a drink called a Turmeric Golden Milk Latte and it's delicious! Simply combine the ingredients below in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes and pour into a mug. Enjoy! 

1/2 cup (120ml) of an unsweetened milk of your choice (I like almond or flax) 
1 tsp of turmeric
1 small piece of grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp of ginger powder
1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
1 pinch of ground black pepper
1 tsp of honey or maple syrup (optional)

I can't say for sure if it's scientific, but drinking a cup of this in the evening, after a stressful day doesn't hurt. 

Make a Stress-Free Self-Care Kit

A final way that I like to deal with stress is with self-care. I know, I know....self-care seems like a buzzword these days. But it comes in many forms and can be a great (cheap & easy) option for dealing with stress. 

Maybe create a self-care kit or basket so that all your stuff is one spot. Fill it with your favorite things so that when you start feeling stress coming on, you can treat yourself to something from the basket.

Mine includes face mask sheets, body scrubs, dark chocolate, a great smelling candle, and essential oils. Also a few magazines or a book that I'm waiting for a chance to read.

Stress isn't always bad. It can alert us to danger, push us to achieve our goals and help us accomplish tasks more efficiently. But chronic stress, the kind that feels like a frenzied wave just pushing us along and sometimes crashing over us, is terrible. The good news is we don't have to live with it. I'm trying to be more aware of stress for National Stress Awareness Month and beyond. Hopefully you can too!