Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cool In Ohio...

I got up at the crack of dawn (actually before...3 am!) yesterday and flew to Cleveland to spend a week with Caitlin and Holli while Robby is on a hunting trip in Kansas.  So, although, I will most likely feel a little jet lagged today, I am happy to be here enjoying my girls and this wonderfully cool (60-ish) weather.  Yes, this is what you can call fall; a season we, in the south, barely get a glimpse of.

So, I may or may not get around to blogging much this week because I did something I rarely do this trip...I left my laptop computer at home, choosing to go light traveling with my I-Pad.  But I promise there will be plenty of great photos to share when I return home since I did travel with my big camera!

Now, with a good breakfast in our tummies and a little snuggle (and coffee time) with Holli, we are going to head out for a relaxing day doing some things we love:  some T.J. Max shopping, a trip to the knitting shop and perhaps a lite lunch of soup and salad in this crisp fall weather.

I can "officially" say to you:  HAPPY FALL Y'ALL!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Books I Am Reading or Have Read: "The Prayer Box"

Last week I told you about the new series of books I was reading by author, Lisa Wingate.  I discussed the first book, The Sea Glass Sisters, which was written as a prelude to The Prayer Box.  A few of the characters are the same but a new woman, running from her past comes upon the scene and her life is forever changed after discovering the prayer boxes.

Have you ever judged a person by the way they looked or what you thought to be true about them?  I have always thought that we surely do not know what individuals have been through in their lifetime and why judge them for what may or may not be true?  This book unfolds beautifully to teach the reader just that lesson; someone may not be as things appear.

A 91-year old member of the community, Iola Anne,  mostly a recluse, has passed away in her home when the new renter of her guest house, finds not only the body but also a collection of letters that weave a beautiful tale of this woman's life.  Drawn to reading the letters, Tandi soon realizes that this woman has been judged by others in the community for years and they never realized who she really was, how she got to live in the big house or how her continued support of others anonymously  showed her love for a community and people unconditionally no matter what they thought about her.

Tandi is running from her past with her two children and attempting to put her life back together and is hired by the nearby church to clean Iola Anne's old home so she can make a little money to feed her children,  but every day Tandi shows up for work, she is drawn once again to those letters.  Slowly and steadily Tandi realizes that it is possible to put her life back on track by reading about the struggles and disappointments that Iola Anne faced throughout her lifetime.

All I could think about while reading this book was what a wonderful story of loving and treating others as you would have them treat you.  But also a sad story because this elderly member of the community lived alone with her cat inside a huge house.  No one understood her, no one came to visit her and the proof of that was the fact that her body was found after a few days of not seeing lights on in her house and her cat roaming around outside.  I thought, how sad.  We, often times do not take the time to stop and even say hello to someone in the busyness of our lives and what a joy we might be missing from not doing so.  Tandi was Iola Annes's renter, she lived on the same property with her and never even spoke to her.  After reading her prayer box letters, she was brought to tears not only for how Iola Anne lived all those years but for herself for not being able to talk to this wonderful woman and learn the lessons she had to offer in person.

I would definitely recommend reading this book.  I, of course, would say to read "The Sea Glass Sisters" first, not because there is a tremendous amount of information about the main characters in this book but because it is a great "set-up" book for this novel.  I believe you will enjoy reading about this woman and the lessons she has to teach through decades of letters written and stored away in her closet.  I assure you some will apply to you as well.

                                                                HAPPY READING!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Genesis Experience Work-Out AND a GIVEAWAY For 3 FREE SESSIONS!!!

Well, I am still hanging in there with this new Paleo lifestyle I have embarked upon and actually, the food is not an issue for me.  Did I really say that?!  OK, with the exception of occasionally still feeling a little guilty about eating that much food, I have adjusted well and feel good physically.  Now, it's time to talk about the other part of The Genesis Experience; the work-out.

I'm going to be totally honest with you about this work-out...It's hard.  Whenever I decided to do this, I asked what type of activity we would be doing.  They said they had taken the best parts of several programs to make it what they think is the best program out there.  Well, I think (and this is just me) there is an awfully lot of Cross Fit in this work-out.  There is some working with weights and then some activities where there are bursts of a few minutes of extreme cardio to get your heart rate up quickly and then the end of the work-out is,  in my opinion, the most difficult part, pushing you beyond what you ever thought your body was capable of doing.  All of that being said, I will say that I have developed a "Love/Hate Relationship" with this work-out.

The thing I "Love" about this work-out is the fact that, although it has many elements of the Cross Fit program, I do not feel that I am in competition with anyone and the groups I have worked out with are small enough for me to feel comfortable working out with.  I like this because I think there is nothing worse than walking into a workout facility where everyone is all buff and fit and you immediately feel so intimidated that you never want to go back.  I feel like every one of us are working toward our own personal goals.  I also "Love" this work-out because it provides pretty quick results.  Put simply, one cannot work this hard and not see some sort of results every week.  Sure, you walk out of there feeling spent but isn't that what you want?  Isn't the purpose of working out to feel and see results?  That's what keeps me going back.  That and the individual attention and encouragement by the trainers.

The thing I "Hate" about this work-out is the fact that I have discovered muscles in my body that I never knew existed.  Really.  Last week, after completing a particularly difficult work-out, I made it to my car and drove to the drug store.  I sat there for a couple of minutes because I knew I had to get out to purchase some Epsom salt to soak my sore muscles in but I wasn't sure I could get my legs to move.  OK, so I finally got up and was surprised to discover that my legs could indeed still hold the weight of my body.  But all kidding aside, this really is the toughest work-out I have ever been involved with.  The difference in it as compared to others that I have tried is the fact that I can feel my heart rate raising, I sweat, and I find myself digging deep within myself to complete an activity that I would once have just given up on.  This work-out challenges me and although it is really difficult, I can already tell the difference it is making in my body. 

The combination of "eating good food" and working out in this manner seems to work.  Being conscience about your eating and exercising sometimes just doesn't get it done.  Some workouts and diet philosophies don't work for everyone; they didn't for me, I needed more.  I, personally need someone there to guide me in both nutrition and diet and keep me accountable, checking on me to see if I'm coming to the work-out and how I'm feeling.  If you want to experience this too, I have the opportunity to GIVE AWAY to 3 PEOPLE, 3 work-out sessions to try at The Genesis Experience Alexandria.

Here's what you need to do if you are interesting in getting those 3 FREE WORK-OUT SESSIONS:
Simply be one of the FIRST 3 PEOPLE to leave a comment saying:"I want the FREE Genesis work-out sessions" and leave your e-mail address for me to send you the information.  Go ahead, what are you waiting for?!  There's no time like the present to get in good, healthy,  physical condition! 
                                                               EAT GOOD FOOD!
                                                                  GET MOVING!

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Special Needs Cousin...

I am no stranger to special needs individuals.  My first "real" job as a married woman was at a state facility that housed special needs people.  It was an entire community that I came to understand and love.  I worked there for two years.  However, before that time, I already had a special needs person in my own family.  He was not born that way but as a fifteen year old it was thrust upon him and our entire family.  Here is the story of Patrick.

Patrick, or Pat as I referred to him, was only a year older than me.  The son of my mother's sister, Pat and I spent lots of time together as children.  And yes, we fought as though we were siblings.  I, the baby of my family and he the baby of his, our lives were intertwined with demands of getting our own way.  But it was fun for me to have this cousin of my own age, for I lived the life of an only child since my sister was fifteen years my elder.  Pat lived in Texas and I in Louisiana but we visited back and forth quite a lot.  And as we grew older, our fighting became less and our camaraderie more.  It was us against the adults, as it should be with any young adolescent.  When Pat was fifteen and I fourteen, the last visit I had with him before the accident, we got along better than we ever had.  So much better that even the adults commented on it.  And then it was all over.  In one evening, my dear Patrick was no longer the same.

It was a vehicle accident that took the childhood buddy I knew and loved so well from me. Pat was walking home from an FFA meeting one evening with a friend when a vehicle struck him, throwing his body across the road so far and hard that it knocked his boots off his feet.  When my mother and I got the phone call, we immediately left for Texas, being told that Pat would most likely not live more than a few hours.  But live, he did.  For two months, Pat slept almost peacefully in a coma.  We prayed and prayed that he would awake.  And, I, in my youth, prayed that Pat would wake up and be the same cousin I knew and loved. 

When he eventually awoke, it was clear that Pat was no longer the same.  At the time I did not know what a closed brain injury was or its effects.  I watched as the medical professionals worked to manage Pat's medications and his family struggled to adapt to this "new" person that none of us were acquainted with.  I'm not sure why, but somewhere along the way, Pat even decided that his name should no longer be Pat but Wayne, his given middle name.

There was quite a long period of adjustment before Wayne settled down and into his new life.  And an adjustment, it was.  During those first days, months and years, my aunt had to watch Wayne every waking moment, like one would "keep an eye" on a toddler.  It was clear that she was becoming very weary from this and that's when the search for a state run group home began.  That search took many, many years because, although it took a lot of energy to keep this now young man at home, Wayne was quite a high level closed brain injury patient.  He was definitely teachable and it was clear that he needed more intellectual stimulation than could be provided at home.

Whenever, a group home was eventually found, Wayne's mother reluctantly sent him, for who wants to send their child away anywhere?  Even if that child has now become a grown man?  It was not an easy decision.  However, it was the right one.  The group home that Wayne went to live in was only within a couple hours of his mother's home and boy did Wayne ever thrive there!  He got a little job that he went to each day and even participated in Special Olympics in bowling, one of our "old" favorite things to do together. 

Over the years, whenever someone comes in town and wants to visit with Wayne, the group home arranges it and drops him off for the day.  Every now and then, I get the opportunity to be there when he comes for one of those day visits.  A couple of weeks ago was one of those times and I so enjoyed getting to see and talk to Wayne.  He is such a happy guy, laughing and joking most of the time.  His sister, Gayle was in from Texas and she took him to the store to purchase some playing cards.  This day, she was out to teach him a new card game...
                             Here, Gayle was explaining the rules of the card game to Wayne.
I watched them play this new game and Wayne grasped the rules pretty well and really enjoyed playing it!
Here is a photo I found of Pat and me as children, playing in the dirt.  The date on the picture says 1968.  I would have been six and Pat seven.  On this hot summer day, we would have never dreamed of the twists and turns life would take.  And yes, I just referred to him as "Pat" in this picture.  Because that is who he was here.  Pat was my childhood cousin who played with me on those long summer days in the south. 
Before I left the other day, I asked "Wayne" if he would take a quick photo with me and he was more than happy to, saying he would like a copy of it himself to keep in his room with his other photos.

Looking back, I must admit that I think Pat's self-imposed name change was appropriate, although at the time I resisted it.  I didn't want him to not be Pat any more;  I wanted him to be the same person I had always known.  But he was not.  However, over the years I have gotten to know this "new" person, Wayne, and I must admit it is now like having another cousin that I love just as much as the other.  Yes, he is different but he has some really great qualities that I adore and I can truly say he is always a joy to be around, making me smile and laugh out loud when I otherwise may not feel like it.  This is my cousin Wayne and I am so glad to have him in my life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Books I Am Reading Or Have Read: The Sea Glass Sisters

I love to read series of books for many reasons.  One is the continuation of a relationship with the characters that sometimes at the end of a single book, I am just not ready to let go of.  My cousin quite often sends me the names of books and/or authors to read and I must admit that we have very similar tastes in reading material because I almost always love her suggestions.  That is why when she told me to check out a new author she was reading, I went to Amazon and googled her name to find that she had quite a lot of series.

Lisa Wingate, put quite simply, weaves tales that are uplifting.  I tend to read many different genres and Wingate's first series I read was a breath of fresh air.  There are friend and family relationships and faith involved in her novels, accompanied by really good story lines that are woven throughout the pages.

The first book of the series I read was entitled, "The Sea Glass Sisters".  This story centers around a couple of sisters who have opposing views of the world.  One carefree and out to fulfill her dreams, the other a bit more rigid with not only her life but those around her as well.  As the not so carefree sister sets out on a road trip to hopefully convince the other to leave her home along the hurricane ridden shoreline she calls home, she enlists her own daughter to tag along.  The daughter has issues going on in her own life but agrees to go on this "short" trip with the mother hoping to appease her.

What none of them expect is to be stuck on the island as a hurricane sweeps across the region.  However, in the storm, lessons can be learned.  And indeed they are in this inspiring book.  It is important to read this book first because it introduces the reader to not only the characters that will be in the following two books but also the town and flavor of the region.

I was pleasantly surprised by this new author and she has become one to add to my "favorites" list.  You can find all of her books on Amazon; I downloaded this entire series onto my Kindle.  Click HERE to get your copy of "The Seas Glass Sisters" and start reading it today!

*****The other two books in the series are:  "The Prayer Box" and "The Tidewater Sisters", which I
           will also be reviewing.*****
                                                                      HAPPY READING!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Eating Paleo?...Have a Sweet Tooth?...Not a Problem!

I haven't ever been a sugar addict but from time to time I do enjoy a little sweet treat.  And as I talk to people about the Paleo lifestyle (I don't like to refer to it as a "diet"), the one thing I like to emphasize is the fact that one never feels deprived eating Paleo.  And that includes having a sweet fix now and then!

I have become quite engrossed lately looking for all sorts of Paleo recipes, mainly on Pinterest.  And let me just tell you...there are LOTS out there!  All you have to do is put what you are looking for in the search engine and then begin a wonderful collection to try yourself.  The recipes I share with you are always "tried, tested and approved" before I put them on this site.  Most,  I am really impressed with and like enough to prepare more than once.  One of my other favorite places to find Paleo recipes is The Paleo Mom.  This link is to her Facebook Page where you can find many great recipes to try.  As a matter of fact, she is just coming out with a new cookbook that I predict I will be rushing out to order a copy of.

Now, on to the subject of satisfying those sweet cravings while eating Paleo.  It is my belief that if you want something sweet, go ahead and eat it but stay clean and eat in moderation.  Make your sweet treats ahead of time to keep from grabbing something not so good when that craving hits you.  I have included a couple of great sweet recipes that I have "tried, tested and approved" that I think might just hit the spot for you.

Both of these recipes were found on Pinterest (I told you this was a great resource for finding Paleo recipes).  The first one is a Brownie recipe that not only I tried but it also got the seal of approval from the Hubby, a son and a daughter-in-law.

2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil (*I used coconut oil*)
1 T. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and mix ingredients together.  Bake for approximately 25 mins. OR until the middle does not giggle (ovens may vary).

                                                          ORIGINAL RECIPE LINK

 These brownies were delicious and the perfect snack for those days when I just had a craving for something sweet.  I must admit though that I still got that stab of guilt in my stomach that it was OK for me to grab something so good to eat.  I know, I know...old habits die hard.

The second recipe also came from Pinterest and I actually got Parker Ann to help me prepare it.  She had such fun rolling these Energy Bites in unsweetened coconut.  This snack was also "tried, tested and approved" not only by me but also the Hubby, my sister (who is a sweets expert) and my cousin.  I made a batch of these and one in the afternoons was the perfect sweet fix for me to enjoy for an entire week.

1/2/ cup almonds
1/2/ cup cashews
1/2/ cup Medjool dates, pitted
Zest and juice from 3 key limes
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

I put the almonds and cashews into my Ninja and pulsed them until fine.  Then I added the dates and lime zest and juice.  I rolled them into balls and poured the unsweetened coconut out on the counter for Parker Ann to roll the balls in.  We then placed them in a dish and refrigerated them.
                                                             ORIGINAL RECIPE LINK

I predict that this recipe will be a favorite of mine for a very long time.  I made it originally on Parker Ann's birthday party day because I knew they would be serving birthday cake and I didn't want to be tempted to sneak a bite.  Like I said, I enjoyed one in the afternoon with a cup of coffee for the perfect healthy snack.

Now, one thing to remember about sweets and the Paleo lifestyle in general; moderation still applies.  Just because you are now eating in a healthier manner does not mean that you can eat the house down.  Just watch what you eat and how much you eat of it and before you know it, you will see your body changing in ways you never thought possible!
                                                           EAT GOOD FOOD!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Football Season Has Returned and All Is Well With the World!

Football season has returned and the men in my family could not be happier.  The excitement is akin to pure electricity.  The talk is of teams and players and which season tickets they can have.  I knew football season was right around the corner when the other day I heard mention of Fantasy Football.  I have no idea what that is all about but the guys sure do take it seriously.  There were conversations about building a league and a team and having a draft.  Wait a minute...you did say "fantasy", didn't you??  OK, well whatever it is they are doing, the excitement of football is here and all seems well with the world once again.

This past weekend all four of my guys loaded up and headed to Houston for the season opener of college football where LSU was to play Wisonsin.  Saturday was Game Day and all LSU fans know that on Game Day you not only dress yourself up in your team colors but also your offspring...

And in true form, LSU had their fans sitting on the edge of their seats, biting their fingernails until the very end.  Yes, we came out with a WIN!  What a wonderful way to start the new season off.  And now that things are in full swing, I say:

                                        Let the air turn cooler
                                        Let the gumbo simmer on the stove
                                        Let the leaves fall
                                        Let the roasting of marshmallows begin
                                        Let the marching bands play their tunes
                                        Let the cheerleaders chant

                              BECAUSE FOOTBALL SEASON HAS RETURNED!!!
                                                             GEAUX TIGERS!
                                                             GEAUX SAINTS!
                                                             GEAUX FOOTBALL!