Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dream Big: 2016 is Yours!


Like a hamster in a wheel, many of us travel through our days with the same schedule, broken up only by the errands of our weekends and the minute-by-minute activities of our limited vacation time. 

We do the best we can with what we have, but our batteries wear down. 

In the details of our day to day responsibilities, we begin to lose sight of our dreams; we nostalgically remember what once made us smile, and at those crazy times, it all seems like worlds away. 

So what do we do? How do we get it back? How do we recharge our batteries when it seems like all of our chargers are plugged in somewhere else? 

We re-group and we visualize. You can't manifest what you can't see. 



It's time for an arts and crafts project. 

Some rainy Sunday or maybe a quiet Tuesday night, clear off the kitchen table and channel your inner kindergartner, or, if you'd rather, set up a presentation on Canva and get going. 

It's time to make yourself a vision board.

If you're going old school for this project, you need a big piece of paper. Poster board works well. You also need scissors and a glue stick. 

Scour your house for magazines. If you don't have magazines, you can ask your friends for theirs or you can ask the local doctor's or dentist's office. If you have access to a printer, you can also print images. 

Using Canva? You can use a Google image search or scour through your own photos for ideas. 

What makes you smile? 
What do you want more of in your life? 
Where do you want to go? 
What do you want to do? 


  • Want to travel to Paris? Find yourself an Eiffel Tower (or some other Parisian icon).
  • Want to run a half marathon or get to a certain level of fitness? Find a picture of a runner with a physique that is appealing to you. 
  • Want a new car? Find your car of choice and paste it on the board.
  • Want to try paddle boarding or crossfit? Add that too.
  • Planning an early retirement? Think about what that looks like from a day to day perspective and add those images.  
  • Want to learn how to cook some fabulous new dishes from a certain cuisine or diet? 


You get the idea.

Arrange your images in any way you want. You can organize them by theme or in any way the spirit moves you. 

You can also add words and phrases. 

This is your board. 

Your vision. 

Anything goes. 

Now, find a place to put your vision board. It should be someplace where you can see it everyday. It should be in a place where you can ask the universe to deliver all that your heart desires.

And it should be in a place to give you the motivation to seek all that your heart desires. 

Did you make your board on Canva? Make this image be your desktop background. 

Look at it every day. 

Don't leave it all up to the universe; give her a little help.

Try to update your vision board at least once a year. Keep those images of what still makes your heart pitter patter, and remove those images of dreams you may have outgrown.

Will creating a vision board rescue you from all of life's stress?

Probably not.

But can it recharge your batteries and give you what you need to get through another week? Another month? Another year?

Maybe.

Especially if those images start to become a reality.


What do you have to lose?


Happy dreaming!

Do you make vision or dream boards? If you're comfortable sharing, what's the focus of 2016 for you?







Updated from the archives...the original post appeared January 3, 2013. As I scour magazines for my 2016 board, I am reminded of the importance of recharging the vision. Cheers!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Weekending: My Gift from Florida


Christmas has come and gone. I can't say that I'm disappointed; it has never been my favorite holiday, a rarity, I know. I am grateful for the time off from school and the chance to slow down. 

Before the holiday, my semester closed and my grades posted. All 4.0s. Hooray! Onward!

I made our traditional tourtiére (French Canadian meat pie), chocolate covered cherries for my Dad, and peanut butter fudge for my Mom. And the highlight of the appetizer table was a delicious brie en croute. (The recipes are linked.)



Here in Massachusetts, the temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were both in the upper 60s. Some friends had bulbs bloom; nature is confused. 

Today, it's a cold, blustery day, as we anticipate our first snow of the season tomorrow morning. 

The greatest joy of Christmas was heading to the airport to pick up this girl, who flew up with her step-brother to spend the holiday break with her northern family. 


This stuffy has been with my niece since she was born. He still goes into every suitcase. 

We spent all day Saturday cashing in various gift cards. Like many teenagers, she shops like a champ. 

The highlight of her purchases may have been her finding her favorite emoji...on a pillow. 


What a business idea!

Like many teens, she loves her phone. A lot. 



But so do I. And, after teaching middle school for more than fifteen years, I understand teenagers. I don't take it personally; they're fun. 

We had a low key evening, snuggling in to watch her favorite holiday movie. 



And then it was off to dinner and to another aunt and uncle's house where she is up to her neck in babies. This family has a two year old and four month old twins.

We'll all be together again for New Year's Eve to eat our grapes and welcome 2016, and again on New Year's Day before she goes back to Florida with her step-brother on Saturday. 

The time goes by quickly, but it's a welcomed treat to have her here. 

In the meantime, Gracie goes for a much needed bath this morning...



And I am planning to dive into some personal development books, sip tea, and maybe watch a movie.



How was your holiday? 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Taken from the archives...still important today. Merry Christmas to my friends who celebrate. Sending hugs, strength and peace to those who struggle with this day. 

Here we are; it's Christmas Eve. 

Many people are neck-deep in gift-wrapping, baking, and planning last minute runs to the supermarket and mall.

Others are done with Christmas preparations and are celebrating the arrival of faraway family and friends who have returned for the holiday festivities.

And others are wishing the next few days away.

People arrive at Christmas from many different journeys; some are marked by love and Norman Rockwellian images of love and belonging, and others have ghosts of Christmas past, scarred by pain and trauma.

Regardless of the lens through which you view Christmas, there are gifts you can give to others which cost nothing, but can change lives. 


Merry Christmas, friends. You ARE worth it. Enjoy your day, on your terms. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Weekending: Prepping for Christmas


While many of my teacher friends are off this week, I have three full days of school before we are set free for the holiday break. This doesn't leave time for much, but happily, we don't have much to do. 

We finally sent out our holiday cards. I missed every deadline offered by services like Snapfish, Mint, and Shutterfly, so I went to my local CVS, who had our cards ready in an hour. 


On Friday night, we went to see A Christmas Carol. 


This is one of my favorites, and this local production did not disappoint. The character of Jacob Marley was creepy, equipped with a harness that allowed him to fly around Scrooge.  We used Goldstar, again, for discount tickets and we had great orchestra seats. 

The rest of the weekend was pretty low key; I went shopping in the morning, and the Señor took care of car business, including routine service and putting on four new tires. 

Yesterday, Gracie had another day of training. This week, we're still practicing walking on a leash, and then we're adding sit and stay. 


She's still a love, but I will be glad when those baby teeth are gone. 

The weekend ended with at home pizza night and wine and another Patriots win, which means another free coffee for me today, thanks to Dunkin' Donuts. 

This week in school will entail this...wish us all luck. 


How was your weekend? If you work outside the home, when is your last day before the holiday?

Have a great week, friends!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Slowing Down with Holiday Movie Essentials

This time of the year can send our fight or flight instinct into overdrive, and for introverts like me, a holiday movie night at home provides the perfect opportunity to recharge my batteries between holiday parties and last minute shopping. 

When I think about crafting the perfect movie night, there must be a few essentials. Thanks to Casper for this cute checklist.




If it's a holiday movie-thon in bed, you need a comfortable mattress. The Señor and I have a memory foam bed and we love it. Flannel sheets are a bonus, (especially if you don't heat parts of your house like our upstairs, where our bedroom is) but high quality sheets can make your at-home mattress feel like a five star hotel. Last, if you live with a snorer, like I do, the right pillow means that he can doze during your romcom holiday favorites and you won't need to turn up the volume to hear Bing croon White Christmas. 


Once you set the scene, you need the goods. For us, the Roku provides a variety of streaming resources where we can find our favorite movies. And, if it's not streaming free on Netflix, we can always rent it though Amazon.


Images via imdb.com

And then, a girl's gotta eat. A bottle of red wine...perhaps the 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau and a cheese plate accented with figs and dark chocolate? 




Last, add a little mood lighting from your own miniature Christmas tree or your favorite scented candle.  

Whether you are taking quiet time for yourself or enjoying a romantic rendezvous with the one you love, a holiday movie time out provides the perfect respite from the chaotic holiday season. 

What are your holiday movie essentials?


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Exploring Dublin: Kilmainham Gaol

When we first started thinking about exploring Dublin on our way home from Spain, people who had been to Dublin immediately began giving us suggestions for places to visit, and Kilmainham Gaol was near the top of everyone's list, after the Guinness Storehouse

The East Wing

Once a working prison that held and executed many members of the Irish Revolution of 1916, the jail is now a museum that offers guided tours to Dublin's visitors. 

It has been the site of many movies as well, including The Italian Job, Michael Collins, and In the Name of the Father. 

According to the tour guides, Kilmainham was a pioneer in the prison system, becoming the first jail to strive for less crowded, more hygienic accommodations. 

During its early years, debtors were more than half of the prison's population, with the others incarcerated for drunkenness, begging, stealing, and prostitution. Many of the prisoners were en route to Australia; over 4,000 were sent through Kilmainham. Even children could be arrested and sent to jail for petty theft; the youngest on record was seven. 


When it first opened, Kilmainham conditions were harsh, with no glass and no lights. Prisoners were given one small candle every two weeks for light and heat, and those convicted of murder and violent robbery were hanged on the gallows outside the front of the prison doors. 
Above the balcony, above the doors, on either side of the ornamental design, 
are the pieces used in the hanging of prisoners, 
which was all but stopped and moved inside to a small cell in 1891.

In the later years of the Irish Famine, the prison saw significant overcrowding, with five or more in one cell. According to our tour guide, many saw the jail as a place of refuge, where, at least, they were guaranteed one meal a day, and the temporary inconvenience was better than starving to death. 

The East Wing (pictured above) was state of the art when it opened in 1862. Prison administrators practiced silence and separation, keeping prisoners mostly isolated in the hopes that in their silence, they would read their Bible and repent for their sins. 

Sample cell

Guards could monitor inmates via catwalks that allowed them greater supervisory access. 



For their part in the 1916 Easter Rising, several revolutionaries were sent to Kilmainham Gaol for their part in the rebellion. 

Site in the prison yard where the Rebels were executed. 

Fourteen men were executed by firing squad, including Joseph Plunkett, who was given permission to marry his love in the prison chapel, hours before his execution. 

The prison chapel where Joseph married Grace. 

Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford Plunkett

Joseph's marriage proposal letter. 

Grace, herself, was imprisoned at Kilmainham for rebel rousing.


Grace's cell. 


She painted on the wall inside her cell. 

Women, generally, were subject to harsher conditions. For example, men were given bed stands, but women had to sleep on straw on the floor. The women's area, in the older west wing, started and remained an overcrowded area.


Peering through a peephole of a cell. 

Cell blocks of the West Wing. 

The remaining prisoners were granted amnesty in 1917, after an about-face in public opinion, following worldwide condemnation of the executions. They were given a hero's welcome and live on today as Irish crusaders and icons of Irish nationalism. 

Some prisoners, like Charles Stewart Parnell, were incarcerated due to their political stance. Parnell rejected Britain's Land Act of 1881 and was housed in Kilmainham for seven months. His stay was far less oppressive than his poor compadres. 

This illustration, in Parnell's cell, shows Parnell receiving visitors in his suite, 
which included a sitting room and a fireplace, in addition to his sleeping quarters. 


If you are visiting Dublin, put Kilmainham Gaol on your list of places to visit. The tour guides are animated and knowledgeable and bring the tour to life. 

Access to Kilmainham Gaol by Guided Tour Only. The tour lasts about an hour. Arrive early: tickets are first come, first served, and as of the time we went, they could not be booked in advance. The Gaol is on tour bus lines and is about 3.5 kilometers from the city center. 

Have you ever been to Kilmainham Gaol? What did you think?









Monday, December 14, 2015

Weekending: the end of the semester


Around here, it's a foggy, drizzly, unseasonably warm December Monday. With class all day on Saturday, it feels like the weekend just never arrived. The good news is, with the exception of one last paper and a discussion board post, my semester is over!

Gracie had a big weekend. She met her trainer on Sunday morning and we worked on leash training for issues related to jumping and puppy biting. We also worked on the heel command and the informal come command. She was a good student, and so were we. Later that afternoon, we went to our local Petco for a half hour of socialization at their puppy play group. She slept the rest of the afternoon; so much excitement must have been tiring. 

Gracie did get her own instagram feed. You can follow her adventures at instagram.com/gracieraerod or on her Facebook page at facebook.com/gracieraerod for curated content related to all-things pets. 


It was a fairly uneventful weekend, but the Señor and I managed to squeeze in a late afternoon coffee date. 


Sunday night was all about finishing up projects and watching the Patriots secure another win. 

It's a fairly quiet week ahead. I have training this week for our state mandated student testing, but then I have a mid-week girls' night out, Gracie's first vet well-check, and a date night with Señor to see a local production of A Christmas Carol. 

I hope all is well in your corner of the world. Have a great week, friends!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Weekending...Our First with Gracie


If you missed Friday's post, here's a recap. 


It's true. We adopted a puppy. Gracie Rae (homage to my Dad) was adopted on Thursday, December 3, 2015. They think she's about three months old, seemingly a lab-shepherd mix, and couldn't be cuter. 


Gracie was born in Puerto Rico and is part of the All Sato Rescue project. Sato is a Spanish slang term for mutt. This non-profit organization rescues and rehomes the sato dogs and pups. They have rescue partner shelters all over the United States. We were lucky to have one such shelter in a nearby town. 

The Señor and I had discussed having a dog for a long time. We both grew up with dogs and cats, but here, for one reason or another, we never had one of our own, until now. 

And she's wonderful company for us all, and especially my 83 year old mother-in-law, who lives with us and is home all day. When the Señor and I go away for a weekend, Gracie and my MIL have some one-on-one time, and when we travel to Spain, she will spend time with her dog-cousins. It takes a village, and ours is wonderful. 

Currently, we are in the midst of the house training and teething hell phase. We're reading up on the topic like it's our job. If you have any advice, please share in the comments. So far, we're taking her out as soon as she wakes up, after napping, after feeding, and after playing hard. She's doing what she needs to outside, but she's still having accidents inside. We're using a lot of Nature's Miracle, which works like a charm, by the way. 
We want her to go outside, which is why we haven't done puppy pads. 

She's only been with us since Thursday night and she's only 12 weeks old, and she's a rescue...who knows how she entered this world or how long she was with her mother. I told the Señor...she's like some of my students...it takes some of them more time, especially if they come in without a lot of background knowledge. She'll get there; however, I also appreciate best practices, so if you have any, please share. 

We have gotten her lots of toys for teething and she fetches like a pro. She loves to gnaw on me...no one else...just me. UGH! Any advice beyond distraction with a teething toy, a firm no and removing myself for a minute?

Luckily, we never had to worry about crate training. She voluntarily goes in to nap. We leave the door open all day and in she goes. She loves it; she feels safe. She sleeps all night and never whines. 

She has been to Petco for some socialization and a meeting with Santa, and she did great.  She waited patiently for her turn. 


And then, she had her chance to meet the man in red. 

She made it to the "nice" list. 

Everyone in the store, it seemed, came to meet Gracie, who charmed everyone with kisses and snuggles, and rolling onto her back to have her belly scratched. 

She even found a friend. 

But sadly for her, this one didn't return her sweet affections. 

She is a sweet girl. She is as loving as she is strong willed. Training a puppy is not for the faint of heart, but she is a lot of fun. 

I would like to say we had an exciting weekend jaunting here and there, but mostly, we stayed in and loved on our lovely new girl. 

How was your weekend? Please share any puppy parenting advice in the comments below. We'll take all the advice we can get. 



PS--Kudos to our nephew, whose team (and my high school alma mater) made it to the MIAA high school football state championship. The Señor, one of his brothers, and his other nephews went to cheer them on at Gillette Stadium, where our New England Patriots play. They fought like champions and took a heartbreaking loss with dignity. 

I stayed behind, took Gracie to Petco, and worked on my final assignments for the semester...only a few left. 







Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

From Kelly's Kitchen: Roasted Sweet Potatoes

We eat a lot of sweet potatoes in our house. We roast them, bake them, and boil and mash them. They end up in casseroles, in stews, and in tortilla españolas

Sweet potatoes are good for you. 


And they make a great side dish. 


Here's what I do. 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes...whether you roast 2 or 10 is your choice 
Coconut oil (or olive oil)
Maple syrup
Himalayan salt or course sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
*Optional...crumbled bacon, fresh thyme. 

Preheat your oven to 425.
Peel and cut your sweet potatoes into evenly sized chunks. Place in a large mixing bowl. 

In a small bowl, mix oil, salt, and pepper. Add a splash of real maple syrup. 
Pour over the sweet potatoes, enough to lightly coat, but not enough to create a puddle in the bottom of the bowl. 

Spread onto a greased cookie sheet or into a baking dish. Ideally, you should have a single layer to avoid steaming, but potatoes roasted in a baking dish will still come out delicious. 

You can sprinkle with more salt and pepper if you want. 

Roast for thirty minutes to one hour, depending on how much you have to cook. Move them around about halfway through cooking so the bottoms don't burn. They will be tender when they are cooked. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Adventures in Cooking Class

I love to cook, and after taking a macaron class last spring, I learned that cooking classes through a local community education program are a fun way to learn new techniques,  eat well, and take home delicious leftovers. 


This fall, I decided to take some cooking classes with my friend, Chef Sherry B.  
What a treat! 


Over the course of three nights, I took classes in making Gifts from the KitchenA Passion for Pumpkinand Everything but the Turkey. 

My series began with Gifts from the Kitchen. In this class, we made sweet treats, including chocolate truffles...


peanut brittle...


and salted caramel sauce. 


Then, in A Passion for Pumpkin, we made pumpkin fudge (OMG!), pumpkin fritters with caramel sauce, pumpkin cookies, and this pumpkin risotto, with bacon and sage. 


The last class in the series was Everything but the Turkey. In this class dedicated to Thanksgiving sides, we made fresh cranberry relish...


pumpkin biscuits...



stuffing with sausage and sage...


and mashed potatoes with gravy. According the Chef Sherry, the secret to mashed potatoes is a ricer.  My mom uses an electric hand mixer to whip mashed potatoes; I use a hand mixer and sometimes, the electric mixer. Both work well for me. 

In every class, I learned new techniques, like differentiating between the ball states in candy making, how to make the perfect risotto, and the secret to fail-proof biscuits. It's an opportunity to expand my own recipe repertoire, and a fun opportunity to cook with friends. 

There are cooking classes offered all over the globe. You can find classes through international programs and tour groups, through adult continuing education programs, at independent cookware stores, and at larger chain stores, like Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. From specialty cuisines to knife skills, there is something for everyone. 

Have you ever taken a cooking class? Do tell.