Recipe Corner: Orange Glazed Chicken Salad
February 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Make the last of orange season with this fresh salad! I had a few oranges that I needed to use up and I decided to try to make an orange vinaigrette for a salad. This recipe is very simple and healthy; it only took me about 20 minutes from start to finish and tasted delicious! Cooking the chicken breast in orange juice really made the meat flavorful and moist. The orange glazed chicken in this recipe could also be a meal on its own served with stir-fried vegetables and rice.
-2 chicken breasts, pounded to about 1/2 inch
-1 tsp of olive oil
-Juice of half a medium sized orange (any variety should work, but I used navel)
-Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp of each)
-Juice of half a medium sized orange
-1 tbl of olive oil
-2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
-2 tsp of low sodium soy sauce
-1/2 tsp of mustard
-1 medium clove of garlic finely chopped
– Sriracha or hot sauce to taste (optional)
-Lettuce (I used a Spring mix, but any greens will work)
-1 medium sized orange
-1/4 cup of slivered almonds
-1/2 tsp of sesame seeds
-Cilantro (If you don’t like cilantro, try replacing with basil)
Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts and put them into the skillet. After you first flip over each piece of chicken, pour orange juice over the breasts. Allow the chicken to cook thoroughly as the orange juice begins to thicken (about 4 minutes on each side). Once chicken is done, put aside and let cool.
Roast the almonds and sesame seeds under the broiler for about 2 minutes or until they begin to brown. Watch carefully, this can happen quickly! Put aside to cool.
To assemble the dressing, combine olive oil, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and mustard. Whisk together ingredients and then add the garlic. Put aside.
For the garnish, segment the orange and finely chop the cilantro. Put aside.
Slice the chicken breasts. Then toss the lettuce with the toasted almonds and sesame seeds, orange segments, and most of the dressing, reserving some for the top. Put chicken on top of the salad, drizzle on the extra dressing and top with cilantro. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: Emilie Nadler
Photo Copyright (c) 2015 Emilie Nadler. All rights reserved.
Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.
Just A Thought – The Importance of Reading the News
February 11, 2015 § 2 Comments
I have to admit, I am bad at keeping up with the news. For various reasons, I often tend to avoid staying on top of many of the ongoing topics in the media today. However, whether if you are looking at it from a voting point of view or from a writing point of view, that is a poor decision to make. Having a reliable, unbiased news source is very important for any writer, business owner, or general citizen. It not only allows us to be more informed and active citizens, but it also allows us to do our jobs better. How can you really write without knowing the full experience of what is going on in your world? How can you effectively run a business without knowing how current events may be affecting you and your future business? Emilie makes a very good point below, and includes some tips on how to get a more “clear” picture on what is going on in the world so you can make your own decisions without the hyped up “stories” that the media likes to portray lately. –JC
With the amount of free news widely available, it seems almost criminal to not be informed about current events. However, in this media soaked environment, it’s not only important that you stay informed but also that you get your news from a variety of different sources.
Most Americans get their news by watching television, opting for networks like CNN, FOX, or local channels.* Though watching the news is sometimes more convenient and is free and easily accessible, it is often the most biased and skewed way to receive information, especially political news. Getting the news from another person can greatly influence our own opinions, and therefore, it’s important to take the time to actually read the news.
I think the best way to navigate through the hyperactive media environment of today is to read the news either in print, online, or on your cellphone. Especially when considering political issues, it’s important to read about both sides of the issue and make up your own mind before being influenced by the prejudices of other people.
I personally believe that one of the best news sources available is the Associated Press. I generally read AP news on my cellphone through their free app, but they also have a free website and twitter account. The AP provides free, unbiased breaking news and often does specialty pieces where they assess the truth behind divisive political issues. Recently the AP put out an article, “Fact Check: Both Sides in Keystone XL Debate Bend Facts” where they investigate both sides of the debate surrounding the construction of the Keystone oil pipeline and reveal that, as with most issues, each side stretches the truth to make their argument.
It’s especially important with political issues to read about the issues from a more unbiased source like the AP or the Washington Post (which also has a free app and website). Most television networks and many other media sources skew their information to place blame on one political party or another for the inactivity and constant debate in Washington, when really both sides are playing an active role. Clearly newswriting can be highly biased as well, but at least by reading the news you can discern the facts for yourself. Reading the news and varying your sources of information is also a way to actively participate in politics; it allows you to understand for yourself what policy decisions are being made and which politicians are involved. To be a conscious voter, it is important to be informed and hold politicians accountable for their actions.
When I was recently in Washington, D.C., I went to one of my favorite museums, the Newseum—a museum of news and journalism. Written on one of the walls is this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Knowledge is indeed power and staying informed, especially about political issues both foreign and domestic, gives us power in our government. Just a thought.
Photo Credit: Emilie Nadler
Photo Copyright (c) 2015 Emilie Nadler. All rights reserved.
Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.
Our New Intern
February 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
SP would like to welcome our new intern, Emilie Nadler! Emilie will be with us until May, and will be contributing to this blog, The IF Factor, and our Facebook page, in addition to helping out in other areas of the business as well. She brings a new perspective to the mix and we are very excited to have her!
Emilie is a senior at Skidmore College, majoring in Government and English. Her formal writing experience has been with the Conway Daily Sun in New Hampshire, where she photographed, wrote, and had stories published. She has also interned in the marketing department of Kroll Bond Ratings in New York City and at the Cypress Group, a financial lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. Her interests include travel, politics, the news, photography, and environmental issues. After graduation, Emilie hopes to pursue a career in environmental policy.
January 14, 2015 § Leave a comment
We have been experiencing severe difficulties with the Facebook Page for the last few weeks. It suddenly stopped working properly and Facebook can’t (or won’t) seem to fix it. It has been very frustrating!
But just wanted to post this so you would know what is going on. Hopefully they will be able to get it together and get us up and running again soon! At that point, we will resume with the updates, discounts, and all the other fun stuff we have for our Facebook followers.
We’re sorry for any inconvenience. If you are trying to get in touch with us and can’t access our page, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward to connecting again soon!
Fall = New Beginnings
December 3, 2014 § 2 Comments
Many people view fall as a time of endings – the end of summer, the shedding of dead leaves, the long sleep of winter, the end of another year. Granted, most people enjoy fall activities – playing in the leaves, apple picking, pumpkin patches, hay rides, cider, cider doughnuts, etc. – but they dread the day that last leaf falls and winter officially begins.
However, I’ve always looked at fall as a time of new beginnings. I don’t see “death,” I see the preparation of life. It is a time to reflect and make needed changes. It is a time to recharge and renew your mind, body, and spirit. It is a time to take charge of your goals for your life and/or business. It is a time to give thanks and be grateful for everything you have and your accomplishments, and a time to think about what you want to achieve in the fast approaching new year. It is the rest (not death) before the new growth.
I know January is the usual time to make new year’s resolutions, but to me, fall has always seemed like the real start of the new year. Maybe it comes from all those years of being in school and everything starting in September – I don’t know. But whatever it is, fall is the new beginning for me.
As I did the usual Thanksgiving reflections, I realized that I once again have much to be thankful for this year. I was lucky enough to have many great things happen both personally and professionally. There are some new, promising opportunities lurking on the horizon for this coming year that I am also looking forward to. I get another wonderful year on this earth to make my own little mark any way I can, and I am so grateful.
So as the season turns from fall to winter, I am not going to mourn the end of summer, flowers, good weather, sunshine. I am going to rejoice in the chance for another new beginning. I am going to continue to walk confidently down this road of life and enjoy every moment of my journey – leaves or no leaves. I will cherish each detail the season offers. I am going to take full advantage of this period of rest, while everything around me renews and recharges – myself included. I will come out revitalized and ready to rock this year even better than last!
So let that last leaf fall – It’s not just an end. It’s a fresh start. A new beginning. Another bend in the road that offers a different view and new adventures. My journey awaits!
Photo Credit: Jesse Storms Linton
Copyright (c) 2014 Jesse Storms Linton. All rights reserved.
Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.
Quote of the Day
May 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
“Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out.
Writing is essential to our well-being.
If you’re that kind of writer, never give up!”
The HIMYM Dilemma From A Writing View
April 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Ok, so we all know that How I Met Your Mother ended this week. After 9 years of watching, the show’s loyal fans finally got all their answers. And while some were quite satisfied, most of the fans were left confused and angry. Was this show really supposed to be called How I Met Your Stepmother??
Personally, I’m a little torn on my opinion of this ending. On one hand, it’s a tidy roundabout finish – it ties up the story, and it’s nice to think that your first love can come back. On the other hand, I was disappointed. I felt that Ted’s character had grown throughout the series and actually evolved beyond Robin. I was excited to see him find true love with someone new and felt a little robbed by the mom being more like a long montage than anything else.
But personal feelings aside, let’s take a look at this strictly from a writing structure point of view. A good story obviously has a distinct beginning, middle, end. A good story has foreshadowing, repeating patterns or symbols, compelling characters that not only draw you into their world, but become so familiar they are a part of your world. A good story, like life, often has various twists and turns, bringing us down a different track and always keeping us on our toes.
Does HIMYM have these things? Yes, it most absolutely does. Everyone can point out the repeating themes of Ted’s quest for love, his big gestures, his dogged & determined romantic side, the blue horn, the slap bet, The Playbook, The Bro Code, and “Legendary” moments – the list could easily go on. Every character was on a journey and we knew their love and loyalty for each other was what always carried them through. They grew up together. They grew together.
The creators have stated they knew their ending from the very beginning and the story across the seasons show that. It always came back to Robin. That blue horn periodically made an appearance. We knew the mother herself was not a major part of the story. The story was really more about Ted’s journey. Not only his journey in finding the mother, but his journey in finding himself and growing up in the process.
So does the fact that he eventually ends up with Robin anyway, blue horn in hand, make sense in terms of story structure?
Well, yes, it does. Life, like stories, have repeating themes. Robin is one of Ted’s themes for sure. The story came full circle and everything was tied up. There were no other questions left to be answered. Except for perhaps the question of how the future of Ted & Robin would work this time. Yes, Ted already has the kids, so that solves that problem. But Robin is still a famous world reporter that has to travel all the time. Ted is much more of a responsible homebody than Barney ever was, plus he has kids. So if it didn’t work for Barney, why would Ted & Robin work any better considering the difference in their lifestyles?
But that wasn’t the point of the ending. The point was the story coming full circle. It may not have been the most satisfying ending that fans were looking for, but that’s life too – it’s not always a clean, satisfying end.
Could it still have worked the other way? Could Robin have stayed just Aunt Robin and Ted ended his dialogue with, “And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”? That could have been followed by a montage of some snapshots and/or “home videos” before a fade to black. The End.
Yup – that could have worked too. Maybe it wouldn’t have brought the story to a complete full circle like ending up under Robin’s window again, but it still would have worked well with the themes because Ted evolved. He learned from his on-again off-again relationship with Robin. He found out what really mattered to him and what the kind of love was that he needed in his life. What the mother of his children should be like. And even if she still ended up dying, it would be ok because he has learned over the last 9 years that it isn’t just about the end result – it’s about the journey, the story itself. It’s about the adventures, the people you meet along the way, and the knowledge you gain. The happiness and life in general that you experience is what makes up your story, not your ending. In the end, he knew that’s what it was really all about. Not just mom, but what made up the path leading to mom. That was his story all along (with or without Robin).
Yes, that ending could have worked too.
But then, if that had been the ending, everyone wouldn’t be talking about it so much, would they?
What did you think about the ending of How I Met Your Mother? Did you like what the creators decided to do? How did you feel it fit in terms of a writing technique?
Quote of the Day
March 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
Keep Stress at Bay Every Day
March 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
“Stress is now considered the foremost contributor to our modern chronic maladies. Recent medical research by well-known clinicians has shown that stress is a major factor in causing heart disease, cancer, and a myriad of chronic and acute diseases of today’s world.”
-Nischala Joy Devi*
Stress is a huge factor in our everyday lives – it doesn’t matter if you’re naturally a chronic worrier or if you are a yoga meditation master – stress is still there. The world is naturally stressful now – just the physical noise of modern-day life alone is enough to send your body into overdrive, but add on financial worries, career pressures, family life, terrorism & increasing societal violence in general, constantly changing technology, sedentary jobs – the list can go on and on. These factors all add to a stressful environment. And stress – both physical and mental – can lead to a whole host of problems.
While there are some things we can do to lower the stressors in our environment, unfortunately, many of these factors are now a part of everyday life and we just can’t avoid them. So what do we do? How do we avoid unavoidable stress from taking over our lives?
“Physical and mental stress accumulate. This can lead to fatigue, a drop in performance level, and a feeling of anxiety. If not checked, stress creates more serious problems and disease occurs. Mental and physical dis-ease OR well-being can be fundamentally improved by acquiring a few simple tension-lowering techniques…. While stressful events around us may not change, we can learn how to respond skillfully to life’s difficulties, maintaining our equilibrium and a sense of well-being.”*
HERE ARE 10 TIPS TO HELP YOU KEEP STRESS AT BAY AND ESTABLISH CONTROL AND BALANCE FOR YOUR OWN WELL-BEING:
1. Accept that there are many things in our lives that we can’t control.
Sometimes you have to just make yourself let go and let it be.
2. Make time to exercise.
Although this may seem like added pressure to your day, it is proven that exercise not only helps you to mentally feel better, but the more fit and strong your body is, the better it can fight stress. Activities like walking, hiking, bicycling, swimming, the gym, yoga, Zumba, etc. all help to instantly lower your stress level. Don’t feel like you have an hour or so for a “full workout”? Try to at least work in 20-30 minutes of one of these activities – you can still gain full stress-relief benefits even in a shorter amount of time.
3. Add in extra time whenever possible.
Give yourself extra time to do things. Perhaps leave a few minutes earlier or start that upcoming project a week in advance. When you are able to give yourself those few extra minutes, it takes away the stress of the impending deadline, or that unexpected traffic jam. Work is stressful enough – you don’t need to start the stress process just by trying to get there!
4. Avoid the “quick fixes.”
Things like alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and recreational drugs may seem like they help, but the effect is just a short-term mirage. They actually add to the stress level in your body and will exacerbate anxiety. Keep your use to an extreme minimum, or better yet, not at all!
5. Take a break.
Hitting a freak out level? Stop yourself and walk away. Even just a 5-10 minute break will help (Heck, even 2 minutes can help!). Take a walk. Go someplace quiet and do some deep breathing – anything to just slow you down for a moment.
6. Watch your breath.
It is amazing how much the breath affects both the body and mind. Most people today naturally take shallow, fast breaths from their chests.
“When you breathe mostly from your chest, the part of your nervous system that increases your arousal and heart rate gets stimulated. Plus, you use mostly your chest muscles to do the work. Your chest muscles are not really designed for breathing the way that certain abdominal muscles are. In instances of extreme chest breathing, people will even feel sensations of tightness or pain in the chest as these muscles get tired. On the other hand, taking deep breaths from your belly stimulates the branch of your nervous system linked to slowing the body down, resting, and relaxing.”**
Many times our inhalation is longer than the exhalation. However, long exhalations give our heart time to relax, since the heart only rests in between beats. A long, slow exhalation will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and allow you that much-needed feeling of relaxation. Not sure how to breathe with your diaphragm instead of your chest? Try this trick –
Lie flat on your back on the floor. Place a book on your stomach just under your rib cage. Take a deep breath and send all the air down to your stomach. Your stomach should expand and naturally lift the book up in the air. Slowly breathe out, allowing the book to go back down. Once you get the hang of breathing into your stomach, concentrate on slow breaths – four counts in, four counts out.
Anytime you feel your anxiety level rising, turn your attention to your breath. Is it all in your chest? Take a minute to pull a few slow breaths down into your diaphragm and you will feel an instant calming effect and a clearer mind. Try to use at least a few minutes each day to sit and just focus on breathing.
7. Eat healthy.
Regular wholesome foods allow your body to work smoothly, without the added stress of trying to process junk. Like exercise, it also allows your body to be in strong physical condition to more easily fight off the effects of stress.
8. Use imagery.
“Imagery, our inner guidance, allows us to create and experience. It is the language of the mind…. We practice positive imagery as a means to allow the mind and body to mobilize all available resources that assist in the healing process. This creates an intention that brings about positive physiological and psychological responses, such as lowering of blood pressure, boosting of immune function, clarity of mind, calming of brain waves, decreased heart rate, production of a feeling of well-being. Through positive mental imagery, signals are sent to the body to help it repair and sustain energy.”*
There are many forms of imagery, but if you use even a basic method, imagery can help calm and focus the system and make your stressors more manageable. Here’s an easy method of imagery:
Picture yourself relaxed, feeling good, full of energy. Everything is done that needs to be. Picture your body strong, healthy, healed. If you are worried about a particular task – picture it completed in your mind. “See” it done the way you want it to be – in its “perfect” state.
Our bodies heal themselves when we sleep, as do our minds. Sleep allows us to process the events of the day and the worries stuck in our heads. It allows the brain to “clean” itself and let go of everything we don’t need. Sleep heals the mind just as much as the body. Force yourself to go to bed at a decent hour every night to allow the body to recharge so you can approach the day from a calm, “clean” slate, and be stronger and ready to fight off the rest of the stressors of the day as they come.
10. Attitude adjustment.
“Fake it till you make it.” That phrase can be so annoying sometimes, but is so true. Try to keep a positive attitude. Instead of saying things like, “Nothing ever works right for me,” say, “I’m doing my best.” “This will work right.” Instead of, “I feel so tired and crappy all the time,” tell yourself, “I feel great. I am strong. I am capable. I can do this.”
It takes work to remove stress, or at least the effects of stress from our lives. There are many methods out there – some more complicated and time-consuming than others – but these few tips are ones that you can easily work into your everyday life to get started.
Deep breath in. Slow breath out.
*From The Healing Path of Yoga: Time-Honored Wisdom and Scientifically Proven Methods that Alleviate Stress, Open Your Heart, and Enrich Your Life, by Nischala Joy Devi
**From Women Who Worry Too Much by Holly Hazlett-Stevens, Ph.D.
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Project: Organize – The Closets – Part I
March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
I think one of the biggest organization suck zones is the closet. It never seems tidy, no matter how many times you re-fold the clothes. Plus, I’m always faced with the question of, regardless of how many clothes are in there, why do I always open the door and still feel like I have nothing to wear?!?
When I started my Project: Organize, my plan was to begin in my home office. Despite it being a very important room in the house, it became partially a dump zone when we moved a couple of years ago. We moved at a crazy time and I just did not have enough time to go through everything properly and organize like I normally would while setting up a new room. And since my office is tucked away out of sight, with a very convenient door to close, it became the place to put those nagging things that you can go through “later” just to get them out of the way.
A lot of the junk is papers and things that built up, waiting for a home that never happened. I know that at this point, much of it is garbage, but I also know there are a few important items mixed in there. Which means, I have to sit down and go through each little thing piece by piece. And considering the piles and piles of these, on top of the archive files, and other things that still need a home (we won’t talk about that pile of magazines), my office was a very daunting task. As much as I love my little space, working in there drives me crazy. The room is such a distracting mess that it carries over into my mind and makes it very hard to concentrate and work. It seemed like the logical place to start.
But I quickly realized it would also be the most frustrating and time-consuming place. Even if I was making good progress, it wouldn’t look like it for quite a while, and I didn’t want to get frustrated so early on. I wanted to feel successful and motivated.
So I decided to start smaller. I started with the front hall closet instead. Coats were jammed in. Hats & gloves were exploding everywhere and never seemed to have a match. Scarves would jump out every time I opened the door – it was a mess.
First, I went through and pulled all the coats we no longer wear and put them in a separate bag to bring to the shelter. Next, I pulled all the kid coats that didn’t fit but we wanted to save for hand-me-downs, and packed them away in a bin. This was a good start! I actually saw space in the closet and could already breathe a little better! So I moved on. I took a couple of multi-tiered pant hangers and hung all the scarves on those. Now we could easily see and retrieve each one of them without having to create a tornado to find the one we want.
My “everyday” bags went in a basket on the shelf. Then I created a container for each of us to have for our hats, gloves, and sunglasses. Our dog also got her own basket for her various leashes, poop bags, tennis ball, etc. I put a couple more small bins on the floor – one for my husband’s cycling stuff (no more helmet rolling out on me every time I open the door – yay!), and one for my dance shoes and teaching paraphernalia. The umbrellas were tucked on the side, the vacuum took its own corner, there was a spot for my work bag, and still room to spare! I pulled all the extra hangers out, leaving a couple for guest coats, and now suddenly we had room to move things around in there. We could see everything we had and could easily access it all. It was exhilarating!
I actually felt like I accomplished something and I could see the physical outcome of my efforts. I was now even more motivated to see how far I could take this project.
I moved on to my daughter’s closet. She recently had a growth spurt, so I pulled the majority of her clothes that no longer fit, rearranged the others, gave her her own shoe rack, and rearranged her dresser while I was at it. She was almost as pleased as I was – this was fun!
I decided to tackle a harder one – our bedroom closet. There are clothes of all different sizes in there (yay baby weight), shoes from various decades, leftover things that we just didn’t know where to put them. I started with the shoes. Bought an awesome shoe shelf and got those up off the floor. It already looked a lot better! Next item – tackle my clothes. This has proven to be a bit harder. I have a sentimental side, so some things are just hard for me to toss. I already have two bags of clothes pulled, though, so it’s a start.
That’s where I had to leave off. The other closets gave me such a dorky little “high” I can’t wait to finish this one. I’m excited to get things organized, find out what actually fits me now, and make the closet more “user-friendly” for both of us.
The closet part of this project is going to extend not only to all the closets in the house, but the drawers, cabinets, and everything along those lines. I learned some neat tricks when we had to stage our old house before we moved, so I’m going to add on to that and really get this place in tip-top shape. There are also so many great organizational tools out there now. I have a friend who works for Thirty-One, so I’m planning on having a party once the weather gets a little nicer to not only get some new gadgets for myself, but to help my friends start their own mini organizing projects for Spring cleaning. This has been too fun not to share!
More to come!
I would love to hear feedback from my readers during this project. Have you had a similar experience to my need for more organization? How do you tackle the closet dilemma?
Please comment on these blogs with your experiences as well! I know there are many people out there who have needed to re-evaluate, organize, or make certain changes in their lives and I would love to have a section that can take my personal experiences to a more global level and create a community involved in this mission!
Photo Credit: closet factory via photopin cc