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I'm married to the most wonderful man in the world, and I have a beautiful stepson that I love with all my heart.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jeepers, Creepers, How Can You Help Those Eyes?!?

Ah, the holiday season...time for food, fun, gifts, and gatherings with those we love. It's a great time of year--except for our poor little peepers.

This busy holiday season also usually means time for late-night revelry, stress, high emotions, arguing (come on, admit it--not everyone has a "Norman Rockwell" Christmas), allergies, and the ever-present lack of sleep. These can take a toll on our eyes, making them red, swollen, and puffy. Nothing prettier in those family photos, right? Ugh.

Here's a few home remedy ideas to help alleviate the redness, swelling, and puffiness in your eyes--during this busy season and any other time. **NOTE: these are home remedies, so use caution, as you need to take care when dealing with the delicate eye area. Keep in mind your general eye health, personal allergies (i.e., if you're allergic to it, DON'T USE IT), etc.

1. Milk does a body good--and it can be an awesome soother for your tired, puffy eyes. Just take a small bowl of milk (as cold as you can get it--icy cold is perfect), and dip cotton balls in the milk. Hold your head back and apply to your (tightly closed) tired puffy eyes. The coolness feels great! Replace the cotton balls a couple of times (or more, if you have time), and enjoy the cool sensation. Be sure to rinse your face with cold water afterward, and use your favorite moisturizer.

2. Speaking of moisturizer, if you use an eye cream/moisturizer, keep it in the fridge--you'd be surprised how much it will do for tired puffy eyes just because of the cold temperature. Use the cream as directed, and enjoy the cooling sensation.

3. Almost everyone has heard of the tried-and-true "cucumber slices on the eyes" trick for tired puffy eyes--and there's a good reason for that: it works. Cucumbers contain a natural astringent that helps smooth and tighten skin, and chiling the cucumber slices will make it so refreshing!

4. If you have an aversion to cucumbers, try chilled fresh strawberry slices--the berries also contain a skin-smoothing astringent and will soothe tired, puffy eyes. Just be sure you watch out for staining from the strawberry juice--fresh cold berries don't exude as much juice as room temperature ones, though.

5. I learned this one from an aunt--soak two teabags in ice cold water. While they are soaking, apply a small amount of olive oil to a cotton ball and gently stroke a light coat of oil on the under-eye area where there's puffiness. Gently squeeze the excess water out of the teabags, lie back, and place the teabags over your (shut) eyes. Leave on for 10 minutes, then remove and rinse/pat dry face.

6. The best defense against tired puffy eyes? Prevention! Avoid lots of salty foods, too much alcohol, or excessive amounts of caffeine. Try to get as much rest as possible, and drink lots of hydrating beverages--water, vegetable/light fruit juices, herbal tea.

Hopefully, both you and your "peepers" will survive the holidays with flying colors!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

This is a shot I just took of my lil' guy trying to take a nap...he's a doll!
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Short Story of the Week...one last bit of Christmas...

For the story of the week, here's a classic heart-warmer that shows the true meaning of this season, and the glory of true love.

"The Gift of the Magi"
by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result.

Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it." Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops. Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Recipe of the Week--Ramen Noodle Slaw

This is a salad that I recently discovered--it is easy and delicious. Serve as a side dish, or add chopped cooked chicken to make a wonderful luncheon salad.

Ramen Noodle Slaw
(serves 8 or so as a side dish)

1 1-lb. package pre-cut coleslaw mix (cabbage or cabbage/carrots)
2 packages oriental flavored ramen noodles, uncooked, crushed, seasoning packets reserved
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 cup roasted salted sunflower kernels
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup apple cider vineager
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute to equal 1/2 cup sugar--Splenda works well)
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup light salad oil (vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, sunflower or safflower oil)

In a large bowl, combine coleslaw mix, uncooked broken ramen noodles, scallions, sunflower kernels, and almonds. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl combine contents of both seasoning packets, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and salt; whisk until well combined and sugar is dissolved. Gradually add oil, whisking continuously, until all oil is incorporated. Pour this dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss together. Refrigerate for 30 min to 1 hour, then serve. Yummy!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Poem of the Week--"A Christmas Hymn" by Richard Wilbur

A Christmas Hymn

by Richard Wilber

A stable-lamp is lighted

Whose glow shall wake the sky;

The stars shall bend their voices,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

And straw like gold shall shine;

A barn shall harbor heaven,

A stall become a shrine.

This child through David's city

Shall ride in triumph by;

The palm shall strew its branches,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

Though heavy, dull, and dumb,

And lie within the roadway

To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be forsaken,

And yielded up to die;

The sky shall groan and darken,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry

For stony hearts of men:

God's blood upon the spearhead,

God's love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,

The low is lifted high;

The stars shall bend their voices,

And every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,

In praises of the child,

By whose descent among us,

The worlds are reconciled.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Don't Use the "R-Word"...

Resolutions...just the sound of the word makes my head hurt.  Every year, I make lofty promises to myself that I never wind up keeping. 

I decided this year to set goals--small, reachable goals that perhaps I can accomplish throughout the year.

For 2009, my goals are:

1.  To stop worrying about being a big  girl, and focus on getting healthy. I've always been big, I always will be, and I need to try to make changes to live better no matter what size I am.

2.  To forgive myself for my mistakes--past, present, and future.  I've forgiven others for the pain they have caused me; now it's time to forgive myself.

3.  To make sure my husband knows I love him every day.

4.  To be the best stepmom I can be.

5.  To be the best teacher I can be.

I hope you, my dear readers--all four of you (lol)--have a wonderful holiday season, and the best New Year ever.  Thanks for being here to listen to me.