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July 22, 2010

Let's Talk - Vacation Time!

I don't know if you have ever looked through Table Topics, but last year I bought a set for my hubby, just to see what they were all about, and if they really stimulated good conversation.  We've pulled out "the cube"at random times throughout the year and have really enjoyed them.  Unlike trivia questions, there are no right or wrong answers, so no one is every left out of the conversation.  Over the year we've learned some interesting things about some of our friends -- and about ourselves. 


Given the title of my blog, introducing the concept of table topics here seems rather fitting.  Going forward, you can expect to see a weekly post -- maybe a "Think About It Thursday" or "Let's Talk Tuesday"  (although I guess that would require some consistency in my efforts, and we know how that goes -- maybe they'll just be periodic!!).  Anyhow, I hope you'll pull up a chair and join the conversation -- and invite your friends to do the same.    If you have questions you'd like me to pose, please email me and I'll try to add them to the list.

OK, here we go.  I'm going to keep it really simple today. 

Pack your bags.  I'm sending you on a 5-day vacation anywhere you'd like to go.  Where are you going?  And why?


Image from Google images
My answer:  Sedona, AZ
A few years ago, I was in Phoenix for a conference.  I had heard from my parents that Sedona was a beautiful place, so one evening, I hopped in the car and drove there to check it out. 

I was only there for about 5 hours, but from the moment I laid eyes on the first red rock, I was overcome by a feeling a calm.  I walked up and down main street, then went to a little restaurant for dinner alone.  I ended up talking to the two couples who were seated on either side of my table.  They were incredibly interesting people, and we had an intense conversation about life, love, karma, and destiny.  When the restaurant closed, we said our goodbyes and each went our own way.  I drove back to Phoenix feeling an inner peace that I had never really felt before.  Sounds crazy, but the whole experience was very surreal.

Ever since that night I have wanted to go back with my husband.  Whether for 5 hours, or 5 days -- I know it would be a great trip. 

OK -- your turn.  Go.

Side Note: There are several versions of Table Topics -- some for families, for dating, for parties, and more.  I think they would be a great take-along for a long car ride, or camping trip (when you're sitting around the fire).  They'd also make a great hostess gift if you are looking for something other than a bottle of wine.

July 11, 2010

When Someone You Love is Abused at Work

As someone who typically tries to find the bright side of life, this post is going to be extremely off-topic for me -- so I apologize to my regular readers who look to me for a dose of inspiration or a good recipe.  Unfortunately, this topic is one that I feel I've been hearing about more and more lately -- and as a do-gooder in this crazy world, I'm trying to find answers.  I'm searching desperately for a way that I can help -- and I keep coming up empty.  I'm hoping someone out there can help me find a way to make a difference.

We're all keenly aware of horrific issues like domestic violence and child abuse.  And I'm sure many of us have been exposed to sexual harassment and diversity training in our workplace. As unpleasant as they may be, we've found a way to talk about and hopefully start resolving these kinds of abuse.  But lately I've heard several people, who are being abused in their workplace because of excrutiatingly poor management and leadership indifference. 

These are regular people who walk on eggshells at their jobs -- wondering if anything will happen that day to upset the angry monster that lives within their boss.  I can think of at least a half dozen people who have confided in me in the six months, sharing stories of bosses who fly off the handle, scream and yell,  threaten to fire them, put them on probation but give them no idea of what they've done wrong or how to improve. I even know of some who have in fact, been abruptly fired or forced to resign -- with no clear reason given as to why.

I know people who have gone on anti-anxiety medication after decades of perfect health, and others seeking professional counseling to deal with workplace anxiety.  And despite known complaints to human resources, and exit interviews where employees held nothing back about the magnitude of the problem, the managers who are at the root of the problem are never confronted, or held accountable for the environment that they've created.  In these difficult times, when jobs are so hard to find - the victims of the abuse feel helpless.  They take whatever is put upon them, and live in fear because they see no way out.

What has happened in this world that the executives of industries can look the other way, even though they know that this kind of workplace abuse is happening?  How does anyone sleep at night?   I've only heard stories -- and several within the past couple weeks that have truly turned my stomach -- and I know that I can't sleep at night.  And I'm not the one living it. 

So my question to anyone who cares to respond -- what advice do you give to a friend or family member who you believe is a victim of this kind of workplace abuse?   Do employees have a legal right to be managed with dignity and respect?   What is missing from our corporate worlds, that there could be so many people who rise to the level of authority, without learning how to lead and manage with decency and compassion? 

Something has got to change -- but what can I do to make a difference?

July 8, 2010

Pampered Chef Spicy Pineapple Rum Sauce

Long ago and far away, I used to sell Pampered Chef.  Needless to say, my kitchen is stocked with every imaginable kitchen tool (most of which I really use). So -- when I was invited to a PC show a few weeks ago, I didn't have that burning shopping enthusiasm that I always hoped guests would bring to my demos.  I love Pampered Chef stuff, and still fully believe they are among the best kitchen tools out there -- so I wanted to get something, but I just really didn't have much need.  

Thumbing through the catalog, I was getting a little nervous that I was going to have to buy something frivolous (and I don't really do frivolous that well) -- and then I saw it.  Spicy Pineapple Rum Sauce.  

Now maybe some people don't like the sound of that -- but to me, the name screamed "YUM!!"

I ordered it along with a couple smaller items.

Well, when my goodies arrived yesterday, I immediately started thinking about how I might use it.  I drove home from work with the sauce in the backseat of my car calling out all sorts of savory ideas.

A glaze on grilled chicken or salmon.  Poured over a block of cream cheese and served with crackers. Warmed and served over vanilla ice cream (I know that may sound nuts, but I have a feeling it would be amazing).

My mouth was watering every one of the 25-mile drive home from  work.  Yet I knew that I would have to wait at least another day to put the sauce to use.  After all, I hadn't planned on any of those things for dinner --- and it was too late in the evening to think about  going to the store and getting them.

When I pulled into the driveway, I caught the scent of something heavenly being cooked on the grill.  Unsure if it was an aroma coming from our deck or the neighbors, I walked into the house to find my husband standing at the refrigerator in search of "something," and my daughter sitting at the kitchen counter with a beautiful grilled something on the dinner plate in front of her.

"Mom, we would have made one for you, but we didn't know where you were, because you didn't answer your phone." 

I was so fixated on her dinner plate, that I couldn't even react.  On both Amy and Jeff's plate, sat one beautiful, but incredibly bare-looking grilled tuna steak.  Right away, I knew Jeff's head was in the fridge looking for some sort of dipping sauce, so before I even  had a chance to say hello, I said, "Oh my gosh, I know just what you're looking for -- and I can help."

I introduced them both to the Spicy Pineapple Rum Sauce...and within a minute they had both let out a sigh of satisfaction.

YUM.

Thankfully, there was an entire tuna steak for me to enjoy as well -- and darling hubby was good enough to interrupt his own dinner to grill it for me.  I poured some of  the sauce on top, to enjoy it with every bite.  It absolutely did not disappoint.

As long as Pampered Chef keeps that in their catalog, I will never be at a loss for what to buy again.  Double delish.

July 7, 2010

What in the World Is That Pain?

Day 2
Ouch.  I forgot those muscles existed.

I may have only done one set of reps on each of those machines yesterday, but I still feel it today.  Leaves me looking forward to my next workout with weights -- and grateful that today isn't the day I have to do it!

So - about last night.  My challenge was dining out, and a limited menu.  My plan was portion control and drinking lots of water.
Outcome: mildly successful

We ended up having more choices than I expected at this complimentary 3-course dinner at St. James Gate in Bethlehem.  I chose the tossed salad, grilled salmon with asparagus and a potato hash, and apple pie a la mode for dessert.  Dinner included a complimentary cocktail, and since it is an Irish pub, I chose a Harp....and a tall glass of water.

Everything was delish, which made the portion control incredibly challenging -- however I did leave a couple bites of the salmon and potatoes, as well as the dessert.  I know I could have done "better" and I probably should have skipped the Harp, but there was just something about an icy cold beer in an Irish pub on a steamy hot summer day (and the fact that it was complimentary) that just made me give in.

No regrets.  I savored every bite, and more importantly, enjoyed a night out with my mom.  

Plan for the Day: Restorative Yoga at lunchtime with some of my girlfriends.
Challenges: Oppressive heat is sucking the life out of me
Plan to Overcome Challenges:  Stay inside as much as possible.  Drink plenty of water.

No Excuses Rule du Jour Just do it!
Note to Self:  Remember to eat throughout the day -- don't let yourself get hungry.

Ready. Set. Go!

July 6, 2010

And So It Begins

Last week I hit rock bottom.  
My addiction?  A lifestyle void of real physical activity and a love of all things sweet and incredibly bad for me.

I am not sure exactly what it was that made me realize I had reached bottom.  I didn’t burse a zipper, or blow out a seam in my pants (although that’s surely possible).  I didn’t see a picture of myself that made me shudder.  I didn’t overhear someone talking about my oversized booty.   Something inside me just made me realize that it was time to buck up and get serious about getting in shape.

So – last week I met with the resident fitness expert at the school where I work.  She did a “getting started” assessment, where she learned a little bit about my incredibly sedentary lifestyle, my eating habits, and of course she weighed me and took those dreaded measurements.   I’m not prepared to share it with you – but suffice it to say, I was embarrassed.     Before I left her office I scheduled a meeting with her to set up a workout regime to suit my life.  Then off I went to begin my 4-day holiday weekend – armed only with the knowledge that I was NOT going to treat this weekend like one last hurrah.  Instead, I was going to use it as a time to mentally prepare.  Sure, I would enjoy a few indulgences, but I was not going to be so “bad” that come Tuesday morning, I would be trying to get back to where I was last Thursday.  

Mission accomplished.

The weather in the northeast was beastly this weekend – but  I did manage a nice long walk with some friends.  More importantly, I took the time to stock up the fridge with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, and even bought several things to bring to work so that I’m not tempted to run to the neighborhood sandwich shop for snacks.

There is no doubt that my quest for fitness will quickly become a topic that no one wants to talk about over dinner (much like my son’s college search efforts, and the kids’ summer reading assignments) – so rather than trying to force the issue ‘round the family dinner table – I’m going to share it virtually – right here, ‘Round the Kitchen Table.   I promise this won’t be all I talk about – but don’t be surprised to see frequent posts with progress updates, obstacles, challenges – and hopefully lots of successes. 

If there is one thing I know for sure, it is much easier to do this with a buddy than it is to go it alone.  So if you’re so inclined, by all means – join me.  Share your thoughts, challenges, words of encouragement, ideas for how to make a healthy lifestyle a way of life.    

And so…here and now…it begins.

Day 1 – The Program
Met with our own fitness guru, Alison (aka Wonder Woman).  I’ve had many “first days” in the gym – but she is truly inspirational.  Rock solid, fit but not over done.  Beautiful glowing complexion. Upbeat positive attitude.  And she genuinely cares.  She isn’t trying to set me up with a program that is unrealistic for my life.  Instead, she’s cautioning me to take it slow, and set reasonable goals.  In short, she  wants to see me succeed.

Started with 20 minutes on the treadmill, mostly just to warm up and see how the machine works.
Alison walked me through all the basic machines for a good upper and lower body workout.  I did one set of each exercise, finished with abs and some basic stretches.
She showed me around the rest of the facility so I could see where to shower, change, etc.  
Quick clean up and change – then back work.

Per Wonder Woman’s direction, 20 minutes after workout, I needed a light snack of protein and carbohydrate.  That translated to:

1 cup Weight Watcher’s yogurt – 100 cal., 6 g protein, 0 fat, 3g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar
1 ½ cup watermelon cubes 
One big glass of water! 

Challenges of the Day:  Going out to dinner tonight – very limited menu selection (if any).  
Strategies to overcome the Challenge:  Portion control.  Drink lots of water. 

Note to self: Working out in the morning is a good thing.   It sets  you up for a good day. J 
No Excuse Rule du Jour:  Even if you can’t get your work out done in the morning, spend a few minutes stretching.

OK – that’s it for now.  Wish me luck – and like I said, please feel free to share your journey with me too!

July 5, 2010

Can Dreams Really Come True?

As little girls we grow up on fairy tales with all kinds of happy endings.  The glass slipper fits.  The wicked witch perishes.  They live happily ever after.  And so on.

Then life takes hold and we realize fairy tales are just that, and we surrender to the idea that life isn't fair.  You've got to take the good with the bad.  The grass is always greener, etc.

How is it that in the span of just a few decades, our attitudes could swing so far from one extreme to the other? Who says that dreams can't come true?  Maybe we're just looking at it all wrong.

When I started this blog a year and a half ago, I didn't really have much of a purpose in mind.  I wasn't sure what I would write about, or even who would be interested in reading it.  I started this blog for one simple reason -- I have always wanted to write -- and somewhere in the depths of my mind I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I could get myself into the habit of writing -- a writer would be born.  Maybe through this exercise of writing I would find myself -- or perhaps somewhere along the way, I'd be "discovered."

Well -- after 18 months, it is no surprise that I have not been discovered.  Most people have no idea what motivates my missives -- and I can't tell you the kinds of questions I've fielded about my blogging (some of which have been downright rude).

"Why would you waste your time doing this?"

"What if no one is reading?"
And my all time favorite...
"No offense but with all the great writers out there, why would anyone be interested in what you have to write?"

Ouch.  That one packs an extra punch. 

The list of questions goes on -- and in all honesty, they're all extremely valid. I mean really, why in the world would anyone give a hoot about what this 40-something mother from Po-Dunk, PA has to say about anything?    

Your guess is as good as mine.  But you know something? Somewhere out there in this crazy world, there are in fact, people who are interested.  As a matter of fact, I just looked at the Google Analytics for 'Round the Kitchen Table and was astounded to learn that since its inception, more than 2,400 different people, from 53 countries (including visitors from every single one of the United States of America) have read more than 7400 pages of my blog entries!   

I am humbled.

When I started this journey, I may have had some different dreams about what might transpire from this little blog -- but I can't say that I'm disappointed.  Though I am not a writer by conventional standards, I know there are people who look forward to my musings, and miss me when I go on hiatus.

I'm still finding my way, and trying to figure out where this blog could take me, but one thing I know for sure -- this girl's pendulum of positive thinking is swinging in the direction of believing that in their own  unique ways, dreams absolutely can come true.

For those of you who have visited my blog before, or subscribed, or referred a friend, or commented -- I send a heartfelt thank you for helping to keep this girl's dream alive. 
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