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Welcome to My Venture!

Although my approach may be a bit unconventional, it is my greatest desire for this online journal to be a unique place where we can share life lessons learned from the many wonderful people–past and present– who profoundly touch our lives!

I sincerely hope you will feel inclined to comment and pay tribute to these great mentors by sharing your thoughts with me and this community.  It’s my goal for all who visit here to benefit as we participate and read one another’s insights.

I’ve learned that everyone has something to teach and something to learn!

The Thank-You Season!

The Thank-You Season!

In this day and age of continuous negative news cycles and disheartening social media onslaughts…did you ever stop to consider that we all have the power to make life a more positive experience, not only for ourselves, but for others, as well.  I believe that our ability to express a sincere, “Thank You” has the potential to motivate, create good will, make peace, and solidify friendships, love and commitment like few things can!  In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s seriously consider these two compelling words…and perhaps in the process we’ll become more mindful of using them more often all year long!!

Thank You season!

“Remember, being happy doesn’t mean you have it all…it simply means you are thankful for what you do have!”   Tribute Journal

The Power Of Saying Thank-You!

♥  Saying thank-you creates an attitude of gratitude!  Imagine my delight when I heard that a few of the first words my sweet, two-year-old grandson, Elliot, learned to say were please and thank you!  This important lesson of learning to be grateful for what your parents and other loved ones do for you at such a young age can’t help but have a profound influence on your view of the world around you.  I’ve certainly found that the amount of appreciation I am able to express has a dramatic impact on how I relate to others and my perspective of their thoughtful contributions to any situation they may encounter.  An attitude of gratitude seems to nurture a genuine hope in all the good things that life has to offer.  As parents, isn’t this one of the greatest desires of our hearts–at least as far as our children are concerned?

The Tahnk You Season! Teaching children gratitude.

“Having an attitude of gratitude everyday makes us more aware of the many blessings that come our way!”  Jake Wilding, Elliot’s fun dad

  Saying thank-you promotes helpfulness!  It seems like such an obvious conclusion, but researchers who conducted a Harvard Review study on gratitude found that receiving a sincere thank you has a significant impact on our ability to be helpful.  Their findings showed a more than 50% increase in the amount of additional help that was offered as a result of appreciation being expressed; it’s validation that our contributions are meaningful.  All I know, is that I can vouch for the fact that when my husband notices the things I do to help make our household run more smoothly, it enhances my feelings of being valued, making me want to work even harder to show my strong commitment to our marriage.

Thank You quote.

“I appreciate you…especially your heart!”  Tom Wilding, my kind hubby

♥  Saying thank-you keeps us humble!  While we’d all like to think that we can forge ahead in life relying on little more than our own skills and ingenuity, the truth is, we need each other!  I have a dear friend who worked as a charge nurse on our maternity and NICU unit for many years until her recent retirement.  Her leadership skills were impeccable, she respected the doctors on our staff, but most importantly, she always took the time to express her genuine gratitude for every nurse she worked with and each one’s unique and individual talents.  You see, while she was very capable in her own right, she had the foresight and humility to realize that it took a tremendous amount of teamwork to give our patients the quality care they deserved, so she was always quick to say thank you and be appreciative of the everyone’s valuable contributions!  Acknowledging that our success in life is dependent upon the special relationships we have with others, and expressing gratitude for the efforts they make on our behalf to help us become the best versions of ourselves…is the epitome of being truly thankful!

Vintage nurse picture.

(via Vintage Nurse)

“Teamwork divides the tasks…and multiplies the success!”  Unknown

♥  Saying thank-you improves health and fosters resilience.  Wow…that seems like a tall order for two simple, little words!  But according to research studies done on this very topic by Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, it was proven that grateful people are more optimistic because they notice more good in their lives and that translates into a healthier immune system, which ultimately means you harbor less stress.  In fact, it was determined that being mindful of the things you’re grateful for each day actually lowers inflammation in the heart and improves rhythm.  Professor Aspinwall also concluded that even in the face of tremendous loss or tragedy, such as a terminal diagnosis or death of a loved one, it was possible for people to feel thankful; this positive energy often served as a buffer against the ill-effects of their circumstances because they tended to focus their attention outside of themselves to viable treatments and supportive relationships, rather than adopting an inward “woe is me” self-pitying view of life.

Being Thankful.

“If the only prayer you ever say is ‘Thank You’ –that will be enough.”  Eckhart Tolle

♥  Saying thank-you is just the right thing to do!  While expressing genuine gratitude may take a little time and effort, in a world that seems to focus more on all the negative fodder around us, if something as simple as expressing appreciation can increase our happiness and positive outlook on life…why not do it more–seems like good karma to me!  Not only is saying thank you a good social skill that might brighten someone’s day, our own lot in life seems to appear better when we are thankful.  My dad always used to say that being grateful, for even the smallest things…our families, good health, a new day to go out and make a difference, to name a few, brought him a sense of contentment in his life that was hard to get any other way!

Happiness is Saying Thank-You!

Here are just a few things I think are good ways to express gratitude and have an overall happier outlook on life!

· Write in a gratitude journal.  Think of something new each day.

· Show thoughtfulness to others.  Goodness seems to be contagious.

· Write a thank you note.  Acknowledging kind deeds expands our hearts.

· Tell someone sincerely how much you really appreciate them!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thank You season!

The Thank You Season!

“Our thanksgiving should be perpetual.”  Henry David Thoreau

I would love you to share any thoughts you have on being thankful.

–My heartfelt thanks to all of you who follow along here!  Mary  

The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Copycat Cooking!

If you’re at all like me and my husband, you have those beloved dishes at your favorite restaurants that you’d like to try and figure out the ingredients used so you can go home and replicate them.

The Cookbook Challenge!
Today’s entry in the cookbook challenge series features an easy Queso recipe from the latest cookbook by the popular Six Sister’s franchise, called, Copycat Cooking, that is dedicated to some of our favorite restaurant meals.The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

The Utah based Adamson sisters started their blog “Six Sister’s Stuff”, as a way for them to keep in touch as they got older and moved away from each other.  Their family favorite recipes, crafts and DIY projects are featured in many beautiful books and are best known for being easy, affordable and fun!  

I discovered the Six Sister’s Copycat Cooking cookbook when their easy recipes for hors d’ oeuvres, including this Chili’s Skillet Queso Dip, was featured during the food segment on a local morning, lifestyle television show.  Since we’re heading into the busy holiday entertaining season, I thought this cookbook might be a good one to have on hand…and believe me, the few recipes I’ve tried do not disappoint!

The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

Put in a can of diced tomatoes with mild chiles for a nice added flavor to this dip.

The Cookbook Challege! Copycat Cooking!

I use half the Velveeta and a cup each of grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese.

The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

Serve with chips for a great party appetizer or weekend movie/game night snack.

Chili’s Copycat Queso Dip!

Wallah–there you have it…so good!

You can find a couple of other restaurant recipe adaptations my creative hubby concocted here and here.

Life is Delicious quote.

“Enjoy your life and the great pleasures that come with it!”  Karolina Kurkova 

Do you have any favorite restaurant menu items that you’d like to replicate at home?

–Bon Appetit!  Mary

Social Media Savvy And Safety For All Generations!

Social Media Savvy And Safety!

Like it or not, our society is heavily impacted by social media.  While those of my generation may long to see our younger counterparts build the mainstay of their relationships from friendships formed at work, school or church…like we did back in the day…there’s a lot to be said for the positive aspects of the ever mounting popularity of cyberspace–as long as we continually educate ourselves on using it wisely, that is, and protecting ourselves against the negative effects it can have on our lives–no matter our age!

Social media balance.

“Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master!”  Christian Lange

I don’t think it is news to anyone that the world wide web is a place where a lot of information, chances for social interaction, and entertainment are easily found.  Technology has also revolutionized the workplace–where often showing up for work simply means grabbing your laptop off your bedside table and working from the comforts of your home.  Virtual entertainment has quickly become the “go-to” for anyone wanting to play games or watch videos.  Online instructions have also become a fairly reputable resource for a wide range of lessons from simple household DIY’s to classes in cross-fit training.  But all this aside…it still takes a certain amount of savvy to navigate the internet safely and balance it properly in our lives so we don’t let it waste valuable time.  Certainly, nothing should ever replace the meaningful impact of reaching out personally to sustain valuable relationships with those who make life so fulfilling and worthwhile!

Maxine computer cartoon.

Bridging The Computer Literacy Gap!

While it may be true that tech developers tend to mostly target the younger population with their campaign ads, current research from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is quick to point out that the older generation isn’t as apathetic or fearful of current computer trends as once believed.  In fact, they report that since 2009 there has been a steady rise in the number of people 65 years of age and older who regularly use email and Skype to communicate with family members, and nearly 70% now use social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to stay informed about job news and health information.  Many seniors are finding that they feel less isolated by being able to connect with the outside world via the internet.  Computer games have also been found to be very beneficial in improving the memories and sequencing abilities of elderly people.  I guess if you can’t beat ’em–you might as well join ’em…right?!
CS Lewis quote.

Insights From An Expert!

For further, more in-depth insight on this subject, I’ve turned to someone I consider an expert in the field of computers…in fact, my friend, Leslie, actually holds the title of School Technology Specialist in our local school district–not only is she a computer wizard extraordinaire, she currently oversees the internet use and safety of over 100 staff members and 1,500 students…so obviously she is very qualified to address this topic.  Leslie is quick to point out that despite your age and level of computer competency, there are certain internet rules and behaviors that apply across the board.

While Leslie admits that it may seem a bit intimidating to keep pace with the ever accelerating pace of all the innovative technology tools available to us, she maintains that social media is a force to be reckoned with and has become an integral part of our daily habits and the preferred means to communicate and share our lives with others.  “Used correctly, social media can be a great resource to uplift, inspire and improve someone’s day .”  

The Far Reaching Effect Of Social Media!   

In discussing the topic of social media, Leslie reminded me of the far reaching effect and positive influence that an online presence can afford each of us.

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♦  Social media helps us engage with one another.  Sharing highlights of our lives can enhance and deepen our relationships with those who live far away.  Besides Facebook and Instagram, the more popular online forums for keeping in touch with family and friends, people also have the ability to set up a variety of private social media groups on every possible topic imaginable;  ie. virtual book clubs, current event discussion groups, neighborhood and school information boards, to name a few.

♦  Our internet participation has the power to educate and empower!  When using social media we might want to ask ourselves these questions:  “How can we use time spent on our devices to become more productive citizens?  How can we use social media to improve ourselves and our communities?   In contemplating these questions, we can’t help but come to realize that social media helps us better understand that we are global citizens, and we can learn to work together to solve world problems.

  Our online interactions give us a chance to encourage and uplift!  Social media tools give us the chance to stand for truth and goodness.  We can voice approval for causes and movements that uplift and edify.  Setting a positive example via the internet can help move the dialogue more towards decency and civility–which is so crucial in this day and age of seemingly endless negative online sparring.

♦  Social media has the power to amplify our voice on issues that affect our lives.  If we’re looking to expand and encourage the positive impact  of online interactions, we need to understand that the accounts that rise to the top and get the most exposure are the ones that get the most likes and shares.  We can help encourage goodness by supporting people who are using their social media outlets to encourage and inspire.
Have a voice online.

“Example, good or bad, has a powerful influence.”  George Washington

Social Media–A Cautionary Tale!

Leslie also admonishes that an important responsibility for each of us, as far as our online usage is concerned, is to continually educate ourselves and keep updated on the social, ethical and legal ramifications at stake as they relate to the ever evolving digital culture.

♦  Play it safe!  Remember that social media is a public domain, so as we maneuver our way along the internet information superhighway, protecting our personal information on the sites we use has become more important than ever before.  Most online platforms give you the option to share a great deal about yourself, however it doesn’t mean you need to fill them out.  Consider a general version of the information requested, for example…list only your state of residency rather than both city and state to make it harder for others to figure out exactly where you live.  Create strong passwords using a combination of words and numbers, upper and lowercase letters and specific characters that are easy for you to remember.  You might even want to keep a log of these passwords in a special journal that is not located by the devices you frequently use.  Another important factor to consider is the privacy settings on any social media outlet.  Take the time to explore these privacy guidelines and create a custom list of people who are allowed to view specific posts.

Being safe on the internet information freeway.

“Caution is the parent of safety.”   Proverb

Be aware that there are folks out there who are using social media for nefarious reasons, so be vigilant!  There are pieces of personal information that you should never, ever post.  These include your Social Security number, driver’s license, bank account information and your specific whereabouts.  Don’t make it easier for ill-meaning people to take advantage of you.

A few other cautionary safety points to take into consideration for all ages: block inappropriate websites, never talk to strangers, and beware of “free” offers…they can infect your computer with an online virus.  The best protection for online safety is having a decent internet security site that blocks unsafe links and checks every download for signs of malware.  (The computer specialist my husband employs suggests using a product like, Kaspersky Total Security or Spybot since they allow you the ability to monitor your whole network from your PC and adjust the security settings of each computer individually.)          

And finally, always log out from any device when you are finished using it–especially if it’s a public computer.  Log out of your private devices from time to time, as well, to ensure that other people can’t access your social profile to change personal settings or information, attack friends, or make slanderous comments to embarrass or harass you.  Sadly, this is more common than we’d like to realize in today’s society.

♦  Keep It Real!  No doubt about it, we live in a world that tends to tap into our competitive natures, which can lend itself to people wanting to embellish facts about themselves. When I was growing up, my parents often took the opportunity to say, “Remember who you are…and conduct yourself accordingly!”  This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow as individuals in real life–and project that online, but conducting ourselves one way in person and another way on the internet just seems disingenuous.  Besides, people are smart and eventually they catch on…then like the popular Aesop’s fable about the boy that cried wolf, eventually no one will believe anything you say!  This doesn’t mean you have to share all your warts, (however, it can be somewhat cathartic on occasion if done in good taste) but like the old adage goes, honesty is always the best policy!  And while we’re at it, let’s be each other’s cyber cheerleaders, sharing the love, so to speak, when others achieve a goal or work hard to jump one of life’s hard hurdles…in my opinion, that is when the online community is at its best!
Be real quote.As social media consumers, we also need to be engaged and check sources of information we read online, identifying falsehoods and misinformation.  In a recent interview, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said, “Some social media tools are unwisely used to divide people and manipulate them–to get fake news out to people in broad numbers, wrongly influencing their thinking based on nothing but made-up conjectures.” 

Social Meial Savvy and Safety For All Generations!

♦  Follow the “Golden Rule” of cyberspace.  Good behavior should be taught in our homes, and this applies to computer use too.  Decide as a family what rules you want applied to computer and social media use.  As adults we should emulate the kind of online behavior we want our children to have.  Here is a good rule of thumb for everyone to incorporate in their everyday internet conduct:
The golden rules of cyberspace. (Check out more do’s and don’t to a positive social media experience here.)

My husband, who is not a social media kind of guy, always cautioned our kids with this advice:
Be careful what you say online quote.Obviously, there are times and places that are appropriate for being online…we show our level of maturity and consideration by knowing when it’s time to unplug and be “present” in our daily lives!  My dad lived by the motto “moderation in all things” and perhaps in these modern times, there’s no area where we should apply this mindset more than in our daily internet habits!

Internet savvy cartoon..

“A computer screen limits your real life experiences!   John le Carre

I like the wisdom Leslie shared as she concluded her email to me on the role social media should play in our lives…

“We are more than capable of giving our internet use the proper priority it should take in our lives to avoid the easy distraction it can become from family, relationships and obligations.  It is important to keep a realistic perspective about social media.  Why let it have the power to have a negative impact on the way we feel about ourselves and the wonderful lives we lead.  Yes, we see friends posting pictures of great trips, lovely families, and beautiful lifestyles, and it makes it look like they have amazing lives every minute of every day.  We often forget that they are posting their highlight reels!”  

Perfectly said, Leslie.  Thanks so much for sharing your expertise on this important subject with us!

What are some ways you’ve found that help you strike a good balance with social media use in your lives? 

–Love, Mary