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Smart Swaps

We’re a few weeks into the new year, and most people will have cast aside their resolutions. But if you made a pledge to eat more healthfully, you can always get back on track. One way to eat more healthfully is to swap out healthier foods or ingredients for less healthy options.

Fat Substitutes

Most things made with mayonnaise can be made with plain Greek yogurt instead, lowering the fat content.

If you’re baking, you can use apple sauce instead of the fat in most recipes without changing the taste. Sometimes this will change the texture a bit but not enough to cause problems.

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Snow Day Fun

As I write this, the weather has been more fall- or spring-like. We haven’t had a day with enough snow to close schools or cause much travel difficulty. It’s likely to happen, though. After all, we live in northern Indiana.

What do you do when you’re stuck at home for a snow day? Since The Furry Guy is usually in charge of clearing the driveway, I generally start by making hot cocoa to warm him up once he’s done. If we don’t already have a full cookie box, I’ll do some baking.

I’m able to do a lot of my work from my laptop, so I’ll get some work done. I’ll also do some reading.

What about you? Do you go out and play in the snow? Do you play games? Do you take it as a rest day or a work day?

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Happy Hot Tea Month

January is National Hot Tea Month. I am a hot tea fan. Tea comes from an evergreen plant. There are several varieties of the tea plant, including oolong, Darjeeling, and Ceylon. Teas made from other plants such as mint, rose hips, and chamomile are technically infusions or tisanes, but only the most nitpicky person will correct you. Of course, in a tea shop they use these distinctions to make sure you understand what you’re buying.

Tea originated in China, and they have a whole culture of ceremonies surrounding the preparation and serving of tea. Tea practically defines the culture in England. There, tea is usually served with sugar and milk or cream. In America, tea is more often served with sugar and lemon. I like mine either plain or with a smidge of honey.

A cup of tea is welcome any time of day. Many believe that beginning your day with a strong cup of oolong has health benefits. As a matter of fact, teas have been used medicinally for centuries. The use of willow bark tea to treat fevers and aches led to the development of aspirin. A cup of mint tea can soothe nausea and other stomach issues. Chamomile or lavender can be relaxing at the end of a day or during times of stress.

Bliain Nua Shona

No, I didn’t set my fingers on the wrong keys for the title of this week’s column. That’s the way you say “happy new year” in Gaelic. My heritage is mostly Irish and British, so I thought I’d give a nod to my past as we take a look to the future.

I have probably mentioned before that I don’t make resolutions. My very lame joke is that “resolution” is a Latin word for something you know you should do but have no intention of actually doing. For years I’ve set goals and revisited them three or four times throughout the year to see how I’m doing at reaching them. In case you’re wondering, I did a decent job of meeting my 2019 goals. I hope you did as well.

This year is a bit different. Several months ago, my life/health/business coach spoke to me about intentions. It was while we were getting ready for our son’s wedding. For many people the word “goals” carries a lot of pressure. Or, sometimes, for people like me, the resolve of “goals” can be lessened through years of setting and working toward them. On the other hand, the word “intentions” speaks of making intentional choices. It is about thinking clearly about what you choose to eat, what you choose to think about, and how you spend your time. No more mindlessly going through days and weeks at a time.

My Weirdness and My Wish

It’s Christmas!

One of the things I do this time of year is listen to podcasts about Christmas. I was listening to Weird Christmas recently. It was a special episode in which four Christmas podcasters talked about the legend of the Christmas pickle. (Whether you are familiar with the Christmas pickle or not, you probably don’t know the truth about the Christmas pickle.) Listening to this podcast got me thinking about the weird things on my tree. There are many. But the weirdest is probably the Santa toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.

The Furry Guy bought a box of Christmas stuff at an auction for $1. In that box was a brand-new roll of Santa toilet paper. We chuckled about it. We discussed what to do with it. We weren’t going to use it. We didn’t know anyone at that time who might find it as funny as we did. So, we decided to nestle the roll among the branches of our Christmas tree.

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O Tree Carcass

Christmas is often a time of looking back. One of my favorite memories involved my dear friend Beth. Beth loved Christmas. And she was often like a big kid when it came to getting excited about things—Christmas things.

Many years ago we had a conversation about Christmas trees. It became a running joke between us, as so many things did. Early in December, Beth had jumped into my car in preparation for us going someplace. She was clearly excited. She turned to me, and the conversation went something like this:

Christmas Entertainment

If you know me or have been reading my column for long, you can probably guess that I love Christmas-themed books and movies. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you, in case you’re looking for something to keep you entertained during the holidays.

I begin reading Christmas books in early October. This allows me to read through old favorites I own or borrow from Our Father’s Library as well as a few new selections.

I almost always begin my Christmas reading with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s a classic and a quick, easy read. For me it sets the tone for all of the stories to follow.

For many years I’ve read The Santa Chronicles by Jeff Gunn each Christmas. This is a trilogy. The first book is The Autobiography of Santa Claus. It begins with a telling of the story of Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, and follows him through history as Christmas celebrations change and spread through the world. It’s a fun stroll through history filled with historical figures. The second book is How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas. In the 1600s, the political powers that be tried to stamp out the celebration of Christmas in England. This book explains how the people took back their holiday (with the help of Mrs. Claus, of course). Finally, The Great Santa Search looks at the history of Christmas advertising. How did Santa come to be used in ads, and why is there a Santa in every mall? Eventually there’s a nation-wide contest to determine the identity of the real Santa. Santa enters the contest. But will he win? All three of these books are easy to read. And if you decide to share them with the children in your life, they’ll not give anything away.

Happy Egg Nog Month!

First, let me confess that I have never liked egg nog. Neither The Furry Guy nor I drink the stuff. But several years ago I began buying it regularly. I’ll explain later. First, here’s a bit about egg nog.

Egg nog is traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped egg whites, and egg yolks. Sometimes brandy, rum, whisky, or bourbon are added to the frothy mixture. Back when sugar was scarce, egg nog was considered a special treat to be enjoyed any time of the year. One of the Little House on the Prairie books mentions taking egg nog to the men working in the hot fields. The egg nog gave them the energy to finish their day’s work. Today, of course, we think of egg nog as a Christmas drink—so much so that it’s difficult to find in stores any other time of year.

So, if I don’t like egg nog, why do I buy it? Several years ago I came across a recipe for Nutty Nog Bars. It’s a delicious macadamia nut bar cookie with an egg nog glaze. I was complaining to our son that, since the recipe uses a small amount of egg nog, I was left with a bunch of egg nog I’d never use. He asked why I wasn’t putting it in my coffee. Good idea. I tried that, and it was delicious.