5 quick and easy treats to serve last-minute visitors

14504304_lEvery grandparent knows the thrill of having your grandchildren stop by on short notice—or no notice at all. And every grandchild knows that visits to Grandma and Grandpa are sweet for many reasons, including the sweet treats grandma offers.

When you have little to no notice that you’re about to have company, what treats or snacks can you prepare without a headache? Here are a few favorite, delicious, quick recipes that are sure to please all visitors—grandchildren included.

Easy Blackberry Coffee Cake

You’ll need:
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ cups white sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2/3 cup margarine
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1 cup blackberries

This delicious coffee cake is ready in just 35 minutes.

For the full recipe and instructions, click here.

Butter Pecan Toffee

Combine 1 stick butter, ¾ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until brown (305º F on a candy thermometer). Arrange 20 tea biscuits side by side on a large buttered, foil-lined baking sheet; pour the sugar mixture on top and sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans. Chill until firm; break apart.

Greek Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts

You’ll need:
• 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
•  2 cups toasted walnuts
• ¾ cup honey

For the full recipe and instructions, click here.

Raspberry S’Mores

You’ll need:
• 8 graham crackers
• 32 large marshmallows, cut in half
• 2- 1 ½ ounce chocolate bars
• 1 cup fresh raspberries

For full recipe and instructions, click here.

Cinnamon and Sugar Tortilla Strips

You’ll need:
• 3 8-inch frozen flour tortillas
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Vanilla ice cream

For full recipe and instructions, click here.

Arm yourself with these simple recipes, and you’ll have a tasty treat to serve your grandkids or other guests next time they show up unannounced!

 

 

The importance of prayer for a healthy mind and body

21722010_lA majority of Americans believe prayer is an important part of daily life, according to a 2013 Pew Research Poll. Not only does prayer strengthen our faith and our relationship with God, but scientists have also begun to recognize that there are physical and psychological benefits of an active prayer life.

There are many reasons we pray, but what you may not know is that prayer:

Reduces stress and anxiety. Prayer has long been the center of scientific study. Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in the field of mind/body medicine, discovered that prayer induces the “relaxation response,” in which the body’s metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down and breathing becomes clear and steady. In fact, one National Institutes of Health study found that people who prayed daily were 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure. Stress is disease; spending time in prayer can lower your stress level, thus reducing your risk of heart-related and other illnesses.

Improves our positive outlook. Psychologically, prayer forces us to take a step back from life for a few minutes. It gives us time to gather ourselves mentally before facing a difficult situation and give those situations over to God. Prayer also allows us to spend time in gratitude for the good things in life. Researchers have found that prayer and meditation also increase levels of dopamine, which has been associated with wellbeing and joy.

Allows us to better cope with and recover from illness/surgery. Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients who held strong religious beliefs and who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than heart surgery patients who were less religious.

Another survey of 4,000 senior citizens reported in the Journal of Gerontology found that people who regularly participated in prayer or meditation coped better with illness and were more likely to live longer than those who do not.

Keeps us connected to our faith. Even many atheists admit they spend time in a state of prayer or meditation each day, but for a person of faith, prayer is one of the pillars that keep us connected to God. The act of prayer alone is a simple act of faith, as you are taking time to converse with a God you cannot see.

In addition to these benefits of an active prayer life, according to scripture, prayer strengthens the spirit, provides rest and renewal for the soul, comforts us in times of grief and imparts wisdom, insight and inspiration.

Prayer is the foundation of a life lived with joy and peace of mind. Scripture instructs us to pray, but science has also revealed benefits of prayer. Living a life of prayer does not require carving out hours of your day to pray, though at times life’s circumstances may call for that. Rather, keep a prayerful mindset and hold a continual conversation with the Lord about whatever is on your mind and you will reap the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of prayer.

3 steps for getting started on Facebook

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Do you want a simple way to stay up to date with family and friends? Would you like to be able to check in on your grandchildren, read the news or even connect with others who share similar interests?

Social networking is an online tool that allows users to do all of these things and so much more. Facebook is the largest and most popular social networking—or social media—platform, with more than a billion users worldwide. Individuals use Facebook to connect with friends and loved ones, and businesses use the platform to engage their customers.

Here are some simple steps to help you get started with Facebook.

Step 1: Set Up Your Profile

First, you’ll need to register for a Facebook account. Go to www.facebook.com to get started. Once you have entered your basic information (name, email address and password), click “sign up.” You will be sent a confirmation email. Open the email and click the link inside the email to verify that you are trying to set up an account.

Next, enter your profile information. Your profile is your personal page on Facebook. Enter your basic information and any background information you’d like to share with others, including contact info, birthday, education and career information. Leave any field blank if you do not wish to share that information on your profile.

Upload a profile picture by clicking “upload profile picture.” Browse your computer and select the image you’d like to use. Upload a cover photo by clicking “upload cover photo.” Select a photo from your computer that you would like to use, and position it to fit in the cover photo box at the top of your profile.

Step 2: Find Your Friends

Using the search bar at the top of the page, search for your friends by entering their name or email address in the search bar. Be sure your friends can find you on Facebook by using your real name. Completing your profile information will also make it easier for friends to find you.

Once you locate your friends, click “Send Friend Request.” This request must be accepted by the other person before you will be able to interact with him or her on Facebook.

Step 3: Post and Share

Sharing on Facebook is known as posting a “Status Update.” You may do this from your own profile (known as your Timeline), or from your “News Feed” page, which is essentially your home page. When posting an update, you may also tag friends, choose a date for the story you’re sharing, add photos, videos and your location at the time of the post.

To share photos or videos on Facebook, click “Add Photos/Videos” at the top of your News Feed. Select from one of the following options: upload photos or video from your computer; add synced photos from your phone or tablet (you must have photo syncing on your device turned on); or create photo album. Next, choose the photos you want to add. Once you’ve uploaded photos or video, you may tag friends, write a caption for the photo and add a location to the photo. When ready, click “Post” to publish your photos and videos.

For more on how to post and share on Facebook, click here.

Facebook is a fun and relatively simple way to stay in touch with family and friends. If you have any trouble using Facebook, don’t hesitate to ask a friend—or even your grandchild—for help! You may also find more help at www.facebook.com/help.

How to start a stamp collection

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Stamp collecting is a popular hobby with people around the globe. The hobby got its start not long after the first stamps were issued. By the 1860s, stamp collecting as a hobby had quickly spread around the world. In 2013, the Wall Street Journal estimated that about 60 million people worldwide collect stamps.

If you’re looking for a new hobby, stamp collecting is inexpensive to start and can be great for those interested in learning about global history. If you’re considering starting a stamp collection, we’ve got a few tips to get you off on the right foot.

  1. Choose what kind of stamps to collect. This is entirely up to you and what you want your collection to look like, but many people collect stamps based on location or topic/category. For example, you may want to collect stamps from around the world or from a specific country. Or, you may choose to collect stamps based on topic, such as religion, animals or patriotism. To further narrow the types of stamps you collect, you might collect only mint (unused) or used stamps, or collect stamps based on shape or color. Sort and organize your stamps based on the type of collection you are putting together.
  2. Gather your tools. While no tools are absolutely necessary for stamp collecting, there are many that can help you handle, protect, identify and organize your stamps. Some common tools used by stamp collectors include: stamp tongs with which to handle stamps; a magnifying glass to identify text and marks on stamps; an album or book to store stamps; a stamp catalog to help identify stamps; and watermark fluid and a tray to help identify security patterns on stamps.
  3. Know where to get stamps. There are many sources from which you can find stamps for your collection. If you are collecting used stamps, your daily mail may serve as a source for your collection. You can also get stamps from the local post office, family and friends, local stamp clubs and even stamp shows.
  4. Learn to soak stamps. If you collect used stamps that are affixed to an envelope, soaking stamps is a skill you’ll need to learn to get the stamp off the envelope. First, cut out the corner of the envelope with the stamp and place it in a few inches of lukewarm water. After a few minutes, the stamp will begin to separate from the envelope paper. Once separated, place the stamp between two paper towels with a book on top to prevent curling and allow the stamp to dry overnight.
  5. Learn to identify stamps. Knowing how to identify stamps is especially important if you are collecting stamps from other countries. If you do not recognize the text on a stamp, it may be difficult to know the origination of that particular stamp. A Stamp Identifier lists various texts that appear on stamps and which country that text signifies. You can access the Worldwide Stamp Identifier here.

As with any hobby, stamp collecting should be about what you find most interesting and enjoyable. Your collection will be as unique as you are, so use these tips to get started, but keep in mind that there are no rules to stamp collecting.

Honoring American soldiers: the history of Memorial Day

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In 1971, Memorial Day became an official U.S. holiday, though the day had already been celebrated for more than 100 years as “Decoration Day.”

In 1868—three years after the end of the Civil War—Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, head of the organization of Union veterans, declared that Decoration Day be observed on May 30 to honor fallen Union and Confederate soldiers. Why May 30? It is believed that Gen. Logan chose this date because flowers were sure to be in bloom around the country.

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance… Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners,” ordered Gen. Logan. “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

That year, the first national Decoration Day observation took place at Arlington National Cemetery and centered around the Arlington mansion, former home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. About 5,000 people attended the ceremony, during which small American flags were placed on each grave, a tradition that continues at cemeteries around the nation today. The first Decoration Day observance included speeches, after which children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the Grand Army of the Republic placed flowers on both Union and Confederate graves while singing hymns and praying.

Local observances of Decoration Day had been held for at least two years prior, and multiple cities in both the North and South claim to be the birthplace of Decoration Day, or Memorial Day. Macon and Columbus, Georgia; as well as Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois all claim the title of the birthplace of Memorial Day. In fact, nearly 25 cities claim this title.

By the end of the 19th century, cities around the nation were celebrating Memorial Day with ceremonies to honor fallen Civil War soldiers. After World War I, Decoration Day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day, and in 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.

Though Memorial Day was declared a holiday to honor American soldiers, in recent years, the Memorial Day custom of decorating graves with flowers has grown to include decorating the graves of any deceased loved ones.

Many Americans will mark Memorial Day with a cookout or a day spent on the lake, but at its heart, Memorial Day is far more than an extra day off work. It is a day to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we might enjoy the freedoms and opportunities we have today. No matter how you choose to celebrate, never forget those who have given their lives so you might live in freedom today.

Reduce your stress through meditation

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Did you know stress is the basic cause of 60 percent of all human illness and disease? Stress increases your risk of stroke by 50 percent, heart disease by 40 percent and heart attack by 25 percent. Three out of every four doctor’s appointments are for stress-related ailments. The impact of stress can also lead to overeating and loss of sleep.

Stress is different for each of us, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for stress management. Some common (non-medication) tricks and tips for managing stress include aerobic exercise, prayer, yoga, deep breathing, massage therapy, acupuncture, listening to music, volunteer work, keeping a daily journal, laughter, shopping, spending time with family and hobbies.

Many people also find stress relief through meditation. Spending a few minutes each day meditating can restore your inner peace, and it won’t cost you a penny!

What is meditation? For thousands of years, people have practiced meditation—falling into a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil, clear mind. Meditation eliminates the mental clutter that may be causing your stress.

Benefits of meditation

There are many benefits of meditation, including:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Decreasing pulse rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving mood

How to meditate for stress relief

The relaxation response technique is one form of meditation many use to reduce stress. This technique tackles the “fight or flight” response to stress head-on. To practice the relaxation response, find a quiet, peaceful place free of distractions where you can sit quietly with your eyes closed for 10 to 20 minutes. Relax all the muscles in your body, starting with your feet and working up to your facial muscles. Breathe naturally through your nose. Choose a word or phrase you like, such as “peace,” or another word that holds a special meaning for you. Silently repeat that word or phrase to yourself during the course of your meditation. When you have finished, sit quietly with your eyes closed, gradually allowing your mind to return to the present.

Other forms of meditation you may want to try to reduce your stress include:

  • Guided meditation or visualization, in which you form mental images of relaxing places or situations.
  • Mindfulness meditation, in which you focus on slow, deep breathing, observing your thoughts and emotions but allowing them to pass without judgment.
  • Tai Chi, a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. 
  • Yoga, a series of controlled breathing exercises and physical postures that require balance and concentration to promote a flexible body and calm mind. 
  • Prayer, both spoken and written. 
  • Reading and reflecting on scriptures, poems or texts that hold a special meaning for you.

No one form of meditation works for everyone. Find what works for you and work it into your daily life to reduce your stress level and improve your mental and physical health.

Mother’s Day: A celebration of the purest kind of love

Moms do more for their children than we can ever know—and so often, their love and sacrifice goes unnoticed. Any mother would admit that being “Mom” is the most rewarding thing she’s ever done, but that doesn’t mean that moms always receive the appreciation they deserve.

We believe that Washington Irving said it best: “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”

Mother’s Day is one day we set aside each year to honor our mothers, but one day could never be enough to truly say thank you.

Around the world, Mother’s Day is celebrated in different ways. The first Mother’s Day celebration in America took place in 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1914, Mother’s Day was declared an official U.S. holiday. The celebration of motherhood, however, traces back to ancient history when the Greeks and Romans held festivals in honor of Rhea and Cybele, the mother goddesses.

Like Valentine’s Day and many U.S. holidays, Mother’s Day has become largely commercialized. In fact, Mother’s day is one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. It is also on Mother’s Day that the most phone calls are placed in the U.S.

To all moms everywhere—biological, adoptive and mother-figures alike—we honor and thank you for your boundless love and hard work!

7 fresh home decorating ideas for spring

38270537_mSpring may be in the air, but is your home holding on to the dull, chilly air of winter? It’s time to move out Old Man Winter and brighten your home with fresh spring décor.

Here are eight simple spring decorating ideas for your home.

Bloom Box Centerpiece: Create a fresh centerpiece for your table with a bloom box. You’ll need a window box planter, wheat grass, floral wire, hot glue and stems of tulips and ranunculus (or your own choice of spring blooms). For instructions, click here.

Doorknob Bouquet: A beautiful spring doorknob bouquet is the perfect way to welcome visitors to your home. Plug the end of a funnel with a cork, stuff the funnel with water-soaked florist’s foam inside a plastic bag and insert spring blooms stems such as tulips, lilies and bleeding hearts. Hang the funnel on your doorknob using wire or a piece of burlap ribbon.

Floating Flowers: Fill a bowl with water and float small candles and the blooms of colorful spring flowers in the water. Your floating flowers can serve as a centerpiece on your dining table or as a simple spring statement on an accent table.

Potted Centerpiece: Using a galvanized metal bucket and potting soil, bring the beauty of spring indoors with a potted centerpiece.

Hang Your Boots: Grab a spare pair of rubber gardening boots or rain boots and hang them on your front door using a metal grommets on each boot. Place a three-inch vase inside each boot, fill each vase with water and create a bouquet of fresh seasonal blooms. Loop burlap ribbon through the grommets on the boots and hang on a nail.

Bright Floral Pillows: Give your sofa an all-new look with a collection of bright, floral throw pillows. Purchase pillows or make your own by recovering old, outdated pillows in beautiful spring fabric.

Rainbow Wreath: Using Easter egg dye, color a collection of rattan globes in varying sizes with fun spring colors. Glue them together to form a wreath and hang on your door for a cheerful spring greeting.

When decorating your home for spring, focus on incorporating bright, cheerful colors and on bringing the outdoors inside. Nothing says spring quite like a beautiful bouquet of fresh blooms.

9 simple tips for better sleep

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How well you sleep at night affects nearly every aspect of your daily life, from your energy level to your appetite and cravings. Unfortunately, difficulty sleeping is all too common among American adults, and the prevalence of insomnia is higher among older adults. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of senior citizens experience one or more symptoms of insomnia.

Though it varies from person to person, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults 65 and older get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. To get better sleep at night, follow these simple steps:

  • Make sleep a priority. Plan your day appropriately to ensure you are able to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day.
  • Exercise daily. Research shows that moderate to high intensity exercise improves sleep, but don’t exercise within three to four hours of your bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom at an ideal temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit) with limited sound and light. Keep electronics out of your bedroom.
  • Turn off electronics at least an hour before you go to bed.
  • Mix a few drops of a soothing essential oil, such as lavender or chamomile, with water in a spray bottle and spritz your pillowcase to help you relax before bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book before bed.
  • Remember that alcohol and caffeine consumption can affect your sleep. Cut out caffeine after 2pm, and don’t drink alcohol at least an hour before bedtime.

Take a look at your medications and review them with your doctor. Many medications—such as beta blockers for high blood pressure—may cause insomnia. Write down all your medications and supplements and ask your doctor to evaluate how they might be affecting your sleep.

If you are experiencing constant sleepiness during the day, leg cramps or tingling at night, snoring, difficulty breathing during sleep or other symptoms that may be affecting your sleep, talk to your doctor. In some cases, difficulty sleeping is caused by a potentially serious underlying cause, such as sleep apnea.

Top 5 houseplants for better health

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Plants are nice to look at and they can liven up your home, but they can also give you a much-needed health boost. Houseplants promote clean air, fight fatigue and stress, and can fend off dry throat, cough, headaches and dry skin.

According to the Wall Street Journal“a growing body of research is showing that plants can reduce dust particles and contaminants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, that come from cigarette smoke, paint, furniture, building materials and other sources.”

Keep the air in your home pure and give your body an immunity boost with these five houseplants.

  1. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (a.k.a. Snake Plant):  One of the best plants for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in household cleaning products, the mother-in-law’s tongue is the perfect plant for those without a green thumb. Its tall, hardy blades tolerate low light and irregular watering.
  2. Spider Plant: Named for its long, thin leaves that look like spider legs, the spider plant is a low-maintenance hanging plant that is easy to care for. The spider plant will help fight benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide in the air.
  3. Chinese Evergreen: Another easy-to-care-for plant that will clear the air of a number of pollutants and toxins. Even if it is in low light, the Chinese evergreen will produce blooms and red berries.
  4. Aloe Vera Plant: If you use chemical-based cleaners, an aloe vera plant will help clear the air of chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene. The gel inside the plant can also be used to help heal cuts and burns. The aloe plant is an easy-to-grow succulent that loves bright sun, so place it near a window that gets direct sunlight.
  5. Bamboo Palm: The bamboo palm (a.k.a. reed palm) is a small palm that thrives in the shade indoors. The bamboo palm is one of the best plants for filtering out benzene and trichloroethylene. Put it near your furniture to filter out any formaldehyde that might be coming off furniture.

Give your home some ambiance with any of these easy-to-care-for plants, and do your health a favor at the same time. So many household products can release dangerous chemicals that houseplants are almost a necessity if you want to breathe clean, fresh air.