Sunday, July 16, 2023

Finding Joy in Life By: Candice Smith


 

Do you experience Life, or are you just living? 

Does each minute, each moment resonate, or are you wishing time away?

Are you present, or is time washing over you in a blur?

These questions are difficult to answer, especially if the answers come from the second half of  the questions.

But, it is never too late to recalibrate, re-prioritize, and start being an active participant in your life. 

As routines fall into place, bills need to be paid, and Life's demands start to pile up, it is incredibly easy to get bogged down in endless to-do lists, a work/sleep cycle, and no time to "stop and smell the roses". But, that is not Life, it is just living.

The goal is balance.

B-A-L-A-N-C-E.

Finding time for sleeping, eating, working, chores, and errands needs to be balanced with finding and experiencing joy.

Joy is different for everyone. For some, reading, pampering, and watching television brings joy. For others, sport, competition, and activity sparks joy. Still, others will have an entirely different criteria for joy. And some may not have any idea what brings them joy at all.

That is part of the problem in American life today. Joy has been all but omitted by most. In turn, joy has been replaced by fear, paranoia, insomnia, and an over-inflated sense of self-sacrifice. Healthy eating, exercise, sleep, and relaxation are no longer priorities and so many suffer.

It is time to put "You" back in your life's equation. 

Start small.

For one week, carve out a mere five minutes for yourself. That's right, only 300 seconds. Think about what makes you joyful. If you already know, make a plan or embark on doing it, whatever it is. Five minutes a day for a week. If you don't know what truly brings you joy, use the five minutes each day to explore what that might be for you. 

The next week, week two, spend 15 minutes exploring your joy. Set a timer. Let your mind go. 

During week three expand the daily time to 20 minutes per day.  That is a solid dose of time!

And, finally, on week four, take a full 30 minutes. 

When this fits into your life easily and happily, you are well on your way to a more joyful life. 

When you feel you can spare more time - do it!

You are worth the investment in time, and you deserve to have a life filled with Joy!




Sunday, May 28, 2023

Anticipation By: Candice Smith

There are those who do not understand why I anticipate with excitement Christmas all throughout the year. They question my sanity, or, at the very least, my judgement. In truth, I anticipate with excitement every day of the year. But, by putting emphasis on special days or events throughout the year, it ups my JOY factor! And, it can increase yours, too!

Think back to childhood when waiting for your birthday was a yearlong event. Whether it was planning a party with a theme that delighted you, growing older to gain more privileges, or simply getting gifts you longed for, the anticipation of one's birthday was - is - all-encompassing. Of course, you'd live and enjoy every day, but thinking about your birthday - anticipating it - made your birthday all the more special. 

Another example of anticipation enhancing the joy factor is vacations. Time off from school/work is wonderful. If a trip is part of vacation, all the better to anticipate, but it's not even necessary. Anticipation of time off, lack of responsibility, and free time to pursue your heart's content is potent enough to keep you motivated at school/work to get to said vacation. As for a trip during that time off, anticipation is a pre-requisite! Often my anticipation of my impending vacation is better than my vacation! I dream of every detail - what I'll wear, where I'll go, the restaurants I'll eat in, stores I'll shop in, sites I'll see. It's always perfect in my anticipation. In reality, my trips are never perfect. Invariably things go wrong, and even if it is a brilliantly wonderful vacation, the anticipation of the vacation enhanced the vacation tenfold.


Finally, Christmas. Since my earliest memories Christmas season has brought me so much unlimited joy. In my home of origin as a child I had to wait until December for my parents to put up our tree and decorate for Christmas. The artificial tree would be assembled in the living room. It was so lovely. Then twinkling multi-colored lights were wrapped around. Finally, ornaments collected over my parents' lives together were hung on its branches. In the rest of the house my mother placed scant few decorations around - a knit Santa Claus pillow/doll on the couch, a small Christmas tree in the window, and we all pinned our Christmas stockings on the beautiful wooden mantel. I was mesmerized by the entire scene. Each day in December I would run home after school and sit at the base of the Christmas tree. It called to me, exhilarated me, and fed my inner soul. Like birthdays, time-off and vacations, Christmas anticipating was always more wonderful than actual Christmas!

In truth, I anticipate each day of the year. Daily I look forward to seeing my colleagues and students at school. I anticipate a spot of free time for a restorative nap. I've learned to anticipate and appreciate a much-needed workout. I anticipate and cherish time with my children, friends, and especially my husband. My birthday, time-off, vacations, concerts, plays/musicals, reading books, hiking, watching favorite TV shows or movies, time with my family, my husband, and alone are all things I anticipate. Christmas, when I look forward and anticipate it all year long, gives me enormous pleasure all year long, especially when I share the anticipation with others.

Try anticipating things with pleasure in your life, you will find how much happier it can make every day.


Remember, I love Christmas so much, I wrote my first book about it!



Sunday, April 30, 2023

Celebration of a Milestone!



On September 13, 2010 - my middle son Greg's 4th birthday - I began my blog Chief 187™Chatter. I had been blogging at a NASCAR social media site called Rowdy and had cut my teeth writing daily about all things NASCAR and not-so-much NASCAR. It seemed time to branch out on my own and write about whatever I wanted to, and I did. It was liberating, fascinating, cathartic, and fun.

That led to great things: writing thousands of published articles, time on-air on both Internet and terrestrial radio, starting my own radio program with Ronnie Crate Payne and Keith Hayes on Anthony Arnold's station Whoobazoo.com called Drafting the Circuits. I was determined to make this career work and dedicated endless hours, days, weeks, months and years to getting drivers on our program - we started humbly with young drivers who were making names for themselves like the incredible Tyler Dippel. Through hard work, consistency, positivity, and sheer passion, we continued to secure fabulous personalities in the world of Motorsports. Eventually we hosted names like IndyCar celebrity Bobby Unser and current stars Charlie Kimball and Alexander Rossi, 10-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel and champ Mason Mitchell,  NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Bobby Allison, and the legendary, incomparable Mario Andretti. Each person we had on the show was treated with the same awe and dignity. In addition to the radio show, I continued to write articles and was honored to interview NASCAR Hall of Fame members Leonard and Glen Wood. And, I was granted media credentials under my name for NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One races across the country. 

During the summer of 2016 I had run my course with this part of my career. I had suffered some personal losses and there was a racing one as well. Those reasons in addition to having been elected to my town's Board of Education led me to step away from my Motorsports career, concentrate on my volunteer work, and set a new career goal.

Writing a book was something I had always wanted to do since I was a young child. Taking years of writings, experiences, and dreams, I published my first book, Christmas Candi: A Guide To Year-round Holiday Bliss in October 2018. On the day I contacted the publisher in July 2018, I was asked by another person in my life to write his life's story: he has played Santa Claus for over 70 years! My second book started the day my first went to the publisher! 


The Man Behind The Beard published in the fall of 2019. By then I had begun work with a longtime friend on a third book, Drafting the Culinary Circuits. This was an innovative concept to follow the 2020 NASCAR circuit and devise recipes based on the local foods at each locale. This book dropped in winter 2020. 




In 16 months I saw my life's dream come to fruition: three books published under my name.

December 2017 found me back in the classroom, working as a paraprofessional to get back into the traditional workforce. I still work there finding much fulfillment working with students, always learning, and knowing my purpose. My Board of Education position lasted two full terms. Then I was appointed to the Board of Trustees at Sussex County Community College at the end of 2021. 

And I write. I always write. Promote. Share. Communicate. Observe. 

So, when I awoke this morning to find that my original blog site that I started over 12 years ago had reached a milestone - over 500,000 all-time page views - I was emotional. 


Yes, many blogs reach millions of eyes per day, so my numbers may be small, but I earned each and every view on my blog. When I started I was thrilled if a post found 10 viewers. I lost my mind when I had over 10,000 views on a piece, and then 20,000+.

Every once in a while I'll post a new blog, but mostly I promote an older piece that I am still so proud. Most recently I reposted "Wear The Swimsuit" and it still has wings.

I will continue to write, to create, to say what's on my mind. 

Today I want to thank you all for reading. For supporting my efforts. For leaving a comment. For sharing a post. For talking about my article or my book. 

Each word I write, article I "pen", or book I create and publish is a labor of love. For you to read, embrace, think about, purchase, and mention is the highest accolade.

Thank you. 

Please help me in celebrating this most epic milestone for my blog!

Peace.


Friday, April 7, 2023

Quick and Easy Easter Recipes

Easter time is a time of early spring, rebirth, pastels, Easter egg hunts, and family gatherings with tasty foods.

Many think of ham, lamb, or turkey as the main dish for an Easter celebration, and those are truly wonderful meals. The side dishes like cheesy potatoes, mint jelly, and stuffing are great as well. Add a spring vegetable like asparagus and the Easter meal is complete.

For those of you, however, who are not entertaining twenty-five people for dinner, do not like a roast, or are vegetarian, these meals don’t quite fit the bill.

Or, if you are doing one of these meals but want a supplemental dish that complements your spread but is unique as well, this meal is perfect.

I’m convinced, although I’m not by birth, that somehow I am Italian. I adore the Italians family values and their embrace of a huge spread on holidays and ANY day!

Pasta Primavera literally means spring pasta.

Pasta Primavera




Ingredients:

• 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
• 2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips
• 2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
• 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
• 1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
• 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan



Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoesand enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.



I recommend using a whole wheat pasta cooked according to the directions as it offers a nutty flavor and a strong dose of fiber.

In addition, I’d offer a multi-grain baguette for a side as well as a delicious tossed salad.

And, since dinner is so healthful, and it is Easter, I’d serve a sinfully delicious dessert!

Here’s the offering. With Easter Baskets overflowing with cute egg-shaped candies, I thought this would be an adorable and tasty way to serve them!

Chocolate Easter Egg Nests






Shredded Wheat or Rice Krispies and melted chocolate make perfect nests for candy coated Easter Eggs and they are quick and easy to make.

Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Ready In: 3 hours
Yield: 8 chocolate nests

Ingredients:

5 large Shredded Wheat (or 2 cups spoon-size)
1/3 cup good quality milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup, such as Lyle's

mini candy coated chocolate eggs

OR

3 cups Rice Krispies
scant 1 cup good quality semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup, such as Lyle's

Directions:

1. Crush the Shredded Wheat into a bowl with your fingers. Put the chocolate chips into a saucepan together with the butter and golden syrup and melt over a gentle heat.
2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Stir the Shredded Wheat into the chocolate mixture and spoon eight mounds onto the lined cookie sheets, shaping into rounds with a dip in the center.
3. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours until set, then peel the nests carefully away from the parchment and fill with mini chocolate eggs.



These can be filled with jelly beans, foil-wrapped eggs, or the decadent Cadbury Mini Eggs I am so wild about. If you are expecting a lot of guests, definitely double or triple the recipe to be sure and have enough.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Healthy Easter/Spring! A very Happy Passover to those celebrating that holiday!

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Celebrate Valentine's Day with Verve!

 



Steeped in history, full of positive emotion, and a chance to shake off the winter doldrums, celebrate Valentine's Day this year with gusto!

Decorate your space, make your Valentine's card/gift list, plan, and shop!

Where should I go to purchase Valentines and Gift?

As always, I recommend the local dollar store to help you stay on budget and still be generous. My go to is the Dollar Tree. They are nationwide and full of great ideas, wonderful values, and beautiful cards - Hallmark cards and Handmade cards are still so reasonable!


But you can supplement with some high-end items like live cut flowers from your favorite florist, homemade chocolates from the neighborhood candy store, lingerie from the town center boutique, and/or an amazing bauble from your hometown jeweler.

These are merely suggestions. Even if all you can do is construct a card from scraps found at home, it's a wonderful gesture!


Making the effort to tell your friends, family, and loved ones how you feel about them is good will that will come back to you tenfold, so start planning now!

There are only a few days until Valentine's Day. Yet, there is more than enough time to make this one the best yet!

Why not take my advice to heart and ENJOY Valentine’s Day this year?

I can help.

Isn’t Valentine’s Day just for overly romantic couples?

Remember that Valentine’s Day is for all kinds of love - familial, friend, newly smitten, long-term, or even loving and honoring yourself. It’s for anyone who loves love.

So, plan the kind of celebration that works for you.

What kind of celebration should I have?

A cute Valentine’s Day tea party with stuffed animals in attendance is adorable with littles in the house.

A cocktail party is fun for friends and family. Choose red and pink beverages (make sure to offer plenty of soft drinks, too).

Heart-shaped pizza party is delightful! Either make your own or purchase from a local pizzeria that could use your business.



Go on a heart scavenger hunt in your home! You’d be surprised how many things resemble hearts - like my potato chip! ❤️


Get some Valentine’s napkins, a box of conversation hearts, and a plan for February 14th in some way, you’ll be so glad you did!



 

 

 


Sunday, February 5, 2023

Valentine's Day Is For Everyone


Valentine's Day is on Tuesday, February 14th. It’s nearly impossible not to notice as stores have been decorated and selling merchandise for this day since the day after Christmas.


Florists, confectioners, and jewelers are waiting to sell lovers a token of affection to give their significant others. And, of course, card stores and the United States Post Office are gearing up for the holiday as Valentine's Day remains America's second-most-popular card-sending holiday, behind Christmas.



Several people sighed while reading. This beautiful holiday has lost its meaning for many.

Contrary to pessimistic belief, it is NOT a Hallmark-made-up holiday. It is steeped in rich history and is a lovely day to tell those you love, you LOVE them.


Since the time of the ancient Romans, a mid-February celebration was observed. In addition, there was really a Christian bishop name Valentine who wed young Roman couples at a time when Emperor Claudius II had outlawed marriage. Claudius II found out and had Valentine jailed and sentenced to death.



Valentine was himself in love with a woman and, from his jail cell, penned a final love letter to her signed, “From your Valentine”. Although Valentine was put to death, his story has stood the test of time and with it a legacy of declaring one’s love unabashedly.


Valentine’s Day is NOT just a romantic holiday, but a day to tell ALL of those you love you do so. So, send a Valentine to a parent, a sibling, a dear friend, your crush, your spouse, your child's teacher who he/she loves, and anyone and everyone else.



There is far too much unkindness in this world. The news is full of BAD news. Let's turn the tide - let's spread LOVE!


Make a card, buy a card, pick up a bouquet of flowers, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, yes, a piece of jewelry, or simply tell everyone you know "Happy Valentine's Day"! It can be as simple or elaborate as you care to be or have the means to be. No stress, just LOVE.


My parents have been married 60 years on this Valentine's Day, the day they ELOPED.



Valentine's Day has been celebrated in my home since I was a child and my children know the joys of a wondrous Valentine's Season (Yes, SEASON) and a fun-filled, love-filled Valentine's Day.


Order your heart-shaped pizzas from your local pizzeria. Take the time to profess your love this February 14th like Valentine did. Take every opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day with love and passion.


I implore you, spread the LOVE this Valentine's Day and you'll get it back tenfold.








 

 

 

 


Saturday, January 7, 2023

Thirty Years

January 9, 1993


On January 9, 1993, at 20 years old, I said “I do,” to the man I had been in love for six years. He was 23. We were young, na├»ve, inexperienced, and a bit crazy, but we knew our hearts. We wanted to embark on our married life together.

Thirty years have passed in the blink of an eye. Thirty years that produced three wonderful children. There were endless diaper changes, countless tears, temper tantrums, health scares, life-altering decisions, and love.

Always love.

During these thirty years I’ve acquired wisdom. Although far from “perfect”, we are still happily married. We have faced proverbial Giants, Dragons, and Pandemics and we are still together.

We’ve had doubts, droughts, floods, disappointments, setbacks, and famine, yet we always loved one another.

Always.

Raising children has been richly rewarding and God’s greatest blessing on us. Yet, children are depleting to a romantic relationship. We had to learn to navigate Parenthood without sacrificing Couplehood.



Our three children
December 24, 2022


We chose love.

Always.

We don’t always agree and at times have grown apart. Then, because we love – and like – one another, we find our way back. We choose to stay in love – and together.

Always.

I offer some wisdom to share. Take what works for you.

We are Human.

We are fallible, but we choose love.

Always.


Thirty Years of Married Wisdom

1.       Put the Couple first, above children, above self. The Couple is sacred.

2.       Be an individual. To bring the best to the couple you must live your life. Experience, explore, create, interact. Every day you will have something new to share with your spouse.

3.       Find time for intimacy throughout the days, weeks, months, and years. Intimacy is not solely sex. It’s emotional, it’s physical. It’s trust, comfort, and relaxation with your spouse. Without intimacy, sex is not fulfilling to the Couple.

4.       Make time for sex. Intimate sex. Passionate sex. Quick sex. There should always be time for sex.

5.       Learn that it’s okay to not have sex when you are in pain, exhausted, sick, or not mentally into it. But when these excuses are constant, seek help professionally.

6.       Go to the doctor regularly to stay healthy. Dentist and eye doctors, too. Stay in peak physical condition.

7.       Exercise regularly. Take care of your body and heart and they will take care of you.

8.       Seek professional therapy – marriage and individual if necessary. Learn to communicate better, love yourself more, and strengthen your marriage. Win-Win.

9.       Speak about your spouse in glowing terms around everyone you speak. Never demean your spouse in public. Never air your “dirty laundry”.

10.   Let your spouse overhear you praise him/her. Often.

11.   Talk about problems with your spouse before they fester.

12.   Decide who oversees paying the bills. Both partners should be aware of the home budget and financial goals and live accordingly.

13.   Chores should be fairly distributed. Only you and your spouse can determine what is “fair”.

14.   Hold hands.

15.   Sit together.

16.   Have Date Nights. Or Date Days. Or Date Mornings. They needn’t cost money, it’s about spending time together and making one another the priority.

17.   Learn to compromise. In a Couple, one person isn’t always going to get their way. It’s not 50/50 that makes a couple survive, it’s 100/100.

18.   Learn to have a sense of humor about Life. Life is stressful and dark at times, but laughter can brighten dark times.

19.   Honor your Couple milestones. Wedding anniversaries should be observed with reverence and celebration. EVERY YEAR.

20.   Do things apart. If one of you enjoys something the other does not, spend time apart so the individuals in the Couple can enjoy their recreational time.

21.   Do things together. Find a few things to do together that bring you both joy and enhance the Couple.

22.   Be kind to your spouse’s parents/family. If you love your spouse, it makes sense to love – or like – his/her family. There are always extreme exceptions, but overall, it doesn’t hurt to be kind, friendly, and loving.

23.   Fighting is part of marriage. When you stop communicating, it’s over. But fighting should have a time when you each listen to one another and figure out what’s going on, and there should be a resolution.

24.   Sing together. There should be at least a few songs you both enjoy. Belt them out in the car, in the shower, or whenever it makes you happy.

25.   Be patient. We all learn Life’s lessons at different paces. Allow your spouse time to navigate Life.

26.   Compliment one another.

27.   Complement one another.

28.   Bring one another coffee, tea, water, seltzer… Small acts of kindness are vitally important.

29.   Reminisce about how your fell in love, your wedding, and other early romantic milestones often. These keep the Couple aware of their powerful connection. Continue to make new romantic milestones that keep the marriage enduring.

30.   Kiss, always.

 

There are so many other nuggets of wisdom, but these made my top list.

As our 30th Anniversary is upon us, I am most thankful our marriage has endured.

I’m thankful for all the help we’ve gotten to get to this point. Help from our parents and families, from our children and our friends. We also have had tremendous help from two therapists, two 12-Step Programs, and a stubborn belief that we belong together.

We are better together.

We love each other.

Always.

December 24, 2022