Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas - I learn something new every day!

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs from my childhood. This is one of the songs we always sang at our Christmas Concerts in school. I'm going to share a little bit of history about the song...some of it I knew, some of it I didn't.

The twelve days in the song are the twelve days starting Christmas day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (December 26)to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day). Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking."

Specific origins are not known, but it is believed to have started out as a game where the leader would say one verse and the next person would repeat it and add a verse...and so on... Textual evidence indicates that the song was not English in origin, but French, though it is considered an English carol.

The earliest well-known version of the music of the song was recorded by English scholar James O. Halliwell in 1842, and he published a version in 4th edition The Nursery Rhymes of England (1846), collected principally from 'oral tradition'. In the early 20th century, English composer Frederic Austin wrote an arrangement in which he added his melody from "Five gold rings" onwards, which has since become standard.

No one has really figured out and explained the meaning of the song, but some Christians see meanings in the gifts...

A partridge in a pear tree - Jesus
Two turtle doves - The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens - The three kings bearing gifts
Four calling birds - The four Gospels
Five gold rings - The Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-laying - The six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimming - Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking - The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing - Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leaping - The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping - The eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming - The twelve points of the Apostles' Creed

No matter the origin or meaning behind it, it has always been and still is a fun song to sing for me and now my kids =)

Christmas - Random facts 2

More random facts about Christmas =)

December 6th is "St Nicholas's Day" - the first of the gift giving days, especially in Holland and Belgium.

The first American Christmas carol was written in 1649 by a minister named John de Brebeur and is called "Jesus is Born".

Mexicans call the poinsettia "Flower of the Holy Night" - the Holy Night is the Mexican way of saying "Christmas Eve"

Tinsel on the Christmas Tree is attributed to a woman whose husband died. She was left to bring up a large family of children herself. She was left to do everything working so hard and she was determined to make a happy time for them at Christmas. She prepared a Christmas Tree to surprise them on Christmas Day. Unfortunately spiders visited the tree, and crawled from branch to branch, making webs all over it. The Christ Child saw the tree and knew she would be devastated to find this on Christmas morning. He changed the spiders' webs to shining silver.

Many Christmas customs are carryovers from pre-Christian celebrations. Hanging gifts on trees is supposed to stem from tree worship of the Druids, and the belief that the tree was the giver of all good things. The Druids are also partly responsible for the use of mistletoe at Christmastime. They regarded the mistletoe as sacred, made certain that it never touched the ground, and dedicated it to the Goddess of Love, which explains the kissing that goes on under it. Originally, when a boy kissed a girl, he plucked a berry from the cluster and presented it to her. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses.

In Christmas tree decorations, angels are usually portrayed as wimpy blondes in girl's blouses and sandals. In the Bible, however, angels are muscular bullies who frequently goad humans into fistfights. Life isn't all harps and heavenly choirs for angels; there's a strict career structure. The only angels mentioned by name in the Bible are archangels, the eighth-ranking order of angels.

Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. ((and now Rudolph))

Gift giving, Christmas drinks, Christmas Cards and many other Christmas traditions are not modern gifts of capitalism (though capitalism sure does love it) – they actually come to us via the Ancient Romans who exchanged all of those things on New Year’s Day (Strenae, named after Strenia the goddess of New Year’s gifts). This was initially shunned by the Church (“(Do not) make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare Puck] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” -St Eligius, 7th century) but old habits die hard and it eventually transferred to Christmas.

Santa Claus is actually based on the early Church Bishop Saint Nicholas. He was born during the third century (around 270 AD), in the village of Patara in Turkey, and was known for secretly giving gifts of money to the poor. The modern image of him as a jolly man in red most likely comes from the 1823 poem “A visit from St Nicholas” also known as “The Night before Christmas”.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas - Random facts 1

Every year I love reading different facts and stories about this year I'm going to share some facts I find around the web =)

The common abbreviation for Christmas to Xmas is derived from the Greek alphabet. X is letter Chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name in the Greek alphabet.

Today many carolers sing traditional Christmas Carols to raise money for various charities. However,carol singing began in England when traveling musicians would visit wealthy homes and perform in the hope of receiving money or food.

Oliver Cromwell, in England banned Christmas Carols between 1649 and 1660. Cromwell thought that Christmas should be a very solemn day so he banned carols and parties. The only celebration was by a sermon and a prayer service.

The Roman Church calendar records a nativity celebration on the 25th December as early as 336AD, and this widely became the accepted holiday.

The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

It was the Victorians who started off the popular tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. They hung mistletoe from doorways and ceilings and a mistletoe myth states that if a woman stands under the mistletoe does not receive a kiss, she will not marry in the following year.

The first Christmas card was designed in 1843 by J.C. Horsley.

In 1836, Alabama is the first state in the USA to declare Christmas a legal holiday.

Hanging a Christmas wreath on your front door is a sign of welcome and long life for all who enter!

In 1856, President Franklin Pierce decorates the first White House Christmas tree.

The Best Selling Christmas Song of all time is Bing Crosby’s Christmas classic “White Christmas”

Communion - by: Jean Blasiar & Jonathan Marcantoni

A few months ago Jonathan asked me if I would read "Communion" and give him a review. Of course I jumped at the chance and told him yes. I'm very honored at having the opportunity to review the book.

"Communion" is a mixture of magical realism and war-set family drama revolving around a little girl, Gem, who's ability to communicate with animals assists her in her search to locate her father, who has gone missing in action at the height of World War II. It is at once an intimate portrait of a small Ohio town affected by war and an emotional epic about the enduring love between husband and wife and father and daughter.

This book brought on so many emotions throughout it and I can’t even begin to describe them all, but I will touch on a few.

I liked all of the characters for certain reasons, even Abby, but I had three favorites: Gem Commons, Melanie Commons, and the General.

I immediately fell in love with Gem and her innocence. I could picture her in my mind going about her daily activities in a carefree way, playing with her bears and interacting with her animal friends. I knew she was going to be special. I love that she was so determined and strong-willed...qualities that in the end would pay off big time.

My love for Melanie did not happen so fast. My first thought was that she was too easily pushed over by her mother-in–law and that annoyed me. However, as the story progressed, she became such a strong woman. When her husband left for war, I knew, being a military spouse myself, I was going to feel a connection with her. I could understand her struggles and feel her pain. I felt sympathy for her and had hope for her.

The General was also a favorite as soon as he appeared in the book. He was a little pushy, yet polite. He was firm and direct, yet with compassion. His generosity and love towards Gem and Melanie melted my heart. Towards the end I felt fate is what had brought him into their lives. With his connections and power and Gem’s unique gift and determination the book came to a very emotional end for me.

If you're looking for a great, heart warming story, "Communion" is a must read. I really feel that ALL military spouses will love this book as much as I did.

To get your copy (I'll be ordering my own book very soon!) you can go to the following -

Savant Books & Publications

Barnes & Noble

"Communion" by Jean Blasiar and Jonathan Marcantoni - 280 pages - 5.25" x 8" Pocketbook -ISBN 978-0-9832861-4-1. Suggested retail price $16.95. Released October 2011 by Savant Books and Publications, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

*Personal note: I am not receiving any kind of "reward" for posting this review. I genuinely loved the book and simply want to help spread the word.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Are YOU the Ultimate Fan?

If you're a military & sports fan, you should check this out! Have fun with it!!

AAFMAA sponsored the 2011 Army vs. Air Force football game and is now giving people a chance to prove their “fandom.”

Upload a photo of you, your friends, or your family in fan gear to, rally support from your friends, and compete for the Ultimate Fan Party Pack Prize:

•42” LCD HD TV
•$200 gift card to your local supermarket to stock up on food and drinks
•$100 gift card to deck yourself out in the best fan gear!

Enter at:

*In partnership with AAFMAA (Army and Air Force Mutual Aid Association)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

425 - The Redeployment Tour (music & entertainment) - Combat Veterans

I've been hearing some hype about a group, 425, composed of two combat veterans, Neal Saunders and Terrance Staves, who released their first album "Live From Iraq" in March 2005. They've been featured on MTV, FOX NEWS, BBC, NPR, in Black Book, SPIN, Rolling Stone, Newsweek and more...

425 is doing their own clothing line too. From their group on Facebook - "Now, 4 albums and 6 years later, 425 music is changing the world! They want to bring the term "Soldier Up" into the civilian world. The term "Soldier Up" is a way of life for a Soldier on the battlefield and since they are both no longer enlisted, their battlefield is now life! They are launching a clothing line with that very same title of "Soldier Up" and want the world to wear their clothing and realize that standing idly by will not solve anything. You have to "Soldier Up" and do what has to be done or things will never change."

I have learned that 425 is also involved in a non-profit agency in Ohio called "A Dollar to Care" ... From their group on Facebook - "They support incarcerated Soldiers and their families. They currently have 16 families they are helping with 1 pending. Too often a Soldier is charged with a war crime for ensuring his own survival at war and the families suffer."

My wonderful friend Fran had the opportunity to go and see 425 perform in Killeen, Tx. She sent me one of their shirts and their CD. I'm not big on rap, BUT I really dig their CD. They speak about real life/worldly issues and issues that plague veterans of war.

I highly suggest checking them out and sharing with others who you may feel will appreciate their music, their way of life and their stance.

*Disclaimer - I am in no way, shape or form getting any kind of compensation for writing this and "advertising" 425. I simply support the "movement" of these combat veterans who have selflessly served their country. This is my way of saying "Thank you".

Links to find them around the web: -their website
425TV - their Youtube Channel
THE TIME IS NOW 4:25!!! - their group on Facebook
4:25 - their Facebook Fan page

Here I am wearing my "Soldier Up" shirt:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Treadmill or Elliptical?

I'm contemplating buying one or the other. So, like an smart shopper when buying a big item, I'm doing my research! I always say that google does wonders =)

In doing my bit of research here, I have noticed that it really depends on your overall exercise goals when choosing between the two.

From reading several different sites and articles I'm seeing that both machines are good for an effective aerobic workout.

The major difference I'm seeing between the two is that ellipticals are a low-impact workout... easy on the joints and you can pedal most backwards to give your calves more of a workout too. Most ellipticals also have bars that move with your arms so you get a workout with your arms too.

Treadmills have more of an impact on your bones and feet and joints. Because it's a hard surface, treadmills are more ideal for those who may be training to run a race/marathon. Most treadmills don't come with arm bars that move with your arms.

So I guess for me it is going to come down to quality and price LOL... on the hunt I go!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Black Friday Madness - with a link to Black Friday 2011 Deals

One of my experiences with Black Friday shopping was something "special" to say the least... lol. I was in my early 20's and I went out with my mother and grandmother (who is a feisty little thing when need be) and one of our stops was the Deptford Mall in Deptford, NJ. My grandma told me that people got crazy on that day, but I thought she was exaggerating because I really hadn't seen any craziness before when I went shopping on Black Friday.

We pulled into the mall and was about to grab this parking spot when this big truck cut my grandma off (in her little car) and stole the spot. I then heard a string of cuss words that I couldn't ever remember coming out of my grandmothers mouth as she flipped this truck off. We moved on to another spot down a few spaces and when we got out of the car we saw the "lady" from the truck and I heard her say "There's that old bitch" - talking about my grandma.

Now, I've never really been one to be aggressive or start fights, but in my mind, this woman was about to get the beat down of her life for calling my grandma a bitch. I started walking towards her saying "who the f*ck are you calling an old bitch?! I'm gonna show you a bitch!" - LOL - well, I didn't get very far b/c my mother grabbed my arm and told me to let it go. My grandma chuckled and the woman looked at me in shock and kept it moving under the protection of the arm of the man she was with.

So our day was off to a great start! NOT lol... The mall was so crowded and I was glad I left the boys with my in-laws. Having toddlers with me would have been a mess. You couldn't walk without getting stepped on and trying to get into the different stores was just insane. Never again will I go to a mall on Black Friday. I will venture out to other stores though lol...

Enough with my story! With the wonders of Google, I found the official Black Friday website that has links to all kinds of deals in tons of stores!! There is even a link on the website for online deals as well, for those who don't want to deal with the crowds and get great deals sitting at home in their PJs drinking coffee =)

Here is the link. Have fun searching for what you want =)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Breast Reduction - Part 12 *2 month Check up with my surgeon - some pics* =)

So it has now been a little over 2 months since my breast reduction. The doctor said I'm looking good and healing well.

My breasts are no longer "sore" and the sensation to the nipple area is coming back fine. They are still a little swollen but that will go away. They are also a little pink tinted more than they should be, but my doctor told me that will go away in time too as the blood flow to the area gets back to normal. My next appointment is in 6 months just to check on them and see the scarring.

I'm so happy I decided to go through with the breast reduction. I was scared to death but I have no regrets and I would go through it all again to feel how I do now. No headaches, neck pain or back pain... no feeling like people are staring at my breasts all the time and I can finally get back in the gym!!

One of my biggest fears throughout this was how my husband would feel and react. He has been so supportive of me through this (even though he didn't want to see the gals go) and our intimacy is as great as ever =)

Here are some pics... the first one is the one I took at the doc today. The ones after it are from last year and this year before my reduction. You can see the difference. (3 lbs were taken from each side)


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

T'was the Night of Thanksgiving

Thank you Google for this cute poem =)

T’was the night of Thanksgiving,
But I just couldn’t sleep.
I tried counting backwards,
I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers beckoned,
The dark meat and white.
But I fought the temptation,
With all of my might.
Tossing and turning,
with anticipation.
The thought of a snack
became infatuation.
So I raced to the kitchen,
Flung open the door,
And gazed at the fridge,
Full of goodies galore.
I gobbled up turkey,
And buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots,
Beans and tomatoes.
I felt myself swelling,
So plump and so round.
‘til all of a sudden,
I rose off the ground.
I crashed through the ceiling,
Floating into the sky,
With a mouthful of pudding,
And a handful of pie.
But I managed to yell
As I soared past the trees
Happy eating to all,
Pass the cranberries, please!!
May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious,
May your pies take the prize
And May your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off of your thighs!

((by Lauren))

Thanksgiving...gobble gobble

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite Holidays. When I was younger we always had big get togethers with family and it was something I looked forward to as a child. Once I met my husband I started doing Thanksgiving with his family and I loved the Holiday even more! His mom and dad always do a wonderful job on the dinner and her home is decorated so wonderfully that you feel the warmth and love of the Holiday season as soon as you step in the door.

It wasn't until a few years ago I started to actually cook my own Thanksgiving dinner. The first and second year we were married I went to my in-laws for Thanksgiving because my husband was in AIT and then deployed. The third year we were married we went to one of his SGTs house for Thanksgiving dinner. It's always been "something else" lol...

Last year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner and had some friends over whose husbands were gone like mine. Great fellowship with my "sisters" and great food!! I had a blast cooking too =) Here's some yummy pics -

Macaroni Salad & Potato Salad

Turkey & Sides

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now I'm hungry...

This year, my husband will be home for Thanksgiving and I'm not sure what we are doing yet. We may go somewhere or I might cook. Either way, him being home is what will be the best thing about Thanksgiving this year. =)

Here's a cute poem I found with the wonderful world of Google -

The First Thanksgiving
When the Pilgrims
first gathered together to share
with their Indian friends
in the mild autumn air,
they lifted the voices
in jubilant praise
for the bread on the table,
the berries and maize,
for field and for forest,
for turkey and deer,
for the bountiful crops
they were blessed with that year.
They were thankful for these
as they feasted away,
and as they were thankful
we're thankful today.

-author unknown

Monday, November 14, 2011

OPSEC and Ham - cute little OPSEC "poem"

*I would like to say I DID NOT write this. I'm not sure who did, I saw it floating around FB... if you know who did write it, please share with me so I may give credit =) Thanks!!*

Sam I am.
Do you like OPSEC and ham?
I do not get it, Sam I am.
I do not get OPSEC and ham.
We must use it here and there.
We must use it everywhere.
You CAN share it in a car.
But you CANNOT in a bar.
You CANNOT share it in a text.
You CANNOT share it at the NEX.
You CAN say it in your house.
But should NOT tell a random spouse.
You CAN say it in the shower.
But do NOT go sharing at happy hour.
DON'T make the Ombudsman sweat.
DON'T post it on the internet.
You CANNOT share it in a tweet.
That would not be very sweet.
Beware of Facebook and Myspace too.
It's tempting to let your feelings through.
You Cannot tell it to a friend.
NOT even at the very end.
It is a privilege to know a date.
DON'T tell ANYONE or they may be late!
Oh, I get it, Sam I am.
Now I get OPSEC and ham!
I will not tell anyone. I will keep hushed until they're done!
I will not tell him or her. I will not tell my dog with fur.
I will not tell my child's teacher. I will not tell any creature.
Thank you, THANK YOU, Sam I am.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Love Tea? Me too! and it's healthy for you!

I've always loved tea... hot tea or cold, sweet or not... I love it all. I've decided to cut back my coffee intake and up the amount of tea I drink since I have read that tea is good for you and it has about half the amount of caffeine in it as coffee. (I'll never give up my coffee completely...just can't do it lol)

Here are 10 health benefits to drinking tea -

1. Tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants can help slow down the aging process, and help cells regenerate and repair. Many studies suggest antioxidants also assist our bodies in preventing cancer.

2. Tea can lower stress hormone levels. Black tea can reduce the effects of stressful events by lowering the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.

3. Tea fights cavities and reduces plaque. Compounds in tea are capable of killing or suppressing growth and acid production of cavity causing bacteria in our mouths.

4. Tea keeps you hydrated. Every cup of tea you drink, especially low or no caffeine varieties, counts as a cup of water with the added bonus of providing antioxidants as well.

5. Tea may reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Tea can help prevent formation of dangerous blood clots which are often the cause of strokes and heart attacks.

6. Tea can help lower blood pressure. Drinking green tea daily can reduce your risk of hypertension by up to 50%.

7. Tea aids your body in digestion. Tea has been used for thousands of years as an after-meal digestive aid. It can also help relieve stomach cramps.

8. Tea may help prevent diabetes. There is some evidence to suggest that green tea might help to lower the risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes.

9. Tea can help beat bacteria. An Egyptian study testing the effects of green tea on antibiotics found the tea to enhance the bacteria killing effects of the drugs.

10. Tea aids your immune defenses. A study comparing the immune activity levels of coffee drinkers vs. tea drinkers found the tea drinkers to have levels up to five times higher.

Since I'm watching my calories and keeping track of my serving sizes I have been watching my sugar intake as well. Sugar will add up fast... so I have been drinking my tea unsweetened. I drink regular tea, flavor infused tea, herbal tea...all tea!

Friday, November 11, 2011

And so it begins -

As I said in a previous post - My Next Journey - I mentioned I'd be working on getting healthier and losing weight. Well, I've started =)

On November 2nd I started counting my calories again and doing portion control... eating every few hours and drinking tons of water. A few things have been helping me. For one, I have thyroid medication I have to take every day and so I don't forget, I set a daily alarm on my phone. Taking my medication is very important b/c if my levels don't stay right, I will never lose weight and I feel crappy. Next, I downloaded 3 apps on my phone. One app is called "Lose It". I put in my height, weight and age and said what my goal weight is and how much I want to lose each week. It tells me my daily caloric allowance. I have been keeping my calories around 1500 a day and I record EVERYTHING I eat in this app. I measure out everything I eat. The next app is a water app. I edited it to remind me 12 times a day to drink a glass (8oz) of water. This has really helped me keep up with my water intake. My third app is "jogtracker". I put in my height and weight info and then I track by GPS how far and how fast I walk. It then calculates the calories I burned. I can then put that amount into my "Lose It" app under the exercise section. The last thing that has been helping me is my weight loss support group. Bunch of great chicks who are all supportive of each other =)

Since November 2nd, doing only the things I have said, I have lost 2.5 pounds... in 9 days. I'm excited to start adding some exercise in there as soon as my plastic surgeon gives me the "ok"...and I'm sure he will at my visit on the 16th.

So for now, it is just baby steps... I intend on making slow but steady progress. A quick fix is never the right fix =)

Feel free to share any "health" or "weight loss" tips you have =) Success stories are welcome too, great for motivation for me and for those who read my blog =)

Remembering Memories

"We do not remember days, we remember memories." - Cesare Pavese (The Burning Brand)

Random memories ...

Some people say you can't remember things from before you were 4yrs old. Well I remember something from when I was 2yrs old. Growing up I would have these "flash backs" sometimes of me, as a little girl, hiding in the bathroom behind the door. I remember something "stinky" and remember feeling afraid and hearing my grandma call my name over and over... so, I asked my grandma about it one day. I told her about my "flash backs" and she started laughing. She told me that I was about 2yrs old that day. She remembered it well b/c she was watching me that day. Apparently, I was in the potty training stage and had my panties full of poop. I had taken it and smeared it on windows and doors. So that explains my feeling afraid and why I was hiding and why I remember something "stinky" LOL

I remember when I first started taking notice to differences in people of different races. My mother had a tubberware party and had her friends over. The tubberware lady was a black lady. I remember her being really nice and I felt comfortable with her. So, I innocently asked her why were her lips so much bigger than mine. I remember the look on my mothers face and you would think she wanted to die. She apologized to the woman for my question and the woman told her that it was fine. Then she looked at me and told me that her lips were bigger then mine for a few reasons. One being that she was older so everything on her was bigger. Two, that God, for some reason in all His wisdom, decided that folks of darker color should have bigger lips and that God made everyone special and perfect in his eyes. I had said I wished God gave me big lips because hers were pretty. She told me that God made me just as I am suppose to be and that I should love it no matter what. I remember that was my first "discussion" about God.

One memory that really sticks out from my teens has to do with my husband. We had known each other for about a month and had been "dating" for about 2 weeks. He would come over every day after football practice to visit with me. One day we were leaving my house, I think we were taking a walk or something, not sure, and he was in front of me. He was taller than me and he stopped on the step right below me on the porch. He turned around so that we were face to face, eye to eye. He looked at me with such sincerity and with so much certainty he said, "I'm gonna marry you." I told him, "You don't even know me." He said, "I know enough to know I love you and I'm gonna marry you."... and then he gave me a sweet, gentle kiss. ((And now look at us, 15yrs later with 3 kids lol))

What are some memories you have that brings a smile to your face?