Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Power of A Smile And Some Other Things




There is one thing in this world that we all have. Something that's free, takes  little effort, but many of us forget is there. It's your smile!

A smile can make you feel better, but most of all, a smile can make OTHERS feel better.
A smile can help you to meet new friends, brighten a day, make people feel not so alone during dark times.

The surprising fact is, is that many of us don't use our smiles very often. They're not our "default setting," but I'm here to argue that they should be.

Twelve years ago I had an epiphany.  I realized that I owed the world a smile!  Since I was a lucky person, who was so grateful to have family and friends, and health and happiness, I figured that I should smile. I should smile because not everybody had what I did.

This was apparent when I began attending our local Jewish Community Center for water aerobics classes. I was the youngest person in my class by thirty years, and most of my friends were in their 70's and 80's! Everyone, everybody, was so wonderful, but in the locker room,  I sometimes heard tales of hardships and health problems and of spouses who passed away. Even sad echoes of the horrors of World War II. People didn't dwell on their hardships, but you could see it in some of their faces.

So, I smiled. I smiled to say "Hi, I'm glad that you're here."  I smile to say "It's ok, none of us are alone." To say "Love!" To say "I CARE ABOUT YOU!"

Because really, what else is life when you distill it down?

I've worked with the public before. Once in college I was obsessed. OBSESSED with Hello Kitty.
I know...I know.... It was just  a phase.

So I went and applied for a job at the Hallmark shop on the edge of campus because they had a HUGE HELLO KITTY SELECTION!

Yeah, can you tell how psyched I was? So I went to work at Hallmark, and soon, all of the love I had for the happy, fuzzy, pink and bubbly Hello Kitty merchandise, was overshadowed by something not as happy and fuzzy and bubbly and pink.

It was overshadowed by the PEOPLE who came in!

I began to notice that many people, many, the majority, most, they would come up to the register with their purchases and their faces would be....blank! No smile, nary a "hello!" Somedays it was even difficult to get a simple THANK YOU when I handed them their change or bag. Why I thought, were so many people such grumps?

I'm the first to admit that we all can not have stellar days everyday! But this was a trend. Years later when I worked in circulation at the library, I saw the same pattern again. Nice person, pleasant person, grump, grump, scowl, grump.

And have you heard that catch phrase that's been going around lately? (pardon my language)
"B*tchy Resting Face?"

The premise is that many people look like they're angry, standoffish  or upset, but really, nothing is wrong, it's just their neutral resting expression.

I think this is true, I KNOW this is true. I know that some people naturally carry their themselves with an unintentionally harsh look. And this might not make me any friends, but I think these people need to change!

It's important to be self-aware. And we all know the expression that we most often wear. Making your usual expression to be soft and neutral or smiley is a choice, just like continuing to wear a scowl is a choice.

This world can be an unfair and difficult place. As long as I live with good things in my life and gratitude in my heart, I will also wear a smile for others. It's a tiny, little sliver of help and hope that you can give to the world, and I would be delighted if you would consider wearing a smile often too!

This post is sadly timely. This is because a very kind and gentle man named Eugene, a father of a little boy in Noah's class, suddenly passed away over the weekend. Everybody is just heart broken for Eugene's dear wife and for his two, small children. It's absolutely devastating . Thankfully our school community is incredibly close-knit, and parents and children alike are banding together to support this family in many ways.

I did not know Eugene very well, but I can say without a doubt that the one thing that always struck me about him was his smile. I will always remember it. Everytime I saw Eugene, he wore a warm and friendly smile. I feel as though many will agree with me and remember him in the same light. I'm glad that Eugene left such a bright picture in our memories. He was one of those special people who chose to smile.

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I feel strange talking about less serious things right now, like cooking. But, sometimes when you feel sad, it's helpful to think of light things too....



Since I'm not "cramming" for my lab tests anymore, I've chilled out 5% and am actually eating animal products again! Ok, so maybe I wasn't quite THAT extreme, but for the past month and a half, I was a little over-concerned that every piece of butter, egg and slice of cheese would send my cholesterol up! I'm sure I was wrong, it was fine, but I don't need a lot of eggs, butter or cheese. I want these new healthy habits to stick!

Last night I decided to just go ahead and make a homemade Mac and Cheese recipe that I had see on the web a while ago. Everything in moderation, that's the key, right!  I found the recipe on Food.com, and it is called "Fanny Farmer's Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese."

People gave it a bajillion starts, and it's even touted as the only "real" Mac & Cheese. 
Oh! And the recipe was taken from Fanny Farmer's 1946 edition of the Boston School Cookbook. Cool, huh!?

This dish was quick and easy, it did not take many ingredients, and EVEN Noah ate it which is a MIRACLE!!!!! Even Noah. Now you know it must be good. 

I believe that the key to this dish is two things: one is to whisk and stir continuously as you make the roux  and add the cheese. That way, the sauce becomes soft and fluffy. The other essential is good, flavorful bread crumbs. The crumbs get baked to a toasty golden brown on top. I used Italian breadcrumbs that added a touch of salty flavor. It was so delicious!

Steam some broccoli as a side, maybe a bit of fruit, and you're done! 

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Today I decided to go look for a winter coat. Michigan winters can be long and harsh. I've had the same down coat for several years, and I finally had to resign myself to the fact that it's looking a little worse for wear. The black is fading, and it's been through too many icy, cold and salt sprinkled winters. 

Anyway, there is NO REASON that I am telling any of you this, except for the fact that this blog is also a personal diary. I have to note, that even though we are not yet into the winter season, not even close,  I was still able to purchase my coat for 50% OFF!!!!!!

Yay! Yay! Isn't that fantastic!? I didn't want to spend a lot of money, and I know that "a lot " is subjective, but I wanted to spend the least, most reasonable amount. Our local Macys always has a fairly large selection, but the coats are not exactly cheap. But, at 50% off.......WOO-HOO!

Also, I have never polished shoes before for some reason. I wanted to polish my boots and found Jon's polishing kit. I tried my best. I think I might have done something wrong. They're a little....waxy? I applied the clear wax with a soft cloth. Then, I shined with a special brush, and then I even polished with the other end of the soft cloth. When Jon gets home, I'll ask him what I did wrong.

(Update. Apparently, everything).


I saw this little clutch at Anthropologie today. Isn't it cute?

By FAR though, the very best part of my day was running into these two goofballs in carpool line. :)



Made my day. Baby goofball saw a picture of me on my phone and exclaimed "Daddy!" She cracks me up.  She also called the picture that I took of our dinner last night "Daddy!"and THEN proceeded to take a photo of an eight-year-old boy who was walking by and yelled out after him "Daddy!" She is so funny. 

And, Mommy goofball , she had me mesmerized by tales of her food dehydrator. You know those expensive $4 bags of dehydrated strawberries at Trader Joe's? The ones that you can literally inhale in under one minute? Yeah, Mommy goofball can make her OWN for what I am guessing is 1/4 the price! This woman is seriously the MacGyver of Moms.

I'M COMING OVER WITH OUR STRAWBERRIES!

I'm so thankful for my friends. I think about it all the time. They are truly my family. :)

Speaking of Trader Joe's, they have a new autumn inspired tea out. It's their harvest blend. It was pretty good! I could taste apples and cinnamon. Yum!


Noah and Jon surprised me with these flowers. Wasn't that nice? They chose them because they have a "fall feel" they said. That was really sweet. :)


And here is the craziest thing that happened today..... WHAT!? I made garlic eggplant and it actually tasted good! It tasted like our favorite Chinese restaurant's version and it was SO easy!  Here is the RECIPE. Try it for yourself! I used the eggplant the we bought at the farmer's market this weekend, and I added in fresh garlic to the garlic powder. Oh! And the only ingredient that I didn't have was oyster sauce, but it was still great!


And here is my latte' from today.




xoxoxo,
Lauren 




































4 comments :

LRW said...

I "smiled" as I read this. A few years ago,I decided that no matter if I got funny looks,no looks,no smile back,I was going to smile and I mean at everyone. You never know if that person might actually decide to do the same and it makes you feel good to smile!
I am so sorry about Eugene. I am so glad you'll remember him by his smile.

I too am vegetarian,and as much as I try to limit dairy,one of my favorite foods is mac&cheese(I call it comfort food). I was given this recipe and thought I would share.


Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 box Ancient Harvest Quinoa Gluten-Free Elbow Macaroni

1 cup water

1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

3 Tbsp. tahini

1 cup cashews, soaked*

Extras:

1 zucchini, peeled into strips (like spaghetti)

1 large tomato, chopped

1 red pepper, diced and blended with sauce

1 yellow squash, chopped

1. Start the water for pasta and dump pasta in once water reaches a boil.

2. Add all sauce ingredients together in a blender and blend until smooth.

3. Chop extra veggies you want to include and throw into a large sauce pan. Pour sauce on top of veggies and heat on medium.

4. Once pasta is done, drain and add noodles to sauce and mix until well coated. Pour into bowls and enjoy!

To soak cashews, purchase whole, raw cashews. In a large bowl, dissolve 1 Tbsp. pink sea salt in 2-3 cups pure warm water. Add cashews. Make sure water covers nuts completely. Soak for two hours, drain the water and rinse nuts well. Store in a glass container in the fridge for the next few days. By soaking, your body can better assimilate the nutrients, fat and minerals from the nuts.

Lynn :)))))
xxoo

Lauren said...

Hi Lynn!

Oh, I knew I liked you! And now, I find out that you're a smiler!!! WOO HOO!!!! :)
I love that you smile at everyone no matter what!

Also, you're a veggie too!? How cool! Are you gluten-free? I was GF for a year. I believe that I have a slight intolerance. I tried to re-introduce gluten after a year. It went ok. Not a HUGE difference. I kind of waffle though, it might be best for me to stay GF. I'm just in a gray area with sensitivity.

THANK YOU so much for opting your GF Mac & Cheese recipe. It looks fantastic and I'd love to try it! Thank you for sharing, this great.

I appreciate you stopping by Lynn! Have a wonderful day!

xoxoxo,
Lauren :)

LRW said...

I am not gluten-free,but liked the recipe just because I try to limit dairy. I have noticed that certain gluten containing foods do cause bloating/tummy upset(I cannot eat matzo during Passover)so I limit that as well.I thrive on fruits,veggies and quinoa! oh,and dark chocolate :)

Lynn
xxoo

Lauren said...

Ahhhhh, not bad things to live on.....especially the chocolate! ;)
I'm with you Lynn!