Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fundraising Fiasco

I've been meaning to write a chronicle of my crazy fundraising efforts this past weekend, but I've been so busy with my nannying job and my new workout regime (woot woot!) that all I've really wanted to do this week is sleep.  But now it's Friday night, I've had a whole day to do nothing, and it's thunderstorming, so I'm in a great writing mood.  Ergo, what follows is an account of the weekend of May 22/23, the fateful weekend that blessed me with over $3800.  Read on... if you dare...

Saturday, May 22, 2010
I sleep in this morning, because I have already gotten into such a horrible late-to-bed-late-to-rise sleep schedule, plus I was out late on a babysitting job last night.  I spend a few hours in the afternoon watching online TV at (love this site!  where has it been all my life?)  Then I get right down to business baking cookies.  What is a fundraiser without cookies, after all?  I make a double recipe of chocolate chip cookie dough, the equivalent of 10 dozen cookies.  The oven is heated to 375 degrees, making the already-warm summer air almost unbearable.  The cookie dough seems too thin, but it's the Nestle Toll House original recipe, so I decide to trust the cookbook.  Poor choice. The cookies spread out several inches on the pan and stick horribly.  Yea, the recipe also said to use an ungreased cookie sheet.  Grr.  And did I mention that these little suckers burn if they are in the oven an instant too long?  Well, they do.  And every sheet seems to take a different amount of time.  This all results in me having to watch the cookies in the oven like a hawk tracking its prey, pull them out in the knick of time, put the next sheet in, and then carefully scrape the cooked cookies off the sheet without breaking them.  (Eventually I did start greasing the sheets, but at first I was worried that oil on the sheet would encourage more spreading, so I preferred to just be careful when transferring the cookies from sheet to cooling rack.)
On top of this rather unfortunate cookie situation, I am scheduled to cantor the 5pm Mass.  I think it's going to be a pretty straightforward Mass, but my mom keeps yelling from the couch in the living room that I need to look at the music.  I take a brief break from cookie-ing to review the psalm.  It's fairly easy.  I get back into the kitchen.  Mom's not satisfied, so she starts looking over the music herself.
"There's a new hymn in here," she calls from the piano.
"What??"  And then she starts playing it on the piano while I continue to pull almost-burned-yet-not-quite-done cookies out of the oven.  At this point I am so hot and frustrated with the cookies, the music and the fact that I haven't even started writing my parish talk that I feel more annoyed than anything else, but I bite my tongue.  It is really very sweet of her to help me learn the music in a way that doesn't require me to leave the kitchen.

I finally give up on making all the cookies about 2/3 of the way through the dough.  I need to get ready so I can get to the church around 4, in time to set up and make it to rehearsal at 4:30.  I pull the final tray of cookies out of the oven and run up to my room to get ready.

I am hopping out of the car outside the breezeway of the church, appropriately clad in a cute but classy outfit with a huge tray of cookies and a basket for donations in hand and a bag with my baby laptop in it slung over my shoulder.  Upon entering the breezeway, I see that there is another group setting up shop; a family from Bethlehem (the city of our Savior's birth, not Bethlehem, PA haha) is selling hand-carved olive-wood statues, crosses, etc. Their shop takes up three folding tables, but I don't see a place for me.  I leave the basket and my tray of cookies on a coffee table across the breezeway from them and trip-trap over to the pastor's office in my little white heels with the bows on the toes.  He informs me that whatever tables and chairs are out there are all that's available for the weekend and wishes me luck finding a place to set up.  I thank him for giving me the opportunity to do this this weekend and head back to the breezeway, wondering how I'm going to set up.  Eventually I decide to just leave the cookies and basket on the coffee table, because there's a nice leather couch behind it and a couple of chairs that makes for a comfortable little sitting area close to the doors of the church.   Perfect.

The Rooney Room, where the choir usually rehearses before Mass, is full of science project boards from the Carnegie Science competitions, so I meet the organist outside in the church to run over the music for the Mass.  We review the new hymn and the verses to the psalm once each, but for some reason he trusts me to know the rest and hurries off to make copies of a special Pentecost song that has to be in the pews since we don't use songsheets anymore.  I therefore am left with my nerves and the music which I have barely looked at all day.  After a quick stop in the tabernacle chapel to beg for the graces I need to make it through the evening, I sit myself down at the piano to further review the music.  Once I have gotten to the point where I can sing through all the pieces without any help from the piano to find the right pitches, I sit down in the front row of the choir section to write my appeal speech.  I know what I want to say, so it's just a matter of writing down the key points I want to make.
Surprisingly, all this bustle still doesn't take more than 20 minutes, so I'm still sitting there with my nerves and copies of music lying open around me, waiting to get the signal from the priest to start the Mass.  More prayers for strength and courage.  More harried reviewing of music.  Dear God, will Mass never begin?!!

I finally see the wave from the back of the church and step up to the microphone.
"Good Evening.  Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost.  All music for today's Mass can be found in the Gather hymnal..."  As usual, as soon as I begin my nerves settle down and my faith in myself is restored.  I can do this.  The opening hymn goes beautifully and I even make it through the Gloria with no mistakes.  Praise God; last time I lead the Gloria I completely butchered it, or at least made up large sections of melody.
I don't hear a single word of the first reading; I am reviewing the psalm in my head over and over... When the reading is over and the music begins, I walk up to the ambo, pausing to bow before stepping up on the altar.  I shouldn't have worried.  The verses are a simple chant and it's easy to hear my notes in the chords of the organ.  I step down extremely relieved.  I know it may seem like a hassle, but I absolutely love singing the word of God to the people in the pews.  How beautiful words become when they are set to music!  It only brings out the beauty of the scripture that much more.  And people enjoy my singing; I can see in on their faces as I finish.  Truly, some of the most satisfying moments of my still-young musical career have occurred while singing a psalm in a way that touches the hearts of my listeners.  I pray for that grace before every performance, that my voice may in some way touch the hearts of those who hear me and bring them closer to Him.
But I digress. The rest of Mass went swimmingly, and I nailed that new hymn like I've been singing it my whole life.  After communion, I step up to the ambo once more after Father's brief introduction.  My family is in the pews this evening, and I can see them smiling at me, even though I know that my mom is a touch embarrassed that her daughter is getting up in front of everyone to beg for money.  But she is smiling at me nonetheless.  So I take a deep breath. And I deliver the following speech:
"Hi everyone!  As Father said, my name is Jane Henkels, and I promise not to take up more than a few minutes of your time.  I've been a parishioner here since I was about two years old.  I graduated from St. Thomas More grade school in 2004.  I started singing at Masses when I was about 5 years old, and I sang my first psalm from this ambo when I was in second grade. [Here my dad actually laughs out loud, and if you know my dad, you know that it was indeed loud.  His laugh prompts a slight ripple of laughter from those around him, and I continue, encouraged.]  But that's not why I'm here right now; I'm here to tell you about a pretty amazing opportunity I've been given for this summer.  I was chosen from a fairly large pool of applicants across the country to accompany a group of students and missionaries on FOCUS's, that is, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, first ever mission trip to Ghana in West Africa.  For two weeks, we'll be staying in a tiny village 3 hours outside of the capital city.  The people there have been celebrating Mass in nothing more than a hut, and they don't have a parish priest, so they are only able to receive the Eucharist once a month.  We are so blessed to be able to receive Him every week or every day if we want, but these people are not so blessed.  So for those two weeks we'll be building a church for them and helping out with catechesis.  Then we'll return to the capital, Accra, to work with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's order, in the slums of the city and in their AIDS ward.
So... I'm pretty excited about this, obviously, but the cost of the trip is $3500, and I certainly don't have the means to come up with this money on my own.  All of us going on the trip have been asking our families and friends for support, so I thought I would ask you, my parish family, to help me out.  So, I'll be in the breezeway after Mass, and I brought cookies [turn up the charm, insert persuasive smile here and yes, they laughed] and it would mean so much to me if you would stop by.  Thanks so much for your time!"
I step down from the altar to thunderous applause, which I really am not expecting.  Why would anyone clap after you ask them for money?  But it feels quite good, to have the support of my parish like that, and I walk over to the breezeway with a huge smile on my face as my mom takes over the leading of the closing hymn.
The response of my fellow parishioners is overwhelming; scads of people come over after the final blessing to talk to me, to donate, to buy cookies, to warn me about malaria, to tell me about their family members or friends who have traveled to Africa, to ask me questions about the trip.  I play the video for the trip on my laptop for everyone to see, and people are very interested, especially the children.  One woman makes sure to come over to the table, press a St. Jeanne Jugan medal into my palm and encourage me to carry it with me during the trip.  I love things like that.  It makes me feel so connected to the Body of Christ.
After everyone had gone home, I stuff my winnings into a manila envelope and head home to count it all. The total is $843.50.  Wow.  At this rate I'll have enough money for sure.  But I don't want to get my hopes up.
By this time I am really pretty tired from the excitement of the evening, but no rest for the wicked, I guess, because I have to bake more cookies!  I sold the whole tray after the 5pm Mass and still have part of my last batch of cookie dough left to bake.  I know that I need enough cookies for at least 3 more Masses and that I had sold 2/3 of 10 dozen cookies tonight.  So it seems I have no choice but to make another double batch of chocolate chip cookies.  I follow the same recipe, but this time I add 3 cups of flour, I lightly grease the cookie sheets, and lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  The cookies come out looking like something from a dream.  They're perfect.  Now only 9 dozen more to go...

Sunday, May 23, 2010
I finally sink into bed, exhausted.  I will never bake another cookie again as long as I live.

My alarm goes off.  Gotta get up for the 8am Mass...

I get out of bed.  That snooze button...

I leave for Mass.  I get there just as the homily is beginning.  Perfect.  I stow my huge box of cookies under the coffee table and set up the tray and the basket for collections as per yesterday and I have time to slip into the bathroom and do my makeup before giving my talk.  Actually I have more than enough time; I am done in time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, so I sneak out into the church behind the choir section and enjoy the Consecration from a hidden spot off to the side near the tabernacle chapel, but I don't receive Communion since I didn't even make an effort to be on time to Mass.  Plus, I'll be going to all the Masses today.  There's no need to rush things.
The talk goes well, but no laughter; the crowd is much quieter, which I suppose is understandable since it's kind of early in the morning.  Their support is unquestionable, though, as I raise another $810.  And they don't eat very many cookies, also probably because it's early in the morning, so I am hopeful about my supply making it through to the 11:30 Mass.

I settle into the pew for the 9:30 Mass.  This one I am attending from start to finish, so I take some time to quiet my heart, etc, and prepare myself to receive my Maker.  He is so good to us.  I don't even know what to say about His generosity.
The talk goes well again.  I'm beginning to sound more polished now that I've given the speech for the third time.  There is no audible audience response until their applause (again!), but they are smiling.  And that makes me very happy.  I stay for the final blessing to seal in all those good graces I received in the Eucharist, even though I know I'll probably miss a couple of people leaving because of it.  This crowd eats a lot of cookies, almost two trays full, and I raise $723.20.
I had planned on grabbing something to eat before the 11:30 Mass, but I run into an old friend of mine and we get to talking, and I am of the opinion that fellowship is more valuable than food, so I let our conversation go on for a while.  It is so good to talk to her; we haven't seen each other in so long!  We are both going to the 11:30 Mass, so we head into the church together and she wishes me luck.

Another Mass, another talk.  The crowd is a bit more lively, and as I step down from the altar to walk to the breezeway, I hear a cheer from the direction of my friend's family; she (or one of her sisters) is showing her support!  How lovely. :)
Again, people are super supportive, giving $706.  I do run out of cookies, as I had feared, but there are only a few people who don't get cookies that want them, so it's not too bad.  It seems that more people are interested in giving as much as they can than those who are just interested in buying cookies.  Indeed, I averaged about $14 a cookie by the end of the weekend.

I return home, truly exhausted now.  But I know that if I fall asleep I'll be groggy for the 5pm Mass this evening.  Besides, I have more cookies to bake since I ran out at the 11:30.  I don't have the strength to make another batch from scratch after last night, and anyway we're out of chocolate chips by now.  So I pull a Funfetti cake mix from the pantry and make sugar cookies from the mix.  While they're cooling I count up my money from the first three Masses of the day, and I am extremely encouraged to find that I only need to raise about $400 more to reach $3500 which, judging from the other Masses, should be extremely doable.  I am too tired to get really excited about this, plus there are cookies to be iced now.  Over the course of these two days I baked somewhere around 24 dozen - 288 - cookies.  Yes.  I vow I will never bake again.  (A vow I ended up breaking this past Friday, when I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the 8th grade graduation.  And I liked it.  Baking and I just needed to take a little break, that's all.)

I leave for the 5pm Mass.  Since I've already been twice today there's no need for me to be on time.  I touch up my makeup in the bathroom during Mass and chat with the mother of the family from Bethlehem, who have also been at all the Masses selling their wares.  She and I both admit that we're doing very well, though she thinks we would have done better if we hadn't been there at the same time.  I didn't say so, but I disagree.  I think it's cool that we're both there at the same time.  I think we bring each other business, that people who stopped in to see the olive-wood carvings maybe dropped by to buy a couple of cookies and that people who came to donate to me maybe sauntered over to her table.  It's like a little fair, especially with all the science boards in the Rooney Room.  Our parish is just teeming with life and love.  It's fantastic, really.
My final talk of the weekend goes off without a hitch (and the more-awake 5pm crowd laughs at my persuasive cookie-making line - success!), but I am definitely breathing a sigh of relief as I walk down the altar steps for the last time.  This whole ordeal has been more exhausting that I anticipated.

I finally head home to count everything up.  All told, I raised $3865.  This is plenty for the trip and probably for my airfare as well.  I am hugely relieved; just this past Wednesday I had been on the phone with the director of the summer missions discussing how seriously behind I was in my fundraising.  I got off the phone that afternoon thinking that, if things didn't go well this weekend, I would have to pull out of the trip.  I prayed a long long litany to pretty much every saint I could think of, begging God to help me if it was His will that I go.  Well, let me tell ya: if I had any doubt in my mind that He wanted me to go to Ghana before this weekend, it has certainly been erased.  I skip outside where my mom is planting geraniums and tell her the good news.  She is absolutely floored, and just as relieved as I am (probably more so, actually).  We praise God together a little bit before I got inside to sleep!!  I am seriously so tired by this point that I think I'm going to fall asleep standing up.  It is so much easier for me to sleep now; cliche as it sounds, it is as though a huge weight has been lifted from my heart.

Monday, May 24, 2010
I recount all the money.  When I'm done, there is a huge stack of cash sorted according to denomination and all facing the same way about as high as 5 or 6 inches.  I feel like a drug dealer walking around with all that cash.  Since my bank is in Harrisburg, my parents have to deposit the money in their bank account and write me a check.  There's some reason that I'm with PSECU despite the distance, but I can't remember what it is...
I mail $2100 and all my paperwork for the trip to the Summer Missions Office; after this I only have another $600 due, which I obviously have now.  I send an email to the leader of the missions and of my mission in particular telling them that it's all in the mail and that they'll have it by Wednesday.  Phew!
The rest of the $3800 after the $2700 due to FOCUS will go towards the following:
- paying for my airfare to and from Chicago, where the flights to Ghana depart/arrive and where we'll be having a small retreat before and after to avoid culture shock both ways.
- paying for my appointment with Passport Health, my immunizations, and the malaria and anti-diarrheal medications I'll have to take while I'm there, all of which are surprisingly expensive, possibly around $1000 total.  (interesting side note: the malaria meds may cause hallucinations.  hahaha that should be fun when we're all taking them...)
- paying for the cost of materials for the church we're building
- donations to the Missionaries of Charity

And still the donations keep trickling in.  I've received a couple of checks in the mail from the Facebook page I set up and from appeal letters I sent out.  This weekend when I went to Mass a couple of people who had missed me last weekend handed me checks and cash.  One woman left a card with money in it in the will call box in the parish office.  Overall, the support has been quite overwhelming.  I still have to write thank you notes to my donors and deposit the envelope stuffed with checks made out to me.

While you're reading, I want to send a big THANK YOU out to everyone who has donated money or remembered me in prayer or even just told me that you believed in me and my mission or showed interest.  It means so much to me to have so many people holding me in their hearts as I prepare to go where He is sending me.  I promise you will all be in my prayers, especially in the next couple of months.

I leave July 5th!!!  Ghana, here I come!!! :D

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cutting the Clutter

... from your diet, that is. I've been reading this book called "5 Essentials for a Winning Life" by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's trainer. The 5 essentials are basically fitness, nutrition, career, relationships, and health, but it's the nutrition chapter that really struck me. It may be a 9-week plan, but this isn't about going on a diet; it's about improving the way you eat for good. The following are the things that Carmichael believes everyone can, and should, live without: (this is all a direct quote, by the way, from pages 34-40)

No More Soda
The average American drinks up to 55 gallons of sweetened soda each year, and it serves absolutely no good purpose in your diet. That's nearly one 20-ounce bottle of soda and 250 calories of sugar every day of the year. Simply cut out soda, and you'll drop 1,750 calories and half a pound each week.

No More Corn Syrup
Corn syrup and its evil twin, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), are cheap sweeteners used in thousands of products, from colas to condiments and most commercial baked goods, including some whole wheat breads (read the labels). Not only is HFCS a concentrated source of empty calories, recent research from the University of California, Davis, also suggests that it might convert more easily to body fat than other types of simple sugar, such as those derived from cane or beets. This is because fructose bypasses some of your body's normal mechanisms for controlling energy balance, basically allowing you to consume more energy than your body realizes. It's kind of like an accounting mistake that results in a warehouse full of goods you didn't know you bought and that don't show up on inventory lists.
Before HFCS, which is actually a mixture of fructose and glucose sugars, people didn't consume that much fructose because it was mostly found naturally in fruits and honey. Now fructose accounts for about 25 percent of the sugar the average American consumes - much more than the human body has evolved to be able to process. In 1966, Americans ate no HFCS, but in 2001, HFCS made up 42 percent - a full 63 pounds - of the 147 pounds of sugar eaten by the average American.
Fructose goes to the liver to be converted into glucose before your body uses it for energy. The liver is also where you produce fat and cholesterol, and recent research suggests that putting excess carbohydrate in such close proximity to fat producing machinery makes it that much easier for your body to convert it to fat.
Beware of products marketed as low fat; although cutting fat is a good idea, manufacturers often replace the fat with loads of HFCS to make the product's taste and texture seem "normal" to you.

No More Trans Fats
Only humans could create something worse for you than saturated fat. Trans fat is a product of the food industry., which takes heart-healthy unsaturated fats and chemically corrupts them into molecules that are more harmful to your health than the saturated fat dripping off the greasy bacon in a back-alley diner. For years, partially hydrogenated oils, those dreaded trans fats, have been used in commercially baked goods, chips, and fast food. If you see partially hydrogenated anything on a food's ingredient list, put it back on the shelf and walk away. If it's already in your house, give it away or toss it in the trash.
While saturated fat increases levels of LDL cholesterol - heart-stopping "bad" cholesterol - trans fat takes you even a few steps closer to a heart attack. It not only increases LDL cholesterol levels, it also lowers blood levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol, the kind that helps strip plaque off your artery walls. If that weren't bad enough, trans fat can also contribute to the stiffening of arteries. In other words, you'd be better off eating the solid fat you cut off the edge of your steak (saturated fat) than an equal portion of stick margarine (trans fat).
The FDA now requires all manufacturers to list trans fat separately on nutrition labels. So take a second to look at the labels in the grocery store and find products without trans fat. One exception to the rule is commercial peanut butter brands; they use a minimal amount of trans fat to keep the oil from separating, but not enough to worry about.

No More Alcohol
For the first 3 weeks of this program, commit to cutting the alcohol out of your diet. People don't realize that alcohol itself is a source of empty calories: 7 useless calories in every gram, or about 98 in each 1 1/2-ounce shot glass of spirits like vodka or whiskey. Liqueurs (such as Kahlua and Bailey's) have even more calories per shot because of added sugar. Cocktails made with sugary mixes and colas push the calorie counts even higher, up to more than 200 calories per drink. Besides being a source of empty calories, alcoholic beverages are diuretics and contribute to dehydration, even if you have only one or two. When you drink a lot of alcohol and feel miserable the next morning, that pounding in your head, lethargy, and cottonmouth are primarily due to dehydration. Even though your Bloody Mary mix may contain tomatoes and your White Russian contains milk, for 3 weeks I want you to stay away from alcohol, including beer and wine. I'm often asked questions such as the following regarding alcohol and the Carmichael Performance Program.
What about the benefits of red wine?
There is some evidence that regular consumption of red wine may help reduce your chance of developing heart disease, but the benefit seems to come from the antioxidants in the grape skins, not the alcohol. You can get those antioxidants from other sources, including 100 percent grape juice and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Do I have to give up drinking forever?
During the Strengthen and Perform Periods of the program, you can return to drinking beer, wine, and cocktails, but I recommend sticking to no more than four drinks per week.
Is it okay to indulge at a party?
Even when you return to consuming the occasional alcoholic drink, it's best to keep it to four drinks or fewer each week. By alternating between a drink and a tall glass of water, you can reduce your alcohol intake at parties and keep yourself hydrated. Also, hold on to your drink longer - people are less likely to offer you another if you already have a drink in your hand.

No More Tobacco
When my wife and I went to our first doctor's visit after learning we were having a baby, I was surprised to hear that Colorado is one of the leading states for underweight newborns. When I asked for the reason, I silently wondered if it had something to do with altitude or the relatively high activity level of Colorado residents. I was shocked when the doctor said the lower birth weights were due to high rates of smoking and alcohol use. "Outside the big cities, it's still the Wild West out here," she said.
On my way home, I realized that I was surprised by the doctor's answer because smoking had become so far removed from my own life. I didn't originally include "No More Tobacco" in this book, since no one in my circle of friends, business partners, and athletes smokes. Until that wake-up call in the doctor's office, I mistakenly believed that smoking was a problem of the past. In reality, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45 million Americans (roughly 21 percent of the population) smoke and expose millions more to the health risks of secondhand smoke. Nearly another 7 million Americans, mostly men, use smokeless tobacco. Across the board, tobacco contributes to more than 400,000 deaths in this country every year, and even though that number is slowly falling, aggressive marketing is still replacing a higher percentage of those who quit.
According to the CDC, adult smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers do, and here's the important lesson I want you to take away from this section: You can reverse some of the negative impact smoking has had on your lungs and overall health. Think of it as reclaiming years of your life that you had already surrendered. Your lungs begin repairing themselves within a few months of quitting, and after several years, your risk of dying from lung cancer may drop by more than 50 percent.
If you use tobacco, it's going to be much more difficult to quit smoking or chewing than it will be to stop drinking sugary soft drinks or eating fast food. The physical addiction to nicotine is strong, and many smokers have deeply ingrained social habits linked with lighting up (during their commute, while on work breaks, when driving home, after meals, with alcohol) that make it even harder to quit. There are many helpful programs available, including medical interventions, patches, counseling, and group therapy. And keep in mind, very few people successfully quit the first time they try. It may take a few attempts and a few different methods, but quitting is essential; any improvement in health and longevity that you might see from building fitness or losing weight are essentially negated as long as you continue using tobacco.

No More Fancy Coffee Drinks
Recent research confirms what we have believed for decades: Caffeine improves mental performance, including short-term memory. Researchers believe it may block the action of a chemical that normally slows brain function. A more active brain allows you to focus better, find solutions faster, and come up with better ideas. Heightened brain activity also excites the entire nerve system, which may be why some caffeine improves exercise and sports performance, but too much leads to the jitters.
I spent years living in Europe, where they have had a lot more time to come to grips with their coffee habits. On a typical morning in France or Italy, you'd have coffee with milk or a 4- to 6-ounce latte with breakfast; if you had coffee later in the day, it was a double shot of espresso. Meeting for coffee was about getting out of the office or trading stories with a friend; the coffee was small and just an excuse to go for a walk.
In America, it started out innocently enough with coffee, which has virtually no calories, but now you can walk away with 700 to 1,000 calories in a single cup, thanks to the milk, cream, and sugar dumped in. I'm not saying you have to go without coffee, nor am I saying you have to go without caffeine, but it's time to stop with the fancy coffee drinks. the following are the worst offenders.
--> Lattes, mochas, macchiatos, and hot chocolates: These are rich and creamy because they're made with cream or whole milk and sugar and, therefore, loaded with excess fat and calories.
--> White hot chocolate and white chocolate mocha: White chocolate is sweetened cocoa butter and milk solids, so it has more calories and fat than darker chocolate.
If you need a java jolt, have one of these instead.
--> Espresso: A double shot delivers less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee (90 milligrams versus up to 200 milligrams).
--> Americano: Espresso and hot water make a bolder-tasting cup of coffee.
--> Cappuccino made with fat-free milk (the smaller, the better): Traditionally, a cappuccino is a 5- to 6-ounce drink; the espresso provides a bold flavor, and the steamed milk forms a foam with small, fine bubbles. It was never meant to be a 20-ounce glass of warm milk with some espresso in it.
--> Small latte with fat-free milk: A smaller size brings out more of the coffee flavor and gives you nearly a cup of calcium-rich milk yet keeps the calories in check

Carmichael goes on to say that most people are eating a lot of good, nutrient-rich foods in addition to these not-so-good-for-you foods, and that by cutting these six things out of your diet/lifestyle, you'll be able to see how much good stuff you're already eating and continue along that vein. I personally have been giving it a try for the past few days, and although I've been surprised at how many things contain one or more of the above no-nos, I've also been pleased to realize how many things don't.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thoughts on Camping

I know this seems really out of the blue as far as topics go... but the weather is getting to have that feeling of family vacations, most of which have included camping for me.  Also, I just drove about two hours home in this lovely weather, and there was one point along the way when the air was full of the smell of campfire.
Mmmmmm campfire... you know, I am of the opinion that a campfire is quite possibly the most romantic setting ever.  It's just so sweet and comfortable, so open and free and yet so cozy.  It invites singing of rounds (at least in my family haha) and storytelling.  Plus that smoky smell is one of my favorite smells in the world.  When we get home from a trip, I wait to wash my hoodies for a few days because I want the smell of campfire to linger... is that gross?  hahaha I don't really care...  I know that I whine and complain about how horrible camping is (mostly due to the ungodly amount of bugbites I usually come home with), but when it comes right down to it, camping has come to be a part of who I am, and I have to admit that I love it. There's just nothing like opening your tent flap to the fresh morning air upon awaking, like cooking over the campfire, like snuggling into your sleeping bag when the night is chilly.  This is all assuming that you don't go south to camp.  Camping in the south = waking up with sweat trickling down your face.  No thank you.  Take me to the mountains, please!  The Rockies are my favorites.  Though I was just talking to my sister about one particularly beautiful campsite out in the plains somewhere... It was during our trip to Yellowstone (yep, we drove the whole way there in a weeks time, stopping to camp along the way) and the campsite was modeled like a ghost town with an old general store and abandoned main street and all of that.  But what we remember the most is the gorgeous hills of layered rock and sand in rich earth tones and plains with tall grasses and wildflowers, the most beautiful I have ever seen.  We left our tent flap open to just the screen that night so we could see the magnificence of the landscape as we fell asleep and in the first morning light.  Sigh... someday I hope to go back to the wild west...