Friday of a Different Color

Happy Holiday week to you! Wherever you are, I hope this morning finds you well, safe and out of the inclement weather. I’m told that by Thanksgiving, the weather around here should be pretty clear, with the exception of frigid temperatures! As long as we’re clear of rain, I’ll be content. Since I’ve been young, I’ve always looked forward to the day after Thanksgiving, affectionately referred to as, “Black Friday.” When I was a child, I was unsure as to what “Black Friday,” actually entailed, wondering if the “black” meant it was something to be mourned or sad about. However, as I grew older and began to notice “Black Friday” appearing in ads, stores, and people referring to it with excitement and anticipation, it became my understanding that it was something to be celebrated, or at least, enjoyed in some way. 

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For me, it’s not even about the shopping (well, okay, maybe a little, but not as much as it used to be, since finances are tight) Rather, it is about spending time with my sister and mom, taking to the stores as though we are on a mission, hoping to maneuver our way through the crowds while enjoying lots of laughs and jokes. Perusing around the stores can be stressful at times, especially if there are people who enter the stores already feeling frustrated and defeated, but for me, it’s amusing just to watch the excitement ensuing, the people taking their time to inspect clothing and other items, hoping to select the ideal gift for their loved ones.

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There are several preceding Black Friday instances I look to with a fondness and a smile. Sometimes, I can’t help but laugh when I think of a few in particular and I’m sure my sister, Hope, would agree with me on this. From standing outside in frigid temperatures to receive the miniscule “diamond” ring a local jewelry store distributed to the first several customers, to seeing Target with a line wrapping around the store, the things we see and experience on Black Friday are in a class of its own. However, I look to this year with a heavy heart, sadness and regret. For the first time, as I’m sure many of you are aware, a significant number of stores will be opening on Thanksgiving Day, causing many sales/promotions at 6-7am on Black Friday to be a thing of the past.

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My sister, Hope and I in the very jewelry store that Black Friday, in 2009! It makes me smile to see this photo.

The other night, my mom and I were discussing this, as she made very valid points I wholeheartedly agree with. She stated, Thanksgiving Day was always the holiday where people barely thought of shopping. Shopping and retail was reserved for the following day. It was even nice to not have the chance shop in a store on Thanksgiving. It was almost as though people were forced to reflect, or at least focus on other important things in their lives. Sure, online shopping would be an option, but it might not be something that would keep retail employees from being with their families during a holiday to celebrate family, friends and togetherness. It makes me sad when I think of Black Friday becoming a thing of the past, because I do have fond memories attached to it. Again, to me, it’s not about the shopping, but more so the thrill of the experience and being with my sister and mom, as we explore, navigate the stores, and spend time enjoying each others’ company.

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To those of you who might be working on Thanksgiving, I thank you for dedicating your time, support and presence to customers and to the economy. For me, Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, will be the shopping day I partake in, a tradition as it always has been, in true “Black” form.

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Old El Paso: A Homestyle Mexican Fiesta!

We’ve made it to Friday! I hope your week has been a pleasant one and that your weekend will be one filled with excitement, relaxation and enjoyment. Last night, I thought it would be fitting to treat my mom to a little homestyle “Mexican Fiesta!” However, it was more or less effortless since the popular General Mills brand, Old El Paso took care of the handiwork for us! Last month, on behalf of General Mills through the MyBlogSpark program, I was provided with the opportunity to sample an Old Paso Frozen Entree for Two variety of my choice! To say the least, I was very excited and eager to sample and select a variety. After the product coupon arrived, I made my way on over to my local Target to choose a flavor I thought my mom would enjoy, since she and I are both huge Mexican fans! After perusing the available varieties (i.e. Fajitas, Burritos, Enchiladas and Quesadillas in either Chicken or Beef), ultimately, I selected the Burritos, knowing they are a favorite of my mom’s.

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Before I delve into my review and experience with the Old El Paso Frozen Entree for Two in the Chicken Burritos variety, I’d like to share some insider product information with you:

  • Old El Paso is a General Mills company providing consumers with a vast array of frozen entrees, such as those I detailed above, created and crafted by Chef Jonathan according to (wwww.oldelpaso.com), as well as shelf-stable burrito kits, hard and soft tacos with taco seasonings and sauce packets, in addition to stand ‘n stuff taco dinner kits which come complete with soft tortilla bowls, seasoning mix and taco sauce!
  • The Old El Paso website (www.oldelpaso.com) is brimming with not only product information, but also recipes and step by step guides to creating the ideal, authentic, restaurant-quality Mexican meal at home!
  • As a national company, Old El Paso maintains an active social media presence via Facebook (www.facebook.com/oldelpaso), Pinterest (pinterest.com/oldelpaso), Twitter (twitter.com/bettycrocker) & Instagram (instagram.com/oldelpaso). They encourage their customers and fans to post photos, thoughts and ideas to their social media pages, to foster a sense of community.

Now that you’re packed with knowledge in regards to the Old El Paso company and family, I’d like to share with you some specifics in regards to the Chicken Burritos my mom enjoyed last night!

Old El Paso Frozen Entree: Chicken Burritos Variety (enough for two individuals):

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  1. What’s in it? These Chicken Burritos contain: (2) salsa verde, seasoned white chicken, rice, black beans, a blend of Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses, fire roasted corn and chopped cilantro in a flour tortilla.
  2. How is it prepared? It is a super simple preparation – simply place it in the microwave for 4-6 minutes (depending on your microwave) with the cellophane packaging on (the packaging directly indicates which side up when microwaving) After heating it up, it is now ready to instantly eat and enjoy!
  3. Nutrition: The Burritos contain 480 calories and 23 grams of protein, plus 6g of dietary fiber, as stated on the official packaging.

Thoughts on the Sampling Experience:

When my mom arrived home from work last night, I offered to prepare a Chicken Burrito for her. She happily agreed and I quickly retrieved a burrito from the box, read the directions and placed it into the microwave for 5 minutes (the packaging states 4-6 minutes in the microwave depending on the microwave), with the cellophane packaging on. After 5 minutes, I could smell the savory ingredients circulating through the kitchen and retrieved the soft burrito from the microwave. Soon, my mom was ready to dig in. In her words, the flour tortilla was packed with flavor and she liked how soft and pillowy it was. She also felt the size was decent and satisfying. However, she felt the tortillas were filled a little too generously with rice and beans, as opposed to chicken and cheese, which she would have liked more of. Therefore, to complement and round out the meal, I served her the burrito with a sweet potato on the side. Lastly, while my mom enjoys meals with savory flavor, in this particular situation, she felt the burritos were slightly on the spicy side, relatively too much for her taste. If the spiciness was toned down a bit, she felt it would be more enjoyable and to her liking.

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Overall, it was an easy and quick meal to prepare and serve. Asked if she would purchase it on her own, my mom stated she would, but perhaps she would try a different variety, such as the fajitas or quesadillas. If you’re looking for a quick and easy Mexican fix to eat at home, work, on the go, Old El Paso is the way to go! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

QUESTION: What are some of your favorite entrees? Have you ever tried an Old El Paso meal?

“Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.”

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Know Thyself: What I know & Where I’m Going

Good morning, friends! It’s a brisk and breezy Wednesday, here in Pennsylvania, so I hope you’re keeping warm, if you’re local, or if you’re somewhere else where it is just as chilly! This morning during my daily perusing of Facebook, I happened to spot yet another quote that piqued my interest and sparked an internal dialogue/thoughts: “I didn’t always know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the kind of woman I wanted to be.” This couldn’t be more fitting for me, as I find myself consistently searching for the ideal “career” or position for me. I graduated in 2010 from college with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and since then, while I’ve worked a couple jobs I started to consider a “career,” they were short-lived and I found myself again searching for that career opportunity that would fulfill my greatest desires and hopes, leaving me fulfilled and feeling as though I made a difference/impact at the end of the day. Still, I consistently came up empty and wracked myself with the goal of filling the void deeply etched within me.

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In years past, as I’ve previously mentioned in preceding blog posts, I was an avid volunteer, spending much of my time tutoring elementary-aged children, assisting with child care and meal service in the American Red Cross Homeless shelter, serving as an office assistant/event assistant for The Sunshine Foundation, volunteering at a local hospital, as well as a host of other volunteer endeavors at various nonprofit organizations. It was my passion and filled the part of me which yearns to help and assist others in any and every way I possibly can. Much to my dismay, my search for a fulfilling, lucrative career has taken away from my volunteer involvement. Sometimes, I think it is my lack of volunteering that leads me to harbor the void I speak of. Volunteering connects me to the community and summons many pleasant memories in my mind and heart. I suppose I’ve been thinking of my volunteer experiences even more poignantly lately, as a result of the impending Thanksgiving holiday, which to me, was always a big volunteer holiday. In high school, my friend and I would spend the afternoon serving a free Thanksgiving meal to community members in need. It was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed, conversing with the families who attended, while being able to provide them with something they were truly grateful for.

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When I saw the quote this morning, which speaks of not truly knowing what direction one wants to move in, as far as their career goes, but is self-aware with the type of person they wish to be, it spoke to me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. So I’ll try my best to interpret all I feel in this respect: I wish to be a woman who helps others, who listens to them when they are speaking and pays attention to their body language; I wish to be a woman who pays attention to the world, community, her family and friends around her and provides support when she can. Also, I wish to be a woman who touches others through both the spoken and written word and perhaps sparks ideas and hope, or at least awareness that one is never alone in the world. I’m sure I could continue my words about the type of woman I hope to be, but for now, I’ll leave it at that.

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Isn’t it funny how a single quote or sentence can spark an entire internal dialogue in one’s mind? To me, it is truly proof of the power of words and how they can lead to us to thoughts and ideas we never thought possible.

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Friendly Signs: Don’t Wait for it, Show it

Good Monday morning, to you, wherever you might be today! I hope your weekend was a pleasant one, though my heart reaches out to those who are affected by the severe weather our country encountered yesterday. Sometimes, weather like this catches us all off guard and definitely makes me appreciative for all I have, the roof over my head, and my familiar community. Today, I’m keeping those affected communities close to my heart, wishing for a speedy recovery.

That said, thoughts and mantras, in general seemed to be a recurrent theme this weekend, again, as it was the preceding weekend, not that I mind, of course. On Saturday afternoon, I was in quite a sour mood, feeling sorry for myself, lamenting in all I wish I had and how I yearned for a different lifestyle. Instead of being grateful for my surroundings and family, I spent much of the morning and early afternoon groaning and complaining, failing to savor the uncharacteristically warm weather and laid-back atmosphere. Running errands, my mom and I quickly scurried into Lowe’s to utilize my gift card for some items we needed. The store was busy and difficult to navigate, but soon we arrived at the checkout line and were greeted by a friendly, welcoming cashier. She was gentle in her demeanor, smiled a genuine, pleasant smile, and thanked us numerous times for visiting and our patronage, urging us to return again soon. At her positive nature, I was surprisingly taken aback and overwhelmed with joy. My mom and I both left the store smiling and in shock at her kindness. As a frequent viewer of the CBS Television Series, “Undercover Boss“, I find myself even more attuned to the behaviors and customer service provided by store associates and to be honest, this Lowe’s employee exemplified true customer service and kindness. She truly made me feel as though she valued our business and presence.

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After our encounter at Lowe’s, my mood began to soften and continued to improve as we headed home down the familiar roadways. Stopped at a traffic light, my mom and I suddenly took note of a line on the billboard outside of a church which read, “Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them.” Wow, I thought to myself, how fitting was that quote. So often, I find myself waiting for others to appropriate me, or be kind to me, whereas this quote reminds me, we don’t have to wait, we can show others how accommodating  and friendly we can be. Just because someone else may be stand-offish or in a bad mood, does not mean we have to reciprocate. In fact, we have the ability to perhaps improve their day or mood, simply by a pleasant hello, kind word, or inquiry after them. It reminds me of another quote I am quite fond of, in the words of American author Leo Buscaglia, ““Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Since first reading this quote, I’ve always believed it to be true, as it has been proven to me numerous times.

Sometimes, I find I get so trapped and lost within my own mind, but the kindness of others and realizing how we can truly CHOOSE to be happy each day, changes it around and thought it may take awhile some days to realize this, it never ceases to improve my mood and present frame of mind.

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QUESTION: Have you ever encountered something similar?

All Grown Up: TGIF Style!

Happy Thursday! So the week is nearing it’s end and I am so looking forward to it for one main reason – Friday night! Lately, Friday nights have become one of my favorite television nights, as it used to be years and years ago, in the days of ABC’s “TGIF” line-up (i.e. Full House, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Family Matters, Step by Step, Dinosaurs, etc) It was a night filled with laughter, excitement, popcorn, and other sweet treats and a time where my family, friends and I gathered together to watch our favorite characters on-screen and had material to chat about in the new week at school. In my mind, ABC’s TGIF is synonymous with my childhood and pleasant times.

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Today, as a 25-year-old, in my mind, those times have all but returned with a vengeance! Last year, while watching an episode of, “The View,” with my mom one wintry morning, a feature appeared where everyday civilians presented their innovative ideas, businesses and concepts to billionaires (i.e. the “Sharks,” including Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec, and several others) It was intriguing and captured my attention. Therefore, from that moment on, I decided to watch Shark Tank, becoming an ABC Friday night staple. Also, I came to develop a fondness for the CBS Friday night television series, “Undercover Boss.” What better concept than to show some of my favorite food locations, stores and businesses (i.e. Boston Market, Auntie Anne’s, Alfred Angelo Bridal, Merry Maids, etc) featured on television with an executive (often a CEO or CFO) venturing into various locations, in disguise, to discover what really takes place behind the scenes. Some of what is discovered is shocking, while others are obvious, some situations are humorous while others are appalling and shocking. These executives, however, have the power to change their employees’ lives and they do. Some of them pay for higher education, new homes, or provide promotions and financial security. Most of these executives appear completely selfless and giving, eager to assist and support their employees in any and every way they can, aspiring to watch them grow and achieve all they can and hope to. Some of these episodes leave me in tears, as it is touching and inspiring.

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The last Friday night TV treat is the CW Network’s, “The Carrie Diaries.” Last year, The Carrie Diaries premiered on a night during the week, and while I loved it, the fact that it now airs on Friday night is the ultimate topping to my TGIF Friday! It is a full night of laughter, excitement, and intrigue. While I did not watch “Sex and the City,” when it aired (I didn’t receive HBO growing up), I did see the movie versions and can personally relate to Carrie, as she is an aspiring writer, eager to craft stories through the written and spoken words. She has a small group of best friends, whom she is extremely close with and an on-again, off-again boyfriend, whose love stories can be innocent, or borderline suggestive. Her outfits, fashions and hairstyles are reason enough to watch the TV show on a daily basis, as the 80’s is in full force! While I am a product of the 1980’s, I never had the chance to indulge in the fashions, so watching “The Carrie Diaries” is a chance for me to step into that time period and indulge myself in loud, printed leggings, crimped hair, plastic bangle bracelets, bright makeup and beyond! Each episode of “The Carrie Diaries,” is an adventure and I love to have the front seat!

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If you have yet to indulge in these aforementioned TV programs (Undercover Boss, Shark Tank & The Carrie Diaries), then I encourage you to check it out sometime! Of course, it’s not for everyone, but in my mind, these television shows are unique enough to offer something out of the ordinary and unexpected. Each episode changes and truly provides viewers “food for thought,” and ideas to ponder.

QUESTION: Have you ever watched any of these TV programs? If so, which one is your favorite?

Words Keeping me Wise

Happy Weekend! I hope you’ve been enjoying your weekend, thus far. This weekend, I both stumbled across and encountered several instances where words have triggered memories, new ideas and simply thoughts, overall, to ponder. These have been in the form of quotes I noticed on Pinterest, as well as in the new memoir I started reading, former “Clarissa Explains it All,” and “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch,” star, Melissa Joan Hart‘s, entitled, “Melissa Explains It All.” Of course, her book isn’t heavy reading, but then again, sometimes it is a refreshing and welcome change to be able to read something lighthearted, with a friendly tone, that still manages to spark new ideas and concepts within my mind. It is a telling book, revealing encounters with several celebrities including, but not limited to (I’m only about 100 pages or less into the book), Soleil Moon Frye (former “Punky Brewster”), Drew Barrymore and Calista Flockhart. In the book, Melissa writes honestly and openly, candid in her descriptions and recollections. I’m told that parts of the book will surprise and shock readers, so I’m holding tight and bracing myself! It is an exciting read and I do recommend it, if you’re unfamiliar with it or on the fence about it.

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In other words, the quotes that spoke to me over the weekend appeared through the “Quotes,” section on Pinterest (check out my Pinterest page: @Stylinstar53) This morning, I was searching for inspiration and turned to the trusty Quotes section, where of course, it did not fail me. While I posted these under my “Quotes & Thoughts I like,” page, I decided to share them in this post, in case you might have missed them:

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”

“When I’m feeling a litte low, I put on my favorite heels to stand a little taller.” (Those who know me well, know this fits the bill, as I am often in heels!)

“Today I choose to live by choice, not by chance;
To make changes, not excuses.

To be motivated,not manipulated.
To be useful, not used.

To excel, not compete.
I choose self-esteem, not self-pity.

I choose to listen to the inner voice, not the random opinion of others.”

So there you have it! Just some words for you to consider, ponder and take with you on this Sunday evening. Have a wonderful night, my friends!

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Hidden Battles From Within

Each morning I rise, my routine is relatively the same with minor adjustments here and there. As I sit down to breakfast, with my coffee and cereal at hand, I also simultaneously watch my local ABC News, then Good Morning America and thoroughly read two local newspapers: The Bucks County Courier Times & The Philadelphia Inquirer. This morning, my reading of the Philadelphia Inquirer left me speechless. Nearing the end of my reading, I turned to the Magazine section of the newspaper, where the Celebrity News column called to me, as it so often does. Often when reading the Celebrity News column, it provides me with news I’ve either already heard, or is seemingly insignificant. Today, however, this was not in fact, the case at all.

Midway through the Celebrity News column, I stopped in my tracks, gasping at the name glaring back at me in the column, coupled with the words, “Rehab for Alcohol Dependence.” As an active ABC News watcher and follower of respective ABC News anchors, the name Elizabeth Vargas is synonymous to me, with 20/20 and her frequent “fill-ins” for several Good Morning America anchors. To me, she was poised, confident and secure in her persona and ability to provide individuals the news, as a seasoned journalist. Most times, I would look at her with either envy or awe, apart of me desperately wishing for the career she upheld. Sometimes, regrettably, I even perceived her as “proud, or stuffy, believing she felt she was above others.” Though, little did I know the private battles she waged. Hearing her struggles, I began to soften, as a sense of realism wavered over me. It is always my goal in life to be less judgmental and more understanding of people, trying to understand that people deal with their own issues in different, unique ways and may publicly present themselves as quite different than they actually are, deep down, in their private lives.

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Seeing her on air, I perceived her as nearly “ideal,” or “perfect,” failing to recognize, that she, too, is human, just like me and that no matter her profession, it does not make her immune to the battles people can encounter each day, such as alcoholism. Hearing her publicly accept and profess her alcohol dependence and decision to enter treatment, I look to her with understanding and empathic eyes. To admit an addiction, especially publicly, is brave and courageous, especially for the profession she is in. As a journalist, she is expected to promote the news and provide it to individuals in a respected, confident, honest manner, so it only makes sense she would do this in revealing her private demons. Still, I had tears in my eyes as I read her issued statement on CNN.com, “Like so many people, I am dealing with addiction,” Vargas said in a statement to CNN Wednesday. “I realized I was becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol. I am in treatment and am so thankful for the love and support of my family, friends and colleagues at ABC News.” She also stated her hope that it will it give others “the courage to seek help.”

While before I looked at her as someone who might have been smug and overly-confident, today I look at her as someone who is human, honest and candid about her personal struggles and someone who I admire. She is proof to me, that people are simply human, no matter their income, education level, career, family, appearance, or anything else we check off on a demographic survey. She is who she is – a woman, a journalist, a mother, a friend, a wife, a colleague, perhaps an aunt, a cousin, a homeowner and to me, she is also strong and courageous. I couldn’t applaud her more for her bravery and honesty and today, I am keeping her close in my thoughts and hoping with all my heart for her recovery and path to wellness and health. I hope that in the coming hours, days, weeks and months, she will be able to live her life free of the battles living within her with the ability to enjoy her life to the fullest, returning to ABC News as the passionate journalist she is, inspiring other each day with her craft of the spoken and written word.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your honesty and bravery and for showing others that there is never a “wrong” or inconvenient time to accept help and to take a chance on overcoming the pain within us.

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