Who’s Ready For Black Friday?

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I know, it’s only October, but the biggest shopping day of the year, also known as Black Friday, will be here before you know it. You might be one of those people who get bitten by the shopping bug even before you fully digest that Thanksgiving meal, or you may be someone who absolutely detests shopping. But the fact remains that Black Friday is full of great deals and killer discounts you won’t find any other time of the year.

I remember when my mother would drag me to the mall on the day following Thanksgiving so that she could get a jump on Black Friday sales. Yet once I was an adult, I was more prone to sitting at home and relaxing than I was to hitting the stores in search of great bargains.

One year, I stood in line from 11 pm on Thanksgiving until 7 am on Black Friday to get the best deals on merchandise at Office Depot. Somehow, one of my roommates was able to convince my other roommate and me to hit the store at 11 pm on Thanksgiving, after our bellies were filled with the Thanksgiving feast I had prepared earlier that day. I had been cooking Thanksgiving dishes on Thanksgiving, when Andrew approached me, Office Depot flyer in hand, and said, “We’ve gotta go to Office Depot for Black Friday! Doors open at 7 am! There’s a laptop listed here that is an amazing deal, and I must get it!”

I remember that it was cold and windy that night, and we had no food, beverages, blankets or chairs with us. We simply stood outside for 8 hours, which was enough for me to vow never to stand in line on Black Friday for hours on end, without any creature comforts! As it turned out, my roommate never got that laptop, because all units were sold by the time we were allowed to enter the store. I was the one who ended up purchasing a new laptop, and I got a fantastic deal on it.

For anyone who is willing to brave the long lines to enter a brick and mortar store on Black Friday, make sure to have warm coats, blankets, beverages, snacks, and chairs to sit on. Bring a large umbrella in case it rains. And above everything else, keep your sense of humor while waiting.

In recent years, online shopping has become increasingly popular, and online Black Friday deals enable you to shop without ever leaving your home. For people like me who don’t enjoy shopping, online stores are much more convenient. All you have to do is fill your online shopping cart, pay for the items, and wait for them to be delivered to you.

If you are serious about your Black Friday shopping, and you want to build the best strategy for getting the best deals around, check out Slickdeals. This site gives you detailed information on where to find the best Black Friday deals, whether in-store or online. They even provide hours of operation for a number of popular stores which tend to offer the best discounts. Slickdeals has a staff of editors who will comb through all deals and provide information via a forum so that you can determine which stores have the best deals, versus other stores which have less impressive pricing. Slickdeals even has a phone app which will keep your finger on the pulse of the latest Black Friday deals.

You can check the site out here: https://slickdeals.net/blackfriday/

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Another Annual Orphan Thanksgiving

This year I am upholding my own Thanksgiving tradition with what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. It is a cozy and enjoyable event for the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityWhat’s on the table this year? Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole (a HUGE hit), mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. I’m letting my guests bring dessert to ease the cooking and baking load, since I make these feasts by myself. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

That Love Thing

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It’s Valentine’s day, which some people would argue is a completely manufactured, and therefore a completely meaningless day. However, if Cupid’s special day was so meaningless, would it sweep up millions of people in a wave of ultimate expressions of love, and inspire elaborate marriage proposals? It certainly seems peculiar that in the vast majority of cases, or at least the ones I have come across, Valentine naysayers are either bitterly single, or partnered up, but have had such a rotten string of Valentine’s Day celebrations that they have given up any hope of having a lovely day with the object of their affections.

It’s pretty obvious how the obnoxious heart motifs and pressure to purchase roses and jewelry (especially a carbon-based bauble for a lady’s left ring finger) have sullied the perception of this day of love. The fine dining industry is probably the most conspicuous and appalling of all, because it never fails to mark up menu items to ridiculous prices, packaged in tricky “Prix Fixe” menus which sound delightful and romantic until the hefty bill comes to the table.

However, despite the fact that Valentine’s Day is hyped and commercialized, it remains a great reminder of how important expressions of love are to the human race. So even if you hate the idea of heart shaped chocolates, long-stemmed roses, and cute little teddy bears, try to remember that it is a day of love. Don’t write off the entire day and risk hurting the feelings of someone you truly love.

Orphan Thanksgiving…My Tradition

For many years I have hosted what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving, and it has become a tradition in my home. I realize the nomenclature has a lonely connotation, but it is a wonderful event and I enjoy it thoroughly, as do the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityThis year I will continue the Orphan Thanksgiving tradition and make my secret recipe for stuffing, throw a turkey and a spiral ham in the oven, make mashed potatoes, and tempt my guests with homemade fudge, pumpkin pie and other tasty treats. Some selections are relatively clean, while others are fully decadent and challenge any fitness-minded meal plan. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

This year I am throwing something new into the mix. I recently had a networking mixer/barbecue, and one of my guests brought Cards Against Humanity, which quickly turned the party into a rollicking good time. We all had a blast allowing ourselves to indulge in the game, which utterly and completely flies in the face of political correctness. I enjoyed the game so much that I bought ALL the expansion sets, along with the original game set, for Thanksgiving and beyond.

It is incredibly satisfying to know that my good friends will be in my home, celebrating life and enjoying good food.

Don’t Bust Your Diet This Holiday Season!

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Here is a repost of an article I wrote last November. It’s that time of the year again for holiday foods, so beware!

It seems that I will continue to uphold my yearly tradition of making my incredible (and incredibly UNclean) fudge for the holidays, as well as my signature turkey stuffing. Since the holidays come only once a year, it seems reasonable to indulge a bit, right? Well, if you’re a fitness fanatic and you have competitions coming up like several of my friends do, you can’t exactly throw caution to the wind and consume whatever you want. However, you CAN still indulge in small amounts of rich foods which are not considered clean as long as your other foods are healthy and clean. This means that your abs don’t have to hibernate during the holidays!

There are a few tricks to minimize the amount of bad foods which you may be tempted to devour.  You can consume a small amount of lean protein right before you have a carb cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink at least eight ounces of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.

A newer tactic which can often work wonders for some people is to practice an intermittent fast the day before in which you consume a small number of calories, say 400-500, then go to town on turkey day, consuming your maintenance calories then. This seems to work better if you ramp up the week before with a series of intermittent fasts in which you consume your food (maintenance calories +10-20% on training days, then drop to -20% of maintenance on rest days) within a 4 to 8 hour window, then fasting the rest of the time. If you do this, crank up your protein intake so that it is at least 1 gram per pound of body weight. I personally love this diet approach and my body responds well to it, plus I can enjoy all the goodies on Thanksgiving without remorse.
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There are food choices which are cleaner than others during the holidays. Though common holiday foods are rather calorie dense, here are a few food items which are lower in calories and fat:

  • Roast turkey breast
  • Green beans without butter
  • Mashed potatoes made with whipped butter and Greek yogurt instead of milk and regular butter
  • Pumpkin Pie

I know some of you are assuming that my cats join in with holiday feasts, but I always put them in my bedroom and lock the door. There are several reasons why I keep my felines away from the holiday table:

1. People food can often be hazardous for animals
2. My cats will run underfoot and probably trip people
3. My cats will suddenly forget the rule about not jumping onto tables and will create an unsanitary environment for guests
4. My cats will turn into pesky little beggars
Holiday-treats

Some of you may also be wondering what I am planning on cooking and eating, so here is my Thanksgiving menu:

  •  16-18 pound turkey
  • my secret stuffing recipe which has lots of goodies in it, but is relatively low in fat and calories compared to other exotic stuffing recipes
  • mashed potatoes made with light butter and sour cream
  • green bean casserole
  • my homemade fudge
  • whole cranberry sauce
  • turkey gravy
  • wine
  • store-bought pumpkin pie

Obviously there are some items on my menu that fall outside of my “clean food guidelines”, but since the holidays only come once a year, I have no qualms about it.   This is the time during which we should count our blessings and spend quality time with the people we love without getting anxious about what we are eating.  However, this does not mean you have free license to go nuts on bad foods for the next month!  If you end up indulging in other foods, don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, enjoy the feast and resume healthy eating the next day. 

Happy holidays!

Valentine’s Day: A Money-Maker

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Valentine’s Day is one of the most retail-driven events in the United States, and for good reason. Savvy business owners have figured out how to capitalize on desperate men everywhere who want to please their women. The women, in turn, have been heavily influenced by clever advertising. Most women know about Jared (no, he isn’t the neighbor two doors down), and the Robbins Brothers have also exerted a powerful influence on the fantasies of ladies everywhere.

However, it seems like more and more couples have become aware of the fact that the big day of love is filled with hype and commercialism. After all, it’s supposed to be about the love, lust, or shared interest between two people, isn’t it? However, I still think a fella can’t go wrong with a beautiful bouquet of flowers (I know I love them!) for his lovely lady. If he wants to go the extra mile, he can get a nice trinket of jewelry (no, it doesn’t have to be diamonds), a stuffed teddy bear (if she’s into that kind of thing), or a sexy undergarment from Victoria’s Secret, but those are very predictable gifts on Valentine’s Day.

Then there are the chocolates and candy hearts. Heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates have become increasingly more dreaded, since more ladies than ever are concerned about the sugar rush which comes from consuming them. Don’t be surprised if you buy a box of cheap chocolates and your woman refuses to eat them because they have high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors. Perhaps it’s time to get more creative and pick up a few gluten-free, vegan cupcakes?

A popular outing for couples is to go out to dinner, but restaurants have become far too opportunistic in recent years. Typical Prix Fixe menus for February 14th are so outrageously expensive that you almost have to take out a second mortgage just to afford the meal. I have gotten to the point that I have no desire to pay three times the amount of money I would usually pay for a meal at the same restaurant, simply because I was foolish enough to go there on Valentine’s Day. Besides, the restaurants are always packed, always noisy, and there’s a good chance that your table might be right next to the men’s restroom or in a drafty corner of the patio. Never mind that you made reservations three months ago and specified that you wanted a booth inside the restaurant.

What I enjoy the most, and am planning to do this year, is to cook a nice meal at home, open a good bottle (or two) of wine, and enjoy the comforts of home. That holds much more value for me than surrounding myself with red heart cutouts, chocolates I can’t eat, or spending a king’s ransom for a meal. I also don’t have to yell over the din of the other patrons blabbing.