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As Texas plunged into single digits with multiple days of a windchill below freezing, millions found themselves stranded with no power or water. Living along the Gulf Coast we have weathered hurricanes and endured power outages for much longer periods, but somehow this seemed different. Maybe for those of us close to the shoreline it was the unusual sight of snow we experienced as opposed to the natural disasters we usually face that arrive with rain, wind, and sweltering heat.

Our son and daughter (in law) were finally able to take a long-overdue honeymoon to St. Lucia in December. Cecelia interned one summer for a travel agent so naturally called the company to book their trip. What an incredible experience they had, and I was reminded WHY using a travel agent is worth the expense. Fees range depending on the service, but most charge between $300-350 to plan a vacation somewhere in the Caribbean Islands. 

Q: I will be a new mom soon, and I have been preparing for life “after” a newborn. There is a lot of information on raising babies, and how dads can support mom, but I cannot find much on how moms can support dads. A lot of my mental preparation has been around my marriage. Specific questions: How do I preserve my marriage? How do we embrace the changes? How do I maintain my husband as a priority when we have a tiny human demanding everything? How can I help my husband bond with our new child?

Want to set your children up for success? Then look no further than the habits of successful people you know, whether that be in the corporate world, media, or within your own circle of friends. Experts agree that there are certain common traits all successful people possess. This is great news because it means we can emulate those leaders that have come before us. 

How can you tell if someone will be successful? When I was in high school, they still had a category for a graduating senior titled: Voted Most Likely to Succeed. How, at 18-years-old, could classmates look at someone and say, “Yeah, I think they will be the most successful person in our graduating class.”

Many of us grew up learning multitasking was a hallmark of a productive person. While sounding good in theory, this practice has proven to be incorrect. Studies now reveal that multitasking is nothing more than switching back and forth between tasks and it lowers our productivity. Below are 5 points that deal with the facts behind project hopping and the lack of performance that occurs when we allow seemingly innocuous interruptions to occur in daily life.

The way my husband structures his day is different from how I organize mine, but there is one thing we both do. We start with a morning routine. I make coffee, read the news while eating my breakfast, and then dive into an hour of bible study. Once I finish, I pull out my journal and plan my day. About 2 years ago I discovered an organizational method that resonated with me.

Remember as children, during holidays, we would spend what seemed like hours creating homemade craft projects for our parents? It might be a paper Christmas snowflake sprinkled with glitter or a cutout heart for Valentine’s Day. We would address it: To: Mom or To: Dad. We would sign our name, and this become the gift we gave our parents. The act of giving is how we should view all letters, especially a thank you note. We may not be cutting out cute hearts, but when we take time to put pen to paper and share a little of ourselves with someone else, we are giving a part of our heart to another.  

People give to make you feel loved and remembered. Sometimes gifts are given out of obligation, but mostly they are presented to honor a special relationship or occasion. No matter the reason, we need to know how to show our appreciation. Here are my 7 tips to become a gracious gift receiver.  

Table manners seem to be the area in which I receive most of my questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in handling an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction.

I recently bumped into a friend at the store, and as we began talking, she expressed how she struggles with the holidays. When January rolls around, she feels like she somehow “missed out.” I understand this feeling because I, too, have often felt this way. Life was so busy with the preparation of celebration, that I missed the joy that awaited each of us this time of year.

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party that looked scared to death, unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screaming, “I wish I was anywhere but here!” Entering a room full of people that you do not know can be intimidating. I get that. Yet, your entrance is important in displaying overall confidence and portraying a strong image.

Giving a party, of any type, requires a great deal of work. If you have been fortunate enough to be included in a festive soiree, it is nice to arrive with a gift for the hostess. The typical present will cost between $15-$30, but there are less expensive things you can find at the local discount store.

  • Cecelia Zook

Braised Short Ribs Taste Test

Happy Foodie Friday! This recipe comes courtesy of Penny and Eleazar Martinez.

We hope you enjoy!

I have one word to describe this recipe: WOW! My husband got home while the ribs were cooking in the oven. He was on the phone with someone, but right when he walked through the door, he stopped in mid sentence and his jaw dropped because the house was filled with the smell of ribs!

I can confidently say that the braised short ribs is the best meal I have ever cooked. I have never made ribs before, and I have to admit, I was a little intimidated before going into this recipe. Not only were the ribs incredibly delicious, but it turned out to be very simple to make. If you're not very experienced with chopping, I do recommend giving yourself a bit of time before to get all of your ingredients together. That way when it's time for you to start, everything is ready to go!

Braised Short Ribs
Download PDF • 2.49MB

Makes 16 servings

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 2.5 hours


*5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

*Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*3 tablespoons vegetable oil

*3 medium onions, chopped

*3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped

*2 celery stalks, chopped

*3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

*1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)

*1 tablespoon tomato paste

*10 sprigs parsley

*8 sprigs thyme

*4 sprigs oregano

*2 sprigs rosemary

*2 fresh or dried bay leaves

*1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

*4 cups low-salt beef stock


*Preheat oven to 350F.

*Season short ribs with salt and pepper.

*Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high.

*Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch.

*Transfer short ribs to a plate and pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

*Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes.

*Add flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red. About 2-3 minutes.

*Stir in wine, then add short ribs back in the pot with all those good juices!

*Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes.

*Add all herbs to pot along with garlic.

*Stir in beef stock.

*Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to oven.

*Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2½ hours.

*Transfer short ribs to a platter.

*Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup.

*Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard.

*Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

*Serve in shallow bowls.

Recipe and Taste Tester - Cecelia Zook

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