About Melissa Young

A Little about me: Meeting new people and learning new things is always exciting. I thought it might be helpful for you to know a little more about me. My name is Melissa Young and I am the new Manager of Client Services. I have my MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. In my spare time I enjoy playing golf and tennis, cooking and spending time with my family and friends.

Warm Panzanella

MS Conversations Recipe of the MonthAutumn is almost here!  The air is getting cooler and the leaves are starting to fall.  When you go to the store, it seems that everything is apple or pumpkin spiced. Fall is a great time to make delicious dishes, savory sides and fruity desserts that will warm your heart and soul. Below is a recipe idea that is easy to make and is delicious to eat as a side dish or even a meal.

Ingredients:

Butter, for greasing and to dot the top
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 peppers-any ones you like (the sweeter the better)
1 red onion, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
8 eggs
1 pint cream or half-and-half
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (you can also use dry herbs)
Small handful fresh basil leaves, torn or sliced  (you can also use dry herbs)
6 cups chopped or torn stale bread

Directions:

  1. Grease a casserole dish with some butter, set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Add the garlic, peppers, and onions together and then stir.
  3. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from the heat and cool.
  6. Whisk together (in a separate bowl) the eggs, cream and half of the cheese, add parsley, basil and some more salt and pepper.
  7. Layer the bread and cooled vegetables in the casserole dish, it will mound up a bit. Pour the egg mixture over top of the casserole and top with the remaining cheese.
  8. Add a few dots of butter.
  9. Cover and chill overnight.To serve, bring the casserole to room temperature. Then bake at 375 degrees until cooked through. It will need to cook for about 1 hour. Serve warm.  Serves 6-8 people.
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New Recipe of the Month – Homemade Banana Bread

MS Conversations Recipe of the MonthDo you often think about trying a new recipe or like to watch the cooking channels?  MSAA is proud to announce the New Recipe of the Month!  Each month a new recipe will be shared with you to try and enjoy.

The first recipe I would like to share with you is my homemade Banana Bread.  I like simple-to-follow recipes, and this is definitely one of them. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and one hour to bake.

Ingredients: 

½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 medium extra ripe bananas, finely mashed
2 cups wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
Chocolate chips or nuts optional.  Hand mix into batter

Directions:

  1. Cream together eggs, vegetable oil and sugar.
  2. Add mashed bananas.
  3. Combine well.
  4. Sift together wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture.
  5. Add vanilla and milk.
  6. You can also add chocolate chips or nuts if you would like.
  7. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Happy Baking!

 

*We hope you enjoy our Recipe of the Month selections on MS Conversations. Just remember: these entries may not necessarily be a part of an MS-specific diet; these are simply recipes compiled from MSAA staff either from their own family recipe collection or based on recipes we think you might enjoy. As always, make sure to consult your doctor about any food or nutrition questions as they relate to your MS.

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Feeling Good About Change

Alan Watts QuoteEver think and reflect on your life and think why change is so hard, the fear of the unknown, scared to move forward, afraid of being judged?

You are not alone. Some people know that they need to make changes in their lives. But often, they find themselves taking the path of least resistance and don’t make the changes even if it means remaining unsatisfied. People stay in relationships that aren’t good for them. They keep jobs that bring them no joy. There is nothing wrong with change, especially when it has the potential to bring happiness.

If you do not have the life you desire, you need to make changes to reach your goals.  Change can be difficult and stressful but when you embrace change and recognize all of the good which it can bring to your life; change is no longer frightening. Remember, nothing good was ever achieved without taking a chance and making changes. The key to successful change is to embrace change for all that it is worth and move forward with your goals. Know that there will be setbacks along the way but you have the ability to overcome them.

 

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Getting Back to Nature

Did you know that across our country there are amazing State Parks you can visit and enjoy?  What a great way to explore new parts of the country or even a local state park in your own back yard.

NPS-Centennial-ImageNow that summer is here, hopefully you have a little extra free time.  A great way to use that free time is to get out and enjoy nature.  Whether sitting in your backyard or going to a local park, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature can be very relaxing and  therapeutic.

State Parks are also a great place to become one with nature.  While they might be a little further away, they are well worth the trip.

The state park entrance pass system works differently in each state. Many states offer some sort of pass that allows for unlimited entry at most state parks, while others offer park passes on a park-by-park basis. A few states do not charge entry fees to their state parks at all if you are a resident of that state.  Most states even offer a Disability Discount Pass for people who have documented disabilities.   All fifty states are listed below, with a link to their official state park website and information on their state park entrance pass program. Find your state, order an entrance pass, and enjoy unlimited access to the natural beauty your state has to offer!

 

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The Best Part of Summer – Barbecues!

Summer is finally here! Unfortunately, in most parts of the country, that also means the heat is here too. This can obviously put a damper on the season. But there are many positive, enjoyable things about the summer time. Family vacations. Travel. Baseball games. The 4th of July. Fireworks. And barbecues!

For me, barbecues are the best part of the summer. Whether I am entertaining or attending as a guest, I really enjoy spending time with family and friends in a relaxed setting. Plus, barbecues can be enjoyed in many ways. My husband and his friends man the grill. The kids play in the pool, play wiffle ball, and create their own games. My mom sits in the shade with her friends and they talk about the “good old days”. As host, it’s my duty to make sure everyone is comfortable and well fed.

In that spirit, here is a recipe for one of my favorite barbecue side dishes: Deviled Eggs!

Easy Deviled Eggsdeviled-eggs1

6 hard-boiled eggs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons dill pickle relish (you can also use sweet pickle relish)
paprika

Directions

Peel shells off of the hard boiled eggs and slice in half (lengthwise).
Using a spoon, gently remove the yolks from the whites and place all the yolks in a small bowl. Mash the yolks into small pieces. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, and relish to the yolks and mix until well combined and creamy. Fill the empty egg white shells with yolk mixture and sprinkle with paprika.

What is your favorite food to serve or bring to a barbecue or picnic?

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Emotional Wellness

Taking care of your emotional health is as important as taking care of your physical health.  Really, they go hand in hand.  Eating and sleeping well and exercising regularly can help you feel better about yourself.  Conversely, if you are in a good mood, you are more likely to make good decisions related to your physical health.  For example, when you feel good, you’ll look forward to exercise and not view it as a chore.

When I think about emotional wellness, several words come to mind:

Happiness – Are you making choices and doing things that bring you joy?  Life is too short to waste it on things (and even people) that bring you down.

Acceptance – When things don’t go your way or you have a personal setback, you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.  Take a step back, learn from your mistake and then make a plan to move forward.

Optimism – It’s emotionally draining if you always think the worst will happen.  It can cause serious mental and physical health problems.  So, try being more optimistic; focusing on the positives rather than the negatives in people and situations.

Resiliency – Life is full of setbacks.  What defines us is how we respond to them.  As the band Chumbawamba sang in their 1997 hit Tubthumping, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down”.  These are simple words to live by.

Positivity – Much like optimism and happiness, it’s important to have a positive outlook on life.  It is so much easier to attack challenges in life with vigor rather than dread.

According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking is linked to a wide range of health benefits including:

  • Longer life span
  • Less stress
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Increase resistance to the common cold
  • Better stress management and coping skills
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death
  • Increase physical well-being
  • Better psychological health

This doesn’t mean that everything in your life will always be positive.  It’s normal to have a variety of emotions.  However, working to replace unhealthy thought patterns with positive ones will help prevent you from getting stuck in negativity.  Give it a try and see what happens.  I’m positive you’ll think it’s a better way to live!

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Spring Clean Up

SPRINGTIMESpring is the time of year when we think of new beginnings. Before moving forward, the first thing a lot of us think about is getting our current situation in order. In a lot of cases, that can be a daunting task. But it is an important one. Clutter can lead to health-related issues and affect one’s wellness. There is a link between disorganization and thoughts of low self-esteem and worth.

Clutter can weigh you down and cause you to make poor decisions that can impact your health. On the other hand, getting organized can lead to healthier choices, improve your relationships, improve sleep and it can actually help you feel happier and more relaxed.

  • When you do decide to start, take it slow at first. You don’t want to get too overwhelmed. Start small. Pick a small area or task that can be completed in 15 minutes the first few days.
  • Completing the task is important so you get a sense of accomplishment. Don’t make piles and walk away so you need to come back and finish later.
  • Be sure to separate piles of papers that you need to keep versus papers that can be recycled. When you’re finished, make sure the trash makes it to the trash can and important papers get filed neatly and logically so you can find them later.
  • Create some rules to use to help you get through things quicker. For example, if you haven’t used an item or worn a piece of clothing in a year, it is time to donate it. Remember, your items can be donated to a good cause to help others in need (plus if you keep good records of what you donate, you may get an added deduction on your taxes).
  • Lastly, don’t buy anything new until you finish your organizing to see what you already have. You don’t want to buy something you already own, but forgot you had!

Happy Spring cleaning!

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I Love Me

Valentine’s Day is only days away. While it may sometimes seem to be a bit over-commercialized, it has its merits. Valentine’s Day is a holiday that allows us to show those we truly care about how much we love and appreciate them. However, it can also be a difficult day to face if you aren’t in a place where you are okay with yourself.

So, here are some things to think about to help you take care of yourself.

• Put yourself first. This doesn’t mean you should be selfish and be “All about me all of the time”. It means you can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself first. You need to be in a positive frame of mind and feeling good about yourself to have the best impact on your loved ones.

• Cut yourself some slack. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We’re all humans; we all make mistakes. You can dwell on the negatives for a little bit in order to try to learn from your mistakes. But, make sure you also dwell on the positives because I’m sure you’re making positive strides as well.

• Friendship is a two way street. Your friendship is a gift and you get to choose to whom you give it. If someone doesn’t appreciate it, then they don’t get to continue receiving your wonderful gift. If they do appreciate it, then they will return your gift in kind.

• You have a right to your feelings and your opinions. You shouldn’t let others make you feel bad because your feelings on a certain matter don’t match theirs. If you aren’t up for doing something every now and then, don’t be afraid to say “no”. Just try to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt other people’s feelings and they will be more understanding.

• No one can make you feel bad. Your emotions are yours. Things happen, to put it in a PG-rated way. You control your reaction to things or people. If you don’t let them affect you, they won’t affect you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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New Year’s Inspiration

If you are like me, every January you sit down and make a list of New Year’s resolutions. Whether it be deciding to find a new job or lose a few pounds, the turning of the calendar seems to inspire a lot of us to turn over a new leaf. But change isn’t always easy. It takes hard work and that work can be even harder if we don’t keep a positive outlook or put mental roadblocks in the way.

On another note, over the past few years, I have become obsessed with the show Shark Tank. My husband and I record and watch it religiously. At least once an episode, we turn to each other and say “Why didn’t we think of that?”. But, we don’t watch the show to feel bad about ourselves. We find the show inspirational because it is a great example to us and our children that hard work and perseverance still pay off.

So, I thought I would provide you with some inspirational quotes from the Sharks themselves that I found on the Internet to keep you going when the going gets tough.

Shark Tank Inspirational quotes

1. “Tough times never last; tough people always do.” – Robert Herjavec
2. “A goal without a timeline is just a dream.” – Robert Herjavec
3. “Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist–while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of wine, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist!” – Lori Greiner
4. “Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.” – Kevin O’Leary
5. “Never give up what you believe.” – Daymond John
6. “The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves.” – Barbara Corcoran
7. “Finding opportunity is a matter of believing it’s there.” – Barbara Corcoran
8. “I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t fail… a lot. The good, the bad, it’s all part of the success equation” – Mark Cuban
9. “It comes down to finding something you love to do and then just being great at it.” – Mark Cuban
10. “You can always find a solution if you try hard enough.” – Lori Greiner
11. “Don’t you dare undermine the power of your own instinct.” – Barbara Corcoran
12. “All the best things that happened to me happened after I was rejected. I knew the power of getting past no.” – Barbara Corcoran

Wishing you health, happiness and success in 2016!

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Gifts From The Heart

My husband loves a good deal. Seriously, he hates paying more than he has to for anything and loves telling everyone how much he saves. He’s in his glory this time of year, scouring the newspaper and internet for low, low prices. On Thanksgiving Day, as I was agonizing (OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration) over dinner, my husband was checking his e-mail inbox and came across the following.

Grey Friday

Yes, you read that correctly. Thanksgiving Day, a day to be grateful for all we have, is being swallowed up by the spending holiday of Black Friday. I even saw a few companies refer to the week as Black Friday Week! It’s crazy! The way we are going, in 20 or 30 years, we will have lost the original meaning of all of our holidays. All that will be left will be the sales and deals galore. Don’t laugh, it could happen!

With Christmas coming up, that got me thinking. Maybe we should embrace the saying that “It’s the thought that counts”; not the price tag. So, I’ve put together a list of gift ideas that show an added personal touch (and that don’t break the bank).

1. Bake cookies and send along the recipe for future use.
2. Make homemade holiday cards.
3. Give the gift of your time. For example, offer to babysit to give young parents a break.
4. Put together a book of “secret family recipes” and give it to all family members, young and old.
5. Use your talents (such as knitting) to create unique presents.
6. Craft gifts (like wreaths) out of recycled or repurposed materials.
7. Pass along a family heirloom to the next generation.
8. Regift; if you don’t think you’ll use something, give it to someone you know will.

Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!!

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