Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sherry's Retro Chili




Sherry's Retro Chili

1 lb. Ground Beef
2 Onions
1 lb. Ground Beef
2 Onions
2 Cans Kidney Beans
2 Cans Pinto Beans
1 Can Cannellini Beans
2 Lg. Cans Tomatoes
1 pkg. McCormick Spaghetti Seasoning Mix w/mushrooms
2 tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste

In a large Dutch Oven or Soup Pan, brown ground beef and sliced or diced onions. When meat is done, with no red showing, stir in Spaghetti Seasoning Mix, Chili Powder, Red Pepper Flakes and Cayenne Pepper. When incorporated, add beans and tomatoes. Bring to boil, then simmer about an hour. Periodically taste it and add salt as needed.

Serves a crowd.



Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Movie Review: Knives Out


KNIVES OUT

Knives Out is the best movie I've seen this year. It's as good as Game Night and Murder on the Orient Express. A compelling mystery revolving around a rich entitled family and their servants. It sucked me in immediately with the cast, everyone seemed to be cast in a 'stretch' role, against the type of character they are most well known for playing. It took a few minutes for me to accept James Bond (Daniel Craig) as a slow talking southern private eye. He sounded like John Grisham but looked like James Bond, LOL. It always amazes me when British actors speak with American accents and they do it so well. My husband never did wrap his head around the accent, but I was able to get sucked in.

The casting was brilliant. So was hair, makeup and wardrobe. They managed to take favorite, beloved, sexy actors and make everyone look old and harsh. So that took a bit to get used to as well. Thankfully, the screenwriting and directing was topnotch and I soon was able to suspend disbelief and get sucked into the whodunit.

I award 5 Stars to Knives Out. GO SEE IT! 

Holiday Wreath Cookies


My daughter and I kicked started our Christmas Cookie Baking season with something new to us, these scrumptious no-bake treats. It was fun and surprisingly the clean-up wasn't too bad.

Holiday Wreath Cookies

1 pkg. Mini Marshmallows
6 tbsp. Butter cut into small pieces
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
6 cups Corn Flakes Cereal
Green Gel Food Coloring
Little White Sprinkle Balls
Cinnamon Candies (Red Hots)
Haribo Sour Spaghetti Candy (or similar) to tie into bows

Line two cookie sheets with parchment or waxed paper.

In a large microwave safe bowl, toss marshmallows, vanilla and butter together. Microwave for 1 minute, stir and microwave another minute, stir and continue this pattern until melted. Do not burn! Use pot holders or a towel to protect your hands. Remove bowl from microwave and stir and stir and stir to incorporate the ingredients while adding drops of green gel food coloring until you like the hue. Add corn flakes in one cup increments and stir to coat completely. Work as fast as you can before marshmallows begin to set up.

When cornflakes are uniformly green, wet your hands and form mixture into 2" balls then place onto parchment or waxed paper and flatten, making a hole in the center to shape into a wreath. Work quickly. We needed to stop and wash our hands and re-wet them again in the middle of the wreath making. Decorate as shown. Place in refrigerator for 45 minutes until wreaths are set. Makes 21 wreaths.



Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Oatmeal Scotchies



1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
11 oz. pkg NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Butterscotch Flavored Morsels*

Preheat oven to 375°

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl.   Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl.  Gradually beat in flour mixtures.  Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies; 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Pan Cookie Variation: Grease 15 x 10 inch jelly-roll pan.  Spread dough into prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until light brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


*Also delicious substituting Cinnamon Morsels or White Morsels instead of the Butterscotch Morsels.

These are my favorite cookies!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Movie Review: Lady and the Tramp


We celebrated Thanksgiving 2019 early, on the Sunday before. My family is comprised of first responders and essential personnel (and always has been) so it's not unusual for us to celebrate holidays before or after everyone else. Or get up in the wee hours to open Christmas presents because  Mommy or Daddy has to go to work. Anyhow, I'd been really looking forward to streaming the live action version of Lady and the Tramp on the new Disney+. I remember the cartoon, and loving the "We are Siamese if you please. And we are Siamese if you don't please bum bum bum..." song. I don't remember the sad stuff.

My family loves dogs. Our current rescue husky/beagle mix is named Lady. Here she is:


My son didn't want to watch it because he remembered the cats as scary. Well, the cats weren't exactly Siamese and they weren't that scary but my husband had to leave for the middle of the movie. The mean aunt muzzling Lady and her running off and the dog catcher was intense.

The casting was good, the costumes gorgeous, the new music okay. But I was so disappointed they didn't use the original cat song.

I was disturbed and worried through much of the movie. I'll give it 3 out of 5 stars. And that's a bad review for me. I'm a big Disney fan. We're annual pass holders and have made 4 trips to Walt Disney World this year, including our daughter’s Disney Fairytale Wedding.

Did you love this live action version of Lady and the Tramp?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Disney World Gingerbread Houses 2019

We made a quick Christmas trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida from November 18 through November 20, 2019. Here are the photographs I took of the gingerbread houses at the Wilderness Lodge, the Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian Resort, The Boardwalk Resort, The Beach Club Resort and the Yacht Club Resort. Yes, the carousel revolved at the Beach Club and yes, the trains ran at the Yacht Club. I‘m not able to share my videos because I couldn’t shoot any without strangers in the footage. 


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Disney's Wilderness Lodge










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Disney's Contemporary Resort








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Disney's Grand Floridian Resort











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Disney's Boardwalk Resort










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Disney's Beach Club Resort








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Disney's Yacht Club Resort













Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sunset

JetBlue Plane at Sunset Orlando Airport November 2019

Just checking in to say I've been away on an early Disney Christmas trip and now I'm back home preparing for house guests and an early Thanksgiving celebration. My loved ones are first responders and essential personnel, so we celebrate holidays when there is a confluence in everyone's work schedule. I'm really excited! I'll be back blogging regularly again sometime next week. I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Book Review: TumbleStar



A young down on her luck city lady delivers her friend's orphaned niece to the bachelor cowboy uncle who must raise her in the wild west Texas badlands. Old childhood friends, he offers her a job educating the child. With no place else to go, she stays, and strives to learn the ways of the wilderness. Bad men, gunfights, wild horses, wild women and half-breed outcasts lasso their ropes through the wildflowers in this page-turning western romance. Don't hesitate to stay a spell at the TumbleStar ranch. I read the whole book in one exciting day. I encourage you to give it a gallop.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Writing Prompt 1: Money


Your character returns home/to his or her hotel room/the guest room in his acquaintance's home/or perhaps a lover's boudoir to find the bed turned down with Donald Duck sitting on it holding cash. Is he/she surprised? What is the significance?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Russian Tea Cakes


Russian Tea Cakes

2 sticks of  butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use up to 1 tablespoon) almond or strawberry extract is also good at 1 teaspoon
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans or hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Extra powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but NOT brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.

Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

***They melt in your mouth...these will disappear fast!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Frequently Asked Questions About eBooks





Today I came across an old article I had written in 2007. I had it posted on my website to explain to visitors what an eBook was and how and why they should buy it. I was one of the early pioneers writing for small press eBook publishers. I couldn't see the future then, but wow, flash forward to 2019 and eBook sales are more the norm for most people than traditional print books.

I still remember a woman in my writers group back then declaring eBooks weren't real books. I took it personally. I wonder where she is now. No, not really. I based a character on her. Revenge of the pen can be oh so therapeutic.

Were you an eBook writer back in the day? Or an eBook reader? What was it like for you? Did you ever imagine our digital world as we live in it today?

Anyhow, I'm reposting the article as it was written by my younger, wide-eyed self in 2007. Please excuse the defensive tone:

Frequently Asked Questions About eBooks
By Sherry Morris

1. What is an eBook?

An eBook is a digital file containing a book.

2.  How do you read an eBook?

You pay the publisher and download the file onto your computer. It can then be read directly from your PC or you may print it out. There are eBook readers specifically designed to store hundreds of eBooks to be read on the go.

3. Can you share eBook files?

No. That is copyright infringement.

4.  When are you going to write a real book?

All of my books are real. Hundreds of hours have gone into researching, writing, revising and editing each one. I belong to professional writers organizations and regularly attend conferences, workshops and critique groups. I am also actively honing my craft, networking and supporting my sister writers online. I'm a trained an experienced writing contest judge. The Romance Writers of America have recognized me as a published author.

5.  If they are real books, why aren't they in print and available in the bookstores?

There was a time in the United States when there were hundreds of traditional print publishers. They've been bought out and now there are only a handful of large corporations in New York that publish the books you see in the stores. The small print publishers of yore and new upstarts are now publishing eBooks because the cost is significantly less to them and they feel eBooks are tomorrow's technology.

6.  So why don't you just have your book published by one of the big corporations in New York?

Because they are big corporations, with their minds on profits. They publish proven best selling authors and celebrities. An unknown author can only break into the New York publishing world with a large dose of who-you-know and lots-of-luck to back her up.

7.  How easy is it to become an eBook author?

Slightly easier than it is to become published by a New York print company. The eBook publishers reject between 94% and 98% of all submissions.

8.  How much money does an eBook author make?

Usually between 30% and 50% of the cover price in royalties. That sounds great in theory. Unfortunately, eBooks are tomorrow's technology and there isn't much of a market for them today, so sales are few. With the exception of some prolific pioneering eBook stars, most eBook authors receive quarterly royalty checks hefty enough (before taxes) to treat their kids to lunch at McDonalds. But not large enough to cover their writing expenses.

9.  Don't eBook publishers go bankrupt quickly?

Every year, dozens of new eBook publishers open their cyber doors. Every year, a few of them slam them shut. This seems to be caused by offering books for sale both as eBook downloads and Print on Demand or POD.  Books are sold on consignment in the U.S., meaning bookstores return unsold stock. If twenty books are ordered, and ten returned, the publisher loses the profit on the ten that sold plus he has to come up with more money to cover the POD fee to the printing company. If there is a 40,000 print run and 35,000 are returned, the publisher must pay the printing company $250,000 immediately. This is a nasty lesson most big eyed new publishers are not aware of.

10.  Why do you bother writing eBooks then?

Because when I started, I didn't know how hard it was to write a book, finish a book, find a literary agent, get a good contract, promote the book and get paid. Now that I've got five novels, three novellas and three short stories completed, it's a little too late to stop. I may never be published in print and I may never recoup my expenses. Once I admitted to myself writing is a very enjoyable hobby and not a viable profession, the weight of all the rejections lifted along with my outlook. I am an eBook author. I write stories. People I don't know buy them and maybe for a brief moment in time, I transport them away from their problems.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Podcasts


I've become enchanted with Podcasts over the last few years. I listen while I'm alone driving, bathing, cooking and cleaning. I have an iPhone, so I usually listen directly from there. I can listen to it over my car audio system through CarPlay. And if I'm cooking, I'll usually use a bluetooth speaker.

If you've never listened to a Podcast, I wholeheartedly encourage you to try it out. There are podcasts on every subject I've searched for. Just like ebooks and TV shows, I sample many before I hone in on the ones that excite and elevate my mind. They are like dear friends.

My absolute favorite feel-good podcast is The Disney Dish with hosts Jim Hill and Len Testa. I feel like these guys are old and future pals.

I've binge listened to the ATP Science podcasts. I was really interested in the early shows on nutrition and health. I enjoyed the listener questions as the naturopaths go through the symptom pictures and try to help the individual with natural remedies. It takes a bit to get used to the Australian and New Zealand accents and their potty mouths, but if you can, there is real value in their observations. This year they seem to be focusing on elite athletes and bikini models of which, I can't relate.

The Intermittent Fasting Podcast is invaluable for ordinary people trying to heal themselves through basically eating just one meal a day. Hosts Melanie Avalon, an actress and Gin Stephens, a retired teacher play off well together and their voices are lovely.

Gin Stephens has an inspiring podcast interviewing successful intermittent fasters on her Intermittent Fasting Stories Podcast.

Melanie Avalon has a Biohacking Podcast that's pretty cool.

I'm currently binge listening to a Novel Marketing Podcast with Thomas Umstattd, Jr. and James L. Rubart. It's so eye opening. I'm trying something new after every listen.

The Romance Writers of America have a little RWA Productivity Podcast hosted by Joanna Shupe who interviews successful authors.

Do you have any favorite Podcasts?

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Melanoma

This article was written in 2005 with a 2007 and a 2019 follow up.

Photo of blonde woman's back showing moles

            The largest mole on the left shoulder blade was my melanoma in situ which is the very earliest Stage 0. It looked like a normal mole to me. If my nurse practitioner hadn’t suspected it, I’d be walking around with invasive cancer now, oblivious until it settled into my lungs, liver or brain. Notice how white I am. I’ve never had a suntan and always use sunscreen. I apologize for not having a close up of the mole. This photograph was taken so I could see the back of my hair at the Love & Hope Ball. I didn’t take a before and after picture of the malignancy because I never in a billion years dreamed it would be cancerous. I’m still in shock that I have Melanoma, I didn’t think I was at risk.

Melanoma is the #1 cause of cancer deaths for young Americans. That’s correct. My dermatologist advised me Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer deaths for Americans between the ages of twenty and forty. Everyone fears breast cancer and prostate cancer. Why isn’t the media getting the message out?
Most of us think skin cancer is preventable. We limit our sun exposure between ten in the morning until four in the afternoon. We apply sunscreen. We use cosmetic tanning creams, go to tanning spray salons or lay in UV-free tanning beds.
I’ve never been a sun goddess. I do my gardening early in the morning or late in the evening. I take the kids to the pool after four p.m. and liberally slather on the sunscreen. I’ve never sported a suntan. I don’t smoke, drink, drug or fool around on my hunky husband. I have skin cancer.
My risk factors were strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes and two bad sunburns during my sixth summer, when our wonderful neighbors took me to the beach in Ocean City, Maryland with their kids.
How many of you have blue eyes? Blonde or red hair? Get yourselves and your loved ones to see a medical professional ASAP. Skin cancer can creep up on anyone at any age. Even you tall dark and handsome types. All ages, races, skin tones, eye and hair colors are at risk. Human? Get checked.
Like many of you, I thought Melanoma was the curable, no big deal cancer. They remove the mole and it’s gone. No problem. Wrong! Melanoma begins in the surface of the skin, travels down through the layers to the lymph nodes, where it hops on and is transported to the lungs, liver and brain. Cancer that originated in the skin is still Melanoma in the other organs, and it is just as deadly as if the cancers originated in them. This is how people die of Melanoma. Yes, non-smokers, non-drinkers and non-thinkers do contract lung, liver and brain cancer.
At my annual well-woman check-up, I asked my nurse practitioner to take a look at some itchy raised ugly lesions on my back that were bugging me. I thought they were Seborrheic Keratsois, which are benign lesions most people eventually get. She confirmed this. I asked her to recommend a dermatologist. She did, and said, “While you’re there, have him look at this mole on your shoulder blade…”
The initial biopsy showed a severely irregular nevus. The dermatologist explained this could turn into Melanoma, so he wanted to remove it ASAP. The total excision a week later confirmed Melanoma in Situ in the epidermis, the top layer of skin.
Yep, that mole which I took no notice of was Melanoma. It didn’t look like any Melanoma photo I’d seen. It wasn’t black and blue and red and crusty and bleeding. Those photos are what the advanced stages look like. The early stage looks like a normal mole, but has a slight irregular shape to it or a subtle color difference of hues within. I can’t even guess how many seemingly healthy people are walking around with early Melanoma and they have no clue.
I was stunned. How could I have Melanoma? What about all of the little-black-bikini-moms sautéing themselves poolside all day? They were bronzed beauties and just fine. I was a pasty white frump and I had skin cancer.
I endured three operations at the primary site. All layers of skin and some fat were removed, along with a margin of healthy tissue. Stitches in my shoulder blade prohibited me from doing so many activities. Tying my shoe. Yanking clothes in and out of the washer & dryer. Unloading the dishwasher. Pulling weeds. Typing! Oh that hurt so much. Two pathologists agreed all cancer cells have now been excised. I was very fortunate the cancer was only in the very top layer of skin and hadn’t begun to penetrate. I won’t need to undergo radiation, chemo or immuno therapies. God bless my gynecologist nurse practitioner, Brenda Hagan, for suspecting this mole.
My dermatologist tossed me onto a surgery-go-round. Every two weeks I had one or two suspicious moles excised or re-excised. The sutures were removed in seven to fourteen days, and then I had another round. This dragged on for six months in 2005.
I joined a Melanoma Yahoo Group. The other sufferers and their loved ones basically told me that Melanoma always comes back. They remove it all, and then in a few years, or maybe even a decade or more, it comes back. This time in the lymph nodes, or worse. I eventually had to unsubscribe, it was too sad.
The local news didn’t help my mood. A 27 year old pregnant woman who had Melanoma removed as a teen, wasn’t feeling well. She went to the emergency room, and they found Melanoma in her brain. She lapsed into a coma that night. Her husband quit his job and stayed at her side. They kept her on life support until her fetus grew large enough for a premature delivery. She died when her baby girl was born. The baby died five weeks later.
According to the National Cancer Society, the average person with Melanoma has a reduced life expectancy of 18 years. Factoring in my parents’ and grandparents’ long lives, that takes me to around 62, just when I will be eligible to receive my deferred pension from the National Association of Letter Carriers Health Benefit Plan. I might not live long enough to receive the first check. It’s doubtful I’ll ever draw Social Security, since I’ll have to be 67 to receive full benefits. But then again, that’s the statistical median. Half the people live longer. Half die sooner.
Once the shock of the cancer diagnosis sank in, I didn’t cry and freak out. I educated myself, and looked back at the lifestyle changes I’d made over the years. I’m going back to brewing a pitcher of iced tea daily. It’s rich in antioxidants. I’m tired of diet soda anyhow.
I did get grouchy and annoyed at the inconvenience, pain and limitations suddenly imposed on my daily life.
I never did the Why me? drill. I’ve had other devastations to endure, and I learned early in life there is no answer to the riddle Why do horrendous things happen to good people? I’ve accepted my disease and that I have a little less time to go. I have chosen to spend the rest of my life on the sunny side of my dreams. I want to take a great big bite out of life with my blue-eyed blonde family.
I am having a hard time swallowing the two bad childhood sunburns caused my Melanoma. Yes, I have been lightly sunburned and peeled a few other times in my life, but never a severe blistering burn. I have kept my sun exposure to a minimum and applied sunscreen. Yet I know many people who sunburn every year before tanning to a dark brown and they don’t develop this in the prime of their lives. Are UV rays really the sun cancer villain? Could something in the sunscreen cause it?
Every house I’ve ever lived in has tested positive for radon gas in the basement. We tested our current home. A normal radon reading is below 4. Two tests indicated our radon level was 20! We stopped spending time in the basement until my husband and son installed a fan to vent the radon out from under the house up through the roof. The next test came back at a reading of 1.2, which is comparable to what the radon concentration is outdoors. I’m very proud of their hard work and proper installation. The fan runs continuously, I hear the hum in our master bathroom as it is adjacent to the attic where the pipe vents through the roof.
Could radon gas exposure have been the culprit or catalyst that triggered my Melanoma? Do any of you with Melanoma have radon exposure?
My husband has his peanut butter theory. Everyone who has ever contracted cancer has eaten peanut butter. His point being we are probably poisoning ourselves and are clueless.
I have skin cancer.
I want to get the word out to everyone. I’M TALKING TO YOU! Each time you see a doctor or nurse, for any reason, ask them to look at your moles. Don’t insist “Oh, mine are fine. I won’t get skin cancer.”
Everyone is at risk…

Update March 15, 2007
I had another follow-up full-body-check today. My dermatologist wants to biopsy a mole on the right side of my neck, near my jaw line. He’s concerned it could be basal cell carcinoma. I had one on the opposite side, same location removed in 2005. That one was a severely irregular nevus, which was on its way to turning into melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is not usually deadly like melanoma is. Basal cell carcinoma can be disfiguring if left untreated.
I’ve had a lot of benign seborrheic keratosis popping up and I don’t like the ones on my face. He froze three today.
I also have benign skin tags on my neck which I want snipped. My doctor will remove them when he does the biopsy. Then I’ll be all set for ponytails and up-doos this Summer.
Please, please, please! Even if you have always slathered on sunscreen and stayed in the shade, like I did, have your moles checked. Anyone of any race can develop melanoma. It is a silent epidemic.
Yesterday I was contacted by a textbook author who had visited my website. I granted her permission to publish my above photo in two medical terminology textbooks. One for high school, the other for community college. I feel like Lucy Ricardo in the I Love Lucy episode where she writes a novel and they want to use it in a book about how not to write a novel. Nobody wants to be in a medical textbook. I’m giggling inappropriately and I don’t know why.

Update November 9, 2019
I’ve continued to have full-body skin checks every six months. My current dermatologist has my polka dots memorized. For a few years, she’d usually find one interesting mole I thought was fine, I’d point out one she thought was fine and then there would be one we both were concerned about. I’ve had many more biopsies and they were all benign. No more melanoma has been found. I haven’t even had anything interesting to biopsy in the last couple of years. Well except for a peculiar tick bite that keeps reactivating, but that’s a story for another blog.

©2005-2019 Sherry Morris
By all means, get the word out. My image and essay may be reprinted with author credit and link to this site.


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Yoga Eye Pillow

Author Sherry Morris in Restorative Yoga Class

Our yoga instructor, Kathy, made lavender scented eye pillows for us to use in her restorative yoga class. It's the gentlest form of yoga. Instead of stressing every muscle to relax it, the goal is to open up your joints and support them. No pain. No discomfort. The lowering of your stress hormone cortisol. We use bolsters and blocks to support ourselves. Blankets because unlike hot yoga or even Gentle Yoga, we don't perspire. We cool off. I wear a heavy sweatshirt and socks. My daughter and I attend this class whenever we can, we joke it's choreographed nap time. Everyone rolls around and snuggles into his/her own little zen bubble, per Kathy's queues.

Here's a link I found explaining how to make yoga eye pillows. Kathy made removable covers so she can wash them after each class so we don't get eye cooties. Note to self: Stop wearing makeup to restorative yoga class.

Namaste (We bow our heads at the end of every yoga class, bring our hands to our hearts and say "Namaste" (nah mah stay) which means the light that shines within me recognizes and honors the light that shines within you.