As some of you may have noticed, I am making changes to my blog. I’m giving it a new look for the new year. To ensure that you continue to receive Willingness to Grow please re-subscribe at willingnesstogrow.com.
As some of you may have noticed, I am making changes to my blog. I’m giving it a new look for the new year. To ensure that you continue to receive Willingness to Grow please re-subscribe at willingnesstogrow.com.
Living in Savannah, I get asked about Paula Deen when I travel.
I am not a fan of her food, but I have to respect her business acumen. She has done extremely well for herself and her family, and has also attracted people to Savannah.
My husband loves banana bread. When we were last in the mountains, I had some bananas starting to turn and searched the internet looking for a banana bread recipe. Paula Deen’s recipe popped up first and I decided to try it. The only change I made to the recipe was to use half whole wheat flour and half regular.
The result was a hit. We had friends up that weekend and everyone loved the treat. The whole wheat flour added some depth and chewiness to the bread.
Back in Savannah, I found myself, again, with overripe bananas. Buoyed by my recent success, I decided to try some more adventuresome changes to the recipe. Instead of eggs, I used ground flaxseeds. I also reduced the butter by half and substituted Greek yogurt.
1 cup butter, softened (I used 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup of Greek plain yogurt)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs (I used 4 tablespoons ground flaxseed mixed with 12 tablespoons of water)
3 cups of flour (I used 1 1/2 cups of white flour and 1 1/2 cups of wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups ripe, mashed bananas (I used 4 bananas)
1 cup chopped pecans
Start by preheating oven to 350 degrees and prepare two loaf pans (first time I buttered and floured the pans; second time I used Pam).
In a small bowl, combine ground flaxseed and water and mix. Let sit while you prepare everything else – it will thicken.
Mix butter, yogurt and sugar until creamy. Add flaxseed and water mix. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt, mixing well. The mixture will be very dry – I added two tablespoons of water. Finally, mix in bananas and pecans and stir jut until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for one hour, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. In my oven, it took about 55 minutes.
Cool in pans on wire racks for ten minutes and then let loaves cool completely.
Or, if you are like us, cut a few slices while it is still warm and enjoy.
I made this bread a second time a few days later. This time, I reduced the sugar – to a cup – and added a little less than 1/2 cup of honey to the mix. It was delicious and perfectly sweet. I also used walnuts instead of pecans. There are lots of options – enjoy!!
If you know me or have been a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love English Bulldogs. As you can see in this post, In Celebration of our Faithful Companions, I grew up with them. Bullies literally make me weak in the knees. There is nothing cuter than an English bulldog puppy. Nothing.
Despite this intensity of emotion, I will not have another after my Gracie.
English Bulldogs are extremely popular now; I believe they are the second most popular breed. The University of Georgia mascot, UGA, lives in Savannah and thus there is a special enthusiasm for bullies in Savannah. I know several people who are contemplating getting a bulldog.
With this breed more than others, an informed decision is crucial. You must know what you are getting into and you must be diligent in your research on breeders. There are good breeders out there; my husband and I are fortunate enough to call one such breeder good friends. If you are thinking about purchasing a bulldog, you may want to read Can the Bulldog be Saved?
My parents owned four English Bulldogs throughout their married life. The first, Boomer, they purchased when they were newly married and living in Princeton, New Jersey while my dad finished his last year of college. They lived in an apartment and Boomer could not make it up the stairs due to breathing difficulties. Eventually, his nose collapsed and he had to have what was then major surgery. Their next three bulldogs suffered from breathing issues, a hole in the heart and a stomach which turned over, respectively, along with a number of less significant health issues. After losing their final bulldog, they made the decision that their hearts could not handle another one.
When my husband and I were married, we were a little like the animal Brady Bunch. My husband had two beautiful English Setters, who were trained bird dogs, and I had my two Humane Society kittens, Oprah and her sister Rosie, who has since passed away. Although the bird dogs were gorgeous and sweet, they were not my idea of pets. They were uncomfortable in the house and were only happy if out in a field pointing at birds. Plus, they pretty much didn’t care if I lived or died as they were so bonded to my husband.
I decided that I needed a bulldog. My husband was supportive; my parents wrung their hands and tried gently to warn me. At that point in my life, the heartache that I had lived through with two of my parents’ bulldogs was a distant memory. I only remembered their incredible loving personalities and funny dispositions.
I found Gracie’s breeder in a classified ad in Northern Georgia. We visited his house and I felt safe as the owner of the mother was a veterinarian, who was a recent graduate of the University of Georgia vet school (one of the top in the nation). The father was owned by a professor at the vet school.
From the beginning, Gracie was (and is) the most amazing dog that I have ever known. The bond formed between us very quickly. The health problems started almost right away as well.
First was the hip dysplasia and a TPO on each hip, which totalled over four thousand dollars.
Due to her breathing problems, she probably should have had surgery to open up her nasal passage. The author in Can the Bulldog be Saved? compares their breathing to ours if we clamped our mouth and nose shut and were then able to breathe only through a straw. Imagine then getting out of breath for some reason and being able to breath only through the straw. When I come home everyday from work, that is how Gracie greets me; she gets so excited to see me that she starts to gasp for breath. It breaks my heart.
In her later years, Gracie has encountered some significant eye problems, which required surgeries. I almost lost her in the first surgery due to her breathing problems. For the second surgery, the eye surgeon did it in the office, with me never leaving her and holding her, and then I whisked her into our car, where my dad was sitting running the air conditioning at full strength, to recover at home. I know now that she couldn’t survive any additional surgeries.
We constantly combat skin and allergy issues in the ears, in the folds on her face and under her curled tail. The tail pocket is especially problematic depending on how tightly curled the tail is. Moisture gets trapped under there and infections grow; the same situation can occur in the skin folds on the face. Our twice daily routine is for me to check her skin folds and ears, and medicate them if necessary. Every time she goes to the bathroom, we have to wipe and clean under her tail.
Gracie is also on medication – four different types of pills, and our vet visits us at least once a month, maybe once every three weeks. Our vet comes to us; due to the breathing issues, we cannot take her to a vet’s office as she gets too stressed.
During Gracie’s lifetime, my husband and I have had two other English Bulldogs, neither of which lived to maturity due to various bulldog issues. With the passing of each one, a piece of our hearts went with them.
Has my sweet Gracie been worth every effort and every cent spent on her? Without a doubt. And because of her, and the other bullies that I have had in my life, I will always love English Bulldogs.
That is what I am doing this last week of 2011 – pressing my reset button. This was a busy and stressful year-end for me, and when I get stressed I tend to develop some unhealthy habits. I have taken this week off and am attempting to rest, relax and regain my perspective.
We are in the mountains and received a light dusting of snow last night.
Today is very cold – with a strong wind.
A lesser known fact: Western North Carolina is also known as the mouse capital of the United States (or so I have been told). In our last mountain house, we struggled with mice constantly. I opened a drawer in the kitchen once and found packs of gum that mice had chewed. So far, we have been lucky with this house. But it is always on my mind.
Today, when I walked by the guest bedroom, I got down the hall and thought – “was that a mouse on the bed?”
I went back and looked a little closer…
and then even closer…
Gracie is a little stressed with the change in scenery too.
As an aside, if things look a little different to you, it is because I accidentally deleted my header while trying to make some changes. Luckily, I have some talented friends who are helping me to update the blog.
I hope all of you have a happy and safe new year and I will be back in 2012, reinvigorated and ready to blog!
Kindness is extremely important to me.
It is the trait that I most admire in people. My husband’s kindness was what first attracted me to him.
It is how I want to be treated by others. Ironically, I think people being unkind to me at various times has made me a kinder person. For the most part, I have been very fortunate to have kind people in my life.
It is a characteristic that I strive to achieve. I am not always successful. In my self-improvement journey of the past few years, I have worked to become more kind to myself. I have also become committed to be more proactively kind, not just reactively kind, to others.
The older I get, I have noticed that kindness has a more profound effect on me. Maybe it is that I am more aware of it and open to it than I have ever been. To me, seeing kindness is joyful; it is gentle; it can be life changing. Receiving kindness can move me to tears.
Last week, I was the recipient of kindnesses that overwhelmed me. And again I realized how tremendous the effect can be; kindness can change your mood, the way you feel about yourself, the way you treat others, and the way others then treat others.
I had a morning meeting last Friday and was unable to attend my normal early morning yoga class. Instead, I decided to go to a class at 9:30. As soon as I walked into the room, I felt like it was the first day of school and I had just moved into town (been there, done that). None of my friends from the morning class were there. The room was quickly becoming packed. Instead of my normal front row space, I took a space in the back row, in the corner. I sat there and watched as people came into class. To me, it seemed like they were all younger, blonde, fitter, tanner and more attractive – and, of course, more accomplished at yoga. I was setting myself up for a terrible practice and was completely in my head, and not on my mat.
Someone put their mat down next to me and I looked up and saw that it was my beloved instructor from my morning class. She greeted me with her normal infectious enthusiasm and the class started. We were all very close to one another. As we got to the balance poses and had to extend our legs out to the side, my leg was over my neighbor’s (my instructor from the morning class) mat and, basically, right in front of her. As I started to worry about sweating on her mat, I realized that her hand was on my leg, gently supporting it. That happened several more times. Once, when we were on the floor, our hands hit and before I could pull mine away, she grabbed it and squeezed it.
I cannot do justice to those actions with words. Maybe you had to be there, but it turned my practice from what was going to be one of my worst, to one of my best. Because of her gentleness, I was able to stop the destructive thinking and I left class with a more full heart.
The second kindness occurred later that same day.
I have been struggling with my blog lately. I am hoping it is because I am in year-end crunch at work and am more stressed and tired than I usually am. I have been fighting self doubts. The writing of others seems so much more sophisticated … important … timely … learned … and you get the idea. So I have given myself a break this month from my blog, with no pressure to post regularly.
On Friday afternoon, in between drafting documents for work, I rewarded myself by visiting my friend Robin’s blog. Reading Graceful Leadership is one of my favorite leisure activities. Robin writes about her beloved dog, Grace, and then ties Grace’s behavior, and Robin and Grace’s interactions, back to human relationships, and the management of people in the workplace. I learn from Robin and carry her messages with me. I feel so lucky to have gotten to know her through the blogging world; her gentleness and her love for animals is so evident.
As I made my way through Robin’s post that day, I was thrilled to see that she received a much deserved blogging award, and was then shocked to see that she turned around and gave the award to me. The award is called the Liebster Blog Award and, as Robin explained it, “the Liebster Blog Award is named after the German word, liebster, meaning dearest; hence the Liebster Blog Award means Dearest Blog Award. It is an award intended to recognize worthy, lesser known blogs and to help expose their work.”
For the second time that day, I was moved to tears. In both situations, it was almost as if the person sensed my particular insecurities, and reached out and reassured me through their incredible kindness. The high that I felt all weekend from these two women’s acts made me think so much about it and how I want to create those feelings in others. I am even more determined to do so. If we all made the effort to be more kind, imagine the impact on our world. It helps to first surround yourself with kind friends as I have apparently done.
Before I close my post, I have a responsibility to abide by the rules of the Liebster Blog Award, which are as follows: (1) thank the giver and link back to their blog (which I am honored to do); (2) reveal your top five picks, with less than 200 readers, and let them know; (3) copy and paste the award on your blog; and (4) hope that the person you give it to keeps the award moving forward.
Instead of five picks, I am going to limit myself to one blog to highlight. I became friends with Jill through her husband Brian, who so patiently and adeptly helped us to find our home in North Carolina. When Brian forwarded me the link to Jill’s blog, I knew that I had found a kindred spirit, at least in some ways. Jill is an incredibly talented artist, a talent which I envy but certainly do not possess. She and I do share a love for animals though. Her blog follows her beautiful life in the North Carolina mountains, which she and Brian share with three dogs, two horses, two miniature donkeys, a cat and various wild animal visitors (I hope I have that tally correct). It won’t take you long, though, to see who my true love in Jill’s life is; lets just say that Jill, Brian and I all have the same bulldog gene. Please enjoy Jill’s Life with me.
December is somewhat tortuous for me.
The type of law I practice (commercial finance) is extremely busy around year-end. Everyone, for various reasons, wants to get the deal closed before January 1st. While the poor economy has significantly slowed down the volume of my work (which is not necessarily a bad thing), there is still a year-end push.
Add to the work stress the normal holiday accoutrements such as gift buying and party going, and I get more than a little stressed. As you may have noticed, my blog suffers – and will continue to do so for this month.
I know that I am not alone in this stress and that we all have different difficulties at this time of year – many much worse than mine. In the event that some might find it helpful, here are some tips of mine for surviving this season:
1. Be extremely organized. I make lists which combine work and personal tasks and am determined to cross several things off my list every day. I do most of my shopping on-line and I try to do it early enough that I do not have to pay the extra costs of expedited shipping, which can add up.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff – and remember that it is most often “small stuff.” I have caught myself stressing about what to wear to holiday parties several times. Does it really matter that you wear the same thing that you wore to the same party two years ago? NO.
3. Eat something before going to a holiday party. I actually did not follow this advice for my first holiday party of the season and paid for it dearly the next day. Being a vegetarian, there is often not food that I can eat at a party and so I end up just drinking – and even one drink on an empty stomach is dangerous (for me anyway). Even if your diet is not as restrictive, you are less likely to make bad food decisions if you are not starving.
4. Remember to be in the moment. Enjoy the family time and seasonal celebrations. Don’t be thinking about the items on your list when you are with family and friends.
5. It’s ok to be selfish about taking care of yourself. Get enough sleep. This is key for me always (and always a struggle), but this time of year it is essential. Also, it is very important to me and my mood that I maintain my yoga practice through this stressful month.
6. Make time for relaxed fun. I enjoy going to the movies with my husband. I cannot wait to see We Bought a Zoo. I will NOT be seeing War Horse. While it seems like it may end happily, the journey looks like a painful one. (Plus, in movies which are significantly centered around an animal, I end up worrying throughout the movie that the animal was not treated well in the filming process.)
I wish you all a happy and healthy December and thank you for your interest. Your support has been a highlight of 2011 for me.
See you in 2012!
I am so thankful for my many blessings – including my husband (we are celebrating our twelfth anniversary this weekend), my parents, my family (including my husband’s amazing family) and my incredible friends. Despite this, I have really struggled with this Thanksgiving post as I have friends and acquaintances who are alone and having difficulties this holiday season.
In searching for light-hearted ideas for this post, I looked through some old family photo albums, thinking that pictures of Thanksgivings past might help me. I came to an interesting realization that there are almost equal amounts of pictures of our childhood pets as there are of my brother and me. I love that – and am so grateful to my parents for raising me with that appreciation for animals.
So I dedicate this post to our loyal, loving, and faithful companions, both past and present. Before I show you how I was raised with animals, I invite you to watch the below video of an English bulldog protecting his baby, which was sent to me this week. It reminds me of how I was raised.
This picture of my brother as a tiny baby and Boomer, our first English Bulldog, pretty much captures the equal footing of people and pets in our family.
The second bulldog in the Williams family was Oliver. Oliver loved playing with my brother and lounging
on with my dad.
Next came the Siamese cats. First was Kiki, who liked to eat wool socks. My mom asked the vet how to cure him of this and the vet suggested getting him a playmate. Enter Casper into the family, and my parents then had two cats that liked to eat wool socks. When my mom was pregnant with me, she used to wear jumpers with large arm-holes. She said that when she would sit down, Kiki would climb into her jumper through the arm-hole and lay on top of her pregnant belly. I often wonder if my love for cats started then – through the womb. Here is an early picture of me and Kiki:
My grandparents had a beloved Boxer named Biffy, who was my mom’s constant companion when she was a teenager. Biffy was amazing and was quite old by the time I came around – and he became fiercely protective. I love this picture of me with my grandfather and Biffy. Like the bully in the video in the beginning, Biffy looks to me like he is protecting his baby.
Our family sent out holiday cards each year and the dogs were always included. In this early picture of my family, if you look closely, you can see that I am NOT happy. I look like a thundercloud and am trying to pry my dad’s hand off of me. The picture was taken immediately following my temper tantrum because I couldn’t hold the dog (Moosie) in the picture.
A few years later, this card shows our bulldog Celeste, along with Moosie. And they still didn’t let me hold the animals for the picture, but apparently I was more accustomed to the slight at that age.
On this day, as we remind ourselves of our many blessings and show thanks, please don’t forget your pets! I know that I will be loving and kissing on mine – even more so than usual.
This is the third soup that I have tried from the 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker cookbook by Lynn Alley. This one is my new favorite.
This soup was creamy, rich and delicious. It tasted like it was full of fat and calories – but it was not. The recipe serves 4 to 6. I figured the nutritional information off of 5 servings. There are 353 calories per serving (and a serving is sufficient for a meal), with 16.8 grams of protein.
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 1/2 pounds small red or white potatoes, skins on
6 cups water (I added vegetable bouillon cubes)
8 ounces blue cheese (your favorite kind)
4 cloves garlic
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh rosemary, for garnishing
The soup was incredibly easy to put together. Before going to work, I chopped the onion and celery and sautéed it in the butter – ten minutes for the onions (until lightly browned) and then added the celery and cooked for two minutes longer.
I then put the onion and celery mix, together with the potatoes, in the crockpot, set it on low for four hours and left the house.
At lunch time, I came home to check on the crockpot. It made me a little nervous to leave the potatoes cooking without any water, but all was fine. There were a couple of bigger potatoes in the mix, so I let them cook for forty-five minutes longer.
I then added the water (and bouillon), blue cheese and garlic. Using my immersion blender, I pureed the ingredients so that the soup had texture and color (from the red potato skins). The recipe also suggests that you may want to mash the potatoes instead, for a more “rustic feel.”
I salted the soup to taste and set the crockpot on warm.
I went back to work (from home) for four hours, stirring the soup occasionally so it didn’t burn on the bottom.
When we were ready to eat, I ladled the soup into bowls and garnished with a little dollop of blue cheese, fresh rosemary and sliced green onions.
It was delicious. We ate it along with a piece of whole grain bread. I gave my husband the option of adding chicken to it, but he declined – he loved the taste as is, and it was very satisfying.
Fall is in the air, even in Savannah (kind of, sort of – it is eighty degrees today). For many of you, this may evoke thoughts of changing colors in the leaves, pumpkins, crisp clean air and winter clothing.
Not me. I start to wonder what Oprah Winfrey is going to have on her Favorite Things show. I miss Oprah. I can’t help it. Yes, I have been gainfully employed over the last two plus decades, but I watched her show. A lot. Usually while running on the treadmill.
I am not sure how I am going to get ready for the holidays without her Favorite Things show. It was a favorite of mine. For those of you who never saw it, it was at least one show – sometimes two – dedicated to showing the world Oprah’s favorite new items. These included food, clothes, shoes, cosmetics, appliances, jewelry, etc. She would typically restrict her studio audience that day to a worthy group – such as all military spouses or all teachers – and each member of the audience would get all of her favorite things. I still have and enjoy many items purchased after watching the show.
As a tribute to Oprah, I thought I would do my own version of the favorite things show – and I thought it would be fitting to include some of Oprah’s favorite things in with mine. For my male readers, I apologize – some of this is more applicable to the ladies.
Presenting – the first annual Oprah’s and My Favorite Things.
In case you don’t know, I am referring to Oprah Aldridge, my beautiful black cat. (If you haven’t met her, you may want to read this post: Ode to Oprah.)
This peanut butter is unbelievable. And I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur. This is fantastic in recipes, such as the peanut butter muffins discussed on my Muffin Mania post. It is delicious on a spoon right out of the fridge, or on a banana. I put one tablespoon into my oatmeal every morning for the delicious taste and also the protein. Yum – and healthy, with the only ingredients peanuts, flax seed and salt. The only problem with this peanut butter is that you cannot get it in Savannah. When my hubby goes anywhere near a Trader Joe’s on his work travels, he knows to pick me up at least two. For those of you that are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s, enjoy!
Oprah Aldridge loves snacks – she will pretty much eat anything. Because of her propensity (much like the real Oprah’s documented trials) for weight issues, she eats a low-calorie cat food. She does get treats, though. If it is not people food, she likes these treats:
Do you have an item of clothing that when you wear it, someone always comments on it? If I had to pick one item from my closet, it would be this belt:
Whenever I wear this belt (and it is often), I always get a compliment on it. I can wear it with a skirt, jeans or khakis, but my favorite is with jeans – black, blue or white. The belt is from Sundance. I would like to live in the Sundance catalog. I drool over each page. There are so many items in the catalog that I love – clothes, jewelry, accessories, furniture, etc. This belt can be found in the catalog or online at Sundance Catalog.
My Oprah is a little devious and evil. One of her favorite past times is scaring people or dogs. And she has various places throughout the house from which she stages these surprises. Her favorite is on a shelf in my closet. You can see that it looks like she has been there recently:
She patiently waits until I come in there, half asleep, to put on my running shoes in the morning and, as I am bent over, reaches out and taps me on the back. Who needs coffee??
This next favorite thing of mine is an acquired taste. My husband once smelled it and commented that it smelled like sweaty socks. I have become addicted to it though and typically drink three or four a week. Have you tried a Kombucha?
As you can read from the label, it claims to reawaken, rethink, retain, reactivate, and many other wonderful things. I don’t know how many of these claims are valid. I do know that it has two effects on me: (1) it dulls my hunger, and (2) it does seem to give me energy (and it does not contain caffeine). Our Fresh Market started carrying these recently and couldn’t keep them on the shelf. My favorite check-out lady would hide a supply for herself and me when the delivery arrived. She has reflux and digestive issues and believes that the Kombucha helps greatly. There are several different flavors – I much prefer the ginger flavor. Again – it is an acquired taste – you have to get used to it.
Oprah also likes her privacy. She has her favorite places to sleep, where no one can find her. One lair she has created for herself is on our guest bedroom bed – she has moved the pillows to create a wonderful hiding place.
I worry when we have guests that she will seek revenge on them for taking her spot. You never know with her. If you visit us for an overnight stay, you may want to sleep with one eye open.
A final favorite item of mine is from a jeweler whom I found through a dear friend. Kathryn Riechert is a SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) graduate and sells on Etsy. I love that her pieces are very delicate, not over-pricey, and carry positive messages. The below necklace, which I own, says “Be Happy, Be Awesome, Be True.” Kathryn has a website at Kathryn Riechert.
I love being reminded of that wonderful mantra every time I wear it.
Did you know that the gentleman who wrote The Dance lives in Savannah? He does. I actually met him once. What an incredibly powerful song. For your listening/viewing pleasure:
However, this post is not about that dance; it is instead about a routine that plays out twice daily in our house.
The participants have been together about ten years – Gracie, a ten and a half year old English bulldog, and Oprah, a thirteen year old black cat whom we adopted from the humane society at about five weeks old.
It occurs at Gracie’s mealtimes – which are usually around 7:30 am and 5:30 pm. Mind you, Oprah has a dish of food available at all times – and heaven help us if that dish is ever empty – she screams like someone is ripping her toenails out (which is pretty much the only time she is vocal).
Oprah’s grandma (my mom) says that Oprah has an eating disorder. And she may be right; Oprah is definitely a little full-figured. Maybe it is because she remembers not having enough to eat (although, admittedly, that would be one heck of a memory). Maybe she is living up to her namesake’s documented eating issues.
Regardless of the reason, Oprah likes FOOD – human, dog and cat food, in that order.
So, when we feed Gracie, Oprah is always hovering around us. And the following scene is played out:
My husband and I always speculate as to the conversation that is occurring between the two of them. (Ok, I speculate and my husband rolls his eyes and says “yes, dear.”)
I think it is one of the following:
Oprah: “You know they might be poisoning you. I think you better let me try it first to make sure it is ok.”
Gracie: “Yeah right. This is the lady that lets me sleep in her bed when that man is out of town. She would never poison me.”
Oprah: “(while batting her eyes) Sister, have you I told you lately that you are looking quite svelte?”
Gracie: “OMG. I better start eating more.”
Oprah: “Ok, chubby, here is the deal – you give me some of your food or I will methodically drop kitty litter in each of your dog beds.”
Gracie: “Do you remember who you are talking to? I would eat your kitty litter if it didn’t freak the people out so much!”
Oprah is devious and manipulative, so I personally think it is option C more often than not. It is always peaceful and rarely ends in Oprah getting any food.
The regularity and frequency of it makes me laugh. And I am grateful each time for that gift.