I Notice How AWESOME You Are

Despite the saying, words do hurt.  Believe me;  I know.  Unkind words hurt adults just as they can truly damage a child’s self-esteem.  For me, I am a lover of words, font, text, etc., especially when they are placed together in such a manner with the goal of improving someone’s day.

The other day while celebrating a dear friend’s fortieth birthday, we were perusing a local independent bookstore.  While there, I came across some business cards with the saying, “I Notice How AWESOME You Are.”  This, of course, brought to mind a business card I once received in my mailbox which was attached to some Girl Scout papers which I needed to process for our troop, not one of my favorite jobs.  Yet, I sat at my kitchen table that evening working on those papers with the hugest grin on my face.  That card with those words had made all the difference.  Such a simple ripple can result in quite a tidal wave of happiness.

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Last night, volleyball practice began for my second through fourth-grade players.  Club Serve at Troy United Methodist Church teaches volleyball skills, but also focuses on serving others.  Each practice ends with a homework assignment in the form  of  a service project, one which is geared towards the age of the child.  I laminated homemade business cards with the saying, “I Notice How AWESOME You Are.”  After giving each player a praise card due to his/her amazing participation, effort, and encouragement of one another, I handed out an identical card.  This card is meant to be distributed by the player to someone he/she finds “awesome.”  I offered suggestions:  a sibling, teacher, coach, Grandma, etc.  I added it was okay to leave the card anonymously.  Immediately hands were raised asking some truly thought-provoking questions:

Is it okay to give it to my best friend?  Yes!

What if I took it in my lunch box and gave it to someone at recess?  Yes, as long as it’s okay with your teacher.

Which card should I keep, and which card should I give away?  You choose.

Can we give it to someone right here, on our team?  Yes!

Not ever knowing if an activity is going to be a keeper or a bust, I was thrilled to file this one under “keep.”  I’m looking forward to hearing to whom each player gave a card (part of the homework).  In fact, I was so encouraged by the players’ reaction that I decided to give an employee working in the drive-thru a card this morning while I was purchasing water bottles I had forgotten to pack this morning.  My daughter’s friend giggled and said, “That’s weird.”  You know what?  I’ll take weird.  Weird is good.

Fig and Goat Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust

My momma-in-law hooked me on the FREE (with $50 purchase) Schnucks Cooks Magazine years ago always bringing the latest copy over whenever she visits.  Religiously I tear out the coupons and mark the recipes I would like to try, but rarely do.  Yesterday was different;  I checked a bucket list item from my list by making my first cheesecake ever.  Mmmmmmmm!

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I had always assumed making cheesecakes were time-consuming and difficult because people I know did not make them often.  Coming across the Fig and Goat Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust recipe in the Schnucks Cooks Magazine Fall 2014 issue, I knew I had to give this one a try.  Of course I was the only one excited about this venture as the hub has sworn off cream cheese for life (because he thinks it tastes like arse), and my oldest squirt is convinced she does not like any cheese except Parmesan, never mind all of the pizzas she eats now and the multitude of  jars of macaroni and cheese she ate as a baby (you should see how many snow globes we created from those jars).

Anywho, during an exploration of the new grocery store, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, I gathered my ingredients.  Not realizing Boar’s Head made goat cheese, I threw this log into my cart and am so glad I did.  While opening the package, a huge chunk just so happened to fall into my mouth.  What ensued was creamy, salty goodness on my taste buds, a flavor nearly mimicking (to me) the briny liquid in a green olive jar.  Yummers!

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In addition, since the recipe calls for fig jam, my anti-cheese squirt selected the Zergut variety from the shelf, and it was definitely the right choice.

IMG_1653As I write this post, the cheesecake has been devoured in less than a twenty-four hour time frame.  Hey, I did share with the neighbor.  However, if I knew just how delicious this cheesecake was prior to sharing, I may have thought twice about it.

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The Cake Mix Bible

If you are like me, a passion of mine is baking.  Now, I can make a mean chocolate chip cookie when I focus and fail to rush the process, taking time to chill the dough and soften the butter organically [not via Chef Mic(rowave)].  If I don’t take the proper steps, I end up with flat-as-pancake cookies burnt on the edges and stuck to the pan.

I am also a wanna-be extreme couponer.  So, I purchase cake mixes at Schnucks when they have the 10/10 sale with the 11th being FREE.  I like FREE.  Thus, I have a fairly decent stockpile of cake mixes in my pantry.

So, when I came across The Cake Mix Bible, I knew I needed to add this to my cookbook collection.

Last night I attempted the Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cake with much success.  I substituted mini Oreos for whole chocolate sandwich cookies cut into quarters because that is what I had on hand.  Also, I did reduce the baking time by about 10 minutes because I like my cakes nice and moist.  Yet, my final product nearly mirrors the picture in the book if wearing in-need-of-cleaning glasses as I was last night.  The recipe was easy, the batter was yummy, and the family chowed the cake in one sitting.

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Besides the ease of the recipes, I like the beautiful pictures throughout so that I can keep an end goal in “sight.”

My next attempt will be the Easy Lemon Cookies (hello?  who doesn’t like easy?) so that I can gift them to my BFF.

52 Christmas Activities: Cookie Paint

While shopping in my favorite INDEPENDENT bookstore, Afterwords Books, located in Edwardsville, IL, I came across a small deck of cards created by Lynn Gordon entitled, 52 Christmas Activities, and my squirts and I are so glad I did.  With one daughter home with Type A flu, this deck of cards has been a blessing.

Together THE PATIENT (green denotes illness) and I sorted through the cards and picked our favorites based on what supplies we had available in the house.  We decided to begin with the Cookie Paint card.  An activity which combines baking and painting, oh yeah, this was definitely deemed high priority.

First, I sifted through my cookbooks and found a simple but delicious sugar cookie recipe in Mrs. Fields Cookie Book:  100 Recipes from the Kitchen of Mrs. Fields, which required only six ingredients, my kind of recipe.

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I mixed, and then my sick squirt flattened the dough onto a cookie sheet.  While the dough was chilling in the refrigerator, we mixed the paints using egg yolks, water, and food coloring.  My oldest opted for pink, red, and green.  We then removed the chilled dough from the fridge, and painting began.

The final product is cooling now, but we are anxiously looking forward to eating our edible art.

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Sunday Thanks: Creating Mini Christmas Scenes

With our newest family member being a puppy, we have had to think outside the box in terms of decorating for Christmas.  Miss Daisy Duke loves to chew on hands, stinky feet, fluffy sweaters, and Little People.  So, in order to find safety for our wee playthings, the girls and I created mini scenes with what we had on hand.

We collected empty vases, jars, and storage containers.  Then, as a substitute for snow, we started with the glitter we had on hand.  When the glitter ran out, we moved on to powdered sugar, but we didn’t like that material as well.  So, we decided to make use of granulated sugar.  Oh yeah;  now we were making [snow] bacon.

Then, with what Little People, miniature trees, glass beads, and whatnot we could find around the house, we designed our mini scenes.  I plan to save glass jars this year so that we can use them next Christmas for more mini scenes.

Cost: $0

Time spent together:  Priceless

Please enjoy our gallery of mini scenes and lose yourself in them as we do.

For what or whom are you thankful this Sunday?

Rhonda Tibbs and Her Cloud

Yesterday evening local author Rhonda Tibbs spoke at McKendree University about her novel Song of the Snowman, which I am currently teaching to my English 111 students, and writing in general.  Tibbs began her talk with an anecdote from her childhood.

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As a young girl, Tibbs was fascinated with the clouds in the sky and asked her father for one of her own.  He not only gifted her with a cloud, but, more importantly, sparked her imagination.  Giving her a mason jar, he told his daughter inside was her cloud.  Tibbs explained she would see not only her cloud through the glass, but also rain falling from the clouds onto green pastures or dusty fields in need of quenching, other days a village full of people beneath this cloud.  The possibilities inside this jar were limitless.  Thus, the creative mind of a writer was conceived resulting in an author now at work on her sixth novel.  As a devoted fan of her work, many thanks to her father for realizing the importance of an imagination.

I don’t know about you, but I plan on finding a cloud of my own inside a handpicked mason jar and keeping it on top of my desk next to my laptop in the hope of discovering my own cloud with all its possibilities.

You can follow Rhonda Tibbs on Twitter at @ritbbs.

Halloween, Halloween . . . Trick or Treat

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful, and this is just the way my hub, Michael Myers, and I like it when it comes to Halloween.  Our teen neighbor joins in as we attempt to scare the local kiddos on their hunt for candy.  This year the hub constructed a black screen on our porch to block the trick or treaters’ view of the bucket of candy.  They had to pass through a gate, walk past a moving witch, and then peer behind the blackness.  Hey, we like to make squirts work for their treats.

IMG_1279Today fellow parent volunteers and I are scaring the first-grade students in my daughter’s class with an Ooky Station complete with dried ears (pig ears), tongues (dried apricots), fingers (turkey jerky), bloody intestines (spaghetti with sauce), warts (raisins), bloody skin (lasagna noodles with sauce), eyeballs (garlic-stuffed olives), and bones (thick pretzel sticks).  Needless to say, Halloween is by far my favorite.

Tonight we will Tent or Treat at Troy United Methodist Church, and tomorrow once kiddo activities are complete, we will shop the bargain racks at spooky stores in search of ideas for next year’s celebration.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

A Space of Her Own

Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s quote, “A woman must have . . . a room of her own,” (she was one cool cat) as well as the magazine Where Women Create (wish they had monthly issues; salivating just thinking about the possibility) I have been on a mission to find this room of my own within my own house.  Seeing the walk-in closet in our master bedroom as a viable option, the hub vetoed it with, “Where we will put our clothes?!”  Ugh . . . sometimes he can be such a downer.

 
I tried a corner in our main living space by a window for several years, but the intense light from the window made for an overheated laptop, and eventually my desk became a dumping ground when we needed to pick items up off of the floor in order to vacuum.  Little People climbing Mt. Essays Needing to be Graded did not make for a creative, organized space.

Thus, my recent find for a space of my own is a nook in our breakfast area.  Flooded with light but not intense glaring sun, I can see while I type without having to wear sunglasses or strip down to my birthday suit (I am always HOT). 

Since there is no room for a wall of bookshelves, my ultimate fantasy, I scored a mail sorter at a garage sale for $5.  Eureka!  I spray-painted it to match my $15 teacher’s desk find at a school sale, and A Space of Her Own was established.

I then wondered where do other women create, so I asked my friends.  Women blessings Deb E. and Beth M./@BMiramonti shared their spaces with me. . .

I want to nap in Beth’s hammock.

A partner for Beth to cuddle up with in order to spark those creative juices.

Notice Deb’s organization.  Aaaah!

Love the cards Deb creates!

 
Where is YOUR space of your own?  I would love to hear about in the comments section below to garner some ideas, and, more importantly, I would love to see it.  Tweet your pic to @authorgroupie (unless you can figure out a way to leave a pic in the comments section)!