Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cute Teacher Gift Idea

After my "Thankful Thursday" column last week on appreciating teachers, I have been looking for cute, inexpensive and very personal ideas. I like this one from "Pick Your Plum" and thought you might, too!
They create things and sell them unto their gone! So hurry if you want one! I signed up to get their daily deal in e-mail - hope to see more cute ideas like this one!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Take Them A Meal



After my transplant in 2005, my sweet friend, Kim, organized meals for my family every other night for a few months! It was incredibly helpful to us! I can't imagine how much time she spent making phone calls, sending e-mails, making food herself, etc.while taking care of her family, working full time and running a business. It makes me tired to think about it! When someone is sick, there is a death in the family, a surgery, they need the support of family and friends and sharing a meal is just one way we can help. We can also help when babies are born and other times of celebration! Our Bible study class provided meals for a Mom who was placed on bed rest before the baby was born. This is when I learned about this awesome website. "Take Them A Meal" is a fabulous way to organize meals for a family or individual you care about! It is very simple to use and eliminates alot of phone calling, e-mailing, etc. It does it all for you! You just fill in the information and share the website with others.  Those who want to help can go directly to the website to sign up. There they will find directions, any special dietary restrictions, how much to prepare, etc. It even sends reminders! You will also be able to view meals already set up so that you don't duplicate. Remember when everyone was serving Andy Griffith spaghetti while Aunt Bee was gone! "Take Them A Meal" would have been Andy's friend that night! Let me encourage you to use this website when a friend needs a meal or two or more - you can set it up to last as long as you need it. What a blessing it will be for your friends or family!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake


1 butter recipe cake mix
1 small box vanilla pudding
8 oz. sour cream
3/4 c. oil
1 T. vanilla
4 eggs
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate syrup



Beat eggs, cake mix and oil; add pudding and sour cream. Then add vanilla. Divide batter into 2 parts. In one part, add chocolate chips. Pour 1/2 of this mixture into bottom of the bundt pan. Add part 2. Pour chocolate syrup around this part. Use a knife to swirl the syrup into the batter. Top with the other 1/2 of part 2 (chocolate chip mixture). Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until cake tests done.
This recipe was contributed to the Sprayberry "Game Day Specialties" cookbook which features recipes from "First Ladies of Football" by Caroline Johnson, wife of Southern Mississippi Head Football Coach, Ellis Johnson. At the time the cookbook was compiled, the Johnson's were at Mississippi State. Caroline noted that the coach's wives made homemade goodies for the football players each Thursday. She said this was the most requested and the defense's favorite!

I have made this cake several times. It is a very simple recipe and one that can be made on short notice as long as you keep all the ingredients on hand. I sprinkle mine with powdered sugar to make it look more festive. I have served on a pretty cake plate and I have packaged in cellophane with a pretty ribbon and shared with friends or family! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Teachers


Today, I am thankful for teachers who have influenced my family in a very special way! Included in my list of 5 things that I am thankful for today:  1) "Miss Virginia" at Circlewood Baptist Church, the girls 2 year old class Sunday School Teacher - She was always full of SON-shine - so loving, patient and kind to the little ones. 2) "Miss Hope" - Annie's first teacher at Sprayberry. When we got Hope as our teacher, we also gained a friend! Quite apprehensive about my 3 year old starting to school full time because of her special needs, it didn't take long to know that she was in good hands! 3) Mr. Buddy, Elle's Team Kids Leader (3 Year Old Class) - what a kind and loving man at a time when Elle needed it most - during my cancer treatment. We lost Mr. Buddy that year when he was called Home to Heaven after a sudden and brief illness, but his loving kindness will never be forgotten 4) "Miss Seimers", Elle's kindergarten teacher. Going to "big school" was huge! "Miss Seimers" was a master at bringing out the best in children! 5) I am thankful for every teacher - school, church, choir, tumbling, ballet,etc. - for all of them have helped to make the girls who they are today. The ones I called by name just happened to be placed in our lives at a time when we needed them the most. I am thankful for teachers whose job it is to teach and for those who volunteer! There is just no way to thank them enough! I know that you have teachers who are special to you! The official PTA Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11. You don't have to wait until then to say THANKS! Here are some cute teacher appreciation ideas I found.

SO thankful for teachers who have touched our lives forever!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Private Gallery

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions. (From Wikipedia)

"Sunburst"



This "Sunburst" reminds me of the ray of sunshine that the artist brings to my life each and every day. I love her enthusiasm and creativity for art - the way that she  can take anything and make it into something.

"You're A Hoot"



The artist who place the feathers on this owl is really a "Hoot". She makes me smile everyday. Her determination is nothing less than amazing. One of my favorite sounds is hearing her laugh!

"A Cup of Tea"


This artist is always busy just like her artwork. She loves a party! In truth, she prefers lemonade over a "Cup of Tea" any day!

"A Hooter's Girl"


The artist who created this Owl (or ow-al as we say it in the South) has quite the sense of humor, as evidenced by the title! Enough said!

"You Are My Sunshine"



This artist loves music! "You Are My Sunshine" is one of her favorites! She makes me "happy when skies are gray"!

Our "Private Gallery" becomes public when these two very special artists (my daughters) take their artwork to the Sprayberry Education Center Art Show and Silent Auction on Thursday, February 23. The art show is a fundraiser of the PTO, but more than anything, it is the opportunity for children in all programs - multiple needs, preschool, autism, alternative and gifted to offer uniquely creative expressions, that will certainly stimulate your emotions!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

The first thing that I learned to bake was cupcakes. The recipe came from a cookbook called "Favorite Recipes of Alabama Vocational Home Economics Teachers - Second Edition. The first edition was published in 1958. This is the only cookbook I remember my Mother having back then. The only cupcake liners were pastels or maybe silver. I used this recipe over and over - for special occasions and school projects. I remember once making them for the P.L.A.S. football team during a big rivalry week - one of the pep club ideas to "inspire" our team.  Inscribed on each cupcake was "Kill CCA". Well, we got "killed" 49-0! Haven't made a cupcake since! Not really!...... Fast forward to 2012. For a Christmas gift, I received the "Big Book of Cupcakes" from Southern Living!


256 Pages loaded with cupcake recipes, complete with beautiful photos of every variety. Each recipe also has a "Flip It" where you can use the same recipe with a different twist. Jan Moon, author of "Big Book of Cupcakes" and owner of Dreamcakes Bakery near Birmingham says that "Cupcakes Make People Happy"! I decided to make some friends happy today by making the Caramel Apple Cupcakes...


Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Fresh Apple Cake 

1/2 cup better, melted        
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose soft wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
Cute paper baking cups
Cooking spray
              
Preheat oven to degrees. Stir together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Combine flour and the next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until well blended. Stir in apple. Place paper baking cups in 2 (12 cup) muffin pans, and coat with cooking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely before frosting. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Notes: I used light brown sugar and it worked well. I was a bit afraid to attempt caramel frosting but this recipe was simple and turned out great!

Old Fashioned Caramel Frosting

1 cup butter                                                                           
1 (16 oz.) package dark brown sugar                                       
1/2 cup evaporated milk        
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 T. light corn syrup
4 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in a 3 qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar (again, I used light brown); bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in evaporated milk, baking soda, and corn syrup; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let cool completely (about an hour). Transfer to a bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar to caramel mixture, beating at medium speed until blended. Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy. Use immediately. Makes 3 cups. Optional topping: chopped pecans.

Notes: Something I learned from the book is that the baking soda helps to prevent the caramel from becoming grainy.

So, if you want to make your friends happy, try this one! But don't use those plain pastel cupcake liners - find some wild and crazy ones - they are available for all occasions! If you love making cupcakes, the "Big Book of Cupcakes" is a "must have". It is an Oxmoor House publication. Let me know if you make the cupcakes!


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Small Token, Big Blessing

And whatever you do either in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.....Colossians 3:17


It's a small token, but one that brings delight to some girls in Honduras. In July, the Mission Team from Valley View will be headed to Honduras for their annual mission trip. The ladies of our Adult Bible Study class assembled 144 "goody" bags today for the team to distribute to the girls that they will meet during this ministry. Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, tissues, jewelry and more were included in each bag, tied with a pretty curled ribbon. Members of the Mission Team shared what a delight this small token has been to the girls - how they get excited, how they share with each other, how they trade items - simply, how very much they appreciate these things. It struck me how they appreciate so much the items we've had in our bathroom cabinets from all our trips to hotels, bags that we were given for "free" when we purchased expensive make up, and gifts that were given to us that we never used. Get the picture like I did? We just take so much for granted. What a big blessing for those girls to receive these bags! Oh, wait, I think I may have that all wrong. The big blessing is ours to be able to get together for great food with great friends and to share our abundance with others! God bless the Mission Team and these children they will touch!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cheesy Sausage Muffins


Here is a new recipe that I have found for some cheesy sausage filled muffins. They are similar in taste to sausage cheese balls. They are great right out of the hot oven or reheated at a later time. I've only made them for breakfast but I think they would be great anytime. The recipe calls for cheddar cheese but I have also made with mozzarella. Both are yummy! Very moist! This recipes makes 12 regular size muffins. Enjoy!

1 lb. ground pork sausage (mild or hot)
1 tsp. onion flakes
3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 can cheddar cheese soup
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk

Cook sausage and onion flakes in skillet over medium heat, stirring until pink is completely gone. Crumble into small pieces as you cook it. Drain and cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sausage, baking mix and shredded cheese. Stir together soup and buttermilk; add to sausage mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Divide mixture equally among greased (I use baking Pam) 12 muffin cups. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Menu suggestion: cheesy sausage muffins, grits and fruit!

Adapted from recipe on http://www.plainchicken.blogspot.com/

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Friends

Today, I continue to be as thankful for my family and my health as I was last week. My list today goes beyond my home to some other blessings in my life - friends!

1) My friends: I have said before and I will say it again, I have the best friends in the world! When I was sick, I had meals delivered to my home every other night for 3 months! I had donated paid time off for 4 months! My sorority alumnae group packed my freezer! I could go on and on with stories like these of friends who have been there for me through thick and thin! Who are friends you are thankful for?

2) A best friend: My best friend has been my best friend since we were 4! We lived 2 houses apart then - we live 2 hours apart now. ATT is thankful for our friendship! Everyone needs a best friend! Who is your best friend?

3) A "Circle of Friends" for Annie at church! Our church, Valley View Baptist has a special needs ministry. Because of some very special volunteers, she is able to participate in activities with her age group, attend worship, and participate in activities with other friends - all on her terms. For our family, it means that we can worship and participate in our own activities, knowing that she is being loved on and having her needs met. For her to have a class of her own is very cool! Enjoy this photo of her with a couple of her sweet friends.  Are you enjoying a "circle of friends" wherever you are?  
                                           
4) Baseball season: Opening night for college baseball is on Friday. We love the game, celebrating when our teams win, and most of all enjoying our "baseball friends".  We cheer for the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Minnesota Twins, the Cincinatti Reds, the Los Angeles Dodgers and any other team that involves someone we know!  Just for fun - Who's your favorite team?

 5) An awesome Adult Bible Study group:  We are part of a couples class that is characterized by a very giving spirit. When there is a need, this group of friends is quick to meet it. So thankful for our leadership, our mission and our community spirit! So what are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paint the Town Red for Fuller


Fuller Goldsmith has asked the community to "Paint the Town Red" to support Children's Hospital of Alabama and we decided to help! 8 year old Fuller has acute lymphocytic leukemia and is receiving treatment at the hospital. We don't know Fuller personally but I know that anyone who has experience cancer as Fuller has, needs our support! We do know Children's Hospital! Annie spent the first two months of her life there and has made frequent follow up visits. We are so thankful for the outstanding care given to Annie in the NICU, Special Care Unit, Pulmonary Unit and all the clinical follow up over the past 8 years. "Paint the Town Red" demonstrates support for Fuller and other children fighting cancer. If you live in Tuscaloosa or Northport, look around for red bows and feel the community support for Fuller and other children with medical needs. If you have displayed a red bow, know that you have supported a great cause! Hats off to Franny Jones, a friend of the Goldsmith family, for initiating this event!

Meet Fuller and read his story from the Tuscaloosa News!



A Sweet Valentine Treat



Happy Valentine's Day!

A couple of years ago, a family friend shared these cookies with my girls. One bite and we asked for the recipe! This is the quickest, prettiest and tastiest combination! I'm all about making things that are simple but look complicated. They are great for Christmas, Valentine's, tailgating and anytime you need a quick treat. I always have the cake mix on hand - I stock up with BOGO at Publix! Just 3 simple ingredients and you can make in less than an hour. Elle enjoyed one for a Valentine treat in her lunchbox. Hope you enjoy them too!

Red Velvet Cookies 

1 box red velvet cake mix (Duncan Hines)
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together cake mix, eggs and oil. Roll into balls (use teaspoon or tablespoon to scoop the dough depending on the size cookie you want) and place on lightly greased (I spray lightly with the baking version of Pam) cookie sheets. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until tops looked cracked. Cool completely! Meanwhile make cream cheese icing (or you can used canned version). The best one I've used is Paula Deen's recipe. http://www.pauladeen.com/recipes/recipe_view/cream_cheese_frosting/ I have mad with pecans and without. I think adding the pecans is my favorite. Spread the desired amount of icing on a cookie, then top with a second cookie. These look pretty on a plate, in a basket, in a cookie jar or in cellophane wrap and tied with a pretty bow!



Monday, February 13, 2012

Community Chef - Sharon Pilsch

The most recent "Community Chef" in the Tuscaloosa News is Sharon Pilsch.  Sharon and I go way back years ago to days of working and volunteering in the NICU at DCH Regional Medical Center. I was a young Occupational Therapist working in the neonatal unit. Together with our nursing staff and our amazing social worker, we coordinated a volunteer program in which ladies came into the unit to hold and rock babies and write diaries for the parents. Sharon was one of the trained volunteers from the Junior League who spent countless hours in our intensive care nursery loving our babies. The service of Sharon and the other volunteers was very special! Today, Sharon is loving on babies of her own. With four precious grandchildren, it's no wonder she has many special occasions to celebrate! Her chicken a la russell sounds delicious! I can't wait to try it! Thought you  might like it, too! Here is the link! http://food.blogs.tuscaloosanews.com/10050/community-chef-sharon-pilsch-chicken-a-la-russell/

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Marvelous Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday, THANKFUL THURSDAY, Fabulous Friday - These are the names we gave to the days of the week one day during car pool when Elle was in primary school. Our parting words in the mornings would be "Have a Marvelous Monday!", "Terrific Tuesday", etc. THANKFUL THURSDAY was the only one that required a response in the afternoon. Elle would name 5 things she was thankful for each Thursday when I picked her up at school. Some were flippant, some were funny and some were very reflective. Today I reflect on 5 things that I am thankful for today. 1) My health - a little over 8 years since my diagnosis of multiple myeloma, I am thankful for each and every day. I know others with the same diagnosis who haven't been so fortunate. I have a friend who is struggling with multiple myeloma right now. I pray for the same outcome for him. 2) My husband - when we said "I do" in 2000, we had no idea what "for better or worse" really meant.  I believe we now understand that completely through the life experiences that have come our way. Together, we make it through the good times and bad! I pray for my friend who just lost her husband at the young age of 50. 3) My awesome 10 year old daughter - I love that she is caring, thoughtful, creative and very strong willed! I pray for couples who are unable to have children. 4) My sweet 8 year old - I love that she is so happy most of the time despite her special needs. I love the she is very determined - her determination has brought her a long way. I pray for her friends who have serious medical needs. 5) A loving and supportive family - We are blessed on both sides to have a close extended family. I pray for those who can't say the same. On Thursday or any day, all we have to do is look around and we'll find others less fortunate. Hope you are having a THANKFUL THURSDAY!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quick and Easy Valentine Gift


Made this cute coasters for Grandparents Valentine's Day Gifts! All you need is floor tiles, pictures of the cutest kids you know, Mod Podge and a spray sealer! And some red ribbon for presentation! You can purchase these tiles for less than a dollar at Lowe's or any home improvement store. Trim the photos to the size of the tile. Use the Mod Podge to secure the photo to the tile. Use another coat of Mod Podge. When dry, spray with the sealer (purchased at Michael's). Then, of course, tie up a set with a pretty ribbon. There is nothing grandparents like more than photos of their grandchildren. This is just a little different than another picture frame! The whole project takes less than 30 minutes, start to finish! So simple but so special!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Fun Night in "Mayberry"

To celebrate my husband's birthday, we had a Mayberry "suppa" (as Aunt Bee would say) with family and friends. He is a huge fan of the Andy Griffith show so it was the perfect theme for the occasion.


Our menu consisted of recipes mostly from the Aunt Bee's Mayberry cookbook - Aunt Bee's Fried Chicken (I will not fool anyone - it came straight from the Publix deli - I do not fry chicken!), Town Band Baked Beans, Thelma Lou's Corn Casserole, Hash Browns Helen, Ernest T.ossed Salad (my own mixture), Helen's Honor Rolls (by Sister Schubert), Briscoe's Biscuits, Opie's Oreo Ice Cream (yummy!), Aunt Bee's Apple Pie and Red Velvet Cupcakes (Paula Deen's Recipe). I posted the menu in a frame with white print with black background to resemble a chalkboard.

I "googled" photos of Mayberry characters in black and white, copied to cardstock, cut out, hole punched and tied with red,white and blue ribbon for napkin rings. Everybody had a different character at their place which made for great conversation! Each place setting had a sheriff's badge. I purchased these in the western party section of Hobby Lobby.

For the red velvet cupcake tree, I made cupcake toppers (using Microsoft Word and a pair of scrapbooking scissors) with trivia questions about The Andy Griffith Show. The questions came from the Mayberry cookbook. More good conversation! 

 
For party favors, we filled small white bags (from Hobby Lobby) with candy and bubble gum. Opie always went to Walker Drug for candy and gum. Printed on the bags: Walker Drug Store and Ellie Walker, R. Ph. She is one of our favorite characters as she shares a name with our daughter.

We finished off the evening playing a game of Mayberry trivia. Fun party!

By the way, Goober says "Hey!"

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Documenting a Life's Story

Document! Document! As a medical professional, we were always told to document everything that occurred in a treatment session. Legally, "if it wasn't documented, it didn't happen". What if that were true in our lives? Our lives go through many stages over the course of time. Usually, we are really good at recording the first stages of life but often, our "documentation" tapers off in later years. My Dad really enjoyed recording family events with the video camera. He had one of those huge (and heavy) cameras, compared to today's cameras. I am so thankful for each and every moment he captured on camera. Because of his commitment to recording these memories, we can watch, at any moment, my precious grandparents and other loved ones who have gone on to heaven before us. Hearing their voices tell stories and sings songs of praise is a treasure. Last weekend, I spent hours remembering some precious moments by watching these tapes made by my Dad. The best part was hearing his voice sharing good times with his family. Hearing him laugh, tell his jokes, and enjoy time with his brothers, made me smile. I shed a tear or two but I was mostly reminded of good times and the special person he was, and for that I am very thankful. Just moments after the conclusion of my video trip down memory lane, I received word that my friend, Janice, had lost her husband. One of the first things that crossed my mind was how "well documented" Mark's life had been through Janice's commitment to photography and scrap booking. At a very personal funeral and memorial service, Mark's life was remembered in photo albums and a wonderful slide show that didn't end with his childhood - there were photos of him with family, friends, at all holidays, their wedding and much more - some fun, some serious - what precious moments captured with a simple snap of a photo. The organization of photos and videos can be time consuming but well worth the effort. I miss my Dad, and how comforting to know that I can still hear his voice on video. I am inspired to do a better job of documenting my life's story - to video more, photograph more and record more memories for my family. I need to get my VHS tapes converted to DVD so that they will last longer. I plan to watch more old videos and share them with my family. In this day and age of technology, there is no reason that we shouldn't be able record our life stories from beginning to end. Our children will be thankful! Just as I am for the memories my Dad preserved for me!http://cascade.patch.com/articles/the-family-keeper