In the Kitchen, My Favorite Things

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My earliest memory of baking is with my dad, teaching me to bake chocolate chip cookies.  It’s remained one of my favorites to bake, what can beat a fresh chocolate chip cookie hot from the oven?

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         Airbake Natural 2 Pack Cookie Sheet Set

Baking cookies turned into my first job.  Dad would take whatever kind of cookies I made, in baggies of 4, and put them out for the guys at work for 50 cents per bag.  I would always drink Coke while I baked, and I still crave that sip of Coca Cola with every hot cookie.  I don’t know that we made much more than the cost of ingredients, but it was a great way for my parents to instill work ethic.

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Possibly my favorite birthday gift EVER – Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

I broke one of my efficiency rules tonight:  I only made a single batch.  Normally, if I’m going to make the effort to bake, it gets doubled.  Unfortunately, the other bag of chips was the only chocolate in the house last night when someone was having a bit of a chocolate craving…

Here is the official Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip recipe.  I included step by step pictures for those of us who are more visual.

The recipe says the oven should be preheated to 375 degrees, but I like the texture when they are cooked at 350 degrees.  Rebel, I know!

Combine unsifted plain flour, baking soda, & salt, then set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color.

Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time.

Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. (Unless I’m making them for one of my favorite uncles, I skip the nuts.)

Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Unofficial direction, but a must – save the batter for later in your child’s favorite Black Panther bowl!

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Also unofficial, but another MUST!  Put ’em on a platter and take them outta this house so we don’t eat them ALL 🙂

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In the Kitchen

Fantasy Fudge

Nope, not my recipe. In fact, it’s straight from the marshmallow Jet-Puff jar. But, in honor of Dad’s birthday today, I’m sharing because of all the “fantastic” times he surprised us with fudge!

Positive Thoughts - Just Because

LIVING with Asthma

I do not mind that it’s raining. I am thankful to be walking in the rain. I am thankful to be walking!

As the school year ended and summer vacation approached, I had one goal. Spend time with my daughter and dogs, and hopefully to do that through lots of walks and jogs together. The stress of the end of school year landed me with bronchitis, though, and I was in such a hurry flurry but I did not take time for a solid two weeks to see a doctor. By then, it was into acute bronchitis. When I saw my pulmonologist two weeks later, I was needing another steroid shot as the asthma kicked in full force as well.

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Reflective Leashes

I remember one particularly scary Sunday afternoon in June, when I got home from church, the asthma was so bad that I was scared to climb the steps. Even after breathing treatments I didn’t make it upstairs until 10 o’clock that night.

As the weeks stretched on, I realized that I could forget jogging. Forget walking! I was down to the absolute daily necessities that had to be done. I was completely couched and spent many nights sleeping upright on the couch so that no more congestion would get into my lungs.

There have been times that I couldn’t breathe to the point of feeling like my lungs would explode and my heart would pound right out of my chest. I checked my heart rate one afternoon after going up the steps, and it was the same as it was in the summer before when I was running at my top speed. I would not have voiced it, but there were so many times when such incidents have happened that I was afraid that God was going to leave my 13-year-old daughter without her mommy.

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Running Gear

I think that God most definitely used this time of rest and healing, though. Instead of running and working like crazy, I have had the time to write. I’ve had the time to practice piano, and rediscover. I have made peace with songs, such as It is Well, and I’ve been able to genuinely say “it is well with my soul”, because what choice do you have when you can’t do anything for yourself? What choice do you have when you have no choice but to trust?

I kept walking. So much so, that my dog looked at me like I was crazy and pointed her head to go home. Perhaps I kept walking because I feared that if I didn’t do it now, I wouldn’t be able to do this tomorrow. Two nights ago, I remember standing at the end of the driveway and looking up the hill to the end of the road and being terrified to walk it, because I knew I couldn’t.

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Christmas Pet T’s

For some reason, God allowed today to be a day of healing. I’m going to look at the steps as steps of faith that God has indeed heard my prayer as I have repeated and begged “heal me, oh God and I will be healed, save me and I will be saved”.

As I walked, I turned a corner and saw a fantastic rainbow. One side of the sky was completely dark, yet the other was painted with God’s promise that He is in control. There may be ups and downs, but “it is well with my soul”. We can rest in the assurance that He is working in the times of distress and healing.

 

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In the Music Room, Positive Thoughts - Just Because

I can’t sing for you…

I don’t have your voice. I don’t have the special abilities that belong solely to YOU.

We tell kids what to do, what not to do, lead their lines and give them assignments and chores. How often, though, do we trust them to shine in their own talent?

 

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I heard a choir director years ago give the advice “do no sing for your students”. He went on to explain that if we are singing, then we’re not listening.

If we, parents and teachers, are always talking at, speaking for, singing for our children, are we giving them a chance to express themselves? Are we listening to them?

What if we show them how, give them the appropriate tools, then move out of their way?

Children are unlimited in their creativity and talent, and I have to believe that if we give them the opportunity and trust, they will far exceed our ideas and expectations.

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Positive Thoughts - Just Because

“It Doesn’t Matter” – the lie we tell ourselves

I love looking at life through the perspective of a child, simply because there’s always wisdom to be gained.

A little girl was recently telling me about her friend that had found new friends. She ended her story with a shrug and said, “it doesn’t matter”, but her eyes held distress.

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Too often, we speak those dismissive words of avoidance and say, “it doesn’t matter “.

What if we changed those words into truth, though? “It did matter, it did hurt, but I’m letting it go”.

We don’t realize the wounds we bury in the name of “it doesn’t matter “, yet those things build up and are never dealt with, and they become such weight on our souls.

To my tough little girl, I know you will be strong enough to allow yourself to move past the bruises. Because when you allow yourself to set the “doesn’t matters” aside, you free yourself to live the “does matters” of life that are much more worthy of our time, energy and attention.

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In the Music Room, My Favorite Things

‘Tis the Season!

Musicians always need an early start to prep and practice for seasonal music, and Christmas is no exception for the piano student.  I have found that playing traditional Christmas music causes huge learning leaps, and motivates like none other.  However, the trick is to pick versions that are playable without too much frustration so that the students do not become bogged down and forget about their regular music.  I recommend sticking with motivation to increase practice time.  Let’s call it “Christmas cheer without the fear!”  It’s also a great time to ask your student to show off what they’re playing, and perhaps ask for a Christmas Carol Sing-Along in which the whole family can participate!

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Click to download PianoGuys: A Family Christmas

Below are book recommendations for beginning piano students to year three.  The beauty of Christmas carols is that they are timeless and great for review at any stage!

Beginner to 1st year:

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Playtime Piano Christmas Level 1

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Popular Christmas Songs Primer Level

First to Second Year:

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ShowTime Piano Christmas Level 2A

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ChordTime Piano Christmas Level 2B

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Popular Christmas Songs Level 1

Second to Third Year:

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Popular Christmas Songs Level 2

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FunTime Piano Christmas Level 3A – 3B

(And of course, there’s that ultimate Christmas Surprise of a new piano to reward all that practice!)img_7237-1 #bestChristmasgiftever

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My Favorite Things, Positive Thoughts - Just Because

Unplugged – a counterintuitive approach

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I bought myself a present for Mother’s Day two years ago, an Apple Watch. So it might seem contradictory to purchase more technology to de-technology. Actually, it has served the reverse and accomplished my goal: to unplug.

You know that feeling of looking up after 15 minutes of being absorbed in messages, checking Facebook and Twitter, and oh, yeah, (what was the reason I pulled out my phone in the first place?) the text that came in. It is so easy to be drawn into technology that we become absent from life.

I only check the ONE message that comes in, and filter everything else that can wait.

Why? Because I’ve been completely guilty of ignoring life around me and being more interested in what is on the phone. Perhaps we use it as an escape from reality, an imaginary world that’s much greener.

That becomes a dangerous trap, though. I realized I was worried about what text I might be missing instead of listening to my daughter’s adventures of the day, or being “present” for family dinner. I heard myself tell her, “just a minute” as I finished perusing Facebook and finding that when I finished 10 minutes later, she no longer needed me.  Truth be told, I think even my baby dogs got jealous for attention when I was on the phone, as they would sit and stare at me with those sad “love me” eyes.

Thankfully, I found a way to sort through the rubble without missing the important. And hopefully, it’s my friends and family that get the first replies to messages, as they really are the real-life gifts that are worth being present!

 

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In the Kitchen, My Favorite Things

Heat & Eat!

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I love to cook, but it seems like we’re always on the go. If homemade meals happen, it’s usually something that’s been prepped ahead when I had time to enjoy cooking.

As a birthday gift, my favorite Aunt Nona (😘) gave me one of the most useful kitchen gadgets EVER! The Ziplock Vacuum Sealer allows me to prep ahead and grab homemade meals right out of the freezer as I need them. Individual packets for on-the-go or whole family meals, just heat & eat!

Ziplock Vacuum Sealer is also great for resealing packages, such as potato chips, so that foods stay fresh!

 

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In the Music Room, Positive Thoughts - Just Because

“The Bare Necessities”

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I’ve embraced the message in this song as my students learned it in Music this week. We teach our children to have an attitude of gratitude, yet we are constantly acquiring more stuff. As I watched my kiddos happily dance and sing, I was reminded to embrace the pure love of life and simply enjoy the LIFE right in front of me!

The Bare Necessities (From "The Jungle Book"/Soundtrack Version)

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In the Kitchen

Chicken Foil Packets – quick & eAsy!

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Back to school meals have been simply effortless with these quick chicken foil packs!  I took the time (about 15 minutes this summer) to make and freeze them ahead.  Each packet was seasoned differently, and my daughter thoroughly amused herself labeling them. My favorite part was the clean up, aka tossing the foil in the trash and DONE!

Veggies cut

Chicken packets

Chicken packets wrapped

 

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