Wacky Wednesday

It’s Read Across America week, a carnival of sorts with guest readers in the elementary classrooms, special Dr. Seuss themed snacks, movies and activity events in the afternoons. We celebrate now instead of March as it’s the best week to celebrate, a week before February vacation!

Wacky Wednesday!

Yesterday was wacky Wednesday…a day of mismatched socks, backwards or inside out clothes, funky hairdos and loads of laughs.

Everyone is allowed to be wacky once in awhile! We are all wacky in some ways…let’s sport it proudly! Haha!

I truly LOVE my job! Thank God for my 15 years at school and the loads of fun I’ve experienced!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😂

Baking with Coconut Oil

As most of you must know by now, I love to bake! I live in the perfect region to do this, the Northeast. The seasons Fall and Winter host ample time to run the oven as the temperatures are cooler then. Running the oven helps heat our kitchen as well. I don’t bake as often in the summer unless it’s a rainy cool day or early in the morning.

About a year and a half back I read somewhere how bad Canola oil is for your health, my primary staple along with butter in my baked goods. After researching other options I decided to try using Coconut Oil. I found the cheapest options at Wal-mart just under $10 for a big jar. Then it was time to experiment and use it in recipes.

Early on I discovered that simple putting it in recipes from the jar wasn’t going to work smoothly. It’s a thick shortening like state and doesn’t cream well. Simply by trial and error I learned that melting it in a small pan before adding it to recipes did the trick. It adds a slight coconut flavor in goods, sometimes noticeable and others not. I recommend you to try it if you dislike coconut. My son Dylan doesn’t like coconut but enjoys my baked goods with it. Experiment and see the results.

I keep my Coconut Oil for a few months. Once it starts to smell rancid I throw it away. My latest jar I’ve had for awhile and it has kept well in the cool cupboard.

Try Coconut Oil in crepes and pancakes, cakes and cupcakes, zucchini breads and cookies and bars.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ☺️

Own Your Story

Presently I’m reading Michelle O’Bama’s autobiography Becoming. It’s on my Kindle, not my favorite way to read but it’s convenient. My old fashioned nature loves the crinkle of the paper pages and the hard binding as I read. But I’ll go with the times and sometimes read on my i-pad.

In the first few chapters O’Bama pens that we should all own our story. For you’ll always have it and no one can take it away. I know I’ve heard this before in different words and by someone else. Reading this recently was a great reminder to me that I am proud of my story, whatever has happened to me from the time I was a child to now is totally mine. I believe that everything that has transpired in my life has been for good reasons.

Let me ask you this…are you proud of your story? Has it molded you into the person you are today? Probably. If you’re not happy with what has happened in your life or who you really are you can change your narrative. You are the author, the person who can control how it goes.

I’m enjoying this autobiography. So far it describes her childhood and family as she grew up on the south side of Chicago. I look forward to hearing about her married life and of her daughters. I would recommend this book for a fresh look at Michelle O’Bama’s life.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

Spending More Time With Family & Friends

Okay let’s be honest here! How many of you truly keep your New Year’s resolution and honor it throughout the whole year? I’ve never kept my intention, not from not caring about it but life gets busy with work and commitments and it gets pushed to the wayside. With that….it’s lost and forgotten replaced with to do lists, bills to pay, etc.

My interest in setting a new year goal for 2020 was sparked by my daughter- in-law Lexy. She shared that she and her best friend were getting together to set New Years goals. I liked the idea of sharing with a friend for accountability sake but it can also turn into a fascinating conversation. Sharing your positive intentions for the new year opens up channels of new ideas and thoughts fostered through friendship. I have always kept my resolutions private and perhaps that’s why I’ve failed at them. Maybe I’ll start shouting from the rooftops of my goal, with a true desire to reach it.

This year I honestly intend to spend more time with friends and family, especially since I’m feeling better. I may go to lunch more often, make a few more phone calls, write quick sweet notes and send them in the mail. I want to see my mom and dad more, making the trips to their homes. I’m blessed to still have them and their spouses alive, in their seventies and early eighties. They mean the world to me and I want them to know how fortunate and happy I feel to have them.

When our Florida family comes in the summer I wish to connect through down to earth talks, nice country walks or by lounging on our deck in the sunshine. I want to hear stories of how their life is going down there and have Tom reminisce of old times growing up and of relatives passed but not forgotten.

This year I vow that I’ll try to keep this goal alive and not hidden. I wish to connect more, talk more, laugh more and let my friends and family know how precious they are to me. 2020 will be an amazing year of wonderful possibilities to carry my resolution through. I pray to God for me to carry it through and reach out to people even more than I have!

What’s your New Year’s resolution and what is your strategy for keeping it alive and going all year?

All My Best for the new year,

Mary🎉🥰

Baking and Hiding Treats!

Featuring Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

My healthy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies made with banana

Lately I have a problem. A sweet problem, that is. I want desperately to bake sweets to please my family and co- workers, yet the temptation that goes with having goodies in the house is too much for me. ( especially around the holidays) I make my husband hide the air tight cookie container but then he forgets where he has hidden it! Sounds like something I would do!

 

Once it gets frigid here with a blanket of snow everywhere there is a comfort of an oven baking. It warms the whole kitchen with a nesting glow and the scent of fresh baked goodies wafts throughout the house. I tend to bake with candles lit and my music playing in the background. I’m an old school baker as I wear my apron, use wooden spoons yet with a modern twist with the use of my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer.

 

Here is a list of cookies and bars I enjoy to make.

  • M&M cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms ( with a Hershey’s kiss)
  • Lunch Lady Brownies
  • Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

Here is my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies recipe that I make often. They are delicious and are hard to eat just one! This isn’t the recipe made with banana but I’ll try to share that soon. 

The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • You will need :
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats, not instant
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt, optional
  • 1 cup heaping semi- sweet chocolate chips

Combine egg,butter,sugars and vanilla in mixer. Beat on medium speed for four minutes until creamed and combined. Stop and scrape the sides of the mixer. Add oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, optional salt until just combined, about a minute.

Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. Add chocolate chips and beat until combined.

Using a large cookie scoop form equal sized balls and flatten slightly on cookie pan, about two inches apart. If you wish strategically place a few choc chips on each mound. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 11 minutes or until edges and top are set. Don’t overtake as cookies firm up as they cool. Cool on rack. Can be kept in airtight container for a week and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

I hope you will try this recipe. You can make it gluten free by using gluten free flour like oat flour. It may change the consistency but they will be amazing!Happy baking, my friends.

As I close this post I want to focus on positive thinking and faith. If you are going through troubles right now, please remember turning your thoughts ( and praying too if you practice that) to positive and uplifting ones, it will help. When I experienced health troubles for a few months I prayed for strength but acceptance as well. Any bad experience in your life is meant for a lesson. It’s power can build you up, to a stronger person with a new appreciation of all the wonders in life. Have faith that crooked roads lead to beautiful peaceful pastures! 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😘

Lil’ Moments

Lately I have been caught up in everyday life, so immersed in it that I’ve neglected my blog. It’s been over three years that I’ve written it and shared my life with you all and I’m truly thankful for the friends I’ve made through it. I go through times of not knowing what I should share and what should remain silent. Also I’ve been battling a health issue that hopefully will be resolved soon. For the first time in weeks, last night beautiful ideas blessed me and so I will share.

I’ve had a few little moments that have touched my heart, making my week special when I needed it. The other day a little first grader who I work with shared with me that he had never tried a gingerbread man. Can you believe that…six years old and he has never held the little arms and legs of a gingery spicy treat adorned with sweet icing and raisins for buttons!

It brought me back to my younger days when I was a little girl. My mom used to bake big gingerbread men and poked a hole in the top. That way we could lace ribbon through the hole and hang them on the bristly branches of our Christmas tree. I would sample a cookie here and there, savoring the spice on my tongue.

my sister and I at Christmas. Notice mom’s gingerbread men on the tree!

I went home the same day and promised to myself that I would fulfill that little boy’s wish and bring little gingerbread men in for my reading groups. I think I’ll bring icing and candies for the kids to decorate. Maybe he will love them as I did or if not , at least he can say that Mrs. Blowey baked gingerbread men for school and that he didn’t care for them.

Another lil’ moment was when another first grade boy chose to write about me in his circle journal. Every Friday the class has a journal with a little circle and in are pieces labeled of different activities they did or learned in school. The teacher modeled several sentences they could write about and one was of the music teacher and how she is kind in class. This little boy announced that he would write about me because I am fun. It was a sweet thing to say, something I’m proud of, because not only am I teaching growing minds but I’m spreading kindness and joy in my groups as well.

Ever since I’ve lost a colleague to cancer a few years ago, my true intention is to make a difference. Her spirit reminds me to play with the kids, to laugh deep belly laughs and to make school a fun place to be for them. I cherish her memory as well as her teaching ideas and have taken her kindness and joy and made it my every day mantra.

My sons Branden and Dylan

Yesterday my son Dylan came for his after work ritual. He stops by every day, either just before his night summer job or for hunting. He was gathering his hunting clothes while I sat quietly in the window watching snowflakes magically scatter outside. It was serene and beautiful, a lovely way to unwind after a busy day at school. Suddenly Dylan ran to me and gave me the biggest hug! He does hug me, for I’m his mother, but this one was different. It not only spoke of love but friendship and appreciation. I value these small moments of connections with my son, as they don’t happen all the time. Life is busy and even though we talk mostly every day, sentiments and hugs are not always included. Now I ask myself, why not? For I love this young man I gave birth to many years ago and he loves me.

My son Dylan and I at his wedding
My son Branden and I

Lastly my youngest son, Branden sent me a Facebook message saying, “ I love you so much.” He doesn’t always convey his feelings either! What a special day of love from my guys! I’m not sure what stars were aligned in the universe or if God gifted me these lil’ moments to carry me though my trials. He always has my back, even when I’m sick. I believe He has the best intentions and deepest love for me. That carries me through anything. I’m blessed beyond measure and I trust He will walk beside me all the way.

As I wrap this up, I challenge you to notice the little things, for they are truly the big most important things. Your child’s little hug or smile, a friend’s message, a colleague’s act of kindness….whatever it is, relish in it. Accept the love and then pay it forward.

All My Best,

Mary 💕

I’m thankful I get up every day with open eyes and a loving heart.

Celebrate Where You Are

From Livelifehappy.com

Do you remember when you envisioned what your adult life would be like? Is your story playing out the same way? Probably not. That’s okay! Life has its way of throwing surprises at us and sweet presents that are so unexpected.

As a young girl I aspired to be a teacher and would line up all my dolls and my little sister and proceed to teach them. Somewhere along the way I lost my dream and self confidence. I thought I wasn’t good enough to teach, to actually inspire children. Then as a 35 year old mom, my son’s preschool director asked me if I’d be interested in volunteering and helping out. After a few months that led to a full time job with children. From there I took early childhood education classes and landed a job as a reading paraeducator at a local school.

Fourteen years later I continue to teach young children every day. Yet I’m not a certified teacher but a paraeducator. I could continue college to complete it but I’m tired and I love what I’m doing now. So maybe I’m not living my childhood dream but that’s okay. For dreams change and take different forms as we age.

I am content where I’m at now…living and celebrating my life as it is. I’m not wallowing in lost dreams or questioning of what ifs. What’s the point of doing that? If I really think about it, my life and how it’s played out have far exceeded my expectations. I’m blessed beyond measure. My husband and I have raised two wonderful boys ( young men now), they both have met gems for girls, we hold steady jobs and we share our own haven we call home. That’s a blessed life I would say!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

Being Gutsy…

My nephew Lucas and my dad, who everyone calls Top Shelf

Being gutsy is staying true to your beliefs and values

even when someone challenges you

Being gutsy is staying strong in any situation

easy or difficult, either way being on top is the

positive outlook ( a few years ago my dad lay in a hospital bed

sick but told the nurse he was on the “ top shelf”)

Being gutsy is fighting cancer everyday but laughing

anyway and finding the joys in every day( my niece is doing this, fighting

but mostly importantly LIVING)

Being gutsy is working hard day in and day out

having a strong work ethic and taking pride in every action

( my husband Tom practices this and it’s one of the many reasons

that I love him and I’m proud of him)

I know many souls that are gutsy

they’re living with extreme strength

and faith

with a quiet and steadfast perseverance

Rest In Peace Mrs. Geneen

Maybe you live gutsy

Plowing forward through your troubles

Making the best of it

Praying to God

and having eternal faith that all will be well.

Here’s to all the gutsy people in my life,

they have taught me strength

Persistence, confidence, and faith.

My cousins and I. Carmen in the middle

Anita, Sherrie, Dad, Tom, Laura ( Rest In Peace), Mrs. Geneen for your strength and example ( Rest In Peace) ,Theo for her strength through her trials, my cousin Carmen who has battled back from a horrific attack and tours now to teach others , my stepfather Gary and many more.

Theo on the right front, a woman who smiles no matter what
My niece Ella and my stepfather Gary who has had recent health challenges but still on top

All My Best,

Mary 💜🌈

A Glimpse of Fall

Beautiful serene Lake Willoughby in Westmore, Vermont

It’s a warm pleasant morning in the 50’s with the sun coming up to gift us a new day. October is well under way bringing a crinkled up mosaic of leaves in ambers, yellows, pinks and deep reds. Everywhere you venture in this land you see a patchwork of colors, immersing you in a new world other than rich greens. There’s no place I’d rather be than here in my home state in October!

My back yard showing the season.

Every October Tom and I indulge in a foliage ride in either New Hampshire or beautiful neighboring Vermont. Last year we ventured down the infamous Kangamangus highway through Lincoln into Waterville Valley, NH. Cars and people were everywhere, an indication of all the mystical beauty surrounding us. This year Tom mapped our journey ahead, planning to go through Dalton NH across the covered bridge into Vermont. We went through Lunenburg VT up north and stumbled upon lovely Lake Willoughby in Westmore, Vermont.

During our Sunday ride, the warm sun beat on us through the windshield. All we saw where idyllic farm lands, cows grazing in pastures, country dirt roads, as seasonal turned leaves lit the way as we rode. We didn’t pass many stores, gas stations nor restaurants. This ride held lost north country lands and homes that host quiet rural living. It was the perfect foliage ride of peace and exploration!

Upon entering Westmore, Vermont we were greeted by massive cliffs with surreal views. A sprawling Lake Willoughby was on our left as we explored the winding road parallel to it. We came upon a small beach where a few families eagerly snapped photos, as we did. A lone canoe and a small kayak were parked on the beach, beckoning one to venture out on the lake. Across the road a quaint country store stood with a small campground beyond. Hiking trails wound through the woods, appealing to nature enthusiasts.

Tom and I decided that we would visit Lake Willoughby again in the future and trek up one of the trails. It’s peaceful and tranquil gorgeousness spoke to our souls. It’s not often that we find such peace, one that can’t be described in mere words. Silence does it justice for this level of tranquility needs no words, just paying homage to it’s beauty.

Coming home we were fortunate to be able to see fall colors in our own yard, solidifying our love for our land. Going on a foliage road trip is exciting, especially when you explore a new place you’ve never seen before. The only perfect ending to that scenario is returning to the subtle serenity of the place where you belong, home.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🍁❤️

My Gluten Free Journey

Okay friends I need to share with you what’s going on with me. For awhile now ( just over a year and a half) I have noticed that certain foods irritate my stomach and I’ve experienced significant changes, which led me to the doctor. Of course he had no answers for me. In the past I’ve had trouble and had to solve my own problem by taking note of what I ate and the reactions the food caused. In a few weeks I learned that eating dairy products and drinking milk made my stomach sick and upset my stools. Now I know I’m lactose intolerant.

I’ve figured out that breads, ( I only eat oat bran bakery bread but it’s not gluten free) cereals, oats that aren’t gluten free, dressings with gluten and rice pilaf mixes are all not agreeing with me. It’s been a challenge to change our eating habits and it’s more expensive at the grocery store! ( I ask you why do the healthiest foods cost more?) Every time I eat any of these foods I have gas and some bloating and undesirable stools.

Two months later and I think I’ve figured out how to eat so my body is happy and calm. I mostly avoid granolas unless they are gluten free, most breads, salad dressings and sauces such as rice pilaf mixes. I’ve learned to shop the gluten free section at the grocery store and on Amazon Prime. I eat more fruit in the morning, skip cereals and breads and if I do have toast it’s gluten free. Canyon Bakehouse gluten free bread is my choice for now. I put it in the freezer and take out a slice when I wish to.

I used to think the gluten free idea was crazy but now that it affects me, I know well that it’s a real thing affecting many people. It takes much planning, shopping, searching and patience to maintain my path to wellness. Sometimes I cheat and eat something with gluten or dairy and soon after pay for it. Even if the food tastes good I try to remember the ending result and how my body doesn’t accept it. I think I’ve done well in a short time and feel healthier and balanced. The last challenge is finding gluten free foods at restaurants. That’s where searching the web pays off, you can look at menus ahead and see the healthy gf options.

This is my personal journey, one that I’ve had to rack my brain over without a doctor’s help. Sometimes I wonder why this food intolerance has plagued me but asking this question doesn’t change anything. So I accept it and deal. Move on and focus on eating that makes my body whole and healthy. If you are also on this path, I wish you the power to accept and learn all you can about it.

Until next time be well, my friends. It’s October here with a colorful array of foliage. Probably the next post I write will share fall moments with you.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🍁