Family · Music

Presley attends Master Class with Broadway Actress

Presley was lucky enough (or should I say talented enough) to be invited to attend a Vocal Master Class today at Lyon College with Broadway actress Belinda Allyn. Presley sang “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” from the Broadway musical Evita.  You can watch her performance here (you’ll want to turn up your sound).

After singing the song through once, Ms. Allyn had her try again and sing like she was speaking the words (without worrying about pitch) to get a feel for how the lines should flow naturally. Presley reprised her performance, following the advice she had received and the improvements were certainly noticeable. Afterwards, Ms. Allyn was surprised to learn that Presley was only 11. She also had a few words of advice for Presley, telling her to take notice of the differences between the “high” and “low” parts of her voice and to continue to work to find the right “blend” of the two in her songs.

After the class Presley was thrilled to get her picture taken with Ms. Allyn and get her autograph. Presley also received one more invaluable piece of advice when she asked Ms. Allyn if she ever got stage fright and if so how she handled it. Ms. Allyn told her, “Somebody once told me that having a little bit of stage fright is a good thing because it shows that you care. Only somebody who doesn’t care doesn’t get nervous. If you practice still and relaxed you will be still and relaxed when you perform.”

We are so happy that Presley had this opportunity to get feedback from an experienced Broadway singer/actress. We are also thankful to have Dr. Weston and Dr. Oriatti teach our daughters music and provide them with such wonderful opportunities for learning like they had today.

Family · Food · Pancakes

Menu Monday 9/25/17

According to the National Day calendar, we have a few food holidays this week, including one of three yearly pancake days:  Blueberry pancake day is January 28th, IHOP pancake day occurs at the beginning of March, and Pancake day is September 26.  Also Wednesday is National Corned Beef Hash Day and who can resist that?

Monday:  Fried rice and egg rolls.  Dinner has to be ready early today, so we’ll Make something quick.  Chop up all your tiny bits of vegetables left in your crisper drawer: carrots, celery, onion, cabbage, broccoli, etc and leftover chicken, pork, or steak.  Mix with leftover cooked white rice and season with soy sauce, ginger paste, and Worcestershire sauce.  Frozen egg rolls round out the meal.

Tuesday:  It’s National Pancake Day so let’s have breakfast for dinner. IMG_7002You can use my basic pancake recipe, make emoji, heart, or other shaped pancakes, prepare oatmeal pancakes, or an apple/pear pancake, or try any of these recipes collected by one of my favorite blogs, HipToSave.  

Wednesday:  Corned Beef Hash.  IMG_7451What else would you eat on National Corned Beef Hash Day?  Simply brown a pan full of potatoes (I use cubed frozen hash browns), add minced onion, leftover diced Corned Beef  (or get some from the deli), and season with salt, pepper, and caraway seeds.  Top with thinly sliced Swiss cheese and serve as soon as the cheese melts into the hash.  You can also add chopped cabbage to this hash if you have some.  Enjoy!

Thursday:   Tuna salad sandwiches and Doritos (one of my favorite combinations ).  It’s Sandwich Thursday in our household, our busiest day of the week.  So it’s sandwiches after school and a second dinner (usually something pre-made out of the freezer like chicken tenders or pizza bites) after soccer practice.  I make my tuna salad with sweet pickle relish, mayonnaise, and a squeeze of yellow mustard.  Feel free to make yours however you like.

Friday:  Sloppy Janes and French fries.  The girls have a school dance tonight so we need a quick and easy dinner.  This is my take on Sloppy Joes courtesy of Desperation Dinners.

Family · Food

Menu Monday 9/18/17

We’ve got a busy week so I’ll make this short and sweet.

Monday:  Grilled chicken leg quarters with pasta salad and black-eyed pea salad.  Today dinner has to be ready when the girls get home from school at 4pm so I’m going with dishes that I can prepare early in the day.  Sorry if I disappoint you but the pasta salad is courtesy of a classic boxed mix with chopped: olives (black and green),  roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, and canned artichokes added to it.  For the black-eyed pea salad, simply drain and rinse a can of black-eyed peas and add frozen corn, roasted red pepper, red onion, & pickle relish (I also use some of the “juice” from the relish.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday:  Fish tacos with slaw.  It’s an old standby recipe but someone gave me a head of cabbage and it needs to be eaten. See Wednesday of Menu Monday 6/12/17 or Monday of Menu Monday 7/3/17 for ideas.

Wednesday:  Yellow rice and black beans with grilled chicken breast and pico de gallo.  We’ve done this one before, see Menu Monday 4/10/17 for details.

Thursday:  It’s sandwich Thursday, our busiest day of the week.  I think I’ll grill extra chicken on Wednesday and we can have grilled chicken sandwiches with mayo, lettuce, and tomatoes.  I’d be happy having these on plain white toast (just like my favorite turkey sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving) but I may pick up some nice hoagie rolls instead.

Friday:  Homemade pizzas.  I’ll just pick up some pizza dough from the grocery store (or maybe those pre-made pizza crusts) and we can top them with whatever is in the refrigerator.  I always have Alfredo sauce and tomato sauce on hand as well as pepperoni.  And this week there will also be mushrooms, onion, ham, bacon, mozzarella cheese, and maybe even leftover chicken.  See Friday of Menu Monday 12/26/16 or 1/9/17 for inspiration.

Food · Pancakes · Uncategorized

Weekends are for Pancakes: Oatmeal Pancakes

I got the idea for these pancakes earlier this week when we had a cold snap and I decided to have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  I usually like fresh fruit, a spoonful of jelly or honey, and toasted nuts (usually pecans because we always seem to have plenty of those here in Arkansas) in my oatmeal.  My pear tree was hit by the late frost this Spring and unfortunately I only got a total of 3 pears off it this year (better luck next year).  I decided that a diced pear, pear butter (like apple butter, but made with pears- you gotta use what you’ve got) and toasted pecans would be good in my oatmeal.  I added a dash of cinnamon on top and it was delicious.  So that bowl of oatmeal gave me the inspiration for this weekend’s pancakes.

Bowl of Oatmeal Pancakes 

1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 small pears (or apples), diced
1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup, melted, plus additional for buttering skillet
Pancake syrup or apple/pear butter for topping


Mix dry ingredients, including the pecans, in a bowl. In a another bowl, mix the wet ingredients: sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, then stir in the melted butter.
Heat a griddle over medium heat and brush with additional melted butter or cooking spray (my griddle doesn’t require this step) .  Pour pancakes, each about 1/3 cup, onto griddle then sprinkle with diced pear/apple.  Cook until bubbles form on the top, then turn. Cakes will cook in about 2 minutes on each side. Serve with syrup over the top or in true oatmeal style, with apple/pear butter.
Thanks to Rachel Ray for the recipe that gave me the basis for this one.

Health · Wellness

Wellness Wednesday: Those pesky New Year’s Resolutions 

January 4, 2017 I posted my resolutions for the year.  Writing them down is supposed to make them stronger somehow.  I revisited my progress in March and now I’m checking back in.  In a nutshell this is the condensed version of them.

Resolution #1

January 4, 2017:   Try to cut back on processed foods and find exercises that I can do even with my feet in the terrible condition they are in. Walking, running, and any type of exercise that puts pressure on my feet are out so some research is going to be necessary. Weight loss would be great but my goal is a stronger, healthier body.

March:  I have lengthened my yoga routine and perform it at least 5 times a week (sometimes more). My body complains whenever I skip it. My feet and ankles are getting stronger and I’ve found some cardio moves that I can do that don’t put too much pressure on my feet. I must confess that I am still eating unhealthy snacks after dinner and am trying desperately to stop. I am so mad at myself afterwards, but can’t seem to keep myself from doing it. Needless to say, no weight loss has occurred.

September:  It is now September and I can honestly say that I feel like I have fulfilled this resolution. Although not to the extent that I would have liked. Our garden has provided a bounty of fresh vegetables this season and I’m proud to say that we eat one meatless meal almost every week. I don’t think it’s helped us cut back on junk food consumption as much I would have liked, but there’s always next year’s resolutions. I’m sure we eat a lot less processed foods than other families, but I haven’t been able to reduce my portions enough to lose even a pound of weight. My late night snacking is still a problem as well. I keep trying though. My yoga routine went out the window as soon as school was out for the summer. Unless I got up at 6am and performed my routine in the cramped quarters of my bedroom, someone always walked in and disturbed me. I tried to get my girls to practice yoga with me and they pretty much put an end to my yoga routine as well as resolution number 2 (no yelling). All they wanted to do was talk, giggle, or complain that it was too hard. Near the end of June however I realized that while I wasn’t really strong enough to swim enough laps in our pool for it to make much difference, I could tread water. I have been doing this almost daily and can now easily tread for over 30 minutes without getting out of breath. This is great exercise for me since it puts no pressure on those painful feet of mine. I even manage to swim a few laps during my time in the water. While I haven’t lost any weight I have toned up my legs considerably. Alas all good things must come to an end, the weather is getting colder and our schedules are getting busier and I’m already having trouble finding time (or high enough temperatures) for my swim. Maybe I can get back to yoga with the kids in school? Or maybe I’m strong enough to try bicycling.

Resolution #2

January:  This one is for the entire family. We need to yell less and listen more. Our new mantra is going to be: STOP, LISTEN, BREATHE, THINK, and then ACT. No yelling, I’ve learned it doesn’t do any good anyway. 

March:  I must say that I was doing great until the end of January (3 whole weeks) when I exploded over my eldest daughter’s lack of concern about practicing for her speech and song for the impending Jr. Beta Convention. I was so frustrated with her indifferent attitude that I didn’t even realize I was yelling until it was over.  Time to start over again.

September:  Somehow I don’t think my family will ever fulfill this resolution.  We’re loud and emotional and unfortunately that leads to yelling especially when we’re frustrated by other family members actions (or lack their of).  Back to January’s mantra, “STOP, LISTEN, BREATHE, THINK, and then ACT.”  Maybe I can have it tattooed on everyone’s foreheads so we’ll see it before we speak.  I’m afraid it’s going to take something that drastic to force a change in this behavior.

Resolution #3:

January:  I resolve to create a “Happiness Journal” to record the things I’m thankful for that make me happy every day, and I will try to live in the moment and appreciate every minute whether difficult or joyous.”

March:  I started off great (not exactly). I purchased a journal and titled it. Then one month later (February 4th, to be exact) I made my first entry in it. It was two pages long and consisted of me venting my frustrations about my entire family. In the end I finally managed to find two tiny things to be grateful for. One week later I managed a list of three things that I was happy about. I haven’t touched it since. It’s time for a re-boot on Resolution 3 as well.
September:  In preparation for this post, I spent 30 minutes searching for my “Happiness Journal,” that should tell you how well I’m doing with this resolution.  After March’s post I dutifully tried (for 2 days) to list things that made me happy, but I found that what I really wanted to do was vent about all the things that had made me mad that day.  I wasn’t sure how healthy that would be (now I’m thinking maybe it would be a good idea, at least I wouldn’t keep things bottled up inside me until I explode thereby breaking Resolution #2).  Needless to say nothing else was written until I dug out the journal for this post.  The first day of the “re-boot” I managed to list 2 things I was happy about.  Imagine that, after 6 months you’d think the list would be longer than that.  The next night when I couldn’t sleep I used the journal to vent about all the changes I want to make in my life so maybe then I’d have something to write in a “Happiness Journal.”  Maybe I should just rename this journal “Things I Think Would Make me Happy” or “Journal for Venting my Frustrations so I don’t Break Resolution #2.”  

I’m writing all this to give you a little hope, not to discourage you from making resolutions.  We may not stick to the letter of our January resolutions, but some part of our proposed positive changes usually stick.  And any positive change in our lives is a win in my book, no matter how small.  What I have learned is that your resolutions should be small (think baby steps) and realistic.  


Family · Food

Menu Monday 9/11/17

Since today is 9/11 I hope you all take a moment to remember the tragedy and heroism of that day as well as the everlasting changes it made in our lives.  Thank you to all our First Responders, firefighters, paramedics, police, and of course our military for all that you do to keep our country safe!

Now on to less important matters.  What are we going to eat this week?  We’re definitely eating eggplant because my garden won’t stop producing them.

Monday:  Eggplant rollatini, Caesar salad, and garlic toast.  We’re going to slice our Japanese eggplants (2-3, depending on how many rollatinis you want to make) into ¼” planks, season with olive oil, salt, and pepper then grill or sauté until softened (not cooked through).  Next spread ricotta mixture from our Eggplant Lasagna recipe on each plank and roll up into a pinwheel.  Repeat with remaining eggplant, placing pinwheels side by side in a greased baking dish (I use an 8 x 8″ casserole dish).  Cover pinwheels with marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Bake at 375 degrees about 30 minutes, until veggies are cooked through and cheese is melted and bubbly on top.  When serving make sure you scoop out individual pinwheels (don’t cut through them) for a more elegant presentation.  Everyone will think you slaved for hours over them.

Tuesday:  Chalupas, tostaguacs, or bean tostadas.  Whatever you want to call them.  To me a Chalupa is a crispy corn tortilla topped with refried beans, queso fresco, guacamole, lettuce, and tomatoes.  They can also include ground beef, or shredded chicken, pork or beef.  Homemade guacamole is a must.  Here is my favorite recipe:

(t = teaspoon and T = tablespoon)

2 medium or 1 large avocado 
2T minced onion
2T chopped fresh cilantro or celery leaves
1T lime juice
1 jalapeño, seeded & minced

1/2t salt
1/4t pepper 

Cut avocados in half, remove each seed. Scoop flesh from peel with spoon into bowl. Add next 6 ingredients. Coarsely mash with potato masher. 

Wednesday:  Grilled ribeye steaks, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, and spinach sautéed in butter and garlic.  It’s going to be a real “steakhouse” dinner.  I can’t wait!

Thursday:  Roast beef sandwiches with horseradish sauce and carrots, pickles, and olives on the side (those count as vegetables, don’t they?)  As I mentioned last week, Thursdays are now “Sandwich Thursdays” due to the girls crazy Thursday after school schedules.  They have to eat in the car on the way from school to choir since they have soccer practice immediately following choir.  I’ll also pack a small cooler of healthy snacks and water for the soccer field.  And chocolate milk once they get home to help their muscles recover quicker.  Remember my blog post on chocolate milk? Refresh your memory with the last paragraph.

Friday:  Yogurt marinated venison with pita bread and Greek salad.  Yogurt really seems to take away the gamey taste of venison.  Season your meat (we’re using the back strap) with olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano or Greek seasoning then smother it all in plain Greek yogurt (massage it into the meat).  This marinade is also great on chicken or lamb.  Let it marinate  in refrigerator at least 2 hours (doing this part the morning you’re having it for dinner is even better).  For dinner, grill your meat, warm the pitas, and serve with a big Greek salad consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, red onion, and lettuce.  Follow our Favorite Vinaigrette recipe but substitute lemon juice for the vinegar and add some dried oregano.

Family · Food · Pancakes

Weekends are for Emoji Pancakes 

This weekend we took our basic blender pancake recipe and used it to make emoji pancakes.

We added 8-10 drops of yellow food coloring to our pancake batter after mixing all the ingredients together.  We would add a few drops and then blend again until we got the right color.  In trying to get the correct color we almost over-mixed the batter and got a few lumpy pancakes.

I suggest adding 8-10 drops of yellow food coloring to the milk before adding it to the batter.   Also don’t get your griddle too hot or your pancakes will brown too much and you’ll lose your yellow color.  You can see the result of a too hot griddle in the following picture.

The girls really got into making the pancakes and drawing the emoji faces on them with black and red decorator frosting.


Maybe you can make your next pancake breakfast (or dinner) an emoji one.  Please share your results with us!

I’d love it if you’d share your favorite pancake recipes with me either in the Comments section of this blog, on my “Yes, there will be pancakes” Facebook page, or for those of you closer to me, send me a text, email, or Facebook message.