4th of July Pudding in a Cloud

IMG_1144Happy 4th of July! I took a trip to visit my childhood friend from when I lived in Africa. She lives in Texas and I was thrilled to take a long weekend to stay with her and catch up with our lives. On my flight there, I took pictures of the different cloud coverage while en route. The beauty of the changing clouds was surreal and it was so cool to see the vast, beautiful sky.

While taking pictures of the clouds, I was thinking of Michele and I’s time together when we were little and living in Africa. She and I had so much fun attending school, going on mini trips with our parents to places like a malachite mine, swimming in lakes and rivers while camping, and hiking on the Lufimi River in the Congo.

One of my favorite desserts to make when Michele would come over was Pudding in the Cloud. The ease of making instant pudding mixed with my favorite topping, whipped cream, made it an all-time favorite. And it’s a dessert I still love to make, and my kids really enjoy.

Whether you are celebrating today with childhood friends, family, or co-workers, this dessert is great for everyone. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Pudding in a Cloud

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 Large Packages of instant chocolate pudding (may use any flavor pudding and amount will depend on the size of your bowl)
  • 1 can whipped cream (may use any variety of your favorite whipped cream)
  • Red and Blue M&M’s or any favorite sprinkles (amount varies)

Directions:

  • Decide whether you will use one bowl such as in picture above, or individual cups or bowls.
  • Make pudding according to package directions.
  • Scoop pudding and place a small layer on bottom of bowl.
  • Add a small layer of whipped cream onto the top of the pudding.
  • Scoop another layer of pudding onto the whipped cream.
  • Add another layer of pudding onto the whipped cream layer.
  • Continue to layer until a whipped cream is the top layer of the bowl or individual cup.
  • Sprinkle Red and Blue M&M’s (or any favorite sprinkles) on the top layer of the last whipped cream.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Moon Coconut dessert

strawberry moonYesterday was the kid’s last day of school and it happened to fall on the night of the Strawberry Moon. Every last day of school we have a bonfire. Last night, neighborhood families came over and we sat around the fire pit, talking about the past school year. A large amount of papers from the kids’ notebooks went into the fire when the topic of the Strawberry Moon came up. Unfortunately we couldn’t see all of the moon, but some of the haze peeking through the clouds sparked our curiosity. My neighbor, Natalie, filled us in on the night event.

The Strawberry Moon is so named because it occurs in the month of June when strawberry fields yield the ripest fruit. It occurs when there is a full moon on the same night as the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. There is also a reddish glow on the surface of the moon, hence, a strawberry color. The year of 1967 was the last Strawberry Moon and it is predicted to be another 46 years before the next one.

I wonder if we will be sitting around a bonfire at the next Strawberry Moon? If so, I will be ready with the story of this one. Maybe it will occur on the last day of school for my (great) grandchildren. And maybe we will have the dessert below while my kids tell their children about this very cool lunar event.

Did you get to see the Strawberry Moon? If so, where might you be for the next one?

Strawberry Moon Coconut (Non-dairy) Dessert

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vanilla soy or coconut milk
  • 4 dates, pitted
  • 1 – 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup coconut, shredded
  • 1 package of moon-shaped almond cookies (or any cookie in shape of a half-moon)

Directions:

  • Blend first 3 ingredients in a high-powered blender.
  • Add coconut and fold.
  • Place moon shaped cookies on a plate, either on the side of the plate or at the bottom, in a row.
  • Place one or two scoops of dessert onto cookies or on the side of cookies.
  • Enjoy on a warm summer night!

 

 

Memorial Day Salads

IMG_1489Happy Memorial Day! It is a day to remember and honor those who fought for our freedom and to give thanks. My kids’ grandfather was in the Navy and was a New York City fireman. He passed away six years ago and we miss him everyday.

I am so thankful to have known this man as my children’s ‘Grandpa’. Kind, caring, strong, honest and a true family man; we had great family visits, whether he and grandma came to us, or we went to see them. We never lived in the same town, so all of our time together was spent on vacations that were 24/7. After 20 years of anywhere from one to two IMG_1488weeks, 3 to 4 times a year, 24/7, you got to know each other very well. We learned about our daily lives and talked about everything from what was in the newspaper that day (grandpa read the paper every day) to stories of war and the way life was when he was growing up.

Most of that time was also spent cooking . . . breakfast, lunch and dinners together. One of Grandpa’s favorite salads was potato salad and served along side of that was Grandma’s macaroni salad. My potato salad and Grandma’s macaroni salad would be at every visit, in the summer months.

Since Grandpa’s passing, I’ve taken over making Grandma’s macaroni salad and it warms my heart when I see her smile, the way we do when a familiar taste graces our taste buds. I know this means she is happy with how I make the salad, exactly as she would make it. I also know, it means Grandpa would approve of it too.

Macaroni Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise – add 2 tablespoons of milk, stir until blended
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked, drained
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, stir first 4 ingredients until smooth.
  • Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat well.
  • Serve chilled.

Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs -hard boiled and peeled, chopped
  • 10 red or white potatoes – boiled, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup dill pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup celery – finely chopped 
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, relish, mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth.
  • Add eggs and mix well.
  • Add potatoes and fold.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients and serve chilled.

 

Food Revolution Summit and University Student Life

Interestingly, the Food Revolution Summit (foodrevolution.org) I just spent the week listening to, takes place at a time when the Wall Street Journal published an article about students at Yale, Brown and other universities demanding a change of policy regarding racial inequality. Presidents are pledging HUGE, multi-million dollars to support these changes. They are pledging to hire more racially diverse professors, to increase classes on racial diversity, and to give more scholarships to racially diverse students. This gives me hope.

What would happen if these same students and students of all races . . . no matter what color your skin, your hair, your eyes, your body type; no matter what economic place you or your parents are in; no matter what state you were born in; no matter what country you were born in; no matter what religion you practice; whether you are vegan or vegetarian or meat eating . . . but simply ALL students stood up to the policy on FOOD at their universities?

Imagine the impact of all students demanding a change in the food available for them to eat and the policies regarding food at universities. Imagine the impact of these students realizing that their strength is within a UNIFIED collaboration of each person seeking to make a change for the greater good. It would be a greater good that will benefit each students health, their environment, their jobs, their lives, and the world they live in.

I say to these students, Yes!! You are doing GREAT WORK and to CONTINUE this great work by placing your energy into matters of the WORLD. The world needs you to make the difference, each one of you . . . collectively, collaboratively, and UNIQUELY you. The difference that a FOOD REVOLUTION in the universities, where feeding the mind, the body, and the souls of all students, will be life changing and will make a tremendous impact for all.

Isn’t, after all, the true message behind not discriminating, is to not discriminate against anyone? And isn’t the best way to show that you are PRO-EQUALITY is to be ONE WITH ALL? Healthy food for all.

Are you a student or a parent of a university student?  If so, what are the food choices you (or they) have at  school?

 

Happy Earth Day!

Celebrating Earth Day gives us time to think about making changes in life to help the greater good of our planet. Little ways every day can make a BIG difference. What are some of your favorite Earth Day and recycling ideas?

Heart ribbon on lavender bouquet

Heart ribbon on lavender bouquet

  • Ribbons – Recognize this ribbon? You guessed it! It’s a scrap leftover from my countdown ribbons. I save the scraps and use them for multiple reasons around the house. This one was used to make a lavender bouquet for the guest room. Rustic and sweet smelling all in one.
  • Twist ties from the grocery store – I have a compartment in the kitchen drawer just for these. Great for goody bag treats! Also, my daughter made me a cup of tea one day and it had what I thought was a very clever use of the twist tie. She used it to hold a tea bag on the side of my cup!

    Twist tie for tea

    Twist tie for tea

  • Yogurt cups – Yuumm! When the yogurt is gone, they really are the cutest little cups, aren’t they? We wash them out and save to plant herbs and flowers for the summer. Kids can also cover the cups on the outside with construction paper for a catch-all.
  • Water bottles – My kids have a reusable sports bottle, but there are times when a plastic water bottle is grabbed to go to after school activities. Just one use seems like a waste. So they bring the water bottle home, wash, and use it again by refilling each morning for lunches and after school.

 

  • Books – Using very old books for creative art projects is a great way to recycle. It transforms the art of the writing into an art to behold. I love this piece my daughter made for an art class in high school.

    Recycling old books

    Recycling old books

Dummy for Picture Book Writers

As a writer of picture books, one might think making a dummy is only for illustrators. Not so! A quote by Uri Shulevitz says it best, “Putting together the . . .  book dummy is a necessary process-it is the foundation for your book and lies at the heart of good bookmaking.”

I was very excited to learn exactly how to make a book dummy. After spending hours at the computer, it is a welcome break to cut and paste and read my words aloud while turning pages. When your manuscript is complete, revised from feedback of your critique group, revised with a strong first page, has believable and strong characters, has a sound beginning, middle, and end with an ending that solves the initial problem, you are ready for the book dummy. It is a great way to check your plot and make sure you have the right words for page-turning action. Revise again as needed. When you make the dummy and feel there is no more revising to do, your manuscript is ready to be sent to editors and/or agents.

Making a picture book dummy is one of the fun ways to get to the heart of your book. Below are 7  steps to help you on that process. Enjoy!

Materials: printed hard copy of your manuscript, scissors, 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper, and scotch tape.

  1. First decide if your words are better filled on a short dummy or a tall dummy. This is determined by looking at your sentence structure. If your sentences are long, you will make a horizontal(long) dummy. If your sentences are short, you will make a vertical(short) dummy.
  2. To make a short dummy that will be more vertical, take 4 pieces of paper and cut each paper into 4 squares. All picture books are 32 pages (they may be more but for our purposes we will keep at 32) After cutting, you should have 16 total small square papers. Staple together the 16 small papers. Number each page, front and back, sequentially starting from 1 to 32. To make a long dummy that will be more horizontal, take 8 pieces of paper and cut them in half. You should have 16 total half papers. Staple the 16 papers together. Number each page front and back sequentially starting from 1 to 32.
    Horizontal dummy

    Horizontal dummy

    Vertical dummy

    Vertical dummy

  3. Pages 1 thru 5 will be used for front matter. This includes a half-title page on page 1, a full-title page on pages 2 &3, copyright information on page 4 and a dedication on page 5. Publishers vary on where they place the front mater. For your purpose, you will begin your story on page 6. If you need more pages, you can find a way to tighten the front matter.
  4. Next, determine where to cut your text. This is done by cutting when one of these elements occur in your story.
    • Action – When an action takes place.
    • Characters – When a new or main character enters a scene.
    • Location – When a new setting occurs in the story. For example: your character walks home from work, enters the house or goes to a store.
  5. Start cutting! Once you have your text in strips of paper, place a double sided scotch tape on the back of each strip. Then place the text onto each page including the last, page 32.
  6. Read your dummy aloud to see if you have the important elements. Ann Whitford Paul in her Writing for Picture Books suggests a color testing of your dummy and to look for these elements:
    • Use a green highlighter to highlight the Wow moment where your reader is compelled to read on.
    • Use a blue highlighter to highlight where the problem of your story begins. This should be within the first 3 pages of your dummy.
    • Use the same blue highlighter to show where the same problem is resolved . . . around page 28. If it is resolved before page 28, revise.
    • See if you have enough dramatic moments in your story by circling them in red. They should occur regularly.
    • Check your words for actions that make the reader want to see what happens next at each page turn.
    • Page 32 should leave the reader with a satisfied, happy end to what was presented on pages 1-3.
  7.  Reposition the text as needed. This is why the double-sided tape was used. It is a great way to keep the original dummy while making necessary changes.

For more information on making a dummy, these two books have been very useful to me and I highly suggest buying them for your book collection:

  • Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz
  • Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Chocoholic? Nope . . . Chai-o-holic!

Since February is a sweets month, I thought I would write about my love for Chai. Instead of being a chocoholic…I classify myself as a Chai-o-holic! I find recipes that include this delicious tea into baked goods. Delish! It works to have this tea in baked goods because it must have both milk and sugar. Having both milk and sugar is the true meaning to the name Masala Chai. I always thought I had to say “Chai Tea Latte” to get a Chai tea with milk. But all I have to actually say is, “Chai, please.”

Chai is a black tea with different spices made with cream.The varying spices include cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, pepper (yes, pepper!) fennel and cloves. If any of these sound good to you, just make it the predominate ingredient in your own homemade tea.

The homemade recipe below is from my friend Tahmina. Tahmina and I went to the Sana’a International School in Yemen when we were kids. The recipe is easy and takes very little time. So enjoy and when a hot beverage is something you crave, reach for this spicy Chai . . . it might turn you into a Chai-o-holic like me!

To see this and more of Tahmina’s recipes go to www.kolpona.com/masala-chai

Masala Chai

2 cups 1% or skim milk

3 1/2 cups of water

2 Cinnamon sticks

5 green Cardamom pods, crushed

4-5 whole cloves

1/4 cup sugar

4 tea bags

In a sauce pan heat milk and water together.  Add the spices (including the Cardamom pod skin and seeds) and bring to a low simmer.  Add in the tea bags until the color becomes a light, nutty brown.  Slowly add in the sugar (if you prefer more sugar add more or if you want to leave out the sugar you can as well).  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Using a strainer over each cup, pour tea and serve.  For a refreshing summertime drink you can serve this chilled or over ice.