Saturday, December 9, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Strufoli (Italian Honey Balls)

My husband's grandmother, Cora McKee, was from a small region about one hour east of Naples. The Feast of Seven Fishes is typically a southern Italian custom, and most of the peasant-style dishes Cora prepared for the Christmas Eve feast find their roots in Neopolitan cuisine.

Strufoli, bite-sized balls of dough fried to a golden brown and drenched in honey, is no exception.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Italian Family Christmas

I first had the idea to write Italian family Christmas in December 2016. I wanted to document our holiday traditions to leave as a legacy for my children.

The cornerstone of our celebration is Christmas Eve - when we prepare the Vigil, or The Feast of Seven Fishes. This tradition was introduced to my husband's family by his adopted grandmother, Cora McKee. It has been a part of southern Italian heritage for centuries.

The origin of the Feast is linked to the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Some Italian families pare the feast down to three courses, representing the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

By the time I joined the family, the tradition remained without the religious symbolism.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Poor Man's Pecan Pie

I'm not sure where my mom found this recipe, perhaps in one of her many church cookbooks she collected throughout the years.

The pie got its name because it tastes like a pecan pie but uses oatmeal to replace the expensive nuts. Seeing how I was never fond of nuts to begin with (and neither were my children), this pie became an instant family favorite.

In fact, one year my son requested this pie instead of birthday cake.

For those who enjoy the taste and texture of nuts, you can easily decorate the top of the pie with pecan halves.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Twelve Ways to Bless an Author

Writers write. It's what we do.

We write because we have a story or message that aches to be told. We write because we can't NOT write. It is a part of our DNA.

We also write to connect with others. We want our words to bring joy, knowledge, and/or healing to those who find themselves in a similar situation or season in life. We may write in solitude, but we envision our audience as we pen our next work.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Angel Bites

Most of you would recognize this confection as Puppy Chow, but in our family, it is affectionately known as Angel Bites. Personally, I think we should rename the recipe and call it "Heavenly Crack" ... because once I take a single bite, I can't seem to stop.

My mom collected angels for years. At one time she was even a member of the Angel Collector's Club of America. At one of their annual conventions, she purchased a fundraiser cookbook that included this recipe, and it was love at first bite.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread, along with Sausage Balls, are family favorites on Thanksgiving morning. I take the bread out of the oven around 8:30am so it is still nice and warm by the time the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade begins.

However, for those who prefer to sleep in rather than watch the Parade, both recipes are quite tasty served at room temperature.

The combination of gooey Cinnamon Bread and savory Sausage Balls makes for a filling breakfast treat. And we eat enough of both to keep us satiated until the traditional dinner is served around 4:00pm.

I don't remember where I first found this recipe. It was shortly after we moved to Kansas, circa 1990, and I vaguely remember finding it in an old recipe book my grandmother gave me.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trusting the Creative Process

I do not procrastinate. I like organization and routines. Each Sunday I sit down with my planner and contemplate the week ahead. I review both appointments and tasks and then create a schedule to meet those demands. I strive to make life as stress-free as possible.

This is my normal, left-brained world.

My creative life is a different story.

While I try to plan manageable schedules, editorial calendars, and brainstorming sessions, my right-brain refuses to cooperate. Sure, I go through the motions, but there is little concrete evidence on the page. Stress sets in and I begin to doubt: Do I have anything worthwhile to say?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Day 31: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
~ Joseph  Campbell

Thank you for joining me on this month of learning self-acceptance.

I'm not sure there is a cure for Impostor Syndrome, but daily positive affirmations help silence the lies and recognize God's truth: we are loved - we are accepted - we have value.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Day 30: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
~ e. e. cummings

We are coming to the end of this October blogging challenge, and I can think of no better quote to sum up the month.
  • Don't allow fear to sabotage your life. 
  • Embrace the imperfect - for in our weakness God is made strong.
  • Celebrate your God-given talents.
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments.
  • Share your passion with the world.
  • Don't buy into the lie that humility is self-deprecation.
  • Don't judge others... including yourself. 
  • Remember comparison is the thief of joy.
  • Accept God's unconditional love for you.
  • Everyone is worthy and has value simply because they exit.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Day 29: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome

Courage is being scared to death
and saddling up anyway.
~ John Wayne

I never realized how fear controlled my life until I identified Impostor Syndrome and exposed Delilah's lies. I associated comfort zone with ... comfort, until I recognized it was a trap.

When I taught writing to middle-schoolers, I used the book Courage (Bernard Waber) to help explain the term show vs tell. This picture book identifies courage in all its forms: everyday courage, such as getting your first haircut or saying I'm sorry ... to extraordinary courage like skydiving or bungee jumping.

I don't crave death-defying adventure so my comfort zone can serve me well in that area. And while I despise snakes, I am not afflicted with any paralyzing phobias.

But the fear of rejection is a powerful force in my life.

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