Cute Teacher Gift Idea

After my “Thankful Thursday” column last week on appreciating teachers, I have been looking for cute, inexpensive and very personal ideas. I like this one from “Pick Your Plum” and thought you might, too!
They create things and sell them unto their gone! So hurry if you want one! I signed up to get their daily deal in e-mail – hope to see more cute ideas like this one!

Take Them A Meal

After my transplant in 2005, my sweet friend, Kim, organized meals for my family every other night for a few months! It was incredibly helpful to us! I can’t imagine how much time she spent making phone calls, sending e-mails, making food herself, etc.while taking care of her family, working full time and running a business. It makes me tired to think about it! When someone is sick, there is a death in the family, a surgery, they need the support of family and friends and sharing a meal is just one way we can help. We can also help when babies are born and other times of celebration! Our Bible study class provided meals for a Mom who was placed on bed rest before the baby was born. This is when I learned about this awesome website. “Take Them A Meal” is a fabulous way to organize meals for a family or individual you care about! It is very simple to use and eliminates alot of phone calling, e-mailing, etc. It does it all for you! You just fill in the information and share the website with others.  Those who want to help can go directly to the website to sign up. There they will find directions, any special dietary restrictions, how much to prepare, etc. It even sends reminders! You will also be able to view meals already set up so that you don’t duplicate. Remember when everyone was serving Andy Griffith spaghetti while Aunt Bee was gone! “Take Them A Meal” would have been Andy’s friend that night! Let me encourage you to use this website when a friend needs a meal or two or more – you can set it up to last as long as you need it. What a blessing it will be for your friends or family!

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

1 butter recipe cake mix
1 small box vanilla pudding
8 oz. sour cream
3/4 c. oil
1 T. vanilla
4 eggs
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate syrup

Beat eggs, cake mix and oil; add pudding and sour cream. Then add vanilla. Divide batter into 2 parts. In one part, add chocolate chips. Pour 1/2 of this mixture into bottom of the bundt pan. Add part 2. Pour chocolate syrup around this part. Use a knife to swirl the syrup into the batter. Top with the other 1/2 of part 2 (chocolate chip mixture). Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until cake tests done.
This recipe was contributed to the Sprayberry “Game Day Specialties” cookbook which features recipes from “First Ladies of Football” by Caroline Johnson, wife of Southern Mississippi Head Football Coach, Ellis Johnson. At the time the cookbook was compiled, the Johnson’s were at Mississippi State. Caroline noted that the coach’s wives made homemade goodies for the football players each Thursday. She said this was the most requested and the defense’s favorite!
I have made this cake several times. It is a very simple recipe and one that can be made on short notice as long as you keep all the ingredients on hand. I sprinkle mine with powdered sugar to make it look more festive. I have served on a pretty cake plate and I have packaged in cellophane with a pretty ribbon and shared with friends or family! Enjoy!

Thankful Thursday – Teachers

Today, I am thankful for teachers who have influenced my family in a very special way! Included in my list of 5 things that I am thankful for today:  1) “Miss Virginia” at Circlewood Baptist Church, the girls 2 year old class Sunday School Teacher – She was always full of SON-shine – so loving, patient and kind to the little ones. 2) “Miss Hope” – Annie’s first teacher at Sprayberry. When we got Hope as our teacher, we also gained a friend! Quite apprehensive about my 3 year old starting to school full time because of her special needs, it didn’t take long to know that she was in good hands! 3) Mr. Buddy, Elle’s Team Kids Leader (3 Year Old Class) – what a kind and loving man at a time when Elle needed it most – during my cancer treatment. We lost Mr. Buddy that year when he was called Home to Heaven after a sudden and brief illness, but his loving kindness will never be forgotten 4) “Miss Seimers”, Elle’s kindergarten teacher. Going to “big school” was huge! “Miss Seimers” was a master at bringing out the best in children! 5) I am thankful for every teacher – school, church, choir, tumbling, ballet,etc. – for all of them have helped to make the girls who they are today. The ones I called by name just happened to be placed in our lives at a time when we needed them the most. I am thankful for teachers whose job it is to teach and for those who volunteer! There is just no way to thank them enough! I know that you have teachers who are special to you! The official PTA Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11. You don’t have to wait until then to say THANKS! Here are some cute teacher appreciation ideas I found.

SO thankful for teachers who have touched our lives forever!

Private Gallery

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions. (From Wikipedia)

This “Sunburst” reminds me of the ray of sunshine that the artist brings to my life each and every day. I love her enthusiasm and creativity for art – the way that she  can take anything and make it into something.

“You’re A Hoot”

The artist who place the feathers on this owl is really a “Hoot”. She makes me smile everyday. Her determination is nothing less than amazing. One of my favorite sounds is hearing her laugh!

“A Cup of Tea”

This artist is always busy just like her artwork. She loves a party! In truth, she prefers lemonade over a “Cup of Tea” any day!

“A Hooter’s Girl”

The artist who created this Owl (or ow-al as we say it in the South) has quite the sense of humor, as evidenced by the title! Enough said!

“You Are My Sunshine”

This artist loves music! “You Are My Sunshine” is one of her favorites! She makes me “happy when skies are gray”!
Our “Private Gallery” becomes public when these two very special artists (my daughters) take their artwork to the Sprayberry Education Center Art Show and Silent Auction on Thursday, February 23. The art show is a fundraiser of the PTO, but more than anything, it is the opportunity for children in all programs – multiple needs, preschool, autism, alternative and gifted to offer uniquely creative expressions, that will certainly stimulate your emotions!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

The first thing that I learned to bake was cupcakes. The recipe came from a cookbook called “Favorite Recipes of Alabama Vocational Home Economics Teachers – Second Edition. The first edition was published in 1958. This is the only cookbook I remember my Mother having back then. The only cupcake liners were pastels or maybe silver. I used this recipe over and over – for special occasions and school projects. I remember once making them for the P.L.A.S. football team during a big rivalry week – one of the pep club ideas to “inspire” our team.  Inscribed on each cupcake was “Kill CCA”. Well, we got “killed” 49-0! Haven’t made a cupcake since! Not really!…… Fast forward to 2012. For a Christmas gift, I received the “Big Book of Cupcakes” from Southern Living!
256 Pages loaded with cupcake recipes, complete with beautiful photos of every variety. Each recipe also has a “Flip It” where you can use the same recipe with a different twist. Jan Moon, author of “Big Book of Cupcakes” and owner of Dreamcakes Bakery near Birmingham says that “Cupcakes Make People Happy”! I decided to make some friends happy today by making the Caramel Apple Cupcakes…
Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Fresh Apple Cake 
1/2 cup better, melted        
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose soft wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
Cute paper baking cups
Cooking spray
Preheat oven to degrees. Stir together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Combine flour and the next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until well blended. Stir in apple. Place paper baking cups in 2 (12 cup) muffin pans, and coat with cooking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely before frosting. Makes 24 cupcakes.
Notes: I used light brown sugar and it worked well. I was a bit afraid to attempt caramel frosting but this recipe was simple and turned out great!
Old Fashioned Caramel Frosting
1 cup butter                                                                           
1 (16 oz.) package dark brown sugar                                       
1/2 cup evaporated milk        
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 T. light corn syrup
4 cups powdered sugar
Melt butter in a 3 qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar (again, I used light brown); bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in evaporated milk, baking soda, and corn syrup; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let cool completely (about an hour). Transfer to a bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar to caramel mixture, beating at medium speed until blended. Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy. Use immediately. Makes 3 cups. Optional topping: chopped pecans.
Notes: Something I learned from the book is that the baking soda helps to prevent the caramel from becoming grainy.
So, if you want to make your friends happy, try this one! But don’t use those plain pastel cupcake liners – find some wild and crazy ones – they are available for all occasions! If you love making cupcakes, the “Big Book of Cupcakes” is a “must have”. It is an Oxmoor House publication. Let me know if you make the cupcakes!

Small Token, Big Blessing

And whatever you do either in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…..Colossians 3:17
It’s a small token, but one that brings delight to some girls in Honduras. In July, the Mission Team from Valley View will be headed to Honduras for their annual mission trip. The ladies of our Adult Bible Study class assembled 144 “goody” bags today for the team to distribute to the girls that they will meet during this ministry. Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, tissues, jewelry and more were included in each bag, tied with a pretty curled ribbon. Members of the Mission Team shared what a delight this small token has been to the girls – how they get excited, how they share with each other, how they trade items – simply, how very much they appreciate these things. It struck me how they appreciate so much the items we’ve had in our bathroom cabinets from all our trips to hotels, bags that we were given for “free” when we purchased expensive make up, and gifts that were given to us that we never used. Get the picture like I did? We just take so much for granted. What a big blessing for those girls to receive these bags! Oh, wait, I think I may have that all wrong. The big blessing is ours to be able to get together for great food with great friends and to share our abundance with others! God bless the Mission Team and these children they will touch!

Cheesy Sausage Muffins

Here is a new recipe that I have found for some cheesy sausage filled muffins. They are similar in taste to sausage cheese balls. They are great right out of the hot oven or reheated at a later time. I’ve only made them for breakfast but I think they would be great anytime. The recipe calls for cheddar cheese but I have also made with mozzarella. Both are yummy! Very moist! This recipes makes 12 regular size muffins. Enjoy!

1 lb. ground pork sausage (mild or hot)
1 tsp. onion flakes
3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 can cheddar cheese soup
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk

Cook sausage and onion flakes in skillet over medium heat, stirring until pink is completely gone. Crumble into small pieces as you cook it. Drain and cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sausage, baking mix and shredded cheese. Stir together soup and buttermilk; add to sausage mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Divide mixture equally among greased (I use baking Pam) 12 muffin cups. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Menu suggestion: cheesy sausage muffins, grits and fruit!

Adapted from recipe on

Thankful Thursday – Friends

Today, I continue to be as thankful for my family and my health as I was last week. My list today goes beyond my home to some other blessings in my life – friends!

1) My friends: I have said before and I will say it again, I have the best friends in the world! When I was sick, I had meals delivered to my home every other night for 3 months! I had donated paid time off for 4 months! My sorority alumnae group packed my freezer! I could go on and on with stories like these of friends who have been there for me through thick and thin! Who are friends you are thankful for?

2) A best friend: My best friend has been my best friend since we were 4! We lived 2 houses apart then – we live 2 hours apart now. ATT is thankful for our friendship! Everyone needs a best friend! Who is your best friend?

3) A “Circle of Friends” for Annie at church! Our church, Valley View Baptist has a special needs ministry. Because of some very special volunteers, she is able to participate in activities with her age group, attend worship, and participate in activities with other friends – all on her terms. For our family, it means that we can worship and participate in our own activities, knowing that she is being loved on and having her needs met. For her to have a class of her own is very cool! Enjoy this photo of her with a couple of her sweet friends.  Are you enjoying a “circle of friends” wherever you are?  
4) Baseball season: Opening night for college baseball is on Friday. We love the game, celebrating when our teams win, and most of all enjoying our “baseball friends”.  We cheer for the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Minnesota Twins, the Cincinatti Reds, the Los Angeles Dodgers and any other team that involves someone we know!  Just for fun – Who’s your favorite team?

 5) An awesome Adult Bible Study group:  We are part of a couples class that is characterized by a very giving spirit. When there is a need, this group of friends is quick to meet it. So thankful for our leadership, our mission and our community spirit! So what are you thankful for today?

Paint the Town Red for Fuller

Fuller Goldsmith has asked the community to “Paint the Town Red” to support Children’s Hospital of Alabama and we decided to help! 8 year old Fuller has acute lymphocytic leukemia and is receiving treatment at the hospital. We don’t know Fuller personally but I know that anyone who has experience cancer as Fuller has, needs our support! We do know Children’s Hospital! Annie spent the first two months of her life there and has made frequent follow up visits. We are so thankful for the outstanding care given to Annie in the NICU, Special Care Unit, Pulmonary Unit and all the clinical follow up over the past 8 years. “Paint the Town Red” demonstrates support for Fuller and other children fighting cancer. If you live in Tuscaloosa or Northport, look around for red bows and feel the community support for Fuller and other children with medical needs. If you have displayed a red bow, know that you have supported a great cause! Hats off to Franny Jones, a friend of the Goldsmith family, for initiating this event!
Meet Fuller and read his story from the Tuscaloosa News!