‘Tis A Blessing to Be an American

There is nothing like a gigantic American flag flying high in the wind on a beautiful day to remind us how blessed we are to live in America! Thanks to so many men and women who have served our country faithfully over the years! Today, we especially remember those who gave their LIVES for our freedom!
Thanks to my Daddy who served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War! When I was growing up, I always loved looking at the black and white photos of him in Korea in camouflage and helmets. I had no idea, at the time, what that actually meant. Today, as I reflect on that, I am so thankful that he made it back to the U.S. alive and unharmed.
Thanks to my friends, Bo Coppage, Jamie Boutwell and Tony Wood who served through the National Guard in Operation Desert Storm. I still have letters that I received from these guys when they were in Iraq. So thankful that they returned to the U.S. alive and unharmed and that today they are enjoying life as husbands, fathers, grandparents, sons, friends, etc.
To everyone who has every served our country, THANK YOU! America would not be what it is without you!
‘Tis a Blessing to be an American!

Thankful Thursday – "Grand" Mothers

Big Granny, Mom, Aunt Gayle (Clockwise from Top)
My Papa and “Little Granny” – Aren’t they sweet?

As we celebrated Mother’s Day this week, I am so thankful for 3 GRAND Mothers – my grandmothers, Maggie Teal McKnight (1906-1978) and Annie Bell Heath McLendon (1900-1986) and my Mother, Nell McKnight McLendon who is pretty grand herself!  I called both of my grandmothers “Granny”. When I referred to them I used “Big Granny” and “Little Granny” to distinguish between them. Daddy’s mother, “Little Granny” was short and Mother’s mother “Big Granny” was very tall! When my girls were born, Mother decided she wanted to be “Granny” as well. I remember her saying that she just hoped she could live up to the name! And, indeed, she has! I have such sweet memories of my “Granny’s” who were both wonderful examples to me – sweet, Christian ladies, who were kind to everyone, hard working and loved their family with all their heart! I am so thankful for my Mom who is a blessing to me every day!

One of my favorite memories of my “Big Granny” is that she would make  “Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats” especially for me. The Ice Box Fruit Cake Recipe above was one of her specialties, but I have just never been a fruit cake kind of girl! The rice krispy treats were always yummy!!

My favorite “sweet” that my “Little Granny” made was Peach Pie. I found a recipe and made it for my “Cousin’s Day” a while back. It was not quite like hers, but it was very close!

My Mother can cook anything! Everybody loves her banana pudding and her “little layer” chocolate cake but my all time favorite is her “German Chocolate Cake” which she makes for me for special occasions!

In honor of these special women, I am sharing with you these favorite recipes from each of them and hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats
3 T. butter or margarine
4 cups miniature marshmallows (or 1 jar marshmallow creme)
1/2 cup peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispy cereal
In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter until melted. Add cereal and stir until well coated. Press mixture evenly into a 13 X 9 inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool and cut into squares.
Peach Pie
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 T. melted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 T. unmelted butter
1 1/2 cups canned peaches)
Blend flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 T. melted butter and milk until smooth. Pour into greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour fruit on top of batter. Sprinkle remaining sugar on top. Dot with remaining butter.
Bake on 375 for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.
German Chocolate Cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening (2 sticks butter)
1 bar German Sweet Chocolate
1 cup buttermilk
4 eggs
1 t. soda
 1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
Beat egg whites, until stiff and set aside. Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each. Add flour, alternating with 1/2 cup of milk. Dissolve soda in remaining 1/2 cup milk and add to mixture. Add melted chocolate, salt and vanilla. Last, fold in well beaten egg whites. Cook in 3 layers at 350 for 40 minutes.
1 large can PET milk
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup coconut
1 cup pecans
1 t. vanilla
Mix milk, yolks, sugar, butter. Cook until think, beat until partially cool. Add flavoring, coconut and pecans and spread on cake.

Thankful Thursday – Remembering Our Teachers

On this “Thankful Thursday” my attention is given to remembering my teachers who have influenced me through the years. This week is “Teacher Appreciation Week”. While we find it hard to remember the governor, the president, etc., we don’t tend to ever forget our teachers! Can you name your elementary school teachers? I can – Kindergarten (We didn’t have kindergarten!) First Grade: Mrs. Avis Burnett, Second Grade: Mrs. Marietta Strother, Third Grade: Mrs. Louise Haisten, Fourth Grade: Mrs. Jane Senn, Fifth Grade: Mrs. Quintilla Kervin and Sixth Grade: Mrs. Ann Gilchrist.
Your turn!
“A Teacher affects eternity. He can never tell
 where his influence stops.”
Henry Adams
So true! I can think about each one of these ladies and remember something that I learned from each of them. It’s funny how we forget many things about our childhood but we don’t forget our teachers. My girls love their teachers. No doubt when they are my age, they’ll remember the teachers of their elementary years. Today, I salute these ladies and every other teacher who has influenced my life. We don’t just have teachers at school, but also at church, at dance, at music, at art and more. Thanks to every teacher who has been a part of making me who I am. Thanks to every teacher who has taught my children as well!
“Mrs. Spritzer’s Garden” is a precious little book! Mrs. Spritzer is a wise teacher who know about gardens and who know about children and how they both will thrive if tended lovingly. Each year as Mrs. Spritzer’s children blossom and move on, she plants more seeds! This delightful book makes a great end of year gift for your favorite teacher. We discovered it when Elle was in kindergarten and gave it to her teacher at the end of the year – signed by both of us. It would also be great as a gift signed by the whole class. It is available at www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com
Don’t forget to show your teachers or your child’s teachers how much you appreciate
 them this week and every week!

Cinco De Mayo

The Fifth of May – a great day to try these Fabulous Recipes!
The Best Chicken Fajitas
10-12 large tortilla shells
Grilled chicken breasts (See recipe)
Refried black beans (See recipe)
Sour cream
Pico de gallo (See recipe)
Cooked white rice
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce
Grilled Chicken Breasts
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 bottle of Golden Dipt ginger teriyaki sauce
Place the chicken breasts in a large bowl. Add the ginger teriyaki marinade to cover and let marinate for at least one hour prior to grilling. Grill the chicken breasts until done, being carefully not to overcook. Slice the chicken breasts into strips and keep warm until ready to eat.
Refried Black Beans
2 cans of cooked black beans and the sofrito
4 strips of bacon, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
Place the chopped bacon in the skillet. Saute the bacon until brown. Add the onions, garlic and green pepper, stir and cook until brown. Add the cilantro, stir and cook another minute or two. Stir in the cooked black beans.
Pico de Gallo
3 or 4 tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, cut into small squares
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the cut up vegetables, add the oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste and marinate for, at least, one hour at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
To assemble fajitas, place one heated tortilla on a plate. Spread a dollop of sour cream all over. Place 2 or 3 strips of chicken in the middle of the tortilla. Top with 1 or 2 T. black beans, 1 or 2 T. pico de gallo and shredded cheese. Roll up. Serve with cooked white rice topped with black beans, shredded lettuce and sour cream. Of course, you can build your tortilla any way you want!
This has been a favorite recipe of mine for many years, shared with me by a friend, at least, 15 years ago! I promise you’ll like it! Let me know what you think!
Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Birthday Sweet Ebony!

In Loving Memory of Ebony Shandrell Degraffenried
May 4, 1984 – February 9, 2008
Today is what would have been the 28th birthday of a precious friend to our family, Ebony Degraffenried. Ebony’s Mom, Pearl has been a part of our family as our cherished sitter since Elle, who is 11, was 3 months old. When sweet Ebony graduated from Central High School, in 2002, she joined her Mom every day in taking care of Elle and Annie. Her sweet, loving spirit was just what our family needed – the team of Pearl and Ebony were heaven sent to us!
First of all, Ebony had been through many trials of her own. Thanks to the commitment and dedication of her precious Mother (and Father), she survived against all odds. When Ebony was born with multiple medical problems and her parents were told she wouldn’t make it, they had a different idea. They took her home and cared for her, never believing she wouldn’t make it. Long story short – Ebony grew up to be a lovely young woman – approximately 20 surgeries in her life time didn’t keep her down. Ebony was always smiling, in spite of whatever obstacles she was facing. She was a talented young lady – singing, drawing and writing. She wrote beautiful poetry.
We are so thankful that she came into our life. She believed in Annie. Pearl treated Annie much the way she had treated Ebony – always believing she could do whatever she wanted to do. So did Ebony! They certainly contributed to her growth and development in the time they spent with her encouraging her in her developmental journey! As for Elle, Ebony was another playmate to her. Ebony would spend hours with Elle – painting, drawing, cutting, coloring, reading, etc. Elle told me yesterday that Ebony taught her to draw beautiful flowers! She was always singing and would sing to both girls. Who knows? Maybe that is where Annie got her love for music.
On February 9, 2008, Ebony was called to be with the Lord in Heaven. Every time Pearl walks in our door to this day, it seems like Ebony should be right behind her. We know that Ebony is in a special place and that her beautiful voice continues to sing in heaven. Not long after she passed away, Elle looked up to the sky and spotted a very bright star. She said that was Ebony’s star – a very bright, shining star, indeed!
Sharing an excerpt from a gift that Ebony gave to us, she said to Elle “You show me how to 2 smile and how 2 be a princess, to Annie “You show me how to be strong and don’t let problems stop me from doing what I want to do” and to me, “Mrs. Carla, I want you to know you show me how to be strong and don’t let problems get me down. You are a strong woman and the world needs more people like you!!!!”
Well, dear Ebony, I believe that we could say the same to YOU!
If Ebony were with us today for her birthday, I would love to make her favorite Lasagna, so I thought I would share the recipe with you!  She loved her Lasagna! Hope you enjoy it as much as she did!

Ebony’s Lasagna
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
  • 1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) package cottage cheese
  • 1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles (no boil type)
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. In a large skillet, cook and stir ground beef until brown. Add mushrooms and onions; saute until onions are transparent. Stir in pasta sauce, and heat through.
  2. In a medium size bowl, combine cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, and eggs.
  3. Spread a thin layer of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 13×9 inch pan. Layer with uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese, and meat sauce. Continue layering until all ingredients are used, reserving 1/2 cup mozzarella. Cover pan with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover, and top with remaining half cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Thankful Thursday – Pay It Forward

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Theresa
Pay It Forward Day 2012 was actually last Thursday, but I decided that you don’t have to have a special day to “Pay It Forward” and I decided to write about Special Olympics and save this topic for today’s “Thankful Thursday”! Just imagine if each individual look for opportunities to help others every day what an impact it would make on the world.
The idea behind “Pay It Forward” is that any random act of kindness can cause a positive ripple effect restoring our faith in the love and compassion of the human spirit.
When my Dad passed away in September of 2011, my oldest daughter, Elle, made a list of memories of her “Papa” in the afternoon after his funeral. On that list, “I remember the day that Papa did 3 good deeds in Tuscaloosa for people he didn’t even know.” What a great lesson! When my Mom does something nice for someone and they want to pay her, she just says “do something for someone else” – that’s all the pay that she expects. A lesson that I learned from her – I love to bake so when I make a cake, cookies, or bread, I try to give it on a pretty plate that I don’t expect to be returned. Of course, many people will try to return it so I just ask them to keep it or pass it on to someone else. I always try to keep inexpensive baskets, plates and other containers on hand to “pay it forward”.
Today, I am thankful for some acts of kindness shown to me and my family over the years – for meals provided to us during sickness and bereavement, for the many PTO days that were given to me after my transplant (I have NO idea who gave them – I begged Human Resources to tell me so that I could thank them but it is confidential information), for the person who picked up our tab at Logan’s one night when Barry and I were having a “date” night, for my hairdresser who just randomly decided not to charge me for my haircut one day, for the “Pink Basket” given to me by my friend in Ohio when I was going through my cancer treatment (I couldn’t wait to be able to do it for someone else and have done it several times – I will devote a complete blog to the “Pink Basket” sometime soon), for my neighbors who get my mail and pick up my newspapers when we are out of town, for gift cards sent to us, and I could go on and on.
I am thankful for the example that my parents set for me in helping others and it is my desire to continue doing “good deeds”. “Pay It Forward” should be the spirit of every day and not just one day out of the year!
“And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me”…..Matthew 25:40

Of Mice and Mozart and More

This past weekend, Peanut Butter and Jelly Players presented the musical, “Of Mice and Mozart” at Sprayberry Education Center. This theatrical production is based on the life of Mozart as told by the mice that lived in the framework of the Mozart Family House. Mozart’s prominent music is featured along with a hilarious rhyming script filled with facts about his life and many puns and clever twists.

The cast of Peanut Butter and Jelly Players is made up of 3rd through 5th grade students in the Tuscaloosa area. The philosophy is “children’s theater by children for children” where “every kid is a star”. Cast members have the opportunity to learn acting, music and dance as well as stage production. It provides interaction with children from other schools.

Elle played the role of Costanze Mozart, wife of the famous composer
Peanut Butter and Jelly Players promotes teamwork while developing friendships along the way!

Friends and Family enjoy watching these children succeed on the stage! Some may have experience or no experience at all!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the founder of “Peanut Butter and Jelly Players”, Kristin Frangoulis (Ms. Frannie to those students she taught in the TARGET program) for her commitment and dedication to children in Tuscaloosa. Last June, the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education voted to change service delivery of gifted services. Without “skipping a beat” following her retirement (after serving children for 20 plus years), Kristin and George immediatey went to work creating “Peanut Butter and Jelly Players” for children who would no longer have the opportunity to experience the arts and humanities curriculum at school. Going a step beyond, they offered this opportunity to ALL children in the Tuscaloosa area. See article from Tuscaloosa News:

Ms. Frannie is not the only teacher who served the TARGET program who gives time each week to our children in this awesome program. Other current teachers in the gifted program (which is now  GATE and delivered in the elementary schools) also serve our children – Cheryl Wallace, Susan Dunham, Lori White and Jodi Williams all serve in this awesome program as well as April Coleman, former gifted teacher in the TARGET program. I think it says alot about these very special and  talented teachers who continue to give of their personal time even though the TARGET program to which they dedicated much of their teaching careers was changed, despite their input, to a program that barely, if at all, meets a 3 hour requirement for gifted education. For these ladies, it is not just a job – it is a passion and I believe they are proving that by demonstrating an ongoing commitment to serving children, even on their own time!
Stepping up on my Soapbox
There are people who do not understand why the name changed from TARGET (Team Action Resouces for Gifted Education in Tuscaloosa County) to GATE (Gifted and Talented Education). As I see it, the gifted program no longer reflects the Team approach. The program went from 8 teachers working collaboratively on a daily basis to provide a curriculum using all their skills and talents to one in which individual teachers are working independently at individual schools. I applaud all the elementary gifted teachers in the schools for doing the most they can do, given the restrictions they were placed under. My child has learned alot in the GATE program this year; however, it she has clearly missed the opportunity for interaction with students from other schools, the arts and humanities that TARGET provided weekly (which is so motivated for her learning style), the benefit of learning from all the gifted teachers, the opportunity to experience one day a week away from her regular classroom and more. ………While I am still on my Soapbox, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the impact that losing the TARGET program has made on Sprayberry Education Center. First of all, four wonderful programs remain at Sprayberry and I am thankful for the awesome staff who lead and guide our children in the multiple needs, autism, alternative and preschool programs there! And, we miss the energy and enthusiam that the TARGET program added to Sprayberry, our children with special needs miss the interaction from the TARGET students. Sprayberry Education Center is honored to house the productions of “Peanut Butter and Jelly Players”. It is a reminder of when music filled the air on a daily basis and our children were able to experience it, too!
Stepping off my Soapbox
Congratulations to Kristin Frangoulis and the staff of “Peanut Butter and Jelly Players” and to the amazing children who completed the second performance of this awesome children’s theatrical program! Thanks for loving children and sharing your amazing talents!

For more information, visit: