A Fish Tale

By: Roshanda Pratt

Our family started our Thanksgiving off with the loss of another fish. Nemo or Ceelo (not really sure which one) went home to the big fish bowl in the sky.  Apparently, it is not enough just to feed the fish but you have to check the pump and make sure it is not clogged (deep sigh). I must take full responsibility for that one, oops! Unfortunately, this is not our first fish tale.  We lost Freddy the Fish about two years ago.  Here is his untimely story.

It all began with a class lesson in the letter “F”. My middle daughter was in 3K.  Her teacher sent each kid home with a fish named (you guessed it), Freddie: The Fish. I thought it was a clever idea. The week before, my parents had  purchased two goldfish, Nemo and Ceelo (not to be confused with the singer Cee-Lo Green). It seemed like a good idea at the time.  So Nemo, Ceelo and Freddie: The Fish were all living in one big happy fish tank. Freddie: The Fish, the smallest of the three, could not eat the same pellet fish food as the others, so we fed him the flaky fish food. We watched Freddie’s food intake until one day, when I noticed that Freddie was looking, well, not so fishy. He was moving rather slow and he looked quite seasick! I know, he’s a fish, and they live in water, but Freddie looked really, really sick!

The next day, we got up as usual and got the kids ready for school. That morning, while saying our prayers, our oldest (who was 5 at the time) thanked the Lord for Freddie. Well, sometime later that day, Freddie went belly up- literally. Thank God the kids didn’t notice. I believe that was the Lord’s grace for all of us. My husband took the kids to school and I had to fish- I mean scoop- poor Ol’ Freddie out of the tank. I put him in a Starbucks paper cup as we tried to figure out what to do.

When in doubt and in need of a good laugh, the best place to turn is, of course, Facebook. The following is my Facebook post the morning of the discovery (names are removed to protect the innocent):

My Post: Whelp, “Freddie the Fish” is belly up, literally. After prayer with the kids today, Jacobee and I discovered the lifeless body. Smh. Goldfish. Now I am preparing myself to get this thing out of the tank and talk to the kids. Smh. Now I know what Cliff Huxtuable felt like when Rudy’s gold fish died on the Cosby Show (sigh).

Comment: Oh…Freddie!!

Comment: Whattt??? I just met him yesterday. He didn’t look sick… When is the funeral?

Comment: Weeelll u could do what we did…take fish back and exchange it for one that looks like it. If the kids dont know its dead it wont matter….

Comment: Gotta stick to beta fish .. they last longer ..lol. hope the kids do ok with the news…

Comment: That was the best Cosby episode….I do find myself resorting to some of Cliff’s tacktics with my kids from time to time….lol So sorry about the fish

Comment: Is Jael going to put on a black leotard for the funeral? : ) (One of the best TV episodes ever…)

Comment: Ok see that’s why I like stuffed animals! Smh

Comment: RIP Freddy the fish

Comment: we had a beta fish to die about two years ago and for a while if you even mentioned the fish name, Spencer would cry. I made the mistake of getting rid of the fish while they were gone for the weekend. Grief and mourning for like a year. A funeral would be ummm….cute. lol!

As you can see the responses were pretty funny! My husband and I seriously thought about replacing Freddie before the girls got home from school. Then we thought that would be lying, the very thing we tell them not to do.

Well, the time came to tell the girls about Freddie The Fish. I started off with, “Girls, I have something to tell you.” This got their attention. But for some reason the younger child, the three-year-old, kept looking over at the fish tank.  “Girls, Freddie The Fish is dead.” (pause) In unison they both said “Awww, Freddie…” and then came the questions. The main question was about Freddie now? I told them he was in a paper cup. They wanted to see him and say their good-byes. I allowed them to do so and then little Freddie went floating with the fishes (again, I could not resist!). Basically, Daddy flushed Freddie down the toilet. The girls’ response: “He may get lost!”

So, here we are 2 years later dealing with another fish drama.  Instead of replacing the fish, I have decided to look for a pet with a longer life span.  Any suggestions?

Ro 🙂

To Dance

By: Shannon Shull

To dance is to live. I discovered this at a young age. When I am alone, I dance to release, to recover, to suffer, to survive, to tap into my passions, to feel and to heal. When I dance with others, I release in a different way – tapping into fun times, exercising or teaching choreography. Whichever way it’s done, dancing helps to keep my body and soul alive. My body thanks me when I dance because it rejoices in the movement and celebrates the actual ability to move. I can feel awful, but when I teach a zumba class, do a warm up with a bunch of middle school kids or have a private moment to dance for release, I always feel better. But inevitably, my body will smile from the inside out.

When I was a kid, I took my jam box into my front yard at night, blasted my music and danced my heart out. I would go into my own little artistic world. It was my time. My creative time to experience, survive and dive into emotion and passion or visit pretend worlds. My little front yard was my grand stage. I had the misconception that because it was nighttime, no one could see me. Around the same time, I used to walk around my back yard singing at the top of my lungs with the notion that because my back yard was fenced in, no one could hear me. One day, my mother crushed that belief when she stuck her head out of the door and asked me to keep it down because she was trying to teach a piano lesson and my singing was distracting her. As I looked up at the wide smile on my neighbor’s face, the harsh reality that others could indeed hear me outside of the weak chain length fence, hit me like a mac truck! Apparently, I had been putting on quite a show for my neighbors!

Recently, I have been a long-term substitute for the dance teacher at White Knoll Middle School. I have had the privilege of dancing on a daily basis and I absolutely love it! Not only have I been able to share my own enthusiasm for dance with these fabulous kids, but they have introduced me to new music and dance moves. I love watching them get into the groove and have such fun dancing. It’s such a treat! And to work so hard teaching them new choreography and then see a dance piece come to life – it’s great to witness!

There’s a quote that says, “Those who dance are thought mad by those who hear not the music.” There will always be people who won’t hear the music, but the best thing you can do is to let yourself live and dance like nobody’s watchin’!

Below are some of my other favorite quotes about dance. Enjoy!

Man must speak, then sing, then dance.
The speaking is the brain, the thinking man. The singing is the emotion.
The dancing is the Dionysian ecstasy which carries away all.
– Isadora Duncan

The next time you look into the mirror, just look at the way the ears rest next to the head; look at the way the hairline grows; think of all the little bones in your wrist. It is a miracle. And the dance is a celebration of that miracle.
– Martha Graham, dancer/choreographer

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.
– Wayne Dyer

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.
– Agnes de Mille

“Let us first teach little children to breathe, to vibrate, to feel, and to become one
with the general harmony and movement of nature.
Let us first produce a beautiful human being, a dancing child.”
– Isadora Duncan, dancer/choreographer

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles

By: Brady Evans

I may have been a bit of a brat when I was a kid. I mean, I didn’t get everything I wanted. I distinctly remember being jealous quite often of my neighbor’s abundance of toys (namely a GI Joe Jeep and rollerblades) but I certainly marched to the beat of my own drum and did what I wanted, despite not always having what I wanted.

Growing up, meals in my house were never big to-dos. This was largely because the kids complained about what was being served, all the time- especially if it was the dreaded spaghetti with homemade sauce. Oh the tantrums…

I distinctly remember being woken up one morning by dad, who was cooking a huge breakfast in the kitchen. This didn’t happen very often, so this was a rare delicious treat. I made my way to the kitchen to see bacon and pancakes on a plate just waiting for me to wipe the sleep from my eyes and eat them. Naturally, I asked my father for some syrup. And of course, since breakfasts of the non-cereal and toaster pastry ilk were exceedingly rare in our household, we had none. He drenched my pancakes in Karo syrup and sent me on my way to eat by myself in the living room. I threw such a tantrum! Of course, the syrup tasted almost the same as the fake maple syrup. However, I could not have behaved more like a brat in that moment. Instances like that are probably why big meals were so rare in my childhood home.

Would you believe that I now insist on having all my pancakes and waffles condiment-free? I especially like my waffles when they are flavored with pumpkin and cinnamon and all things tasty. Why would I want syrupy sweetness to overwhelm what is already so delicious?

Nowadays, if I ever want to see a temper tantrum to rival my own Karo-corn-syrup-induced one, I’d just have to merely suggest to my husband a breakfast lacking in bacon or syrup – real MAPLE SYRUP. Yes, those two items are a must in his mind, which is probably why breakfasts are a rare treat in our household 🙂

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles (adapted from food.com)
Note: Alton Brown suggests for a crispier waffle, replace 1/4 cup of the flour with 1/4 cup cornstarch. I agree – it makes for a nice exterior!


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 2/3 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled


  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl.
  2. In a second bowl, add eggs, sugar, pumpkin, milk, and butter; beat well.
  3. Gently fold the went mixture in with the flour mixture.
  4. Cook according to your waffle iron directions.

Good Grief

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

As you will see from my late night ramblings about Christmas being shoved down our throats before Halloween, I tend to unearth some interesting articles. I have found yet another interesting article to share with you – “Are Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang too mean for today’s kids?” Seriously? The article goes on to talk about the “stupid,” “dumb,” “blockhead,” monikers bestowed on some of the characters, mostly Charlie, and how that may be setting a bad example for the children of today.

First of all, let’s face the facts here: it is a CARTOON people. Getting worked up over a time-honored classic basically says that we are out of focus in today’s society. Instead of using the television as a teacher or a babysitter, we could use it as a jumping off point. Why not use those words in that cartoon to teach a lesson about how hurtful those words can be?

Also, think about what Charlie Brown does in his cartoons. He gets a little down, a little crestfallen, but he ultimately perseveres. He doesn’t let those words make him lash out in anger or pull an oozie on someone. He is who he is, and he doesn’t let the ridicule slow him down or define him.

Another great example is found in Finding Nemo. As you all know, I have two boys under the age of 7, and this was Pierce’s favorite movie before he turned 2 years old. Our copy of Nemo often goes missing because I WANT it to go missing. Why? Anyone recall the moment right after Marlin tells Nemo that he can’t swim out to sea?? What is Nemo’s response? “I hate you!”


So how did I handle that? Did I banish my children from watching it? Umm, NO. What did I do? Yep, you guessed it. This mom took those three words and used them as a chance to have talks with my boys about how mean and disrespectful it is to say that to someone, especially to a parent.

Honestly, I have more heart palpitations over the fact that Max and Ruby appear to have no parents yet appear to live alone, ride on the bus alone, and go shopping alone. Anyone else think about the absurdities of Dora and Diego? Diego is eight, yet, he drives? What about Spongebob and Patrick and all of the real weirdness that resides in Bikini Bottom?

The article also goes on to say that there is nothing good in the Charlie Brown cartoons for today’s children. Again, seriously?

First of all, as a believer in Christ, I LOVE the fact that my children can still watch a cartoon that was aired on television that references what the true meaning of Christmas is and delivers quotations from the Bible. I still get goosebumps every time I hear the innocent, sweet voice of Linus deliver his monologue of the Birth of Christ. Secondly, Charlie picks out what we all deem to be the ugliest tree on the lot. However, after all of the children come together to work on it, it turns into a beautiful tree and Charlie, himself, is wished a “Merry Christmas” by all of the other children who typically torment him. How does that fit in to your head about giving people a chance and changing attitudes and perceptions?

Thanks, I think I’ll keep letting the boys watch, and learn, from good ole Charlie Brown.

I Love My Keurig!

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I’ve never been what you would call a coffee fanatic.  I have tons of friends who claim they can’t even speak to anyone before a cup.  Others post little coffee-craving cartoons on Facebook to further educate those around them not to approach them before that first cup.  Some just plain love the stuff all day long.

In college, I, like many other students, would drag my little coffee maker to various late night study sessions, sometimes consuming two or more pots in a night.  I think some of it was just college bravado (”Yeah, we stayed up ALL NIGHT studying for that exam- lots and lots of coffee”).  Of course, the true end result was doing as well on the exam as I would have anyway and a belly full of acid in the morning!  However, I had an epiphany my junior year when I spent a semester in France…home of the coffee drinker.

I’m not exactly sure what is different about coffee in France, but it’s definitely different.  You know how awful it is to take a cup of cold coffee and try to revive it by reheating it?  It doesn’t work. But guess what?  It works in France.  My “French family” made a giant pot of coffee every night before bed.  In the morning, each person would measure out a cup, place it in a pot on the gas range and heat it up.  And it was good. Really good.  What was in that coffee that would allow this to work?  Must be some ancient French secret!

After returning to America, my love of coffee waned again because I simply couldn’t find anything here that was good enough.  So, I went years without even bothering with it.  Diet Coke was my morning caffeine fix for ages. Now, don’t get me wrong, every now and then I’d stumble upon a good cup of java.  For instance, can you resist a basket of bread and butter with a bottomless cup of coffee at the Gourmet Shop?  And, no matter what anyone thinks, Starbucks makes good coffee.  Each winter, the lovely aroma of coffee would beckon, and I although I liked the idea of coffee, I just couldn’t find the right stuff.

** Then, I discovered the Keurig **

What a remarkable invention!  Rather than making a whole pot of coffee at home and wasting half of it, we can make one cup at a time!  There’s no waiting around for a pot to brew, no one standing there with their empty cup just staring at the machine, waiting, waiting.  And, there’s tea, hot chocolate, hot apple cider and a bazillion types of coffee to choose from.  This thing had my name written all over it.  Of course, I couldn’t buy one for myself.  So, I bought one, wrapped it up in Christmas paper and presented it to my husband.  Crafty like a fox, I am!  And, here’s the kicker…I found not one, but several coffees that are worthy!  French roasts galore, full test, decaf, half caf, flavored, bold, mild.  Finally, I could join the coffee nation and actually enjoy it again.  But, what about my husband Neil?  He kept turning his nose up at the coffee.  Oh, he’d enjoy a cup of Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea, but no coffee measured up for him.  So, while I was having my $0.41 cup of coffee, he was heading down to Starbuck for his $3.00 “red-eye.” Hmmmm…what was I to do?

As luck would have it, I popped into the Starbucks in the Vista while the little one was at ballet.  Being the coupon-addict-savings-hog that I am, I immediately zoned in on the quietly advertised sale.  Boxes of Starbucks K-cups were B1G1.  What????????  The boxes were already priced less than I’d seen in the regular stores.  I quickly did the math and realized this was a heckuva deal.  I loaded up on coffee, crossing my fingers that this would finally cross Neil over to the Keurig side of the world.  Guess what?  It worked.  He was skeptical at first, but alas, he found that this Starbucks-at-home was actually Starbucks-from-the-store worthy!  (He says the Starbucks bagged coffee at home just doesn’t stack up.)

10 Things I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving

By: Katie Austin

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and sadly, I think most of us are focused on Black Friday deals and the materialistic side of the holiday season.  Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends, taking time out from our busy lives to show our gratitude and reflect on all that we have been blessed with.

Recently, I took a few minutes and jotted down ten things that I am thankful for.  It only took a few minutes and when I read what I wrote down, I had a different perspective.  My list is below and I think you will find a few that might be on your list, too.

  1. Be thankful you woke up to see a new day. Not everyone gets this opportunity.
  2. Be thankful for family and friends who love you.  My family and friends have been there with me through thick and thin. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.
  3. When your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend is in a bad mood or giving you a hard time, be thankful for having love in your life.  There are many people who will spend this holiday season alone.
  4. Be thankful for the ability to pay your bills and have a roof over your head.  People will spend this holiday season sleeping in homeless shelters, not knowing where they will stay next.
  5. Parents who raised us, changed our diapers, and put up with us as we found our way through our teenage years.  If they are no longer with you, take a moment to be thankful for the time you had with them.
  6. When you’re stuck in traffic, be thankful you have a car to get where you need to go and money to buy gas.  When I think about this one, it reminds me of how I used to have take the bus. There is nothing like standing out in the rain, watching others drive by in the comfort of their car.
  7. Be thankful that you have children to love and who love you, and remember that at least some of the time, they do get along.  If you do not have children, be thankful for the children in your life and the positive role model you can be for them.
  8. The ability to see the beautiful world around us.  If you get a free day, drive up to the Asheville/Greenville area and you will see the most wonderful colors of the season!
  9. Be thankful that you can read these words.  So many are unable to read and we take literacy for granted.
  10. Be thankful we live in a country where we have opportunities and the freedom to make choices. It could be far worse and I feel that better days lie ahead.

When you sit down with your loved ones for your Thanksgiving dinner, be thankful for everyone and everything that has made it possible. Cherish the time spent together and soak up all the day has to offer.

What are you thankful for?  Please post it here in the comment section so that we can grow our list of things to be thankful for together.

Wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving holiday filled with many wonderful memories!

Off and Running?

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

It started innocently enough at the gym this morning. Jenny and I were chatting on the elliptical, and she was talking about her latest run. “If there is one thing I don’t feel motivated to do, it’s running,” I said. Then Lila Anna chimed in that St. Lawrence Place had a 5K in February, and that a lot of people walk it. Before I was off the elliptical, I had committed to walk her 5K. But sometime between hopping off the elliptical and finishing my strength training, I decided that I wanted to run that 5K.

Huh? How did that happen?

I love my friends who run. Two of them, Wayne and Vicki, have even inspired me as I’ve watched them move from walkers to runners. However, I also find some runners annoying. To them, everything is about running; it consumes them. They run injured. They run in extreme temperatures. It’s all they talk about. This is not who I want to be.

Here are my reasons for wanting to run a 5K, The Race for The Place in particular:

  • I need a non-weight related goal to work toward. I’m getting a little obsessed with the scales, and that’s not good. Working toward a 5K would help me focus more on fitness and overall health vs. watching the scales.
  • I want to see if I can do it. You know, the “you must do the thing you think you can’t” thing.
  • I am really competitive, and sometimes when I see someone on Facebook or Twitter who has run a race, I always think, “They’re a runner? They don’t look like a runner. If they can run a race, I could certainly do it.” Sad, but true.

So, now what?

I texted Traci, who said that I could definitely be ready by February, especially with my trainer’s help. I downloaded a “Couch to 5K” app called 5K Runner. It coaches you to prepare for a 5K in eight weeks through a three-day-a-week regimen. I’m also going to email Daniel, my trainer, to see how he can help me prepare between now and February. And I told someone. I told Lila Anna, and I’m also telling you via the blog.

Stay tuned…

American Made

By: Roshanda Pratt

My American tale actually begins across the waters in a beautiful Caribbean country. My parents, both native West Indians of Trinidad and Tobago, came to America in their twenties.  Both dreamed of better opportunities for their family back in T&T and the family they would soon create in America. I am, as the Trinidadians would say, the “salt-water Yankee” in the family.  I heard that saying often growing up.  It did not faze me and I always quipped, “I am part Yankee and Trinidadian.”  In my mind as a young child I believed I had dual citizenship.  At home we ate traditional West Indian foods like curry chicken and rice, and played Soca music while my father passionately debated with his other Caribbean friends about politics. At school, I was an American girl who loved hamburgers, hopscotch and Punky Bewester.

Through the years, there was one thing my father never let me forget: America is a land of opportunity and if you live in this country, you need to seize every chance you can.  My father came from a country where the have-nots far outweighed the haves. He has seen poverty, corrupt government, and what happens when people decide to revolt against their oppressor.  As a young child born in America you never really appreciate the freedoms you have been afforded.  I have learned those who come to America most often have a greater respect for what our forefathers fought and died for.

My parents officially became American citizens on December 19, 1997. I was 20 years old. I stood proudly as my parents joined dozens of others and recited our pledge of allegiance on the campus of USC Aiken. At the end of the day everyone received an American flag.  For the first time in my life, my American citizenship meant more than fireworks on the 4th of July or a barbecue on Memorial Day.  It meant that my freedom comes with a certain level of responsibility.  As I watched the ceremony that day, people surrendered their allegiance to their birth country and pledged it to ours. How could I continue living life the same? As a person born in America, I had a responsibility to adhere to the words of that pledge:

The Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for all.

The pledge essentially says that you pledge to be true to the United States of America.  You pledge to make America better.  In the fourth grade my Father made me watch the news because he thought I should always know what was going on in my community.  How do you make America better? Volunteerism, activism and mentoring are a great start, but what about the simple liberty of voting.  The first time my parents were able to legally vote in an election was a milestone event in our household.  My aunt from Trinidad encouraged my parents to become citizens for the sole purpose of being able to vote in the country in which they now call “home.” My mother and father were so elated to stand in line, show their legal documents and go into a booth to vote.  This month, my parents went out and voted again. I realize that for some of you this year’s voting process was not so memorable. However, it is still part of our responsibility as American citizens, one that I take great joy in taking part.

I am grateful that more than 30 years ago my parents made the journey to the sweet land of liberty.

God bless America!

Ro 🙂

Grateful Expectations

By: Shannon Shull

I recently read an article in a magazine that discussed the importance of fostering a thankful attitude in children. If our children don’t absorb the value of thankfulness from us parents, teachers, mentors and coaches at an early age, then who will it come from?

The ability to be grateful for the good things in your life is an important part of a person’s character. If us adults show and share our own thankfulness, hopefully the children in our lives will learn to do the same and even be a healthier individual for it!

When we have a tough day, those of us who are optimistic tend to remind ourselves that it could always be worse and that compared to some, we have it made. I think if we take the time to recognize the good in our lives instead of giving so much weight to negative aspects, we can think ourselves into positive health, which will eventually allow more positivity to come our way. The mind-body connection is so incredibly strong! I know that if I repeatedly tell myself that I’m going to get sick and focus on not feeling well, then guess what happens? I inevitably get sick! If I tell myself that I will be just fine and focus on strength and healing, I open this amazing door that seems to allow my body to actually get better.

Studies show that positive thinkers are healthier and less stressed. And I betcha they have a lovely effect on those around them too!  So as we strive to be grateful examples to the children in our lives, we can positively affect the adults in our lives, too.  Thankfulness is addictive! And the best part? Counting your blessings is FREE!

So here’s a thought – why don’t we make every day a day to give thanks? We all know that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for all the goodness in our lives, but shouldn’t we take note of our blessings on a daily basis? Here’s a challenge for us all: starting on Thanksgiving, let’s encourage the children in our lives AND the adults to have an attitude of gratitude! Check out these fun family activities you can do to help inspire thankful thinking:

ABC Journal of Thanks

Designate a small notebook as your ABC journal. Have your little ones practice writing the alphabet, and help them draw a picture of something they are thankful for that begins with each letter. Don’t limit this journal activity to just the kids! Set a positive example and do it, too! Have fun cutting pictures out of magazines to represent what you’re thankful for or draw pictures yourself. You will treasure this special ABC Journal and will enjoy looking back on it in later years.

Wreath of Thanks

Transform a bunch of clothespins into a fun way to mark down what you’re grateful for. To make it, paint some clothespins, and once dry, attach them around a wire wreath frame. Cut a heart out of thick cardstock and attach to the center of your wreath. Write, “I’m thankful for…” on the heart and then customize each clothespin with a different moment of gratitude. You can pull out this ultra special wreath every year to celebrate your thanks!

Our Daily Thanks

Make a gratitude calendar. Make a base (you can use foam core or a poster) and use mini craft envelopes or regular small envelopes to represent each day of the month. Each day, every family member puts a note in the envelope describing something they are thankful for.  At the end of the month, entertain each other by opening the envelopes and reading aloud the notes of thanks inside. This will not only instigate conversation but inspire everyone with an air of positivity!

Fabric of Life

Dress your table with a plain tablecloth. Fill a tumbler, large cup or bowl with permanent fabric markers and encourage everyone to write or draw one reason for thanks on the cloth each day. You’ll end up with a linen full of gratitude for your Thanksgiving feast or special dinner.

Sunflower Plant of Thankfulness

Transform a paper plate into a blooming sunflower plant filled with black bean “seeds” and card-stock “petals.”

To make it, paint a paper plate black, then glue black beans to the center of the dry plate. Cut out enough petals from yellow card stock to fit around the rim of the plate. Think of thankful words and phrases to write onto each petal, then glue the pieces to the rim. Make the stem by painting a paint-stir stick (found at the hardware store) green, and embellish it with sticker letters and raffia.

Remember: Don’t limit your thankfulness to one day. Let’s carry out an attitude of gratitude throughout the entire year!

Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole

By: Brady Evans

My husband tells stories of how, when he was a 21-year-old first year high school math teacher, he’d fantasize about driving past the exit for his school in the morning before work and just driving and driving…ending up anywhere but that public high school in Connecticut.

I had a similar sort of fantasy on the way to school this week.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to school.  I love going to school.  It was that I heard a news report on NPR about the devastation in New Jersey (and the other areas affected by Hurricane Sandy) and I felt this strong urge to go to the Northeast and help.  I just wanted to turn my car north and drive until I saw someone who needed help.

My husband was out of town in Atlanta that day working.  When we spoke on the phone at the end of the day he told me how his job that was on the books for November had been canceled due to the storm.  I was mad because he’d already made flight and hotel arrangements and didn’t think he could be reimbursed for the flight.  He reported that he almost wanted to fly up there anyway and just find some way to help.

Neither one of us can afford to drop everything here in South Carolina and migrate to the northeast for relief, but there are small ways we can help out from hundreds of miles away.  That day, instead of driving until I hit New Jersey, I used my high school biology classroom as a vehicle for informing the kids of the natural disaster (let’s face it, 9th and 10th graders don’t spend much time catching the news) and brainstormed biological consequences of the disaster thanks to this NPR radio show.

I figured that if I could use my classroom to help from afar, I can also use this blog. Jenn Oliver from Jenn Cuisine, asked other bloggers to cook comfort foods – a dish you’d take to a person or family in need – to help share the concept of comforting and giving back.  She also asks that you please consider donating to a cause that will help the survivors of Hurricane Sandy such as the Red Cross.

I’ve made stuffed bell pepper casserole.  The stuffed bell peppers recipe is a classic, comforting dish, but turning it into a casserole makes it that much more homey.  This meal was fantastic and was inspired by at least 20 stuffed bell pepper and casserole recipes.  My biggest hangup was that no casserole I found included uncooked rice in it – all included cooked rice.  I was far too lazy for to cook the rice, so this is what I came up with based on the nearly 2 dozen recipes I was able to come across on Google.

 Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole


  • 1 pound ground beaf (lean)
  • 2 15-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large bell peppers, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
  • pepper
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups HOT vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups shredded cheese


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Stovetop, brown ground beef, breaking into small pieces while it cooks.
  • In a 9×13 inch casserole dish, combine browned ground beef, tomatoes, diced vegetables, all seasonings, beans, rice, worcester sauce and hot broth. Stir to combine.
  • Bake, tightly covered, in the oven for 1 hour. Remove cover and add cheese. Bake for additional 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  • Remove from oven, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes or until rice has absorbed all broth.
  • Note: if using white rice, reduce baking time to 35 minutes.