The Power of a Blender

By: Leah Prescott

BlenderMy favorite kitchen item by far is my Vitamix blender. If you know me at all, you know that I am thrifty (sometimes to a fault). So spending over $300 on a blender was a huge investment, but one that I don’t regret for a second. The Vitamix is a strong machine (blends ice with ease), quick to clean (water, a couple drops of soap and turn it on), and should last for years to come (it’s held up to nearly daily use for over two years without any issues for us). There are tons of reviews of the Vitamix online so instead of describing the quality and features of the machine, I want to detail how my family uses the Vitamix to make our kitchen routine healthier, easier and faster! It’s truly revolutionized my kid-friendly daily menu and has taken a lot of the stress out of meal planning for me, which is why it’s a family must-have in my book.*


Of course, smoothies are our main use for the blender, although it has many more functions. We have smoothies nearly every day during the warm weather.

If there is any left over, I pour them into reusable popsicle molds and we have treats at theready for tomorrow. Fortunately, my kids are not picky eaters, but smoothies are still a quick, delicious and healthy way of packing in fruits, veggies, and even protein. Besides being a classic picky eater solution, smoothies are a great way to use up leftovers or over-ripe fruit, make an easy breakfast on the go, or provide a way to boost the health quotient of a meal. As an example, on a day I am trying to throw together a quick dinner, I often serve something easy like ham and eggs or omelettes. Adding a smoothie makes it fun for the kids and I feel better that the meal is more rounded. On a day that dinner will be running a bit late, I can hand them a smoothie to tide them over while I am doing last minute prep. If we are having leftovers or a meal that is not a favorite, I will add a smoothie and, as if by magic, the meal is greeted with sudden enthusiasm! Seriously, the kids never get tired of them! A few times we have had children over with dietary restrictions or texture issues and having smoothies in my arsenal has been a life-saver.


We also use our blender to make hummus, soup, pesto, apple sauce, mixed adult drinks, and iced coffees. I have a list of additional recipes I would love to try but just haven’t gotten around to it. Once the colder weather creeps in again, I will experiment more with soups.

So for our family, yes, a Vitamix has been money well-spent! Here are a couple of our favorite recipes, tweaked to make them dairy-fee for our family.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

  • 2-3 bananas
  • 1-1.5 cups Chocolate Almond Milk
  • ¼ cup Peanut Butter
  • Squirt of honey, or sprinkle of raw sugar (optional)
  • Ice as needed

Add ingredients in order listed, using enough ice to nearly fill the canister. Blend until smooth, using the tamper to push ingredients into blades.

Tropical Delight

  • 2-3 bananas
  • 1 can pineapple with juice
  • ½ cup water
  • Handful of frozen mixed fruit
  • Squirt of honey or raw sugar (optional)
  • Handful of fresh spinach (optional)
  • Ice as needed

Add ingredients in order listed, using enough ice to nearly fill the canister. Blend until smooth, using the tamper to push ingredients into blades.

* When researching blenders, I was also very impressed with the Blendtec blender. I think it is comparable to the Vitamix. For a budget-friendly blender, I would consider the Ninja if a Vitamix or Blendtec is completely out of the question.

My Favorite Word

By: Lara Winburn

I don’t know about you but there are a lot of words that are off limits in my world these days. No, not those kinds of words that get bleeped out on a reality show. Some words I have eliminated are fairly harmless, but to keep my sanity I have tapered the use of them. Words like C-A-N-D-Y. One mention of that sugary goodness and it is all I will hear about for the next 47 minutes. I also have had to eliminate words that may not be that bad but you don’t really want to hear parroted back at you from that precious three-year-old mouth. You know, words that your mom may not want to hear you say, even though you are allegedly grown. Phrases like, like “this sucks” or “well, that’s stupid” are perfectly legitimate and not “really” profane, but are less than lovely all the same.

So I have come to embrace words that I can freely use in my house – words that serve many purposes but will not cause embarrassment when used by my child at daycare. There are many words I like to use. Obviously, if you read what I write, you have discovered I can be quite wordy. But I wanted to share with you my favorite word in all of its versatile glory and good news. It only has three clean letters. Ladies and gentlemen, (okay, gentleman as my husband is probably my one male reader) my favorite word is: W-O-W.


Wow! Wow. Wow. (Which sometimes may be pronounced more like wow-a.)

Now at first you might think that there is only one use of this word.

Wow: An exclamation of surprise, wonder, pleasure, or the like. Example: Giant hot air balloon sails over your house. “Wow! Did you see the size of that balloon?” Yes, that is your run of the mill everyday use of this little word but you are missing out if you have not considered other ways this word may serve you with a little tone adaptation.

Wow: A realization of what your life has become. Example: You look down and realize that is not chocolate smeared on your hand after a big diaper change. “Oh wow, how long has that been there?” Now it is pronounced with a little more desperation and defeat – wow.

Wow: Exasperation. In other words, you have got to be kidding me. When used in this form and tone, it can pack a mighty punch. Example: Someone in front of you at the grocery store has 7,310 items in the 10 items or less lane. “Wow, you have quite a few groceries.” They may misinterpret you at first but with proper delivery they will definitely get your meaning. This is also a good use of the word when the words in your head are not daycare approved.

Wow: Expresses true disbelief. Example: A good friend gets a really drastic haircut or you are walking the beach and you realize just about anybody can wear a bikini. ”Wow.” No more words needed. Just wow. As mentioned before, in Off the Hook, this can be a good wow or a bad wow. Sometimes it just needs clarifying.

I hope this little word can serve you as well as it has served me. (And if you hear me say it in your presence, I am sure it is just an exclamation of surprise…. unless you have had a drastic hair cut.)

What words do you use in this tiny-ears-hear-and-repeat–every-word world some of us live in?

A Heartwarming Serenade on Aisle 7

By: Shannon Shull 

SerenadeI’ve discovered that I have a tendency to attract older men. And when I say older men, I’m talking Grandpa “older.” I’ve had random marriage proposals, excessive hand kissing, and yes, even serenades.

Now let me clarify – I’m no model. Like most women, I require a lot of extra effort to look what I would call “presentable,” or even anywhere near the “hot” category. As I always say…”to each his own.” What one person would consider incredibly attractive, another person could have zero interest in. That’s one of the joys of human nature!

But I’m wondering if maybe that whole pheromones thing isn’t true. And if it is, then apparently I put off pheromones when I’m certainly not trying, when I’m around older fellas, and when I (quite honestly) look my worst! Frankly, I don’t get it!

Most recently when I was surprised by the flirtations of a couple of older gents, I literally had on NO make-up, had done zero hair maintenance, and was wearing a t-shirt, leggings and sneakers. No lie.

I’m wondering if it’s not a case of the universe and God bringing me a smile when I most need it… some sincere compliments from a trusting, older, more mature soul that will leave me with a warm heart instead of making me feel like an object.

My Aunt tells me that older men are not too shy to do sweet things for what they consider truly beautiful women inside and out. Well, whatever it is, whether there’s a real explanation for it or not, I will take it! Some friends may say it’s creepy, nothing but dirty old men. But I choose to differ – at least when it comes to my encounters thus far. I personally like to think better of people. Yes, I tend to be naïve – I have all my life. But daggomit, I’d rather think the best of someone instead of jumping to the worst.

So….yes, I was literally serenaded on aisle 7 in Walmart the other day. With my hair in a wind-blown, messy pony tail, sneakers, and an outfit that looked like I’d just finished a sweaty aerobics class (sadly I had not!). I was there to dash in, take advantage of the deals, do my grocery shopping, and dash out. And did I mention, I had ZERO make-up on!?! In fact, I was also totally munching on a Chick-fil-A sandwich as I was grocery shopping too! I was not what I would call sight worthy of being serenaded. But to my surprise, this old, precious fella – I’m guessing in his 70-80s or even older – was suddenly right at my cart, holding on to steady himself, and softly speaking words of stunning sweetness. At first, I honestly thought that maybe he had some form of dementia and wasn’t sure where he was, who he was and/or who he was talking to. But he continued with his sweet words and then low and behold, he literally started singing to me. Softly, but loud enough that when other folks walked by, they just smiled. (I’d love to know what they wondered was going on!) And he had a lovely voice – singing classics by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I was very proud that I actually knew most of the songs he was singing, which of course, prompted him to sing more.

Was it awkward? Well, sure. But was there a total loveliness about the sweet moment? Heck yes. He continued to sing as he adjusted the hearing aids in both his ears. He sang on, in close proximity, a little too close for comfort, but I instilled a level of forgiveness for that. There was a moment when I thought, “oh my, how am I going to continue my shopping and get this endearing old dude away from me?”

I was saved by a phone call from his cell phone. It was his wife asking where he was. Naturally he talked very loudly into the phone and she reciprocated the loudness because I could hear their entire conversation. She questioned his whereabouts and declared she was at the check out and he better come on. He replied, telling her that he was busy serenading a beautiful woman on the aisle with the hot sauces. Her response was, “well, invite her home and tell her we’ve got an extra bed!” I thought I would croak! I just stood there giggling like an idiot. As he continued jabbering with her on the phone, I realized this was my moment of escape, so I patted his shoulder, said “Bless you,” and thanked him for making my day.

The very next day, I was in the gas station grabbing an early morning cup of coffee, looking pretty much the same as I did the day before, just with a different t-shirt and this time with my hair clipped into a sloppy low bun. I got in line to pay for my coffee behind an older gentleman who looked like he was about to embark on a long, hard day of work and the fella told the clerk that he insisted on paying for the lady’s coffee too. I was shocked and quickly reciprocated with a “Bless you! Thank you so much!” His response was “I like to make it a habit to pay for a beautiful lady’s coffee.” …..O….K…. well, I’ll take that. Not sure what he meant by that but hey, I still took it as a compliment. Why not, right? I again said thank you and that he had made my day. It totally made my day.

Between that experience and the serenade experience the day before, it was, quite honestly, just nice to be noticed and complimented. And I like to believe that an older man can have a better appreciation for a good woman. Not true in every case, of course! But, as a lady having a really hard time with the fact that she will be turning 40 all too soon, I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna turn down compliments or moments like these with older gents who bring a smile to my face and warm my heart.

Now if they start getting frisky, don’t worry, I’ll jack-slap them and be the tough Southern woman that won’t take no garbage! But as long as the old gents keep putting on sincere air of genuine kindness, I will gladly welcome and take the sweet moments that boost my self-confidence. 🙂

There’s Something to That

By: Chaunte McClure

Chaunte McClureWhile attending a housewarming a few years ago, I sat with two other young ladies and somehow we started talking about having kids. One of the young ladies who wanted a child asked me if I had children. When I said no, she asked if I wanted any. I think I shook my head and then she said, “there’s something to that.”

Well, little did I know, there really was something to that. In March, I was skimming through “Battlefield of the Mind” and meditating on some of the scriptures Joyce Meyer references in preparation for a series of life classes I co-facilitated that month. I read the book a year or so prior for our Sunday school class, but interestingly enough, God revealed something different to me about myself during my study time. In the book, Meyer wrote that Satan begins to deceive us when we are young, “waging war on the battlefield” of our minds.

God reminded me of a time when I said that I didn’t want children because I didn’t want them to grow up without a father like I did. I was probably a pre-teen or teen when that seed was planted in mind and out of it grew branches of distrust, insecurity and bitterness. As a child I began to believe that my children’s father would be absent, so to prevent abandonment or absenteeism, I decided (as a child!) that I wouldn’t have children. So the young lady at the housewarming was right, because there was something to me not wanting to have children.

I’m glad God revealed that stronghold so I could one, see how manipulative Satan can be and two, change the way I was thinking. My only regret … I wish I realized this sooner.

What kind of thoughts or past experiences are holding you captive? Ask God to help you discover them.

More ‘baby talk’ to come in my next post.

Plum Crisp

By: Brady Evans

I did a weird thing the other day.  I was given a bunch of plums and instead of immediately stalking my favorite blogs for recipes, I whipped out a cookbook.  Plum CrispSpecifically, I started browsing Betty Crocker’s “New Cookbook” which is far from new and up to date.  It had not one recipe for plums or crisps, but I adapted a recipe written for peach cobbler to make this delicious dessert.

Not only did I change the fruits and types of fats out (peaches and plums are similar enough, right?) but I also added oats in place of extra flour in the topping. Brief research indicates that this difference makes the pivotal change that causes the dessert to be a crisp and not a cobbler.

The result, regardless of the name, was mighty delicious.  The deep purple plums made for quite a striking dessert to look at as well.

Plum Crisp (inspired by Betty Crocker’s Fresh Peach Cobbler)


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups sliced plums
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. Heat over to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a 2 quart saucepan and stir in plums and lemon juice.
  3. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Once boiling, cook and stir 1 minute.
  4. Pour plum mixture into an ungreased 2 quart oven safe dish.
  5. Combine flour, oats, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  6. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  7. Stir in milk.
  8. Drop by spoonfuls onto hot plum mixture.
  9. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Learning Lovely Letters at First Thursday on Main!

By: Sydney Yarbrough

When I heard about the opportunity to take a calligraphy class with Stefanie Stroman, I was ecstatic. I remember back in elementary school when my friends and I would compete to see who could write their name the prettiest. Flash forward to today and calligraphy is everywhere from envelopes to business logos! I’ve always wanted to learn the art of calligraphy, so I was excited that there is now a chance to learn here in Columbia.

Learning calligraphy

The class took place at First Citizen’s Café during their monthly First Thursday event. Our class was small, which was great because it allowed us to all chat and help each other. It also allowed our instructor, Stefanie, to walk around and give each of us individual instruction. She was extremely helpful in teaching us technique and answering all of our questions.

Learning calligraphy

I have to talk about her decorations, because the details were fabulous! There was lots of gold and glitter, which was consistent throughout the entire class. We also had some patriotic themed cupcakes for an early 4th of July celebration!

Learning calligraphy

She equipped us with everything we needed to get started- a practice notepad, as well as calligraphy writing supplies (pen staff, nibs, and ink). I loved that even though we were learning modern calligraphy, we were still using the traditional technique of dipping the pens into the ink. She also gave us an easy to follow instruction booklet that took us through the entire alphabet!

Learning calligraphyThe class was two hours long and was so relaxing. I was amazed to find how meditative the art of calligraphy actually is! And, to my surprise, I wasn’t terrible at it! Stefanie also supplied us with some recommended reading and resources to further research advanced calligraphy. I can’t wait to learn more about it!

Learning calligraphy


I highly recommend taking this class. It would be a great activity for a Girls’ Night Out or even if you’re just looking to try something new!

Learning calligraphy

Interested in taking Calligraphy 101? The next class is August 7th at First Citizens Café! You can visit the Stroman Studios Etsy Shop for more information and to sign up for your class! 

Credit: All of the amazing photos in this blog courtesy of Sarah Christmus Photography! (Thanks, Sarah!) 


South Carolina’s Hidden Gems

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

As you have no doubt come to realize, the boys and I do a good bit of traveling to the Lowcountry.  A self proclaimed history buff (okay, nerd), I like to share my love of times gone by with the boys while we are also making memories.  One of the activities that I love to do with the boys (and anyone else who will go along for the ride) is to share some of the hidden historical gems that South Carolina has to offer.  Like gold or gems long hidden from the naked or untrained eye, these places are ripe with beauty, history, and emotion.  Please indulge me, if you will, as I share two of our more recent discoveries.

Fort Fremont

Tucked away on a narrow dirt road on Saint Helena Island lies a fortification that, until recent years, was almost an unknown.  One day late last summer my in-laws and I decided to take a little ride over to Beaufort and head out to Saint Helena and to Fort Fremont.  Over the last few years, the Friends of Fort Fremont Historical Park has been formed and extensive work has been done revitalizing the fortifications and cleaning up the area around the fort to include fencing and beach access areas.

Fort Fremont

The first time I visited Fort Fremont was probably ten or twelve years ago and I’m not even sure that we should have been on the grounds.  Abandoned and covered in graffiti, it was a little bit unnerving and probably a little more than scary. With my vivid – and sometimes exaggerated – imagination, I remember thinking that it was just the type of place where someone would take someone to harm them or to conduct some type of scary initiation/ritual.  Today it is a great place to go visit and learn a little bit of South Carolina history.

Fort Fremont

The Friends of Fort Fremont has a fantastic website where you can gain tons of information on the history of the fort, visiting the fort, and making donations should you want to help preserve a part of not only our state’s rich history, but also that of the United States.

Old Sheldon Church

Another favorite spot that I like to visit, even when I am alone, is the ruins of the Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee.  Set among massive Spanish moss-covered oaks, the ruins consist of the red brick columns and portions of the walls.  The church has borne witness to the bulk of United States’ history having been first constructed in the mid-1700’s.  After being burned during the Revolutionary War, it was rebuilt during the 1820’s.  However, the Civil War and General William T. Sherman proved too much for the hallowed grounds, and after being burned once more, the ruins and grounds were left unrepaired; a monument to times gone by.

Old Sheldon Church

Today, the grounds are well maintained (by the Parish Church of St. Helena) and are open during daylight hours for visitors to tour.  It is still considered sacred ground and much can be learned by walking the grounds and viewing the headstones of those who have been buried there.  An Easter service is held each year and weddings can also be held on the grounds with appropriate approval from the aforementioned church.

I love to walk the grounds and just be alone with my thoughts.  When the boys are with me, I love to share with them the history and see their faces as they try and drink from the old hand pump on the grounds.  Even more, I love when, months later, they ask questions about these places that we have visited; sometimes they even ask to visit again. And I long for the days and times when we can yet again search out and uncover these South Carolina gems, and those yet to be uncovered.

What are your favorite South Carolina gems?