Day 243: Afternoon Tea Party

afternoon tea party e

What fun, for today’s first. Seven members of my family joined me for afternoon tea, which in my book, constitutes a party! Due to the heat and humidity this afternoon, rather than meet in the garden, I took the party to my mom’s house, where she and my stepdad, my sister Debbie, my niece Ashley, her husband Jon, and their two sons, Ethan and Kaleb, gathered around the dining room table for a formal high tea.

This is what afternoon tea is all about, taking time out of the day to gather, visit, take refreshment and sip tea. The three year old, Kaleb, met me as I came into the house, showing me a treat his mom had bought him at the store. “For the tea party,” he said. The children pulled up chairs and joined us. They didn’t have the hot tea but they enjoyed the rest of the refreshments.

For this tea, and sharing it for the first time with members of my family, I wanted the experience to be as authentic as I could make it, based on my afternoon teas in Scotland. I got to set up and use the three tier server that I purchased yesterday. The scones went on the middle tier, and strawberry jam and butter were nearby to accompany this treat. My mom helped me make finger sandwiches….thinly sliced ham or turkey with Swiss cheese and cream cheese, cucumber and fresh tomato. These occupied the lower tier at the base of the stand. On the top tier my niece Ashley arranged Walker’s shortbread cookies, brownie bites with cream cheese and raspberry preserves and red velvet mini cupcakes.

Debbie and Ashley helped me to prepare the tea. We fixed a pot of Heather Tea and individual cups of Highland Blend Tea. A small ceramic container of milk, tea cups and saucers, teaspoons, small plates, and knives for the butter and jam were all placed on the table, and we were ready. I was “mother” and poured the tea, for those of us savoring the Heather Tea and our afternoon tea party was launched.

This was an incredibly meaningful afternoon. I so enjoyed sharing tea with these seven dear family members. None had had hot Scottish tea with milk in it before. The scones were a hit, as were the cream cheese, cucumber, and tomato sandwiches. Ethan, who is nine, asked questions as he sampled the food. Kaleb sat by me. It was cozy. It was delightful. It was fun. I loved it.

I am blessed with more family members, and wonderful friends. I look forward to sharing this beautiful ritual with many others. I believe I’ll be ordering more Scottish tea soon!

Day 242: Scottish Scones

scones finished e

Tomorrow I look forward to creating and sharing an Afternoon Tea with several members of my family. Today, I gathered the necessary ingredients to prepare finger sandwiches and tiny sweets, and I bought a three tier server that goes well with my white porcelain teapot and tea cups. I also picked up the ingredients to make scones.

Afternoon tea became such a delightful break each afternoon while in Scotland. Mindy and I looked forward to it, and Harry tolerated and indulged us! Back home, I have continued to have tea every afternoon. It is a great way to slow down, gather my thoughts and refresh. I’ve fixed finger sandwiches and have primarily relied on store bought or restaurant goodies to complete tea time.

While in Scotland, I purchased a traditional recipe book, intending to learn how to make tea time treats and other delectable dishes myself. Today I decided to make scones for my first and share them tomorrow with my family.

The scone, which in Scotland is pronounced to rhyme with “gone”, is a Scottish bread that first appeared in the 1500’s. There are variations on the origin of the name, from a Dutch word that means “beautiful bread” to the treat being named after the Stone of Destiny, upon which every Scottish king has been crowned. Whatever its name origin, the first scones were made of Scottish oats and cooked on a griddle. Later, after the invention of the oven, the scones were traditionally made of flour, instead of oats, and baked. Scones are very like American biscuits, and served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, butter or can even be enjoyed with cheeses or meats. Although they can contain currants, raisins or other dried berries, they are often served plain.

Scones became a popular and essential part of afternoon tea when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861), ordered tea late one afternoon and requested sweet breads as well. The serving girl brought in a selection of breads, including scones. The Duchess enjoyed the tea time so much that she continued the practice each afternoon, eventually inviting her friends to join her. The ritual of afternoon tea was established, and continues in the United Kingdom still, and is most commonly enjoyed between 2:00 – 4:00.

Using the recipe in my Traditional Scottish Recipes book, I created my first batch of scones this evening. The sound of bagpipes accompanied my efforts, as my iPod played softly nearby. Although the recipe was simple, and very similar to making biscuits, the author states that it takes practice to make a good scone. I was a bit nervous as my first scones came out of the oven. Their aroma preceded them, and they smelled wonderful. They weren’t quite as tall as the scones I had in Scotland, but I will keep working to perfect the technique of quickly and lightly handling the dough.

Although these are for tomorrow’s tea, I had to sample one. I broke a hot, fresh scone in two, dabbed a bit of butter on it and added a smear of strawberry jam. Bliss. I smiled. And I realized as I was standing in my kitchen, enjoying a scone and listening to Celtic music, that an amazing shift had taken place. The last time I made Scottish shortbread, I had also listened to bagpipes as I worked, and daydreamed of the day I’d visit Scotland. Tonight, as I worked, with the aroma of scones and the wail of bagpipes filling my kitchen, I didn’t daydream of Scotland, I remembered…..remembered being there, remembered cozy afternoons having tea, remembered so much more. The dreaming had transitioned into memories. I am so incredibly grateful.

Day 241: Fifth Friday Fun

fifth friday fun laughter e

I love when a first comes together, without me planning it out beforehand. These spontaneous firsts are often the most fun. Today was no exception! I had intended to attend the Fourth Friday Artwalk in Carthage MO this evening. However, I realized this morning that that event took place last Friday! With my trip, I lost count of the Fridays. No worries. I had several backup firsts ready to go.

This afternoon, though, I had plans. My grandson, Dayan, got out of school early and I seized the opportunity to pick him up and hang out. I always enjoy being with Dayan. He’s 15 years old and growing up so fast. It won’t be long before he’s off to college. I want to make the most of each moment spent with him. We grabbed a snack and camped out at his house. We chatted and caught up on news and I watched him create a new section of a virtual city in a computer game that he loves. Dayan holds me accountable for daily firsts, and when I explained about my Fourth Friday mistake, we declared today Fifth Friday.

When my phone battery dropped to less than 10% power, I moved out to my car to recharge for a few minutes. Dayan good naturedly joined me in the car. I asked about an art project he’s working on for school and he brought out his Thinkpad Chromebook that his high school has provided for each student this year. After I admired his digital artwork, Dayan showed me the cool camera app on his Chromebook and the filters that can be used to create unique photos. That’s when the fun showed up in Fifth Friday!

We laughed so much as we played with the camera and filters. There were filters that made our eyes huge, created a carnival glass effect and squared off our jaws. We could look alien-like with huge heads and tiny faces, and there was a bunny look that made the mouth really small. Most of these filters only worked on one person at a time. By moving our heads toward each other on the computer screen, the effect would jump to the other person. Any neighbors that looked toward my car had to wonder what was so hilarious!

We discovered at least four effects that we could do together and captured those moments as my first today. Here they are:

fifth friday fun 2e

This colorful filter is called Modern.

fifth friday fun 3e

This one is Ghost and is a very cool effect. When you move on the screen, there is a delayed response, which creates a “ghost” image that appears by the next image. We had way too much fun with this one. Dayan loves it because by turning his head around quickly and then looking back at the screen, he can see what the back of his head looks like.

fifth friday fun 1e

Called Funky, this filter creates a comic book art effect. It really calls for a white conversation bubble above our heads with the word POW in it!

fifth friday fun 4e

This one was my favorite. With our green skin tones, I decided we looked like relatives of the character Elphaba, also known as the wicked witch, from the musical Wicked.

I so appreciate Dayan for sharing new technology with me today. And for entering into the fun. A heartfelt laugh really does do the body good. And when that laughter is shared, it creates more than mirth, it creates joy and in this case, wonderful memories.

Day 240: Wheels’ Guacamole

wheels guacamole 2e

I love avocados. They dress up scrambled eggs, sandwiches and salads. One of my favorite ways to enjoy avocados is as guacamole. For my first today, I made fresh guacamole based on the recipe of a friend of mine, Mike Wheeler, affectionately called Wheels by his students. In honor of him, I’ve called it Wheels’ Guacamole.

The avocado is a tree native to Mexico and Central America. They are in the same plant family as cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel. The fruit, or botanically, the large berry, contains a single seed and is also called an avocado. Like bananas, avocados are picked when mature but they ripen after harvesting. There are amazing health benefits associated with this super food. Avocados contain in excess of 25 essential nutrients including Vitamins A, B, C, E & K, and they are rich in copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. The green fruit also contains fiber, protein and beneficial phytochemicals that may protect against various illnesses and diseases.

Some of the health benefits of the avocado include maintaining a healthy heart, lowering cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, promoting eye health, reducing inflammation and fighting free radicals, which makes it an anti-aging food. It lessens the chance of birth defects, protects against breast and prostate cancer, and studies have shown they can reduce the risk of stroke. Those are all good reasons for consuming avocados. Best of all, I think they taste great too!

When Greg told me he had sampled a wonderful guacamole that Mike had made, I asked for the recipe. Mike graciously shared it. It was wonderful! Easy to make and delicious with crisp chips, it made a quick summer meal.

Wheels’ Guacamole

2 ripe avocados

3 Tablespoons of chunky salsa, medium heat

2 Tablespoons of Mayo or Miracle Whip (Miracle Whip sweetens the guacamole slightly)

1 Tablespoon lemon or lime juice

Salt & pepper to taste

Serve with chips of choice

The Mayan Indians have a saying, “Where avocados grow, hunger or malnutrition has no friends.” Avocados are always welcome in my home!

Day 239: Happy Dance, Just Because

Happy Dance feet e

Today’s first was the culmination of several inspirations. August 27 is Just Because Day. The day offers the chance to do something without having a reason for it, free of expectations or “have tos”.  It was the opportunity to explore something new, uncommon or unexpected, just because I wanted to! What a perfect day to celebrate a first.

While in Scotland, I walked every day. I liked the way my body responded to the additional exercise and inspired, I vowed to continue walking when I returned home. Except I discovered, upon my arrival home, that it was in the 90’s, temperature wise, in Missouri. I’ve let the warm weather be my excuse for not walking. Today, I wanted to move beyond that excuse and combine a walk on a new trail with Just Because Day.

Happy Dance trail e

My greatest inspiration for today’s first was my five year old granddaughter, Aubrey. On a recent trip to Chick Fil A, just us girls, Aubrey came out of the children’s play area, announcing that she had to use the restroom. We headed toward the restrooms, across the restaurant. I walked behind Aubrey. But she didn’t walk. She danced. Not the well known “pee pee dance” that small children perform when they’ve almost waited too long to get to a bathroom. No, this was pure, uninhibited joy, expressed as dance. She moved with the freedom of expression that children so easily inhabit, swinging her arms side to side, twirling occasionally. People watched her with smiles on their faces, as she pranced by. One diner caught Aubrey’s eye and this beautiful child tossed out a “Hello there!” as she danced on through. As we reached the restroom door, she twirled dramatically for her finale. I laughed with delight. And I wished I had danced along behind her. When did I outgrow public freedom of expression and become too concerned about what others might think?

The final inspiration for this evening’s adventure came from Zumba class this morning. Dave introduced a new dance routine, set to Pharrell Williams’ incredibly fun song, “Happy”. I love that tune. It was a very upbeat song to do Zumba to. Thinking about my first for today, I knew I wanted to include this joyful song.

All those inspirations came together this evening as the sun began to set. I chose to walk on the new trail north of Parr Hill Park and 15th Street. Dozens of young trees have been planted in that green space and a paved walking trail winds through the area, connecting the pathways from Parr Hill Park with the Campbell Parkway Trail. I had downloaded the Happy song on my iPhone. And with a freedom inspired by Aubrey, I danced and walked along the trail as the song played cheerfully on my phone. To document the moment, I did a short video. I discovered I couldn’t play the song and create a video at the same time. I improvised by shooting the footage, as I sang the song, and then later creating a movie of the Happy Dance by using my new app, Magisto.

Happy Dance face e

The heat was draining out of the day as I turned off the video, cranked up the music, and just moved. I didn’t meet any other walkers on the trail, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. I danced. I sang. I moved my feet and clapped my hands. I thought of Aubrey and wished she could have joined me. I’m sure we would have laughed. So I laughed and exalted in the freedom. I celebrated Just Because Day….and life.


Day 238: Magisto Movie – Scotland Trip


Today’s first is brief, but not quite as simple as I thought it would be! Ever one to learn about new technology, I downloaded a new app called Magisto and created a movie titled “Scotland Trip 2014”.

I could upload only 30 pics for the movie. It was difficult to choose! I selected a representation of each lovely day spent in that beautiful country. Next I chose a style. Travel Mode seemed like a natural fit, although to be fair, I didn’t look at any other choices!

I added my own musical selection. The background music HAD to be bagpipes, of course. The Red Hot Chilli Pipers song Celtic Bolero was perfect. Listening to the song brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat while making my heart beat faster. Quite an emotional response.

I’m happy with the finished movie. I wish I could have uploaded twice as many photos. Overall, the app was easy to use and creates a fun movie.

Here is my Scotland trip, captured in one minute. I’m still learning, apparently, how to get the video on YouTube and on here. However, the link works!

Scotland Trip 2014

Day 237: Teach Ignite Rev Up Class


Keller Williams Realty offers its agents an awesome class a couple of times a year. It’s called Ignite: Skills to Spark a Great Career. Although it is geared toward getting newer agents off to a phenomenal start, it’s also a great refresher course for experienced agents too. I’ve attended the class at least twice, as a student. For my first today, I taught Power Session 1: Rev Up, with my friend and KW colleague, Lisa Fletcher.

Last week Lisa and I met at Panera and went over the materials for the three hour class. We divided up the manual, each of us taking the chapters that resonated with us.

Ignite is designed to get agents into their businesses and into production as quickly as possible. There are 18 Power Sessions taught over the course of four weeks. It’s a journey of discovery as agents gain knowledge and experience.

Session 1: Rev Up begins with mindset and limiting beliefs, and moves through such topics as setting goals, customer service, building a database and creating powerful habits. Lisa did a great job of teaching the class about successful goal setting and tracking, lead generating and setting up a schedule that enforces new habits. She has a bright and easy flowing teaching style that is enhanced by her sense of humor. Lisa also shared stories from her own amazing real estate business.

I enjoyed talking to the class about mindset and the myths that can hamper a great business. What we think determines what we believe and how we feel and act. Our beliefs influence our results. It is so critical, in business and in life, to pay attention to what’s going on in our heads. We can question and shift our thoughts, which shifts everything else.

I taught the sections on building a database and leveraging resources by building a team of business professionals who can provide valuable services to clients. We discussed the unique values we bring to our clients and began creating a Value Proposition. This is a brief statement that lets clients and potential clients know who we are and what we can do for them. We had fun discussing powerful words that were meaningful to each agent. Those words are the basis for the Value Proposition.

My favorite section to teach today was about the Big Why. The Big Why is what motivates, inspires and brings joy while on the business journey. When obstacles arise, the Big Why will help each of us stay focused and keep us moving forward. I shared my Big Why, which has changed over the years. Initially it was to pay for my children’s college tuition. The Scotland trip was a Big Why. Taking my grandson Dayan to Italy for his 18th birthday is my current motivation. I will not disappoint that young man! My huge overarching Big Why is Rivendell of the Ozarks and being able to offer others a beautiful, peaceful place to relax, reflect and refresh. The agents in the class today shared wonderful Big Whys, powerful reasons to keep going when doubts or difficulties appear.

Lisa finished up class by sharing tracking forms to use on this journey. She encouraged the agents to attend all the sessions, and learn from the wealth of information available and from the dedicated agents who so freely share from their experiences.

Lisa and I were pleased with the afternoon session. Gary Keller, cofounder and chairman of the board of Keller Williams Realty, says, “Keller Williams Realty is a training and coaching company that just happens to be in the business of real estate!” I am honored and privileged to be a part of this progressive company!

Day 236: Divergent

divergent e

Tonight was movie night, which meant I picked out a DVD of a movie I haven’t seen yet. There are several good new releases out. Based on the recommendations of several people, I chose to watch Divergent.

Divergent stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn and Kate Winslet. It is directed by Neil Burger and is based on the novel by the same name, by Veronica Roth. This action/sci-fi is rated PG-13, for violence, and has a run time of 2 hours and 19 minutes.

Set in a futuristic Chicago, which is surrounded by a protective wall, society within is divided into five factions. As each person reaches young adulthood, they are tested to see which virtue is strongest, determining which faction they fit in. Abnegations are selfless and serving, Amities peaceful and kind, Candors honest and blunt, Dauntless brave and reckless, and Erudites are intelligent and cunning. The aptitude test determines the virtue and yet the teen makes the final decision about which faction he or she will join. The decision is permanent.

Beatrice, later known as Tris (Shailene Woodley) comes from a family of Abnegations. She knows, before she takes the aptitude test, that she doesn’t have those traits. Her aptitude test shows she has several virtues, making her a Divergent. The test giver tells Tris, “You’re different. You don’t fit into a category. They can’t control you. They call it Divergent.”  She warns the teen to remain silent about her test result or she will be killed. Tris makes the decision to leave the Abnegations, and her parents, played by Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn, joining the Dauntless faction. She and the other newcomers must go through a rigorous initiation and training process before being fully accepted into the faction. The Dauntless, being the warrior group, are charged with protecting the city and its inhabitants.

Tris trains under the instruction of the mysterious Dauntless leader, Four (Theo James) while attempting to keep her Divergent personality hidden. The head of the Erudite faction, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) has created a secret group within her faction whose sole purpose is to hunt down and kill Divergents.  The Abnegation faction hides Divergents, which makes that group come under attack as well. The peace of the society is threatened, and the Erudites blame the Abnegation faction and see the Divergents as dangerous. As Jeanine says, “The system removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will. Divergents threaten that system. It won’t be safe until they’re removed.”

Tris’ secret gets out, Four has one of his own, and the Erudites put into action their own secretive mission. The whole society begins coming apart, all because of fear. The movie concludes, but it is really the springboard for the next in the series, called Insurgent, which releases in theaters in 2015.

This was an interesting futuristic film to watch. Gritty and tense, the acting was well done and the storyline flowed well. Having seen the movie, I’d like to read the books. The central theme of the movie is about being an individual and refusing to fit in, for family, for society, even for the sake of peace. Tris knows who she is not. During the movie, she begins to find out who she is….and what she is capable of. She discovers her gifts, her virtues and the beauty of not fitting in. The secondary theme of Divergent is fear. Jeanine, and the Erudites, fear anyone who is different, anyone who shows strength outside of their faction. Independence is seen as dangerous and destructive. The greater good, in Jeanine’s opinion, is to fit in and be controlled, be safe.

I can’t watch a film like this without thinking about my own journey from fear to freedom. The need to fit in, to stay safe, by conforming to what my particular faction said should be true for me, kept me small. Like Tris, I knew who I was not, long before I was able to know who I am and embrace that glorious self. The definition of divergent is to develop in different directions. That has been my journey the past 4 years. I have cut loose from fear, embraced who I am, and grown, in multiple directions. When Tris tells Four that everyone fears something, Four says to her, “Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up!” I love that. What an amazing way to respond to fear, to awaken. I am awakening. I am divergent.

divergent fear doesn't shut you down e

Day 235: Happy Birthday Kaleb

Kaleb 1e

Today’s first was another birthday get together. My niece’s son, Kaleb, turns three years old tomorrow. Because my family loves to celebrate each other, as often as we can, we gathered today in Broken Arrow, OK to spend time with one of the younger members of the family.

Kaleb is a extraordinary kid. He lives in a big, beautiful house with his mommy and daddy, older brother Ethan, and his Meem. That’s what the boys call their grandmother, who is also my sister, Debbie. Kaleb captured my heart immediately after his birth. He is an old soul, in a young body. And this boy and I have a special bond. We have been communicating with each other long before he could speak! As a baby he’d turn and smile at me, knowingly, and I’d smile back. Our eyes would meet, and our gazes lock, and that’s all we needed to do to start the flow of love and joy and understanding between us.

Kaleb is gifted in his abilities to know things and understand the way the world works, far beyond his current ability to speak about what he knows. He’s a deep thinker. He is the happiest of children and his smiles light up the room. His little face is animated and he is a master at expressing what’s going on in his sharp mind. He is such a joy to his mom, dad, brother and grandmother, who love him so.  When we are together, we slip into an easy camaraderie, aunt and nephew, yes, but more than that, kindred souls.

During a recent overnight visit to Kaleb’s house, I enjoyed his company as the family watched a movie and I blogged. He snuggled up against my side, watching me as I typed, talking to me in hushed tones. When I completed my post, and put the computer away, he settled into my lap and we finished watching the movie together. Afterward, I had the honor of putting him to bed. I had to leave his room for a few minutes, promising I would return. And I did, in a short time. Kaleb was lying quietly watching for me, his big eyes filled with tears. He didn’t complain or cry or even speak. His eyes told me he was wondering if I would, indeed, come back. I sunk down next to his bed and held his little hand, brushing the hair back from his forehead with my other hand. He blinked the tears away, gave me a beautiful smile and sighing, closed his eyes, gripping my hand tightly. I sat there for a long time, watching Kaleb and listening to his breathing grow steady and deep as sleep overtook him. It was a precious moment and I whispered blessings into his life and asked for guidance and protection for him.

This afternoon, we gathered around Kaleb at the Build a Bear Workshop as he selected a purple pony to become his birthday buddy. Scott, Nicole and baby Weston surprised Kaleb with this wonderful gift. This was my first time to visit a Build a Bear facility and it was fun to watch Kaleb move through the steps that ended with him cuddling a new stuffed toy. Across the road we had lunch at Chuck E Cheese, where the adults munched on pizza and chatted while Jon, Scott and Nicole chased after the boys. The pizza restaurant was noisy and colorful, full of children plugging tokens into machines that rewarded them with tickets. Kaleb had a great afternoon trying out different games.

I deeply love and appreciate all of my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews. Each of them has gifts and abilities that I marvel at and encourage. It is a great joy to watch them as they are growing up. It is so important to celebrate them and shower them with affection. Today was Kaleb’s special day to shine. I look forward to journeying with him, and all the others. What adventures we will have.

Kaleb 2e

Day 234: Jesse McCormick Exhibit

Jesse McCormick 1e

Today’s first involved a trip to the library, and further, to the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, to view the August art exhibit. This month’s featured artist is Jesse McCormick. I wasn’t familiar with Jesse’s style or preferred medium. We had just become Facebook friends, so I looked forward to seeing his artwork.

Jesse is a Carthage artist, associated with Local Color Art Gallery & Studio, in downtown Joplin. According to the bio on Local Color’s webpage, most of Jesse’s paintings and drawings are in private collections. He has won awards for his work. He sometimes teaches art classes at Local Color and participates in the Third Thursday art walks. His vision emphasizes people, animals, rocks, trees and water. Light as color and contrast are important aspects of his work.

I enjoyed the exhibit. On display were several portraits, including a whimsical Mona Lisa, and other wonderful paintings of groups of people and fish in a bowl. I like and appreciate Jesse’s use of light. The bright, vivid colors of his paintings draw the eye. I stood before the piece titled “Luncheon of the Boating Party” and lost myself in it, studying each person captured on the canvas.

Jesse McCormick 2e

My favorite Jesse McCormick painting, today, was titled “Matt Chaimovitz in Concert at Phoenix Fired Art”. Jesse portrays the musician as he is absorbed in his performance. An audience sits with their backs to the observer. The colors of this piece were more subtle with the brightest hues surrounding Matt, making him the object of my attention. I could almost hear the music drift out over the hushed crowd as I studied this painting.

The Mona Lisa portrait was fun. And I wondered about the painting titled “Mollie Sanders”. I know a Mollie Sanders. This could be her. She is involved in Joplin Little Theater. And I know her parents. I will have to ask Jesse about this beautiful girl that he has painted.

I so appreciate the Post Memorial Art Reference Library. It truly is a hidden gem in Joplin. Each month I enjoy the featured artist’s exhibit and from viewing their work and blogging about the experience, I have made new friends. On the Local Color website, Jesse is quoted as saying, “I move my inner vision out where others may see it and it may remain for a while.  I paint people, nature, and light.  I convert what seems to be chaos into a visionary experience.  The magic of painting makes imagination visible.” I love that! I look forward to more of Jesse’s impressive work as he brings the vision in his imagination into visible form.

Jesse McCormick Mollie Sanders e