Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Eyes Up Here



D-Viners,

Like millions of other Americans, I watched President Barak Obama's farewell speech last night. It stirred me in many ways. 

I reflected on the memories of that EPIC January day in 2008 when I proudly witnessed our first African-American president take the Oath of Office. Then again, when he swept the 2012 elections and earned a second term. 

I recalled the times I questioned his methods when it came to something new, like the legalization of gay marriage and the mandatory participation in Obamacare. (By the way, I'm so grateful for Obamacare. It has turned out to be a total blessing to me and my family!)

The numerous times I saw President Obama with his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, and for the first time, it didn't seem like some perfectly manufactured image of a public figure and his family.

But overall, one singular theme struck a chord with me throughout President Obama's speech.

Keep your standards and your expectations high.

Yes, this is true as it pertains to our social and political climate, but it begins in a personal place. Having a mindset that simply refuses to sink to a certain level. Not getting wrapped up in petty, arbitrary, pointless battles about things that have no long-term value or positive impact.

In his speech last night, President Obama referred to connecting with something greater than yourself and not allowing fear or apathy to discourage you from getting in the fight.

That's where I am today and going forward.

I'm going to keep my eyes looking first to my God, without whom I can do nothing. Then to my future, which is bold and bright and full of potential and possibilities just waiting to unfold.

So join me, won't you? 

I know there's a lot going on right now, and it can be very tempting to get caught up in complaining and worrying. But I urge you to take a moment to reset your focus. 

Stop talking so much about what's going wrong. Look for what's going right and be thankful for it. Don't worry about what you don't know or what you don't have. Look at what you do know and what you do have already and know that when God breathes on your little, it is destined to become much!

Thanks, Barak and Michelle, for your service, your example, and most of all, for reminding us that we are MORE than what we have become.





Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How Are You Bidding Farewell to 2016?



Here we are at the end of another year. But I don't think I've known of a year so collectively abhorred as 2016.

Why just today, I was reading an article in which a man was citing certain negative comments he received regarding a controversial tweet he posted about the passing of singer, George Micheal. But there was one comment that I think truly captured the essence of what 2016 has felt like to so many. It was the one where one of his disgruntled readers told him that he was "the 2016 of people."

Wow! That was a true LOL moment for me.

I totally get it though. This year was the roughest and most stressful year I've ever had in my life. I won't go into all the messy details, but suffice it to say, 2016 tested me AND my family to the core.

Then there are all the sad and untimely losses of beloved celebrity icons like Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, and just a few days ago Carrie Fisher (Star Wars' Princess Leia).

Let's not forget about the made-for-reality-TV presidential campaign and the shocking (well, to some it was) outcome.

Yep! There's a lot we may want to forget about 2016. But even if this year is one you can't wait to kick to the curb, what is the one thing you learned? Instead of focusing on what was lost this year, what have you gained?

I can personally say that the hardship I endured this year fortified me mentally and spiritually in ways I didn't know I needed. I now have a much greater appreciation for the simple things in life, like food, shelter, and the use of two good legs. I'd say that's a good thing!

Even if you have to strain to think of ONE GOOD THING you can take with you from 2016, I encourage you to find it and hold on to it. 

Whatever it is, it might be the catalyst to the greater things that 2017 hold for you.

HAPPY NEW YEAR D-VINERS!


Monday, December 19, 2016

Moist & Delicious Homemade Vanilla Cupcakes



Baby, it's cold outside! Well, at least it is in Southeast Texas.

Couple that with the fact that it's my baby girl's 16th birthday, and that's a great reason to try my hand at baking some good ole homemade cupcakes.

I browsed all over the Internet and found several recipes that looked good, but the blend of ingredients in this recipe matched most of what I already had in my pantry (sorry, cake flour is not a regular around here).  

The scent of vanilla was so intoxicating as these little gems of sweet goodness baked, the birthday girl could hardly wait until it was time to pop them out of the oven.

Check out the moist crumb on this! 



I've only seen this kind of fluffy decadence on The Food Network. Who knew I'd be pulling off this kind of baking magic in my own kitchen?!

Here's the recipe I used. I only made a few alterations.

I used four teaspoons of vanilla extract instead of three. This really intensified that yummy vanilla flavor!

Also, I baked my cupcakes longer. Instead of the recommended 15 - 18 minutes, I left them in for about 20 minutes. Made for a delightfully delicate crunch on top while keeping them super moist inside. And since the villagers around here couldn't wait to get their hands on these babies, I decided to skip making homemade frosting and just used store-bought. Then I let the birthday girl add some sprinkles just for fun. 

I guess it's true. You're never too old for sprinkles. :)

Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 1 hour 15 min
Yields: 12-24 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla (add more for a super-vanilla taste)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Instructions

  1. Prior to starting, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bring the eggs and butter to room temperature. Grease and flour two cupcake/muffin pans or insert cupcake cups.
  2. Stir together the salt, baking powder, and flour.
  3. Beat butter with an electric mixer on high for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat until combined. Continue to beat and add the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add part of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Then add some of the milk. Beat on low. Continue alternating like this until all of the milk and flour mixture have been added. Mix well. Pour into cupcake pans, filling to about halfway.
  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cupcakes are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from pans. Frost.

Try this easy recipe and let me know what you think in the comments. I'd also love to know what kind of sweet magic you're creating in your oven this season, so please share!

Happy Holidays!