Blueberry Protein Breakfast Smoothie

Hon, you know how it goes. This summer, I’ll work out more. This summer, I’ll recharge my mind. This summer, I’ll eat healthier. I’m trying! One of my favorite “this summer” changes is making protein smoothies for breakfast. This recipe by The Nutrition Twins is my favorite!

Is there something you’ve added to your diet or routine that’s made you feel good this summer?


Blueberry Protein Weight Loss Breakfast Smoothie

“Enjoy this sipster for breakfast to take the edge off hunger, prevent overeating, flush bloat and help set your mind & body on the healthy track.” The Nutrition Twins

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (I often used frozen mixed berries.)
  • 1/2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetend vanilla almond milk (I alternated between almond and coconut milk.)
  • 1 scoop vanilla plant-based protein powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (ok, if not fresh)
  • water to blend
  • Extras: banana, drops of liquid ginger

Directions:

Blend this all together and drink! Enjoy!

Rattlesnake Sighting!

Unexpected Adventure

There me and my childhood friends were, on our Girls Weekend in New Mexico, walking along a path in Bandelier National Monument, discussing the pretty bird we’d seen (Western Tanager), crossing over water (Rio Grande), and wondering why the trees looked burnt (prescribed burns), when we turned a slight bend in the path and came across a rattlesnake!

My first thought was COOL! I wanted to stop and look, but a) more hikers were coming up behind us and b) Cindy hurried us along saying rattlesnakes can strike far. According to North Dakota Game and Fish, “Rattlesnakes can, at best, strike a distance of two-thirds their total body length. For example, a three foot long snake may be able to strike a distance of two feet.” The snake did look big. COOL!

We were on the opposite side of the path, approximately 6 feet from the rattling rattlesnake. (I’d rattle, too, if a group of giants stopped to gawk at me.) I took some quick pics and we moved on. A second later, we were wondering where Laura was. We looked back and saw her dragging a huge branch that looked like half a tree towards the snake!

“Ha! I get ‘yelled’ at for not walking quickly enough, and she’s approaching a rattlesnake with an enormous branch?!” I said.

“What in the heck are you doing?” Cindy called to Laura.

Talk about provoking an unhappy rattlesnake that was innocently cooling itself off in the shade before being discovered by a group of giants AND scraping the ground with branches and leaves!!

While Laura called back that she and another hiker were attempting to block the path as a warning to other hikers, I wondered if you can die from a rattlesnake bite (I wasn’t worried, just curious.), if you have to cut a bite out (My mini-Swiss Army Knife was confiscated years ago at the Statue of Liberty), or if you can suck out the poison (is that real)?

The Mayo Clinic: First Aid says,

Most snakes aren’t dangerous to humans. Only about 15% worldwide and 20% in the United States are venomous. In North America, these include the rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin and copperhead. Their bites can cause severe injuries and sometimes death.

If a venomous snake bites you, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, especially if the bitten area changes color, begins to swell or is painful. Many emergency rooms stock antivenom drugs, which may help you.

If possible, take these steps while waiting for medical help:

  • Move beyond the snake’s striking distance.
  • Remain still and calm to help slow the spread of venom.
  • Remove jewelry and tight clothing before you start to swell.
  • Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
  • Clean the wound with soap and water. Cover it with a clean, dry dressing.

Caution:

  • Don’t use a tourniquet or apply ice.
  • Don’t cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed your body’s absorption of venom.
  • Don’t try to capture the snake. Try to remember its color and shape so that you can describe it, which will help in your treatment. If you have a smartphone with you and it won’t delay your getting help, take a picture of the snake from a safe distance to help with identification.

Who knew? If you are unfortunate enough to get bitten by a venomous snake, DO NOT drink a cup of caffeinated coffee or soda!

As soon as we returned to the Visitor’s Center, Cindy and Laura alerted the park staff.

Their reaction? YAWN.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, Part 2

At the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York on Pier 36, when you exit the rooms with videos, you come across the quote, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” This quote, and the fact that Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, spoke to me and my writing journey. Thank you, Vincent, I am brave!

I recently Tweeted a comment from a friend. Upon hearing how hard it is to break into Kidlit, she said, “A lot of people get famous after they die.” Ummm…WHAT?! First of all, I don’t write Kidlit to become famous and, secondly, WHAT?! Was that meant as encouragement? Was she volunteering to be my “manuscript historian” and, once I depart this Earth, make sure my stories and characters see the light of day and laps of children?

Back to Vincent. Turn the corner from his quote and you see mannequins adorned in interpretive fashion. I disagree with Jason Farago, whose review “Submerged in van Gogh: Would Absinthe Make the Art Grow Fonder? in The New York Times said that the mannequins were wearing “shockingly tacky van Gogh-inspired clothing. (Where might these dresses festooned with wheat and sunflowers be appropriate? The Miss Provence pageant? Is there a Saint-Rémy drag night I don’t know about?)” Funny, but as a former student of fashion history, I enjoy seeing how designers create clothes, even if they’re made from unwearable material. A fashion exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art comes to mind; dresses made of blue and white Chinoiserie were extraordinary.

One more thing to try before you leave the exhibit is a booth where you can “hear” color. I didn’t know Van Gogh experienced chromesthesia, a condition where sound evokes different colors.

Hon, still thinking about the “better off dead” comment? Me, too. And still shaking my head.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, Part 1

The recent variety of immersive Van Gogh exhibits have received mixed reviews. One of my daughters said that the one she attended in CA was in one room, poorly executed, and left her sorry to have paid the ticket price. But, I found the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit at Pier 36 in Manhattan that Hubby, another daughter and I attended very cool. The same floor-to-ceiling images play on a loop in three rooms. In the first room, vertical, mirrored columns reflect the moving images. In the middle room, huge mirrored, geometric shapes do the the same. In the enormous third room, there’s space to sit, recline or sprawl out.

I really enjoyed being surrounded by floor-to-ceiling art, vibrant colors, spectral music, and the illusion that the room was moving. After a pandemic year of living insular, isolated lives, sharing a space with people all seemingly enchanted and contemplative was, in itself, what made the experience one-of-a-kind.

Click Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York to find out more.

Hon, have you gone to a Van Gogh exhibit near you? What did you think?

Cliff Dwellings and Petroglyph at Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Laura and Cindy cooling off inside a cliff dwelling.

It’s amazing that you can still climb into cliff dwellings and see petroglyphs. In a future post, I’ll share pics of the amazing cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and Canyon De Chelly and petroglyphs in Monument Valley. Hon, can you tell that I love exploring the Southwest?

Bandelier National Monument, located near Los Alamos, New Mexico, is a 33,677-acre site that preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans, who occupied this area from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The monument’s sheer canyon walls contain numerous cave dwellings as well as petroglyphs and pictographs that date from this period. Surface dwellings include the remains of two large villages, Tyuonyi and Tsankawi.

Today, numerous ruined dwellings of one of the most extensive prehistoric Indian populations of the Southwest can be found in the picturesque canyon and mesa country of the Pajarito Plateau. This area, located west of the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, New Mexico, was thickly settled in prehistoric times. Bandelier National Monument, in the heart of the plateau, includes and protects several of the largest of these ruins, in particular, the unique cave and cliff dwellings in the canyon of the Rito de los Frijoles.

The Ancestral Pueblo people (Anasazi) lived here from approximately 1150 AD to 1550 AD. The upsurge of the population and the main construction activity in Bandelier began after 1300 AD, when large towns grew up and down the Rio Grande drainage, and the people achieved a standard of living.

They built homes from blocks of volcanic tuff, which is soft and relatively easy to break into blocks. There were also sources of hard basalt rock just a short distance down the canyon, from which they made axes and hammers which could be used as tools to form the tuff blocks. Axes were also used to fell large Ponderosa pine trees whose straight, thick trunks made excellent vigas (the beams used to support the roof).

Legends of America

Landscape at Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Giant cliffs line the path in Bandelier National Monument.

I recently went on a weekend getaway to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico where the architecture, landscape, wildlife, and colors are completely different than in New Jersey. My two friends and I took a trip to Bandelier National Monument, a national park where Ancient Puebloans built homes out of rocks and in the cliffs. Stacked stones that were the bottom level of a communal dwelling remain, and you can climb ladders into the actual cliff dwellings!

Hon, have you been there? Didn’t you think it was breathtaking?

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years.  Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesa top fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship.

https://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm

A Trapezoid is NOT a Dinosaur! by Suzanne Morris

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Suzanne Morris’ picture book, A Trapezoid is NOT a Dinosaur, which she wrote and illustrated, debuted November 5, 2019. Though plans to promote her book were delayed by the pandemic, she has new dates on the calendar.

July 15, 2021 

Author Chat with Janette

10:30am Wayne Public Library, Wayne, NJ

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/wayne/events/virtual-author-chat-with-suzanne-morris

July 17, 2021

10:30am Ringwood Public Library, Ringwood, NJ

In this wildly amusing, unconventional shape concept book, Trapezoid is here to declare that he’s a shape, too. He’s NOT a type of dinosaur!

Shape up, shapes! Triangle is hosting auditions for all the best shapes to be in his play. Circle, Square, and Star each get a part. But Trapezoid just doesn’t “fit in.” Is he even a shape? The others think he sounds like a type of dinosaur. Determined to show off his usefulness, Trapezoid tries to act like the other shapes, to no avail. Eventually, though, Trapezoid celebrates his own distinct shape properties in order to become part of the performance. 

Goodreads

Click here to check out the free guides and activity sheets Suzanne pairs with her book. https://www.facebook.com/suzanne.morris.33/, @smorrisart

Best Black Bean Burgers

Photo courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction

I love good veggie burgers but, often, one bite in and they fall apart. There I am making a mess, while attempting to use a fork and knife to eat a crumbling burger.  No more with my new favorite Black Bean Burger recipe thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction. SBA advises partially drying out the black beans to cook “big, thick, hearty, and flavorful” burgers that can be grilled or baked. Whether they’re eaten on a bun, plain, or on a salad, these delicious veggie burgers are “easy, healthy, satisfying, juicy, spicy and NOT MUSHY!” They were a winner with my family and friends.

Happy cooking, hon!

BLACK-BEAN BURGERS

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14 ounce) cans black beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (1/2 of a pepper)
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1/2 of a large onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or oat flour
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, optional
  • corn kernels cut off 2 ears cooked corn-on-the-cob, optional (left over from the previous night’s dinner)
  • 2 large eggs (to make vegan & vegetarian, see note)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (to make vegan & vegetarian, see note)
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup, mayo, or BBQ sauce
  • pinch salt + pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Spread beans evenly onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until slightly dried out.
  2. Sauté olive oil, chopped pepper, onion, and garlic over medium heat until peppers and onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Gently blot some of the moisture out. (My veggies weren’t too liquidy, so I skipped this.)
  3. Place sautéed mixture in a large bowl with remaining ingredients (cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, Worcestershire, ketchup, salt, and pepper). Add beans. In a food processor, pulse everything together. (Tip: you may need to process mixture in small batches.) Alternately, the bean/veggie/spice mixture can be mashed with a fork. Either way, don’t completely mash the beans. Leave some larger chunks of beans to create a “bulky and satisfying texture.”
  4. Form into patties– about 1/3 cup of mixture in each. Shape the black bean burgers however large or small desired, keeping in mind the larger they are, the more unevenly they’ll cook. To bake: Place patties on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F (191°C) for 10 minutes on each side, 20 minutes total. To grill: Place patties on greased aluminum foil and grill 8 minutes on each side. “Generally, black bean burgers should grill on medium-high heat about 350°F (177°C) – 400°F (204°C).”
  5. Serve with favorite toppings. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Yield: 6 to 7 burgers

Notes:

  1. Freezing Instructions: Stack cooked or uncooked patties between parchment paper in a freezer container or zipped-top bag. Thaw in refrigerator and reheat or, if uncooked, cook according to instructions above. Thawing can be skipped; just cook from frozen for an extra couple minutes.
  2. Vegan & Vegetarian: Since Worcestershire sauce is not vegan or vegetarian, leave out or replace with a condiment such as BBQ sauce. To make burgers vegan burgers, (1) leave out the Worcestershire sauce or replace with favorite vegan condiment, (2) leave out the cheese, and (3) replace the eggs with 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato.
  3. Creative Toppings:  For a light lunch, skip the bun and eat on a salad. Creative toppings ideas are mashed avocado + caramelized onion, pepper jack cheese + spicy mustard + sweet pickles, herbed goat cheese + roasted red peppers, sriracha + sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella + pesto, corn salsa + cheddar cheese, or even chunky mango guacamole, BBQ sauce + Swiss cheese + grilled pineapple

Take Me Home, Country Roads

IMG_5775
Maryland flag.

IMG_4501
Flower Box Flag, Hudson River Park

Happy 4th of July, America.

I wish you good health, happiness, and a way to mend deep divisions. 

Growing up in Baltimore, a day cheering at an Orioles’ baseball game was always a blast. We ate popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, rooted for our home team, and always belted John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the seventh inning stretch. I found out something interesting about Denver’s patriotic song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” 

Chris Kaltenbach, writing for The Baltimore Sun, wrote “Mountain mama! John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ was inspired by Maryland, not West Virginia. Hon, did you know that? Me either!

His article, published 4/17/19 is excerpted below.

Next time you hear John Denver warbling “Take Me Home, Country Roads”…keep in mind that it wasn’t anywhere in West Virginia that inspired the massive hit, but rather a road in Montgomery County.

Songwriter Bill Danoff, in a 1997 article he wrote for The Washington Post (in tribute to Denver, who’d just died), said he had begun writing the song while driving to a family reunion along Clopper Road, near Gaithersburg. He and his future wife, Taffy Nivert, completed the song in December 1970 with Denver’s help. “Back then,” Danoff wrote, Clopper Road “was still a country road.” (It isn’t anymore, apparently, thanks to development over the past 49 years.)

The three premiered the song the following night at Washington, D.C.’s The Cellar Door, where Denver was headlining (Danoff and Nivert, performing under the name Fat City, were his opening act). “When we first sang the song together,” Danoff wrote, “it seemed as though the audience would never stop applauding. Next show, same thing. We knew we had a hit.”

Wrote Denver, in “Take Me Home,” his 1994 autobiography, “In the wee hours of the morning, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, in their basement apartment in Washington, D.C., we wrote ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’ It became my first Number One record.”

No word on why Maryland lost out to West Virginia in the lyrics. Perhaps “Maryland” just doesn’t sound as pastoral as its western neighbor. More likely, the three syllables that combine for our state’s name just don’t fit the meter the songwriters had worked out.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

All my memories gather round her, miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky, misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

I hear her voice in the morning hour, she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away
And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads

 

Show-n-Tell Ceramics, Neriage Nesting Bowls

Neriage (pronounced nair-ee-ah-gee)is the Japanese word for the technique of combining different colored clays.

Neriage, according to ceramic artist Thomas Hoadley, comes from “neri…a root word meaning ‘to mix’ and age…a root word meaning to ‘pull up.’ This refers to the pulling up action in throwing clay on a wheel, hence neriage refers to wheel work with colored clays.”

I created these bowls by layering brown and white clay, and then throwing the combined clay. I glazed the insides in matte white and the outsides in glossy clear. Stripes give way to swirls and, since I wanted to maintain the clays’ natural patterns and didn’t smooth the insides completely, you can feel some of the throwing lines.

Patterns and textures–so fun to create!