Coffee creamer is a bit of a sweet treat for many of us. It can turn a cup of hot coffee into a bit of a snack, without us having to consume a ton of additional calories. I often like to skip the doughnut or the cookies, and just make myself an instant coffee with a little bit of flavoured creamer in it. I like cream instead of milk in my coffee, so the extra richness satisfies the craving for a little fat. And the sweet flavour of a French vanilla or caramel creamer tells my brain that it can stop demanding more sugar.
(Image: MasterTux/Pixabay/CC0 1.0 )
Have you ever had that odd experience in which something you see or read gives you a bit of deja-vu? For me, deja-vu is that feeling of having lived a moment sometime in the past. There is something so familiar about the current moment, that I experience a kind of memory echo. For just a second the two events overlap in a strange, hazy way. I can’t put my finger on the moment of the first encounter. And truthfully I can’t be sure there even was a prior moment, or if my mind is just playing tricks on me.
I want to tell you about a time when I had that experience. One day when I was reading a post by the thoughtful and talented Gulrukh Tausif (our very own @dawnwriter) I was reminded of a particular song SJ wrote about an animal out of place. Here’s what happened:
Recognizing a Rhythm in the Writing
I had been reading dawnwriter’s post about enjoying creatures in their natural environment (rather than in one’s home.) It’s a witty, casual post composed for a writing challenge. I didn’t imagine Gulrukh meant for us to take it very seriously.
“I wouldn’t want to see a snake in my living room or an alligator slithering across my backyard,” said she. She then went on to say that she was in no need of “any more scratching, howling, or stampeding creatures” beyond her kids – a thought that prompted a little chuckle from this Mama of four!
But there was something about both the cadence and the language of the post that felt familiar. And I realized that the way our dear friend wrote, she quite reminded me of someone else.
Now, I don’t mean familiar in the way that some people’s posts are. This was a delightful, naturally flowing post that reminded me very much of our dawnwriter. There was no doubt in my mind that it was original content.
But still, something about it felt like I’d met it before.
I re-read the lines that said “alligator slithering across my backyard,” and I could feel the memory filling in around the edges. The cadence of the words marched around in my head and the whole thing taunted me, challenging me to guess where I had heard similar words before.
I mulled it over – and over, and over. I shook my head as if to clear out the clouds, and bring the picture into focus. I spoke the phrases aloud, and as they rolled off my tongue the picture started to get clearer and clearer. Finally, I knew exactly what song she reminded me of: “Alligator in the House!”
Tango with an Alligator
The song that was coming to mind is a very comical tango tango performed by singer-songwriter S.J. Tucker. Originally written by Betsy and Katie Tinney, Tucker received permission from her friends to expand on their lyrics and to record the track. The song is very tongue in cheek, but in the chorus there’s a little hint that the alligator is a symbol for some hidden part of a person’s psyche.
So what’s the big deal? Doesn’t everyone
Have an alligator somewhere, somehow?
And might be this one was always been here,
But I never noticed it till now.
The video below is one of several live performances you can find on YouTube. These are really fun to watch, because she sometimes offers a bit of the back story – like the bit about the snakes in the pit and the credit card company!
I hope you will enjoy this amusing little ditty, and perhaps check out more tunes by the Skinny White Chick. Watch out for the gators!
Watch “An Alligator in the House” below, or go to:
Introducing S.J. Tucker
Pagan songstress S.J. Tucker is also known as “Sooj” and “the Skinny White Chick.” I discovered this talented singer-songwriter several years ago, and have spent many long hours being delighted by both her musical range and her sense of humour.
S.J. was born in Arkansas, and has been recording alternative folk music for over a decade now. She plays the festival circuit in the United States and also sometimes performs in Canada. In fact, one of my favour S.J. Tucker songs was inspired by an experience she had at the Toronto-area Pagan festival, Wic-Can Fest.
You can find all of S.J. Tucker’s music online and, unlike many recording artists, she makes sure you can listen to the entire track of each song free of charge. That is pretty cool!
You can download a very affordable copy of “Alligator in the House” on S.J.’s music page. Or you can check out the album Sirens, from which the track comes. There are plenty of other cools songs you can listen to, and again the cost to download them is quite modest. I happen to be rather fond of “The Wendy Trilogy II – Red-Handed Jill,” but there are literally a ton of wonderful songs of this album! (And if you’re just a bit of a Luddite, who prefers not to download music from the internet, you can till order the album on disc!)
I am not compensated in any way for writing about S.J.’s music or including her links here. I just want to encourage my readers to check out a very talented artist, and I hope that some of you will enjoy her work enough that you want to make a purchase. As we writers know, our art may be a labour of love, but the bills still gotta get paid!
If you want to look for SJ then visit: http://sjtucker.com/
For a complete index of her albums, singles and EPs, go to: http://music.sjtucker.com/
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Freezer to crockpot meals make cooking supper for the family so fast and simple. They are a boon for a work at home mom like me, but for a family that spends a lot of time outside the house a crockpot recipe can make the difference between eating a home-cooked meal, and grabbing fast food on the go.
Probably the simplest recipe in my freezer to crockpot is one known as “Cranberry Barbecue Chicken.” I’ve seen the recipe on numerous web sites, often without any credit to an earlier source. So I really don’t know who originally came up with this idea. But it’s such a good one!
The really cool thing is that you only need three ingredients to make it!
Cranberry Barbecue Chicken Recipe
The recipe is so simple I’ve never really bothered to write it out anywhere. But since @grecy095 was asking about this dish, I’ll post it here for her and anyone else who wants to try it.
1-1/2 to 2 lbs chicken
1 can cranberry sauce or jellied cranberries
1 cup barbecue sauce
You can use any kind of chicken for this recipe. I think on the site where I first saw it, they were recommending chicken drumsticks or thighs with the bones and skin still intact. But I like to just use boneless, skinless chicken breast. I find that it cooks up better in the slow cooker, and even if I end up leaving the crockpot cooking longer than expected, if the meat falls apart there won’t be any worries about serving people bits of bone or skin.
Adjust the weight of the chicken according to whether it’s boneless or not. You’ll also want to take into consideration how many people you are feeding, and how large a meat portion your family is used to eating. My family is large, so we usually use the full two pounds of boneless chicken breast.
Use whatever barbecue sauce you normally buy. I’ve tried a number of different sauces, from a No Name chicken and rib sauce, to Sweet Baby Ray’s. You can also use a homemade barbecue sauce if you like. Don’t have a barbecue sauce recipe? Check out this one from writer Tracey Jade Boyer!
This recipe is so easy! Just mix the cranberry sauce and barbecue sauce together in the bottom of the crockpot, and then toss the chicken in. Make sure the sauce is well distributed, and turn your crockpot on. Cook for 3-4 hours on high, or 5-7 hours on low.
The sauce will thicken and get stickier as it cooks. The first time you prepare this dish you may need to check it a few times during cooking, as every crockpot is different and some cook at a higher temperature than others. If you find the sauce is getting too thick too soon, just stir in a little bit of water or some broth or fruit juice. This will allow the chicken more time to cook.
In general, though, don’t take the lid off your crockpot while it’s cooking. A slow cooker is meant to be a closed system. If you take the lid off frequently during cooking, you’ll ruin your food. So resist the temptation! Only lift the lid as absolutely necessary.
When the chicken is cooked it will be tender, and it will be easy to pull it apart by the help of a fork. Most crockpot chicken recipes cook the chicken until it’s more than adequately done, but if you’re concerned you can check with a meat thermometer. The safe internal temperature for chicken is 165°F (74°C) when measured through the thickest part of the meat.
While this recipe is very simple and quick to throw together, it’s even simpler if you make up a few batches ahead of time. Assemble enough ingredients to make two, three, or four meals. Get out enough freezer bags or rigid storage containers for all the meals, and be sure to label them with the date, the name of the recipe, and cooking instructions.
I like to do this on a day when I know this is what I want to eat for supper. I gather up everything I need, start one batch in my crockpot, and package the rest of the food up in zippered freezer bags. These meals will keep for months in the deep freeze, but we usually manage to eat them up well before they would expire!
To make storage easier I generally lay my freezer bags out as flat as possible. I can then stack the meals on my freezer shelves. Other people prefer to stand the bags upright so when the food freezes, it is in a shape that will fit right into their crockpot without having to be thawed. If that works for you, by all means go for it!
You can cook most freezer meals straight from the frozen state, though this will change your cooking duration. So again, check the meal as needed and use a meat thermometer to be sure it’s safely cooked all the way through before serving. The easiest way to ensure your freezer meal cooks according to the recipe is to take the package out of the freezer a day ahead. Place the bag in an open storage container, or put it on the lowest shelf with some absorbent towelling underneath it. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge.
May 8th is Iris Day, so I thought I would write a little something about this treasured flower today. The iris is not actually one type of flower, but rather a whole host of different flowers all belonging to the genus Iris. Their name comes from a goddess of ancient Greece. She was a link or messenger between the gods and humanity, and her symbol was the rainbow.
Irises are lovely, showy flowers that grow from a bulb or rhizome. They come up year after year, and are so hardy that they will thrive even if neglected. I can remember my mother growing irises in her garden for years, and I don’t recall her ever digging them up or dividing them. And they survived through some pretty harsh Canadian winters, with little more than a layer of leaves over the soil come fall and a blanket of snow throughout the winter.
Showy Iris Flowers
The photos I chose to accompany this post aren’t the usual pretty shots of a group of irises in the garden. I also chose not to take a photo of a bouquet, or even of a single iris in its entirety.
Instead I chose to share two photos I took several years ago, of irises growing in a flowerbed alongside my house. We had some beautiful, rich purple irises growing there, but we also had a few of the white flowers. And they were so gorgeous in contrast with the deep purples of the others!
I decided to take these photos with the macro setting on a little handicam that allowed me to also take still photographs. I was just learning to use the camera, and trying to capture unique angles of the flowers. In the picture of the white iris, you can see the pretty yellow beard.
In the purple one, you can see right down inside the flower. And if you know anything about the anatomy of a flower, you’ll notice that irises don’t look like other flowers! The three more or less upright petals at the center of the flower are “standards,” and they are surrounded by the floppy outer petals – the “falls.” I’ve always thought the flower looks like it’s aroused, and beckoning to the bees and other pollinators. Irises are rather wanton flowers!
#AutismDoesntEndAt5 is a trending tag on Twitter today. As the parent of an autistic child, I understand why people would say that autism doesn’t end at age 5, but I wondered whether others would get the reference. Let me share a little, based on our family’s experience with autism services.
In most places in Canada, services for autistic children are provided by the health and social service network, or through the school system. Especially for children under school age, it’s common for special services like speech therapy and an integration aide for community-based activities to be provided by the local social service agency. One of the most important services that an autistic person needs is a special therapy called Applied Behaviour Analysis, or ABA.
What is ABA?
The best way I can describe ABA is that it’s a tool that helps an autistic person learn how to learn. Autism gets in the way of a child understanding what’s going on around him, and because things are often so mixed up in his mind he isn’t able to sort out what he should pay attention to and what to filter out. He doesn’t know how to play copycat, and he doesn’t learn to speak by listening to parents or siblings speak.
An autistic person’s brain needs a sort of filing system, before he can begin to learn the things most children just pick up naturally as they grow. ABA helps the child to create that filing system. I won’t go into the details of how this works. Let me just say that the tasks are very simple ones like copying the teacher or cradling a baby in his arms. He has to keep following the teacher’s instructions and completing the task until he can get it right reliably. Then he moves on to another task.
This repetition might sound boring or even unkind to us, but for the autistic child it is so important. This is how he learns: he has to see or do something over and over, and over again. My son would even do this on his own, with nobody prompting him. He only started to speak after he had watched his favorite movies and TV shows hundreds and hundreds of times. Often he would repeat a 30-second clip over and over, dozens of times. This is what he needed to learn.
What’s So Special About Age 5?
In many communities, if an autistic child isn’t receiving special services by the time he turns five, he may never have free or subsidized services at all. There are long waiting lists, both for diagnosis and for referral to services like ABA, speech therapy or occupational therapy. It’s common for autistic children to “age off the list” without ever receiving any appropriate services, and without their parents ever receiving any educational services or support.
In jurisdictions where ABA – considered the only gold standard therapy for autism – is provided to most younger children, the service is cut once the child starts school. In my home province of British Columbia, parents are given more control over what services to engage. But still, funding drops drastically from $22,000 to only $6,000 per year after the child turns six.
So now you can see why parents want to remind their government representatives that autism doesn’t end at 5! In fact in my experience, the journey of an autistic child and his family is only just beginning around age five. I can say that my Bug only really started to show significant progress around the end of elementary school – so a good six years after the funding dropped off. Autistic children need supports in school and in the community, and if those supports aren’t there it just takes them even longer to develop. And that means a lot of autistic kids growing into adults who cannot live independently or work a regular job, or care for their own health and financial affairs.
Slashing the funding for autism services after age five may seem like an effective way to save money, but in the long run it means more adults who need more services, and at a time when their parents are growing older and less able to look after them. Society benefits greatly when we focus on intensive early intervention for autistic children, and our governments need to understand that.
(Image from a public domain photo by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay)
Earning money online is fairly straight forward with sites like LiteracyBase. Writers provide user-generated content, and the site pays for the writing. Payments do tend to vary with things like the length of a post or how SEO-friendly it is, and that can sometimes make it more difficult for a writer to predict how much money she’ll earn for a given post. New members of LiteracyBase, especially, want to know what will help them earn more money on the site.
This post is a roundup, intended to help both newbies and veteran writers alike make the best of the work from home opportunity that LiteracyBase offers.
(Image from a public domain photo by condesign/Pixabay)
Cherries are one of the most important products of the region I live in. This part of BC has a good deal of agriculture and is particularly known for its fruits. But the cherry orchards are the big deal in our little valley. So much so, that hundreds of young people travel across the country to spend the summer cherry picking in the local orchards.
Our cherry pickers are only in town for a matter of weeks, but they make a significant contribution to the economy of both the town and the region. Without them, many of the orchards would be unable to harvest their fruit before it spoiled. We would lose the harvest, and any economic benefit the community sees from the orchards.
(Image from a public domain photo by holgi/Pixabay)
Cadets Canada offers summer jobs each year to Canadian youth from all over the country. Today, my oldest army cadet traveled close to 4,000 km across the country, headed for a staff cadet job at a summer camp in Ontario. She joins a group the adult staff at the camp like to call “Canada’s finest,” ready to face the challenge of providing instruction, supervision and support services to the thousands of younger cadets who will arrive at camp next week.
A job as a staff cadet is one of the best summer jobs a young person can hope to get. A qualified army cadet as young as age 16 benefits from a coveted government job, working for the Department of National Defence. It’s a fun job, despite being quite demanding. It’s also a chance to earn money while travelling and to meet other army cadets from all over Canada. What an adventure! And boy, does it look great on a resume! So much better than a summer job flipping burgers . . .
(Image from a public domain photo by maude22/Pixabay)
SEO criteria change all the time. What used to be the big deal – like exact keyword matches – can later change in some way, or may simply not be an important factor at all. The hot thing for titles these days isn’t keywords: it’s emotional triggers. Using words that stir up the reader’s passions, fears, desires, or need for financial security makes your title more appealing.
In the old days of SEO, we just wanted to pack the title with keywords and be direct about whatever we had to say. Titles were short and sweet – just a few words to file your content into the right category in the reader’s mind. Today’s titles can still have keywords in them. But it’s even more important to hit on those power words that trigger emotion. Words that make the reader think about glamour, danger, intrigue, exclusiveness, sex, or money increase the likelihood of someone clicking your link or sharing it on social media sites.
(Image from a public domain photo by Josch13/Pixabay)
Western society favours extroverts, especially when it comes to competitive spheres like business, academics, and sport. It’s often assumed that extroverts are simply successful at life in general, whereas introverts are shy, withdrawn, and less capable than those at the other end of the spectrum. I’ve even seen some writers who claim that introversion is some sort of reaction to a traumatic event – which also pretty much implies that introverts are defective and need to be cured. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
What is Introversion?
Introversion is a concept first introduced by Carl Jung. He described introverts as people whose energy is expanded through reflective activities and consumed through interaction. Jung also saw introversion as a focus on internal factors and subjective thoughts, rather than on comparison with external standards.