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As Texas plunged into single digits with multiple days of a windchill below freezing, millions found themselves stranded with no power or water. Living along the Gulf Coast we have weathered hurricanes and endured power outages for much longer periods, but somehow this seemed different. Maybe for those of us close to the shoreline it was the unusual sight of snow we experienced as opposed to the natural disasters we usually face that arrive with rain, wind, and sweltering heat.

Our son and daughter (in law) were finally able to take a long-overdue honeymoon to St. Lucia in December. Cecelia interned one summer for a travel agent so naturally called the company to book their trip. What an incredible experience they had, and I was reminded WHY using a travel agent is worth the expense. Fees range depending on the service, but most charge between $300-350 to plan a vacation somewhere in the Caribbean Islands. 

Q: I will be a new mom soon, and I have been preparing for life “after” a newborn. There is a lot of information on raising babies, and how dads can support mom, but I cannot find much on how moms can support dads. A lot of my mental preparation has been around my marriage. Specific questions: How do I preserve my marriage? How do we embrace the changes? How do I maintain my husband as a priority when we have a tiny human demanding everything? How can I help my husband bond with our new child?

Want to set your children up for success? Then look no further than the habits of successful people you know, whether that be in the corporate world, media, or within your own circle of friends. Experts agree that there are certain common traits all successful people possess. This is great news because it means we can emulate those leaders that have come before us. 

How can you tell if someone will be successful? When I was in high school, they still had a category for a graduating senior titled: Voted Most Likely to Succeed. How, at 18-years-old, could classmates look at someone and say, “Yeah, I think they will be the most successful person in our graduating class.”

Many of us grew up learning multitasking was a hallmark of a productive person. While sounding good in theory, this practice has proven to be incorrect. Studies now reveal that multitasking is nothing more than switching back and forth between tasks and it lowers our productivity. Below are 5 points that deal with the facts behind project hopping and the lack of performance that occurs when we allow seemingly innocuous interruptions to occur in daily life.

The way my husband structures his day is different from how I organize mine, but there is one thing we both do. We start with a morning routine. I make coffee, read the news while eating my breakfast, and then dive into an hour of bible study. Once I finish, I pull out my journal and plan my day. About 2 years ago I discovered an organizational method that resonated with me.

Remember as children, during holidays, we would spend what seemed like hours creating homemade craft projects for our parents? It might be a paper Christmas snowflake sprinkled with glitter or a cutout heart for Valentine’s Day. We would address it: To: Mom or To: Dad. We would sign our name, and this become the gift we gave our parents. The act of giving is how we should view all letters, especially a thank you note. We may not be cutting out cute hearts, but when we take time to put pen to paper and share a little of ourselves with someone else, we are giving a part of our heart to another.  

People give to make you feel loved and remembered. Sometimes gifts are given out of obligation, but mostly they are presented to honor a special relationship or occasion. No matter the reason, we need to know how to show our appreciation. Here are my 7 tips to become a gracious gift receiver.  

Table manners seem to be the area in which I receive most of my questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in handling an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction.

I recently bumped into a friend at the store, and as we began talking, she expressed how she struggles with the holidays. When January rolls around, she feels like she somehow “missed out.” I understand this feeling because I, too, have often felt this way. Life was so busy with the preparation of celebration, that I missed the joy that awaited each of us this time of year.

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party that looked scared to death, unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screaming, “I wish I was anywhere but here!” Entering a room full of people that you do not know can be intimidating. I get that. Yet, your entrance is important in displaying overall confidence and portraying a strong image.

Giving a party, of any type, requires a great deal of work. If you have been fortunate enough to be included in a festive soiree, it is nice to arrive with a gift for the hostess. The typical present will cost between $15-$30, but there are less expensive things you can find at the local discount store.

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4th of July Recipes

I love celebrating the 4th of July! I have so many memories over the years of bike parades, money dives, and belly flop contests at the neighborhood pool. As well as helping my mom prepare for a big family cookout. At night, we would dress in our most festive red, white, and blue attire, stuff ourselves full of BBQ, and eagerly anticipate the main event – fireworks! Since coronavirus hit this year, many of those celebrations will be cancelled or socially distanced. Although the holiday will not be quite the same, there are still fun ways to celebrate our nation’s birth. Our family is planning a stay-at-home celebration with a backyard cookout featuring a festive red, white, and blue themed menu. There are fabulous options available this time of year with delicious seasonal produce. Posted are recipes for the starter and dessert along with ideas for an easy main menu. Enjoy!

MENU

For starters:

Burrata with roasted tomatoes

For the main course:

Blue-cheese burgers

BBQ chicken

Red skinned potato salad

Sliced watermelon

For dessert:

Pretzel Crust Key Lime Pie



RECIPES

Burrata with roasted tomatoes - serves 6-8

To make the roasted tomatoes:

2 pints cherry tomatoes, assorted colors, and sizes if available

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 t. fresh thyme

¼ t. crushed red pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup olive oil

1 t. balsamic vinegar

2 balls burrata cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the first five ingredients in the olive oil and place in a small roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 25 minutes until they begin to soften and blacken in spots.

While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare the burrata. Place 2 balls of cheese on a large platter. When tomatoes are warm and bubbly, remove from oven and immediately pour over the cheese. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top of the tomatoes and garnish with fresh herbs such as chopped thyme or basil.

Enjoy with crackers or a toasted baguette.

Note: Burrata cheese is also delicious for dessert with watermelon and fresh mint, roasted peaches with brown sugar or strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar. These options would be good with toasted bread or grilled pound cake.


Pretzel Crust Key Lime Pie – serves 8-10

Crust:

1 ½ cups finely ground graham crackers

1 ½ cups finely ground graham crackers

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted

1 t. sugar

Key Lime Filling:

1 ¼ cups freshly lime juice (can use either Key Limes or regular limes)

1 T. finely grated lime peel

2 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk

2 large eggs

Whipped Cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled

½ cup powdered sugar

1 t. vanilla

Fresh berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray an 11 inch by 1-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray.

Using a food processor, crush graham crackers and pretzels until finely ground. Add sugar and melted butter and pulse to combine. This mixture should resemble wet sand. Press the crumbs into tart pan, covering bottom and sides evenly.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sweetened condensed milk together. Add lime juice and lime peel until thoroughly mixed. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Bake pie for 35 minutes until filling is set and crust is slightly browned. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to prevent spilling since the crust will be very full. Remove pie from oven and let cool before refrigerating. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Right before serving, whip the cream then garnish decoratively. Serve with a mixture of fresh berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

Mother/Daughter Contributors

Mom: Lisa O’Connor and Daughters: Megan and Allie

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