Monday, June 29, 2015

The Ugliest Blanket

How does one crochet? Most people could teach themselves if they had the patience for it. I started to crochet very young. At age seven, I watched the other moms sit around in a corner with their crochet hooks making hot pad holders. My mom thought I was too young, but some of the other ladies thought I would pick it up if someone taught me. My mom taught me. I learned to make a chain. I learned how to make simple bookmarks. By age eight and nine, I was crocheting head bands and hot pad holders. By age ten, I could make doll and Barbie dresses. I quit crocheting for awhile. When I was a teenager, I didn't crochet at all. It wasn't the "cool" thing to do. I was too busy hanging out with friends, doing sports, school, and work. I had no time to fiddle around with yarn. Now that I'm older, I find myself comforted in front of the television with a late night movie, a crochet hook and a ball of yarn.

I'm not sure what attracted me to these swimming pool blue types of colors. I saw these vibrant teal colors in the store one day. I was taken back at how beautiful the colors would be if they were incorporated together. I thought it would be a great summer time blanket and such an accomplishment if I ever completed it. I was so bored in the evenings that I felt it wouldn't hurt to have a new project. It was a better plan than wasting my day sitting around doing nothing.

At first Nicole didn't like the colors. Nicole typically likes blue colors, but instead of liking them, she told me the colors were ugly, and that this was an "ugly blanket."

The Ugly Blanket

I thought of giving this blanket to a dear friend, when Nicole stared me down. "What? What is it? I know, this blanket is ugly. How many times do you have to tell me how gross and terrible the colors are? It's the ugliest blanket in the whole wide world, and I crocheted it."

It's like the ugly duckling that discovers it's a swan, the colors have a way of growing pretty. The warmth that comes from having a handmade afghan, there is much detail and trouble in pulling the threads of yarn, and looping each row together. When I finally started to finish the picot around the edge, Nicole confessed to me that she didn't want me to give the blanket away, that she wanted to keep it. All this time I thought she didn't like the afghan, but in reality she loved it.

I told Nicole that if she really wants the blanket, it's hers. She wrapped the blanket around herself and sleeps with the ugly blanket every night. Lesson of the day, I'm not sure how to put this... How could an afghan so ragged become so lovely? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes that beholder changes his or her mind. Nicole loves her new ugly blanket. It's probably one of the best gifts a mother could give a daughter.

Sometimes there are things in life that you love to hate, and hate to love. There's always something mysteriously unusual that keeps drawing us back. Usually those things in life become our favorites. Until next post...


The Last Hip Hop Performance of Summer Dance Camp

Hip Hop class only lasted two weeks this summer, just two weeks in June. Some classes have to be entered at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, but really, with Hip Hop, the levels can be within age groups so any person starting out with a Hip Hop class can be with their grade level, and not have to worry too much about the technical skills. Nicole was in the older girl's class. She is only ten years old, but tall enough to be with girls that are older than herself.

Nicole is in the very back of the class at Sunshine Dance Studio.  :(

Each person had their own spot and places to be. All through out the dance routine the girls moved around in different places. For the most part, Nicole stayed in the background. This was a little troubling to me as a parent. I could not understand fort the life of me why they would not at least have each girl feature themselves and their skills. I felt like they were hiding my daughter. She is way out in left field.

At the end, Nicole had more of an important part.  Nicole and another girl had to lift the girl in the pink shirt.  The girl in the pink shirt did the splits in mid-air and spun out in ballet turns. This is Hip Hop or ballet? I shook my head for a minute. I really think the girl in the pink shirt is more of a ballerina.

In every dance studio there are dancers that are the favorite, but what do you do when your child is not the favorite?

I was expecting that there would be some girls that caught on rapidly, and others that were going to struggle with the steps. Nicole was newer. and she struggled. Nicole, who just started dance a week ago was not at the same experience level as kids that had been dancing with Sunshine Dance since they were five years old. It's a lack of experience, not lack of talent. Nicole needed more experience, more time to develop her skills. I wanted the dance studio to work with Nicole, not leave her in the background or make Nicole a backup dancer to their favorites. I decided I have a valid complaint.

When a mom approaches a dance choreographer with a problem, I think they should do so with caution. I talked to the manager of the dance studio, and she already decided what she was doing with the Hip Hop routine was perfectly fine, and made no changes just gave excuses condemning Nicole, "She's not advanced enough... Her legs aren't strait enough... She turns the wrong direction... She is too uncertain of herself..."  Trying to convince the dance studio owner that leaving kids in the background was the wrong thing to do in dance was just alarming, insulting, and unprofessional of me. Who was I to correct a studio owner?

Who am I to voice my opinion? I'm a mom, and my opinions matter. This is my little girl we are talking about.  Of course my opinion matters... I think this tears at a little girl's self-esteem and self-confidence. These are the pre-teen years where girl's form opinions about themselves in comparison to other girls. It sets the stage for a girl's transition into becoming a young lady. Psychologically, it can be traumatic for a little girl to feel inferior to her peers.

Lucky for us, this was the last Hip Hop class of the summer so arguing about it like I did pissed off a lot of people at the studio when the outcome was the same. There were no more Hip Hop classes to complain about. I should have kept my mouth shut because all the arguing really didn't matter. It was the end of the season anyway. I could have moved in more stealthy and not said a word, but generally, I'm not the type that likes to be pushed aside. I am ambitious and prefer front and center even if I have to fight for it. I wanted Nicole to have more of a role in the dance team.

Rejection is common for new dance moms. There were three dance moms from the richer areas of town that were somewhat clique too. They didn't seem too kind to outsiders, especially not mouthy outsiders that liked to argue like myself. As if my daughter, along with every new child that enters the dance studio, is a threat to the self-esteem, self-confidence and dance development of their own child. The dance moms are not very welcoming to newcomers. I felt like there was an impenetrable wall that the more permanent dance moms placed around themselves to keep me (or any other new mom) and my child (or any other new child) out. Instead of being introduced to the other dance mom's in a friendly way, my daughter and I were looked at as competition, as a threat. With the insecurity of the other mom's, what threatens them most is my daughter's talent. Nicole is smart and catching on quickly. There is a good possibility with more experience that Nicole will pass the other dancers up and become featured.  That is the other dance mom's worst fear.

We are considering leaving Sunshine Dance and going over to Dance Magic instead. I've already talked to Dance Magic on my own because Sunshine Dance does not do parades.  I wanted to see Nicole dancing in the parade July 24th (Utah's Pioneer Day Parade), and Dance Magic is now choreographing the parade dance. The group routine is the same for everyone.  No one in particular is featured.  My daughter is treated as an equal, and so far there has not been any squabbling among the mothers. I'm making friends with the other moms at Dance Magic. Nicole is working hard on her steps and fitting right in with all of the girls at Dance Magic.

I am so proud of Nicole's abilities. She is a wonderful little dancer with so much talent. She loves to dance. I don't have to push her or force her to be a good dancer. Nicole is determined to do well on her own. Even with struggles like these, she pulls right through like a champion. It didn't phase her at all. She got right through her Hip Hop class, and kept going. For a ten year old girl, Nicole has the right attitude. I am a very proud mother.

Thank you for reading and following along, and thank you for being so patient with all of my posts. Stay tuned and subscribe by email to find out how Nicole's dancing in the Utah Pioneer Day Parade on July 24th turns out.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lissa's Vegan Popeye Smoothie

Popeye the Sailor Man was known for his muscles and eating spinach.  Like Popeye, I love spinach too.  I made this vegan spinach smoothie because I wanted something cool to drink this summer that is healthy. Spinach is a super food that tastes great and is loaded with all the right vitamins and minerals. Spinach has high levels of potassium and promotes healthy digestion.  Spinach has more potassium than bananas. Spinach is loaded with calcium, magnesium, and iron. Spinach has calcium and is good for bone growth.  The magnesium in spinach is great for your heart and immune system. Leafy greens like spinach help improve your complexion and give a person healthier skin and healthy looking hair. There are many perks to drinking this smoothie.  The ingredients are very basic and easy to acquire so I encourage everyone to try this.

Lissa's Vegan Popeye Smoothie

Lissa's Vegan Popeye Smoothie

2 cups of Ice Cubes (about 24 ice cubes)
2 cups Spinach
1 large Banana
1/2 cup C&H Pure Cane Sugar
1 1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk
2 Tbs Organic Chai Seeds
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

The Ingredients

I added an entire ice tray full of ice to the bottom of the blender.  Since I am using fresh fruits and fresh veggies instead of frozen ones, having a great deal of ice is necessary to make the smoothie a little thicker.

I added the coconut milk and a banana.  Now I'm going to pour on the sugar.  

I added vanilla extract and now I'm going to add the organic chai seeds. Chai seeds help thicken smoothies and give the smoothie more texture.  I like chai seeds because they are high in nutrients and low in calories.  Most of the carbohydrates in chai seeds contain fiber. Chai seeds are easy to add and they make a person feel full.  Some people would say that feeling full might lead to weight loss, but it really doesn't.  Chai seeds won't make anyone lose weight, but they will give a person more Omega-3 fatty acids that are healthy.  If you would like to lose weight, it is necessary to burn more calories than you consume.  When you do consume calories, it's important to have the right ones.  Chai seeds are very good for you.

Organic Chai Seeds

This was the finished product on my Popeye smoothie.  Sometimes I will get up in the morning, and I drink a cup of coffee or two, but I'm not really yet hungry for solid foods.  I think if I eat too many solid foods to early in the morning it will be hard to digest.  I like to start out with fluids in the morning.  I usually like to have this around noon, and I will drink two to four little martini glasses of this.  I will feel full for the rest of the day.  I couldn't eat snacks or candy if I wanted to.  There's just no room for junk food if you drink this first.

This recipe is perfect for a detox or a cleanse. One thing I like about green smoothies like this one is if you're having bad acne and you don't know what to do to keep your skin clear, these sort of drinks with anti-oxidants can help keep your skin looking radiant. Most of my friends that wear cover up for their skin always ask me how I keep my skin looking nice.  I rarely ever wear cover up.  I actually have combination skin to oily skin so it's more difficult for me to keep my complexion clear than it is for most people. I manage my complexion with a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water (no soda), and I wash my face once in the morning and once at night.  It's harder to keep my complexion nice that time of the month because of the hormonal changes that happen.  When there are changes in the body, it's important to maintain your chemical balance.  My Popeye smoothie is really great at regulating that balance within your body.

My daughter did not want to drink this at first.  She told me that she only likes Kale Green Smoothies, but I got her to try this. I told her that if she wanted to be a dancer, she needs to eat healthy foods that will give her the energy to dance. She had a sip and ran off with the cup.  I found it empty so this recipe is definitely kid approved.  Give this a try.  I think you will like it.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Father's Day Tribute

A Tribute to my Father

My father wasn't the perfect man.  He made a lot of mistakes in his life because he was very impulsive.  He didn't like to follow rules or even listen to other people.  He did whatever he wanted when he wanted and was very much a free spirit.  He was a hard man to be around, and my mom put up with him 30+ years.  My father and mother had four children together.  They shared many things in life.  My parent's struggles were the same, and they faced their struggles together. My father was by no means an easy person to live with, and my parents had separated various times mostly because my father had become too much.  Sometimes my father drank and was unfaithful to my mother, and sometimes he could be very cruel, but he loved his children, and he sacrificed his own liberties so that we could live a better life.  As an American, where many children are raised in broken homes, I was very fortunate to be raised in a home with both biological parents.  I grew up in a traditional family life.

My father could be the nicest guy, and the meanest person you ever met all in one.  When I was very young, some of my family were talking about my father, and they taught me that people are not black or white, but a mixture of things.  Most people are a shade of gray, and that's what my father was not fully evil, and not fully innocent.  He had his faults and he had his good points, and no matter what choices he made in life, he was always going to be my father.  Nothing could change that.  For many years I harbored much resentment towards him for mistreating my mother so badly.  I was angry with the way my father treated me.  He was mean and unkind.  He did not ever apologize.  I just learned to forgive him.  He wasn't going to change so the best I could do was to accept him as he was for the good and for the bad too.

I'm glad that I got a chance to forgive him before he died.  I never got a chance to say "good-bye." He was murdered in May 2008, and it is still an open case in Humboldt County California. Some people might say that his meanness caught up to him, that he got what he deserved, but I don't believe in killing.  I don't believe in murder.  No one deserves to die that way.  No child should ever have to grow up without a father.  Even a mean father is better than no father.  He did his best to be there.

My father taught me how to tie my shoe laces.  He taught me how to ride a bike.  He took me fishing and helped me catch my first fish.  He was very proud of my photographs, and had many of them with him found scattered among his things when he died.  My father was very proud of me, as he was all of his children.

It's hard going through Father's Day without him.  I know that people say, "Find the courage to let go of what you cannot change..." I want to know what happened, how he died. I can't let it go ever. I'm stubborn like my mom, and as long as I live, I will never let go.  I will hold on to the bitter end.  I know this much about myself.  

My father died very young.  I question my own life, if I died tomorrow, what would I have to show for it.  Life is short.  I realize you only have so much time here to make a difference.  You only have one chance to be who you want to be, and to do the things that you love.  My father's last words to me were to be honest, and be loyal. Be kind to other people. Chose your friends wisely, and don't be afraid to take risks, be adventurous.

This is my tribute to him.  This day is for my father, as we remember him, we think back.  This day for the is a tribute for many other fathers that have worked so hard raising their children.  This day is for the single moms for pulling double duty.  This goes to the foster dads and step-dads too who raised kids that are not biologically theirs, but have enough heart to care for the lives of another. Father's Day is for my Uncle Sean McKittrick, my mom's only brother, who has been the best stand in dad all of these years.  Father's Day is for my mom's boyfriend, Billy Conn, who has treated all the kids like family. I feel blessed to have had many good male role models that have helped to shape me into a better person.  For that, I am forever thankful.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dollar Tree Wildflower Mix Part III

The past 2 1/2 months I have been experimenting, and trying to grow the Dollar Tree Wildflower Mix. I have been tracking the progress and will report it on the blog.  I planted around the first part of April (when no one else was planting) and started to have little sprouts pop up from the ground. To see the first part of how I planted the seeds and how the seeds sprang up, click this link Dollar Tree Wildflower Mix Part I. Below is basically what it looked like.  I was really surprised that in the colder climate of April when the weather was quite windy with some hard showers and snow, these plants were very hardy and came alive in the pot.

April 6, 2015

About 8 days later, I took another picture to track the progressive growth of the wildflowers... If you want to click the link Dollar Tree Wildflower Mix Part II.

April 14, 2015

We waited for a long while.  I was hoping that we were going to see flowers of some kind so I was going to make a post about what the wildflowers actually turned out to be. Unfortunately, after all this time, I still do not have any flowers that have bloomed to brag about. I believe the reason for the delay in flowering may have been the weather. We had several rainstorms and flash flooding warnings in the summer monsoon season. We live two hours North of Las Vegas so when it rains, it pours hard. We haven't had as much sunshine as we normally do. Lately though it has been getting sunnier.  

I have had some small budding in the larger plants, but nothing really significant. I am a little disappointed that it has taken so long for any real progress to happen. I am hoping I can update this post with good news. The good news is that the wildflowers are still alive and thriving.  I have watered them once daily or every other day weather permitting.

June 20, 2015

There has been some growth as far as length goes, but still no flowers.  Some of the spiky shaped flowers have ends that are budding with what looks like might bloom as a flower that is white. We will have to wait and see. It's still a work in progress, and might take all summer long for a flowering result. My concern is if it flowers, will it die soon after?  Some flowering plants, that is their life cycle. They start out as seedlings, they grow, they bloom and produce seeds of their own, they flower, and then they die.  Many of these flowering plants have very short life cycles as in three or four months. If you're lucky enough to be able to keep the seeds, you can save them and plant a garden for next year.

Question of the Day
Was the Dollar Tree Wildflower Mix worth $1?

I think this Wildflower Mix was well worth the $1 for a few good reasons.  

#1 The seeds sprouted out live plants that grew so it was not defective.  The Wildflower Mix worked well.  

#2 We had a series of bad weather advisories: thunder storms, hail storms, and flash flood rain, and the plants survived all of the bad weather.  These wildflowers are extremely hardy to the elements.

#3 The plants DO have buds on them which means they will most likely flower soon.  They are called wildFLOWERs for a reason, and that's because they are supposed to produce some kind of flower.  What kinds of flowers will this Dollar Tree Wildflower Mix produce?  I'm not sure... Right now that's the mystery of ordeal so we shall soon see.  So far, so good... I can't wait to see what happens.  Subscribe by email in the top right so that you never miss a post.  Add us to your Google Circles. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.  Thank you for all of your support.


The Ballerina

I have a confession... When I was little, I always wanted to be a ballerina.  I was very light on my feet, and loved to spin in circles around on the hard floors.  I had high levels of energy, and liked to leap far.  When I was little, I used to watch my friends trot off to ballet classes.  It wasn't an issue of money.  My parents had money to spare.  I think it was more of an issue of my love of climbing trees and throwing rocks.  Trying to trap a child in a stuffy ballet studio when they could be outside collecting bees and ants, and sniffing the roses, it seemed like dance class would be torture. Still, as I looked longingly on all of my friends that took ballet classes.  I felt a little left out.  I would not have minded going.  In my whole life, I have never once taken a ballet class.

I've always loved the way that ballerinas look in their leotard, skirt and pink tights.  I liked the way that ballerinas would pull their hair up high twisted into buns. They looked so light and graceful, I wanted to feel like that, like a girl.  I wanted to wear lace, ribbons and sparkles.  Instead of wearing anything like that, I wore jeans, chewed on a blade of foxtail grass, picked fights with boys, and could spit.  I could sit off the back of a pick up truck and curse like a man.  I could shoot air guns, and leap a bike off a ramp. I could hit home runs in baseball, and score in soccer, but I couldn't do ballet.  I was too aggressive in sports. It didn't seem fitting for an alpha tom boy like myself to join ballet.  Nicole was born more sensitive, more delicate. She has those girl tendencies, the feminine kinds.  Ballet fits her they way I always wished that it could be me, she is the one that does it better.

Nicole is ready for ballet class.

Maybe some people will say that I am trying to live vicariously through my daughter. That due to the fact that I may not have every succeeded in dance, that I am going to push her harder to make up for my lack of talent, and they are right to a point. I couldn't do that to her without her wanting to go to dance. Nicole came to me because she wanted to dance. It was her desire, not mine. Even if she would have picked something else she loved to do, I would have pushed her in whatever direction she liked best.

Ballerina Kisses


When someone enjoys what they do, they become passionate about it.  I think there is nothing better than to have something in life that a person feels passionate about.  It could be art.  It could be sports. It could be cooking or gardening or even medicine.  Whatever your passion is in life, it is important to pursue it.  This is what cultivates happiness.  When you love what you do, the rewards are so much sweeter.

Nicole has her ballet slippers and her Gatorade.  It's show time.

Nicole is ready to have some fun.

We are off to practice ballet.

Nicole is living my dream.  Strangely enough, I don't mind.  I don't see anything wrong with a parent wanting their child to do better in life than they did.  I have no jealousies, no resentments.  I want Nicole to achieve everything that she wants out of life.  I think that if she has a dream, or if any child for that matter has a dream, that that should become their goal.  The child and family of the child should make the necessary sacrifices to achieve that goal and make that dream come true.  You have one life to live, and so it is my purpose here on earth to make sure this little girl gets to learn all of her ballet dance positions.  That she understands basic French. That she gets to plie, to releve, and to saute and that she smiles with enjoyment and is graceful performing.  It's never hard work if you love what you do, it's fun.  It's the best time of the day.

Thank you for reading.  Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to post videos of her dance.  I'm sure it will be fabulous.  I cannot wait to see how Nicole turns out as a ballerina.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sunrise in Las Vegas

After a really fun weekend in Las Vegas, Nicole and I left early about 5:00 a.m. from Las Vegas Northbound to Utah.  We saw one of the most amazing skylights over the city.

Dealing with a Dance Diva

I had to bring Nicole back home after she had been playing at her friend's house and tell her to get ready for dance.  Nicole screams and yells that it's just not fair, that she is busy playing with her friends.  She comes home mad at me, slamming doors and telling me how she hates dance, and she's not going, that she never wants to go to dance ever, ever again.  I yell at her to get in the shower.  I throw her a towel and tell her to get a different attitude.  She screams profanities at me, and says how I ruined her life.  I scream back that I'll show her ruined -- that she's grounded for the next couple of days, no friends... That's ruined.

Something magical happens that reverses everything.  Nicole showers and cools down.  We work together to get her dressed, pulling and tugging on outfits, tying shoes, brushing hair rapidly and tying and pinning her hair.  Then something happen.  She looks at herself in the mirror and starts humming a tune.  She is happy as could be, skipping around even.  As she checks her reflection in the mirror, she is quite happy with the results.  She has totally forgotten her big blow out about how she hated dance, how she hated me for forcing her to go.  It was as though I had a whole new child standing in front of me, telling me that she could not wait to dance.  Hurry up, let's go!

Nicole stretching before Hip Hop class.

We had many different fights.  One fight was about what kind of shoes she would wear for Hip Hop dance class.  I said that she needed to wear CONVERSE.  I did not care what color.  I wanted that name because the kids would know the shoes weren't from Payless or Target.  They were higher quality.  The other thing that I wanted for Nicole was to switch the laces.  We had regular black laces with her shoes, and so we switched them to hot pink.

Nicole stretches during her technique class.

Nicole is very close to doing the splits.

Nicole and Friends

Sometimes it works out even better when a dancer gets that moral support and boost from friends. Presley and Ivy went to watch Nicole go to work at her Hip Hop class.  It was loads of fun.  Nicole has her moves all worked out.  She knows how to shake it (not to brag, but she learned that from me). She can jump and slide. Nicole is very strong, and has a part where she has to lift another dancer. There is a lot of spinning and tricks involved in their routine.  I'm really proud of her.  She is doing great.  More news about her dance progress later on.


Monday, June 8, 2015

It's Official... I'm a Dance Mom!

Today my ten year old daughter, Nicole, had her first dance lesson.  She did great.  For the last month we practiced stretching and back bends. We worked on different leg stretches, hand stands, and other tricks.  I have never had any formal dance training so I didn't really know what to expect.  My dance training consisted of a two week clogging class, and a month long part on a drill team back in ancient history, when I was thirteen years old.  I wasn't sure what would happen at her first dance lesson.  All I knew was that Nicole had the desire to dance.  I knew she could do it.

When Nicole was younger, I had asked her (begged her) to try to do something with her free time, but I never did force her to do anything.  She didn't really want to do anything more than play with her friends, play with her dolls, play video games, and watch TV.  I'm not sure what changed about her. Maybe she saw kids her age dancing, and thought it would be fun.  Nicole came to me and told me that she wanted to dance.  I think this was an important step towards a goal, that she came to me wanting to dance meant that she "wanted" to dance.  I think too many parents force their kids into competitive sports and dance, but I never needed to do that.  Nicole asked me to get her into dance.

Nicole is only 2 inches away from doing the splits.

What I learned today was that each child has their own talent and their own desire to work towards perfection.  What surprised me most about the other kids at the dance group was that they didn't seem to care. They were at dance because their parents forced them to take dance lessons.  Some of the kids gave no effort, barely lifted a leg or straitened an arm.  When it came time to stretch, many of the kids pretended to be stretching hard, hoping that the dance instructors would not notice, would not make them work hard.  So many of the kids in dance were happy with mediocrity, not even mediocrity...  Just being in the dance studio so their parents could re-live their childhood dreams vicariously through watching their kids go to dance.  I felt the dance lessons were more for the parents than for their own kids.

I was shocked at how many dancers were not serious at all about dance. Some parents used the dancing time to catch up on housework.  They leave their kids at dance so they have extra time for themselves.  Dance might be the cheaper-than-the-daycare alternative.  Some kids were left at dance by their parents because daycare costs more, and so some of the children were literally dumped off at the dance studio, not even introduced to their dance teacher, not even a conversation, just a check stub and "good-bye."  I felt bad for those kids.

I don't mean to generalize because some of the kids were there to dance.  Some of the kids had cute side buns pulled in their hair and nice dance shoes.  They were on point and ready to go.  There were kids that could do the splits, twirl, and who could cartwheel across the room.  Some of the girls wore clothes that were be-dazzled with sparkles, and those were the ones that were fascinated and wanted to dance.  Those girls were there for the right purpose.  I sat down and crocheted.  I tried not to be too overly interested except where it concerned my child, I tried not to show much more interest.

I think, for a parent, if a child doesn't want to dance, then dance is a waste of time and a waste of money.  A few girls that were there really gave it that extra effort and tried.  It didn't take long to weed through all of the girls in the room to know who had the drive to dance and who didn't.

One mom had her kid in dance for three years, and her daughter could not do a hand stand.  I don't understand how that could happen.  A hand stand is probably one of the easiest things a dancer could do, especially with a spotter holding up the legs, but she could not do a hand stand.  I saw girls that could not do back bends.  Nicole put herself into a back bend and only needed a boost with her leg from the spotter to do a back flip, and that was only her first day of dance.  I think some parents seemed envious.

It's important to let your children decide when they want to pursue their goals.  It's their life after all. I think other parents were a little disappointed in their own child for not giving it any effort, and they wondered what I did to make my daughter perform.  The answer to that is that I never made Nicole do anything. She chose to perform.  I think that makes all the difference.  I don't believe in forcing kids to do anything.  I think they have to desire something badly enough to chase it themselves. Many children are ahead of Nicole on her dance team because they have been practicing for years and Nicole started dancing so late.  I still believe that Nicole will catch on and catch up with the other dancers.  How I know that it was the right decision to put Nicole in dance is because she puts a smile on her face, and I know that when she dances, she feels truly happy.  When Nicole dances, it warms my heart.  I want to do everything in my power to help her follow her dreams and push her talents to the limit.


Lissa's Beef Jerky

When the weather is sunny it's the perfect time for a road trip.  There's nothing like having good snacks prepared for a long journey.  One snack that I recommend is our recipe for beef jerky.  This recipe is superb in every way.  There is a burst of flavor in every bite.  This same recipe can be used to flavor tofu jerky, and so if you prefer vegan foods, there are alternatives to this recipe.

Lissa's Beef Jerky

Lissa's Beef Jerky 

2 lbs Thinly Sliced Flank Steak (at Smith's)
1/2 cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Lea & Perrin's All Natural Worcester Sauce
3 Tbs Raw Honey (We bought local Cache Valley, Utah raw honey.)
1 Tbs Courvoisier Cognac 
2 tsp Hickory Flavored Liquid Smoke
2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
2 tsp Kosher salt
Crushed Red Pepper to season (optional, and for the kids, I never put this on their beef jerky.)

The Ingredients

I started off with the Worcester sauce.  

After that, it was time to add some Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

My sister bought us 100% Raw Cashe Valley, Utah Honey.  She had ordered it online from Etsy.

One of my favorite French spirit is called Courvoisier Fine Cognac "The Cognac of Napoleon." I am an affectionado of Courvoisier because it is one of the finest Parisian cognacs ever made. It's flavor and affect is unmatched.  Courvoisier was a favorite drink of Napoleon I, and a war ration to his French soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars.  A taste of Courvoisier, and it might become your favorite too. This particular bottle came from Jarnac, France.  It is reasonably priced compared to other brands of Courvoisier sold in the United States. I will use Courvoisier in this beef jerky recipe to increase the flavor.

Each person dries their beef jerky differently.  Some people slow roast it over charbroil grill. Some people bake beef jerky in their oven.  I used a meat dehydrator.  My dehydrator has only two buttons on and off so there's really nothing to it.  There are four racks that come apart.  The beef jerky meat is loaded onto separate racks.  I only used three of the four racks when I made beef jerky this time.

There are several different ways to cut the meat.  One way is with the grain of the meat, and another way is against the grain of the meat.  If you cut with the grain of meat, the beef jerky will be extra tough to chew, and some prefer this, but if you like to have beef jerky that is easier to chew cut against the grain of meat, and it will fall right apart.  We debated what to do with our meat.  The butcher gave us an extra long strip of flank steak.  We decided to cut it into thirds.  Two-thirds of the flank steak would be long strips of jerky, and the other one-third would be beef jerky bites.  The portion on the right would be the jerky bites, and the portion on the left would be the jerky strips. After this vertical cut, everything else was cut with the grain.  We will have to chew extra hard to enjoy this flavorful beef jerky.

In preparing the meat, many people will pre-freeze the meat so that it slices more thinly.  My refrigerator gets quite cold, and I wanted the meat to be fresh, not frozen.  I did NOT freeze this meat. It is fresh.  I thought about it.  I can handle thicker slices of meat, but I can't handle frozen meat. The other part of preparing meat is that if you have fat, it is important to trim it away.  What fat does to your jerky is it fails to cure.  Sure the fatty parts taste amazingly sweet when dehydrated into jerky, but they also rot quickly.  So unless you're planning on eating your jerky in the next week or two, it's important to trim away the fat.  Did I do it?  Do you see much fat on this? No, the cut I had from the butcher was for the most part a nice clean fat free cut.  Knowing this and knowing my own house, the way kids run in and out of my house, there's no way 2 lb. of beef jerky will last more than a few days so I left the fat on.

This is me chopping the beef with the grain.  They aren't as thin as bacon, but they're still thin slices.


This is what the slices of beef jerky looked like when we first placed the meat in the marinade. I added the salt, pepper, and liquid smoke at this time.

How long do you marinade beef jerky?  Is there a correct answer?  Well, after about an hour in the refrigerator, the meat soaked up virtually all of the sauce.  Most of the meat had turned brown, the same color as the sauce.  I smelled the meat, and it smelled very much like the flavoring.  Sure, I could have left it longer in the marinade, but I decided that I liked the way it smelled, and so I was ready to put the beef into the dehydrator.

Here are the jerky strips.

I placed the jerky strips that I wanted to be spicy jerky with red pepper flakes at the bottom rack to separate them.  Once the strips were set on the rack, I placed the red pepper flakes on them.  After that, I placed the next rack on top with the plain jerky with no red pepper flakes higher up so that the kid's beef jerky would not have any red pepper spice.  I wanted the kid's beef jerky to taste more neutral, nothing too hot or spicy.

The red pepper jerky came out great.  The nice thin strips were cut with the grain and came out chewy and flavorful.  Each bite into this and your mouth will have an explosion of savory sweet and spicy beef flavors.

Beef Jerky with Red Pepper Flakes

The Kid's Beef Jerky

The kid's beef jerky had no red pepper flakes.  I did not remove any of the fat.  As I looked at it, the fat for some reason was located in the center of the meat.  The only way I could cut out that particular slice of fat would be to cut the meat in half.  All in all, this flank steak was mostly a great cut of beef. The jerky turned out wonderfully.  I recommend that everyone try this.