#MomSquad

Moms make the world go round! We work, work and then work some more for our families and loved ones! I know so many great moms that I want to bring together for sisterhood, support, motivation, inspiration, friendship and good ole’ FUN.

A few years ago I put together a group that I called LNO or Ladies Night Out, of women friends that I have met in my various walks in school, work and just life. We had some fun times! We did a Paint Night at All Fired Up! There was the trip to the exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts! There was dinner at Chuy’s. We were well on our way to more when life caught up with me and my group. I hope that I can bring together an equally esteemed new group of mothers to form #MomSquad and I would love if you join us.

LNO was such a classy and fun group of women, and I truly miss being able to engage and connect with other women outside of my children’s school or work environments. I believe that we can do it again, even better than before and I hope that if you are a Mom who wants to connect and fellowship with other Moms, you will consider joining our #MomSquad.

#Momlife

#AVeryPleasantLife

#AveryPleasantMom – Tameka

 

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The Invisible Bars of Family Incarceration

     On July 1, 2018 my family’s life was abruptly changed. We are what most would consider a typical family of 7 that includes my husband, four children and my mother in law.

My husband and I.
Our 4 kids and my mother in law.

Our life is pretty normal. We live on a quiet cul-de-sac in a nice neighborhood. We’ve had decent relations with our neighbors although they have bordered on rocky at times but that’s life right? You do the best you can and keep it moving at the end of the day. We’ve never had the problems that arose that day and I never would have fathomed that something like that would happen to us. Let’s take a trip back down memory lane for a second if you will.

     It was mid June in Richmond, Virginia when my husband and I made the trip across town to Motley’s Auto Auction to purchase a used SUV for our family. We had made this trip many times before, purchased vehicles at this auction before and were feeling positive about getting what we were looking for. Minutes away from our exit on the highway my husbands’ Chrysler 300 began to overheat. As the temperature gage continue climbing to that dangerous red zone smoke began billowing from under the hood. Thankfully we made it to Motley’s and was able to park the car safely. Flustered but not deterred we went ahead with our original plan – find a SUV or newer model van to accomodate all of us comfortably. We had tired of taking two cars to family outings or events. It was fun at times but we were hoping to find something that would seat 7-8 people comfortably. The bickering and musings that splitting up in two cars caused was often times hilarious. You’d have some that wanted to ride with me in my car…Renzo – my silver Benz because it goes fast, really fast. It was smaller than my husband’s car and sporty so we’d be moving with the wind in my car.

Then you’d have the others than wanted to ride in Dad’s car…the silver Chrysler 300 that was more muscle than sport. Rysler as we affectionately called her was loud, aggressive, the hemi engine almost growled loudly when driven. His car was big and comfortable; our luxury Sedan that I had used to drive for Uber and Lyft for a little till I was rear ended a year ago.

We also had a white Dodge Caravan that needed work and an old Dodge pickup truck that we only moved to haul stuff back and forth to the dump. A month before I had sold another white van we had to try to make room to get another vehicle. With my husband’s car overheating we were hopeful and determined to find something else soon. That day we purchased a Ford Expedition and a Nissan Altima. We drove both cars home with some trouble but we made it. Both cars needed work but were driveable. Later that day we were able to go back and drive his car back home and parked it out front of our house with the newest additions to our fleet across the street from our house. Our regular mechanic works a full time job in addition to working on the vehicles so his schedule was tied up at that time.

I remember that Saturday my husband and I sat on our porch just pondering what to do with all of these cars that we had. Who could we get to work on our cars and get us rolling safely? I’d like to say that God answered our prayers but now I would tell you that the devil heard our woes and sent to us, our next door neighbor, I’ll call him Stan. They had only been living next door for a few months and we barely had any interactions up to that point.

Stan approaches my husband and I and asks what’s wrong with his Chrysler. My husband explains that it’s overheating to him. At this point Stan says that he works on cars and he’d be glad to take a look at it for us. My husband allowed him to and he convinced us that he could fix it. Stan had asked to buy our Dodge Pickup truck with Redskins detailing a month before and I had turned him down because my oldest son is a Redskins fan, we inherited the truck from my father in law, also a Redskins fan who had passed away and I wanted to fix it up for him. Now the ball was in Stan’s court, we had just bought two vehicles and needed to make space in our crowded cul de sac. The deal was Stan would be given the two vehicles – the Redskins truck and the white van if he could fix the Chrysler and the Expedition. We moved way too fast because by Monday we had signed over the titles to both cars, given the keys and possession of both vehicles to Stan although he wasn’t done with the repairs on our cars.

For two weeks Stan would work on the Chrysler, Expedition and the Altima, being paid cash by my husband as well in addition to the two vehicles we gave him. There were numerous parts purchased and returned back and forth between AutoZone and Advance Auto. By July 1st, all of the cars that Stan had been working on still weren’t fixed and I had been breaking down intermittently from one vehicle to the next. My husband had been in and out of the emergency room with complications with his Diabetes prior to this so I was dealing with Stan while my husband slept.

That morning I had returned a starter to AutoZone that he had dropped and broke although he told me to tell the store that the part came broken. I didn’t like lying on his behalf but at this point I wanted my vehicles fixed and I didn’t want my husband to wake up and have to deal with the situation. I was hoping it would be fixed and I could give him the good news. No such luck. The truck was still making that same screaching noise when it was started up and the Chrysler was still overheating. Stan now advised that it was an engine problem in the Chrysler. Already I knew that wasn’t good. The Chrysler’s new engine wasn’t 3 years old and we had just replaced the tranmission not a year ago when this had happened. I had a bad feeling that Stan wasn’t being honest or he may not have had the experience or skill that he was claiming he did.

To make a long story short when my husband woke up and heard the news, he asked Stan what he intended to do to fix it. My husband had paid him very well for his work and given him the two cars and none of our vehicles were in good working condition. I knew something was lurking in the air when Stan started to spaz out on our porch. He started complaining about not having his own car, a license or money to pay us back. My husband wanted our money back. Stan had no money to pay us back. The two men went from speaking to arguing and it continued to escalate and get louder inside my home. I tried my best to intervene but before I knew it Stan was throwing the keys at my husband across the room. Stan hit my husband first. A fight ensued. Amidst the struggle I was punched in the face by Stan. I was upset because I was trying to break it up and now I was hit. Mind you my younger children and mother in law were downstairs on our 3rd level unaware of the fight that was going on in our kitchen. Eventually my oldest son and I were able to break the fight up and push Stan out of the house.

In a matter of minutes there were policemen, ambulances and fire trucks in and around my cul-de-sac. My husband who had defended himself and our family was being questioned by the police. He was cooperative with police and their investigation while they sorted out what to do. Truthfully they questioned arresting my husband as it was self defense inside our home however due to the extent of the injuries and the lies that were told by Stan and his fiance’, six hours after the assault in my home, my husband was arrested. I cried as I watched the officer put my husband in handcuffs but they assured me they would take good care of him, and make sure he was as best he could be under the circumstances. Hell, they even apologized for having to take him to jail. They had just spent the last 6 hours in my house with my family. It sounds crazy but the police officer and my family talked, joked and he even gave us his own free decorating advice on how we could re-arrange our living room. I was heartbroken and I had to explain to my children that Dad was going to jail. I was able to bond him out around 2:30am and glad to get him back home.

The next day we woke up, his nerves were still on edge so he ran out to go to the convenience store for cigars. My husband never made it back home because he was pulled for running a stop sign when he thought someone was following behind him. The vehicle that my husband thought was following him was a undercover police car. They pulled him and arrested him on the spot because he had his legal, registered gun in the vehicle too. They didn’t care that it was left in there by me. They didn’t want to hear that we didn’t know that he shouldn’t have had his gun on him or even in the house anymore since he was arrested hours before. I watched officers arrest my husband for the 2nd time in less than 24 hours. I was traumatized and now I had to go back home and tell our kids that Dad was locked up again. This time he was denied bond. I had to secure him an attorney before they would even consider giving him another bond. It took me a week to secure him a great attorney. By the 7th of July, my husband was free to come home albeit with an ankle monitor that would only allow him to go to church, the doctor, the gym and to the courts. In the meantime we had put off celebrating 4th of July until he was free. That day I cooked, cleaned and cooked some more to commemorate my husband’s so called freedom. We could finally celebrate! Dad was back. The week he had been gone had been hell.

Every time I talked to him over the phone my heart hurt to see him, to touch him, to feel him wrap his arms around me and sooth me, telling me that everything would be okay. I kept my strength up for my kids who missed their Dad so much too. My husband has been in our children’s lives every day since their inception. He went to all the appointments. He was the first one they saw when they were born. He cut the umbilical cords and then placed them in my arms. We are family. That was the longest week ever. There were so many trips to the jail to take money, medicine and get to see him briefly. It was hard y’all. My heart hurts now just remembering the broken look on his face. He was hurt that he had let us down and put himself in a position where he could not be here for us. I was hurt because I knew he didn’t deserve to be locked up. Yet I kept my faith in God strong and I tried to make sure everyone else around me, had theirs up too. I had found him a great attorney by the grace of God who did exactly what he claimed he could do – which was get my husband out and back home with us quickly.

It was truly Christmas in July when I was able to give my children back their father whom they missed terribly. My husband plays video games with them, he talks to them – they have their favorite shows they watch together. He’s a great Dad, always has been. We resumed life as best we could. The vehicles still weren’t fixed or running properly and now my husband was restricted to our home for the next 3 months. Summers are usually good times for us. We get Season Passes to Kings Dominion yearly, so we normally do that a couple times a week. We drive to Virginia Beach and frequent the outlets at Williamsburg. We dine out alot, and go to movies. We’re a normal family that spends a great deal of time together. It’s not very extravagant, the things we do but we pride ourselves on keeping an active family lifestyle that allows our children to experience many things in their life.

Still he was home and that was the main goal, the conditions in the jail were deplorable. It was over-crowded, the rules and how-to’s weren’t clear, the disorganization of the system as a whole was rampant. Nobody had a straight answer for anything. The people that work in the system were jaded and uncaring. They just had a job to do and they didn’t care about my husband or our family. They didn’t care that our kids had been crying nightly for the return of their Dad. Reuniting was soothing for us all. Yet with the stipulations set forth, it was still very difficult to manneuver around and get things done without his help. For three months I was the sole person in charge of all matters outside the house, I did all of the driving except when he had to go weekly to pay his GPS monitor fee and above all my husband wasn’t allowed to work. So I had to find a job quickly to help with the mounting bills and thank God I did.

My husband’s case was concluded on yesterday with 3 of his charges being dismissed and 1 he pled guilty to – the gun charge, a felony that had been reduced to a misdemeanor. He was free to go home minus the ankle monitor that had been secured to his leg. We were finally free. I say we were finally free because my whole family was on home incarceration too. I did the best I could to keep them entertained and engaged during the process but there was little I felt comfortable doing without him outside our home. We are a team and was used to doing things a certain way. Plus the cars weren’t reliable to do more than trips close to the house. My husband couldn’t watch my oldest son finish out his basketball season this Summer because he couldn’t leave the house. There were parties and get togethers we missed because I didn’t want to go without him. We couldn’t go on dates or just take rides together as we did so carefree. Trying to keep his spirits up and his mind strong was a task. Some days were better than others. Yet me made it through. But we have been forever changed. I now know that when one family member is locked up – if they have children, loved ones, anybody that cares for them – they are too locked up. The invisible bars of family incarceration is real and my heart and prayers go out to all the families affected by it. It is true that when people commit crimes their needs to be a process for investigation, discipline, consequences or whatever. There needs to be a better system in place to protect families, to keep families in tact because I see how the incarceration process can be detrimental to the survival of families.

I’m praying for our nation and our world. We need more understanding. We need more empathy. We need actual rehabilitation, or case and family management to help people overcome whatever issues are plaguing them. People need help.

My family has been forever changed. We now know the detrimental effects on family incarceration and what it means to be behind invisible bars. I pray your family never has to experience anything of the sort.

Take care of each other!

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

#AVeryPleasantLife

#invisiblebarsofincarceration

Don’t Quit!

I first heard this poem read to me by my 7th grade Civics teacher as a student in middle school. Mr. Lewis was clear, eloquent and distinct as he recited “Don’t Quit” before my classmates and I. He enunciated and pronounced each word carefully as to engrave it in our budding minds. It was almost 25 years later that I can clearly remember hearing the words of that poem in my head as I wrestled with the turmoil of adulting, stress and ultimately what to do next.

Things in my corner of the world had been spiraling downwards since July 1 and even though my family and I had taken these last so-called lumps and bumps to the chin like a champ I was growing weary of how to fix certain situations and feeling down on my luck but still clinging to my faith. My stint as a delivery driver had come to an end rather abruptly, I did the best I could but the job was as emotionally demanding as it was physically. The long hours caused me grief because I was missing my family and feeling like a bystander in their lives instead of a Mom and Wife. Then there was the disorganization and mismanagement that was reminding me of the corporate environment that I had left many years ago. The worst part of it all, that this job had the nerve to have corporate level demands and below entry-level pay but the opportunity presented itself at a time when I needed it. So I am grateful to have had the experience but once again I was in a position of how I was going to make money in the meantime.

I began applying for so many positions, job and even gigs. I was determined to not let my circumstances get me down because God had never let me down before. All I had to do was keep trying and the right opportunity would find me, right? Call me crazy but I want to work for myself. I know I have what it takes to run a successful business and I don’t want to give up on that. Here’s a little background on my upbringing. I was raised in a two parent household with my mom and dad, where my mom worked part-time and later full-time when I was older. My dad was an entrepreneur who was the original “Jack of all Trades” to me. He did it all. There was nothing he couldn’t do and wouldn’t do to help the families that he worked for. He cleaned homes and businesses, landscaped and yard work, and banquet serving and bartending to name a few of the tasks I’ve seen him take on professionally. He was good at what he did, he had a great rapport with people and he thoroughly enjoyed what he did. The people he worked for became extended family to us. It also didn’t hurt that he made good money working for these families to the point where he could support our family alone on that income. For years I watched my father work harder than he had to. If only he had taken his business acumen a step further and set it up legally and professionally, he could have hired employees and long ago retired. Y’all don’t know how many times as a child I urged him to take the next step with his business. My pleas fell on deaf ears, my father being a Taurus was stubborn and intent on doing things his way. It also didn’t help that my father felt that he lacked the education and knowledge to cement his business having dropped out of school in 7th or 8th grade to work to help his family.

I grew up working as his helper a lot. It’s because of him that I’m self-sufficient and self-taught at many things. I can do everything he could and more. In addition to the skills and experiences I picked up working with him I was also a devout learner in school and out. I picked up on typing and administrative functions when my desire to write my own books grew as a little girl. The business bug had bitten me a long time ago. I babysat my relatives and neighbors. I used my allowance to buy candy in bulk from wholesale clubs that I sold at school in between classes during my middle school years. I can’t forget when I signed myself up to take the jewelry making class from the Beads and Things store on Broad Street. I might have been 14 at the time. I learned how to make hand crafted jewelry that was growing popular back then. There are so many memories I have of my attempts at as a young entrepreneur.

Yet I finished high school, and attended college off and on for a couple of years before eventually ending up in the “workforce”. That’s not a totally bad thing because I was blessed enough to find jobs that were good and I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business. When I was in high school I worked at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and local legend, Attorney Harrison Bruce Law Office. After that I worked for VCU in the Department of Gerontology where I was a salaried office specialist in my early 20’s. I’ve also worked for Department of Social Services and Department of Health Professions in really great departments that allowed me to serve the community. Eventually my path would lead me out of the government sector and put me square in the middle of Banking and Finance, working for the likes of Wells Fargo, SunTrust Mortgage and CCO Mortgage.

Still I left the corporate world about two years ago and I’ve been trying not to look back. Leaving corporate wasn’t something I wanted to do but more what I needed. I liked what I did. I made great money. I didn’t like the politics and the unprofessionalism that ran rampant in my organization. It left me feeling rejected, unhappy and insecure about my role within the company. I was working my butt off and seeing little for it. My promising career in mortgage was stalling. Not to mention there was a lot going on around me that involved management and coworkers that I had no idea about until many years after I had left. There were seedy and demoralizing things going on right under my nose. I wasn’t playing the corporate game their way.

So I’ve been mostly “gigging” the last few years while I’ve been at home with my family. My daughter started school last year leaving me with my oldest son whom we’re homeschooling, and he’s a rising freshman in high school. He’s ready to go back to school so that means I’ve got nothing but time and opportunity on my hands to do something more than I have been, not to mention I’ve needed to. That brings us to the present day where I was reminded of Mr. Lewis recital of “Don’t Quit” as I questioned what to do. I’ve been applying for all kinds of jobs and gigs. My persistence paid off when I received an email in response to a Sales Assistant position I had applied for via Craigslist. I was contacted by Nitra Singh, the lead designer and curator of Glitter Trunk. We communicated a couple of times over email before finally speaking over the phone. Nitra was looking for a Sales Assistant to help her as a Vendor at the Festival of India being held at the Richmond Convention Center over the weekend. She still had a couple of people to talk to but she assured me she would let me know her decision soon. I was so happy when she welcomed me to the team in text message. This was the opportunity that I was looking for. All along I’ve been wanting to help people with their homes or businesses and now I had my shot.

I was so excited and looking forward to the chance to do what I feel like God has been calling me to do. Saturday when I showed up to the convention center I was blown away by all of the vendors and their offerings but I was even more pleased when I found Nitra and her Glitter Trunk booth in the Exhibit Hall. There was a lot to be seen and savored but her jewelry was distinctively and strikingly unique. Each piece is truly a piece of art, unlike the other. This was high-end Fine Art Jewelry that wowed you. I was relieved that it was still classy and sophisticated.

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Nitra Singh, Lead Designer & Curator of Glitter Trunk

I was greeted and welcomed by Nitra with warmness and comfort of a relative. Even though I was working, it didn’t feel like work at all. She went over what she needed me to do and where everything was and before we knew it traffic was picking up. I packaged the jewelry in beautiful boxes and organza bags as she sold it. I also helped women try on the jewelry and kept the displays and booth neat. Essentially I was just trying to be her right hand and make sure that she had the support she needed to focus on her customers. By day 2 of the convention we were in sync with one another and enjoying each other’s company. In the almost 20 hours that we were together over the weekend we talked, laughed and worked. I can’t forget to mention that I was wearing the jewelry too.

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A Very Pleasant Mom…Me, wearing Glitter Trunk

I fell in love with Glitter Trunk the minute I walked into the booth. It was like I had walked right into Fashion Jewelry heaven! I had the pleasure of wearing the popular Adjustable Cuff Earrings, that is a two-part earring of a stud and a studded cuff attachment, along with the beautiful choker and pendant. This jewelry is elegant and very fashionable. There were so many things that I wanted for my personal collection I had to remind myself that I was there on business and not shopping. I’m definitely a fan and customer for life because I will be wearing one of Nitra’s designs when my husband and I renew our vows in the near future. Every woman should have something beautiful from the Glitter Trunk collection no matter what their style or price point is. The quality of the stones, beading and the craftsmanship is one of a kind. There were many other jewelry vendors within the festival but Nitra’s designs stood out amongst them all and everyone knew it. Customers were at the booth for hours admiring and trying on different pieces.

It was such a great experience to assist her and be exposed to Indian culture. She shared traditional Samosa with me and it was absolutely delicious. To me it was a cross between what tasted like the contents of a Jamaican chicken patty inside a fried rangoon. I also began my love affair with Indian clothing. A kurta is next on my shopping list. They come in so many styles and colors, the flexibility to dress it up or down is stunning. I saw some very fancy and dressy ones, then I saw some that were more casual and made of a sportier material. The colors and designs were breathtaking. I’m so thankful and grateful for my time there because I learned so much and have been forever changed. Not to mention that I was able to connect with a successful business owner and provide the service that I’ve always sought out to do. Some of my favorite stars are already wearing Glitter Trunk like House of Payne star, China Ann McClain and Orange Is The New Black’s Alysia Reiner. img_1378

It was a great experience from start to finish and I am again blown away that I got the chance to do what I love and for such a great person and company. I’m glad I was reminded by that middle school poem recital when things felt like they weren’t going my way to stay on the course. I am hopeful that another opportunity will come that will allow me to help another business or family. In addition to the chance to earn money doing what I love, I have forged a valued friendship and relationship with Nitra and her company, Glitter Trunk that I hope will last for years to come.

I’m not quitting, and neither should you. No matter what you are going through, hang on, something good is right around the corner. Till then here’s the poem that clearly made its mark on my life.

Don’t Quit 
By Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)?

When Things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and debts are high,
And you want to Smile but have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he’d stuck it out,
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You might succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up,
When he might captured the victor’s cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown,

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

What are you working towards or hoping for? No matter what it is, keep that dream close to your heart.

A sincere and grateful thanks is owed to the lovely Nitra Singh. Thank you for giving me the shot that I’ve been looking for. Your trust and belief in me, has given me more wind in my sails.

I encourage you all to visit GitterTrunk.com and buy something beautiful for yourself or someone you love.

 

I hope you all have enjoyed this post as I have enjoyed living it first, and then writing about it. Till next time, be blessed and be a blessing.

P.S. I’m thinking about preparing some traditional Indian cuisine in a future blog post. What do you think? Leave me a line in the comments.

A Very Pleasant Mom,

Tameka

#AVeryPleasantLife

#Don’tQuit

#GlitterTrunk

#FestivalofIndia

#NitraSingh

#FashionJewelry

 

 

Cake Cake Cake!!!

 

 

It’s been “caketastic” around the Pleasants house for the past week. I’ve been on a personal baking bonanza and I think we will all agree that it has been absolutely great! It’s definitely not the most weight conscientious thing to do but it has all been delicious! Let’s not forget about those incredible peach pies I made last week. I’ve been enjoying my latest baking adventures. I can also see where I’ve improved and what more I probably need to do to hone my baking abilities. The three recipes that I used are all great recipes especially for a home cook like me. I wouldn’t say I’m a beginner baker because I’ve been baking for quite some time. I would say that I’m not a consistent baker. I bake mostly for holidays. I had almost called myself a beginner baker but then I remember those Caramel Apple pies I made when my husband and I first got together. That was at least 15 years ago maybe longer. So I’m definitely not a beginner baker but I would love to be better. I used to do a lot of boxed cake mixes and pre-made pie crusts and dough but I’ve felt comfortable enough to experiment with making my own doughs and batters.

Our week of Cake Cake Cake starts off with a breathtakingly moist chocolate cake! I was tired of the boxed cake mixes and wanted to tackle the chocolate cake from scratch. I must say I hit this one out the park thanks to NellieBellie.com . I found this recipe on you know it…Pinterest! The pin boasts that it’s “the best, homemade chocolate cake” so that made it worthy of at least one try. It also didn’t hurt that I had everything on the ingredient list in my cabinets and refrigerator. That always makes me happy! A tip this recipe stresses is to let your ingredients come to room temperature prior.

This is a really easy cake mix for any level baker. I was very much at ease following the recipe which instructs you to mix and beat the batter after the addition of every ingredient including adding the eggs one at a time. I used my standing mixer, although a hand mixer would do, and if not, by hand always works. This batter was smooth and not too thin or too thick. It poured beautifully into the cake pans that I had previously sprayed with baking spray. The recipe will advise you to use parchment paper and next time if I have some on hand I would give it a shot, otherwise as you can see from the last picture above, the cakes came out perfectly. They released from the pan easily and held its shape. After allowing the cakes to cool I fixed the chocolate frosting recipe that accompanies this delicious cake. 3 ingredients is all you need for a great frosting and I could not believe it. Two sticks of softened butter (please be sure to soften it – key to consistency), cocoa powder and powdered sugar. This frosting was light and tasty. It spread easily and smoothly on the cake layers and I didn’t need a ton of it. The first mistake I can tell you I made was  not allowing my cake layers to cool long enough before I started frosting the bottom layer. So when I saw it melting, I threw it in the fridge to finish cooling. So next time I will be patient and allow the cakes to cool completely so I will get that visibly fluffy layer of frosting in between my cake layers. Otherwise this came out perfect. The cake and frosting were both perfect. This poor cake didn’t stand a chance in our house. It was gone and we were all a little sad that it went so fast.

Next up on our Cake Cake Cake week were the cupcakes that I made for the kids and their friends.

The recipe I found for my vanilla cupcakes is courtesy of LiveWellBakeOften.com . I found this recipe to be simple too although I thought the full fat sour cream was random. Lucky for me I actually had some in the refrigerator so I was able to stay on task and whip these up pretty quickly. These tasty treats whip up with only 8 ingredients for the batter. The vanilla frosting is as simple with half the ingredients. The consistency of both the batter and frosting were good. The batter was kind of thick so it scooped well in the ice cream scooper. If I had to change anything I might use milk instead of the sour cream or add some in addition to the sour cream. These cupcakes weren’t dry but they were definitely on the verge of being dry and it only took them about 17 minutes to bake up. Once my frosting was ready I decided to use the piping bag to decorate them. That has never been my forte’ and I wanted them to be cutesy since the kids would be sharing them with their friends at the playground. I did alright if I must say so myself. I went a little farther and added crumbled Oreo’s and gummy worms to the tops of most of them. The kids loved them. Okay, the adults loved them too. They were sweet but not overly sweet and they were the perfect size bite of cake.

The same day, yes I said, same day I also made my first pound cake from scratch too. That recipe came compliments of TheStayatHomeChef.com . It’s appropriately titled “Classic Pound Cake” and it is most definitely classic. Here’s a little knowledge in case you didn’t know but it’s called a pound cake because it is made with a pound of all the ingredients. Yep 1 pound of butter, 1 pound of sugar, 1 pound of eggs and 1 pound of flour is all you need for a piece of classic nostalgic pound cake like some good old lady you know makes. It was a ton of batter and it was heavy. It took me a little while to get it all blended and mixed well. The recipe notes also include variations for Vanilla, Almond, Sour Cream, Cream Cheese, Rum, Lemon and Cornmeal pound cake. I’m a vanilla fanatic so I went in that direction. In addition to the 4 pounds of ingredients I also added 2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract to the batter. I popped it in the oven and then I had to leave to go to PTA so I left my husband in charge of seeing it through and taking it out. After fulfilling my PTA duties I was back at home to finish dinner (Gumbo – yes that too was homemade) and see how my lovely pound cake turned out. First let me warn you, you need a back brace to pick it up. The cake released easily from the bundt pan onto the cooling rack. I was impressed because it looked official. I knew that somebody’s momma would be proud of this and then I remembered that I am somebody’s momma and I was proud. If it tasted as good as it looked, I was winning.

 

The recipe notes also provided a quick vanilla glaze to cover the pound cake. It took literally two minutes to whip up the glaze with powdered sugar, water, and vanilla extract. I did decide to incorporate some heavy cream when I thought it needed more liquid. The cake absorbed the glaze while the remaining pooled and cooled on the bottom of the cake dish. This pound cake was a WINNER! Hands down I am probably the most pleased with the pound cake. All 3 of these baked goods were delicious and exceeded my expectation. I think my Granny would be the most impressed with the pound cake – like this pound cake was better than some of these so-called professional bakers I know pound cake. I gave myself a pat on the back for my effort and my family sang my praises too.

If you must know I’m still baking away too, just a few hours ago I baked up two apple pies! But you’ll have to wait for the next blog post to hear about that! Thanks for stopping through, I hope I inspired you to bake up something tasty too!

Oh and here’s a picture of the gumbo that I also made that night. That’s another blog post in the making too.

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Gumbo, Collard Greens and French Bread

Till Next Time…Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!

A Very Pleasant Mom…Tameka

 

 

As American as Hamburgers and Peach Pie

Glad I was graced with time, opportunity and inspiration for this blog post. I had started a post on Work/Life balance a week ago and I’m assuming it’s on my phone because it was not available on my desktop when I sat down to work. It’s probably better that I didn’t find it, it was the hum drum, run of the mill type of stuff that I didn’t want to post and I think this one is a lot better. The last post thoughts were forced because I was pressuring myself to get it done for timing reasons. Taking my time with this process has allowed me to come full circle in my thought process. I am better now than I was then and hence I believe this is the blog post and meal that I was meant to serve up.

A classic hamburger and peach pie, it was Thursday night’s planned dinner as we awaited Hurricane Florence’s potential arrival. Honestly I had foreseen that we wouldn’t be as affected as the forecasters had predicted but that still didn’t stop me from running out and buying an obscene amount of bottled water that cost $1.30 more per case than I would normally pay. Not to mention the two cases of water that I picked up for my hairstylist who has still not mentioned wanting these waters anymore, lol. It’s all good though we will drink every last bottle of the Nestle Pure Life waters one bottle at a time. So my daughter kept asking for a cheeseburger and I kept forgetting to get her one when I was out and then let’s not forget the request made by my husband for hamburgers but no store prepared patties. He wanted the homemade kind that you had to mix and shape yourself by hand. So it’s safe to say that it was going to be a Cheeseburger Night at my house. Almost everyone eats hamburgers except for Cassius. He’s not big on meats and meaty meals. Still I forged on with my idea because I knew the general consensus would be happy. Can’t please everybody all the time, us Moms know that best.

I was in pursuit of the perfect all American Cheeseburger and Peach Pie! After perusing several websites and reviews I was most inspired by the “All American Burger Recipe” via Deepsouthdish.com I braved the stores to gather the necessities that I didn’t have on hand to complete this task. I didn’t have ground chuck  and fresh hamburger buns. For my hamburgers I used 2.25 lbs of ground chuck, 1 pack of Beefy Onion soup mix, Worcestershire sauce and salt. That’s it. Pretty simple right?

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Worcestershire Sauce & Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix (not shown salt)

 

When I was in Wal-Mart the other day getting storm supplies I spied the mountain of peaches on display. I was on the phone with my husband at the time so I threw out there that they had peaches and I should make him a pie. Of course he was in full agreement, “peach pie was exactly what we needed to help ride this storm out”. So I grabbed my share and proceeded to get through the storm chaos as quickly as possible. In addition to the peaches I picked up two frozen traditional pie shells, a box of pre-made pie dough sheets and PET Homemade Peach Ice Cream. Even though I was planning to make my dough, please know that I am a tried and true vet to these things…sometimes things go wrong – so it’s always good to be ready for anything. I had confidence in my dough making abilities but I wanted to be able to deliver a finished product no matter what obstacles may have arisen. Always a Girl Scout, “be prepared” had been imbedded in my DNA. In the fall and winter months, you can never have enough pre-made pie crusts on hand. Nevertheless I was ready. Back at home I printed out the recipe and was ready to tackle the peach pie head on. There are 8 steps in total to achieve Peach Pie heaven. I decided to employ the use of my mixer to help me achieve the dough consistency I was looking for. Step 1 has you cutting butter into small cubes and chilling for 15 minutes.

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Cubed Butter

While you wait on the chilled butter, you are to mix together the flour and salt. Your chilled butter cubes are then introduced into the mixer slowly until your mixture is crumbly in texture. Increments of ice water are poured into the mixture to moisten the dry ingredients. Ice water is continuously added to help form the dough.

 

The dough will begin to take shape and come together as it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Once to your liking, the dough is shaped into disks and wrapped in plastic wrap. The dough must chill for at least 30 minutes and can be chilled up to 24 hours.

With the dough doing its thing in the fridge I decided to work on the pie filling. It was time to peel the peaches. Step 2 instructs you to pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and roll out your dough. I skipped ahead to Step 4 while I waited the dough out.

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I wasn’t looking forward to peeling these peaches but my trusty peeler would be put to the ultimate test. Could it peel peaches as good as its peeled potatoes and what not? I found out quickly that a good utensil makes the most tedious jobs simple and seamless. I had those peaches peeled, quartered and then sliced in no time. In a separate bowl I mixed the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt before coating the peaches with the mixture. (Side bar – I also added a little Pure Vanilla extract to my peach slices before I coated them in the sugar mixture. I love vanilla extract and hoped that it wouldn’t hurt.) Here’s where I appreciate my thought process! Thank God I bought those pre-made pie shells. I threw away the last pie plate I had months ago. I had nothing to put my pie in other than cake pans or molds. So I used the store-bought shell for the bottom and was able roll out a beautiful pie crust for the top that I had made. The pie filling is spooned into the pie plate and then it’s covered with the sheet of pie dough.

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I trimmed the excess dough from around the pie plate and pressed the crusts together before crimping the edges with a fork. The left over dough allowed me to fashion together leaves with a knife that I arranged on top of the pie crust. An egg is beaten and then brushed all over the pie before being sprinkled with granulated sugar. Don’t forget to cut your 4-5 slits into the top of your pie. I did and I haven’t eaten that pie yet so I can’t tell you what went wrong. Just don’t skip this step. That’s what I get for jumping all over the page. I ended up with enough filling and pie crusts for two pies. The other pie dough was rolled out just like the first but I cut it into strips with my knife (no fluted pastry wheel on hand) and arranged it into a lattice pattern on top of the second pie. It too was brushed with a beaten egg and then sprinkled with granulated sugar. The recipe then advises to freeze the pie for 15 minutes before popping it into the 425 degree oven for the first 15 minutes. The heat is then lowered to 375 and cooked for another 40 minutes. Finally the pie is loosely covered with aluminum foil and baked for the last 25 minutes. It is suggested to allow the pies at least 2 hours to cool prior to serving. This was the biggest test. Everyone kept coming into the kitchen to inquire when the pies would be ready for slicing. My daughter even suggested slicing it up Fruit Ninja style which I declined for logical reasons. They were going to have to wait until after dinner to try these Peach beauties.

 

With the pies done, I took a tv break with the hubs for an hour and caught up on the latest episode of Snowfall before I got right back into action in the kitchen making the all American Hamburger. By the end of Snowfall I was getting hungry and ready to finish up in the kitchen.

A quick mix of the ground chuck, onion soup mix and Worcestershire sauce with a spoon was needed before the hamburger patties were rolled into balls first and then formed into hamburger patties. Per Deepsouthdish.com our burgers were also going to be getting a coating of melted butter brushed on each side during cooking. A sprinkling of salt also accompanied each side of the burger as they cooked. Now before I go further I should warn you that there was a bit of pre-work done before I actually was ready to cook the burgers. Hence the bacon had to be cooked, the onions were sliced and grilled, the tomatoes were sliced and we cannot forget the eggs were fried! Once all of that was done then I was ready to cook the all american hamburger because it could be eaten immediately with all of its accessories ready. Deepsouthdish.com suggests allowing the burgers to cook without too much flipping or pressing down of the burgers. Once the burgers were to my liking they were pulled and ready to be fully dressed.

The hamburger buns also received the butter treatment and were brushed with melted butter and toasted. Then the assembly of the all American Hamburger could begin. American cheese went atop the burger to melt while both sides of the buns were lathered with mayo. The burger was then placed atop the bottom bun and covered with a fried egg and grilled onion patty. The top of the burger was covered in bacon and tomatoes. A small dab of yellow mustard and lots of ketchup went atop the bottom half of the burger before the two halves were joined together in burger matrimony.

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The All American Hamburger with Cheese, Bacon, Fried Egg, Grilled Onion, Tomato, Ketchup and Mustard

Now I know some of you are thinking, that looks delicious but what did Cassius eat? He doesn’t eat hamburgers right? Well that’s exactly what happened to me when I was about ready to eat my burger and then I remembered the Cheez It Chicken Bites I had picked up in some store that week.

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Boneless Chicken Bites Breaded with Cheez It Crackers

I made a pan of these that also went great with the regular and waffle fries that I had deep-fried to accompany the burgers. They were popped in the oven at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes and voila, Cassius was taken care of. The best part of it, he loved it! And we loved our burgers! There were huge to start off with, but they also boasted tons of flavor and they were juicy. I think everybody rushed through their food just so they could get to the Peach Pie. This was one of those desserts that everyone was anticipating.

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PET Limited Edition Homemade Style Carolina Peach Pie

A slice of pie and a dollop of ice cream was all it took to quiet the normally talkative bunch. This pie was declared an official winner by my husband who requested his second piece of pie not long after his first. It was good. It was sweet but not too sweet. The peaches were dead on, they weren’t mushy. They tasted like peaches! The brown sugar and cinnamon elevated this to new heights. This was classic goodness!

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Peach Pie Minus 1 Slice

Again I was pleased with the end result for both the hamburgers and the peach pie and so was my family. I always get a kick out of something I personally enjoy but it always pleases my heart and soul when I can make my family happy. Sometimes it’s these little things that make a big impact on us and cooking for my family has been one of those things that have shaped the woman, wife and mother that I am. Figuring out this meal and blog post also reminded me that just like the perfect burger I was pursuing, I’m also pursuing like so many others, the “American dream”. When googled, the “American Dream” is expressed as “a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success…”

Aren’t we all working towards our own versions of what the “American Dream” looks like or feels like to us? One of the best things about being an American is the ability to dream freely and then pursue those dreams. That’s why so many people come to our country every day…the hope of better. So many of us awake each day with a dream in our hearts to do something, to create something or to be something. I’ve been dreaming all my life of being this or that, doing this or that and there are some dreams that I’ve long fulfilled and there are others that I am still working my way towards. It was a realization just the other day that I might have been circling back into old habits that were not going to get me closer to my dream. If you’ve been following me you know that I am back in the wonderful world of the workforce again. It was something that I’ve been longing to do for the last few years but the job that I am doing has long hours, is physically demanding and lacks organization to help efficiency. Too many shifts already have me getting home after 9:30pm, after my children are already in bed. There are a lot of sacrifices that I can handle when it comes to the benefit and well-being of my family but one of them is not sacrificing seeing them or spending time with them. I love my family. They pluck my nerves like nobody else in the world but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. It’s my dream to give my family a wonderful life that includes accomplishing my dream of being a best-selling author, a screenwriter, a restaurateur, a farmer and so much more. I don’t want to be unhappy and unfulfilled working tirelessly for someone else who doesn’t value who I am or what I’m working towards for my family. Hence the feeling like this latest job was killing me physically and emotionally; not to mention spiritually. I was circling back into old chains that I had previously broken free of. Being a stay at home Mom had given me the freedom of pursuing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now I was chained to this job and it was more than I was prepared to deal with. I was beating myself up mentally every day as a result.

Nothing being by chance, I had to reach out to my friend Nichole for a favor as the new school year broached. I needed a hairstylist for my daughter and there was only one person that I knew I could call and count on to help me out, my good pal Nichole that I met when I worked at SunTrust Mortgage many years ago. Nichole and I became buddies fast when I was pregnant with my son Cassius. A simple compliment from Nichole about my maternity gear has forged an unexpected but genuine friendship amongst us. Doing hair is one of Nichole’s many side-hustles. It was one of the things that I respected and loved about her the most next to her kind and giving heart. She has always been a go-getter and she is another Jill of All Trades like me but she can SANG! And I do mean, she can SANG!! She tore down Adele’s, “Rolling in the Deep” at my Lady’s Power Showcase in 2011. She can COOK! And I do mean, she can cook. She can sew! She’s hella smart! She was always a top performer and producer at work. She’s a leader and a motivator, and always a team player. I was glad to reconnect with her after life had kept us both busy in our own parts of the world. After rehashing the things we had missed in each other’s life I was delighted to find out that she had started her own Catering Company, Kenny’s Kitchen, named after her son that was keeping her busy. She is doing weddings and other events, and even meal prep options for individuals and families. I’m so proud of her! She has clung to her dreams and her pursuit of them despite numerous obstacles that she has faced personally and professionally. She is all American in her pursuit of whatever accolades and success she is seeking for her own life and family and I am proud to call her my friend. Please check out her if you’re in need of Catering Services via Kenny’s Kitchen . Talking to her reminded me that we must be fearless in our pursuit of what we want and that we can’t let our circumstances keep us from living the life we desire. The drive and motivation to be successful is as All American as Hamburgers and Peach Pie and I’m proud to be an American in full pursuit of my dream.

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A Meal Offered thru Nichole’s, Kenny’s Kitchen

Thank you all for stopping by, I can’t wait to whip up something tasty and delicious to share with you all next time!

Till then be blessed, and be a blessing!

A Very Pleasant Mom, Tameka

#AVeryPleasantLife

#Dreamchasers

#Hamburgers

#PeachPie

#AllAmerican

 

 

Meatloaf – 2 Meats?; and Oreo Pie

So it’s a double post day, normally my posts are geared towards the meals I make like the one I’m sharing with you today. Hopefully you checked out my first post, “The Forgotten Black Butterfly: Me” and I hope you check this one out too.

It was time for something comforting and homey on the food front and I was feeling like meatloaf. I wanted to give it a twist so I decided to do a Lamb and Beef meat loaf. I found a great recipe via GeniusKitchen.com, “Meatloaf with Ground Lamb”. It’s a standard meatloaf recipe that uses the surprise ingredient of ground lamb. The first thing I did was make my own breadcrumbs. It’s not one of those things that I care to waste money on because I don’t cook with it frequently. So I browned 4 pieces of seasoned white bread in the oven on low heat, and then I crumbled the slices in a gallon ziploc bag.

Next I sauteed the cut up onions and mushrooms I added for more texture and allowed them to cool while I mixed the meatloaf. Using a rubber spatula I mixed the ground meats together with the remaining ingredients – eggs, salt, pepper, seasonings, herbs, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Once mixed well I added in the bread crumbs and then spooned my meatloaf mixed into a greased bundt pan. I use vegetable oil spray to do it quickly and mess free. I baked it for right at an hour before spreading a thin layer of ketchup on top of the cooked meatloaf. It went back in the oven for another 7 minutes and whoila it was done.

While the meatloaf baked in the oven I made homemade mashed potatoes very simply. Thankfully my husband was wanting mashed potatoes with the skins on this time so that meant no peeling potatoes.

After washing them I submerged them into water ane began boiling the potatoes until they were fork tender. One the potatoes were tender I made a mixture of chicken stock, butter and milk that I microwaved and mixed together. That mixture was poured and mixed into the potatoes as they are mashed. I mix and continue to add the liquid until I have the desired constency in my mashed potatoes and then I season with salt and pepper and a few more pats of butter. These potatoes are easy to make yet delicious and fresh. Brocolli florets were steamed and seasoned with butter, salt and pepper.

I also made Oreo Pie for the first time. I found the recipe on Pinterest that called for crushed oreo cookies, whipped topping, vanilla pudding, and milk. I’m still trying to find the actual recipe I used. I will update the link when I find it. I will say, this was delicious – the Oreo cookie crust is covered with the pudding and whipped topping mixture and finally the crumbled cookies. I also cut Oreos in half and arranged them around the dish. The recipe asserted that it would be set up in a couple hours. Two hours later it wasnt set. Three hours later it was good enough to eat. The next day it was better. Unfortunately I never got a picture of a piece of it on a plate because it was devoured. I may use less milk next time and maybe an additional box of pudding, I’ll keep you posted how it goes.

Otherwise this meal was a homerun. The meatloaf was juicy and tangy. The lamb was the star of the meal and the ketchup complimented the flavors perfectly. The mashed potatoes were sumptuous and fluffy with bits of the potato skin througout the bite. I was impressed with how delicious it came out and my husband loved the new flavor profile in the meatloaf. This was another success story, so if you’re looking for a walk on the wild side, give your meatloaf some kick with  a little ground lamb.

Till next time,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

The Forgotten Black Butterfly: Me

It was probably a week ago when I sat on my deck under the umbrella shielding myself from the already beaming hot sun although it was still pretty early in the day. The deck had become my new office in the recent weeks as it’s one of the few places that I can work without noise or distractions from my family or one of the many televisions that’s on. That means transplanting my laptop, notebooks, reference materials, cell phone, chargers, extension cord, bottled water and possibly snacks…to the patio set on the deck to work outside. I light my citronella torches to keep the bugs at bay and hunker down for as many hours as I can get without interruption – that’s usually till the first kid wakes up. On this day in particular I was feeling very good about all the progress I had been making on a novel that I’m working on when I saw that beautiful black butterfly flying towards me. Instantly the butterfly reminded me of myself and although I was happy to see it initially, it made me feel sad for a moment. Of course I couldn’t grab my phone quick enough to snap the photo before the butterfly had flown away. That visit from the black butterfly had jolted me into a heightened awareness of who I was, who I am and who I still want to be. Realizing that I had somehow managed to forget that there was a time when I thought of myself to be a “black butterfly” too like so many women who have grown, survived and transformed themselves and their lives.

I honored my association with this “black butterfly” with matching tattoos on my left and right legs many years ago. This small and beautiful creature had shaken my whole thought process up. It helped me put things in perspective. This simple unexpected visit from the black butterfly reminded me of everything that I have survived and how much I’ve changed over the years. Some of my changes have been for the better and others haven’t served me well at all. I sat there trying to figure out when I forgot that I’m always that black butterfly even if I don’t recognize it.

Back then I was a very eager go getter about anything that I would involve myself in. If it was something that I wanted to learn or to do, I did it without hesitation. I was highly motivated and looking to be validated instantly. I’m the type of person who wants to be good at everything I do. I like to think that I’m smart, capable, well read and knowledgable. I don’t mind working hard. I’ve always been a team player and try to go the extra mile. Plus I had dreams, big dreams of success, wealth and respect amongst my peers. My books were going to be best sellers. My screenplays were going to get sold for millions of dollars to the biggest studios and made into movies. I could do it all. I even tried to.

I mailed hundreds of query letters off for different novels, or screenplays. I entered contests. I was doing everything I could to strike gold. I didn’t win any of those contests. I never heard from any of those agents, agencies or companies I queried. It was disheartening. It felt like failure and rejection. It made me doubt myself and whether I was any good. Eventually I was published in 2005, a year after my first son was born my first book “Divine Glory” came out.       divineglorybookcover

I felt good about myself and all that I had managed to accomplish in the midst of my pregnancy and arrival of my son. It motivated me to keep pushing. I set my sights on other tasks though. Being a mother who was working full-time was new to me. I had no time to devote to writing or pursuing certain dreams because I was bad at managing my family’s time and mine. I was doing the best I could, so I devoted myself to being the best mother and wife when I was not at work. My family continued to grow and so did my responsibilities. I remember feeling like I had writer’s block for years when I didn’t write anything at all. I felt creatively stifled although I had tons of creativity for my children and their projects and hobbies. There was just none of that creative juice or myself. It was okay though because I was looking for validation in my new career in the finance industry. Starting out the hours were crappy (4:30pm-1:30am), not the worse but not the best when you want to be at home to put your child to bed and kiss them goodnight. The pay was good though and after a while you could work your way up to a better shift which I eventually did. Then a better position at a better company.

I was making more money and was hopeful of the opportunity to advance and build myself a solid career. What I didn’t know was how cut throat corporate environments could be? I was blind to so much that was going on around me because I was just trying to do my job and move up. I did move up but then I got stalled. In my office environment people weren’t moving up solely on merit. It was politics, relationships and a whole lot of other seedy and underhanded scheming and conniving that I had absolutely no parts of. At that point it didn’t matter how well I worked, I was like a thorn in their sides and it became extremely hard to keep my job. Strategically I managed to hold on to my job as long as I could but I was miserable. I was looking to be free of the stress and pressure that I was feeling daily at work. My first day out of corporate I started writing again. I began writing, “Sweet Justice: A Mother’s Revenge” which I published later that year.

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I felt like I was somewhat back on track and that felt good. In 2015 I was baptized and as a result I began a deeper, more obedient relationship with the Lord that helped to transform my life more than I could ever imagine. I was learning a lot about myself and life, what it meant to have faith and believe. I was inspired to write and publish another book, “Amen S.i.s.! It’s Already Done!”

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I was in a good place and it showed in my desire to write and create. I had produced a ladies talent showcase at a local nightclub. I was bubbling again. During these years I was recruited by various leagues or organizations. By chance I had managed to run into a member of the Purple Orchids while I prepared for my first book signing for “Amen S.i.s.!” That connection would lead to an invitation to their group that I accepted. Lastly I was installed as a member in an honored ceremony. I was honored that these ladies had selected me to be a part of their organization. My heart was in the right place but I found myself disinterested and unable to commit to the calendar of events that the group kept. In the meantime I had managed to land a good position in another mortgage company. The pay was better and I was doing something different at the other end of the mortgage spectrum. I liked what I was doing and hoping for a second chance to restart a career that I was eager to succeed in before. What I found out was that the culture that I was finally free of was also running rampant in my new company. I was crushed again. No amount of drive or hard work was going to help me advance or get me the recognition that I might have earned and even deserved in this all too familiar environment. When my time at that organization came to an end I was actually relieved but my ego and pride took a hit that would take me years to recover from.

I was needed at home. Hell, my husband wanted me at home so the timing couldn’t have been better. It was then that I was able to immerse myself into being a full-time stay at home mother and caretaker of my family that also included my mother in law fresh out of rehab. I had found my purpose and was finally feeling free of all the guilt and unhappiness that I had carried around working full time outside of my home. These days were busy with my oldest son’s homeschooling and being the engaged Mom who was on top of it all. Even though I was happy, I still longed to support my family financially so I started driving part-time and eventually full-time as a Taxi Driver. The demand of the long 12 hours shifts from 6pm-6am and the danger of driving into dangerous areas for fares was more than I could bear and again I found myself feeling failed at my attempt again. What was worse is that I hadn’t written in a while again.

I had discovered a love and joy in cooking and I was good at it. I was always a good cook but my time at home with the family had given me new tasks that gave me new comfort. I had found success in making people happy with the meals and desserts that I was preparing and out of it my love for cooking was born and a new dream, culinary school. This come to Jesus moment couldn’t have happened at a better time, all of my young children were enrolled in school and my oldest homeschooling was already established. I was ready to go to culinary school. I applied, was accepted and then I was rear ended in a car accident and again my plans were derailed. I couldn’t commit to the rigorous physical demands of school, plus the damage to my car put me out of commission as I drove for Uber and Lyft part-time then. These feelings of failure and disappointment had become a recurring theme in my life. Something would happen. I would get disappointed and I would move on to the next thing looking for success and validation. Even though I wasn’t working on any specific project I had begun writing about my meals on my blog that became my only creative outlet for a while.

It was only when my family’s world was rocked earlier this Summer that I was jolted out of my writing dry spell. Instantly I was reminded why I was given certain talents and what I could do with them if I tried. It was exactly a week or so after this that I had my encounter with the elusive black butterfly in my backyard and was further reminded that my life has always been about growing, surviving and transforming. I figured out that I could still achieve the level of success that I had dreamt of but that meant that I had to still try. I wondered if I could do it all. I was thrust back into the workforce instantly and didn’t want to leave behind all that I had accomplished working on my books and blog.

How do I feel today? I feel faithful today. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me so it gives me the strength to push on when I find myself feeling the challenges and pressures of day-to-day life. My dreams are still attainable and achievable. I know that I’m capable of more than I give myself credit for and I am anxious to try again those things that I felt like I failed at before because even though I may have forgotten, I’ve always been that beautiful black butterfly. I’ve been ever-growing, surviving and transforming all along. I’ve had failures but I’ve also had successes. I’m looking forward to what ever is next while still enjoying the present that is the gift that keeps on giving. I even have new dreams that I never thought I would be interested in.

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for over a week now. I had bulleted points to remember. I had to hear Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” that references her being a “lovely black butterfly” and in the midst I discovered Deneice Williams’s song, “Black Butterfly” and was floored as I listened and read the lyrics, another reminder to keep flying – to keep dreaming.

Lots of us have desires of our hearts and dreams that we are wanting to come to pass, every day we are here is a new opportunity to keep trying. Don’t ever give up. If you fall, get back up. The world needs you.

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

Honey Mustard Chicken

Howdy Folks! It’s the start of a new month already! Can you believe it’s August? I want to say I’m shocked that Summer is going by so fast but then I’m reminded that it’s like this every Summer. So you know what that means – school will be back in school. I’m not ready to send my munchkins back but I’m ready to send my munchkins back if you get what I mean.

Today I’m bringing you the latest recipe that I’ve tested in my kitchen…Honey Mustard Chicken. I found a few recipes that I mused over but ultimately followed one closely – SimplyRecipes.com; however it should be noted that there is an equally similar recipe availabie via Recipettineats.com that inspired my journey into Honey Mustard land. I was uber excited to give this meal a try, my famiy loves Honey Mustard so it was nice to think that I could give them a flavor that they love in a new dish. You guys know I’m drawn to simplicity. It’s not that I don’t like complex or meals that require many steps; I just try to plan those meals for days when I have more time in the kitchen. In my research of this recipe I stumbled on honey granules. Apparently you can use these granules in place of liquid honey because of it’s sticky consistency. The granules make it easier to measure the amounts. I didn’t seek to purchase honey granules because I already had honey in stock.

With less than 10 ingredients needed, this recipe was a hit because I had all of them. I was winning already. The recipe calls fr smooth dijon mustard. I had some yellow mustard and deli mustard, so I opted to combine the two in substitute of the smooth dijon mustard. The flavor was still good. This recipe has 3 steps! They used bone in thighs for the recipe but suggests chicken legs as an alternative. Perfect again. I had two packs of chicken drumsticks that I needed to use.

Seasoned Chicken Drumsticks

The honey mustard sauce was whisked together with the mustards, honey, and olive oil making a creamy sticky sauce. The chicken legs were arranged in the baking dish and seasoned with salt and pepper before it is covered with the honey mustard sauce. The chicken is then baked uncovered until it is done. The recipe suggests starting at 45 minutes, I cooked my chicken for an hour. It was perfectly cooked.

While the chicken baked, I worked on the Smashed Potatoes. I cut down my time by placing potatoes in sandwich bags and steaming them in the microwave first. I then used the bottom of my glass measuring cup to smash each of the potatoes before seasoning them with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter. I then layered on shredded sharp cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles and dried parsley. After they were to my liking I put this pan in the oven as the chicken finished cooking.

My husbands’ eyes lit up when it was all finished. The chicken had filled the house with a barely there sweet aroma. It all looked amazing. There was no waiting with this meal, it was done and we were ready to eat.

Honey Mustard Chicken, Smashed Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli

This was a hit all around! The chicken was moist and juicy. The Sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. The honey and mustard worked well together- neither overpowered the other. The Potatoes were texture and gooey goodness. It was crispy on the edges, the bacon crumbles added to the crunch but the inside of the potato was soft and silky from the butter. It was so quiet at the dinner table! We thoroughly enjoyed this recipe and will be adding this to our rotation.

I highly recommend trying this recipe if you want an affordable and convenient meal for your family.

What’s your favorite weekday meal? Share your fave’s, I need inspiration for the weeks ahead. Thanks for stopping by my little corner of this vast universe! Have a Pleasant Day y’all!

Blessings and Peace,

A Very Pleasant Mom

#AVeryPleasantLife

#WeekdayMealIdeas

SimplyRecipes.com

RecipeTineats.com

Swiss Steak and Mashed Potatoes

It’s a Pleasant Saturday Fam! The weather is mild and sunny and it’s the perfect day to tackle outdoor projects. I have some landscaping that I need to get done if the rain holds out but first I wanted to update you all on the last recipe I tried last night…Swiss Steak. In an effort to stay consistent on my blog I went through my freezer and deep freezer for recipe ideas to plan out a content calendar for the month of August when I ran across a pack of Thin Eye of Round Steaks. At first I thought about Beef and Broccoli or Mongolian Beef. I already do quite a bit of Asian Cuisine so I wanted to try something out of the box.

Now mind you I have no idea if Swiss Steak is actually swiss or not but hey, it sounded foreign so I went with it, lol. Sometimes I research the recipe’s origin but I didn’t this time. I found two recipes first via Pinterest – one from Food52.com and another via certifiedangusandbeef.com that was slightly different as it used cubed steak. I opted to go primarily with the Food52.com recipe because of its simplicity and the fact that I had the same cut of meat that the recipe called for. Y’all I know I love straightforward recipes that don’t require a ton of ingredients or steps and this one was one of those.

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Less than 10 ingredients and I had all but three because I use them frequently and hadn’t restocked my pantry yet. I was excited to give this recipe a try because we are not big steak eaters but I’m always delighted to find a new way to enjoy steak and work with a new cut of meat too. I grabbed my apron and blessed my hands and heart. In my opinion meals are made best when I have love and joy in my heart.

In the background my husband and kids were playing NBA Live and enjoying themselves loudly so I put on my PowerBeats and my Pandora app and started to do what I love most next to spending time with my family – cook for them. 🙂 With all of my ingredients and pans out I was ready to take on this new recipe. At the last-minute I found a third Swiss Steak recipe that was similar to the other two I had previously found on Pinterest. I had no issues with steps 1 and 2 per Food52.com.

I did find that the 3rd step should have been the 4th step and as a result I switched them. Step 3 instructs you to fry onions and green peppers first, remove them and then brown steak on both sides just to put the onions and peppers back into the pan. Alternatively I browned my steaks first, put those to the side before frying the onions and peppers.

The second issue that I found with this recipe was that it called for pan frying in olive oil. After dredging the steaks in seasoned flour I attempted to brown them but the breading started coming off in the pan. So I only dredged about three steaks before I opted to just brown them without the flour dredge. (Tip: I keep and reuse/recycle some of plastic food service containers I receive. They don’t have a long shelf life but I’ve been able to repurpose quite a few things temporarily. For me getting an extra use or 2 out of common items is a way to cut down and reduce trash…I’m a recycle fanatic if you don’t know. So I used a baby back ribs container that I had gotten rom Fridays to dredge the steaks in. Photo Below)

In reviewing the other recipes I decided to use a little minced garlic, smoked paprika, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock and bay leaf in addition. So I added a little more olive oil to my pan, the minced garlic and the onions and peppers. I opted to not cook down the onions and peppers too much as I knew it would possibly need an additional hour or 2 of cooking time over low on the stove top. With the onion and pepper medley to my liking I put the steaks back into the pan on top of it. I then added the stewed tomatoes in. Now the recipe indicates that during the cooking time some of the liquid may evaporate and to add water. One of the other recipes called for beef stock so I grabbed a few beef bouillon cubes and boiled it in a little over a cup of water and added that stock to the pan. A sprinkling of smoked paprika, salt, pepper, 2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce and a bay leaf to the pan. I covered and simmered on low for two hours.

After two hours the thin steaks were still not as tender as I would have liked, so I cut my oven on 275 degrees, covered my pan and baked it for an additional hour and a half before it was tolerable to eat. I imagine I coud have allowed it to continue baking as it would have only made it more tender but it was already late and we were an hour and a half over the recipes’ instructions. Prior to starting the Swiss Steak recipe I whipped up one of my all time favorites Homemade Mashed Potatoes. To me mashed potatoes is one of the most simple, delicious and versatile sides that you can made cheaply too. Potatoes, water, salt, milk, butter or margarine and chicken stock is all you need for a creamy pot of mashed potatoes.

With my potatoes done, I put together a simple side salad and Voila dinner was ready. I was a little concerned that my husband wouldn’t like it if the steak wasn’t on point. He loves anything tomato based that has onions and peppers. I fixed his plate, took my pictures and then served my patient husband his dinner at almost 11 o’clock on a Friday night, lol. The verdict – Delicious! He loved it. The steak was good. It wasn’t chewy or hard as I hoped it not to be. It was really good. As we sat at the table mulling over it I decided that it was like a Deconstructed meat loaf. And it must have been really good because he got up and ate another plate of it after I retired for the night.

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Swiss Steak over Mashed Potatoes

So Fam, it was another Pleasant dinner, lol. All smiles and clean plates. Now y’all know my children wanted no parts of Swiss Steak although they inquired excitedly about it as I cooked. My oldest son Fredo was supposed to give it a shot but he was nowhere to be found when it was time to eat. For the children I grilled them Beef Hotdogs, one of their absolute favorites. So I can’t complain, every one was satisfied and full from their respective dinners.

I’m contemplating my next challenge. My content calendar suggests making Honey Mustard Chicken with the chicken drumsticks I have in my deep freezer but I was watching Diners, Drive-in’s and Dive’s with my husband and was intrigued by Empanadas, a meat pie or savory turnover. A lot of cultures have their own versions of the empanadas like the Jamaican’s do the Beef Patty or Chicken Patty that employs the same technique – meat filling in a pastry dough that is baked. So make sure you check back to see what I decide.

What do you think I should try next? Honey Mustard Chicken or Empanadas? Let me know in the comments and I might just take your advice or suggestions. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday folks, it’s almost time for me to pick up my oldest son from basketball practice.

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4 – Tameka

#AVeryPleasantLife

#SwissSteak

#AVeryPleasantDinner

Food52.com

Certifiedangusbeef.com

3rd Swiss Steak Recipe via This Site

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