Diary of an Amateur Smoker pt. 1

How many tries does it take to master the wonderful world of “Smoking” food? I’m not sure yet because clearly I still haven’t mastered it. I’m a stickler for figuring things out  especially when it interests me, then I’m subject to give my failed attempt another try until I have mastered whatever it is I’m working on. Then there are those things that fall to the wayside when they don’t go right. Who has time for that?

Yet I am a self-proclaimed and self-taught “Grill Master”. I’ve been doing my grilling thing for many years now. I love grilling! I love grilled food! In a lot of families the men are the “Grill Master” or King of the Grill but in my family, women have been Queens of the Grill for years, and so now I have stepped into my position. The title wasn’t given to me, I’ve worked hard to gain that much confidence behind the grill and in the kitchen. I love the fact that my husband loves my grilling ways. He is completely cool with me doing it, plus it’s going to be good…every time. Yes, I’m that good. But even though I’m very skilled at grilling everything from pizza’s to whole chickens indoors or outdoors, I have little experience smoking (I want to laugh everytime I think of smoking…I’m talking about food in case anybody else got lost, lol). I have used foil packs of wood chips in the oven or on the grill before) but I’ve never owned or used a device or machine that was made mostly or solely to smoke food.

Lucky me I shop at Wal-Mart way too much so I stumbled upon the Expert Grill Smoker for $35.00. It was a score before I even realized that I could also grill on it too, hence saving me money from buying that second charcoal grill I intended to get. I was stoked because I’ve been wanting one for a while but between you and me, I’ve been holding out with the hopes of being able to buy the super nice expensive model first. I have visions of grandeur that I’m coping with every day. So when I came back to reality it was a great idea to pick up the smoker because it was a small investment to try something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. The smoker in its box at my patio door for two days before I finally put it together while my oldest son hibernated. He was supposed to help me but of course he was fast asleep in his room when I was finally ready to start. I’m a self-starter though, I get shit done. So I managed to put the smoker together rather easily once I realized I had put it together upside down at first. Once everything was right side up, the smoker was together and ready to go.

Being the constant professional because I believe if you’re going to do something, do it right. Go hard or go home. You get where I’m going with this? I had also picked up my hickory pellets and charcoal. It was smoking time! While my box had rested on the floor I thawed a pork butt and brined it for about 15 hours. With the smoker upright and ready to smoke, I pat dry my pork butt and massaged yellow mustard all over it. Once covered in mustard I then rubbed my dry rub mixture all over the pork butt.


The pork butt covered in yellow mustard. The soaked wood pellets are in the bowl next to it.

With the pork butt ready it was time to find a You Tube video to help me. Help is always good. I found a great video from a guy who I won’t name because maybe he’s not as good as he thinks. (LOL) The video instructed me to dump my charcoal in my smoker bottom and then saturate with lighter fluid. Once covered in fluid, allow the charcoal to rest for 15 minutes before saturating yet again with lighter fluid. After that I lit my coals with a match and watched the blaze begin. It didn’t take long for the fire to enrapture the smoker. In the meantime I soaked my wood pellets in water.

The video then instructs you to let the fire burn for about 15 minutes while the coals heat up and start turning white. With the flame tamed, I then set up my water bowl, filled it with a little less than a gallon of water and then arranged my racks inside the smoker. I still allowed it additional time to come to temperature with the vent open on top and the door open. I was sure that I was cooking…with charcoal that is and I was becoming more pumped to see how it would all come together. An initial read on the thermostat confirmed my smoker was too hot at 300 degrees so I closed it up for a bit to try to bring the temperature down. My temperature gauge hadn’t moved and was stuck at the first line but my coals looked hot and ready to go. I second guessed myself and went ahead and put my pork butt on the middle rack.


In the process of preparing for the smoking process I had discovered some pork rib tips in my deep freezer. I had thawed those out and seasoned those to smoke above the pork butt on the top rack. With the ribs in place I closed the smoker up and ran back inside to escape the cold frigid air. I positioned my smoker at the base of my deck so I could watch it from my kitchen window as I cooked. That placed had proved to be perfect for my last grill. I watched intently from the window as the smoke bellowed out thickly at first before it barely looked like it was any smoke coming out of the vent at all. Mind you only an hour or so had passed and it looked like my coals were quitting on the job. I couldn’t resist the urge to peak so I ran outside to check it and it was confirmed the coals had been extinguished when I accidentally went overboard covering them in the wet wood pellets. Doh! I felt like Homer Simpson as I dismantled the smoker layer by layer.

I was back at square one. With a smoker full of fresh charcoal and significantly less wet wood pellets I was ready to try my hand at the “smoking” process again. Even though it was kick ass cold I stood my ground and re-lit that fire, paced the process, step by step till I was satisfied with the whitening coals. With the smoker fully loaded again I retreated back to my kitchen window as I watched with satisfaction as the smoker puffed away. It was late at this point and I had guestimated that my pork butt would be ready around 3 am. Even though I hadn’t coined the thought of “cooking to temperature” as Michael Simon taught us today on “The Chew” I had long considered that you have to cook food according to your own taste. Times are meant to be suggested time frames not etched in stone directions that could cause you to flop your dish. There are lots of other factors that influence cooking times but I think Michael Simon hit the nail on the head when he urged people to cook to temperature over time when cooking meats. With that being said I figured I had plenty of time, my little fiasco with the flame that went away had slowed me down and set me back. Even though I wasn’t in a rush to finish I was still eager to finish it. So I laid down.

I went to sleep. Deep sleep that is. The kind of sleep that ignores your husband’s inquiries to check on the food. I vaguely remember mumbling that it would be alright before turning over and going back to sleep. When I did wake up it was 6:30am, the time I usually awake and begin procrastinating to get up to start the morning routine. I jumped right up though knowing full well that I should have checked my pork fest hours ago and was worried that it was dry and ruined. Can you imagine my horror and relief when I saw my pork butt had clearly stopped cooking hours ago and was now cold and undone. The rib tips had even fared better on the top tray but were also not done. It was time for the “texas cheat” if I’m correct. I set my trusty oven to 250 degrees and finished both in the oven. It still took the pork butt hours to get it to the 200 degree internal temperature time recommended.

I was worried though. As I waited for my pork butt to finish in the oven I was miffed and began trying to research how to make my second attempt a successful one at smoking my food to completion. I had learned a lot over the time period and had begun to worry if I might have made a boo boo when I used lighter fluid to light my charcoal at the suggestion of the original video I watched. Supposedly you could cause your food to have a really bad taste caused by the lighter fluid. It was too late to turn back so I was hoping for the best.

I was definitely content that it was finally finished that I had almost started pulling the pork before I had let the pork butt rest. And on top of that I moved so fast I didn’t take a picture of that beautiful pork butt when it was completely finished from the oven.


With a fully rested brined and smoked pork butt I was ready to pull. The bone of the pork butt slid out with ease. It was so tender I couldn’t help eating as I pulled and discarded fat or muscle. I basted the pulled pork with its own juices. When the pork was finally done I had boiled a couple of bags of white rice to go along with the bbq rib tips and pulled pork and made a simple side salad. Surprisingly it was all very delicious and there was no taste of lighter fluid at all. There was a good amount of smoke flavor in the ribs and pulled pork, plus it was all very tender and juicy. Even though my food still came out edible and tasty I am still slightly disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete it using the smoker.

After further research I found out that I should remove the legs from my smoker as the gap beneath the smoker was causing air issues that could have also helped to extinguish my heat. I think I’ve also learned less is more. I won’t go bananas with the wet wood pellets in the future. And even though I couldn’t detect the lighter fluid in my food I definitely don’t want to risk having that happen either. I purchased a chimney starter as well that would allow me to light my coals easily with paper and then transfer the heated coals to my grill or smoker. I’m ready for my next attempt. I think. And I know that even if for some reason my smoker should quit on me too soon I’ll just finish it in the oven. No sweat off my back. Dinner is still served.

Day 2


As fresh as I could be off of maybe 6 hours sleep and a belly full of my delicious pulled porkand rib tips I perused over my news feed as I did many times a day trying my best to stay “woke”. Next to Twitter where I first saw the horrible image that was represented as world-famous “Brooklyn BBQ” that was supposed to be claiming notoriety one slab of boring brisket at a time. Then back to my news feed where I saw an article about the Republished story from Vice.com that was taunting people all over the world and causing a serious debate about BBQ. Personally I was disgusted, even my non-“smoking” ass could put together a BBQ plate that would put this reported world-class BBQ to shame. Sidebar – I really don’t care. I was going to make additional sides anyway but it definitely felt like a good opportunity to show off my cooking skills. My husband had suggested that I make jalapeno mac and cheese to go with it. There’s a spot here that we frequent that makes a good one sometimes. What the heck? It was definitely worth a shot. I scouted out some inspirational recipes and formulated my own with ingredients that my family would like. I even decided to add crumbled crispy bacon to take it to the next level.


There’s no way you can have BBQ, jalapeno mac and cheese, and not have any cornbread! It was just my luck that I had the perfect recipe that I was dying to make again. Y’all at this point I was ready to short cut my dinner and get a can of collard greens…but I couldn’t. It was not going to be the best compliment to the flavors that I had already worked so hard to achieve. I couldn’t turn back now. I would have to make a pot of fresh collard greens. Yep, and I couldn’t forget the cole slaw. What is pulled pork without cole slaw? Again my plate was full but I could almost taste it as I dreamed. The next five hours or so was devoted to crafting the rest of my take on a Southern BBQ plate. If it was summer I would probably have made some potato salad too. Either way it all looked and tasted so good. It was a lot of work and there is still a lot to be learned but even though my smoking attempt was a failure, my dinner was still the winner. Literally in the un-heat of adversity I was still able to garner the smoke flavor and tenderness that the low and slow cooking process is supposed to ensure.


This is my take minus the cole slaw…I might have taken the picture before I put it on the plate. 


I can’t wait for Spring. With warmer weather I’ll be practically living in my back yard till I master the Art of Smoking…food that is. So check back for my next edition of Diary of an Amateur Smoker. I’m just getting started!

Happy Grubbing!

Amateur Smoker Mek






Jokes…Why Is Brooklyn BBQ Taking Over the World?

Get Your $35 Smoker from Wal-Mart







Debunking the Recipe: Easy General Tso’s Chicken

Happy Friday! It feels like it’s been forever since I updated my blog. Building consistency is a key to me breaking certain habits and forming a process and procedures for my days. Please continue to have patience with me as I lay the brick and mortar of what I hope to be my empire . But let’s get right to it.

If you don’t already know, there are 7 people in my house that ages range from 4-71 so you already know the tastes and likes vary. While there is much individuality to be had when it comes to likes and dislikes there is one thing my entire family shares in common – their love of Chinese food. The one thing we can all agree on at any time is General Tso’s Chicken! The adults like it traditionally over rice, and the kids like it over Lo Mein noodles. Lunch and dinner trips to Hunan East, a local family favorite is always a great opportunity to fill our plates up with mounds and mounds of General Tso’s. Hunan’s is perfect, it’s not too sweet, or too spicy. The chicken is delicious and crispy and the sauce is like the perfect glaze coating. Now keep in mind Hunan East is a treat for my family because it’s not really convenient to our home so it’s truly a special treat when we do get it.

The second runner-up isn’t actually General Tso’s, it’s the Orange Chicken at Panda Express. It’s the next closest thing aside from Sesame Chicken (my husband can’t eat it because of his allergy to sesame) to Tso’s when it comes to my family. The one thing I like about Panda Express is that I can get a ton of it, for less than what the Chinese Food will end up costing for everything separately.

But then there are those days when I don’t want to travel for Hunan or Panda, so those are the days when a trip to my deep freezer will solve the problem. A family pack of boneless chicken thighs is the start to any General Tso’s. I have attempted General Tso’s before but it lacked the flavor or the consistency of the glaze. It was always something amiss. I even made it with the pre-made store-bought General Tso’s sauce and I still didn’t think it was close to authentic or restaurant quality. Let’s not forget those times I just say screw it and covered it with Chili sauce which proved to be okay but not the General Tso’s flavor we loved.

This is one of the first recipes that I didn’t actually find on Pinterest yet I still pinned it to my She Tried It board so that folks could pull the recipe for their own attempts. I went looking for one when I was trying to figure out what we were going to eat for dinner. I get tired of making sometimes two meals a night. Or supervising two meals a night being made when the kids prepare their own meals. It’s more work, time and mess for that matter. So the days when we can all eat and enjoy the same thing, it’s a truly win win situation. I remembered that I had picked up two family packs of boneless chicken thighs at great prices. I thawed one and set out to make a really classy General Tso’s. I thumbed through multiple recipes, reviewing ingredients and steps before deciding on the General Tso’s Chicken recipe from http://www.dinnerthedessert.com . 12 ingredients is all you need including the chicken thighs. Simple enough right?

This recipe instructions begin suggest tossing the cut up boneless chicken thighs with the 1/4 cup of cornstarch. The ingredients do call for 1 lb of chicken thighs cut into 1 inch chunks. So please don’t skip this step, although I saw Jeff on “The Kitchen” make a General Tso’s chicken sandwich that looked delicious. I cut up my chicken thighs into 1 inch chunks keeping the pieces as uniform as possible and tossed the chicken as directed with the cornstarch. So far, pretty easy.

Step 2 directs you to mix the sauce together with a whisk. Sauce doesn’t go far so I made a decision to double my recipe, I wanted my General Tso’s to be completely covered in deliciousness. I then set the sauce aside to begin frying the chicken chunks. Once all of the chicken chunks were crispy brown goodness I pulled out my trusty Wok and turned the heat up to Medium High. I fried my chicken in a different pan though the recipe will instruct you to do it all in the same pan. With my oil heating in the Wok, I added the garlic, chili flake and ginger (I keep a jar of minced garlic in my fridge) to the pan it popped like crazy all over the place even popping me in the arm. Once I had soothed my ouchie I tossed my fried chicken chunks into the Wok and coated it in the mixture a few times before pouring in the sauce in small amounts while stirring and mixing the chicken chunks. When the sauce hit the heat I could see the glaze forming as I tossed and poured it over the chicken. I poured my entire bowl of the doubled sauce in the pan and it came out looking better than the restaurant Tso’s I’ve gotten at some restaurants. It smelled delicious too. Now some of us like the ginger and garlic, we don’t like too much of it. At times it can be overpowering. Making it allowed me to control how much of it I actually wanted to use and it was as close to perfect as we all agreed.

I did it! Authentic General Tso’s from the comfort of my own home and it was delicious and EASY!! This is my new go to recipe whenever that craving creeps up on us and I’m so glad that I can share it with you and your family. I try to take pictures of the ingredients and the food throughout the process. There’s been a lot going on in my house with the kids getting over the flu and stomach viruses so I don’t have a pretty frills picture that was prepped and dressed up. I do have a picture of the final product and I promise to be more detailed next time!


IMG_20180227_215447.jpgIt’s Friday night, who’s feeling like Chinese? Forget take out and give it a shot, let me know how it came out and show me your best shot! You can find this recipe and some other great recipes that I’ve tried under my She Tried It board on Pinterest.

Happy Grubbing and Have a Great Weekend!

Momma Mek







Debunking the Recipe: Rainbow Pop Tarts



Rainbow Pop Tarts Courtesy of Tastemde.com

This post is so late but that’s the way the cookie crumbles when you have 3 sick kids at home battling the flu…so I’ll keep this short because MomLife calls. Even though I’m posting this today I actually made the Rainbow Pop Tarts turned Galaxy Pop Tarts on Tuesday morning. At that point I only had 1 sick child at home and he didn’t even get to actually taste it until the following day when he could stomach eating and keeping down solid foods. This was about a two-day process for me overall. If you didn’t know I’m not the most confident or comfortable baker but I’m learning and getting better all the time. I made the dough the first day. Then I cut them out and prepared them the following day.

Mind you this was the second Pop Tart recipe that I’ve seen on Pinterest that piqued my interest. I have a Brown Sugar Pop Tart pin that I’ve been dying to try as Kroger Brown Sugar Breakfast Tarts are a norm around my house in the mornings. We switch it up often with things like muffins, waffles, or those grand mornings that I make mountains of pancakes and sausage links. Typical mornings make the Pop Tarts grab and go, if they don’t finish them – they will bag it up and take it for their snack at school. As you can see a large portion of my grocery bill is devoted to Pop Tarts alone…Brown Sugar one’s that is. Clearly I should have made the Brown Sugar Pop Tarts first but I’m a sucker for fun colors and sprinkles just like my children.

The only thing I had to purchase to accommodate this recipe was strawberry jam. That’s always a plus. I didn’t have all of the food colorings but I made do with what I had which was red, purple, green, and blue. I made a pink food coloring by mixing red and white. The recipe I followed is a treat served up by http://www.tastemade.com .


The prepared dough that I sectioned into two parts.

The pop tart dough was very easy and it wasn’t intimidating. My standing mixer using my paddle attachment made blending the dough very easy. It came together as instructed as I poured the cold water into the flour and butter mixture. Don’t be afraid to use more water if you have to. The recipe calls for 1/4 – 1/2 cup cold water. I ended up using a little more to help the dough come together. I kept my speed slow on my mixer as I didn’t want to over mix the dough. Once the dough had formed into a ball I broke it into 6 sections. Opting to use the food coloring I had on hand I only had 5 colors. I decided to leave the 6th section natural because my creativity was running low on color combinations to create. Now this is where the name change comes into play.


The Galaxy Pop Tarts going into the oven.

I learned a valuable lesson in food coloring trying to create these rainbow-colored treats. The type of food coloring I had is a water based food coloring that is generally good for most projects, however gel food coloring usually have corn syrup or glycerin base allowing for a more intense color with less coloring to use. I used so much food coloring and still didn’t achieve the levels of coloring I was looking for. As you can see in the video the dough is consistently blended. My colors blended together for a galaxy color combination more so than a rainbow. I didn’t let that deter me though, as long as the dough had a good taste to it I was okay with the outcome. I should also warn you to use gloves. I did not and it look liked I butchered a whole cow and then some on the palms of my hands for at least 30 hours. It took a couple of showers and many hand washes to remove the discoloration from my hands completely. There is still some coloring under my nail bed that my purple nail polish is concealing. I’m looking forward to acquiring a collection of gel food colors that will help me achieve the colors I set out to get.

Nevertheless I forged on and followed the instructions, rolling out the dough and cutting the tarts out. I put a sizeable dollop of strawberry jam on the half side or the pocket before folding over to seal and close the ends with a fork. The recipe calls for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. I pulled mine around 15 minutes as I didn’t want them to burn. I transferred the first batch to a wired rack to cool and rolled and cut out the rest. I even got fancy and used the heart shape cookie cutter and made 3 heart shape Pop Tarts for my youngest babies. All in all I believe I ended up with almost 12 pop tarts.


The finished Galaxy Pop Tarts adorned with Stars!

The frosting was way easier to make. At first taste thought it was too much vanilla, so I added in more whipped cream and confectioner’s sugar until it was sweeter. Satisfied with the taste I spooned the glaze over each pop tart. I let the first layer cool and then I spooned a second layer of glaze over each one before finally finishing them with the rainbow sprinkles and yellow and blue sanding sugars. Finally with the finished product and no one to try it – my son was sick and couldn’t eat, I decided to jump in and take the first bite. It was good. The crust was flaky and crispy, the jam was warm, sweet with a tart bite. The glaze was the perfect touch of cream to the fruit and crust. This was no Pop Tart! This was a fruit pie! Immediately I had dreams of an adult pop tart that mimicked the Strawberry and Cream Pie that McDonald’s sells sometimes. Oh my gosh, my husband and I ate so many of those pies. It didn’t give me the nostalgic pop tart taste but it definitely was an inspired upgrade to the childhood favorite that my children love. My son Cassius loved it, Praise took a bite out of it and was not impressed. My oldest liked it. He didn’t get the pop tart vibe either but he thought it was okay. My husband took a kindhearted bite and a sweet nod. He didn’t like them either but he was too sweet to say it. I was waiting on King to confirm whether it was a hit or not.

A day and a half later he was anxious to try it. They had been in the fridge and needed warming up in the microwave. He took the bite and his smile faded. He didn’t like it. He wanted his normal Brown Sugar Pop Tarts. I was crushed slightly. I had high hopes for the Rainbow turned Galaxy Pop Tarts. I know I ate like 6 of them in total so they definitely didn’t go to waste and who knows one day I may try that Brown Sugar Pop Tart Pin. Kudos to tastemade.com for an easy and delicious recipe!

With so many great Pins of recipes out there it’s getting harder and harder to choose the next recipe. I hope you all liked this one, it’s a pretty straight forward recipe! I liked the simpleness of the instructions and the ingredients. I still think the Pop Tart had great fruit flavor like a delicious Fruit Pie so don’t hesitate to give this recipe a try! It has been debunked!!!

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and Stay Blessed,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4






Serve If You Must

This is my personal call to action to people in positions of service – Serve, if you must. I love helping. I love seeing people happy or laughing, with smiles on their faces. So if I’m placed in a position where I must provide you with a service of some sort, you can better believe that I’m doing so with a smile, and I’m doing it with love in my heart. I hate conflict so I do my part to minimize it as much as possible.

Today I was reminded how important it is that we all take our respective jobs and positions seriously. I’m so tired of this don’t give a phuck type of attitude that I get from people when I’m out in the world trying to handle my business. On Sunday I was scared to death when my son King’s Croup resurfaced sending us speeding to Memorial Regional Medical’s ER. Luckily this wasn’t our first rodeo so we knew what to do including my son King. Thank God we made it to the hospital in great time to get the necessary treatment to help my son begin to feel better. During our experience with Memorial Regional we had bad service and then we had great service. Initially we were re-routed to Registration when we arrived on the wrong side of the ER – the ambulance entrance. We were agitated, my son was struggling to breathe and my husband had to carry my son around the building to the other side to enter and be registered. Needless to say this was the start of a bad experience but we needed them to help our son, so our frustration and anger took a back seat to allow the medical professionals to do their job. Essentially my son walked out the ER feeling much better and we were hopefully headed toward continued recovery for my son. At the urgency of the ER doctor, my son needed to be seen by his primary doctor the next day for follow-up. Of course as things do happen – an outstanding balance that hadn’t been satisfied by another child’s insurance claim stopped my sons primary doctor from seeing him. Undeterred I decided to switch doctor’s. This wasn’t my first issue with them and I wanted a new practice that would be more conveniently located if possible.

I don’t know why I chose East End Pediatrics, I was familiar with the business as they have an existing commercial and I’m sure someone I know also may have mentioned Dr Briggs as well. To make an otherwise long story short I had the worst experience with a doctor on yesterday trying to get follow-up care for my son. She was rude, condescending and she even discredited the previous medical professionals who have seen and cared for my children for years. This lady had no professionalism as she questioned whether I had done my own research on my children’s conditions and then she denied my request for an anti-biotic prescription refill for my son’s skin condition. She was horrible, and on top of that she didn’t care at all that her professionalism lapsed in front of my children while one of their condition got worse throughout the debacle. I was so disappointed and frustrated at the amount of time invested and wasted in taking my kids to this provider to only be disrespected and again, denied help for my children. She diagnosed my son King with the flu and provided no prescriptions to help with his respiratory issues and the symptoms. So I will spend the rest of my week visiting doctor’s offices to secure a new pediatrician for my children. As frustrated as I am that my son feels worse than what he did when he went to her office, my other son did not get the oral antibiotic he needs to continue treatment of his pre-existing skin condition and I still have to find a new doctor; I know that God is going to work it all out in our favor. See I had this same issue many years ago but with my children’s dental practice. These particular practices require that your children be restrained during service and parents be outside of the service area watching from a little bubble window. I didn’t like that, so I decided to find a Dental Clinic that operated within my comfort level. Thank God I found the Dental Clinic at the Children’s Hospital.

My children have been gong to the Dental Clinic inside the Children’s Hospital for years now and they’ve become extended family to us. When we show up we catch up with what’s going on with each other’s families and updates, it’s truly like a mini family reunion. It’s because of them that I have hope that my journey is going to take me to the right pediatrician practice for my family. It also reminds me to be grateful when I receive great service and then to continue to #ShareandSpreadLove.

Continuing in the spirit of love this month, I will be taking my favorite Dental Clinic staff prayer bracelets to let thank them for their many years of great service and support! I hope they like them!

In the face of adversity, I’m going to continue to share and spread love as much as I can and I hope you will too! A great big shout out to my friends at the Dental Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond!


Peace and Blessings,


#ShareandSpreadLove Officially Began

Sharing and spreading love was the agenda for Valentine’s Day and the perfect start to my #ShareandSpreadLove project. My family is going through coping with a loss right now so it’s definitely a good time to focus on positive things. With so much going on interpersonally the last week or so I did have to scale back my initial plan due to the time constraints. Still I was determined to push through and do something, no matter how small, small beginnings are still a start.

Already tired I still decided to make my family Valentine’s Day mailboxes although it was down to the wire. Lucky for me I had a little quiet time I was able to capitalize on when my husband took my sons to the barber shop. I worked quietly at my dining room table cutting and covering various cereal and treat boxes that I had rescued from my recycling bin while my daughter played downstairs. I didn’t want her to see what I was doing so each time I’d complete a box I’d run it upstairs quietly and stick it in the closet. I did this five times and was pleased that I manage to finish before the boys got back without her spoiling the surprise.

Initially I wanted to crochet over a hundred bracelets to share with my children’s entire school but that requires you to be able to focus on one thing for a long period of time and that never happened. So instead I opted to share the bracelets included inside gift bags that I made for my children’s teachers, principal and front office staff. We included some sweet treats, a novelty pen, the bracelets and a nomination written by me for the Heart of Henrico contest that recognizes Henrico County Public School employees “who possess an uncommon passion for what they do being the Heart of Henrico County”. The gift bags were really cute and the kids had a great time assembling them.

While the kids slept I put together a little “Valentine’s Day Mail Center” in my den of the mailboxes and gift bags. It was well after 2am when I put the final finishing touches with the help of my husband who agreed it came out nice. Initially I wanted to really decorate and personalize each mailbox but y’all already know I was so tired I was glad I had gotten them done and didn’t scrap the idea. In the end I kept it simple, Happy Valentine’s Day followed by their name. There is always some sort of fresh flowers in the house because I love them and that’s one of the things my husband does weekly to express his love. So with beautiful roses already on hand, I borrowed the largest arrangement for the Mail center and left the mini one at my desk. I tossed in some crumpled tissue paper, construction paper hearts and red streamer to jazz it up. All things I usually have on hand, so it was super convenient and affordable. Check out the picture below. Not bad right. I should probably tell you that I stayed up way too late working on this stuff when the next day I was responsible for being a Chaperone for King’s field trip to the Science Museum of Virginia.


Still I was pleased with the outcome. When the kids awoke that morning they were blown away and excited. I only gave them their prayer bracelets out of their mailbox as they were going to be able to see the entire contents after school. Everybody looked great in matching red shirts and were amped to get to school to Share and Spread love. With almost two hours of sleep to my name I was only about 7 minutes late arriving to King’s class. We had such a great time at the museum! I was pleasantly surprised that the museum was completely different since the last time I had gone with my oldest son, Fredo on a field trip. The exhibits were interesting and interactive. My group was full of excitement and energy.  We walked, we ran, we rode the elevators, we took the steps, we window shopped and then gift shopped…it was a truly great day with a great group of kids. My sons’ classmates were sweet, respectful and well-behaved. I even Shared and Spread love with them when I bought pencils for each of them to thank them for being such a great group. By the time I was done at school I was almost literally done.

My husband popped up with a dinner proposal that I was too pooped to take him up on and believe me, I love going on dinner dates with my husband. We haven’t had one in ages but I was worn all the way out. Being the sweetie he is he decided to bring the Chinese Buffet home to me. After I passed out on the couch surrounded by children and Valentine’s Day swag and candy he showed back up with grocery bags of General Tso Chicken, Black Pepper Chicken, Shrimp and Broccoli, Beef Peppersteak, Shrimp Egg Foo Young, White Rice, Fried Rice, Lo Mein Noodles, Crab Rangoons and yes he even  got them their beloved sugar-coated Chinese Donuts. It was a masterpiece of proportions on the plate he served me. I could only eat half of the plate.

My romantic dinner for two had turned into a feast of epic proportions for the whole family. How sweet? Even my husband was sharing and spreading love! I hope you’re on board with our #ShareandSpreadLove project. I think I even figured out my next recipients to keep the love movement going.

I pray your Valentine’s Day and every day is filled with all the love you can handle and then some! I’m searching for that next great recipe to try, or maybe I’ll jazz up this blogsite with something totally new.

What I would like to ask you to do is take a moment to pray for someone today, be a friend, lend a hand, console with a hug and always walk in love. I’ll be praying for us all today including the entire Parkland Florida, community and our nation.

God Bless us All,







Debunking the Recipe: Blue Drip Cake

     Happy Valentine’s Day!


Though the past week has been majorly chaotic and almost overwhelming at times there was a silver lining in our clouds, all of our children have been doing great in school! Through the chaos I still wanted to celebrate their successes collectively as a family and individually. Specifically I wanted to do something special for my youngest son Cassius who has made literal leaps and bounds when he jumped from reading Level E to N! Cassius is a picky eater but just so happens to have a sweet tooth like his mom so I knew he would love a sweet treat of some sort. While we don’t let them overindulged in junk foods they are allowed to have desserts daily after dinner provided they met all of the pre-qualifications (yes, they must pre-qualify or be eligible for dessert; which still does not guarantee receiving it). So I set out to find the perfect delectable treat for my Eager Reader. Chance and fate were working together when I found the video for the Blue Drip Cake JulieKlink via Tasty BuzzFeed. This cake was perfect because it was a mountain of a cake at 3 layers. This Blue Drip cake was a first for me for many reasons – 1. My first time making a 3 layer cake. 2. This would also be my first time making ganache – blue colored white chocolate ganache.

Sounds fancy right? I thought so too. It also sounded complicated. Once I googled what ganache was I was pleasantly surprised with its simplicity. Ganache is chocolate and heated cream melted into a glaze, sauce, or icing. I was also interested in the end result as this recipe called for boxed white cake mix – approximately 2 of them. I love an easy recipe. I also love complicated recipes that require you prepare the dish from scratch. Life is all about balance. This recipe is to the point when it instructs you to prepare your 2 cake mixes according to the instructions on the box. Easy enough. I opted for Kroger white cake mix as it was $1.00 per box. What I thought was interesting was that Kroger’s brand cake mix is made with egg whites.



3 Cooling Cakes

Once the cake mixes were prepared I jump back on the recipe and divided my batter into 3 bowls. Next I added the food coloring being sure to achieve 3 different levels of blue with the batter. I continued with the instructions and prepared the pans with Kroger brand baking spray and parchment paper in the bottom. I baked the blue cakes till they were done by inserting a toothpick in the center of each pan. The cakes were cooled on racks and then almost ready to be frosted. Next time I would chill the cakes before I frost it to ensure it was completely cool and somewhat firm. Due to the time of evening it was I frosted my cake too soon. I wanted the kids to be able to try it before they went to bed so I had to speed the process up somewhat. As a result the cake crumbled slightly into the white vanilla frosting. As a side tip I whipped my frosting right inside of the store packaging by using one of my mixing attachments on my hand mixer.


The frosted cake.

I may have already mentioned that baking is not my forte’, I like to bake but I’m still learning to be a better baker. It definitely does not come naturally and requires me to challenge myself with certain recipes, namely this one. With that disclaimer out the way, my cakes looked great, they even tasted great as I cut the rounded tops off the cake. Once assembled and completely frosted my cake looked a little lopsided. Oh well, it still tasted delicious but it was very soft so I knew I would have to refrigerate it for a little while to help with the ganache. I also wanted to smooth out some spots on the cake and I figured it would be easy once the icing and the cake were both cooled. I gave it a good 30 minutes in my refrigerator on the coldest setting. I then gathered my white chocolate chips and heavy cream to make the ganache.

Even with a slightly uneven cake I was still feeling good, my confidence would take a nosedive when I couldn’t get all of the white chocolate melted in my ganache – the result, visible specks of white chocolate in what should be a smooth glaze. But then I was reminded those specks weren’t flour or cornstarch – it was chocolate…white chocolate more specifically. No harm done technically though I know it was probably a fail. It tasted great and the blue food coloring made it more appealing. The recipe instructs to again divide the ganache into 3 bowls and repeat the same effect as done on the batter. Again for the sake of time and the amount of dirty dishes, I opted for two and I ended up just pouring it all over the cake causing it to drip down the sides and create a cake island surrounded by ganache water. It was definitely a sight to behold!


Finished Blue Drip Cake featuring White Chocolate Specks

Finally we could devour cake and it was delicious! The white chocolate ganache over the vanilla frosting and cake was a really sweet decadent treat. Cassius loved his surprise cake and we all agreed that this recipe was a hit! I would encourage anyone to try this cake as this is doable for a beginner baker like me. Have fun with it and I’m sure you will love the result as we did! I’m keeping my eyes open for my next Debunker – I have absolutely no idea what I’m in store for next but I hope it will be delicious!

Till next time…

Peace and Blessings,

Future Baker Tameka






The Aha Moment

I had an “aha” moment the other day when I figured out multiple things in one day that totally gave me life in a whole new way. So I want to say it might have been Thursday when I was reading the Quincy Jones article on Vulture.com and I was definitely amused and entertained by the music mogul’s candor and brilliance. I figured out a few different things from reading this article.

  1. He is 100% right about modern pop music being loops, beats and hooks. I do think that a lot of pop artists lack a true musical background because of the new information and technology age that will allow you to skip certain steps to get an end result. There is still knowledge, experience and creativity that should be the foundation for any artist working in any medium including music.
  2. Quincy Jones reported that he has never made music for money. “Not even Thriller” one of the biggest records in the world. “No way, God walks out of the room when you’re thinking about money.” Initially I thought that this is some profound stuff right here. Quincy is dropping jewels. I was all ready to post my tweet in support of this bold statement, hashtags and all. Then I sat back and I reflected on what he said and what I’ve learned. I think he was very correct when he said that you should not be driven by money. I disagreed when he said that God walks out the room. I was taught to know that God is always with me – that I have a certain amount of free will as a child of God to make my choice – whether it is good or bad, right or wrong. If God was not with me during some of my darkest times I am almost certain I would not be here.

I needed to be reminded of that as I walk this journey trying to build this Very Pleasant Life Community. It’s so hard trying to stay grounded in this world when everywhere around us – the pursuit of or necessity of money is being promoted. Or it’s the things that cost that require money that is being thrown in our faces in every way imaginable all the time. We see commercials or advertisements everywhere right? It’s no secret I do want to make money. I also want to serve God and help people. You’ve heard the success stories from all of your favorite celebrities – do it because you love it and the money will follow. So even though I know I need to be business minded and always on top of my game – I can just enjoy doing what I love the most, work hard and stay prayed up. I’m bound to get where I’m supposed to go.

I also managed to figure out a piece of the #ShareandSpreadlove movement. So I missed my crochet class last week but I had already purchased my first spool of yarn and crochet needles. I didn’t want to wait a month for the next class so I managed to find a few great instructional videos on YouTube. Hey, I can crochet now! It’s not the hardest thing to do but I was still proud of myself for being self-taught and wanted to get as much practice. I perused Pinterest for I know hours pinning Crochet patterns and projects I was eager to take on once I skill level improved. Lo and behold, I stumbled across a Pin courtesy of Rescued Paw Designs of a really easy chained feather crochet bracelet. I remembered the prayer bracelet that Loni Love received from Tamera Mowry’s mother and how special that gift was to her. Her grandmother started a tradition of buying red yarn and praying over it before passing it along to given recipient. How beautiful I thought? I set out on a hunt to find a prayer bracelet and was given the idea to make my own. Hence the timing of this Pin was incredible.


The first 35 bracelets for our #ShareandSpreadlove movement.

As one of our #ShareandSpreadlove projects I have decided to make a ridiculous amount of bracelets for my immediate and extended family. The ones that I have created for my immediate family and my children’s teachers are adorned with the feather charms. As we shopped for charms in Michael’s I decided to stick with the feather because I thought this was a good representation of being the wind beneath one’s wings’ as we all are the wind beneath each other’s wings. As parents, family, friends and even teachers – we all play a part in helping our family soar to new heights. Each day after I drop my children off at school I say a prayer for them, their teachers and their entire school community. The bracelet is a representation of my prayers each day for them and our community.

I opted to do bracelets in multiple colors including red, off white and then multi-colored yarn. There are 16 bracelets with charms and the rest don’t have them. I haven’t decided how many bracelets I intend to make so I’m going to crochet until my fingers fall off. I’m hoping to have enough bracelets to share and spread love to the rest of the teachers, administration and staff at my children’s school on Valentine’s Day along with a tasty inexpensive treat (suggestions welcome). This is a small token of my husband and my appreciation for all the love, time, work and support they invest in our children. I’m so blessed and honored that my children are able to attend a fantastic accredited public school! Every day my kids are eager to go to school and want to learn and that’s because of the environment that the great folk at Harvie Elementary are fostering. Every day I feel at ease knowing my children are in their care and if there was more that I could do to show my gratitude I would. I hope this gesture is received well with all of the love, protection and blessing that I intend it to bring.

I also hope that this inspires others to share and spread love with the people they love and appreciate the most, or even people they don’t know. I’m so excited for Valentine’s Day because I truly hope they all like what we’ve come up with and truly feel the measure of our hearts and gratitude.

Check back later this week for a full write-up and hopefully pictures of how it all pieced together. I’ve got to get back to crocheting, cooking and I can’t forget loving… I’ve got a new “Debunking the Recipe” post coming soon. Today I’m planning to make a 3 layer blue drip cake in honor of my son Cassius who favorite color is blue. His teacher blessed me with the best news this week when she informed me that my son had progressed from reading level E to N very quickly. He has been a reading beaver and he loves cake and the color blue, so I’m praying that my baking game is on point today because I can’t wait to see the look on his face when it’s done. I’m also cooking up a Beef Chuck pot roast and some vegetables too. Have a blessed Sunday and week!

And don’t forget to check back because there are definitely great things in store for the Very Pleasant Life crew. In case you didn’t know, it’s 3 days till Valentine’s Day, there’s still plenty of time to shop or craft your loved ones tokens of your love. My babies had a great time working in the “Love Lab” preparing the Valentines for their loved ones.  I even let them eat some of the extra candy!! Does your family have Valentine’s Day traditions or plans? Let me know and give me some ideas in the comments. If you’re lacking ideas head on over to Pinterest now! Of course my completed projects are under my She Tried It board.  Thanks for stopping by!

Be Blessed,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4

Quincy Jones Interview on Vulture.com

YouTube – You Can Find a Video to Teach You Anything

Michael’s Stores – Check for Coupons 1st or Download the AppTamera Mowry Explains The Significance of the Red Bracelet

Pinterest – It’s More Than an App