Tag Archives: life

Life in Full Bloom this Month

May, a month many of us look forward to for our own reasons…maybe you welcome the change in climate, the holidays we celebrate (Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Teacher Appreciation, Memorial Day, etc.) or maybe it represents something else for you. The rainy blah of April welcomes an exciting and expectant month of May and so far this month has not disappointed one bit!

I had planned to do a Cinco de Mayo inspired spread of delicious foods instead I was whisked away to Grand National Harbor for a romantic getaway by my husband. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend my Saturday night and Cinco De Mayo. We had a beautiful night, a classy and swanky, Voltaggio Brothers Steak House set the ambiance and back drop for a night to remember. The food was pricey but well worth it. My husband’s steak was huge and so tender it didn’t need a knife, I had the crab cake that was mostly crab – that was baked in a metal tin to keep it together. The wait staff made the experience that much better. They made you feel like VIP for the bread you spend.

Our stay in Oxon Hill, Maryland was the best kickoff for a month that has been blossoming into one surprise after the other. We look forward to going back and rekindling our romance right where we left off. If the Grand Harbor is booked, Harborside is literally right around the corner and it was a hit at a great price. Of course it wouldn’t be a trip if we didn’t stop at Potomac Mills Shopping Mall on the way back home. I’ve got one word for you – Deals! There were so many deals, I promise you there is something for everybody in that mall. I even got the chance to make a Unicorn for my daughter at the Build -a- Bear store. That was truly one of the cutest experiences I’ve ever encountered…the care and sentiment they put into crafting your child’s keepsake is out of this world. I ended up making a purple unicorn that smells like cupcakes with a colorful tutu. By the time we had shopped, we were ready to drop, and see our babies.

The week ahead would prove to be a busy one as usual. Teacher Appreciation Week had been on my calendar for months and of course my surprise trip threw me off a little bit. Monday I woke up ill prepared for teacher appreciation and headed straight to the store once I dropped the kids off at school. I had no solid plan but I knew I wanted to send them something daily. I found white paper lunch bags, grabbed some snacks, and drinks. Each day they received a different snack or treat bag and on Friday I sent in school supplies per the schools’ request. Mind you, I have three children in elementary school, and 1 of them has 2 teachers so that was a total of 4 bags each day. The first day I let the kids draw pictures on the bags, another day I found a poem that  I taped to each bag. I tried to make each teacher’s bag as individual and unique as they are. I wish I had taken pictures but it was one of those weeks that I feel lucky that it got done, even if their isn’t a picture to capture the memory. What I do have? Thoughtful messages and thank you cards from my children’s teachers and those I certainly intend to keep. Shout out to the hardworking teachers and staff at Harvie Elementary School! Special thanks to our former teachers Mrs. Bradford and Mrs Raymond. Super special thanks to our current teachers Ms. Dowell, Ms. Brown, Mrs. Brooks-Giles and Mrs. Purnell, all beautiful ladies, inside and out!

With Teacher Appreciation Week out-of-the-way, a full week of activities that now includes basketball practice for the boys at two different schools twice a week. I was happy to return to my norm and happy place in my kitchen, and who would’ve thought that I would have cooked a complete meal on a Friday night? Fridays’ are typically a fast food type of night or a DIY type of meal – meaning it’s everyone for themselves. Yes, my younger kids can make their own food as long as it’s in the microwave or fresh. My oldest son is a Sous Chef in training, so his privileges and skill in the kitchen are a little more advanced. He even has his own apron. The specialty of this Friday, the 11th was southern fried whiting, macaroni and cheese, collard greens with smoked pork neckbones and Jiffy cornbread. My Friday night dinner turned out great. The fish was crispy and flavorful from the Creole seasoning I added to the fish coating. The macaroni and cheese was creamy and gooey. The collard greens were seasoned perfectly, you could taste a hint of the apple cider vinegar and the red pepper flake. The cornbread was moist and cake like from the vanilla extract that I added to the mixture of Jiffy Mix, egg and milk.

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Southern Fried Whiting, Macaroni and Cheese, Collard Greens with Smoked Pork Neckbones and Cornbread

One thing I had done was properly prepare for Mother’s Day as I had been picking up gifts and cards for the past month or so. So I was smooth sailing as Mother’s Day approached and only needed to pick up a couple of things to complete my shopping. The only other thing that was of importance to me was to make sure I paid homage to one of the best mothers I’ve ever known, my Granny. Visiting her grave is always an emotional thing for me. Even though I don’t want to cry when I get out there, I always end up sobbing by the time I’m driving off. I miss her a lot. I knew she would appreciate the yellow roses I added to her headstone. On this particular day it was only my daughter with me, she watched me closely as I cleaned up my grandmother’s plot. I removed the old flowers and brushed the dust off with my hands. I kissed the top of the headstone as if she could feel it in heaven and then I had to leave because it was too hot to be standing out in the cemetery crying, and my daughter was visibly confused by my tears.

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Beautiful yellow roses for my Granny, Mrs. Viola Chambers.

Leaving the cemetery left us hot and sweaty,  and the kids needed something to do. I don’t know what I was thinking but I decided to take them to the splash park in my area. 60 minutes was all I could stand but I’m nobodies fool, I put my bathing suit and shorts on too. There was no way I was going to sit out in that heat and sun without indulging in the cool refreshing water play.

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Fun at the Splash Park with the Youngest Bambino’s.

By the next day – Mother’s Day I was worn from the busy week, when my husband asked what I wanted to do that day my response was simple, “absolutely nothing”. And nothing was what I did that day from the comfort of my bed. I caught up on much-needed beauty sleep and chillaxed catching up on missed shows like “The Last O.G.”. I gorged myself on the 30lb bag of Haribo Gummy Bears I was gifted by my family, a Wendy’s single with bacon combo and brown liquor, lol (Shout out to Loni Love – that brown liquor is the truth). As Ice Cube said, “it was a good day” and there is nothing that I would change about it. What do you get the Mom who truly has it all? Flowers galore, a new cellphone and 30lbs of Gummy Bears (I might be exaggerating a tad but I promise you we are still eating the same bag of Gummy Bears). Even though I wasn’t expecting or in need of anything, I was very delighted by my husband and children’s thoughtfulness.

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Mother’s Day proved to be relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time and rightfully so, I had another jam-packed week coming up with more wonderful delights blooming each day. I woke up first thing Monday morning to be reminded that I had “Muffins with Mom” at the school with the kids. I made it to the school fashionably on time and enjoyed some time with my babies eating pastries. It was a great turnout! There were so many moms, grandmas’, and mother figures – I had to park behind the school and walk around the building. I appreciate their school taking time to recognize us Moms and the roles that we play in our homes and children’s lives.

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A selfie at Muffins with Mom.

I can’t remember how long but maybe a couple of months ago I wrote nominations for each of my children’s teacher’s for Henrico County Public Schools “Heart of Henrico” Contest that recognizes Henrico County employees who demonstrate the heart of our great county. Lo and behold one of my nominations was selected for my son King’s 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Brooks-Giles. As a result Mrs. Brooks-Giles and her entire class would be recorded one day at the school, and on a separate day I would be recorded at my home. Wow, my first filming in years. I can’t remember the last time I was actually recorded but my last notable appearance was in an Arthur Ashe documentary on HBO back in the day. Yes, I am on film being instructed how to hit the tennis ball by the late, tennis great, Arthur Ashe. So anything in between then and now was small beans. I wanted to look good for my new debut to television so I went on the search for a Loctician to hook a sister up. Thank God my search engine took me to Natural Beauty Salon & Spa where I submitted my appointment online late Monday night. Tuesday morning my appointment was confirmed, and before I knew it Mrs. Alecia had me washed, re-twisted and styled. I was ready.

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These locs have been slayed!

     Wednesday morning was a blur, my allergies had kicked my butt and was wreaking havoc on me. The film crew arrived on time but I needed 30 more minutes to let my allergy medicine fully kick in. I couldn’t be on camera sneezing and snotting all over the place. That would definitely not be a good look. With my house in order, the refreshments laid out, and my allergy medicine working I was ready when Mr. Gill and his associate showed back up 30 minutes later. “Always be prepared” is the girl scout motto or at least it was when I was a Brownie Scout. That lesson has stuck with me my whole life, even when I decided the last-minute to cut my grass the Tuesday before. Thank God I did. We had cleaned my house from top to bottom (okay the main floor and the basement/den floor) to prepare for the filming. You can imagine my surprise when they suggested filming outdoors to change-up their normal scenery…inside the schools. I smiled as I thought about all the tidying and straightening up that we had done in preparing of the recording. Still, the yard looked great due to the last-minute cut, and the recording went smoothly. He asked me a few questions, and had me say a couple of lines. I was officially a STAR!

The next day King and his class would be recording their segment of the video and he couldn’t have been happier. Even though it had been raining cats and dogs for days their smiles that Thursday en route to school was as bright as the shining sun. King looked good. He was ready for his debut too.

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We lucked out and was able to finish our week off on a high note. The kids got Little Caesar’s pizza for dinner and I treated the older folks to one of my favorite dishes…Old Charleston Style Shrimp and Grits compliments of allrecipes. This time I used bags of small shrimp and andouille sausage that I had on hand in my deep freezer. It came out spot on point. The Shrimp and Sausage gravy was comforting and sumptuous. The grits were creamy and cheesy at the same time. Together in a bowl – it was heaven on earth. Yet as good as it was, it’s all gone. My husband  demolished most of it overnight. I woke up to one bowl left so needless to say that was my breakfast of champions.

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Old Charleston Shrimp and Grits with French Bread

A distant memory is all that remains of the Shrimp and Grits but it’s okay because I’ve moved on in my heart and kitchen. I am on the cusp of finishing yet another meal – this time – pulled pork, potato salad and collard greens. The pork is done. The greens are almost done and the minute I get up from finishing this blog post I can finish the potato salad.

In the meantime I hope you will sign on to follow my journey – there are lots of great things to look forward to and I can’t wait to share it all with you in hopes that you too are finding new ways to enjoy and live your most pleasant life each day. I’ve got a 10 part post series promoting Self-Care, Health & Wellness coming up that I can’t wait to share with you all. I’m working on a book review, and some other well thought out ideas that I hope you guys find refreshing, helpful or at the very least entertaining. Till next time!

Peace, love and fish grease!

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

#TeacherAppreciationWeek

#HeartofHenrico

#MothersDay2018

#AllRecipes

#FishFry

#Shrimp&Grits

 

 

 

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Baked Alaska and a Lesson in Lawn Maintenance and Life

I’m not even going to waste time and look at the date of my last blog post. It’s going to make me disappointed in myself temporarily and ultimately dampen my good mood. So on with the good stuff, this blog post is going to be jam-packed with lots of good stuff so let me not waste your time either!

I haven’t had the chance to cook that much in the last week because it was one of those weeks. If you have kids and a busy schedule, sometimes you have a period of time where it feels like all you’re doing is moving. In and out the house all day, every day for multiple days in a row. The day-to-day life of the daily grind Monday through Friday is already exhausting but add appointments, extracurricular activities, repairs, school activities and the extra stuff that you don’t do each day and you can find yourself winded by the time it’s all said and done. Actually the last two weeks have been like this, now that I think about it. The Baked Alaska I’ll be sharing today was made on Monday, April 16th as the second cake for my oldest son’s 14th birthday.

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A shot of the birthday table before I made the fruit salad, lol

His first cake was a store brought 1/2 sheet cake with half yellow cake and half devil’s food chocolate with whipped icing. The second cake was my first Baked Alaska. After being given the idea by one of my sons’ dentist I decided that it would definitely be a good recipe to try. It looked complicated once I realized what a Baked Alaska was. I think I confused it with Baked Apples, I dunno.

So now since I knew what Baked Alaska consisted of, I found that there were many flavor variations that could be used to construct the cake. First you should know what Baked Alaska is in case you don’t. It’s a cake that has been topped with ice cream and browned meringue according to Wikipedia’s definition that popped up in my Google search. With that being said, the possibilities are endless when it comes to what direction you choose to go in. This was also the perfect cake for my son because like a Baked Alaska he is sweet and cool. He has many layers to him just like the cake I dreamed up and I love that the most about him and the young man he is growing into. My son loves Brownies so I decided to make the cake layer 2 layers of Brownie. The Ice cream layer was a first layer of cookies and cream ice cream and a second layer of caramel ice cream. The Meringue covered it and encased it a fluffy covering that encased the ice cream and brownies.

I decided to short cut the brownies for the first layer by using a box brand mix from the grocery store. The instructions were pretty straight forward – I bought disposable cake pans because I didn’t want a ton of dishes in the sink afterwards. I sprayed my pans with Baking Spray and then mixed together the brownie batter. The brownie batter was then poured into the cake pans. At that point I realized that I should have just made 1 layer of brownie as the second pan was barely enough to call it an actual layer but I went ahead because I didn’t want to pour that batter into the other pan since it had the baking spay in the pan too. It might not have changed the brownie batter but at the same time I didn’t want to risk it. I wouldn’t have time to fix it and have it ready to eat on his birthday. I just made a mental note to check the brownie layers as the smaller layer would cook faster.

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The finished brownie layers.

The first brownie layer was perfect brownie texture, the second was a thin almost cookie like version of the brownie. I shuttered for a moment and kept moving. It was too late to turn back now. During the brownie baking I put together the ice cream layer. First I lined a plastic bowl with several layers of plastic wrap making sure to leave enough hanging over the bowl to pull the ice cream out once frozen. Next I scooped the thawed ice creams into the bowl and wrapped it closed before freezing it again.

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Before making my meringue I assembled the brownie layers on the bottom and then put the ice cream dome on top before wrapping it all together in the plastic wrap. The recipe I used to guide me cut the excess ice cream or cake off. I hate waste so I just used my hands to mold the ice cream in shape with the brownie layers, re-wrapped it and returned it to the freezer.

In most of my research the meringue is assembled over a double boiler however the recipe that I used did not. So I separated my eggs, putting the whites in a bowl with the cream of tartar. I used my hand mixer to beat the egg whites and tartar for so long that my arm started to hurt. When I saw the peaks beginning to form, I got excited and stuck my (clean) finger in the foam and then I unknowingly licked my finger. Gross! There was no sugar in that yet so that was totally disgusting. Back on track I added in the remaining ingredients and continued to beat it together. Truly I’m positive my meringue was still a little lacking but I would have to play around with this recipe another time to troubleshoot what might have gone awry.  With the meringue to my satisfaction I removed the frozen layers and unwrapped it on top of a cake stand. I did this all very fast as the kids were done eating and anxiously awaiting the second cake – the nerve of these kids right?

Next I began spreading the meringue all over the dome until it was completely covered. Of course my torch lighter was low on fluid and it would have given me that perfectly browned look I was going for. Even putting it in the oven on Broil didn’t give it the browning I was looking for. My last resort was my husband’s torch lighter that allowed me to just touch a few spots. I was done and it was time to serve the Baked Alaska Brownie treat up.

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The finished Baked Alaska.     

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A slice of the Birthday Boy’s second cake.

The Baked Alaska was a hit. It was absolutely scrumptious. The brownie layers complemented the other, the soft chewy one made the crispy one just as good. I’m glad I opted to use two flavors of ice cream. The caramel was smooth and rich – the cookies and cream was sweet with bits of cookie. The meringue was light and salty. (Not sure if I goofed or if this was mixing issues) Even the salt was good, with all the sweet it was just enough to tie it all together. Everybody loved the cake! My sons friends and some random kids devoured the whole cake and poof, in an instant it was gone. My son graciously thanked me for the cake and his great birthday party with a great hug. I was pleased all around. Though I had some issues, baking and otherwise (the first laptop I bought hours prior had a screen issue), it still turned out to be a great day and that’s all that I care about…the people I love knowing that they mean the most to me and them showing them how.

With my sons’ birthday behind me I had a quick moment to tighten up the backyard. So I pulled out my trusty Weedeater by Briggs & Stratton and prepared to do a quick cutting of the grass. To my disbelief and horror my lawn mower failed to start repeatedly. I checked everything. It had oil. It had gas. I moved it to a flatter location, primed and pulled the cord – still nothing. My heart began to sink. Yes I said it, my dead lawn more made me sad. One I like for my stuff to work and be operational especially when I need it but then I hate having to replace things or have them fixed. People aren’t honest or do the best work these days so nine times out of ten I would just buy another one. I’m too crafty and handy for that and my husband sparked my interest when he said that I might need a new spark plug. To YouTube I went in search of lawn maintenance videos. I did my research and found out what parts I needed and how to do the tune up to my lawn mower. I picked up the items over the next day or so, I think I found everything at Wal-Mart which was great because I feel like I live in Wal-Mart sometimes.

Yesterday, armed with my oil and spark plugs (I bought two different ones because I wasn’t 100% sure), the toolbox and my lawn mower I proceeded to perform the tune up. I needed a torque wrench though and I couldn’t find it. I’m certain we had one but I was at a standstill if I couldn’t change the spark plug. By the time I rounded my house a second time, checked our pick up truck and then re-checked the closet I still hadn’t found it. Something just said, “Tameka try to start the lawn mower up.” I did and it started right up just like it usually did. I let it go, and started it again, and it roared back on. Yay, I shrieked in victory. I ran inside, changed shoes and got back to my working lawn mower.

Yeah I know you were hoping for maybe more detailed instructions but in general good maintenance on your lawnmower is changing your oil and air filter (if you have one) and changing your spark plug. Some videos suggest cleaning the carburetor too. Surprisingly all of these tasks are fairly simple with the right tools. Also FYI, I believe you can borrow tools from AutoZone which I will keep in mind when I do have to actually change the spark plug.

The life lesson in this whole thing, don’t let anything get in your way of getting something done. I just walked away from my lawnmower for a couple of days and then it started working again. Moral: It wasn’t as bad as I originally thought it was. What else in your life can you apply that too? I don’t know but it was a simple moment that made a big impact and yet I am all the better because when my lawn mower does need maintenance I have broken the cycle of repair or replace. I instead can resolve on my own first, or at least try to. If by some chance that doesnt’ work, I’ll go back to replace or the repairman.

Happy Friday folk!

Be blessed and be a blessing!

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4…Tameka

#AHappy14thBirthday

#BakedAlaska

#Wikipedia

#AMothersLuv

#LawnMaintenance

#Briggs&Stratton

#LifeLesson

 

And let us not forget…love

So the other night I was sharing with my husband my small victories that I have been experiencing since the unofficial relaunching of my blog this year and he was under the impression that my blog was solely about food. He was right though, that’s the impression I probably even have been giving you all that have been swinging by to check something out. The truth is that yes this blog is heavily influenced by food and cooking as that is a major part of my life, but if you look at my title it clearly says – averypleasantlife – Pleasants being my last name, there was a time when people would compliment me that I was my last name. That meant a lot to me because I feel that reflected where I was in my walk with the Lord and how I was feeling on a day-to-day basis. It was that “pleasant”  attitude and demeanor that I have seen take me through various triumphs and tragedies in my life.

I am an artist by gift but I am an analyst by trade. Since working in corporate I have adopted an analytical side that I apply to life every day. I encounter so many issues and challenges on a daily basis that it gets easy to get overwhelmed by it all. I know because I’ve been there too many times. Once I was able to shed whatever apprehension or dismay I was feeling I was able to kick into gear by looking at the problem or challenge for what it was. Then I’d try to figure out what’s the solution. Often times there is the best solution, and then the highly thought out alternatives. I always try to keep a Plan B thru Plan T in the holster. Some things may take that many times to correct, resolve or even master. Once a solution has been outlined, then it’s time to execute and facilitate the plan. This is a small look into my thought process these days when problems rear their ugly heads. I never thought about it until now but my last position at SunTrust Mortgage was actually role titled a Solution Specialist and that is actually what I still am. As an Entrepreneur, Mother, Wife and now Blogger I specialize in coming up with solutions for my family and hopefully yours too.

A Very Pleasant Life is more than a lifestyle blog, it’s the future community of like-minded people who loves, supports, takes care of, cooks for, combs hair of, works for a living, runs their own business, has goals, has family dinners, dreams, runs into obstacles, has questions, or is just looking to expose themself to something slightly different from a lot of what is out right now. I love helping people. Then there are the times that I need help or guidance too. I love sharing information and connecting people to good – positive information. Pleasant for me means positive. Though I have a lot of sarcasm and even vulgarity at times, I  also know class, professionalism and integrity. I’m not all of one thing but a whole lot of everything and with that being said, there’s not enough positivity being promoted in the world daily so, A Very Pleasant Life is a small contribution to the general good for mankind. I have four children that I love and because I love them, I love you all and your children as well. It’s important to me that the message of love is spread by me and my family as often as possible.  (Disclaimer: I am not perfect!) Plus it just makes me feel better about myself and the future if I know I’m putting out positivity as much as I can versus the alternative.

So yes – there you have it! A Very Pleasant Life is a lifestyle community for us all right? I love taking care of my family – that means there will be more family oriented posts  and updates coming. I love crafting with my children – that means there will be more craft related posts and updates. I love planning events and doing things with my family – that means there are going to be opportunities to engage and fellowship offline in our local communities. I love eating and cooking – that means there will continue to be food and cooking related posts and updates. I love sharing information and helping people stay informed – that means that there will be more opportunities to exchange and promote the things that are important to each one of us. I love talking – that means there will be open dialogue for people to truly connect and grow.

I feel like I’m finally truly learning what to do and how to do it, I hope that you will be informed, enlightened or excited by the things being published on this blog and look forward to having you feel connected to our community – A Very Pleasant Life.

IMG_20180201_082249.jpgP.S. Earlier this month I posted a #ShareandSpreadLove challenge that my family are personally spearheading. We have started making greeting cards to send to children in Pediatric Hospitals. I’ve been trying to expand on that idea and have decided to make some cool crafts and delicious cakes to surprise some of our Seniors with. I haven’t figured out quite where to go but if you know a group or organization, or even a loved one that you think could use a special display of love this month? Drop me a line in the comments and I’d love to see what we can do!

 

#shareandspreadlove

#averypleasantlife

#thegreatestofthemallislove

 

Peace and Blessings,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4