My Favorite Things (this week) Vol. 3

My Favorite Things (this week) is a fun way to share the little, big, amusing, beautiful, interesting, and sometimes just plain helpful things that I run across each week. There’s no formula to the pickin’. Just random things that make me smile. And smiles are made to be shared. See more Favorite Things here.

1. Personalized Baby Block from Craft-E-Family

This nifty little block was given to Kate as a gift when she was born. I think it’s such a cool keepsake, featuring all sorts of information on each side: her birth stats, place of birth, first initial, who the gift is from, etc. Plus, it’s a classy little decor piece for her baby nursery. Love it.

2. Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

We probably eat these on average, once a week. The perfect compliment to grilled chicken, meatloaf or burgers, these sweet potato fries are easy, fresh, delicious and healthy. For an added treat, you can top them with brown sugar and salt fresh from the oven – but I prefer just a bit of sea salt for a more natural flavor. I used to peel sweet potatoes, cut them up and make them myself, but once I found these jewels, I’ll never go back. Yum!

3. This sweet boy.

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=fu342LPmm0k]

I fell in love with him this week during American Idol. What a cute little sweet pie! He made his mama proud and his voice is like an angel.

4. This commercial.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4Fy3WGPzT0]

It just made me happy. What can I say.

5. And just in case you didn’t see them the first time, these Peanut Butter Blossoms.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

*Note: See all my “Sweet Saturday” posts here.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Peanut Butter Blossom cookies. There’s just something about a soft, sugar-sprinkled, peanut butter cookie with a half-melted Hershey’s kiss in the middle. I haven’t found a good recipe for them in awhile – and until today, I haven’t had a good one on file. Past recipes have resulted in blah cookies that aren’t soft or fluffy enough. Or the flavor was too bland or not peanut buttery enough for my taste. But I’ve finally doctored one to my liking.

I think you’ll like it, too.

Here’s my Sweet Saturday Peanut Butter Blossom recipe:

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup Land O Lakes® Salted Butter
Heaping 3/4 cup of JIF® Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Bowl of sugar (for rolling dough)
24 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Cream together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Beat well.

3. Stir together flour and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until stiff dough forms.

4. Shape into 2-inch balls. Roll in sugar and don’t be stingy. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

 

 

5. Bake for 9 minutes and check on them. If any part of the cookie is slightly light brown, remove from oven.

6. Top each cookie immediately with an unwrapped Hershey’s kiss, pressing down firmly so that cookie cracks around edge. Remove from cookie sheets to cool.

 

 

7. Enjoy with cold milk in a fancy glass. The fancy glass part is important.

 

Nonsense makes sense

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, which is what I do. And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” – Dr. Seuss

One of the harsh realities of adulthood is just that: reality. We realize that things are not always perfect. That people don’t always kiss and make up. That the world, though beautiful, has patches of darkness.

The reality and responsibility that come with growing up can jade us, squelch our creativity – and put us in a restless rut. But I have a theory: when the world doesn’t make sense, perhaps we need a little more nonsense. More play. More fantasy that breaks us from our usual routines and lets us look at life in a different light. This kind of thinking not only makes for more joyful moments, but it allows us to – as the good doctor quotes above – “laugh at life’s realities.” It enables us to find fun in the not-so-fun and colors in the grays.

A small example: My good friend, Dave, was washing dishes the other night. Instead of dreading the chore or resenting his (very pregnant) wife with her feet up on the couch – he indulged in a moment of nonsense.

“If this scrub brush was alive (ala Toy Story),” he pondered, “what would be it’s favorite thing to clean?”

He continued,  “Probably the cups used for hot chocolate with marshmallows, since you always get that crusty chocolate/marshmallow mix around the rim.” And suddenly, there was a little magic in the mundane.

The thought isn’t new. Making games out of chores and lemons out of lemonade is an age-old concept – but it’s the young-aged that are best at it. Which is why I’m about to scoop up my 2-year old and have him help me make nonsense out of laundry.

Small, precious things

Sunlight on toes…

And whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles

And sweet Hershey’s Kisses

Brown sugar cereal

And coffee with cream

These are a few of my favorite things…

Tots in white diapers

And blue cotton sheets

Toddler eyelashes that look oh-so-sweet

Warm Texas winters that feel just like Spring

These are a few of my favorite things…

When the dog farts,

When the litterbox stinks,

When my hair looks bad,

I simply remember my favorite things…

And thank God for all I have.

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God.” Thessalonians 5:18

The practice of creativity

I work in a creative field in the “creative” department. By trade, I fit in an artistic box – which allows any eccentricity on my part to be completely socially accepted. But what I’ve always found strange is the thought that there are those who are creative and those who are not. That life is an awkward 7th grade school dance, where the artists sit on one side of the brain – and the analytical types sit on the other side, divided into neat little spaces by natural gifts and talents (each side enjoying their Fun Dip and Cherry Coke, of course). Sure, I believe we are each born with a specific set of God-given gifts – but creativity is so much more than a specific talent. It is the ability to create something original, unique, inspiring and powerful with your specific talents.

And the funny thing? As children, we are all naturally creative. We are all “artists.”

In this interesting talk by Sir Ken Robinson, he notes:

“[Kids] aren’t frightened of being wrong. Now I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative, but what we do know is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong… Picasso once said that we are all born artists. The problem is to remain an artist when we grow up. I believe this passionately: we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.”

His words echo my sentiment. Creativity is not something you’re born with – but more importantly, something you hold on to. It is courage, sillyness and the simple confidence of being OK if people think you’re weird. Nothing stifles creativity more than insecurity. Children are the most creative creatures alive because they don’t know to care about what other people think. Their lives revolve around imagination because nobody has told them otherwise.

This inhibition – this carefree whimsy – is what allows us to see foxes in the sky.

It’s what lets us create oceans out of bedsheets on our livingroom floor.

It is what allows us to build majestic cathedrals out of bricks… and graham crackers.

It is what inspires us to play and make-believe and daydream.

So often, we think that the most creative things are the ones we don’t “get.” As if being especially bizarre  to the point of becoming abstruse is what defines true creativity – a skill reserved only for the artistic elite.  And so, the “normal” folks – the laundry-doing moms and 9-5 dads and high school math geeks – leave the “creativity” to the true artists with colorful hair and body piercings. But the truth is, all of us are capable of profound creativity if we allow it.

We may not all be eloquent wordsmiths or master painters. We may not all be able to write beautiful symphonies or choreograph elaborate theater productions. But in our own way, woven deeply into our unique talents, we were all given the innate ability to create something profound – something that, small or big, could change the world.

When I was in 3rd grade, I could do incredible cartwheels. I would run with reckless abandon across the freshly watered grass in barefeet, launching myself through the air, and landing fearlessly onto my soft little palms. That loss of control between launching and landing was exhilarating. For not a second did I think about the possibility of falling. Or how awkward I may look. Or if I would sprain something. But now, I really stink at doing cartwheels. They are uncomfortable and cumbersome — and in the rare times that I’ve even tried to do them in my adult life, I’ve chickened out mid-launch. This is how I think many people feel about creativity. As a child, it came natural. But now, it just feels uncomfortable.

But unlike cartwheels, we were made to create. If only we can simply channel our 3rd grade selves…

The small people with big imaginations who run full-on across the fresh-watered grass, throw up their hands… and launch fearlessly into the sky.