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The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Copycat Cooking!

If you’re at all like me and my husband, you have those beloved dishes at your favorite restaurants that you’d like to try and figure out the ingredients used so you can go home and replicate them.

The Cookbook Challenge!
Today’s entry in the cookbook challenge series features an easy Queso recipe from the latest cookbook by the popular Six Sister’s franchise, called, Copycat Cooking, that is dedicated to some of our favorite restaurant meals.The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

The Utah based Adamson sisters started their blog “Six Sister’s Stuff”, as a way for them to keep in touch as they got older and moved away from each other.  Their family favorite recipes, crafts and DIY projects are featured in many beautiful books and are best known for being easy, affordable and fun!  

I discovered the Six Sister’s Copycat Cooking cookbook when their easy recipes for hors d’ oeuvres, including this Chili’s Skillet Queso Dip, was featured during the food segment on a local morning, lifestyle television show.  Since we’re heading into the busy holiday entertaining season, I thought this cookbook might be a good one to have on hand…and believe me, the few recipes I’ve tried do not disappoint!

The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

Put in a can of diced tomatoes with mild chiles for a nice added flavor to this dip.

The Cookbook Challege! Copycat Cooking!

I use half the Velveeta and a cup each of grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese.

The Cookbook Challenge! Copycat Cooking!

Serve with chips for a great party appetizer or weekend movie/game night snack.

Chili’s Copycat Queso Dip!

Wallah–there you have it…so good!

You can find a couple of other restaurant recipe adaptations my creative hubby concocted here and here.

Life is Delicious quote.

“Enjoy your life and the great pleasures that come with it!”  Karolina Kurkova 

Do you have any favorite restaurant menu items that you’d like to replicate at home?

–Bon Appetit!  Mary

Social Media Savvy And Safety For All Generations!

Social Media Savvy And Safety!

Like it or not, our society is heavily impacted by social media.  While those of my generation may long to see our younger counterparts build the mainstay of their relationships from friendships formed at work, school or church…like we did back in the day…there’s a lot to be said for the positive aspects of the ever mounting popularity of cyberspace–as long as we continually educate ourselves on using it wisely, that is, and protecting ourselves against the negative effects it can have on our lives–no matter our age!

Social media balance.

“Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master!”  Christian Lange

I don’t think it is news to anyone that the world wide web is a place where a lot of information, chances for social interaction, and entertainment are easily found.  Technology has also revolutionized the workplace–where often showing up for work simply means grabbing your laptop off your bedside table and working from the comforts of your home.  Virtual entertainment has quickly become the “go-to” for anyone wanting to play games or watch videos.  Online instructions have also become a fairly reputable resource for a wide range of lessons from simple household DIY’s to classes in cross-fit training.  But all this aside…it still takes a certain amount of savvy to navigate the internet safely and balance it properly in our lives so we don’t let it waste valuable time.  Certainly, nothing should ever replace the meaningful impact of reaching out personally to sustain valuable relationships with those who make life so fulfilling and worthwhile!

Maxine computer cartoon.

Bridging The Computer Literacy Gap!

While it may be true that tech developers tend to mostly target the younger population with their campaign ads, current research from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is quick to point out that the older generation isn’t as apathetic or fearful of current computer trends as once believed.  In fact, they report that since 2009 there has been a steady rise in the number of people 65 years of age and older who regularly use email and Skype to communicate with family members, and nearly 70% now use social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to stay informed about job news and health information.  Many seniors are finding that they feel less isolated by being able to connect with the outside world via the internet.  Computer games have also been found to be very beneficial in improving the memories and sequencing abilities of elderly people.  I guess if you can’t beat ’em–you might as well join ’em…right?!
CS Lewis quote.

Insights From An Expert!

For further, more in-depth insight on this subject, I’ve turned to someone I consider an expert in the field of computers…in fact, my friend, Leslie, actually holds the title of School Technology Specialist in our local school district–not only is she a computer wizard extraordinaire, she currently oversees the internet use and safety of over 100 staff members and 1,500 students…so obviously she is very qualified to address this topic.  Leslie is quick to point out that despite your age and level of computer competency, there are certain internet rules and behaviors that apply across the board.

While Leslie admits that it may seem a bit intimidating to keep pace with the ever accelerating pace of all the innovative technology tools available to us, she maintains that social media is a force to be reckoned with and has become an integral part of our daily habits and the preferred means to communicate and share our lives with others.  “Used correctly, social media can be a great resource to uplift, inspire and improve someone’s day .”  

The Far Reaching Effect Of Social Media!   

In discussing the topic of social media, Leslie reminded me of the far reaching effect and positive influence that an online presence can afford each of us.

the-power-of-social-media-1-638

♦  Social media helps us engage with one another.  Sharing highlights of our lives can enhance and deepen our relationships with those who live far away.  Besides Facebook and Instagram, the more popular online forums for keeping in touch with family and friends, people also have the ability to set up a variety of private social media groups on every possible topic imaginable;  ie. virtual book clubs, current event discussion groups, neighborhood and school information boards, to name a few.

♦  Our internet participation has the power to educate and empower!  When using social media we might want to ask ourselves these questions:  “How can we use time spent on our devices to become more productive citizens?  How can we use social media to improve ourselves and our communities?   In contemplating these questions, we can’t help but come to realize that social media helps us better understand that we are global citizens, and we can learn to work together to solve world problems.

  Our online interactions give us a chance to encourage and uplift!  Social media tools give us the chance to stand for truth and goodness.  We can voice approval for causes and movements that uplift and edify.  Setting a positive example via the internet can help move the dialogue more towards decency and civility–which is so crucial in this day and age of seemingly endless negative online sparring.

♦  Social media has the power to amplify our voice on issues that affect our lives.  If we’re looking to expand and encourage the positive impact  of online interactions, we need to understand that the accounts that rise to the top and get the most exposure are the ones that get the most likes and shares.  We can help encourage goodness by supporting people who are using their social media outlets to encourage and inspire.
Have a voice online.

“Example, good or bad, has a powerful influence.”  George Washington

Social Media–A Cautionary Tale!

Leslie also admonishes that an important responsibility for each of us, as far as our online usage is concerned, is to continually educate ourselves and keep updated on the social, ethical and legal ramifications at stake as they relate to the ever evolving digital culture.

♦  Play it safe!  Remember that social media is a public domain, so as we maneuver our way along the internet information superhighway, protecting our personal information on the sites we use has become more important than ever before.  Most online platforms give you the option to share a great deal about yourself, however it doesn’t mean you need to fill them out.  Consider a general version of the information requested, for example…list only your state of residency rather than both city and state to make it harder for others to figure out exactly where you live.  Create strong passwords using a combination of words and numbers, upper and lowercase letters and specific characters that are easy for you to remember.  You might even want to keep a log of these passwords in a special journal that is not located by the devices you frequently use.  Another important factor to consider is the privacy settings on any social media outlet.  Take the time to explore these privacy guidelines and create a custom list of people who are allowed to view specific posts.

Being safe on the internet information freeway.

“Caution is the parent of safety.”   Proverb

Be aware that there are folks out there who are using social media for nefarious reasons, so be vigilant!  There are pieces of personal information that you should never, ever post.  These include your Social Security number, driver’s license, bank account information and your specific whereabouts.  Don’t make it easier for ill-meaning people to take advantage of you.

A few other cautionary safety points to take into consideration for all ages: block inappropriate websites, never talk to strangers, and beware of “free” offers…they can infect your computer with an online virus.  The best protection for online safety is having a decent internet security site that blocks unsafe links and checks every download for signs of malware.  (The computer specialist my husband employs suggests using a product like, Kaspersky Total Security or Spybot since they allow you the ability to monitor your whole network from your PC and adjust the security settings of each computer individually.)          

And finally, always log out from any device when you are finished using it–especially if it’s a public computer.  Log out of your private devices from time to time, as well, to ensure that other people can’t access your social profile to change personal settings or information, attack friends, or make slanderous comments to embarrass or harass you.  Sadly, this is more common than we’d like to realize in today’s society.

♦  Keep It Real!  No doubt about it, we live in a world that tends to tap into our competitive natures, which can lend itself to people wanting to embellish facts about themselves. When I was growing up, my parents often took the opportunity to say, “Remember who you are…and conduct yourself accordingly!”  This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow as individuals in real life–and project that online, but conducting ourselves one way in person and another way on the internet just seems disingenuous.  Besides, people are smart and eventually they catch on…then like the popular Aesop’s fable about the boy that cried wolf, eventually no one will believe anything you say!  This doesn’t mean you have to share all your warts, (however, it can be somewhat cathartic on occasion if done in good taste) but like the old adage goes, honesty is always the best policy!  And while we’re at it, let’s be each other’s cyber cheerleaders, sharing the love, so to speak, when others achieve a goal or work hard to jump one of life’s hard hurdles…in my opinion, that is when the online community is at its best!
Be real quote.As social media consumers, we also need to be engaged and check sources of information we read online, identifying falsehoods and misinformation.  In a recent interview, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said, “Some social media tools are unwisely used to divide people and manipulate them–to get fake news out to people in broad numbers, wrongly influencing their thinking based on nothing but made-up conjectures.” 

Social Meial Savvy and Safety For All Generations!

♦  Follow the “Golden Rule” of cyberspace.  Good behavior should be taught in our homes, and this applies to computer use too.  Decide as a family what rules you want applied to computer and social media use.  As adults we should emulate the kind of online behavior we want our children to have.  Here is a good rule of thumb for everyone to incorporate in their everyday internet conduct:
The golden rules of cyberspace. (Check out more do’s and don’t to a positive social media experience here.)

My husband, who is not a social media kind of guy, always cautioned our kids with this advice:
Be careful what you say online quote.Obviously, there are times and places that are appropriate for being online…we show our level of maturity and consideration by knowing when it’s time to unplug and be “present” in our daily lives!  My dad lived by the motto “moderation in all things” and perhaps in these modern times, there’s no area where we should apply this mindset more than in our daily internet habits!

Internet savvy cartoon..

“A computer screen limits your real life experiences!   John le Carre

I like the wisdom Leslie shared as she concluded her email to me on the role social media should play in our lives…

“We are more than capable of giving our internet use the proper priority it should take in our lives to avoid the easy distraction it can become from family, relationships and obligations.  It is important to keep a realistic perspective about social media.  Why let it have the power to have a negative impact on the way we feel about ourselves and the wonderful lives we lead.  Yes, we see friends posting pictures of great trips, lovely families, and beautiful lifestyles, and it makes it look like they have amazing lives every minute of every day.  We often forget that they are posting their highlight reels!”  

Perfectly said, Leslie.  Thanks so much for sharing your expertise on this important subject with us!

What are some ways you’ve found that help you strike a good balance with social media use in your lives? 

–Love, Mary 

Admirable Women! Clara Barton, A Pioneering Humanitarian!

Admirable Women!  Clara Barton, A Pioneering Humanitarian!

Considering the recent devastation from hurricane Florence that has wrecked havoc in North Carolina, where many have been evacuated from their homes and are being assisted by dedicated volunteers from many national agencies, including the Red Cross, it seems fitting to share the fascinating story behind the pioneering efforts of Clara Barton, the incredible woman behind the creation of the Red Cross in America, as the next installment in the admirable women series!

Admirable Women!

Clarissa Harlow Barton, known as Clara, is one of the most honored women in American history.  She began her illustrious career as a teacher, but found her true calling as a nurse tending to the wounded soldiers during the Civil War.  Her understanding of the ways she could provide help to people in distress guided her throughout her life.  She founded the American Red Cross in 1881 at the age of 59, and led it for the next 23 years.

Red Cross symbol.

“You must never think of anything but the need and how to meet it…..then God gives the strength and things that seem impossible are done!”  Clara Barton

Little did I know that being assigned to read the biography of Clara Barton in the 5th grade in preparation for a report on the far-reaching influence of this great woman in American history would eventually lead to influencing a career choice later in my life.  I became enthralled with the notion that a woman with foresight, compassion and perseverance could buck the “system” so to speak, and make a difference in the welfare of her fellow-man at their most desperate times of need!

Clara Barton biography.

“It irritates me to be told how things have always been done.  I defy the precedent of tyranny—I simply cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind.”  Clara Barton

The Powerful Influence Of Loving Parents!

Clara Barton was born December 25, 1921 in North Oxford, Massachusetts.  She was the youngest daughter of Stephen and Sarah Barton.  Her father was a prosperous farmer and a dedicated state law-maker who had fought in the American Revolutionary War.  Barton later recalled that his heroic wartime tales made patriotism and a willingness to serve familiar to her at an early age.  Her mother was an advocate of women’s rights and taught Clara that all people should be treated equally.  Despite her extreme shyness as a child, the strong examples of her parents taught Clara that she could achieve anything she set out to accomplish!

Vintage American flag.

“The patriotic blood of my father and firm convictions of my mother run warm in my veins and uplift my soul when tasks seem insurmountable!”  Clara Barton

Due to the insistence of her parents, Clara Barton, received the finest formal education available at the time; she excelled in reading and writing, and though still timid as a teenager, she became very well spoken.  Her mother suggested she put her gifts to work and become a teacher.  At age fifteen, Clara began teaching at nearby schools; some years later, she left to teach in Bordentown, New Jersey.  Families in Bordentown were required to pay for their children’s schooling, thus many children were unable to attend.  Young Clara Barton offered to teach without salary if the students who needed to could attend for free.  The local school board was skeptical of her ability to teach what they considered to be incorrigible students, but she succeeded and was a popular headmistress of the over 600 students who eventually enrolled.  When that same school board decided to appoint a male principal to preside over her, Clara resigned!

Equal pay for women quote by Clara Barton.

“I believe I must have been born believing in the equal rights of women to all the privileges and positions which nature and justice accord her.”   Clara Barton 

Realizing Her Life’s Purpose!

After teaching, Clara Barton worked in Washington, DC in the U.S. Patent Office as the first female to work for the Federal Government.  But she always had an inclination towards nursing after tending to her brother for several years as a young girl when he suffered head trauma while building a barn.  She learned to care for him and administer his medications from their family physician.  On his death-bed, Clara’s father gave her the advice to “seek and comfort the afflicted everywhere.”  When the Civil War broke out in 1861, after seeing pictures of wounded soldiers, many of whom were her former students, Clara felt a strong desire to help.

Young Clara Barton during the Civil War.

(via Clara Barton museum)

“I may be compelled to face danger, but I never fear it, so while brave soldiers can stand and fight…I can stand and feed and nurse them!  Clara Barton

Following the First Battle at Bull Run, Clara formed an agency to distribute supplies to wounded soldiers and while she had received no formal nursing training, she relied on the skills she learned from caring for her brother and taught them to others so they could help her care for the many wounded men.  Initially, Clara and her colleagues attended to those who were hurt in ambulances set up on the periphery of the battlefields, all the while lobbying the U.S. Army to bring their nursing capabilities to the front lines.  In August of 1862 Clara was granted permission to travel and treat soldiers in some of the most dire circumstances of the war.  She served on sixteen battlefields during the Civil War, working tirelessly behind the scenes and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” where her own life was often at risk.  More importantly, she singlehandedly seemed to change the preconceived notion that women were too weak to help on the battlefield.

Civil War news.

(via American History archives)

“This conflict is one I am ready for…I am well and strong and young enough to go to the front.  If I can’t be a soldier, I can help the soldiers.”  Clara Barton

Founding The Red Cross!

Near the end of the war, Clara Barton found her work was not done as she began receiving letters from the families of soldiers who were looking for their missing loved ones.  President Abraham Lincoln soon appointed her to start the Office of Correspondence with Friends of Missing Men in The United Sates Army.  According to her biography, she ultimately help identify 22,000 missing soldiers.  On a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, for the purpose of relaxing after her wartime efforts, Clara was introduced to the Red Cross and the idea of national societies being formed to provide relief on a neutral, voluntary basis.  Finally, in 1864, after many bureaucratic hurdles, the American Red Cross was formed, to which Clara Barton was appointed president.  She also formed the National First Aid Association, which offered first aid kits and emergency preparedness instruction to communities across the nation so they were better trained to deal with disaster if it should come.  This program exists in most cities in America today.  Clara Barton died on April 12, 1912 at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland at age 91.  A monument in her honor stands at the Antietam National Battlefield.

Red Cross founded by Clara Barton.

(via Clara Barton biography)

“I heal the wounds of war.  I am a refuge from flood, fire and pestilence.  The love of little children is mine.  I am the Red Cross of peace.”  The Red Cross Creed

I think what impressed me most as a young girl doing a report on this iconic woman and now, as a nurse, is that Clara Barton had the ability to see a need, then face it head on, with devoted tenacity and diligence, until the need was met!

Vintage Red Cross sign.

(Vintage poster via Red Cross)

The Red Cross recently helped those displaced from their houses by fires in Utah and California, as well as those affected by hurricane Florence in North Carolina.

What I love about being a nurse is the chance to offer help to others who are vulnerable due to illness, and empowering them to become self-reliant and strong again as they receive proper medical care.  There truly is no better feeling than seeing the look of accomplishment as independence is regained, especially when it comes to their health!  I’ve had the privilege of teaching first aid and basic Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to youth in our community, as well as help new mother’s feel confident in caring for themselves and their newborns after delivery.  While you may not have a medical background, you can certainly be an asset to your city by taking first aid preparedness courses, having updated first aid kits in your home and vehicles and a 72 hour emergency kit for each member of your family.  Another option would be to check with local authorities and become Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) qualified.

Helping others quote.

Anytime someone responds to an opportunity to help others in need in any capacity, they pay tribute to the life of Clara Barton and her pioneering, humanitarian spirit!

May we all strive to make a difference in someone’s life!

I’d love it if you’d share an  experience you’ve had giving or receiving help during a time of need?  

–Love, Mary