The Southern Chocolatier – What could be better than a banana? Why, a banana dipped in chocolate!

To me, a chocolate lover, there is only one thing better than a banana. That is a banana dipped in melted chocolate! My only dilemma?  Is there some way I can call this breakfast?

Meet today’s chocolate -

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

Joy the Baker Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons

makes about 24 bonbons

3 ripe and large bananas

about 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Jiffy)

10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/3 cup finely chopped honey roasted peanuts

small popsicle sticks (or pretzel sticks)

Peel bananas and slice into medium-thick round slices. I sliced my bananas about 1/3-inch thick.

Spoon peanut butter into a piping bag fitted with a small star tip attachment. Pipe about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter onto half of the banana slices.

Top each peanut butter topped banana with a plain banana slice and press down just slightly. It’s like a banana sandwich!

To insert the popsicle sticks (or pretzel sticks) into the banana sandwich, place your thumb and index finger over and around the banana sandwich. firmly press the stick into and through the banana slices, but use your thumb and index finger to hold the top banana slice in place during the pressing. This will help ensure that all of the peanut butter doesn’t smush out of the sides.

Place peanut butter pops on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the freezer to harden for at least 30 minutes.

While the pops harden, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Place 2 inches of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place chocolate chips and coconut oil in a medium heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir together chocolate and coconut oil as it melts. Stir until completely melted.

Transfer melted chocolate mixture to a glass with a mouth wide enough to dunk the banana sandwiches. I used a small tumbler glass. A shallow bowl will make the banana sandwiches hard to dip and completely cover.

Dip the slightly hardened banana sandwiches completely in chocolate. Return them to the parchment paper and immediately sprinkle with honey roasted peanuts.

After dipping all of the bananas, return to the freezer for at least 2 hours before serving. Bananas will last for a week or two in the freezer. You can also wrap them individually for storage in the freezer.

Borrowed from – http://joythebaker.com/

The Southern Chocolatier – Did someone mention fudge and brownies in the same breath?!

Before you delve into this post, I have to warn you. You will be entering the den of sin. The pictures alone will send you to confession – and the taste? Mortal sin! But, there is redemption – every good Catholic knows the confessional is a block away!

Extra Nutty Dark Chocolate

Fudge Brownies

Extra Nutty Dark Chocolate Brownies

Extra Nutty Dark Chocolate Brownies

Extra Nutty Dark Chocolate Brownies

Prep Time:20 Min Cook Time:30 Min
Yields 9
Ingredients
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 small handful pecan halves, walnut halves, and roasted hazelnuts
Instructions
  • 1    Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 8×8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and lightly spray the parchment paper. Set aside.
  • 2    Place chocolates and butter in a small, heat-proof bowl. Place bowl over a small pot of simmering water (creating a double boiler), or microwave the mixture at 50% for 30 seconds at a time, stirring until glossy and completely melted. Stir in cocoa powder.
  • 3    In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla extract. Add the chocolate mixture and stir to combine.
  • 4    Add the salt, baking soda, and flour. Stir until thoroughly combined and spoon into prepared pan. Top with nuts.
  • 5    Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the brownies are slightly puffed, the nuts are golden brown, and the top is no longer glossy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and removing from the pan.
borrowed from – joy the baker http://joythebaker.com/

The Southern Chocolatier – Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Sugar Cookies Recipe

I find myself always craving a bit of chocolate in the afternoons, as it goes rather nicely with a hot cup of coffee and the hour of stillness I have while my son is in quiet time. Some days just a little square will do, but other times something more extravagant is needed. I have found these chocolate sugar cookies to do just the trick; they are soft and delicious without being overly rich and sweet. They are a perfect afternoon indulgence.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

Chocolate Sugar Cookies Recipe

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350. Line 3 half sheet pans with parchment paper. Put ½ cup sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies Recipe

Step 2
Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies Recipe

Step 3
Using a standing mixer, cream the butter and 2 cups sugar together until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until completely combined.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies Recipe

Step 4
Shape the cookie dough into 24 balls, and roll each ball in the set-aside sugar. Place cookies on the prepared sheet pans (8 can fit on each) and bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges have set and the centers are puffed and starting to crackle. Remove from the oven and move the pan to a wire rack, letting the cookies cool.

 

Borrowed from – http://www.handmadecharlotte.com/

 

The Southern Chocolatier – Did someone say Hershey’s?

HERSHEY’S Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

I will personally vouch for this recipe. It’s a tried and true love at my house!

HERSHEY'S Chocolate Cheesecake
Prep Time:
15 Minutes
Skill Level:
Beginner

    Ingredients

    • CHOCOLATE CRUMB CRUST (recipe follows)
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
    • 1/2 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
    • 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
    • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

      Directions

      1. Prepare CHOCOLATE CRUMB CRUST. Heat oven to 300°F.

      2. Place butter in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 30 to 45 seconds or until melted. Stir in cocoa until smooth; set aside.

      3. Beat cream cheese in large bowl. Add cocoa mixture; beat well. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Pour batter into prepared pan.

      4. Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes or until set. (Center will be soft.) Remove pan from oven to wire rack; loosen cake from side of pan. Cool completely; remove side of pan. To serve, garnish as desired. Cover; refrigerate leftover cheesecake. Garnish as desired. Makes 12 servings.

      CHOCOLATE CRUMB CRUST: Place 6 tablespoons butter or margarine in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in 1-1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 45 wafers, crushed), 6 tablespoons powdered sugar and 6 tablespoons HERSHEY’S Cocoa; blend well. Press mixture onto bottom and 1/2 inch to 1-inch up side of 9-inch springform pan.

      Borrowed from – www.hersheys.com

      The Southern Chocolatier – Neapolitan Cake

      What a cute cake! I can’t wait to make this one. Completely iced cakes are always so pretty, but there’s something about cramming all that wonderful icing between the layers that is enticing.

       

      Neapolitan Cake

      • recipe photo

      chocolate layer cake:

      ingredients

      • 1 3/4 cup flour
      • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
      • 2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 2 cups sugar
      • 1 stick butter, softened
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 cup milk
      • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
      • 1 cup strong coffee

      preparation

      • Heat oven to 350 degree F. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.
      • In a medium-size bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients except the sugar; set aside.
      • Cream the butter and sugar together on high speed until pale and fluffy.
      • Mix the eggs, milk and vanilla together, then add to the butter mixture.
      • Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the coffee to the butter mixture (start and end with the .dry ingredients).
      • Divide the batter among the three pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans and transfer to wire racks. Cool completely.

      neapolitan cake frosting:

      ingredients

      • 2 cups sugar
      • 8 egg whites
      • 1 pound unsalted butter, softened
      • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
      • 1/2 cup melted bittersweet chocolate
      • 1 cup fresh strawberries
      • 1 tablespoon sugar
      • Chocolate sprinkles
      • Red food coloring (optional)

      preparation

      • Combine sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl. Whisk together over simmering water until hot to the touch, and until all the sugar has melted and is no longer grainy.
      • Transfer bowl to mixer stand and whip on high until fluffy and cool (about 10 minutes).
      • With the mixer on low, add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Add vanilla. Beat until smooth. (The mixture may appear curdled, but continue to mix and it will become smooth.)
      • Divide the frosting into three bowls. In one of the bowls, stir in the melted bittersweet chocolate to make the chocolate frosting. In another bowl, add the strawberries and 1 tablespoon sugar to a blender; puree. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Stir 1/2 cup of puree into the frosting. If you prefer a deeper red, add a few drops of red food coloring.
      • Trim the cake layers with a sharp, serrated knife so they’re as flat as possible. Freeze the layers for 15 minutes.
      • Top the first layer with chocolate frosting and smooth with an offset spatula. Leave a 1-inch border around the outside.
      • Add another layer and repeat with the vanilla frosting. Add the final layer upside down and top with strawberry frosting.
      • Using a large star tip, pipe the borders of the cake with the corresponding frosting. Top with chocolate sprinkles.

      Source – http://www.potterybarnkids.com/

       

      The Southern Chocolatier – Samoa Cupcakes

      You may be beginning to understand my obsession with chocolate. If not, I promise that one day soon you will!  I also love cupcakes. There is something about having your own little slice of heaven that you don’t need to share – it’s all yours!

      Samoa Cupcakes

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      To toast the coconut, spread about 1 and 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut onto a baking sheet and bake in a 350* oven for 3-8 minutes.  Check after 3 minutes and stir, then check (and stir if needed) about every minute after.  The coconut can burn very quickly, watch it closely!

      Garnish the finished cupcakes with a drizzle of salted caramel.  Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce (labeled Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce) was the choice in the recipe!  Feel free to make your own caramel sauce or choose a high quality brand of your choice.  It’s important to chose a salted caramel sauce (or add a bit of good quality sea salt), or the recipe will be overpoweringly sweet.

      My tweak – I happen to love the Pillsbury Devil’s Food cake mix and that is the only change I’d make here. The original post on Glorious Treats uses a home-made chocolate cake recipe.

      Salted Caramel Buttercream

      This amazing frosting is perfect for chocolate cupcakes… or simply by the spoonful!

      Yield: Frosting for 24+ cupcakes or an 8″-9″ (two layer) cake

      ingredients:

      1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
      4 oz. (1/2 block) cream cheese
      1/2 cup good quality salted caramel sauce
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      4 cups powdered sugar

      directions:

      1. Allow butter to set out at room temperature about 15 minutes (you can gather your other ingredients in the mean time).
      2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth.
      3. Add cream cheese and continue to beat until fully smooth and well incorporated.
      4. While slowly mixing, pour in caramel sauce (should not be warm).
      5. Add vanilla.
      6. Continue slowly mixing and add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, allowing the sugar to blend a bit before adding each additional cup.
      7. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and then blend the frosting an additional 30 seconds or so. The frosting should be fluffy, and all ingredients fully incorporated.
      8. Frost cupcakes or cake.

      Recipe source – GloriousTreats.com

      Hero Dog Takes Bullet to Save Family

      You may have noticed that I post a load of pictures on Facebook and Instagram of my two West German Shepherds, Ryka and Calypso. I adore my four-legged companions and all my friends know this. They love tagging me when they find posts about shepherds. This story was shared by a friend this morning and it touched my heart so deeply that I wanted to share it here.

      IMG_2771
      Calypso (3) and Ryka (5)

       

      Hero Dog Takes Bullet to Save Family

      http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1750003874001/?bctid=3979967041001

      Hero Dog Takes Bullet to Save Family

      Meet Noah, the hero German Shepherd who took a bullet to save his family.

      Watch the Segment

      It happened as the Martin family pulled into a strip mall outside Atlanta. The dad went into a store to buy a new dog collar for Noah. Out of nowhere, a road rage incident erupted in the parking lot. Gunfire hit the SUV.

      Diondra Martin told INSIDE EDITION, “Glass was flying over my head, over their head.”

      A bullet hole pierced the seat just inches from where Diondra’s son was sitting.

      “When I took them out of the car and realized where the bullets were, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. They were that close!’ ” exclaimed Diondra.

      A 911 caller said, “Somebody got shot. I heard around 8 gunshots outside in the parking lot.”

      Then, a remarkable thing happened. In the hail of bullets the dog raced to the front seat.

      Diondra explained, “His body was pushing me to stay this way.”

      Diondra believes Noah was coming to sheild her and that’s when a bullet hit him in the neck.

      “The bullet was coming towards me and it hit him in the neck,” she said.

      That’s right! Noah took a bullet for the family.

      “It was so heart breaking. I saw the hurt in his eyes,” she recalled.

      You won’t believe what happened next.

      The gravely injured Noah took after the gunman, as seen on surveillance video.

      Dad, Kadon Martin said, “I see my wife over there screaming, and she was bloodied up.”

      Kadon ran after his wounded dog and showed us how he found Noah lying on the sidewalk. Kadon explained, “I grabbed his head and I opened his mouth and tried to blow in his mouth.”

      But it was too late. Noah died from the gunshot wound.

      The loss is too much to bear, and Kadon tearfully stopped and had to leave the room.

      Diondra said, “It’s very hard on him. He’s never cried like that before.”

      But the story doesn’t end there.

      Dog breeder Elizabeth Wilkerson heard the story of brave Noah on the news. She drove 750 miles from her home in Michigan to deliver a very special present to the Martins.

      Wilkerson told INSIDE EDITION, “The whole situation just broke my heart.”

      Meet their new dog, Kris! We were there for the big moment!

      The children were overwhelmed with joy. But none more than dad, who broke down in tears, telling Wilkerson, “Thank you so much. Thank you so much.”

      A happy ending to a tragic tale.

      But the family will always have a special place in the hearts for Noah, who took a bullet for them.

      “He saved the kids. He saved my lfie,” said Diondra.

      “He was a superhero,” said Kadon.

      Borrowed from – http://www.insideedition.com/

      The Southern Chocolatier – Chocolate Kahlua Cupcakes

      I love chocolate! There are so many chocolate recipes just hanging out on the web and I’ve decided to begin sharing my favorite thing in the whole world with my followers. I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ve named “The Southern Chocolatier”.

      Chocolate Kahlua Cupcakes

      11075028_938547196170028_3823852655516285733_n

       

      Any chocolate cake recipe will do, but I really have an infinity for the chocolate cake recipe on the tin of Hershey’s Cocoa. Actually I love the recipe for the chocolate icing too, but this is all about Chocolate Kahlua Frosting today.

       

      Chocolate Kahlua Frosting

      Kahlua (coffee liqueur) adds a wonderful dimension to delicious chocolate frosting

      Yield: Frosting to pipe a swirl on 20-24 cupcakes, or frost and fill a 8″ cake.

      ingredients:

      12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks)Challenge butter

      4 oz. (1/2 block) cream cheese

      1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

      4 cups powdered sugar

      1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

      2-3 tablespoons Kahlua/coffee liqueur (adjust to your tastes)

      (in place of Kahlua, use 1-2 tablespoons espresso coffee, cooled)

      1 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk as a second choice)

      directions:

      In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until fully smooth.

      Add cream cheese, and continue to beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

      Add cocoa powder, and beat until well combined.

      Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, while the mixer is running.

      Add vanilla, then 2 tablespoons of Kahlua (or espresso) and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Add additional Kahlua if desired.

      Beat until all liquid is fully incorporated and frosting is smooth and fluffy.

      Recipe Source- Glorious Treats, based on my Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

      * * * * * * * * *

      If you don’t have cream cheese on hand, feel free to replace it with an additional 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter. The cream cheese adds a nice dimension, but the frosting is still delicious without it.

      It is important that your butter and cream cheese are cool or cold, or the frosting may be too soft. If the frosting is too soft, put the entire bowl of finished frosting in the fridge for 20 minutes or so, and it will firm up quite a bit.

      This recipe was found at – http://www.glorioustreats.com/

      10 Toxic People You Shouldn’t Bring With You Into The New Year

      Théo Gosselin

      Can you believe that it’s already December? This year has flown by in the blink of an eye and we’re on the verge of yet another year — a year full of possibility.

      What you will accomplish next year greatly depends on the people you surround yourself with. Or, in other words, it greatly depends on which people you decide not to surround yourself with.

      When bringing in the new year, be sure not to bring all your garbage with you. Leave these toxic individuals in 2014; you’ll feel much lighter, allowing you to get a great running start on the year to come.

      1. The people who make your life more stressful.

      Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing — in fact, it’s what you make it out to be. If you believe stress is bad for you, then it will be bad for you. If you use stress as the motivator it is, to motivate you to act, then stress can actually be rather healthy.

      However, you should aim to only be stressed by situations and not by people. If you have people in your life who are constantly managing to stress you out, that’s your mind telling you — and trying to motivate you — to remove them from your life.

      Life is stressful as it is. You don’t need someone making it more so.


      2. The people who use you.

      To be fair, everyone uses everyone — and usually it’s OK. We interact with others because we find that it will benefit us in some way. If we didn’t believe it would, then we wouldn’t find sufficient reason to interact with them.

      Sometimes we find people in our lives who use us in ways that end up hurting us. Most people will use us and by doing so, either maintain or improve our wellbeing.

      Then you have those toxic individuals who use you and leave you worse off, sucking you dry and feeding off you like a parasite.

      These sorts of people have no place in your life; don’t bring them into 2015.


      3. The people who don’t respect you.

      Every respectful person deserves to be respected in return; that’s how respect works. If you find that you have a person or people in your life who have difficulty giving you the respect you give them, tell them to buzz off.

      Have enough respect for yourself to never allow others to disrespect you and remain a part of your life.


      4. The people who always manage to hurt you.

      People can be silly sometimes. The people we keep a part of our lives are the people we care about — or at least, that ought to be the case. Some of these individuals, sadly, end up hurting us and causing us pain.

      The problem is that when others cause us pain, we’re reminded of how much those people mean to us. If they could hurt us emotionally, we must care for them and what they think of us a great deal — so we allow them to remain a part of our lives.

      Often, we’ll even allow these individuals to take up more room. People hurt other people — it’s just the way the world works. But if you have someone in your life who can’t manage to stop hurting you, do yourself a favor and cut that person off.

      Pain is only good if it teaches you a lesson. In this case, the lesson is to stop allowing others to use you as a punching bag.


      5. The people who can’t seem to stop lying to you.

      Everyone lies. In fact, within the first few minutes of meeting a new person, that person is likely to lie to you a handful of times. Most lies are harmless, but that all changes when the people who are lying to you are the people you trust.

      Fill your life with trustworthy people and you’ll be far better off. You can find lies just about anywhere. Finding the truth, on the other hand, is much more rare.


      6. The people who smile to your face and then insult you behind your back.

      These are the scum of the scum, cowards that don’t have the guts to speak their minds. These individuals enjoy pretending to be your friend while telling the rest of the world that you’re a piece of sh*t.

      These people will ruin your reputation and, as most of us now know, reputation matters a whole lot in the world we live in. Only idiots would start a new year with these sorts of individuals in their life.


      7. The people who don’t care about you, but love to pretend they do.

      We’ve all had people in our lives who act like our friends only when it’s convenient for them.

      These toxic individuals are “pseudo friends” — a lot of fun to hang out with, and more than willing to accept help, but when you need their help they’re miraculously nowhere to be found.

      These individuals are especially toxic because they give you the illusion of a safety net. You think you can lean on them for support, but when you reach for their shoulder, you fall over and hit the ground.


      8. The people who drag you back into your old lifestyle.

      Life is only interesting and exciting if it’s constantly progressing. Only when we’re constantly moving forward, constantly improving ourselves and our surroundings, are we able to find contentment and happiness.

      Most people always manage to keep people in their lives who are holding on to the life you once had.

      You have worked hard to progress and make changes, but these individuals prefer life the way it used to be, and do their best to bring you back to the cave you just crawled out of.

      Be wary of these folks, they’re often difficult to pinpoint and always manage to revert the progress you worked so hard to make.


      9. The people who hold you back.

      There’s a fact to life that I’ve grown to accept over the past few years — a fact that isn’t especially pleasant, but nonetheless necessary to accept as truth: Many people in your life, the people you call friends, shouldn’t be a part of your life.

      As time passes, we change as individuals. Our hopes and goals change, often leaving the relationships we have in place outdated.

      Many of the people in your life likely don’t want to live the life you’re building for yourself. Because they’re egocentric, they’ll do their best to create their version of their ideal life and drag you into it.

      Most times, people fail to create the life of their dreams because they surround themselves with people aiming for something entirely different.

      If your goals aren’t aligned, your lives aren’t either.


      10. The people just taking up space.

      Everything in life is limited. Resources are limited. Time is limited. Space is limited. What you can accomplish within a lifetime is limited. We can’t, and never will be able to, have it all.

      This is why you have to be very careful with not only what you choose to do, but with whom you choose to do it with.

      You can only maintain a handful of strong relationships at any given time — you just don’t have the time, energy or mental focus to handle more.

      If you’re filling your life with half-assed individuals, you’re bound to create a half-assed life. If someone isn’t adding to your life, then, by default, they’re taking away from it.

      Leave them in 2014 and build a better inner circle.

       

      Pretty good advice if you ask me.

      Reposted from: http://elitedaily.com/life/toxic-people-new-year/879975/

      5 Ways to Deal With Dinner Party Guests Who Won’t Put Down Their Phones

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      It’s hard to think about dinner parties before the age of smartphones and social media without a bit of nostalgic wonder. Did we really all sit around tables looking at each other rather than our tiny screens? We just ate the food instead of Instagramming it first?

      As we have become more accustomed to being constantly connected, the etiquette around cell phone use in social situations has relaxed, which means it’s not unheard of to invite friends over for a nice dinner, only to have them spend the evening constantly checking their phones. What’s a frustrated host to do? I spoke with a couple experts to get their advice on different ways to deal with those dinner party guests who seem more interested in screen time than face time.

      First, I wondered if I was just being old-fashioned for thinking that a dinner party is a time for socializing with friends, not Facebook. Unless I am expecting an urgent call or email, I prefer to put my phone away and keep it away. (Although I am not immune! The top photo is actually Ariel and me Instagramming photos from a Kitchn retreat dinner party, a brief phone interlude in an otherwise face-to-face socializing evening, I swear.)

      But I know many people who have no issue with friends using their phones constantly at social gatherings. When I feel stung by someone who answers a text instead of the question I just asked her, am I being overly sensitive?

      No, says Molly Watson, the etiquette expert behind the advice blog Ask a (Sensible) Midwesterner. She agrees that cell phone use at a dinner party sends an off-putting message to everyone present.

      “It’s rude. Whether or not it’s what the person intends, it clearly communicates that the person using it has better, more interesting things to attend to.”

      And Brendan Francis Newnam, co-host of the radio show The Dinner Party Download, agrees.

      “It’s no more realistic to think that people won’t look at their cell phones than to think they won’t judge your apartment. That said, cell phones are corrosive to the fellowship that makes dinner parties special. In short — they are simply not okay.”

      So how can a frustrated host deal with the situation? Here are a few ideas.

      Strategy 1: Do nothing, but don’t invite them back.

      You could take the path of least resistance and just ignore the problem for the evening, but mentally add that person to your Do Not Invite list for the future. This is Watson’s preferred course of action. When someone pulls out a cell phone at a dinner party, she points out:

      “It’s rude behavior, but commenting on rude behavior is, itself, rude behavior.”

      Biting your tongue isn’t easy, but you won’t risk ruining your party with an awkward scene.

      Strategy 2: Allow a periodic communal checking of phones.

      Letting everyone give in briefly to their addiction will make it easier to continue the evening phone-free. It’s the 2014 version of a smoke break, and the method Newnam recommends:

      “Confront it head on — between courses say something like ‘Let’s all check our phones now so we can get back to hanging out.’ I do this at restaurants when someone leaves to go to the bathroom. I wish there was a German or French word for a brief interlude to check your phone that would make it seem more classy.”

      French or German speakers, any ideas?

      Strategy 3: Fight back, but with a sense of humor.

      If you are not up for confronting a guest in front of the rest of the party, you can take the sneakier, more passive-aggressive (and funnier!) route that Newnam suggests:

      “Fight fire with fire. Text them a little message. Something like You lose orYour husband is hitting on me or a picture from your phone…of them staring at their phone.”

      A friend with a good sense of humor will get it and put his phone away. Someone who is easily offended might get huffy — but why would want to spend the evening with a rude, easily offended person anyway?

      Strategy 4: Ask them why.

      Perhaps your guest has a good reason for being glued to her phone, like an urgent phone call she is expecting, or a last-minute work email she has to deal with. If that’s the case, asking guests why they keep looking at their phones instead of engaging with the party will either set your mind at ease somewhat or call attention to their rude behavior. Watson has a tactful approach:

      “I might ask them if they had somewhere else to be or what the emergency is, since that’s the only reason they’d be dragging their phone out instead of enjoying the food and conversation.”

      And Newnam is a little more no-nonsense:

      “Walk up to the offending phone fiddler and say, ‘Hey, I’m really glad you came. Do you need to be somewhere else? If not, I’d appreciate it if you put your phone down and joined us for a couple of hours.'”

      Either way, your guests will be more conscious of their phone-fiddling for the rest of the evening.

      Strategy 5: Take the phones away.

      Maybe politely pointing out rampant phone use doesn’t solve the problem, or several of the guests are stuck to their phones. In these cases, treating everyone like misbehaving kindergarteners is the best course of action — you take away allphones. Newnam recommends this as a last-ditch option.

      “If none of the above works, collect everyone’s phone in a shoebox when they enter the party. Assure your guests that ‘phones in a box’ is not an update version of ‘car keys in the bowl’ swinger parties from the seventies. On second thought, don’t assure them.”

      I have a friend who will sometimes call for a “phone pile” and everyone has to stack their phones in the middle of the table. We always get why — he only does this when most of the party is engaging with devices instead of their friends — and I’ve never seen anyone get offended or upset. It’s often a relief to have the phones out of our hands, temptation out of reach, and our focus on the people and food around us. Just like in the long-ago days before smartphones.

      Do you have any tips for dealing with dinner guests who won’t stop looking at their phones? Or do you believe it isn’t a host’s place to tell guests what to do?

      Re-blogged from: http://www.thekitchn.com/

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      Tribute to my Mother’s Strength – repost from Coming of Faith

      This was too touching a story not to share. I hope you enjoy.

      SabinaKhanIbarra

      When she took my dying son from my arms, I let her.  I held my breath until I felt myself leave my body, only coming back because my baby needed me. I ignored the chemical smell of the hospital and instead focused on how much my son’s hair curled like his father’s. I watched my mother whisper prayers to him and adjust his newborn hospital hat making him look presentable, as if he were getting ready for a special meeting.  She took a tissue from her purse, wet it with her spit and wiped the blood from the punctures in his little hands and arms.  When she was done, she swaddled him and told him that she loved him.  She kissed him on the forehead before placing him back in my lap.  She tucked my too long bangs out of my face and leaned over me.  I kissed my child goodbye and prayed over him until he took his last breath.  My mom held me as I held my son, and as I felt his energy leave me, I felt hers heal me. 

      In the small social group my parents were a part of, my mother’s independence and self-reliance were the butt of many jokes.  But she didn’t care.  She just did what she had to do.  She came from a village where she was the only girl who left to pursue higher education.  She married at the ripe, old age of 23 instead of marrying the most eligible bachelor in the area when she was 17.  She ignored the whispers when she left the home of her in-laws to live with her husband.  She worked while my father went to school for his Masters.  She drove to run errands while the rest of my aunts waited for their husbands to come home, or if my mom was available, for her to take them.  She took care of the finances and it was her we turned to when making major life decisions.  Mama’s practical ways and strong presence kept our family together.

      I was constantly embarrassed for having the only mother in the family who spoke up when things were unfair. Some uncles frowned in dismay but my mom held her head high and stuck to her beliefs.  She also didn’t let anyone tell her that she shouldn’t be taking care of the household finances.  It was a running joke, amongst the very same uncles, that my mother had my father controlled by a leash.  But Baba smiled and squeezed Mama’s hand in front of everyone, only offending the conservative uncles further.  

      Once, as she cleaned the dried, caked blood out of my hair she told me to stand up for myself and hit Junior, our neighbor, back, for striking me with the rock. I cringed and said, “No.”  The next morning, when I asked her to walk me to school so that she could protect me, she gave me my lunch and kissed me good bye before shutting the door.  I walked with my sister to school, terrified.  I made a silent promise that if he hit me again, I would kick him in his knee, just like I learned from my second grade teacher Mrs. White, a karate black belt who taught us self-defense.

      Another time, while shopping, Mama told me to ask where the ice cream cones were located in Lucky’s.  I shook my head and shrank behind the shopping cart.  She shrugged and told me she liked her ice cream in a bowl, anyway.  She walked away looking for the next item on her list.  In a panic, I hunted down an employee and found the cones.  Mama was in the detergent aisle by then.  I proudly showed the cones to Mama, who placed it in the cart and asked me to help her look in her purse for coupons to use on Tide.

      In the sixth grade, she decided that she would make shalwar kameez for my sister Saira and me to wear to school, instead of buying us clothes from Mervyn’s like we usually did.  I cried in protest.  She told me to be proud of my roots, that being different was beautiful, but I dreaded facing the kids at school.   I ended up getting in a fight on the first day of school because James called me a Camel Jockey.  The Principal was sympathetic; he told my mom that I was only defending myself.   I expected a lecture when I got home, but instead Mama asked me to change my clothes, pray Zuhr, and do my homework. 

      I married young the first time and became the servant my husband’s family wanted.  Spending most of time in solitude, I only came out to do housework.  I cleaned, cooked, and ironed myself away to a shadow of what I used to be. It was my mother who recognized me and my pain by looking into the dimmed light of my eyes.  Like when I was seven years old, she held my chin, and once more told me to stand up for myself.   Terrified of my unknown, dark future, I left my life of hell, the only life I thought I knew.

      When my son died in my arms, I didn’t scream or wail.   I urged him to go peacefully and not fight.  I couldn’t bear his pain anymore, I knew his little body was tired and couldn’t take anymore.  It hurt to say good-bye, but I was ready to accept the pain so my son wouldn’t have to. When he finally left, I cried until the tears dried and I succumbed to exhaustion, my shirt soaked and mouth dry.  Mama watched me.  She walked over to me, held me and told me that God would fill my barren lap once more and that I would meet my son in heaven where he waited for me at the gates.  But new, hot tears fell from my eyes into my open palms.  I wished he were in my arms, alive instead of in a cold morgue preparing to go to his tiny, dark grave. 

       I knew I needed to be strong, like Mama.  She squeezed me against her bosom, where I felt at home – where so many times I went when I was lost or hurt.  When she let me go, she looked at me and said no more.  I looked at my hospital wristband, the only physical proof on me that I was a mother to a child.  My husband walked me out of the waiting room.  As I turned the corner to leave, I looked back into the room and saw my mother with her shoulders slumped, face towards the sky, and tears streaming down her face, into her hair. 

      __

      Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a freelance writer and editor.  She regularly contributes to her blog, Ibrahim’s Tree, which she created after the loss of her infant son in 2011, and I Am the Poppy Flower, where she writes about little things that go on in her life. She created Muslimah Montage as a platform for women to share their stories and inspire others.

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      40 Bags/40 Days Declutter Charity Challenge

      For the last few years, I have participated in a challenge that I first saw introduced by the lovely Sarah over at Clover Lane. It’s called the “40 Bags in 40 Days challenge” and the idea is to rid your home of unneeded and unwanted “stuff” by filling a bag every day during the 40 days of Lent. By the end, you will have donated/sold/tossed 40 BAGS of clutter.

      I have to admit that the first year I did this challenge, I was a bit overwhelmed. Sarah suggests writing down 40 different areas of your home that you want to focus on during the challenge, and that was definitely helpful for me. I broke things down into very small categories and even dedicated one day to just cleaning out file drawers {not even my whole desk}. Following that daily plan of one small area at a time made things much more manageable. Also, instead of trying to fill an entire big garbage bag each day, I would focus on grocery size bags for the small projects. In the end, I had collected 21 black garbage bags/boxes and 19 grocery bags of STUFF we didn’t need. Some went into the recycling bin, some went to our garage sale, and some went to charities.

      As much as I enjoy the decluttering process of this challenge, I think the part that I love most is finding new charities to contribute to. Having “too much stuff” is a blessing we take for granted sometimes. There are people that would do anything to have shoes without holes, dress clothes appropriate enough for a job interview, pots and pans to make meals at home, toys for their children to play with, glasses to see with, etc. And if we have extras of these things lying around, unused, why not give them to people who need them?! Use this challenge and every day of Lent {regardless of your religion} to give back to your community. To give to people in need. To do something good with all those blessings you take for granted.

      This year, I plan to use my 40 Bags/40 Days list a little differently. Instead of listing 40 areas of my home, I am going to list out my 40 “bags” and where they went. I want to be able to look back and see how much I was able to recycle, how much I was able to sell and most importantly…how much I was able to donate to people in need.

      Although there are many places that will take most of your items {like AMVETSSalvation Army or Red Cross}, there also some other wonderful charities that are looking for specific items like shoes, dress clothes, eye glasses, plastic toys, etc. Here are links to some charities I have worked with in the past and some I hope to work with again this year:

      For gently used shoes: Share Your Soles
      For gently worn or new dress clothes: Dress for Success
      For old {good condition} eyeglasses: Lions Recycle for Sight
      For gently used plastic toys: Second Chance Toys
      Used books: Reading Tree
      Old cell phones: Cell Phones for Soldiers
      Gently worn coats and jackets: Operation Warm

       

      I am so excited to get started on this year’s challenge and hopefully get my whole family involved too. And of course, to help you all out with this challenge, here is a free planner printable to help you track your 40 bags/40 Day:

       

      Use it to plan out the 40 areas of your home you want to tackle in the challenge, or use it like I am and track your “bags” and where they are going.

      Start Spring off right with an organized home, and a full heart :-)

      Download the Large {8.5 x 11} list HERE.
      Download the Small {5.5 x 8.5} list HERE.
      Download the XSmall {3.75 x 6.75} list HERE.

       

      I am reposting this from my friend, Jen, at Polka Dot Posie. (http://www.thepolkadotposie.com/2014/03/40-bags40-days-declutter-charity.html ) Let’s all join in and make the next 40 days count!

      Don’t forget to check Southern Charm Planners on Facebook! at https://www.facebook.com/groups/LouisianaPlannerGirls/

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      25 Things to do to become a well liked person

      This article is a reprint from an article by Marius Fermi. It has some really great pointers. Enjoy!

      25 Things To Do To Become A Well Liked Person

      October 25 by Marius Fermi in Communication Relationships | 216 Shares

      Human nature means we long to be accepted and liked by everyone we meet. We always look for reasons why someone likes us or doesn’t like us.

      In recent years, maybe you’ve started to lose and forget some of the key reasons why someone might like you. Now, you shouldn’t think of life as a popularity contest. Instead, you should think of it as the reason why you’ll find your next job, close on that big deal or find the love of your life.

      well liked person

       

      Here are 25 things to do to become a well liked person:

      1. Be generous with the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – We may forget or simply don’t feel the need to use these words; however, they can be the catalyst that changes the interaction instantly.
      2. Hold doors open for everyone and anyone if the situation permits.
      3. Be plentiful with favors; however, never expect anything in return for helping out.
      4. Help, guide and advise whenever you can. You may be an expert in an area that few others are; therefore, your input will always be highly valued.
      5. Don’t be an “I know” or a “me too” person. Ask for advice and ask questions that will directly represent your similarities rather than saying “me too.”
      6. Instead of just saying, “me too,” you should use the opportunity to link interests. This will create a new level of rapport that saying “me too” just won’t.
      7. Listen, and listen carefully to what people have to say. If you do this correctly, you can ask meaningful questions that show you’re ‘in the moment’ with that other person.
      8. Be gracious with your compliments and praise. Just as humans seek to be liked, we also seek to have relevance and be acknowledged for our efforts.
      9. Try to temporarily adopt another person’s values and beliefs instead of standing your ground and arguing why you think what they believe in is wrong.
      10. Enthusiasm goes an incredibly long way, from speaking to handshakes. If done enthusiastically, then the other person has a reason to carry on interacting with you.
      11. Be warm and smile lots. It’s welcoming, attractive and also a key interaction starter.
      12. Be confident (not cocky) with yourself, what you’re saying, what you’re wearing and what you’re doing. People are attracted to “experts” who are generally confident in their abilities. Demonstrate this attitude and people will be willing to listen.
      13. Get involved in everything, especially if it’s well known that you dislike whatever it is you’re taking part in. People will always respect someone that goes out of their way to attempt to conquer a dislike or phobia.
      14. Be yourself with everyone. The last thing you need is to have a split personalities to deal with each group of friends and family members.
      15. Provoke the best in people even if they are hard to crack.
      16. Always be on time for everything. Making people wait tends to be seen as a sign of disrespect.
      17. Reply to messages and calls instantly (if possible). Again, it should be looked at in the same way as Tip 16.
      18. Have you learned to listen carefully yet? Because of this, you’ll remember birthdays and important dates, which can be brought up in conversation letting the person realize you do really listen.
      19. Focus on what’s going on in the lives of others and again remember important dates to bring back up in conversation.
      20. Give them your biggest asset–your time.
      21. Never look at your watch during conversation. It shows that you have somewhere more important to be. Again remain ‘in the moment.’
      22. Be positive and forget all things negative. Negativity is a huge drain on emotions and ultimately the interaction. No one wants that.
      23. Be vulnerable to an extent that it makes you easy to get along with, easy to offer advice to, and ultimately, easy to get along with.
      24. Be approachable. If you offer up a smile or show some form of vulnerability, people will be drawn to you.
      25. Most of all, remember peoples’ names. This is something which we are all bad at but with practice, this simple gesture can be a huge reason why people like you.

       

      “Xmas” or “Christmas”? An interesting tidbit. Did YOU know?

      Christmas in the post-War United States
      Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      Thanks to this post from Grammar Girl!

       

      Many listeners have asked about the origin and appropriateness of “Xmas.”

      Retailers have long been accused of secularizing Christmas by using “Xmas” in signs and advertisements; therefore, I suspect many of you will be surprised to learn that “Xmas” has a religious origin.

      In Greek, the letter “chi” is written as an X, and chi is the first letter of the Greek word for “Christ.” Greeks sometimes abbreviated “Christ” as “X.” For example, they abbreviated “Christ savior” as “XP.” (“P” is the symbol for the Greek letter “rho,” which is the first letter of the word “savior” in Greek.) TheOxford English Dictionary shows the first known English use of “Xmas” in 1551.

      As for appropriateness, “Xmas” may have a religious origin and fit better on signs, but many people — both those who use “Xmas” and those who complain about its use — are unaware of the religious origin. If you choose to use “Xmas,” you should know that some people will be infuriated.

       

      I know that I actually found this fascinating as I was “one” of those who NEVER dared used Xmas in place of Christmas, even if I needed to shorthand something really quick. I guess that proves we shouldn’t jump to conclusions on anything.

       

      Ten Rules for Being Human by Cherie Carter-Scott


      Ten Rules for Being Human

      Inspired by: Cherie Carter-Scott

      personal develpment

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the   experiments that ultimately “work.”

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

      Ten Rules for Being Human

      You will forget all this.

      When I’m an old Lady

       
      When I’m an old lady, I’ll live with each kid,
      And bring so much happiness just as they did.
      I want to pay back all the joy they’ve provided.
      Returning each deed! Oh, they’ll be so excited!
      When I’m an old lady and live with my kids.
      I’ll write on the walls with reds, whites and blues,
      And I’ll bounce on the furniture wearing my shoes.
      I’ll drink from the carton and then leave it out.
      I’ll stuff all the toilets and oh, how they’ll shout!
      When I’m an old lady and live with my kids.
      When they’re on the phone and just out of reach,
      I’ll get into things like sugar and bleach.
      Oh, they’ll snap their fingers and then shake their head,
      When I’m an old lady and live with my kids.
      When they cook dinner and call me to eat,
      I’ll not eat my green beans or salad or meat,
      I’ll gag on my okra, spill milk on the table,
      And when they get angry I’ll run if I’m able!
      When I’m an old lady and live with my kids.
      I’ll sit close to the TV, through channels I’ll click,
      I’ll cross both eyes just to see if they stick.
      I’ll take off my socks and throw one away,
      And play in the mud ’til the end of the day!
      When I’m an old lady and live with my kids.
      And later in bed, I’ll lay back and sigh,
      I’ll thank God in prayer and then close my eyes.
      My kids will look down with a smile slowly creeping,
      And say with a groan, “She’s so sweet when she’s sleeping!”
      Reprinted from “Cajun Charm” on Facebook

      Re-post: Are You A Duck Or A Goose?

      This is a great post about men being ducks and women being geese. I had to share it because it so true to life.  I am going to print a little excerpt here, but I hope you’ll go and read it. I loved it!

       

      “I have often called my husband a duck. You may be asking yourself why. Well the reason is pretty simple. He just lets things roll right off of him like water off of a ducks back. He has his day to day aggravations just like the rest of us. But for the most part he just lets those things goes. At least for a while. Then the oddest thing will set him off. Then it’s {QUACK, QUACK,QUACK,QUACK}”…

       

      Re-post: Are You A Duck Or A Goose?.

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