Need to Improve Focus?

Focus Booster may be what you need. This app uses the Pomodoro Technique** to "overcome distractions, maintain focus, stay fresh and still finish work on time."

**The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The time intervals were named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (meaning tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that he used as a university student.

 There is a free level that offers 20 Pomodoro intervals a month. Try Focus Booster to see if keeping a timesheet improves your ability to focus.

Takeaway Truth

There are many free apps available that may help you. Just do a Google Search with the string, "time management apps."

Tex Mex Green Chile Corn Casserole

I hope you don't mind if I give another casserole recipe for today's Saturday Recipe Share, but, face it, a casserole is the easiest and tastiest way to have dinner on the table in a flash.

Even on weekends, I want to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen because there's always work to catch up on.

If I blow that off, then there are books I want to read--and my garden calling me. Working in my garden is not only pleasure but also stress relief.

So casseroles are always my go-to recipes to feed the family. Today I'm sharing Tex Mex Green Chile Corn, another family recipe.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic, use 2 if you like a strong garlic flavor
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 11-ounce cans Mexi-Corn, drained
  • 1 16-ounce cream corn
  • 12 ounces canned diced green chiles, liquid too
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or mixed cheddar and Jack cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or mixed cheeses, saved to top the baked dish
  • 9 ounces of Aunt Jemima Cornmeal Mix
Directions
  • Melt butter, add onion, and cook until soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook 2-3 more minutes. Do not let it brown because that makes the garlic taste bitter.
  • Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Now, preheat oven to 350 and prepare a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine: cooked onion mixture, sour cream, the egg, the drained corn and creamed corn, green chiles, and 1 cup of the grated cheese. Mix together.
  • Add the cornmeal mix and stir until moistened.
  • Pour into prepared baking dish.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
  • Return to oven for another 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
This is delicious as is or served with your favorite salsa. Ours is Pace Picante.

Bonus Recipe: A Planned Over

Planned Over is what I call using leftovers to create a new dish. If there is any of the casserole left, here's how to use it to create a new dish with the same flavor profile.

Brown a pound of ground beef. Add 1 package of Taco Seasoning Mix and follow the instructions on the packet. Blend well.

If you don't happen to have a packet of that seasoning, just make your own using ingredients from your spice cabinet.

Use 2 tablespoons of the homemade mixture and 1/3 cup of water.

(The packet instructions call for more water because the packet has corn flour in it which needs the additional water to thicken up.)

Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper flakes, omit if you don't like heat
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
Place either a square or scoop (depends on what kind of dish you baked in) of the Green Chile Corn Casserole in a bowl and microwave till heated through.

Ladle the meat mixture over the bread. Top with whatever taco additions you like, i.e., sour cream, picante, avocado, etc.

Takeaway Truth

There you have it. A way to have 2 entrees from 1 dish. Bon appetit!

Little Free Library

Photo Courtesy of LittleFreeLibrary.org
Do you have a Little Free Library near you? If you do, then you know what they are. If you don't, maybe it's time you had one installed in your own local community.

As it says on their website, Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Little Free Library Shares Love of Reading

There are a couple of Little Free Library installations at our country community. I leave books there and always look for something I haven't read. I left my RITA books there after I finished reading them.

I'm going to see if I can get approval where I live in Houston for a Little Free Library to be placed at one of the public areas. The nice thing is the organization offers kits to put together or you can build your own.

Plans and videos and tips abound for building a cute little library for your community. A novice woodworker can do it. They want you to register your little library however you create it so they can authenticate it. The Registration Fee is $40.00.

Takeaway Truth

This is a great way to share books. Readers will embrace it.

Mother’s Day 2017 Essay Contest: $200 Prize

I found a notice about the Mother’s Day 2017 Essay Contest, sponsored by Shame Kills and Swift River Rehab, in an email this week from Erika Lawson of Shame Kills.

Disclaimer: I have not researched either of these organizations other than visiting their respective websites and reading the information about the writing contest nor am I endorsing either of these websites or businesses.

About Shame Kills

This organization is dedicated to reducing the stigma associated with addiction in communities nationwide.

Values Statement

Shame Kills loves the addict but hates the disease. The more we talk about addiction and bring it out of the shadows, the better chance we have of saving those who suffer.

This is just a quick reminder that Shame Kills and Swift River are sponsoring a spring essay contest titled, “My Mother, My Hero.”

The Mother’s Day 2017 Essay Contest

There is no entry fee for this spring essay contest: My Mother, My Hero. The winning essay receives a $200.00 cash prize.

Just click here to get all the details. Always read all the details of a contest.

Takeaway Truth

Writing contests can be a good way to try something new. They can also be lucrative because someone will win. It might be you.

Review: The Great Gilly Hopkins

Recently, I watched The Great Gilly Hopkins, a movie on Netflix that could only be called "family fare" which is not to say it was overly-sentimental and bland as so many movies of that type are.

The movie, based on the book of the same name by Katherine Paterson--billed as a realistic children's novel--is about a child stuck in the foster care system.

What's It All About, Alfie?

Gilly Hopkins, a 12-year-old wisecracking girl with an attitude, finds herself shuffled from foster home to foster home.

That changes when she meets her match in Maime Trotter, a woman who won't take no for an answer when she offers unconditional love and support.

This movie is also available to rent or buy from Amazon Video.

Stellar Cast

To be honest, I clicked play on the movie because of the cast. With a cast like these pros, how could I not watch this children's movie?
ALL-STAR CAST

You've got Kathy Bates as foster mom Maime Trotter, Bill Cobbs as blind neighbor Mr. Randolph, Glenn Close as Gilly's grandmother who didn't even know a granddaughter existed, Octavia Spencer as Gilly's teacher, Julia Stiles as Gilly's long-absent mother, and Billy Magnussen as Gilly's social worker.

Teary-Eyed Finish

Yes, the story is predictable. We know from the get-go that Gilly will be transformed by love and stability, but that doesn't stop you from watching to the very end. The characters are beautifully brought to life by the superb cast.

Gilly learns some hard truths of life: bearing a child doesn't necessarily make a woman a mother and  no matter how hard one wants to believe something, reality has a way of revealing truth. She also learns that love carries with it responsibility.

The viewer is left teary-eyed yet satisfied because those truths resonate with the audience too.

Takeaway Truth

If you're looking for a family-friendly movie with a good message delivered without sanctimony, watch The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Bet You Didn't Know...Nachos

Photo by Jennifer Feuchter, CC
Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya is credited with inventing Nachos, those delicious melted cheese and jalapeno concoctions.

In 1943, Mr. Anaya was working at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico, when a bunch of hungry army wives arrived. He threw ingredients together and called it the same as his nickname--Nacho.

Photo Credit: By Jennifer Feuchter from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Nachos Conquer Stadiums

Then in 1976, Frank Liberto introduced nachos to hungry fans at Arlington Stadium. Of course, by this time, everyone in Texas was familiar with nachos. Liberto concocted a cheese sauce that didn't need refrigeration. It was liquidy and could be pumped or spooned over the corn chips. So nachos was a quick dish to throw together in the concession stands.

The first season Nachos were sold at Arlington Stadium, they grossed over $800,000 in sales, beating the previous high seller, popcorn, by a huge margin.

How To Make

All you need are 3 things for simple nachos: tortilla or corn chips, cheese of some kind, and sliced jalapeno peppers. Easiest? Melt Velveeta processed cheese and pour over corn chips then top with sliced peppers.

Better? Lowest salt chips you can get. Sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese, top with sliced jalapeno peppers, and run it under a broiler until cheese bubbles. Fantastic.

Want something extra special? Just load them up with charro beans, sour cream, taco meat, and picante. Scrumptious.

Takeaway Truth

Nachos may not meet gourmet standards, but that doesn't stop everyone from loving them.

Time for Spring Cleaning? Nope!

Ah, spring. Today is the first day of that glorious season. In Texas, it really is glorious. Wildflowers, fresh air, sunny days. Robin's egg blue skies. That's what spring is.

However, when I was a kid, I rarely noticed those things because I was busy, helping my mom with the annual rite of spring cleaning.

Anyone Remember Spring Cleaning?

My mom used to go into serious domestic overdrive when spring arrived. She gave new meaning to the phrase spring cleaning.

Curtains would be taken down and washed. Wax would be stripped from floors. Walls would be washed. Oh, my. The list of cleaning tasks that she thought necessary just because the season changed was formidable.

Me? I'm the opposite. When spring comes, I want to work in the garden, pick flowers, and stare up at the blue sky and fluffy clouds from the comfort of a lounge chair on my back deck.

Spring Break & Other Spring Anomalies

I think spring break must have been invented for people like me. Spring is my favorite season even though the fragrant flowers and budding trees mean everything is covered in a yellow haze. Ahchoo! Good thing someone invented allergy pills and Flonase.®

Spring cleaning, spring allergies, spring break, and spring fever. Spring fever has become the namesake for many things including college festivals, triathlons, mixed drinks, perfume, several movies, poems, and books. The spring equinox has figured in human history for thousands of years from pagan rituals to college pagan rituals known as spring break.

Sap Rises

When days grow longer and warmer, primitive people obviously felt a need to celebrate surviving another winter. The sap rose, in more ways than horticultural, if you get my drift.

Human instinct doesn't seem to have changed much since primitive man hunted mastodons. Even today, we look forward to similar pursuits that involve shedding winter woolens and slipping on tee shirts, shorts, and sandals.

Takeaway Truth

Step outside and revel in the glory that is spring.