Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Oprah Interview

I finally watched Barbara Walter's interview with Oprah which aired last week.  They are two women who I've always admired.  Maybe it's because I always wanted to be a big time reporter.  My parents   will attest to the fact that I like to ask a lot of questions.  They are both skilled at interviewing and have a genuine interest in people that shows.  Barbara asked Oprah why she is starting her OWN network. The idea sprang from a conversation she had years ago with her partner Stedman.  She was complaining about the quality of television programming and he suggested she start her own network.  They brainstormed a little and she wrote down some ideas, but it wasn't until years later that it came to fruition.  Her network will have a combination of reality shows and in-depth documentaries.  There is a show called Master Class which will have life stories and interviews with some of the world's leaders which I thought looked very interesting.

Oprah has interviewed hundreds of celebrities, but she said her favorite interviews have been with ordinary people doing extraordinary things -  people like warrior Mom Monica Jorge who I've written about in a previous post and Mattie Stepanek an inspiring and courageous young boy who died at age 14 from a terminal form of muscular dystrophy.

Oprah told Barbara she asks God to keep on using her until he uses her up.  That is her prayer every day.  If she's not a testament to how God can use each and every one of us,  I don't know what is.  Even though her talk show will be ending in 2011,  in my opinion she is just beginning to inspire and encourage us to live our best life.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


There are a lot of things in life that are unexplained.  If you look closely we are surrounded by miracles in nature, people, science and healing.  Oprah recently featured a show on a man from a small town in Brazil known as John of God.  Susan Casey traveled to Brazil for personal reasons and to report on the healing miracles this man is performing.  She discussed it on Oprah and also has an article in this months issue of O magazine.  Thousands of people flock to John of God for various reasons. Some are battling cancer or tumors and medical professionals have given up on many of the people he has healed.  He doesn't take credit for his work.  He gives God all of the credit.

Oprah's show depicted John of God performing eye scrapings, nose extractions and minor surgeries on people without any anesthesia.  The people were at peace during these procedures and experienced no pain or infection.  I'm still not quite sure what to make of this show.  Those who were skeptical and visited him still don't know how to explain his works. Not everyone is healed and for some the healing process may take months or additional meditation and prayer time on the individuals part.

I can't explain John of God, but I do believe in God, miracles, the power of faith and that there are no coincidences.  There are miracles happening every hour of every day if we just pay attention.   

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pay It Forward

Tis' the season for giving!  A friend of mine sent me an email today stating it is pay it forward day.  I wasn't aware that there was an official day named for the act of giving.  She passed on a special promotion Borders Bookstore is doing to help schools in crisis.  For any item you buy at Borders on Dec. 4 & 5 they will give you a $15 gift card to apply to  This site was also chosen as one of Oprah's Favorite Things.  You can donate any amount to a school in need.  If you look under projects it will list the school's location and the amount they are requesting.  They are basic needs that many school districts typically provide.  For those of you who saw Oprah's show on Waiting For Superman or read my past post, these are the schools they were referencing.  Another organization Oprah has featured on her show is Kiva at .  They give loans to small business people from different countries.  They are similar to Donors Choose in that you can select the person you'd like to help.  You receive an email when loans are repaid to Kiva, and you can reinvest that money in another person.  I love the premise of this organization because it's about helping people help themselves.

Oprah featured a show awhile back with actress, Kristin Davis.  She talked about how she came across an orphaned elephant while on an African safari in Kenya.  She learned about the endangerment of elephants in Kenya and came across an organization that lets you become a foster parent for orphaned elephants. For a minimum of $50 you can become a foster parent for a year through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust  My daughter was watching the program with me at the time and thought it would be a really cool thing to do.  We aren't planning on going on a safari anytime soon and I doubt my neighbors would appreciate me housing an elephant.  Instead,  I let her pick out an elephant as part of her Christmas present.  She is now the proud parent of Chemi Chemi and can admire him from Kansas through email updates and photos.  This was a lot less expensive than an African safari and doesn't add to my already cluttered house.

There are many ways we can give this holiday season and it doesn't have to be a monetary gift.  There is the gift of time, love and attention.  Ironically, they are things that I find myself giving less of because of all of the shopping, baking, and other things on my to do list.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Final Favorite Thing

Oprah ended her last my favorite things show by saying it's not about things, it's about giving and hope.  The hope of having joyful and magical things happen when you least expect it.  I've been sulking the last two days because I wasn't chosen as an ultimate viewer.   I'm definitely not the ultimate giver, but I would say I rank pretty high when it comes to being an ultimate Oprah show viewer.  I may not have won the trip to Australia,  VW Beetle, diamond earrings, Nikon camera and countless other extravagant gifts, but I have had lots of joyful and magical things happen in my life.  I also have hope that I will continue to experience them when I least expect it and that I will pay it forward.  

I was happy for Oprah's audience, but was disappointed that she didn't have more affordable gift ideas for the rest of us.  My last favorite thing is actually a place, Amaze Boutique & Studio at 135th & Quivira. which carries very affordable items.  Co-owners, Jane Hosey Stern and Amy Hopper, carry a lot of their own handmade jewelry and artwork.  They have a little bit of everything: candles, home decor, clothing, handbags and just plain quirky items.  I love a line of cards they carry made by Curly Girl Designs.  They also offer evening classes such as soul collage and jewelry making. This truly is a magical place for me because I am inspired by Jane and Amy's creativity every time I visit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Books Favorite Thing #5

One thing Oprah and I have in common is that books are one of my very favorite things.  My husband bought me a kindle which is nice in certain situations, but I just love the feel and smell of a new book.  I'm known to collect more books than I've actually read.  My collection habit started with the Nancy Drew series when I was around 9 years old.  As I've gotten older I've noticed I really enjoy memoirs.  Some of my favorite memoirs are The Glass Castle, The Invisible Wall, and Same Kind of Different as Me.  Other favorite books are:  To Kill A Mockingbird, Pillars of the Earth, Water for Elephants, The Help,  Snowflower and the Secret Fan, The Red Tent, Beach Music, Auntie Mame and The Kite Runner.   I have a bookshelf filled with books which are waiting to be read that friends have recommended.  The following are some of the titles:  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Saving Max, Brooklyn, The Moonflower Vine, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Rembrandt Affair.  Happy reading this winter.  Please comment on your favorite books.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tasters Favorite Thing #4

Small plates otherwise known as tapas tend to be the rage right now.  Restaurants like Houlihans offer a variety of mini versions of sandwiches, flatbreads, desserts and just about anything else that can be minimized.   While on a girls getaway my friends and I ate a place call Seasons 52 in Florida where we enjoyed mini desserts served in shot glasses.  We liked the idea of trying a bite of several different things.  We thought it would be a fun idea to copy when entertaining friends.  Pier One has caught on to this concept and has a whole collection of serving pieces and mini spoons.   I had purchased some shot glasses at Walmart and wanted another style, but Pier One has been sold out of them for some time. On a recent trip to Target (which is another one of my favorites) I found a set of 8 with the mini spoons for $15.  SOLD!

Pier 1 Imports

Pier 1 Imports Tasting Party(TM) CollectionSampler Set - includes tray & 4 cupsWhite Porcelain Spoons & Medium Rectangle Server
We’re bringing a new idea to the table: mini individual samplers, glassware, handy trays and easy-care platters that make entertaining a lot more fun. Tasting Party™ pieces are designed to let guests try a little of everything. But they’re also classic, made of porcelain or glass, so they look beautiful alone or mixed with pieces you already have.
The Tasting Party™ Collection was actually inspired by restaurants, where appetizer menus and small plate choices let everyone sample the chef’s best creations. But we took things a step further. These servers can hold little salads, soups, mini casseroles or desserts sized just right for both easy prep and adventurous eating.
Which brings us to the best part. When you don’t have to worry about one huge main dish to please everyone, think how creative you can get with the menu. Thai buffet, wine and cheese tastings, bridal showers, a game-day snack spread or elegant holiday party. Or all of the above. All year long.
And whatever the occasion, you know everything works together. Tasting Party™ pieces create an impression in any setting. They’re dishwasher-safe. They are even available individually or in sets so you can get exactly what you need.
Mini Martini Glasses and 9-Section Tray
A Casual Get-TogetherLittle Bowl, Small Round Bowl & Mini Bowl
The Cocktail Hour
International Sampler
Holiday Buffet
Recipe Cards
The Tasting Party(TM) Collection

A Casual Get-Together
A family-friendly idea with make-ahead treats to keep things simple. Other casual party ideas? We’re thinking ice cream social, game-day snack spread or winter soup buffet.
A Casual Get-Together
Mini Cordials & Medium Rectangle Server
Mini Trifle BowlA Casual Get-Together
Little Bowl
Small Round BowlA Casual Get-Together
  • Use place cards and place card holders to label dishes
  • Bowls are easier than plates for guests to handle
  • Set out toppings in small bowls so everyone can add their own

The Cocktail Hour
Appetizers, desserts, liqueurs—with Tasting Party pieces, everything is easy for guests to handle and sized just right for sampling. Other party possibilities: a wine and cheese tasting or fiesta with sangria and salsa buffet.
The Cocktail Hour
Mini Shot GlassesThe Cocktail Hour
8" Glass Tiered PlatterThe Cocktail Hour
Medium Rectangle ServerThe Cocktail Hour
  • Mini Cordials, Mini Wine Glasses or Mini Shot Glasses double as dessert dishes
  • Set out extra napkins and coasters on side tables
The Cocktail Hour

International Sampler
Choose any theme from afternoon tea to Moroccan cuisine, and serve old favorites along with daring new dishes. Suddenly it’s not just a party. It’s an adventure. We really like this idea for luncheons, bridal showers or a supper club.
International Sampler
Mini Bowls & Large Canoe TrayInternational Sampler
Mini Cordials & Small Rectangle ServerInternational Sampler
White Porcelain Spoons & Medium Rectangle ServerInternational Sampler
  • Think traffic flow: clear the path around your table
  • Create a drink station on a sideboard or tray table
  • Store-bought? Take-out? Totally OK (and encouraged)
International Sampler

Holiday Buffet
Invite the Tasting Party Collection to your best celebrations. So unique and practical, these are pieces you’ll also want around all year long. For starters: Valentine’s chocolate tasting, summer garden get-together or Halloween parties.
Holiday Buffet
Sampler Set - includes tray & 4 cupsHoliday Buffet
Mini Martini Glasses and 9-Section TrayHoliday Buffet
Large Canoe TrayHoliday Buffet
  • Add holiday color with garnishes like candy canes
  • Use cards or gift tags to label dishes and drinks
  • Re-think traditional dishes: maybe pumpkin bread trifle instead of pie
Holiday Buffet

Recipe Cards - Click on a recipe card to print - Recipes courtesy Robert Zollweg
Banana Cream Delight
Serve in 12 Mini Martini Glasses or Small Dessert Dishes.
  • ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 box vanilla pudding (non-instant is creamier)
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1 container whipped topping
Mix cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Divide the cracker mixture equally between the 12 glasses, press down firmly in bottom of each glass.
Make the pudding as directed on the box.
Put 3-4 slices of banana over the cracker crumbs. Cover bananas with pudding. Chill until set. Finish with whipped topping and serve.
Caprese Salad
Serve in 12 Mini Martini Glasses with Spoons or Appetizer Forks.
  • 24 cherry tomatoes (quartered optional)
  • 1 small can black olives
  • 1 lb fresh buffalo mozzarella, diced
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped or torn into small pieces
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and coarse black pepper
You can also add ½ cup finely chopped sweet onions or green onions.
In a mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Toss with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Serve in Mini Martini Glasses on a long tray.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Parfait
Serve in 12 Mini Cordials/Parfaits.
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 ½ cups finely crushed chocolate wafers or graham crackers
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup finely chopped peanuts
  • ½ cup chocolate syrup
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 8 oz-container whipped topping or fresh-made whipping cream
  • Chocolate shavings or chopped nuts for garnish (optional)
Combine melted butter, honey and crushed wafers in a mixing bowl. Fill each glass with one heaping teaspoon of wafer mixture, about a ½”, pack down slightly.
Add a few chocolate chips and some chopped peanuts on top of the cookie crumbs. Drizzle with the chocolate syrup.
In a bowl, combine cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, milk and vanilla, mix together until well-blended. Gently fold in whipped topping or whipped cream. Carefully spoon mixture into glasses.
Garnish with chocolate shavings or add another drizzle of chocolate syrup and some chopped peanuts. Refrigerate a couple of hours until set.
Classic Cheesecake
Serve in 12 oven-safe 3-oz Ramekins.
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup margarine
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened (ricotta cheese may be used)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 can cherry, blueberry pie filling or fresh berries for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For a simple graham cracker crust, mix graham cracker crumbs, margarine and sugar, then divide equally between the 12 ramekins.
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add egg whites, mix well, then add sour cream and mix thoroughly. Pour equally into the 12 ramekins, almost to the top.
Bake 20 minutes or until center is almost set. Turn off oven, leaving oven door open for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, top each ramekin with a spoonful of pie filling or fresh berries.
Mango Salsa with Shrimp or Chicken
Serve in Mini Bowls with Spoons or Appetizer Forks.
  • 1 mango, peeled and finely cubed
  • 12 oz fresh pineapple, diced
  • ¼ red pepper, chopped
  • ¼ green pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes, divided
  • ½ cup honey, divided in half
  • 1 lb large frozen shrimp, rinsed and thawed
In a large mixing bowl, combine the mango, pineapple, red and green peppers, 1 tsp red pepper flakes and ¼ cup of the honey. Mix well. Place a heaping spoonful of the mango salsa in the bottom of each mini bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, place the remaining honey and red pepper flakes. Dip the shrimp, but not the tail, into the honey mixture. Place 2-3 shrimp in each individual serving bowl on top of the mango salsa. This can be made in advance, but should be covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.
For Mango Salsa with Chicken, cut 2-3 boneless chicken breasts into 3” strips. The chicken should be grilled or pan-fried until golden brown and done. Serve the same as the shrimp recipe.
Quick & Simple Chocolate Mousse
Serve in 12 Mini Shot Glasses or Mini Cordials.
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 4 oz baking chocolate or chocolate chips (can be dark, semi-sweet or sweet)
  • 1 8-oz container whipped topping
  • Chocolate shavings or wafer for garnish (optional)
Melt butter in microwavable bowl, add cracker crumbs and sugar, mix thoroughly. Place about a teaspoon of mixture in the bottom of each shot glass, a little more for cordials. Press down.
In a large mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese and vanilla until fluffy.
In smaller microwavable mixing bowl, melt together milk and chocolate until melted and creamy. Add chocolate to cream cheese mixture, mix thoroughly. Gently fold in whipped topping.
Fill each glass to the top with the chocolate mousse. You can garnish with a dollop of whipped topping, if desired. Finish off with a few shavings of chocolate or a chocolate wafer.
Texas Party Quiches
Serve in 20 oven-safe 3-oz Ramekins.
  • 1 pkg refrigerator biscuits
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional
  • 1 jar of salsa for topping, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Separate biscuits and cut in half horizontally, making 20 pieces of thin pastry. Place a piece of pastry into each ramekin. Press down. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, until just brown and slightly puffy.
In a large bowl, combine beaten eggs and cottage cheese. Beat in flour, baking powder and melted butter. Stir in Monterey Jack cheese, green onions. Mix well.
Pour mixture equally into the ramekins. Sprinkle a few pieces of cheddar cheese on top (optional). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done. Serve warm, plain or with salsa on the side in a dip bowl.
You can also make this quiche without the pastry crust, or use some toasted bread cubes.
You can add almost anything to this recipe: bacon, mushrooms, green pepper, etc.
Vegetable Bisque
Serve in 3 Sampler Sets (12 cups total).
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 28-oz can of diced or stewed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 3-4 handfuls of day old French bread, crust removed and crumbled
  • 1 cup heavy cream
In a large microwavable bowl or casserole, place the onion, celery, carrots, zucchini, green pepper and potatoes with about 2 cups water. Microwave for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Save the liquid.
Place the vegetables, including the can of tomatoes, in a food processor or hand mash until smooth.
In a stockpot, bring chicken broth, the vegetable liquid, the vegetable puree, bay leaf, salt, cayenne pepper and thyme to a good simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes or so. Add by spoonfuls, a little at a time, the crumbled bread until the soup starts to thicken. Add the heavy cream and simmer another 10 minutes. Serve with some homemade toast sticks.