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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feeling British Tonight: Bangers, Potatoes au Gratin, and Texas Roadhouse Styled Green Beans

Tonight I was feeling rather British/Irish. I am already part Irish and since Saint Patrick's Day is coming, bangers are now available around here; I wanted to get in touch with my heritage. :p Mom is seeing Elton John tonight with Aunt Kathy; I made dinner for dad and I. Although this wasn't a quick meal - it took me two hours to cook everything, it was still very good. This meal would be perfect for someone trying to impress someone else, but also if someone wants something different (in my case). I will post the different recipes and I will give you instructions on how to warm bangers.

Potatoes au Gratin

  • 4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • 3/4 white onions, sliced into rings
  • 1/4 red onions, sliced into rings
  • 1 shot of Jack Daniels
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup, 3 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the over to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a casserole dish. 
  2. Layer half of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with half of the onion slices and half a shot of Jack Daniels.  Add the rest of the potatoes, then add the rest of the onions and Jack Daniels. I added a slice of cheddar to the top - I broke it into small pieces. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In medium sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour, salt, pepper, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened. Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted; about 30 to 60 seconds.  Pour cheese mixture over the potatoes, and cover the dish with tin foil.
  4. Bake 1 1/2 hours in the oven.

Texas Roadhouse Styled Green Beans

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 lbs fresh green beans
  • 2 tablespoons red onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white onions, chopped
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground salt

  1. Place bacon into a saucepan. 
  2. Cook for about ten minutes. 
  3. Take it out of the saucepan to drain. 
  4. Keep the bacon grease in the saucepan, add the butter. 
  5. When the butter melts down a bit, add the onions and garlic. 
  6. Cook until the onions are translucent. 
  7. Add the chicken broth, the crumbled bacon, salt, pepper, and green beans. 
  8. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.


Buy package of bangers and place on skillet. Cook until brown; it took about 20 minutes of cooking until they were done. My bangers didn't turn a golden brown, but they were steaming hot.


Speaking of it being a British night, look at the beautiful card I received from Andrew yesterday! :)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review of Chris Gales

Two weeks ago Chris Gales, a musician mom and I saw while we were visiting Memphis, sent me an e-mail to inform me he released a CD. Mom and I saw Chris while he was performing at Flynn's on Beale Street, which is where his CD was recorded. I ordered Chris Gales Live at Flynn's for $17 and couldn't wait to have an album reminiscent of my Memphis trip. To say I was excited is an understatement.

When I loaded Chris's live CD into my walkman, I was instantly transported back to when mom and I saw him at Flynn's. I remember drinking my Jack and Coke, while carefully eating my catfish and collards; mom imbibing her beer and eating her brisket. As we were waiting for our food, we were mesmerized by Chris's charisma and performance. He's a great singer and a really nice guy.

The CD opens up with his introduction to the crowd dining at Flynn's, then it quickly goes to "Walking In Memphis." "Walking in Memphis" is his cover of Marc Cohen's 1991 hit, and I honestly like Chris's version a bit better (like I said, I like Chris's voice). Eight other songs are covers as well, which Chris's renditions are superb, giving the songs new life: "Stand By Me" (Ben E. King, 1961) and "Dock of the Bay" (Otis Redding, 1968), "Good Day" (Storyville), Shaky Ground (Temptations), Crossroad Blues (Robert Johnson), and three others. Chris penned "A Beautiful Thing" and in his performance, Chris's talented lyrics shows a unique side of him. He is definitely a great writer and musician. The way he conducts his performances and his very outgoing nature, I can see why Flynn's always wants him performing. His charisma and showmanship definitely draws a crowd and a following.

I would recommend buying Chris Gales Live at Flynn's. I know it brought back the good memories of Memphis for me; but even if you've never been to Memphis, you would appreciate the sound of Memphis coming out of your speakers. It might just lead you towards your own trip to Memphis to see all the talent that comes from the Delta. You can purchase the CD here.

The Jihadist Next Door

As the identity of the man leading ISIS came to the forefront yesterday, articles have been published stating that Mohammed Emwazi (also known as Jihadi John) was an extremely kind man. The 26 year old  from London was known as a kind, bright, charismatic individual and no one is quite sure why he joined ISIS. As I was watching BBC News, the British journalist reported that before Emwazi traveled to Syria, the British government was using him as an informant and he was going to help the British government. However, we see how that turned out. On social media it has been posted that he felt like a social outcast and different, so this was a way to show his power. Someone questioned: "Why? You were once such a bright and kind young man. What happened? Feeling different or like an outcast should serve as an inspiration to become stronger emotionally and mentally to rise above to do beautiful things with your life to help others, rather than hurt them."

This reminds me of an article I read in 2010 in the New York Times: The Jihadist Next Door. The Jihadist Next Door is an article about Omar Hammami and how he left Alabama to go to the Middle East to join a terrorist cell. He was from a conservative Christian town of Daphne, Alabama. Once an upbeat and vibrant boy, after 9/11 Hammami changed. He felt like a religious outcast in his hometown and didn't feel welcomed. So, he went the radical route. Definitely read the article because it's interesting. I remember being moved by it and I wrote a poem about it. The poem I wrote made it to publication in West Chester University's Literati (2010) and it's in one of the books I self-published:

Daphne’s Sweetheart
By Jessica Marie

I see your smirk,
Pasted innocently on your freckled face,
Teeth missing, little sweat drops, cheeks red
From the hot, May Mississippi sun;
Eating watermelon for hours with Southern flare.
Life wasn’t confusing then or was it?
Sweet little boy torn by Christian and Muslim,
Accepting the word of Christ,
Then living by the Koran and Arabic tongue.
Though, you’d be baptized by the cross.

I see your smirk,
Tormented by your beliefs,
Confusion by Jesus’, Muhammad and Darwin—
Your family doesn’t make it easy, drifting apart;
Yet you’re a bright friendly teenager—
Voted most popular, head of the class
And wondering why Murrah1 was bombed:
Wishing violence would vanish from the Earth.
Turning to your savior Jesus Christ for peace;
And putting yourself in the hands of Allah.

I see your smirk,
Telling your friends and classmates
“Turn to Islam, it’s the chosen way,”
Bowing to Mecca from the flag pole
As the crowd, confused, just stares.
September 11th crashes your whole world—
A Muslim couldn’t possibly have done this
While hiding behind your traditional garb.
Changing your name, provoking response
You drop out of school and on to the Salafis2.
They guide you to your next stage of life
With a wife and baby girl left behind.

I see your smirk,
On my TV screen
As I watch your video
With the Koran in your hand,
Advising your cohorts:
“The only reason we stay away from cities
And giving up our vices and lust
Because we are waiting for the enemy—
Death to America! For jihad!”

Through your smirk,
Your army follows your orders
With the same charisma you had in school
That won you class president and a popular girl.
With your charisma and cool
You lead the deadliest terrorist group
With the biggest smile and no confusion.
We sit and watch, baffled by you—
How could a sweet little lovable boy
Turn into someone so evil as you?

1  The Murrah Building was bombed by Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995 in Oklahoma City.
2  Salaf means “ancestor” in Arabic. Salafis believe in a strict return to the fundamentals of Islam and to purge practices by modern influences.

I'm not really sure why young people join these causes, but as I've said before... I think it's time to come together as a collective society to make sure young kids don't feel this marginalized that they join terror groups or think that joining terror groups are the answers to their problems. There is no reason that this far into the 21st century that religious differences should divide us, as well as other stereotypes that seem to divide society. Sadly, I don't think these will ever go away because that's human nature to an extent, but we should work together to prevent these types of situations. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thankful Thursday 2/26/2015

When Jamie posted this today and I replied with "Dreamers are an asset to this world," I meant every word of that. I'm a dreamer, though I am practical/logical at times too, and I like to think that with me being a dreamer I am an inspiration to people. I know both Jamie and Paul are inspirations to me, as well as many other dreamers. I really do think both dreamers and those that are logical are an asset to this world - we need both types of people to make contributions. It's like the yin and the yang. This was a great thing to ponder today and it really opened my eyes to how I should view myself when I'm having a bad day.

Today is Thankful Thursday. What else am I thankful for? Darlene told me that one of my former colleagues in tech fee passed away last week. He was young and it made me really sad to hear that because he was always a very friendly guy. Whenever I had computer issues with my old laptop, I would bring in the laptop to him and he would have his interns look at it for me. He was also a lovely person to talk to and I always loved conversing with him. I'm thankful I had the opportunity to work with him and had the opportunity to know him. I bought a sympathy card for his wife that I will be sending out tomorrow. We should all be thankful for life and given the opportunities to experience each day because we just never know. Although some days can be horrible (me yesterday), we still have the power to make the day better. We should be thankful for the time we are given.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Beautiful February Sunset

This was a very breathtaking view tonight. I love this time of year; the sunrises and sunsets are just gorgeous. The days slightly become longer, but it still gets dark by 8pm. There is just something about a cold winter sunset.

Cold February Sunset

February snow
the sun sinks over the landscape,
pinks and oranges.

Pinks and oranges
cover the bare, brown trees --
take my breath away.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Upper Merion Township Library and Friends of Black History's 16th Annual Celebration of Black History: Reaching Back, Moving Forward

Yesterday the Upper Merion Township Library and the Friends of Black History presented the 16th Annual Celebration of Black History. The theme for 2015 was Reaching Back, Moving Forward. It was held at the Upper Merion Township Building, which is located on 175 W. Valley Forge Road in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

The doors opened at 10 AM and DIY activities awaited youngsters and parents. All throughout the snowy day there were vendors selling jewelry, clothes, and handcrafts strewn about the atrium. I arrived at 10:30 AM and had the opportunity to chat with the author Rebecca O. Hayes. Hayes has published Private Cathy's Secrets, and other inspirational and children's stories. She was dressed up as Cathay Williams (Private Cathy), whom was a Civil War soldier but hid her gender to enlist in the Army. Hayes was the living vessel of William's and really brought to life the experiences and
hardships well. I had the opportunity to learn more about William's enlistment (as well as being able to take her War document) and learned more about life out West. I was given a paper about the usage of buffalo and a recipe for hardtack.

At 11 AM, I went into the auditorium where Dr. Daisy Nelson Century was a historical interpreter for Mary Fields. "Black Mary," as Native Americans called her, was the first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States. Like Hayes with Private Cathay Williams, Dr.
Century was the life vessel of Field's spirit. "Black Mary" came alive and the hour long performance captured the attention of the young and old alike. Some of the jokes told had all age groups laughing. It was awesome seeing children so interested in history; Dr. Century did a great job balancing how to keep things child-friendly but historically accurate. I also really liked the music she played at the beginning on her harmonica. By the end of the show, children were excited to ask her questions and to get pictures with her.

Before I left for the day; I left early since the snow was covering the sidewalks, roads, and grass;I had the soul food lunch. Fried or BBQ chicken were served and you could take your pick of which you wanted. I chose the fried chicken and had it with collard greens and sweet potatoes. Everything was so delicious, I wanted seconds. However, I knew I couldn't go back for seconds  and resolved that I would make this meal one night. I love collards and sweet potatoes, so I don't mind cooking it. Reaching Back, Moving Forward was a great event and I enjoyed attending. The Upper Merion Township Library and the Friends of Black History did a really wonderful job putting this event together.

The cupcake was made by Jessica Thomas, the owner of Live. Love. Bake. 
Amazing cupcake! Jessica can be reached by e-mail:

Dr. Daisy Nelson Century is a Historical Interpreter.
Her website:

Rebecca O. Hayes:

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Friends of Black History's 16th Annual Celebration of Black History 2/21/2015 at 10am

Tomorrow the Upper Merion Township Library and the Friends of Black History are holding their 16th Annual Celebration of Black History from 10 AM until 3 PM. The theme this year is Reaching Back, Moving Forward. I will be in attendance for a little bit. I had the opportunity to attend in 2010; for the 11th Annual Black History Celebration. Let me share with you my experiences from 2010.

11th Annual Black History Month at Upper Merion Township Library
February 13, 2010

At 10 A.M. I arrived at the Upper Merion Township Building for the 2010 Black History Month sponsored by the Upper Merion Township Library. The theme was From Woolworth's to the White House. Before the celebration began, I had the opportunity to walk around the little displays. I
enjoyed looking at the art works and other historical pieces they had displayed. It was interesting to look at the history of the Civil Rights movement, especially to see so many personal narratives of the residents of Upper Merion, which as a history major I don't see very often in textbooks. Then, I saw a table with an author selling her books. Her name is Dr. Niama Williams, or Dr. Ni as she likes to be called. We were talking and she gave me great advice on becoming a writer and getting published. She then posed for a picture with me.

Finally, at 11 A.M. the program started. The Township was running late because of the snow we had received on February 6, 10, 11, and the freezing from the 12. They first commemorated Mrs. Mary Washington for honorary member of the Friends of Black History club. I personally know her and she truly deserved the honor. The first reader was for the children and he was a grio that told traditional African stories in the form of a puppet show. The grio had different animals puppets - a spider that was supposed to tell the traditional folk stories, but gave excuses to why he couldn't tell the stories. For example, some of the excuses were like taking a bath, doing homework, eating dinner, etc. The grio and his dragon puppet came out next to tell the stories, riddles, and songs like Pole (Pole is a song by Nina Jenkins, which is also a call and response song. Call and Response songs are very important in African songs.), which were fun and cute. He had everyone in the audience stand up when it came to interactive parts (like helping him sing and dance), which was a great way to teach children the culture. Of course, the children were having so much fun that they didn't even realize they were learning!

After a half-an-hour lunch break that was catered by Mrs. Davenport's Church and a Jamaican group - the food was delicious, by the way - a professor from Temple University spoke to the adult audience about how far African Americans have come in the past 40 years from 1956 to the turbulent 60s with the boycotts at Woolworth's, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and all the way up to the
election of President Barrack Obama. Her personal stories were amazing; she talked about her college days when she came from a poor Southern town to the University of Pennsylvania, and only saw her parents on holidays and during the summer. Her dad wanted her to succeed and show "the whiteys how smart we can be." She talked about how much pressure was put on her and made her more appreciative of what we are lucky to have today.

Overall, it was a fun day and the Upper Merion Township Library, as always, put on a great show. It offered great ethnic food, had wonderful stories and storytelling for all age groups. No one was bored or disappointed!

I'm looking forward to attending Reaching Back, Moving Forward at the Upper Merion Township Building on Saturday, February 21st at 10 AM. There will be DIY crafts, live music by Veronica & VEP Band, historical interpretations by Daisy Century and samples of soul food. I hope to see you there, as does the Upper Merion Township Library and the Friends of Black History! You won't regret it!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thankful Thursday 2/19/2015

This might sound silly, but Starbucks now has coconut milk. I am mostly lactose intolerant (I can tolerate a little bit of dairy), but I can't have soy anymore because the hormones in soy (estrogens) are toxic to my thyroid. With Starbucks, it was either soy or milk. They don't carry almond because they explained to me with allergies, it would have been bad. So, I would get some milk in my drinks (I could tolerate those, but I just didn't have anything else with dairy that day). This morning when I went for breakfast and to apply for some jobs, I saw they had coconut milk. I asked for that and I feel thankful that they are carrying that now. Thank you, Starbucks!

Other than that, I'm thankful for the peacefulness of this week. It's been a snowy and cold week, but the snow has been beautiful and it's relaxing to me. There's just something calming about cold weather, too. I'm thankful for the seasons: I love experiencing seasons.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Eighty-Two Weeks

Although this triolet didn't win when I submitted it to Dogwood Publication's poetry contest in September 2014, I still really like this triolet.

Eighty-Two Weeks
Jessica Marie

It’s amazing how time flies after eighty-two weeks—
since I told you secrets and your hugs held me close,
the snow quickly creeps and in the whiteness you sneak,
it’s amazing how time flies after eighty-two weeks!
Death is an amazing robber! Warm kisses on the cheeks
instantly gone, as are the escarole soup scents to the nose;
it’s amazing how time flies after eighty-two weeks—

time holds no secrets on how much I miss having you so close!

I think I might add to it - maybe I'll make it a double triolet. :D What do you think?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snowy Day Triolet

Today the Philadelphia area received 4-6 inches of snow. The library was opened, but other places got lucky and had snow days. Although I worked at the library today, I enjoyed the view from the library and I wrote a triolet.

Snowy Day Triolet
Jessica Marie

Outside the window the flurries rage,
against the wind; vibrant hues are gone
from trees to berries- it's a new Bronze Age!
Outside the window the flurries rage,
covering the landscape like a blank page,
so soothing and comforting, a new calm--
outside the window the flurries rage,
against the wind; vibrant hues are gone!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Secret Life of Blogger's Blog Party (2/9/2015- 2/15/2015)

I'm going to take a little break with these for the rest of February - the Secret Life will return on March 8! I enjoy doing these and sharing insights to my life,but want to take a little rest. Enjoy!

Monday, February 9

I found this awesome card at Trader Joe's and sent it to Christina since Christina is a Turtle fan. :)

Tuesday, February 10

Check out Holy Devil on iTunes or Amazon. Romantickish is awesome!

Dinner I made, along with Faygo. I love Faygo.

Wednesday, February 11

Started reading this and this book is pretty awesome so far.

Thursday, February 12

My Dammit Doll has arrived! :)

Friday, February 13

Saturday, February 14

Valentine's gift from mom and dad. :)

Valentine's and cards from the Snail Mail Group of What a great Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 15

This is what I'll be doing today because it's too windy outside.