Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Motivations: Who Packed Your Parachute?

I've seen a lot of people do a lot nice things for others, often with no acknowledgement or thanks. This week it made me think of Charles Plumb; I share his story with you below. I hope people recognize and acknowledge their "parachute packers" while they still can.

Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb.
"I packed your parachute," the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.
The man pumped his hand and said, "I guess it worked!"
Plumb assured him, "It sure did. If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today."

Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, "I kept wondering what he had looked like in a navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said 'Good morning, how are you?' or anything, because you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor."

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, "Who's packing your parachute?" Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.

He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory - he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute.

He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Sometimes in the daily challenges  that life gives us, we miss what is really important.

We may fail to say hello, please or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes!
Have a great week!
For more Monday Motivations Click Here.

All images courtesy Google Images.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Homemade Orange Cleaner

I love living in Arizona where we have fresh oranges, grapefruits and lemons almost year round. I'm also a huge fan of finding ways to use, reuse and upcycle so that nothing goes to waste. So when I heard this idea of making homemade orange cleaner, I had to try it. It was super simple and super effective. It also feels good to use cleaner that is all natural and smells good...I like doing my part for the "green movement". So here's how easy it is.

If you have a whole bag of oranges, use this Citrus Technique to cut them up. Layer the cut peels into a glass jar. If you only eat one orange a day, that works too. Just add the peels to the jar each day until it is full. 
Once the jar is full of peel, pour while vinegar into the jar covering all peels.
Put the lid tightly on the jar. Then let it sit 10-14 days. See how simple that is?
Don't open it during this time...just let it sit! The vinegar pulls the natural oil from the citrus peels.

When 10-14 days have passed, open the jar and pour the citrus oil into a spray bottle, filling to half way. Fill the rest of the spray bottle with water making a 50/50 mixture of citrus oil and water. Shake just a little to mix it and you are ready to clean. This cleaner works great on sinks, counters, windows, floors, showers...well, just about anywhere.

I also tried it with lemon peels and it worked just as well. 
Really, the only cost to this cleaner is the vinegar, because you are using the throw away part of the orange as you eat them, and not purchasing oranges specifically for this. I used a pint jar for the lemons, and a quart jar for the orange peels.

What is your favorite reuse, recycle or upcycle tip?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Banana Nut Choc Chip Muffins

I really like bananas. They are, in fact, one of my favorite fruits. That is, as long as they are yellow and firm. I cannot eat a banana that is soft; not even one that has just started getting soft. So in my mind, bananas have a very short window of perfection. They might be partially green when I purchase them. Within a day or two they will be perfect...completely yellow, firm, with no brown spots. They must be eaten within a couple days of that perfection. As soon as they sprout brown spots and are soft to the (gentle) squeeze...uh uh...past it's prime and I won't eat it.

That being said, I never throw bananas away. As soon as they are soft, I remove the peel, break the banana in half and add it to a baggie in my freezer. These frozen bananas are perfect for Smoothies. In fact, you need to let the banana get a little soft before freezing it. This enhances the natural sweetness of the fruit. I always have a baggie of frozen banana halves in the freezer ready to go for smoothies.

But every now and then I'm not paying attention and the bananas on the counter get past the "perfect to freeze softness" and are just plain mushy. I still don't like to throw them away, so that calls for a batch of Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins or some Banana Nut Oatmeal. Note: the softer the bananas are the sweeter they will taste. These muffins are quick to whip up and perfect for lunch boxes...or setting on the counter for kids to grab as they run in and out all summer.

This recipe makes 36 muffins.

6 Large Very Ripe Bananas
1 Cup Oil
3 Eggs

2 Cups Sugar
4 Cups White Flour **see tip 1 below
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Baking Powder

1 1/2 Cup Walnuts, Chopped Roughly
1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 300*.
Mix wet ingredients in the blender. Pour into a large bowl.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.

Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing in a little at a time until fully incorporated.
Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake 20 min at 300*.
TIP 1: Whole wheat flour and white flour can be mixed 50/50. Sift the wheat flour and it will bake a little lighter.

TIP 2: Bakes well as loaves instead of muffins. Large loaves will bake in about 60 minutes. Small loaves will take 20-30 minutes.

Printable Recipe

What is your favorite recipe for using overripe bananas?
For more Passion For Excellence recipes Click Here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Motivations: Makin' Pancakes

Yesterday (Father's Day), I made waffles from scratch with fresh homemade strawberry syrup and whipped cream (not homemade) for Doug. With a couple of his favorite poached eggs alongside, they were soooo good. While I was mixing this whole grain goodness, I remembered this story and thought you might like it. 

One Saturday morning six year old Brandon decided to fix pancakes for his parents. He found a big bowl and a spoon, pulled a chair to the counter and climbed up on it. He opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it to the floor.

He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar. All the while leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten.

Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn't know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove, (and he didn't know how the stove worked)! Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away. In doing so, he knocked the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door.

Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon's eyes. All he wanted to do was something good, but he's made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking.

But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process.

That's how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but sometimes it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend or we can't stand our job or our health goes sour. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can't think of any thing else to do.

That's when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. But just because we might mess up, we can't stop trying to "make pancakes," for God or for others. Sooner or later we'll get it right, and then they'll be glad we tried.

This story also reminds me to be patient with others who are traveling this journey with us. We don't always know what others are thinking; they may be trying to do something good and it turns into a mess.

Have a great week, everyone!! For more Monday Motivations Click Here!
To leave a comment Click Here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Easy Homemade Whoopie Pies

Call them Whoopie Pies or Stuffed Cookies, everyone loves them. And they are so easy to whip together. It doesn't take much longer to make four flavors than it does to make one. A variety of flavors makes an attractive dessert tray and allows you to satisfy different flavor preferences among those you are serving. They also freeze well. It's nice to be able to pull a few out of the freezer on a week night, or to be able to put a quick plate together to deliver to a friend.

Father's Day is a perfect time for Chocolate Bowls For Ice Cream Sundaes and a selection of different flavored Whoopie Pies. Speaking of Father's Day, another dessert that is ALWAYS a hit is this Almost Better Than Sex Cake. In my experience, even guys who aren't huge chocolate fans LOVE this's like eating a candy bar in cake form. If you are having a crowd over and want variety, make a couple of these super easy Butterfinger Pies. I can always count on these two dessert plates being empty before the day is over. And what are you making for Dad for dinner? Shouldn't it be some of his favorite foods? All guys love Gourmet will enjoy the creamy, decadent flavor of this one too. 

Back to the Whoopie Pies...I know there are multiple recipes out there, but I like this one because it is simple, quick and delicious! Without further you go...and Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

What you need:
1 Box Cake Mix
1 Stick Melted Butter
2 Eggs

Frosting: Purchase cans of frosting to coordinate with cake mix flavors.

Some great combinations are:
Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Frosting
Chocolate OR Devils Food with Cream Cheese OR Vanilla Frosting
Strawberry with Chocolate Frosting
Yellow with Chocolate Frosting
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Frosting


Mix cake mix, melted butter and eggs together.
Scoop rounded teaspoon, roll into ball and set on baking sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes on 350*
Don't overcook. Cookies will continue to cook as they sit.
Let cookies sit for 5 minutes before transferring to wax paper.
Let cookies cool completely.
Turn cookies upside and and pipe frosting on one half of the cookies, using the piping technique below.
You can also just spread the frosting on the cookies, but piping is so much easier and faster.
Gently press a second cookie on top of frosted cookies while frosting is still soft. For best flavor and consistency, refrigerate for a couple hours before eating. If you need to keep them for more than a day or two, they store very nicely in the fridge. And as I mentioned before, they are awesome frozen! 

Piping Technique:
Stand a plastic baggie in a glass, spreading it over the outside of the glass. 
Using a spatula, fill the baggie with frosting. 
Using scissors, cut the tip of the baggie off. Keep the size of the hole relevant to what you are piping. For Whoopie Pies, it can be a fairly large hole.

Printable Recipe
My two favorites are red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Dark Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Just can't decide which I like best. What is your favorite flavor combination? Can you suggest a new combo for me to try?

To leave a comment, click here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm Ba-ack!

Maybe you've noticed (or maybe you haven't), that I have been MIA for several weeks. I'm not a deserter...I just needed a little time out for surgery. I am now home recovering.

I mistakenly thought that I would have plenty of time to complete the dozens of blog posts that I have started and taken pictures for, while "sitting around" recovering. Turns out that there is very little time left between PT, naps, visiting with friends who stop by and just taking care of every day activities that take me twice as long to complete. I'm not complaining...not at all! Those of you who know me well know that I had this same surgery exactly one year ago on the other side (total hip replacement) and it was a long, difficult recovery.

As I add this to my list of nearly 40 surgeries and procedures, I joke that my purpose in life must be to experience every medical procedure I possibly can. I now need to figure out how I can use those experiences to help others (while making a living). Anyway, I approached this surgery differently by putting together a plan for everything that didn't go as well as I would have liked, or I thought could have gone better with last years surgery. I discussed my plan with the Doctors ahead of time and got their buy in. Among other things, my plan included a different drug protocol before, during and after surgery as well as juicing for intense nutritional therapy before and immediately following surgery. Yes, I prepared my own fresh juice and Doug brought it to the hospital in a cooler.

Let me just say, "Woo Hoo!!" HUGE SUCCESS!! I feel great. I was able to get out of bed BY MYSELF just 15 hours after surgery. (For comparison, last year it was three days before I could get up and then with great assistance.) I felt wonderful immediately. It is still a lengthy recovery for my hip, but I feel good and have great energy. At three weeks after surgery, I would compare my overall strength and energy right now to where I was week seven or eight of last year. The whole experience has been 100% better and overall I am thrilled with where I'm at and the progress I've made.

My hospital experience was super positive. Just a quick shout out to the staff on the 3rd floor, orthopedic wing of Arrowhead Hospital in Glendale, Az. When I arrived in my room after surgery I was thrilled to find that my nurse and CNA were the same wonderful people that had assisted me last year. PT and OT were the same too. It's a good thing they were awesome and I was happy to see them, huh? I guess if they hadn't been so wonderful last year, it would have been a long four days. And my incredible husband, Doug, was beside me in the hospital the whole time. He may hold the record for most days spent sleeping in a hospital room chair! We just don't like being apart. We're still's only been 11 years. I love that we love being together!

I actually asked my Dr. to take a picture of my hip as they replaced it. He did, and then emailed it to me. I thought about putting it in this post, but don't want to freak anyone out who doesn't have the stomach for things like that. I think it was quite interesting to see what had been causing all the pain.

I can't wait to get active again! Those who know me also know that I'm not the type to sit still for long. I love the outdoors and I crave activity. Even when watching tv I'd rather be walking on the treadmill or riding my bike on the trainer than sitting in a chair. I'm learning to accept that I won't be able to run any more. I'll have to walk/hike the mountain instead of run the mountain. I was training for a marathon when my first knee went out. Now I've had two hip replacements (consequences of a very active life and cancer drugs that destroyed my joints) and have to protect my knees as well. Right now I am working on being able to walk without crutches. That may take a while, but I'll get there. I'm faithful in doing my PT every day

I'm trying to wrap my brain around walking a marathon. Have you ever done that? When I think marathon, I think running. But I'm trying to get to the mindset that it would be just as great of an accomplishment to walk it. If you've walked a marathon, what tips or advice can you offer me?

I'm working on getting a few posts up before Fathers Day: quick and easy table decor and yummy homemade whoopie pies. But let me just say, if you need a killer dessert for Father's Day that never disappoints, try Almost Better Than Sex Cake; even guys who aren't crazy for chocolate love it! Another hit with the guys is Butterfinger Pie.  Mmmmm...good!

It's good to be back; with a little time, I'll be back stronger than ever!