Today, my son and I took a break from school and made some Cheez-Its. Now, I've used this recipe before but it's been at least five years ago and I couldn't remember how it turned out. I will also state that this is NOT my recipe. I got this online somewhere and printed it. I can't find the link. So if someone knows where this recipe comes from, please let me know and I'll be more than happy to give credit to that person immediately.
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
4 tbsp. butter, softened and cut up
1/2 tsp. salt (or 1 tsp. if you use unsalted butter)
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 tbsp. whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350'F
In a food processor (or a good blender), combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and pepper in five-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the milk and process until the dough forms a ball. In my case, I used a blender and I processed it for about 20 seconds and then took it out and kneaded it for a minute or two. It felt just like play-dough and it was good to go at that point.
On a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin (mine is plastic) roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 1/16" thick. In my case, I eyeballed it and used my pizza slicer to slice the crackers into almost squares. If you want to be precise, you're welcome to use a cookie cutter. I've also read you can use a serrated fondant cutter to make it look more like the original crackers.
I personally placed the crackers on parchment paper to bake.
Poke holes in the middle with a toothpick if desired. You can also lightly sprinkle more salt on the top if you want to.
Bake the crackers on the middle rack for 15 minutes or until the ends are beginning to brown.
Once I pulled the pan from the oven, I immediately removed the crackers from the parchment paper onto a dry surface to cool. If you leave them on the baking sheet to cool, you might want to remove them from the oven just a little earlier as they will darken a bit more as they cool since the cookie sheet is so hot.
Verdict: The texture of these crackers is fantastic. I find it's a bit too sharp for me personally and next time may go with mild cheddar just to see how it turns out. Our son, who is a huge Cheez-Its fan, seems to think they are a little too sharp as well. We also tend to eat very low salt, and I thought 1 tsp. of salt (we used unsalted butter) was a little too much. I will stick with unsalted butter and 1/2 tsp. salt next time. They are easy to make and the dough is wonderful to work with. I'll definitely be trying this recipe again in the future!
Our son is nine-and-a-half and he has autism. Birthday parties have always been very difficult for him and that includes his own.
I remember one of his parties when he was just a little guy. Everyone started to sing the birthday song and he was grinning from ear to ear and looking at each of us in wonder. I always wished I'd taken video because of the priceless look on his face. The following year, I wanted to make sure I didn't make the same mistake twice. Can you guess what happened? As soon as we burst into song, he was in tears. And yes, I did catch that one on video. :-\
Since then, we ask him whether or not he wants the birthday song at his party. Usually the answer is no. Or he'll want one of us to sing it to him before the party itself. Most of the time we all tell him "Happy Birthday!" and then he blows out the candles.
When you go to someone else's birthday party, however, you don't have that luxury. We usually take him outside during the birthday song. Sometimes that works and other times he still cries because he wasn't there, even though it would have been much worse if he was (we've tried that, too). Many times we've had a meltdown that lasted 10-45 minutes afterwards.
We also often have to take him out of the room during gift opening. He stresses out about it and cries over it. Taking him out of the room and trying to distract him with something else is usually the best alternative.
Over the last year or so, things have been slowly getting better with each party experience. Sometimes we come away with a smile on our face over a triumph. Other times we have to search and cling to the one bright spot out of a rough experience. But there's almost always something.
Our niece's fifth birthday party was this last Friday. As always, we discussed the day with our son in depth. We also went into it with a game plan.
As we approached cake time, our son surprised me by coming up to me and saying, "No birthday song." There were no tears or anxiety, just a request. I told him that they were going to sing, but that he and I could go outside and look at the flowers instead. He was perfectly happy with the idea and that's just what we did. There were no tears. There was no anxiety or stress. When the song was over we went back inside and he enjoyed a piece of birthday cake.
My husband and I were shocked. That alone was enough to make me want to do back flips. But it wasn't the only success we were going to see that evening.
He sat through the entire gift unwrapping process with his daddy. He had no trouble whatsoever. There was one toy he was particularly curious about and went to go see it, informing us that he "Was just looking."
The triumphs didn't end there. Most of the time, when a party is over and we're headed home, we see evidence of the stress he's gone through for hours afterwards. But this time, he came away from the event perfectly happy.
It reminded me that successes, no matter how tiny they might be, should always be celebrated because they are stepping stones.
The birthday party was a HUGE victory for our son and I couldn't be more proud.
I introduced you all to our dojo loach, Leroy, a couple of days ago. I've done quite a bit of reading on dojo loaches and one of the articles commented on how much they like to interact with others of their own kind. We have plenty of room in our aquarium so we thought we could add a friend for him.
This new dojo loach is about a third of the size of Leroy. We've had him about a week and for the first few days, he lived inside a rock cave. When he did venture out, as soon as we came near the aquarium, he would hide again. It was funny because we caught Leroy laying in there with him a lot as if he were trying to keep the new fish company. Whenever I approached the aquarium, Leroy would come to the surface of the water so I could pet him like usual while the new loach stayed hidden.
Slowly, we noticed Link becoming more comfortable with all of us. Now he spends as much time in the open as Leroy and doesn't spook as easily. Only time will tell if he becomes as friendly towards us, though.
It's interesting how two fish can have such different personalities!
I glanced up from my book toward my husband, who was staring at me with an I-caught-you grin on his face. I lowered the book to my lap. “What?”
His grin only grew wider. “Nothing. Just watching you smile.”
I hadn’t even realized I was smiling. Should’ve known. Romance has a way of doing that. I’ll be so caught up in the story, so taken by the characters, that I become a part of it. And when the hero in the novel charms the heroine, that involuntary grin sneaks its way across my lips without my even noticing.
If you’ve read any of my books, you know I love the sweet romance thread of every story. Love to write it. Love to read it. Love to live it. And I think God intends for us to enjoy that part of a relationship. But as an author, I always want to be purposeful in not delivering a skewed depiction of romance.
One of my favorite scenes in Light Unshaken is when Emma’s brother reminds her that love isn’t a fairy tale. It’s a commitment. Oh, man. An arrow straight to my heart. It’s true, right? I mean, yeah, the butterflies are ah-mazing! Love them. But they’re definitely not the whole story.
In Part One of the series, Eyes Unveiled, Emma and Riley find faith in love. Now they have to find the courage to nurture and guard it. I approached this story, wanting to show the rawness of that journey. The brokenness we carry into a relationship. The failures we face in learning to be selfless. The courage needed to make sacrifices and the grace it takes to build a commitment that will last.
That’s love. That’s the kind of romance I want to write about. It’s the kind I want to live.
But let’s be real. That journey can get kind of messy at times. We wrestle with temptations. We make bad choices. We give in to fears. It’s not always pretty. At the same time, that’s what makes redemptive love so beautiful.
It’s the main reason I write what I do. And it’s the same reason I’m so over-the-moon excited for you to join Emma in this inspiring story about real love, costly choices, and the courage to fight for what you believe in.
It’s real. It has to be. Twenty-two-year-old college student Emma Matthews gained too much ground last year for it all to be a dream. She has an engagement ring on her finger to prove it. Not to mention an internship she’s made for.
After a summer of overcoming her fears, Emma can’t afford for the news she just received to shake her. Not when it might jeopardize her future with Riley. And not when the kids in downtown Portland are counting on her to keep the center’s doors open. With the added strain of a broken relationship and an unexpected friendship reminding her what’s at stake, what other choice does she have?
But as mounting danger compromises her safety, friction intensifies until the risk of keeping her promise threatens all she’s fought to believe. Caught in a moment when every light in her life goes out, Emma must find the courage to lead her heart no matter what it costs her.
Crystal's first book, Eyes Unveiled, is free through today. Don't miss out on the opportunity to read the first book in this series and make sure you pick up Light Unshaken as well!
Crystal writes contemporary inspirational fiction fueled by venti green teas from Starbucks. When not working her accounting day job, she's delving into the wonder of words, supporting her Starbucks habit, or laughing over movie quotes & singing eighties songs with her husband. She'd love to connect with you at http://crystal-walton.com
Here are a few pages from the first chapter of Finding Hope. Enjoy!
Lance Davenport leaned his chair back on two legs. He surveyed the hospital cafeteria, keeping his eyes on the double doors.
He wasn’t sure of Lexi’s schedule, but he knew she was working today. Since the cafeteria always served Mexican food on Wednesdays, she’d show up for lunch sooner or later. The woman loved her tacos.
Another five minutes passed before she appeared. She strode into the room, her purple scrubs matching several others in the room. She pushed some of her short hair behind a delicate ear. Her hair was nearly black — it’d been like that since they were kids. Dark as molasses.
Lexi picked up a tray and advanced towards the taco bar. By the time she’d gotten to the register, he was waiting, holding a twenty out to the cashier.
Lexi’s brown eyes swung to his. “Lance, you’re about the last person I expected to see here.” She nodded towards his hand holding the change. “Thank you.”
Lance followed her to a table and took the chair opposite her. “Not a problem.”
He watched her take a bite of refried beans. “Can’t a friend come by and say hello?”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
He chuckled. They may have known each other since he was in the third grade, but it was Tuck, her younger brother, who’d been Lance’s best friend. In fact, Tuck was like a brother to him. That alone had saved Lance’s sanity more times than he could count while living in a household with four sisters.
Lexi was two years older than Lance. As kids, he’d admired her. She had a heart for helping others and exuded confidence in everything she did. Throw in her ready smile, long arms, and the graceful way she moved, it was no wonder every boy in school had had a crush on her.
Lance had been no exception.
The woman had only gotten prettier over the years. Long, dark lashes framed eyes that had a knack for recognizing the needs of people around her. But it was her smile that had the power to light up a room.
“Okay, you got me. I came with a reason. Do I need to bring anything to Tuck and Laurie’s welcome home party?”
His best friend had gotten married the weekend before. The new couple were away on their honeymoon. A week at a ranch in the mountains. It was not a typical honeymoon destination, but it fit both of them well.
The Chandler family had a welcome home party planned for them Sunday evening and Lance was invited. He attended a lot of the family gatherings. Normally, he didn’t think twice about them. He was out of his element on this one, though. This was his first friend to have gotten married, and he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“Don’t worry. It’ll be a simple pizza party. No gifts or anything special. Bring sodas if you want to.”
“I can do that.” He thought about how Lexi always chose tea over carbonated drinks. “I’ll bring a jug of iced tea, too.”
Her dark brown eyes sparkled as she smiled. “I appreciate that. Did you already eat?”
Lance’s eyes followed hers to the empty table space in front of him. “Yeah, earlier. I didn’t want to miss you.”
Her fork stalled on its way to her mouth. “How long were you waiting?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll be there right at five. Can’t wait to see them. It feels like forever.”
“It sure does. I imagine even more so for you after the last couple of months. How’s your father doing?”
Lance’s thoughts drifted to Peter Davenport. A strong man who had done carpentry work all of his life, Peter had spent many hours showing Lance how to build things. After three generations, there were a lot of memories attached to his dad’s workshop.
While Peter always supported Lance’s decision to be a police officer, there had been some disappointment when he didn’t take over the family business.
And then, in moments, everything changed. His mom, Vera, had called. His dad had had a stroke.
He survived, but the weakness on one side of his body had rendered him unable to work.
Lance’s world changed that day, too. He wasn’t about to let the family business fade to a memory.
A week after his father’s stroke, Lance gave his resignation at the police department. Two weeks later, he became the new owner of Davenport Carpentry.
“Dad’s okay. Therapy is helping him a lot. He’s frustrated. He’s never been one to sit around and do nothing. It’s driving us all crazy.”
“I’ll bet. He’s lucky he has his family to support him. How’s the change to carpenter working for you?”
Lance shrugged. “I always enjoyed the work, but figured I could make more of a difference as a cop. I’m adjusting. We all are.”
Lexi tossed her napkin on the table and chuckled. “Tuck is adapting, too. The stories he tells us about his new partner. I think he misses you daily.”
His deep voice blended with her feminine one as they laughed together. “He may be afraid to tell me too much so I don’t feel guilted into going back.”
“You might be right.” With a glance at the clock, she stood. “I need to get back.”
Lance followed suit and took her tray for her. “Busy day?”
“It usually is in the ER. It’s not be-held-at-knife-point busy, but it keeps me hopping.”
He returned her bright smile as his mind raced back six months. He and Tuck were working on a case involving the woman who was now Tuck’s new bride. Laurie had been stalked by a man searching for information she’d photographed. He stabbed her, but Laurie got a shot off. Later, the man ended up at the ER needing stitches and pain medication. The man found out Lexi had called it in and held her hostage with a knife.
It’d taken every ounce of strength Lance possessed to watch Tuck go through those doors and try to talk the man down while he waited outside.
Thank God the siblings had subdued the guy before he injured Lexi.
Lance called out to her as she started to walk away. “Don’t work too hard. I’ll see you on Sunday.”
She looked over her shoulder, that dark hair caressing her jawline. “Sounds good. Thanks again for lunch.”
He watched her leave, admiring the way she carried herself. Lexi had always appeared certain of who she was and where she was going. It was one of the many things that had drawn Lance to her when they were in high school.
Tuck had known about his infatuation with Lexi, but few others did. Lance said nothing about it at the time because he knew she was leaving for college while he still had two years of high school left to complete. A part of him always regretted not putting himself out there and seeing what would have happened.
That was a long time ago and they were in very different places now.
Finding Hope is available for pre-sale now and will be released July 1st!
Who is Lance Davenport?
We are introduced to Lance in Finding Peace. He's been best friends with Tuck Chandler since they were young. They grew up together, went through the police academy together, and served the town of Kitner as partners on the police force for years.
In my new book, Finding Hope, we discover that life has changed quickly. After his dad suffers a stroke, Lance chooses to leave his career and keep his dad's carpentry business going.
Now, he's worried about the woman he's always had feelings for but managed to keep at arm's length. Lexi's facing cancer and the last thing he wants to do is waste more time.
Three of Lance's Favorite Things:
#1 - Spending time with Lexi and doing what he can to bring a smile to her face.
#2 - Ribbing his best friend, Tuck, every chance he gets.
#3 - Despite the difficulties he's had getting used to a change in profession, he enjoys working with wood and crafting things with his own two hands.
Three Things Lance Dislikes:
#1 - Watching his friends go through something and feeling helpless.
#2 - Seeing his dad struggle with the loss of his ability to do the work he's always enjoyed after suffering a stroke.
#3 - The years he's ignored how he felt about Lexi.
When I wrote Finding Peace, I knew that I wanted to see more about Lance in the future. I hope enjoy getting to know him, too!
Who is Lexi Chandler?
Alexis Chandler is one of the main characters in my newest book, Finding Hope, which will be available July 1st. If you've read Finding Peace, you'll remember she's Tuck's older sister and a successful registered nurse at the Kitner Memorial Hospital emergency room.
In general, Lexi's felt in control of her life. She enjoys her job, loves her family, and things are predictable. Until a single word, "Cancer," changes everything.
Three Things Lexi Enjoys:
#1 - Lexi has always appreciated her family and looks forward to spending time with them. She's especially close to her younger brother, Tuck.
#2 - While she enjoys most aspects of her job working at the ER, her favorite part is helping the children who come in. She has a knack for making them relax and even smile, despite the illnesses that bring them there.
#3 - Her favorite food is Mexican food - specifically tacos. She's never met a taco she didn't like.
Three Things Lexi Dislikes:
#1 - A particular attending physician at the ER where she works who's determined to date her, and every other woman with a pulse.
#2 - That she and her sister, Serenity, have grown so far apart. It all started before Serenity's son, Gideon, was born. So far, there's been nothing Lexi's been able to do to bridge the gap between them.
#3 - Many of the changes that a recent doctor's appointment has brought to her life. She hates feeling out of control!
Finding Hope is available for pre-order and will be released July 1st. I hope you enjoy reading her story and getting to know Lexi more!
I'm happy to welcome Vee Cecil to my blog today. Autism is a subject that is close to my heart for many reasons. Our son has autism and he loves everything there is to do with water. For many years when he was younger, we had to worry about him spontaneously jumping into pools, ponds, etc. Water truly can pose a high risk for children with autism.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 0.5 percent of Australians have Autism Spectrum Disorder. In a nation where swimming is a popular activity, it’s also important to note that based on a study that examined media reports of deaths, drowning was named one of the top causes of death for autistic children.
What accounts for this increased danger around water for kids with autism? Here are a few factors:
Elopement. As the National Autism Association reports, elopement or wandering is a problem for 48 percent of children with ASD. The organization also notes that 32 percent of parents of children with autism who’ve wandered said their child had a “close call” with drowning.
Drawn to water. The problems associated with elopement are compounded by the fact that, as WarnOnline.org explains, children with autism aren’t as aware of the dangers around them as other children might be. Many kids with ASD are also fascinated by water. They’re drawn to it, but without a proper education in water safety, they may not recognize that water is a threat.
Inability to swim. Of course, one of the best ways parents can help protect their autistic children from drowning is by teaching them to swim. This video from All Kids Can Swim guides viewers through a presentation on how to teach autistic children to swim. For parents who don’t feel comfortable teaching their children themselves, this comprehensive guide to aquatic therapy for children with autism provides advice on how to find a swim program in your area that is tailored for autistic children. It also provides information on ways to get help paying for these lessons.
Lack of safety equipment. In its article on water safety, the Autism Consortium notes that wearing safety gear, such as a life jacket, may be a good idea for autistic children. Doing so does add an extra layer of protection. That said, knowing how to swim and/or wearing a life vest do not make your child drown proof. You should be sure to closely supervise them when they’re around or near water.
When they have the right knowledge about water safety and are able to swim, being in the water can greatly benefit autistic children. I highly recommend that parents of autistic children take steps to teach their children to swim. It truly can save a life.
Vee Cecil is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor who lives in Kentucky with her family of four. Vee is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog.
It's been over three months since I wrote my blog post about using OneNote to help me organize my research and book details. If you haven't read the first post, you can find it here.
I thought I would report back with a quick update. At this point, I have finished the second book in my Love's Compass series and I've started a new book. I don't have a title yet, but while it's a stand alone, the main character was introduced in my novel Finding Hope. What does that mean? I now have three books (and at least one more) involving all of the same characters. Having a place where I can keep the many different details together is important.
OneNote has continued to be a life saver for me. I find I go and look up details on a character, or glance through the current research notes, the most.
I recently found yet another use for it as well. I was editing a chapter in Finding Hope and decided to rewrite much of it. I didn't want to lose the text I had. So I created a new page under Finding Hope in OneNote and copied all of that text there. That way, as I was rewriting the chapter, I could go back and pull bits and pieces from OneNote and incorporate that into the new text. It made the whole thing so much easier! Potentially, I could create a new page for each chapter and write out thoughts and ideas to save for future use. The possibilities are endless!
Before OneNote, I was jotting everything down in a notebook. Now I have a program that I can pull up on my computer, tablet, or phone and look up any details I need in moments.
If you've been struggling with how to organize your book notes, give OneNote a try!
What do you use to help keep your writing details straight? I would love to hear from you!
Hi everyone! The countdown is on for the release of Finding Hope! The second book in the Love's Compass series will be out July 1st and you aren't going to want to miss it.
This book is Alexis Chandler's story. If you've read Finding Peace, you'll remember that Lexi is Tuck's older sister. She's a registered nurse at Kitner Memorial Hospital and is dedicated to helping others in her family and her community.
So here's a little snippet from the second chapter. Stay tuned for more sneak peeks and character interviews over the next couple of weeks.
And don't forget, Finding Hope is available for pre-order!
Sample from Finding Hope:
Lance ate the last of his second piece of chocolate cake and relaxed in one of the kitchen chairs. He brushed a hand over his goatee to make sure there were no lingering crumbs.
It was good to be at the Chandler house. He’d spent a lot of time there since his childhood. It was like his home away from home.
A movement in the living room caught his attention. He watched as Lexi stood in front of family photos sitting on a shelf. She was observing one of her parents that was taken less than a year before her father had passed away. He thought little of it until he caught her swiping away a tear with one finger.
Instantly alert, Lance excused himself from the conversation and approached her. When she spotted him, he heard her sniff before she turned to face him. She had managed to school her features. He might have imagined the emotion he’d seen moments ago if it weren’t for the worry lines at the corners of her mouth.
“Are you okay?”
“Yep. Is there any cake left?”
The woman had always hated to be the center of attention. Especially when her own feelings were involved. Lance debated whether he should let it go, but his gut told him to insist. Lexi might be good at hiding her emotions, but he knew something was going on.
“Do you want me to get your mom? Or Tuck?”
The intensity of her response surprised him and only proved he was right.
His thoughts must have shone on his face because Lexi rolled her eyes and exhaled. “Look, Lance. I’m sorry. I’m not about to dampen spirits around here. This is Tuck and Laurie’s night. Period.”
“There is something wrong, then.”
“Let it be.”
He watched her walk away. Now what was that about?
Lance enjoyed the welcome home party, but he found his thoughts continued to drift to Lexi. She mostly seemed herself, but her level of enthusiasm appeared forced. No one else noticed, but then most of the focus was on the newly-married couple.
What he didn’t miss was that Lexi made a point of not meeting his eyes the rest of the evening. The image of one of the strongest women he had ever known wiping away a tear continued to trouble him.