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An excerpt from Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud by Judith Ellison Shenouda

When all is well and good in Froggy’s world, there’s a sense of light—light weight, light load, light mood, light head, and light heart.

Froggy stretches and straightens all fours and jumps higher and higher. As if on a springboard and becoming weightless, up, up, up Froggy goes and then gently lands, this time on the lanky, long, lush, green grass growing from terra firma, swaying to and fro, right next to Froggy’s watering hole.

With all the leaps and bounds, Froggy seeks nourishment. A teeny, tiny bug and a wayward ant are just enough to satisfy his hunger and yet maintain a lithe Froggy physique.

During this particular day, Froggy feels especially playful. After all, today is the summer solstice and the sun rises early and sets late. This is a day of light, more light, and more light still. On this day, the hot sun with a powerful, strong beam feels so, so good drying Froggy’s damp, soggy back.

Venturing from the pond, the thick, silky grass tickles Froggy’s toes and legs and tummy, making Froggy laugh and laugh and laugh again. “Croak, croak, croak. Ha, ha, ha.”

“How my critter friends amuse me, day in and day out. Let me explain.”

For Froggy’s explanation and more slices of life well lived, read Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, available at Create Space, Amazon, and other online stores. There’s fun, inspiration, and wisdom on every page.

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A word cloud of sweet talk you’ll read in Froggy’s World of Plenty

On February 29, 2016, Leap Year Day, I started a story here about Froggy. I added a another blog entry about Froggy and his critter friends, and then I added another, and then I added yet another. Along the way, while writing and imagining the critters’ perfect world of plenty, I set a goal. On May 28, 2017, Froggy’s story would be a book that I could distribute at a gathering to honor my dear mother on what would have been her 100th birthday. That wonderful day has now come and gone. Family and friends have their books in hand.

Here is a slice of life just for you from Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud.

A hobby makes one limber, lively, and lovely

The critters all had hobbies, activities that brought them pleasure and joy.

Some of the hobbies were physical. Anty Annie, believe it or not, was into body building. She would position each limb, assume a perfect posture, and pose.

Bumbler B and Sweetie B often listened to the birdsongs around them, and they would whirl and twirl and dance, dance, dance.

Flutter By was crafty, indeed. She loved fabrics, textures, and colors, and could she ever sew and knit caps, capes, and other wearable art.

Fuzzy Chick Chick loved teaching Baby Chick Chick how to decorate egg shells with squares and diamonds, dots and lines, and curls and swirls.

Mama Orchid and daughter Minnie O loved to collect and categorize. They had samples of every type of orchid around. They could identify even the minutest details of their pedigree.

Mr. Tree was deeply into genealogy. He meticulously observed the roots and scrupulously studied the origins of his many critter friends. Read More

bookclub

Are you a member of a book club? If so, you may wonder if your book club is representative of the many, many book clubs that thrive in so many venues and so many communities throughout the U.S. and the world. If you are not yet fortunate enough to be part of a book club, you might have wondered what exactly occurs.

To book club members who are curious about other clubs, to book club wannabes, and, especially, to members of the Nonfiction Book Club I’m attending tomorrow, here’s a sneak preview of what to expect.

Our book club protocol

In our book club, members arrive promptly, since the room typically is full with 20 or so serious readers gathered around a large conference table in our town’s library. Club membership is exclusive, only in the sense that we are serious readers. We each attend voluntarily and welcome whoever walks in the door. Often first-timers become regulars.

We select our books for the coming year in December, and, at each month’s meeting, the library provides copies of the book for the following month, which we check out and begin to read. Club members take turns leading the discussion and do so willingly (or with a gentle nudge). Each month’s leader brings a unique, personal style to the table. What all share is a commitment to creating an atmosphere that is respectful. We talk and we listen. We explore many facets of a book and we learn.

Our book for this month is The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. It will be my pleasure (truly!) to lead tomorrow’s discussion, since I loved, loved, loved this book.

Here’s what I have in mind:

Greet everyone who walks in the door—the regulars and the newbies. Be sure that everyone has a nametag, a copy of the year’s schedule, and “Talking About Nonfiction Books”—a discussion sheet that club members assembled over time.

Kick off the discussion with a brief introduction (my name, length of time with the book club, interests, and so forth) and ask others to do the same. As part of their introductions, ask them to share a few aspects of the book that they want to discuss.

With pencil (yes, always a pencil with an eraser) in hand, I circle items on the discussion sheet that we should cover during our time together and scribble notes. For me, this sheet, with everyone’s input noted, guides the give-and-take that ensues.

I then let people talk. Let them ask. Let them discuss. Let them argue (amicably). The task is to simply herd the cats.

My two cents

Every now and then, I throw in my two cents. Read More

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Half moon cookies made from scratch (My brother Larry, me, and the cookies!)

December is here. With the colder weather and holidays, we often look to comfort foods like these yummy half moon cookies. Yes, they include the white flour and sugar that we like to keep in check. Yet, they are so, so good and often are reminiscent of a favorite childhood hometown bakery, like Snowflake or Harrison or Blooms in Syracuse, New York, where I grew up and still have deep roots.

Whether you call them half moons as we did in the ‘cuse, black and whites, or something else, serve them on a special occasion. After all, we all enjoy some extra sweetness.

Here’s the recipe Larry followed (courtesy of family friend, Eileen). Along with the turkey, we gobbled these up at our Thanksgiving feast!

The Recipe

Cookies

1 – Mix and set aside

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking power

3 1/2 cup flour (sifted)

2 – Mix

1 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar

Add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla

Mix until creamy and light

3 – Prepare the sour milk

1 cup milk

1 tbsp vinegar or 1 tbsp lemon juice

Let stand for a few minutes

4 – Alternately add to the shortening / sugar mixture

Some of the dry flour mixture and then mix

Some of the sour milk and then mix

Repeat until all of the ingredients are mixed together

5 – Refrigerate for at least two hours

6 – Drop scoops of the dough on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper

(An ice cream scoop works well. Leave plenty of space between the scoops, since when the cookies flatten, they are large.)

7 – Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until a light golden color

8 – Let cool and add the frosting to the flat side of the cookie

Frosting

1 – Mix

1/4 cup Crisco shortening (can increase to 1/3 cup if the frosting seems too liquidy)

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar (can increase to 3 cups if the frosting seems too liquidy)

2 – Add and mix

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp hot milk

3 – Add to half the mixture and mix

unsweetened cocoa (the amount is up to you)

More Favorite Recipes

The cousins, originally from Syracuse and Elmira and with new generations scattered hither and yon, compiled favorite family recipes, which resulted in A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. Have a look. Have a taste. Click here to view on Amazon. Clear here to view on Create Space.

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Image is courtesy of Open Clipart

You may recall that Froggy imagines the day when his wart will be gone, gone, gone! On this particular day, Froggy has not a care in the world. Along with his many friends, Froggy is simply awestruck.

The critters gathered to witness a new birth. The shell wiggled, then crackled, and then broke as Fuzzy, the chick-chick, came into view. It was a miracle.

With a crack-crack here and a cluck-cluck there, Fuzzy’s family and friends rejoiced. The yard filled with papa chick, mama chick, and many other chick-chicks. All were in awe of this new creation.

Froggy, Orchid, Rosie, Squirrely, Belle Birdie, Woody, and Wiggly, too, all simply stopped. On the ground, in the trees, in the air, and near the pond, the many critter friends watched the birth and the antics of the other chickens, along with their feathered kin. Froggy and his critter friends heard the cluck-clucks, the quack-quacks, and even the moo-moos, bah-bahs, and nay-nays of neighboring creatures.

In time, Froggy and friends gathered ‘round. In awe of the new birth and the joy of those who welcomed baby Fuzzy to the yard, they were quieter than usual. Froggy and friends felt close to the cluckers and the surrounding quackers, mooers, bahers, and nayers, and to each other. Squirrely remained still just long enough to give Froggy a knowing wink that conveyed the awe that both experienced that moment.

Woody paused from his usual chipping on a favorite tree trunk and looked down to witness the earth’s critters below. Woody then looked back up, did a little two-step, and turned to see Belle Birdie dancing a pirouette. Woody nodded to Belle. Belle nodded back. Like Froggy and Squirrely, they experienced the wonder of this awe-filled day.

© 2016 Judith Ellison Shenouda

Now, tell Froggy and friends (and me, too) about your awe-filled day.

Hurray on a Big Day!

Hurray on a Big Day!

Within every tradition and every culture, rites of passage occur. Here are some words I shared recently at such an occasion, a wonderful time to pause and reflect.

Snapshots

Dear One, in my mind’s eye, I see you…
Sitting on a little chair and listening attentively to your beloved Great Grandma G playing her piano. Often helping Great Grandma G find her walking cane so lovingly, so compassionately. Selling lemonade and cookies to passersby going to and from ballgames, charming all. Conducting a seder (ceremonial meal) with great competence and poise.

This family is very proud of you and love you dearly.

Your family past

Some in your family are no longer here, but we remember them.

I recall how your Great Grandpa B tidied up your Great Grandma H’s studio before and after every class. In these classes, your Great Grandma H created a healing atmosphere, showing great patience to all.

Your Great Grandpa S was up at the crack of dawn every morning, working each day to provide for his large family. He returned home from work with big bags of groceries to keep his family, and others welcomed into the house, well fed and well cared-for. Your Great Grandma G, as you well know, showered all who knew her with wit, wisdom, and music.

We remember your mom’s parents and your Uncle R, who recently passed away.

Your family present

Dear One, look around you, and you’ll see so many who love you. Your grandparents are guiding you to become what we call a mensch (a person of integrity and honor). You can learn a lot from them. They are devoted to each other, to their siblings, to their children, and to each of their grandchildren.

Your mom and your dad are here for you in every way. They want the best for you. We thank them and all who are congregated here today for supporting, teaching, and loving you.

You are our future

And now, Dear One, you have a job to do. Please continue to learn, to mature, and to develop into a contributing, responsible young woman. Do your part to make this community and this world better and brighter. Do so willingly, happily, and joyfully.

Now, let’s celebrate this wonderful day!

Remember I wrote about Froggy who wonders what made that annoying wart wander away? Well, every now and then, I think about Froggy and his human friends who experience wellness, somewhat mystified as to how the healing really occurred.
I committed to writing Froggy’s story and I’ve made some progress. I’ve dipped into my own well, my reservoir, my creative source for exploring wellness. I needed a place to hold what pokes through the gray matter and created a template for my new book. I simply took the file for my earlier book, stripped away the content, and had place savers for a book title, subtitle, front matter, chapters, and end matter. I had styles for headings, paragraphs, lists, and quotes. With a container all set to go, I pasted my start to Froggy’s story into a chapter. With the momentum building, I was on a roll.
About This Book started to take shape.

Wellness is all encompassing. It touches all aspects of one’s being. Wellness permeates—and transcends—the person. When one is well, there’s a sense of wholeness, a sense that all is right with the world.
Annoyances, irritations, aches, and pain subside, fade away, dissipate, and disappear. One becomes open to the light. One is free to attend to the good, the sacred, even the holy.
Experts in various disciplines know something about wellness. The doctor… The nutritionist… The athlete… The naturalist… The musician… The entertainer… All have their take on the subject.
Yet, the composite from the many disciplines is not the whole story. A mystical ingredient exists. In the process of writing this book, I am hopeful that the known ingredients of wellness and the mystical might just meet.

The Dedication helped me to establish a timeline.
With my late mother’s 100th birthday one year from now, I have a goal—to honor the occasion with a book in hand, one that serves as an expression of a daughter’s love and admiration.
Progress is sweet.
What I have, thus far, accomplished are little steps toward turning an idea into a book. Yet, little steps are steps nevertheless. Progress is sweet. I feel good.