Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Angelus

I rarely watch daytime television.  Today, however, as I flipped through the channels looking for something worth watching, I happened upon EWTN as one program was ending.  The beautiful music that accompanied the images caught my ears and eyes, so I stopped to absorb the loveliness.  Just then, Mother Angelica and the nuns began a prayer.  It was The Angelus.  It was short, sweet, and touching. 

I did a quick search and found this website that tells about this prayer.

At the top of the page is this painting, is a 19th century work by the French painter Jean-Francois Millet, depicting a farming couple praying this prayer at dusk.  I love it for it's simplicity and pureness.  See the steeple in the background? 

Evening Prayer, by Jean-Francois Millet, courtesy of Wikipedia

The Angelus is traditionally prayed at 6 AM, noon, and 6 PM.  Isn't it a wonderful prayer to remind us that Mary said "Yes"?  I love that the prayer is announced by the ringing of a bell in several countries as a reminder to pause in our busyness and pray.

This is taken from scripture found in the Bible, known also as The Magnificat, Luke 1:26-38, as well as other passages as mentioned in the website.

The Angelus
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.
 Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The website concludes with this message: "When we pray the Angelus with humility and love, we are emulating Mary’s faith in His goodness. We are blessed in that we can ask both God and His Blessed Mother for their assistance on our journey towards Eternal Life!"

May our journey during Advent bring us daily reminders to emulate Mary's faith and of the real reason for the Christmas season.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bicycle Wheel Clothesline idea

Is this not the best idea?! I love the idea of reusing a bicycle wheel rim and the umbrella stand to make something useful.  See directions here at

Wish I had thought of it, but at least I can copy it.  I think I would paint it all black so that it looks like a sculpture when not in use, plus this would help cover any rust.  I could put my bird feeders or a couple of hanging baskets on it when it's not in use as a dryer, OR, I could just disassemble it and store it out of the way. 

What a great way to dry those kitchen cloths!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer

     Homemade ginger ale, or as some call it, ginger beer, is delicious and refreshing.  The benefits of ginger are numerable.  It calms the digestive tract, eases motion sickness and relieves nausea. 
When my husband was feeling ill, a dear friend recommended that he sip on some real ginger ale.  Unfortunately, none of the commercial brands that were at our local store actually contained real ginger. This led us to search for real, honest-to-goodness ginger ale.  What we found was pricey, so we decided to embark upon a journey for our own recipe.

Be sure to purchase fresh pieces of ginger.  A small sprout, if any, shows freshness, but ignore those with blackened or shriveled ends. 

The piece at the top is old and drying out.  You don't want it.

Years ago, my mother told me that her mother made ginger beer at her home in England.  Since I recently received a lovely gift from my cousin in England, my grandmother’s cook book, I looked through it and found a recipe that sounded easy enough, although the measurements were from a different era; ie., “a loaf and half of sugar”.  The cookbook is over a hundred years old and is a real treasure.  One of my favorite parts of this "cookery" book is the section on addressing the kitchen staff.  Kitchen staff?  Really?!

The ingredients are simple: fresh ginger root, sugar, lemon, yeast, and water.  The only tools required are bottles and large cooking pot.  Since this recipe dated to about 1900, I thought that perhaps I should look at some that are more recent to ensure consistency.  None of my other cookbooks had a ginger ale recipe, so I went online and found only a few recipes.  One, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was widely used and called for adding a chili pepper, such as here:  the other, by Alton Brown, added yeast—and was most similar to my Nanny’s-- here:  The third was made completely different and used fruit juices, so while I didn't use the recipe, it does contain wonderful information on the benefits of ginger, so I included it here:

The same basic ingredients and amounts were used in most recipes, and various comments left by readers led me to see that amounts can be varied according to taste, so I felt that it was fine to use my Nanny’s version and adapt the measurements accordingly as I played with the ingredients.  Since one of the online recipes used yeast and the other did not, I decided to try it both ways. 

When I made it without the chili pepper in my first attempt, it lacked the “kick” we wanted, although it did have that wonderful ginger taste we wanted.  I used all white sugar, and it was too pale, so I adjusted the recipe to use more dark brown sugar the next time.  The amounts of ginger stayed fairly consistent: We found that grating the ginger gave a stronger ginger presence since it released the juices, but was harder to drain with the strainer.  As this version sat, it grew stronger, but my son really liked it that way, and wanted the sediment for that additional strength. I didn’t want to see it, though. The compromise was to chop it finely instead of grating it, just large enough to be captured by the strainer—and cook it a few minutes longer. 

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Bottles can be boiled or rinsed with a bleach and water solution.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly and air dry. Before beginning, be sure all surfaces are clean.  I like to work on clean dish towels, but I admit to being  a bit fastidious.

Since my family likes a little “kick” and often uses peppers in recipes, it seemed natural to add a chili pepper to this drink as mentioned in one of the versions.  My son heartily approves.  My Nanny’s recipe sounds as if it will last for months, but we find the drink so refreshing, it hasn’t lasted nearly that long.  With the addition of the chili pepper and more lemon, we declared it a success.

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Bonus, just for me:  After I drain the ginger, lemon peel and pepper, I put them back in an empty pot and add another cup or so of boiling water and about 2 teaspoons of sugar.  I cook this for about 10 minutes.  It’s my “ginger tea” and reward for making the ginger ale.  It has a lovely, throaty, "ginger burn" in the back of the throat.  You know what I mean, the kind of "burn" you get from the regular version of Coca Cola.  Ahhh. 

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Here’s my recipe:
Linda’s Ginger Ale/Beer
 · 3 oz. finely chopped ginger root
 · 1.25 cups sugar (1/4 cup white, 1 c. brown) (Note: This may be too sweet if consumed right away. The longer it sits, the stronger it gets-especially with grated ginger sediment, and the sweetness is balanced with the strength.) Dark brown sugar makes a darker ale. You can use all white, if preferred. · 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice plus 2-3 lemon peel slices. (You may use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice if you don’t like a strong presence of lemon.)
 · 1 dried chili pepper, optional
 · 6 cups water

Bring ginger, sugar, lemon juice & peel and chili pepper to boil with 1 cup water. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add 5 cups boiling water and gently simmer 20 minutes or longer.  Stir from time to time. Drain to remove ginger, lemon and chili pepper.   Note: adding yeast is optional: Skip down to “Bottle mixture” if omitting yeast. Remove 1/4 cup of mixture. Let cool to lukewarm. Add 1 tsp. yeast to ¼ cup lukewarm (not hot!) mixture. Let sit 15 minutes until yeast has “bloomed”.

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   Add yeast mixture back to lukewarm mixture in pot (make sure mixture is cool enough). Let sit 15 minutes or longer.

Bottle mixture: Add to scrupulously clean bottles. (Boil glass or wash in bleach water then soapy water. Rinse well and air dry bottles.)  Makes 6 cups.

Let sit 1-2 days to ferment. Open lids or corks to let gas escape periodically.  If you use plastic bottles, you will find that they get "hard" as they ferment.  When you can no longer press them, they are ready. 
Refrigerate.  If no yeast was added, refrigerate once bottles have cooled.  Keeps at least two months. We haven’t kept any past that time, but it may last much longer.

If preferred, add mixture to carbonated water at the ratio of ¼ - 1/2 cup ginger ale to ¾-1/2 cup ice and water.  This was our preferred method of serving without the addition of yeast.   We love the fizziness of carbonated water such as Perrier or Gerolsteiner with the ginger ale.

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If you have a loved one who is undergoing chemo treatment or has an illness that causes nausea, a few sips of this seems to work beautifully.

Using some online pictures from The Graphics Fairy, I played around with various labels.   

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Since I used to be a Queen Bee (lovingly called that by one of my employees—and I liked it!), I went with the crown and bee theme. 

Aren’t the bottles lovely?

Hope you enjoy this refreshing and heathful beverage.  To your health: Cheers!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The sea oats and dunes at Gulf Shores, West beach
Shrimp Fest at Gulf Shores, Alabama: The Perfect Getaway!

The 41st Annual National Shrimp Festival was a blast! The weather was unbelievably perfect with temps in the low to mid 80’s with a light breeze. 

Gulf Shores, downtown, just outside the HangOut and Pink Pony Pub

There was so much to see and do!  I loved looking at the arts and crafts section as well as the fine artists’ work. Some people are so artistic!

We were able to meet several artists.  Steven Dark sculptures pottery figures, some of which are put in the ocean for barnacles to attach.  I love this fanciful piece with the rabbit peeking out of the hat.  His work earned "Best in Show."  See more of his work, here: 

Steven Dark
Royal Miree
Royal Miree is a sculptor from the Birmingham area who creates masterpieces in copper, stainless steel and aluminum.  The photo does not do justice to his amazing work.  He is holding a copper panel which was hand polished repeatedly to make these beautiful designs.  If I had taken the picture in sunlight, it would have been like a myriad of sunrises and sunsets all at one time.  I was literally mesmerized by his work, particularly the delicately-balanced pieces that moved ever-so-gently when touched.  There was a wall piece that I couldn't take my eyes off.  It was a one-of-a-kind sculpture that was calling to me.  This piece would have made a statement of great design.  Wow.  Just wow. 

By now, we had walked over halfway around and were getting hungry and thirsty.  We slipped into The Hangout for a snack and met a charming young man who was our waiter.  He is a student at The University of South Alabama and had been a medic in Afghanistan. Heroes are everywhere if we just take time to hear their stories.  One of the first questions asked after a strong hurricane on the Gulf Coast is, "Is The Hangout OK?" It is a friendly restaurant right on the beach with stages for bands and three separate bar areas.  I loved their collection of lunchboxes on the wall.

Foods were varied and tasty.   Wild gulf shrimp was the star of the show. We had it grilled, fried, and in a low-country boil. We had teeny-tiny shrimp, medium-sized reds, and jumbo prawns. Wish we had brought some home with us!  (Hmm. Perhaps I could have it shipped?)   Here's the website for Eat Alabama Wild Seafood: The site also has some incredible recipes such as LuLu's West Indies Salad.  (This is Jimmy Buffet's sister, and the second question after a major storm is, "How is LuLu's?)

LuLu's West Indies Salad (some amounts are not listed:)
  • 1 pound fresh jumbo lump blue crabmeat
  • Salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (about ¼ teaspoon)
  • ½ medium Vidalia (or sweet) onion, sliced paper thin, in half moon shape
  •  vegetable oil
  • white vinegar
 ice water (with 4-5 ice cubes)
Place half the crabmeat gently in the bottom of a glass bowl or plastic container, carefully picking out any shell. Sprinkle with just a smidgen of salt and pepper. Cover crab with a layer of onion. Repeat steps with remaining crab, salt, pepper, and onion. Pour oil and vinegar over layers. Place ice cubes in a liquid measuring cup. Fill with water until volume reaches ⅓ cup and pour over crab. Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours before serving. When ready to serve, shake bowl gently, or if using a leak-proof plastic container, turn upside down and back upright to gently mix salad. Serve in a shallow bowl with juice. Makes 4-6 servings.

Alabama Wild Seafood: Yum!

A sampling of wild Gulf shrimp with a delicious cocktail sauce!

Fried Shrimp with Fried Green Tomatoes and Gruyere Cheese Grits

The sand at Gulf Shores reportedly came down from white granite boulders higher up in the state and washed down to the sea in ancient times, so it is beautiful, soft, and sugary-white.  The combination of sand, turquoise-colored water, and brilliant blue sky produced a made-to-order kind of weekend.


We stayed with the most delightful, creative couple.  Their home was lovely, and taking in six additional guests didn’t even faze them!  Sitting on their back porch, watching the sun rise and set over the gulf while listening to the lulling, constant rolling of waves, as well as enjoying coffee and telling tales, was a relaxing part of each day. 

Sunset at Gulf Shores, West Beach

Something that was incredibly wonderful was the original artwork collected and created by our hosts.  The lighting in the dining room and over the counter were all crafted by our host, Joe Thompson.  This photo is of a glass bowl with amazing blues and pearly colors.  My camera (phone) does not do justice to this incredible work of art.

Wow. Be sure to check out his sink vessels and chandeliers here: BEAUTIFUL!

As we were leaving, Joe's lovely wife gave us a pair of beautiful, hand-crafted pottery mugs.  They are both obviously laden with talent and are gracious hosts.

The flora and fauna on a beach is always interesting.  We saw a coyote, a fox, and of course tons of fowl.  The Great Blue Heron was regal, as seen in a photo, above. 

I learned about a sweet, tiny, yellow sunflower, that, once it was pointed out, I saw in bloom all along the dunes.  Growing wild, it is perfect for the beach climate where it thrives so beautifully.  Debbie plans to plant more at her beautiful home.

What an absolutely PERFECT trip! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Great Mug Swap, Part II

My mug has arrived!  I can hardly wait to open it, but I have to grab my camera!

Oh, look!  I recognize the return address!  It's from Mia!
OOh, I see a treat!
It's well wrapped, so I can't sneak a peek too soon.

I also see a pink envelope.

YUM!  Guess what I'm having in the morning.  I doubt if I can wait, though, so it may become an afternoon delight.

I usually underline my name the SAME WAY!!  Freaky--in a good way.

Almost there....

It's like Christmas!  Wrapping, wrapping, wrapping, building up the suspense.
BEAUTIFUL!  It is soooooooooooo me.

A sweet note, a great extra treat, and a fabulous mug in a size that I really appreciate.

Isn't it just PERFECT?!
I LOVE it! Thank you, Mia!

You did a great job of finding out what makes me tick!!  I’ll be using it every morning as I look over my Pins and bloggers’ posts for the day.  I'll also use it for my afternoon tea when I step outside to check out the backyard and plants on the deck.

What I didn’t expect at all was to get a mug from the same person that I sent one to!  We both included Starbucks Via in our packages.  Great minds think alike, right?  

I’ll raise this lovely mug high in the morning and send you a toast of gratitude for choosing such a beautiful mug for me.   Here's to great days ahead for you!!

The Great Mug Swap from

When I was in sixth grade, the “thing to do” was to have a pen pal.  Isn’t it great fun to get mail from someone you’ve never met and imagine what he or she is like--and dream about whether you'll ever meet him/her?  With the advance of social networks, it is so easy to meet people through a wide variety of means.   When mentioned a mug swap, I was immediately in. 

Our mission was to scope out our assigned recipient and find out what that person would like.  I looked at the blog site of my mystery receiver as well as her Pinterest pins to find out a little bit about her.  It is obvious that she is a great person, one that would be fun to be around.

I went shopping and looked at dozens of mugs.  I didn’t see anything that seemed “right” at one store, so I went elsewhere.  There, I found what I hope will make her smile.  Since she seems to be a busy, on-the-go creative sort, I decided on a travel-type mug that can go places with her, even outdoors.

Here’s what I found:

I thought the flowers seemed appropriate, and it seemed a little “artsy,” like her.  The butterflies remind me of those outdoors right now.

Something done in the South is to give a little something extra, or “lagniappe”.  My lagniappe included some chocolate as well as little  coffee and tea.  Hope she likes it!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Five Recipes! Black Beans, Black and White Chicken Chili, Chicken and Dumplings (both), and Key Lime Salt

Five Recipes!

     The September 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated was devoted to Mexican Favorites.  I learned so much from this issue, particularly about the various types and heat of chiles.  I can hardly wait to try every one of their recipes, from salsa and enchiladas to quesadillas!

The first thing I decided to try was the first part of their Black Bean soup recipe, the section on preparing the beans.  I love black beans, especially when served Cuban style.  I was delighted to see that the recipe called for cumin, my favorite spice to add to black beans.  They go together like Romeo and Juliet, Bogart and Bacall, or Victoria and Albert.   (You’re thinking of others, right?)

Dried Black Beans

I halved the recipe, so here is my version:


2 ½ cups water, plus extra as needed

½ pound (1 ¼ cups) dried black beans

4 ounces ham steak, rind removed (I used the original amount of ham instead of cutting the amount in half.)

1 bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon baking soda (or less)

½ teaspoon salt


** Cumin, to taste


No need to soak beans in advance, but rinse them and add all ingredients to large saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1½ hours.  Stir occasionally, keeping enough water to cover beans.  (Add more hot water and continue to simmer if not tender by then.  Mine took two hours.)   Do not drain beans.  Remove bay leaves.  Remove ham steak, cut into ¼ inch cubes, and add back to beans. 


The recipe continues for making soup, but I stopped here, only adding 1½ teaspoons of cumin and putting the ham back into the beans.  The original recipe for the soup added the cumin in the soup portion.

I added salt and a bay leaf early in the cooking process.  The ham was added after it was brought to a simmer.


I decided that I would add a little key-lime salt (recipe to follow) to the top of a dollop of sour cream on top of each dish.


*I grated the lime while the beans were cooking, using about 8 tiny key limes.  I also juiced the limes and saved the juice for future dishes.  The juicer captured some of the limes’ flesh, so I added this flesh to the beans, about a teaspoonful.  Although it was subtle, it did add one more layer of flavor.


** Since I was making just the beans, and not continuing with the soup, I added about a heaping teaspoon or so of cumin which the original recipe did not call for when preparing the beans.


I found a wonderful hint in the article that a pinch of baking soda will keep the dark color of the beans.  Too much, though, and the flavor is affected.  These beans were perfect!!!


2 Tablespoons of grated lime, grapefruit, or orange zest (I used key limes)
½ cup Kosher salt.

                           Combine. Stores indefinitely in cool, dark place.

I had teeny-tiny key limes, so I only got about one teaspoon of zest. I added this to two tablespoons of sea salt. The tang of the key limes is more potent than the larger limes, and this was the intensity I was looking for. Be careful not to get the white pith, though, or it will be bitter.


Add sea salt to lime zest.

Adjust ratio of zest to salt according to taste.


I sprinkled a liberal amount of my key lime-citrus salt on top of a spoonful of sour cream and served on top of my Black and White Chicken Chili, below.  It was a hit! Unsolicited comments included, “This is a really good topping!”  “The lime salt adds a great kick and enhances the flavors,” and “Where did you get the idea for the flavored salt? It’s great.” Finally, one asked, “Do you have more? Can you save it?”


I’m not done yet!

 Now for the "Eureka", aka " 'A-ha!' moment":

Once the beans were done, I found that I had enough to use in another dish.  Since I was also making chicken and dumplings, I thought, “Oh! I could make black and white Chicken Cordon Bleu!”  Three delicious dishes at one time!!!  After all, the black beans had ham, so the two combined would be perfect to make a Chicken Cordon Bleu soup, right?  But, alas and alack, when I found that I had no Swiss cheese on hand, I decided to just call it, “Black and White Chicken Chili.”


When I made chicken and dumplings the other day, I made a double batch from an enormous organic hen.  I froze half of the chicken and stock mixture.  I brought it out of the freezer and slowly reheated it.  All those spices that I added the first time brought up a heavenly aroma.   I usually cook my chicken in a pressure cooker, cooking it in water with lots of flavorful spices that go together perfectly.  I’ll tell you about those later.  I have to say that I’m glad I made so much.

See all those delectable herbs?

     To make the Black and White Chicken Chili, I added two cups of my chicken and broth to one generous cup of the black beans.  I added cumin and a little lime for more flavor.  I also added a few chopped jalapeno rings to add that “zing”.  I also added a can of white beans as when making "ordinary" white chicken chili. 


Here’s the recipe:




½ -3/4 cup cooked chicken, chopped or shredded

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 15-ounce can of white beans, drained

1 cup Black Beans from above recipe

2 Tablespoons chopped jalapenos

1½ teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste


Sour cream or thick yogurt

Key lime salt (recipe above)


Combine all ingredients and heat thoroughly.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or nice, thick yogurt and sprinkle with lime salt.  Scream with delight as the compliments pour in. 

Chicken and broth from the upper saucepan were added to the black beans.

Look at all the chicken and ham!  Mouth watering!

We were so hungry and the aroma so inviting, I forgot to take pictures of the Black and White Chicken Chili in the dishes with the sour cream and key-lime salt!  Believe me, this was so tasty, with the chicken, ham, and two kinds of beans.  I will be making this again.  Since I don't have photos of the dish with the sour cream on top, imagine it with this key lime salt sprinkled on top.  In your mind's eye, can you see how pretty it would be?

On to the chicken and dumplings:


Chicken for Chicken and Dumplings 

1 plump hen, such as a roaster

6 cups of water

3 bay leaves

A teaspoon or more of the following seasonings:

                Basil, Cilantro, Parsley flakes, Cumin, Nutmeg, Thyme, and Rosemary, or alternately use a heaping tablespoon of Herbes de Provence.  In other words, use your favorites. The more variety, the better I like it.

 Celery and carrots, if you have them on hand, are always a great addition.

Cut up the hen, saving the neck and wings and bones with meat for additional stock.  I find it easier to debone all except the legs and thighs prior to cooking.  Cook for 25 minutes in a pressure cooker or bring to boil and then simmer on the stovetop in a Dutch oven for about two hours.


Meanwhile, make additional stock by adding the same herbs to a 2-3 quart saucepan of water and adding the wings, back, necks, etc.  Bring to boil and simmer for a couple of hours.  Use this stock to add additional broth to the chicken and dumplings as needed, or freeze for other use.
Shred or chop the chicken.  Remove any fatty pieces or skin.

My dumplings are easy, tender, and have a fluffy texture. These seasoned little orbs complement the flavors in the chicken perfectly.

BEST DUMPLINGS ever! for Chicken and Dumplings

1 ½ cups of Pioneer Baking Mix (or make your own with flour, salt, and baking powder as if making biscuit but without any shortening)
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/3 cup milk; adding more as needed
1-2 teaspoons pepper, to taste
½-1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or pinches of the same seasonings as used in the broth
Salt, to taste, if desired

Combine baking mix and seasonings with sour cream and milk, making a moist dough that holds its shape.

Seasoning the dough will enhance the chicken and dumpling dish.

 Drop a teaspoon of dough into the hot broth, pushing it off the spoon with your little finger. About 10-12 dumplings will fill the saucepan. These will expand as they cook, so do not overcrowd. After 5 minutes, gently turn over the dumplings and continue to steam for another 5 minutes. Remove the dumplings and repeat with the other half of the dough. Add the first batch back to the chicken and broth and serve.  

Note: Since the steaming of the dumplings will absorb some of the broth, additional broth may be added to the pot to keep enough liquid as desired.  Aren’t you glad you made more broth?

After 5 minutes or so, gently turn the dumplings over and continue cooking.  The herbs from the broth are what you see on top of the dumplings. 

I added more dumplings to my bowl after I was halfway through eating.  They were so tasty!
So fluffy! These are almost ready.


Let’s raise a glass to these great dishes for cooler weather!


Note: Since the recipes for the Black and White Chicken Chili and Chicken and Dumplings are my own creations, please give credit to me or my website.  Thank you.  Feedback is welcome and appreciated.