Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Five little peanut butter cookies waiting to be eaten.
Homemade Peanut Butter Cookies
Image by Sarah B.

Want to learn how to make a dozen gluten and dairy-free peanut butter cookies? No problem!  This recipe calls for only four ingredients, and you probably have them in your cupboard! 



A few nights ago we had company.  We took our guests to dinner, and we all returned to our apartment to chat and catch up.  We had been satisfied with dinner at the restaurant, so we had not ordered dessert.  Once we got settled into our conversation, however, we were all craving something sweet. I checked the cupboards, and they were bare of anything I could think to make, but one of my guests came to my rescue. Together we threw together some peanut butter cookies – both dairy and gluten free!

Ingredients for Throw-Together Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup salted peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (to mix)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (to roll)
  • 1 tsp baking powder


Mixing Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Set aside your ½ cup granulated sugar.
  3. Using a stiff spatula or spoon, mix the peanut butter with the egg.
  4. Whisk the 1 cup sugar and baking powder together.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients (sugar and baking powder) into the peanut butter and egg.
  6. Sprinkle the ½ cup sugar onto a small, flat plate.
  7. Roll a tablespoon of your peanut butter mixture into the sugar on your flat plate.
  8. Place the sugar-coated drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Do not flatten.


Baking the Cookies

  • Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, then flatten with a fork, cross-hatching the tine pattern.
  • Bake 5 more minutes.
  • Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let stand until stiff.


Statistics

  • Approximate Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Approximate Bake and Cool Time: 25 minutes
  • Approximate Time Until Completely Eaten by Four Adults Who Know Better: 20 minutes

Enjoy these cookies!  Hopefully, you have what you need in your cupboard.  Give them a shot, and let me know what you think in the comments section.



Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Qualities of Effective Writing: Write with Clarity

Explain your ideas . . . clearly.
Use proper grammar and enough of the best evidence available.

To write with clarity is to ensure your ideas have been supported with enough evidence and enough of the best evidence available.


When a writer presents an essay to readers, that essay must explain the main point all on its own.  That essay is the writer's only outlet for saying all of the things that need to be said to support the position or claim the writer made in the thesis statement.  In order to achieve that level of clarity, the writer must use enough of the right kind of evidence.





Revising for Clarity

An Underdeveloped Paragraph

Take a look at this example of a paragraph that doesn't clearly support its main idea.  It lacks enough evidence to prove the position taken in the topic sentence.

I deserve an "A" for my project.  I was professional during the presentation, and it was easy to be respectful and have integrity.  I cared about the project.  It was engaging.

Do you buy it?  Do you think this student presents enough evidence to prove he deserves an "A" for his project?  Do you have any additional questions for this writer about why he claims to be professional, or what he means by respect and integrity being easy?  Does he prove to you that he cared about the project, or that he was engaged with it?

It doesn't convince me, so let's revise it to make it more convincing.

A Paragraph Revised for Clarity

The previous paragraph has good "bones," but it's missing evidence.  It needs examples and explanation to prove the points the writer is trying to make.  Remember, you cannot expect a reader to always "take your word for it."  Your job as a writer is to prove the point you are trying to make.  Notice all of the real examples in the following revision.

I deserve an "A" for my class presentation about gerunds.  Not only did I wear professional dress during the presentation, but I spoke clearly, had a practiced and revised speech, and supported the content with a visual aid.  I respected my classmates by arriving on time and paying close attention to their presentations, as well.  I demonstrated academic honesty and integrity throughout the presentation: All of my sources were clearly cited, and I used the best and most credible information I could find.  Having a partner who was slightly confused, I cared enough to reach out to her to be sure she understood the information, and I jumped in and assisted her with the visual aid when I realized she was struggling.  I truly engaged with the course material I presented, and I achieved an "A" on the quiz I took early in order to be sure I was presenting the material accurately.  I truly believe I demonstrated these five qualities and more during this presentation project, and I therefore deserve an "A."

Better?  

I think so.  

Remember, clarity does not just mean you use good grammar to make yourself clear.  More importantly, clarity is the quality of having presented enough of the right kind of evidence to prove the point you are making in your thesis statement and topic sentences.


Want to learn more about writing essays?



Try my complete online essay writing course on Udemy called "Quality Paragraph and Essay Writing."  Use the coupon code link to sign up as a Udemy student and get 50% off the regular price! 





Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Diagramming Sentences: Silly Sentence Saturday

Question: Will Will Smith smith?
Answer: Will Smith will smith.

Diagramming sentences is so much fun, sometimes I go in search of silly sentences to diagram on a Silly Sentence Saturday.


Today's silly sentences are "Will Will Smith smith?" and "Will Smith will smith."  Pretty silly, right?  But silly or not, both are grammatically correct sentences that can be diagrammed quite easily.  These sentences are simple sentences, and they have only one subject and one predicate, each.







Will Will Smith smith?


The first silly sentence, "Will Will Smith smith?" is an interrogative sentence.  The first "Will" in the sentence is part of the verb, which is in the future tense, "will smith."  "Smith" is both the last name of our subject and the main verb, which means to make or craft a product, generally of iron.  

First, we must rearrange the sentence because it is in the interrogative form: The helping verb and subject have traded places. Second, the subject of the sentence is placed on the left side of the base line.  The predicate, in this case the future simple tense of the verb, is placed on the right side of the base line.  Third, the subject-verb divider line is placed across the base line.  Last, but not least, all of the proper nouns and the first word of the sentence must be checked to be sure they are still properly capitalized.

Will Smith will smith.


The second silly sentence, "Will Smith will smith" is a declarative sentence.  The first "Will" in the sentence is part of the subject, and the first "Smith" is part of the subject, too.  Both words, together, are a person's name, and they are proper nouns, so they are capitalized.  The second "will" in the sentence is a helping verb, and the second "smith" is the main verb.  Together, "will smith" is the predicate of the sentence, the future simple tense of the verb "to smith."

First, the subject of the sentence, "Will Smith," is placed on the left side of the base line.  The predicate, in this case the future simple tense of the verb, "will smith," is placed on the right side of the base line.  Third, the subject-verb divider line is placed across the base line.  Last, but not least, all of the proper nouns and the first word of the sentence must be checked to be sure they are still properly capitalized.

Do you have any additional sentences that would be great for a Silly Sentence Saturday explanation?  Let me know in the comments!


Want to know more about diagramming sentences?



Try my text, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language, or my online course, Sentence Diagramming; From Beginner to Expert in 12 Lessons. 




Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.




Monday, May 19, 2014

Add Coherence to an Essay

When an essay has order and flow, the essay is said to have the quality of "coherence."  


There are several ways for writers to ensure their essays have coherence, including the addition of appropriate transitional words and phrases, a repetition of key words and synonyms, similarly structured topic sentences, and a planned, logical order of paragraphs and evidence.

All of these techniques help readers follow along with thought process of the writer.






Revising for Coherence




A Paragraph that Lacks Coherence



Notice that each individual sentence in this paragraph by Sherman Alexie from an essay called "Superman and Me" makes complete sense.  However, I moved things around a bit, and the sentences are now out of order.   That makes it difficult to understand how one idea flows to the next.  I've also deleted some words and phrases that help us follow his train of thought.

Words inside a paragraph worked together for a common purpose.  Our reservation was a small paragraph within the United States. I remember my father's books. I can see my changed family as an essay of seven paragraphs: mother, father, older brother, the deceased sister, my younger twin sisters and our adopted little brother. Words themselves were mostly foreign, but I still remember when I first understood the purpose of a paragraph. I didn't have the vocabulary to say "paragraph."  I realized that a paragraph was a fence that held words.  This knowledge delighted me.  Words had some specific reason for being inside the same fence.   My family's house was a paragraph, distinct from the other paragraphs of the LeBrets, the Fords and the Tribal School. Inside our house, each family member existed as a separate paragraph but still had genetics and common experiences to link each family member. I began to think of everything in terms of paragraphs. 


A Paragraph with Coherence



Here is that same paragraph from Sherman Alexie's essay returned to its original form.  Notice that the details
Coherence is the quality of having order and flow.
are now in order, and the words that let us know more about his thought process help us move with him from one idea to the next.  Notice the order of the details in his explanation about paragraphs getting smaller and smaller in scope from "United States" to "little brother."  The paragraph, in its original form, is well planned and has a logical and smooth flow.


I can remember picking up my father's books before I could read. The words themselves were mostly foreign, but I still remember the exact moment when I first understood, with a sudden clarity, the purpose of a paragraph. I didn't have the vocabulary to say "paragraph," but I realized that a paragraph was a fence that held words. The words inside a paragraph worked together for a common purpose. They had some specific reason for being inside the same fence. This knowledge delighted me. I began to think of everything in terms of paragraphs. Our reservation was a small paragraph within the United States. My family's house was a paragraph, distinct from the other paragraphs of the LeBrets to the north, the Fords to our south and the Tribal School to the west. Inside our house, each family member existed as a separate paragraph but still had genetics and common experiences to link us. Now, using this logic, I can see my changed family as an essay of seven paragraphs: mother, father, older brother, the deceased sister, my younger twin sisters and our adopted little brother.


In conclusion, when your essays and paragraphs require a bit more order and flow, be sure you have chosen a logical order for your paragraphs and evidence, and make sure your readers can follow along with you by including transitional words and phrases, using key words and phrases about your main idea, and using a repetition of sentence structure.  


Want to learn more about writing essays?

A vintage typewriter sits, waiting for words to be typed, on a beautiful striped tablecloth.

Try my complete online essay writing course on Udemy called "Quality Paragraph and Essay Writing."  Use the coupon code to sign up as a Udemy student and get 50% off the regular price! 



Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the writer for permission to republish.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Write a Unified Essay

Unity, in writing, is the quality of having one main thought sustained and supported throughout the piece of writing.  

In an essay, that one main thought has a name: the thesis statement.  That thesis statement is supported by a number of paragraphs, each of which covers its own little piece of the main thought.  Those "mini main thoughts" are called topic sentences.  The rest of each paragraph is comprised of evidence, analysis, interpretation, and explanation - each as required to prove the main thought.


When all of those elements, the thesis, topic sentences, and support, combine to seamlessly advocate one position about one topic, the essay has the quality of unity.  When any one of those elements is a bit wonky-skewed or off-topic, the writing must be revised to get it back on track.  The most common error new writers make is to forget to unify evidence in a paragraph with that paragraph's topic sentence.


Aligning Topic Sentences and Evidence

Revising for Unity


A paragraph that lacks unity:


My uncle Fred dresses like an old-fashioned cowboy.  He always wanted to be one, so he bought a hat and it went from there.  He acts like a cowboy, too.  He even eats like one when he has cookouts, which he has all the time, and puts his accounting skills to the test.  My aunt wears a cowboy hat sometimes, too.  It's really the boots that everyone likes, including the spurs.

In order to revise this paragraph for unity, we have to first pick out the one idea we feel is the most important.  It seems as though the main idea isn't really the first sentence of the paragraph because not all of the sentences in the paragraph are about how the uncle dresses.  It seems all of the sentences are about the uncle wanting to be a cowboy in some way.  Let's revise the topic sentence.

Instead of writing My uncle Fred dresses like an old-fashioned cowboy, let's emphasize the real main idea: My uncle Fred has always wanted to be a cowboy.

Now, if you were to say "My uncle Fred has always wanted to be a cowboy," to someone, that person's most likely response would be, "Why do you say that?"  That means the rest of the paragraph must answer that question.  Let's add the new topic sentence to the beginning of the paragraph and look carefully at the rest of the sentences and ideas to make sure they are clearly supporting the topic sentence.

A paragraph that demonstrates unity:


My uncle Fred has always wanted to be a cowboy.  My uncle Fred He dresses like an old-fashioned cowboy.  He always wanted to be one, so  He bought a hat, and it grew  from there.  He even wears boots with spurs.  Uncle Fred acts like a cowboy, too.  He even eats like one when he has open pit cookouts, which he has all the time. and puts his accounting skills to the test.  My aunt wears a cowboy hat sometimes, too. It's really the boots that everyone likes, including the spurs. He also married a woman who looks like a cowgirl.  If I didn't know he was just an accountant, I might truly believe uncle Fred was a cowboy.

With a bit of revision, sentences that refer to the uncle's job as an accountant and his wife now more clearly support the main idea.  As they were stated previously, they were off-topic, making the paragraph difficult to read.

When writing your essays, keep in mind the quality of unity, the idea that a piece of writing should express one clear position about one narrowed topic.




Want to learn more about writing?  Try my online paragraph and essay writing class - at a discount, just for being a blog reader!



Try my complete online essay writing course on Udemy called "Quality Paragraph and Essay Writing."  Use the coupon code link to sign up as a Udemy student and get 50% off the regular price! 


Monday, May 5, 2014

Beginning Yoga: No More Excuses

A group practices yoga oceanside.
Bondi Beach Yoga
Image by Taro Taylor

I put off learning yoga for a long time. I had preconceived ideas about its cost, my level of flexibility, and how it could be of benefit in my daily life.


Many times over the years I've been invited by others to join them and participate in their yoga classes, but I've always offered one of my many rotating excuses. "I'm not flexible," "I have a bad neck," "I don't have a mat," "I can't pay for the class," "My allergies are bothering me, and when I hang my head my nose runs," I'd say. What it all boils down to, no matter what types of excuses I've used, is that I have always been stand-offish about new activities whenever there is any kind of possibility I might look foolish. Because of a stiff shoulder and continuous tension headaches over the past several months, however, I finally considered the possibility that yoga might be a better answer than the ibuprofen tablets I was taking each day - and so far so good!

Thanks to my local yoga studio and the amazing people who work and teach there, I've tucked my excuses neatly into this essay. I will never need to use them, again.

Minimal Expense

Once I started investigating the costs of classes in my area, I was really astounded at the variety and affordability of yoga classes. 


I typed in my zip code and looked into various studios in the area. There are Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Pilates classes all within a 7-mile radius. Prices here range from $15.00 for a drop-in class to around $600.00 for a yearly membership. There seem to be several series deals, as well, like an unlimited week for $25.00. As for the auxiliary costs, some of the studios offered mat rental for $2.00, and others supply mats and other props during the class. Purchasing a mat will cost from $14.00 to $65.00, but I have not purchased a mat, yet. All told, I've attended four classes in the Hatha Yoga tradition for a total investment of $25.00.

Flexibility

To be honest, the "I'm not flexible" excuse is quite true. However, when beginning to practice yoga, a person does not already have to be flexible. 


Yoga will help a person become more flexible over time. For example, in my first class, although I could not reach the floor to properly support myself during certain poses, my instructor brought me over some exceptionally handy yoga blocks so I could support and extend my body in the right way. Now that I've finished a fourth class and have a better idea of how my body works, I can complete some of those same poses without blocks. Part of my problems with flexibility were really an unknowing about what I could and could not achieve. I've physically and mentally become more flexible.

Neck and Shoulders

Even though I've had headaches at the start of my second and third yoga classes, by the end of the classes the headaches were subsiding. 


Many times my headaches originate because of tension in my neck and shoulders, which then causes my head to hang or jut out in front of my body while I'm working at my desk. During my few yoga classes, I've noticed that when I'm really mindful of my breath and enjoying stillness, I can feel where I need to relax and stretch in order to alleviate some of that neck and shoulder pressure. The more I practice, the more this awareness trickles into my daily routine and I find myself sitting taller and breathing more deeply. The ability to control the tension before it becomes overwhelming has, as a bonus, helped my mood tremendously.

So, contrary to my preconceived notions about yoga, I've learned that beginning a yoga practice requires very minimal expense, even when beginning with excellent teachers. I've also learned that beginning yoga does not require a person to be flexible, but will help a person become flexible over time. Additionally, as I've practiced I've noticed a great improvement in the alleviation of my neck and shoulder tension, which has elevated my overall mood. My only wish is that I hadn't been so stubborn about it for so long.


Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.  First published Jul 7, 2011 by Amy Lynn Hess.