Monday, December 23, 2019

Small Batch Microwave Peanut Brittle

Crispy, thin, bubbly peanut brittle in 20 minutes!

My favorite game when I was small was Candy Land. More than the gameplay, I was mostly enamored by the idea of the Peanut Brittle Swamp, and I always imagined what it would be like to be bogged down in a swamp of my favorite Christmas candy. 

That daydream sticks with me even forty years later, but I've never made my own peanut brittle. I thought it was too complicated and required kitchen stuff I don't have. I was wrong, however, and it doesn't!  After perusing Pinterest for a few hours last week, I came across a couple of pins that were all  a variation on a theme: microwave peanut brittle. After a couple of failed batches (too much baking soda will make you burp like you've shotgunned a Pepsi) and minor adjustments (too much time in the microwave will burn the batch), I was able to make a small batch of crispy, thin, bubbly peanut brittle in about 20 minutes, start to finish. 

Ingredients for Small Batch Microwave Peanut Brittle 

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
cooking spray

It's a good idea to make your peanut brittle in a glass measuring cup/bowl with a handle (mine is a 4 cup size), and to use a silicone spoon or spatula and a silicone mat to line your cookie sheet. I picked up my silicone mat at Kroger for just under $8.00, and so far it's worth it! Also note that my microwave is  1000 watts (there's a sticker inside the door), so if yours is less powerful, your brittle may need more cook time.

Directions for Small Batch Microwave Peanut Brittle

1. Place the silicone mat inside a cookie sheet and spray it with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Mix the 1/2 C granulated sugar and 1/4 C corn syrup in your glass bowl or measuring bowl. Place in microwave and heat for 3 minutes.

3. Remove the hot sugar syrup from the microwave promptly and stir in the 1/2 C roasted peanuts. Place in microwave and heat for 2 minutes.

4. Remove the hot sugar syrup from the microwave promptly and stir in the 1/2 T of butter and the 1/2 t of vanilla. Place in microwave and heat for 1 minute.

5. Remove the hot sugar syrup from the microwave promptly and add the 1 t baking soda. Stir it well. It will grow. Stir a little more. Place in microwave and heat for 30 seconds.

6. Remove from microwave promptly, and pour it onto the silicone mat. Leave until brittle, or place in the freezer until brittle.

Cleaning up After Making Peanut Brittle

Silicone utensils and a silicone mat make cleanup easy
Peanut brittle makes a sticky mess, but it can be cleaned up easily by freezing your utensils and snapping off the sugar or by using really hot water and dish soap. I used hot water and dish soap to get it off my hot pads, apron, slippers, and rug, too. I may have  been trying to recreate the Peanut Brittle Swamp - subconsciously, of course!

Because this is fairly simple and inexpensive, if you (like me) need to make adjustments to cooking times or ingredients to make your perfect brittle, feel free to comment and share your experiences. Merry Christmas!

Want to read more for the holidays? Try

Grief and Healing: Using the Nice Dishes
Crochet Christmas Tree Ornaments
It's Time to Count My Blessings (Instead of Sheep)

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Advanced Sentence Diagramming: Diagramming Noun Clauses

The subject of this sentence is a noun clause.

What's a Noun Clause?

Just like a noun represents a person, place, thing, or idea, a noun clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb that makes a complete thought and represents a person, place, thing, or idea. A noun clause can be used in a sentence anywhere a noun can be used: as a subject, object, or complement.

You can usually tell a noun clause from a modifying clause by taking the clause out of the sentence. If the sentence still makes sense, you've probably removed a modifying clause, a clause that adds extra information to the sentence. If the sentence no longer makes sense, you've probably removed a noun clause, which adds essential information to the sentence.

Here are some examples of noun clauses. Note that when you remove them, the sentence no longer makes sense:

  • As a subject: That Stella is intelligent is obvious.
  • As an object: The politician admitted he had committed a crime
  • As a predicate nominative: Your education is what you make of it.

Diagramming Noun Clauses

Let's practice diagramming "That Stella is intelligent is obvious." This sentence contains 2 linking verbs ("is" and "is"), 2 subject complements ("intelligent" and "obvious"), and "That" as a conjunction. However, in this sentence, the "that" does not change the meaning of the sentence.

There is one main thought in this sentence: "X is obvious." X stands for the subject of the sentence, "Stella is intelligent." Because the sentence has one main thought, we will draw one main base line and fill in the main verb and the main subject complement.

There is one main thought in this sentence. The main predicate has been completed.

Because the subject of the main clause is also a complete sentence, we must give it its own base line. We will add a base line on "legs" to the subject area on the base line for the main clause.

The subject of this sentence is a noun clause, and must have its own base line.

We diagram the linking verb and subject complement the same for both clauses. The linking verb follows the subject-verb divider, which passes through the base line. The subject complement is placed on the base line following the linking verb and a backslash that does not cross the base line.

We will connect "That" to "Stella" with a dashed line like other conjunctions. "That" can appear either above or below the clause.

"That" is non-essential and can appear either above or below its clause.

Just like diagramming compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences that require multiple base lines, the key to diagramming noun clauses is also the inclusion of multiple base lines. The difference is that a noun clause must be embedded into its main clause with a "mini" base line on "legs." When the noun clause is acting as a subject, the secondary base line will appear on legs within the subject area of the main clause; a clause acting as an object will appear in the object area; and a clause that acts as a predicate nominative will appear in the predicate nominative area.

Want to read more about diagramming sentences? Try 

Diagramming Determiners
Diagramming Possessive and Plural Nouns
Diagramming Multiple Independent Clauses

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

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Healing Emotional Wounds: A Back-to-School Altar

A black bowl of salt water, 2 white candles, a clear quartz pendulum, a black cloth-covered journal, black stones from the shore of Lake Huron, a bowl of marbles in a bowl made by my father, aquamarine, jasper and hematite sphere, copper sphere, and septarian
A Shamanic Grief Altar

Authenticity, creativity, 
patience, and compassion.
Authenticity, creativity, 
patience, and compassion.

For the past 38 years I have loved the arrival of the first day of school. Whether as a student or as a professor, I've barely been able to contain my excitement about the potential of the new academic year, the new people I would meet, the friends I'd see at lunch, and the new knowledge that's inevitable in academia.

Not this year,  however. On the eve of the start of my 2019-2020 contract, I find myself a bit distracted, if anything, by other things. I want to paint my bedroom door and reorganize the shed. I want to wash my car and make Christmas presents and cuddle the cats. I want to watch cars go by in the rain and figure out which onomatopoeia words best represent the sound they make. I want to learn to play a shamanic drum. I want the freedom to withdraw from others at a moment's notice.

Is This Faculty Burn Out?

A Close-up of a rough aquamarine and jasper and hematite sphere nestled in black beach stones from Lake Huron
Rough Aquamarine and a Jasper and Hematite Sphere
After a series of serious obstacles and emotional upheavals over the past few years, I think I'm simply worn out. I feel translucent in the wake of personal tragedy, illness, and close calls, and I'm not quite convinced I have the energy to usher in close to 80 freshman and somehow convince them to write essays. Composition is not my favorite class to teach. It certainly isn't a student favorite, and they, too, are all very much distracted by other things. I also haven't, to be completely honest, forgiven my classes from last semester for calling and texting me while I sat and held my father's hand while he struggled to breathe in his last few days. They called to ask if I'd graded their exams while I was at the funeral home. They texted to complain about their group members as the hearse arrived. They emailed multiple times to see if I would accept work they hadn't completed in the first weeks of classes as I tried to sleep for the first time in days; for the first time in days not listening for the next breath. I answered all of them as soon as I could, but I can't seem to shake the feelings of resentment and martyrdom that came with it, no matter how many times I tell myself that they're still kids and don't know any better, or didn't know any better at the time.

 On top of it all, I've lost control of my verb tenses. My father didn't once love his cat and stop loving him, so I cannot say "He loved his cat." He left this world loving the cat in the progressive, continuous tense. I also cannot say "He loves his cat" with accuracy. As a grammarian, this lack of verb tense for deceased relatives is an absolute twist of the knife. What if my lack of control over verb tenses seeps into my classroom: Will the students notice? Will I be outed as a sentence diagramming charlatan? Perhaps I should use the conditional and subjunctive mood: "If my father were still here, he would love his cat."

Contemplating grammatical analysis is wonderfully distracting, but it is not for healing. My grief has taken a unique turn that requires unique healing.

The Shamanic Grief Altar

Off to School

A close-up of my father's marbles in a bowl he made in high school
Personal items are optional, in this case beautiful vintage marbles.
In "Off to School Altars," author C. B. Cabeen explains how their family used an altar to help a young daughter overcome her trepidation about returning to school. The author explains the playfulness required to make the altar-building process meaningful, especially with a young child, but also offers exceptional insights for people of all ages: "Altars give us a way to mark the changes in our lives, and they reveal our lives back to us as something sacred to honor and celebrate." The author goes on to say that "the process of choosing or creating emotionally charged objects, arranging them, and gazing on them opens up our abilities to see the broader picture and reach a synthesis–or at least start a conversation.  Disparate feelings can stand side by side on an altar without having to edge each other out."

On an altar, my own trepidation at returning to school can stand, as Cabeen says, side-by-side with my realization I need to be with others, regain a sense of community and control, and once again find joy in my life's work. As practical as the creation of a syllabus might be tomorrow, my first official day of the new school year, gathering and placing "emotionally charged objects" may help me commemorate the day in such a way as to bring healing and prepare my heart for the task at hand.

Healing from Grief

Authenticity, the product of mindfulness and a supportive community.
Creativity, because it contributes to the growth of our souls.
Patience with myself and others because we are all as fragile as soap bubbles.
Compassion above all else.

In addition to mourning the end of summer, I am grieving the loss of my father and all that entails for me and my family. Therefore, my altar is also based on the Shamanic grief altar. 

Linda L. Fitch teaches, in "Creating a Grief Altar: A Shamanic Practice for Grief and Loss," that the required items for a Shamanic grief altar are very few:

  • A black cloth (you can use a napkin, a scarf, a piece of fabric, etc.)
  • A black or dark blue bowl with water in it
  • Salt
  • One or two light colored candles

When the candles are lit, she continues, the altar is "open."

A close up of a copper sphere from Michigan nestled in black beach stones. A bowl of salt water and light candles sit on a cloth-covered journal
A copper sphere from Michigan's Upper Peninsula 
Although my altar sits on a woven Navajo mat, as you can see in the image, I've placed a black bowl of spiced salt water on top of a black, cloth-covered journal. The spiced salt was a gift for cleansing my home from a friend, and it seems appropriate to use the journal as my black altar-cloth for the start of the new school year, representational of a blank slate. I've included two white candles and a clear quartz pendulum, plus a small collection of jasper and a shell I picked up on the shores of Lake Huron. Not on the journal, where the basic items are located, but on the mat, I have included a bowl of marbles that belonged to my father, and they are in a bowl he made in high school. I've also created a spiral of black beach stones from home as the ground for a rough aquamarine, a jasper and hematite sphere, a copper sphere from the Upper Peninsula, and a rough septarian. Although I have a large collection of gemstones and minerals, these were the most appropriate for this altar's purpose: To help me heal and prepare my heart for the new academic year.

Want to read more about grief and healing? Try

Grief and Healing: Using the Nice Dishes
Arts and Crafts and Healing
The Intent to Change; The Purpose and Benefit of Personal Altars

Works Cited

Cabeen, C. B. “Off to School Altars.” Pagan Families, Patheos, 23 Oct. 2014,

Fitch, Linda L. ""Creating a Grief Altar: A Shamanic Practice for Grief and Loss."

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

The College Journal: Supplies on a Student Budget

Purchasing supplies on a student budget can be as simple as buying a mechanical pencil and some felt tip pens
The College Journal is Available on Amazon through This Affiliate Link

The College Journal is a one-stop-shop for all the types of journal pages a college student might need during a semester. It's divided into three areas: Academic Calendar, Weekly Reviews, and Dailies. Each area is already set-up with easy-to-use templates. Prompts for the templates appear in the Introduction, and additional prompts and ideas appear online - on this very blog, as a matter of fact!

What Supplies Do I Need to Start a Journal?

So, what else do you need to get The College Journal started? Depending on your budget, you can start minimal, something as simple as a mechanical pencil, or you might jump right into being artsy and buy yourself some laser-cut stencils and water colors. Of course, there are lots of options in-between.

Something That Writes (and Maybe Erases)

I would recommend starting with something that writes and erases. Lots of people jump right in with an ink pen, but sometimes mistakes happen, and being able to erase the mistakes and start over can lower any stress or anxiety you have about what you write or draw. Try a refillable mechanical pencil, which prevents the need for a pencil sharpener. This Pentel mechanical pencil comes with extra lead and an eraser.

If you're not terribly stressed about what you write and can accept that mistakes happen, try a black or blue gel pen, or give Micron pens a try. If you're environmentally conscientious, try a fountain pen or a roller ball with replaceable cartridges. Try a few pens before you buy too many, however. You want to avoid pens that bleed through the pages.

Add Some Color

If you want to add a little color to your journal, I recommend felt tip pens or colored pencils. These can either be used to add emphasis to your pencil-written work, or you can write with them as a way to organize your thoughts. Paper Mate Flair pens do not bleed through paper, and I can attest to it since I've been grading papers with them for several years. Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils, just like mechanical pencils, do not require a pencil sharpener, so they're easier to take with you and use if you like colored pencils. 

Another way to add color is with washi tape, stickers, or rubber stamps. There are a variety available in big box stores, office supply chains, and online.

and speaking of on line . . .

Making Lines

Last, but not least, you want to be able to add lines to your journal, especially when you're completing your pie graphs.

You can add a bookmark that can also double as a straightedge: Something as simple as an index card might work for you. You can also purchase a set of metal bookmark stencils or even use a protractor, especially if you want to carefully divide your pie graphs as exactingly as possible.

Whatever the additional benefits of keeping a journal, one of the most important and often overlooked is as an avenue for self expression. Whether you want to show off your abilities in a minimalist fashion or by using bright and colorful images and fancy lettering, it's your journal to do with as you see fit. There are supplies to match every budget and every personality.

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

Friday, July 26, 2019

The College Journal: Ideas for Your Special Tracker

The College Journal is an 8.5" x 11" fill-in-the-blank journal specifically designed for first-year college students. It includes prompts and templates to help you raise your self awareness, take financial responsibility, and keep track of important deadlines, meetings, and assignments.
The College Journal is Available on Amazon through This Affiliate Link

The College Journal Dailies section is a place to keep track of your daily activities, both before the day begins and as the day is drawing to a close. At the end of a week or before a new week, depending on how you frame it, you will look back at your Dailies entries in order to look for patterns of behavior that can help you change bad habits and continue to act on beneficial habits. Realizations about how you spend your time, money, and energy can then become goals and action items you record in your Weekly Review.

The Dailies section includes a task manager and organizer, a blank graph for keeping track of how you spent your 24 hours of time, an area for a Button-Size Mini-Memoir, and a place to keep track of an additional "thing" of your choice. Because the Dailies are meant to be a fast, user-friendly journal experience (because students don't have a lot of free time in college), what follows are some basic tracker ideas for that special "thing"  that will fit into your Dailies pages.

What Kinds of Things Do I Put in My Journal?

Use Your Journal to Track Good Habits Versus Bad Habits

One way to think about your options for tracking behaviors and habits is to divide your tracker into two rows, one for the "good" and one for the "bad." You could track these behaviors for one week, or you could track them throughout your semester to look for changes.


In the example above, the student is tracking both complimenting others, a good habit, and swearing, a bad habit. Every time the students swears, that student fills in a stop sign. Every time the student compliments someone else, the student fills in a smiley face. In this example the compliments may not replace the swearing directly, but may simply improve the student's mood when there are more compliments than swearing.

Other good versus bad habit combinations related to communicating with others might be complaining versus offering solutions or gossiping versus getting to know someone.  In both of those instances, the healthy behavior may replace the bad behavior, so your tracker could be set up a little differently.
In the example above, the student colors a section to the left in black each time the student spends time genuinely and sincerely building someone up during the day. The student colors the right side of the tracker red if the student spends any time putting people down or making sarcastic jabs during the course of the day.

Health and Wellness

Some habits related to health and wellness might be meditating instead of arguing or stretching instead of slouching. Those can certainly be tracked like the examples above.

Additionally, your habits might include drinking water instead of pop, or eating vegetables instead of chips. If you want to track meditation, you could simply fill in the box with a before and after impression of the time spent in meditation.  If you want to be slightly more creative, you can draw glasses of water to color in blue for each glass you consume, or you can even try your hand at drawing the yoga poses or exercises you completed for the day.

Two different ways to track a yoga practice are shown in the figure above. You could simply list the poses you've tried with a simple decoration (or no decoration), or you can find a more colorful way to track your practice.

Lifestyle and Hobbies

A third way to think about your habits is in tracking your lifestyle and hobbies. Should you be spending more time studying and less time in the game room?  Or do you need to make sure you are practicing a skill or craft on a daily basis?  Try tracking your successes for a confidence boost!

There are two ways to track lifestyle and hobbies shown in the image below. The first is to draw or fill in one baseball to indicate feelings of accomplishment on a scale of 1 - 10. The second way is to create a musical message on a staff or fill in notes to indicate musical achievement and success.
The most important "thing" to remember about your special tracker of a "thing" is that it should be meaningful to you without being difficult or time consuming. It should never be considered a burden. Try tracking communication, health and wellness, or lifestyle and hobbies all semester or only for one week. Try a few different trackers until you find one that makes a difference in your life and offers real insight. If you gain helpful insights, you can write about them in your Weekly Review. 

Happy Journaling!

Want to read more about The College Journal? Try

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

10 Prompts for Freestyle Journaling: Using Your College Journal

The College Journal is an 8.5" x 11" fill-in-the-blank journal specifically designed for first-year college students. It includes prompts and templates to help you raise your self awareness, take financial responsibility, and keep track of important deadlines, meetings, and assignments.
An 8.5" x 11" Journal for College Students
The College Journal is Available on Amazon through This Affiliate Link
The College Journal is divided into three main sections and types of pages: Academic Calendar, Weekly Reviews, and Dailies.

The journal is pre-planned with templates and prompts on all the pages needed for 20 full weeks of classes.

One of the pages where you really get to be creative and make the journal your own is in the Weekly Review. Each of the 20 Weekly Reviews includes a page for Freestyle Journaling. 

What Kinds of Things Should I Write in My Journal?

If you need help getting your Freestyle Journaling pages started, listed below are 20 complete prompts that leave lots of creative wiggle room. The essential thing is to make the pages your own, finding a way to reflect who you are and what's important to you.

1. Use Your Journal to Dump Your Thoughts

  • One way you can dump your thoughts is by creating a mind-map or cluster. You may have learned how to do this in your Composition course as a method of prewriting. Try starting with "On My Mind" as the starting point for your cluster, and create your map as you work outward from that center. This can help you pinpoint what's causing your stress or help you prioritize issues that may need to be resolved. You can use "What I Learned" as a starting point for reinforcing lessons.
  • Another way to dump your thoughts is to write a letter to yourself. In your letter, explain to yourself what's been bothering you. You can even ask yourself for advice, which may prompt an answer in a future letter!

2. Use Your Journal to Reflect

  • If you already know what's been on your mind, you can take the time to reflect on it. You can paraphrase a conversation or summarize a situation in order to determine if you would change anything about the conversation or situation if you had the opportunity.
  • Another great way to reflect is to reflect on class discussions. If the class conversation introduced multiple perspectives, with which perspective do you agree and why?

3. Use Your Journal to Ask Yourself Questions

  • Have you been acting on bad habits, lately?  If you have, maybe you should ask yourself why you're acting on them and make a pact about what you could or should do instead.
  • Another great question to ask yourself is how you're feeling. There are a lot of emotion words in the English language to choose from, and there are even more in other languages that we don't translate into English. Spend time choosing the exact word that most closely describes your current feeling. Explain the word's history and meaning using an etymological dictionary.

4. Use Your Journal to Plan a Party

  • If you could plan a gratitude party, what would it look like? Who would be there? What would be on the menu? What types of activities would you plan, and what kind of music would you play? Have fun with this prompt.
  • Now plan a party for someone you love. Think about all the ways you could make that person happy with your party planning choices. Better yet, how could you plan a party for someone you dislike in order to make that person happy?

5. Use Your Journal to Learn New Words

  • There are several "Word of the Day" Web sites and email subscriptions. Join one for at least a week and record the new words in your journal.
  • Alternatively, jot down words you encounter while reading, record the meanings and context, and keep them in your journal.

6. Use Your Journal to Make a Shopping List

  • Let's say the impossible has happened, and you have won 10 million dollars. Make a distribution and shopping list.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, if you only had $10.00 a week to spend on food, what would your shopping list look like. Investigate food prices and try to be as healthy as possible.

7. Use Your Journal to Create a Reading Log

  • Make a list of books and articles you want to read. Make a little note explaining why you want to read each one.
  • Make a list of books and articles you have to read. Make a little note explaining what you might expect to learn from each one.

8. Use Your Journal to Create a Watch List

  • Make a list of all the movies and shows or videos you want to watch. Make a little note explaining why you want to watch each one.
  • Make a pro and con list for watching a show you're on the fence about watching. The pro list is why you should watch it, and the con list is why you should not watch it. Which side has the strongest reasons?

9. Use Your Journal to Take Notes

  • Watch a documentary and take notes. Write down interesting quotes, follow-up sources, interesting points for additional research, and talking points (what you'll tell your friends about the documentary).
  • Choose one of the items from your reading list and take notes. Write down information about the item, like the author and date, and use a citation style appropriate to the subject to document the source. Reiterate main ideas that caught your attention if it is a nonfiction item, or try to capture the theme if it's a work of fiction or literature.

10. Use Your Journal to Record Your Feelings or Memories

  • Draw a self portrait. You can look in the mirror or work from a recent selfie. Try, most importantly, to capture your mood.
  • Write or illustrate a narrative from the week. Did you drop your tray in the dining hall? Did you find money in clothes you haven't worn in a long time? Write it out like a story with dialogue and detailed description, or draw it like a comic strip.


The Freestyle Journaling page is introduced as a space to dump your thoughts, reflect, ask yourself questions, plan a party, list new words, make a shopping list, create a reading log or watch list, take notes, or record feelings and memories. However, if you need more help getting started, these 20 prompts can certainly help.

Happy journaling!

Want to read more about The College Journal by Amy Lynn Hess? Try

The College Journal: Creating a Weekly Budget
The College Journal: A Fill-in-the-Blank Journal for First Year College Students
The College Journal: Ideas for Your Special Tracker
The College Journal: Supplies on a Student Budget

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The College Journal: Creating a Weekly Budget

The College Journal is an 8.5" x 11" fill-in-the-blank journal specifically designed for first-year college students. It includes prompts and templates to help you raise your self awareness, take financial responsibility, and keep track of important deadlines, meetings, and assignments.
The College Journal is Available on Amazon through This Affiliate Link

Should I Keep a Budget in My Journal?

Absolutely! Creating a budget, one week at a time, can help students who've never created budgets before start thinking about financial goals and responsibilities.

The College Journal includes template pages for Weekly Reviews, and one of the prompts in the Weekly Review asks students to gather receipts and bank statements from the previous week to help them create a budget for the following week.  Especially helpful for visual learners, the prompt is accompanied by a pie graph template for the budget. 

Each student budget will be unique because each budget must take the student's income or money available for spending into account. 

How to Create a Weekly Pie Graph  Budget

Determining Weekly Income

As stated previously, a budget requires a knowledge of both income and expenses. A student generally receives income by paycheck, allowance, financial aid, or through savings. When income arrives once a month, then that income must be divided by the number of weeks in a month (4) in order to determine how much income the student has per week. If income arrives once every nine months, as may be the case if a student receives financial aid during the academic year and works in the summer, then the income must be divided by the number of weeks per nine months in order to determine a weekly income (36). In some instances, income will come from a variety of sources, like financial aid, work-study, and savings or allowance.

Determining Weekly Expenses

Weekly expenses for a week may be categorized as simply "savings," "food," and "gas." However, some weeks may include "rent and utilities," "entertainment" (like going to the movies), special "school supplies" for projects, "textbooks," or even "medical appointments" or "medication." By planning for the upcoming week, students can learn to schedule when, how, and how much income is spent. 

Using the Pie Graph

Once income and expenses for the following week are determined, the budget can be drawn into the pie graph template on the Weekly Review page. First, divide the pie graph into divisible areas with a pencil. If your income is $340.00, for example, each 1/4 of the pie graph equals $85.00. Alternatively, use percentages to determine how much of your income is being used for each expense, and divide the pie graph by percentages, like the example below. If your portion of the rent is $300.00, that is 88% of your weekly income. 

Feel free to work ahead on your pie graphs (in pencil) if you prefer to work out your budget for the entire month instead of one week at a time. You could also keep a list of your weekly or monthly expenses and bill due dates as one or more of your Freestyle Journaling entries. Lastly, one of your daily entries might be a "savings tracker," in case there's something you need or want in the future (like an out-of-town trip, a formal dress, or car repairs).

Raising Awareness

Some expenses will be inevitable, like rent and medications, while others might be "wants" and not "needs." In order to raise awareness of financial responsibilities, you should make as many notes in the margins as possible or necessary.  This can help with planning for future weeks or even for reminding yourself of important lessons learned. For example, you might write down what you want to do with your paycheck the following week before you forget: You need school supplies for a project (will cost about $34.00), you have a date to go to the movies (about $17.00), and you have a dental appointment with a copay ($30.00). 

Notes or not, the most important part of tracking your finances is that you are tracking your finances and learning more about where your money goes so you can make better and more informed financial decisions each week.

Want to read more about The College Journal? Try

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

Monday, July 22, 2019

The College Journal: A Fill-in-the-Blank Journal for First Year College Students

The College Journal is an 8.5" x 11" fill-in-the-blank journal specifically designed for first-year college students. It includes prompts and templates to help you raise your self awareness, take financial responsibility, and keep track of important deadlines, meetings, and assignments.
The College Journal is Available on Amazon through This Affiliate Link

The College Journal is an 8.5" x 11" fill-in-the-blank journal specifically designed for first-year college students. It includes prompts and templates to help you raise your self awareness, take financial responsibility, and keep track of important deadlines, meetings, and assignments. 

Is it Hard to Keep a Journal?

Keeping track of life during college is hard, but writing things down can make it a bit easier. The hard part is establishing a writing habit and knowing what to write down and how often. This journal is already planned, includes fill-in-the-blank pages with prompts and templates. This is a quick and painless way to help you stay on top of your to-do list and gain useful insights about your time, money, wellness, and academic responsibilities.

After you complete the initial set-up for your semester’s dates, you might spend between 10 and 30 minutes on your journal each day, depending on the depth to which you choose to use your journal, how pretty and colorful you want to make it, and how exactingly you keep track of your time and finances.

This journal makes it easier for you to keep track of your life, and it has been divided for you into three categories with  prompts:
  • Academic Calendar
  • Weekly Review
  • Dailies

About the Academic Calendar

The Academic Calendar section is where you will copy important dates from your school’s academic calendar and your class syllabi into your journal for quick reference. As academic responsibilities are added, you can add them to your master Academic Calendar. This part of the journal is your one-stop-shop for reviewing all important future dates.

The Academic Calendar pages include three main sections:
  • Course Schedule
  • Work Schedule
  • Planner for the Month of _____________

Your institution (college or university) will usually post an academic calendar on their Web site and in the official Catalog. Your professors will usually publish important class dates in their syllabi or on their online learning management pages, and additionally, student organizations or teams will generally provide a calendar of events or important dates. Before you fill in your academic calendar for each month, be sure to review all those separate calendars. If you also have a job with a consistent schedule, you can fill in your scheduled work days. If you want, add holidays, birthdays, and preplanned social or family outings.

About the Weekly Review

Each week in The College Journal begins and ends in a Weekly Review section, where you will think back on the week that’s passed and think ahead to plan the upcoming week. 

There are three main sections for prompts in the Weekly Review pages:
  • Freestyle Journaling
  • Looking Back
  • Looking Ahead

There are several ways to use your Freestyle Journaling pages, like keeping to-do lists, writing about major events, writing letters, or recapping interesting class discussions. On the Looking back pages you'll get a chance to quickly capture an experience and analyze the way you've been spending your time. When you are Looking Ahead, you will get a chance to set some weekly goals and a weekly budget.

About the Dailies

The Dailies section is the place for your daily entries. These entries will help you keep on top of daily responsibilities, tasks, and habits, like whether or not you’re keeping up with assignments or drinking enough water.

There are 4 prompts on each Dailies page:
  • Schedule and Task Tracker
  • Time Mini-Tracker
  • Button-Size Mini-Memoir
  • Personalized Special Tracker

Dailies are organized seven days at time and are nestled between Weekly Reviews. While Weekly Reviews require time and reflection, Dailies should be quick and relatively painless, but there are opportunities for deep thinking if you’re up for it.

Want to read more about The College Journal? Try

The College Journal: Creating a Weekly Budget
The College Journal: Prompts for Freestyle Journaling
The College Journal: Ideas for Your Special Tracker
The College Journal: Supplies on a Student Budget

Want to read more from Amy Lynn Hess and Gypsy Daughter? Try

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

Our Favorite Non-Dairy, Gluten-Free Noodle Bowl Recipe

This healthy noodle bowl is gluten free and dairy free, and features purple cabbage and avacado
My Favorite Rice Noodle Recipe
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and No Sugar Added

Interested in a gluten-free, dairy-free, no sugar added, super-duper, complete  meal in a bowl? 

I whipped up this noodle bowl recipe one day when I needed to use up some odds and ends we had in the house, mostly the precarious avocado on the countertop and some herbs getting out of control in the garden. It's become one of our favorite go-to's for supper, especially when we're in a hurry . . . and with my need to avoid dairy, gluten, and sugar, establishing a go-to meal is something spectacular.

It's also easily adaptable: I sometimes add fresh Polish kielbasa, kale, or cilantro and parsley in addition to the other herbs or instead of the other herbs. It's also just as delicious with lemon instead of lime, or with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. If need be, eliminate the coconut milk for a clear broth, or use low sodium ingredients. The trick is to do what's best for you with no awful ramifications or digestive problems. What follows is what works best for us, including the approximate nutritional information provided by entering the recipe into the MyFitnessPal nutritional calculator.


Our Favorite Noodle Bowl
A Beautiful Purple Broth, and Optional Polish Kielbasa
4 oz (2 servings) Sempio Rice Noodles (Affiliate Link)
3 Cups Swanson Chicken Broth
1/2 Can Simple Truth Organic Coconut Milk
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Tsp Freeze-Dried Chives or 1 Tbsp Fresh Chives
1 Medium Avocado
Juice from 1 Lime
2 Tbsp Fresh Thyme
2 Tbsp Fresh Basil
1 Can Sliced Water Chestnuts
2 Cups Shredded Purple Cabbage
1 Cup Chopped Celery

1/2 lb Fresh Polish Kielbasa


You will need 2 6-8 cup kettles, a can opener, a cutting board, colander, and your favorite chopping and slicing knives, stirring spoons, large soup bowls and forks, and a soup ladle.

  1. Clean and chop the veggies (but not the avocado, yet), and mince your herbs. Juice your lime.
  2. In the first kettle add broth, coconut milk, herbs, water chestnuts, lime juice, purple cabbage, and celery. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Ladle the soup into large soup bowls. There should be enough for 2 servings (and maybe a bit more).
  3. In the second kettle, bring 4 cups of water to a boil for the rice noodles. Add the rice noodles to the water and boil for 4 minutes. Drain the rice noodles and add them to the noodle bowls. Spoon some of the broth over the noodles to prevent them from sticking. 
  4. Lastly, wash, peel and slice your avocado, adding half to each bowl. 

*If adding the Polish kielbasa, it must boil and simmer in water for 45 minutes, cool, and be sliced before being added to the soup bowls.

Nutritional Facts

Servings 2
Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories 604
  • Total Fat 29 g 45 % 
    • Saturated Fat 17 g 83 %
    • Monounsaturated Fat 7 g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
    • Trans Fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
  • Sodium 1727 mg 72 %
  • Potassium 941 mg 27 %
  • Total Carbohydrate 77 g 26 %
    • Dietary Fiber 9 g 35 %
    • Sugars 8 g
  • Protein 10 g 21 %
  • Vitamin A 38 %
  • Vitamin C 89 %
  • Calcium 38 %
  • Iron 10 %

* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipe has not been professionally evaluated nor been evaluated by the U.S. FDA. If adding the Polish Kielbasa, add a total of 508 calories (254 per serving), 40 g total fat 9 g total carbs 29 g protein.

Want to read more gluten-free, dairy-free recipes? Try

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Peanut Butter Cookies
Mizeria: Gluten-free, Dairy-free Cucumber Salad
What to Eat While Fighting Lyme Disease: Detox Soup

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Parts of Speech: A Quick Overview

Can you name the nouns in this photo? 

The eight parts of speech are nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives and articles, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. With a little practice and within some interesting sentences, it's easy to begin telling them apart.


Nouns are proper names (like of people, pets, and special places), general places ("home,"" garden," "park"), things ("leaf," "trees," "building," "shed"), or ideas ("love," "sadness," "mathematics," "dancing").  I can show you pictures of most nouns, whether they are singular or plural, common or proper: Monarch butterfly, shed, grass, trees, wheelbarrow, sunflowers.

Nouns play very specific roles in sentences: Nouns can be subjects, objects, or predicate nominatives. In fact, a subject, object, or predicate nominative will always be a noun or pronoun. In order to understand parts of speech, always look at how words are used in a sentence.

In the following examples, the nouns are green, including the gerund, "dancing" and the infinitive, "to dance." In sentences, nouns often answer the questions Who? Whom? or What?
  • Jean loves dancing. Who loves dancing? Jean!  What does Jean love? Dancing!
  • Walter loves to dance with Jean. Give Jean the ticket. To whom do I give the ticket? Jean! With whom does Walter love to dance? Jean!
  • Her name is Jean. What is her name? Jean! Jean is what? Her name!


Pronouns are like nouns, but they are less specific. Instead of saying "bicycle," for example, I might refer to the bicycle as "that" or "it." Instead of referring to "Jean" or "grandma," I might say "she" or "her," depending on where or how the pronoun is used in the sentence. In order to use a pronoun so that it has meaning, a pronoun must have an antecedent, or a noun to which it refers (so readers or listeners know what "it" is.) In the following sentences, the pronouns are blue, and the antecedents are green.
  • My grandma, Jean, bakes pies. She bakes the best pies.
  • The baby hugged grandma after walking to her on his own. 
  • Is that woman your grandma? It is her!


Nouns show ownership when we add an apostrophe "s", like the announcement, "That is Matthew's new guitar."  In that sentence, "Matthew's" is a possessive noun that modifies, or tells a little more about the guitar. Pronouns can also show ownership or possession, and we call those possessive pronouns. Those pronouns tell us a little more about the words they modify, too. The nouns in the following sentences are in green, and the possessive pronouns are in blue. 
  • That is Shelia's bike, and its tires are flat.
  • My mother went to see her doctor.
  • Sam's brother is in his room.


Verbs indicate action with action verbs, like "climbs", "flew," "loved,"or a state of being  with linking verbs, like "is," and "sounds." The "has" and  "been" in  "has been dancing," are examples of helping verbs. Helping verbs help indicate tense and aspect: Verbs have tenses (past, present, future) and aspects (simple, perfect, progressive, and perfect progressive), which help explain when something started happening, when it happened, and if it's still happening.

I cannot show you pictures of verbs without showing you the nouns that are completing the actions (or the nouns that are in a state of being). Even in a one-word sentence, like "Sit," as I might say to my dog, there is the subject of "understood you," or the dog being asked to do the sitting. In the same way, if I yelled "Run!" at my friend's race, my friend would know that he was the "understood you" I was encouraging to run.

Sometimes words that look like verbs are used as nouns or modifiers and vice-versa, like "dancing" and "to dance" in the previous examples. Again, it's always important to look at how words are being used in sentences before trying to determine a word's part of speech.

The verbs in the following sentences are in red. Notice how verbs are conjugated in order to match the subjects. Regular verbs are conjugated according to consistent rules of conjugation, but irregular verb conjugations, like "to be," should be memorized.
  • Jean loves dancing. Jean and Walter love dancing. (Action verb)
  • That woman is my grandmother! Those people are my grandparents. (Linking verb)
  • The dog is laying in the garden, (Action verb with helping verb) and he smells terrible! (Linking verb)

Adjectives and Articles

Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. They give us more information about people, places, things, or ideas by identifying them, or telling us about their qualities or quantities. The three articles are "a," "an," and "the." Adjectives and articles help answer What kind?, Which one?, or How many? in a sentence. It is important to place adjectives either before the words they modify, directly after the words they modify, or directly following a linking verb to connect to the words they modify.

In the following examples, the adjectives and articles are in orange, and the nouns they modify are in green.

  • Five dogs are now laying in the garden bed.
  • The soup is cold
  • My grandparents, happy and kind, love dancing.


Adverbs modify verbs, other adverbs, or even adjectives. It often does not matter where an adverb is placed in a sentence when it modifies the verb, but there are some instances where placement of an adverb can change the meaning of a sentence. In the following examples, the adverbs are orange. The verbs are in red. Notice in the second set of sentences how much the meaning of a sentence can change depending on the placement of "only."

  • A far-off Mourning Dove sang sadly. A far-off Mourning Dove sadly sang.
  • We are almost ready to go on vacation. 
  • Open the bottle of pop very slowly.
  • Only rain wrecked our vacation. Everything else was lovely.
  • Rain only wrecked our vacation. It did not do worse than "wreck."
  • Rain wrecked only our vacation. It did not wreck the vacations of others.
  • Rain wrecked our only vacation. Too bad we get only one vacation.


Prepositions are linking words that show the relationship of a noun or pronoun to some other word in a sentence. Prepositions show position of a noun, direction, causation, or possession. People often explain that a preposition is anything a squirrel can do to a tree or an airplane can be to a cloud. The prepositions in the following sentences are in purple, and the rest of the prepositional phrase of each is underlined. Notice that prepositions are followed by nouns (or sometimes pronouns), in green. Notice that even when a prepositional phrase begins a sentence, the noun that is part of the prepositional phrase will never be the subject of the sentence.

  • The squirrel climbed up the tree and across its branches.
  • The airplane is to the West of the cloud cover.
  • According to the pilot, we are going to be late because of the clouds.


Like prepositions, conjunctions show relationships between ideas. Conjunctions can either be coordinating (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so, either, neither), or subordinating (since, if, while, although, as, so that, because). Because conjunctions show logical relationships between ideas, it's always important to be sure to use the correct conjunction in order to make meaning most clear. Because they are also linking words, like prepositions, they are also in purple.

  • The search for treasure has been rewarding, yet we should investigate further.
  • Because the search for treasure has been rewarding, we should investigate further.
  • Either the search for treasure has been rewarding, or we should investigate further.


Interjections are simply exclamatory words that add emotion to our statements. The interjections are in the following sentences are in grey.

  • Great!  We're lost.
  • Hey! Give that back.
  • No way! I beat the game.

Short Practice: Parts of Speech Exercise

Are you able to pick out the parts of speech in the following sentences? When you're ready to check your answers, scroll to the bottom of the post.

  • Wonderful! The black and blue butterfly is resting on the sunflower in my garden.
  • Be sure to trim the vines from around the shed.
  • Martha used the wheelbarrow to move the apple tree to the back of the yard.

Want to read more about grammar before you see the answers? Try

Practice Answers

  • Wonderful! The black and blue butterfly is resting on the sunflower in my garden.
  • Cut the vines from the shed.
  • Martha used the wheelbarrow and moved the apple tree to the back of her yard.

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Newbie's Cro-Tatting, Needle Tatting, and Shuttle Tatting Comparison

Tatting is a type of lace making, and there are three ways to go about creating tatted lace: shuttle tatting, needle tatting, and cro-tatting, which is a crossover between crocheting and tatting. 

When I was new to tatting, I found it very helpful to learn all three methods in order to better understand each one and the differences between them.  The samples in the title image are my own "newbie" samples.

One of the biggest differences I have found is in the tightness or "thickness" of my completed projects. In shuttle tatting, the double stitches used in tatting are built onto the thread itself, so the stitches are as tight or as small as the thread. In needle tatting the stitches are built onto the needle, which holds the thread in its eye, and therefore two thicknesses of thread are pulled through the rings when the rings are closed, or through the chain when the chain is made. If I make the stitches too tight, I have a very difficult time pulling the needle, the core thread, and the tail thread through the double stitches. Cro-tatting is similar to needle tatting in that two thicknesses, or a doubled length of thread, is pulled through the ring after the stitches are built onto the cro-tatting hook, and in order to close a ring the hook has to be wiggled through the double stitches. For that, the larger and more consistent the double stitches the better! I have also found that even the smallest cro-tatting hook I can find and easily use is fairly large compared to a tatting needle. The thicknesses of the completed projects, therefore, can be very different - especially for newbies who need a little extra "wiggle" room.

Other differences, like speed and ease, are entirely subjective, and for every person who prefers shuttle tatting, like Karen Cabrera, there is a person who prefers needle tatting, like RustiKate, and both can be done with speed. When I want to try something quickly, I opt for needle tatting. Yet, as someone who has crocheted for over 30 years, I generally reach for my cro-tatting hook when I start a new project, but I carry my shuttle tatting in my purse because it easily fits into an old Altoids tin. With my cro-tatting hook and tatting needles, which are fairly long, I would worry about breaking them if I carried them with me too often.

There are other subtle differences that make different forms of tatting more difficult at given times. With needle tatting, for example, I need to make sure I have a needle threader handy and know how much tail thread to leave. With shuttle tatting I need to make sure I know whether I need one shuttle or two, attached to the ball or not, and with cro-tatting I have to know that my crochet chain, versus double stitches, will not change the look of the pattern too much for my personal aesthetic.

The price of the tools is also quite similar among the three methods. There are several options available for all three. The Handworks from the Heart blog has an excellent post about cro-tatting hooks. I most often use my Annie's brand cro-tatting hook, and I also use a Prym brand hook on occasion because it is a bit smaller.  When I work with yarn I use a Tunisian crochet hook for cro-tatting.  My favorite tatting shuttles (Affiliate Link) with bobbins are made by Susan Bates, but I also really like my small Clover shuttles without bobbins. Handy Hands has a great set of tatting needles for a variety of thread sizes (that also comes with threaders and a small instruction booklet), and I have found that simply having that one set is enough for me.

So what does this all mean? What is my recommendation? Because the cost is minimal, and the feeling of accomplishment in trying all three is high, I recommend trying all three and seeing which works best for you in any given situation or with any given pattern. Personally, I enjoy all three for different reasons and am exceptionally glad I've given all three a try!

Want to read more about Arts and Crafts? Try

Cro-tatting Rows of Rings: Split Rings and Stacked Rings
Punch Needle Embroidery Supplies for Beginners
Which Weaving Loom is Best for Beginners?

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