Monday, February 27, 2023

Travel Tips With A Cat


Butter Carmel Cupcakes


1 package of yellow cake mix (DO NOT follow instructions on the back).
Instead add:
1 cup of water
3 eggs
and 1/2 cup of butter melted down with a 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Bring this butter/brown sugar mix to a boil. I was able to make it happen in the microwave to be quick. 
Blend together very well.
Fill cupcakes 1/2 full
Bake for 20 min.

Part Two:
Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp of vanilla 
Bring to a boil the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. 
Reduce to medium heat and add the can of sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Stir for 4 minutes. Remove from heat then let the sauce sit for 10 minutes.
Inject the sauce mix into the baked and cooled cupcakes. Drizzle on top. There will be lots of camel left over that you can also use for popcorn.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Strawberry-Pineapple Cupcakes - Cat Ears

Preheat oven to 350

 1 box of strawberry cake mix (I used Pillsbury)

         Do not follow recipe on the back! Instead add:

1 cup pineapple juice

3 eggs

1/2 cup of olive oil

Blend together very well.

Fill cupcakes 1/2 full

Bake for 20 min.

Decorate the top with whip-cream, strawberries, powdered sugar, or other fun topping. 

We used almond whip but I'm sure coconut whip would be yummy too.  

My youngest came up with the idea to make cat ears. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Guest Post: 14 Microchanges Guaranteed to Advance Your Career, by Marla J. Albertie CPC, APTD, M.Ed., USN Veteran Instructor of Psychology


14 Microchanges Guaranteed 

to Advance Your Career

Make these changes and watch your career take off!

As a career and life coach, I am often asked “how do I advance my career.” I always advise “depending on your goal you can do an array of things.” Everyone doesn’t have to perform the same tasks for advancement, however there are some universal slight changes you can make. I call them microchanges.

It will amaze you at what a slight change can do for your career.

If you want a raise or job satisfaction, try these simple tips for taking your work performance to the next level. They’ll pay off quickly.

Online Microchanges for Greater Career Success

The internet is the place to start because it is easy to gain knowledge and promote your visibility.

1.      Edit your LinkedIn profile. When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? I updated mine right before I started my recent job.

I recommend looking at your profile every 2–3 months to make necessary changes. Let colleagues see your most recent accomplishments.

2.     Reach out to your network. Reach out to colleagues you have not spoken to in a while. Reconnect with past coworkers. You never know who holds the key to open your next door.

3.     Follow industry news. I can’t stress this one enough. You should always stay abreast with what your industry is engaged in. Spend a few minutes a day reading an article or two about what’s happening in your world of business.

4.    Monitor your life. It’s easy to lose track of time, since we cannot manage it, anyway. Set limits on your extra-curricular activities. Give yourself time to read and set up systems in your life.

Offline Microchanges for Greater Career Success

5.     Face-to-face interactions still have a dramatic impact. There is nothing like having a great conversation with someone while getting to know them. Maybe that’s even more true today when so much communication occurs electronically.

6.    Demonstrate initiative. Sometimes you will be asked to perform job tasks outside of your job description. How will you respond? I suggest you show initiative and step up.

7.     Be a team player. Identify what your manager considers the top business priorities so you know where to devote your efforts. Find a way to contribute that goes above and beyond your job description.

8.    Volunteer your assistance. You can volunteer your time at work or in your community. I suggest you try both. Find areas of interests and see how you can help.

9.    Speak up. In every meeting, there is always that one person who says nothing, and the manager has to call on them, don’t be that person. Make your voice heard on subject matters of interest. You don’t have to speak at every meeting, but you should speak at some meetings.

10. Show enthusiasm. Your manager will trust and value you more if you show that you’re invested in your career. After all, it is YOUR career. If you don’t have an interest in it, why would anyone else?

11. Express gratitude. Let your colleagues know how much you appreciate them all the time. Gratitude should be an ongoing effort. This does not mean act unauthentic, it means to show gratitude to your team on different occasions. Offer sincere praise and share credit for team projects. They’ll be more likely to return the favor.

12. Dress for the position you want. Appearances count whether or not you like it. If your career desires are to be a business manager, how does a business manager dress?

13.Join a professional association. I have mentioned this in my previous writings. There is no better way to meet people in your industry than to join the industry association. I am a member of a few of them and I love the connections I have made.

14. Use your vacation days. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees who take all of their vacation time have a 6.5% higher chance of receiving a promotion or a raise than their peers who are stockpiling their time off. Isn’t that amazing? Take the cruise which is my vacation of choice.

The average full-time work week in the United States is roughly 42.5 hours long. Wouldn’t it be better for you to have a strategy for career advancement? These microchanges will help you do a superb job and maintain harmony in your life.

Marla J. Albertie, is the author of The Ultimate Brag Book: A hundred questions about how awesome you are. She is a Certified Life Coach and Corporate Trainer. She blogs owns of the Truth Speaks Group, LLC, a multi-media coaching company dedicated to creating solutions for integrating work and life to create harmony. When she is not studying for her PhD, Marla loves to read, is a concert and comedy show junkie, and a cruiser for life. Follow Marla on Twitter @tspeakscoaching and IG @Tspeaksgroup


Sunday, February 19, 2023

Guest Post: Getting Your “Tribes” to Help Promote You and Your Book by Marissa Bañez


Getting Your “Tribes” to Help Promote You and Your Book


            We all have many “tribes” – family, friends, culture, ethnicity, gender, education, work, religion, politics, etc.  Most tribe members enjoy the vicarious thrill of success on the part of someone they know or can relate to: “One of us done good.”

            As a published author, you have given them that vicarious thrill.  Chances are, they’ll want to help you become even more successful, which will further heighten their vicarious thrill.  Seek out those people . . . but don’t just take; you must also give.  I call it “cross-pollination.”

            True stories:

1.      Someone I worked with decades ago published a novel (work tribe).  My vicarious thrill led me to post about it on social media.  Also, although we hadn’t spoken in about 40 years, I congratulated him through the magic of the internet.  In our emails, I mentioned my dream of publishing my children’s stories.  He then introduced me to his publisher, who is now my publisher too.  Since then, he has posted about my various endeavors to promote my book three times on his blog.  Each time, I re-posted his blog on my social media to give him a wider audience as well.

2.      My sister (family tribe) “cold-called” the editor of a newspaper that publishes about our country of origin and people (ethnic tribe).  The editor agreed not only to write about me but to organize a book launch party to introduce me to the community cultural leaders too.  I also agreed to be interviewed by her about a personal topic for a different publication.  Because that other publication has a wide audience, I spent the time and mental/emotional energy for the project in return for greater publicity.

3.      I contacted a different editor of a similar newspaper elsewhere (ethnic tribe).  She wrote an article about me, which in turn led to her publishing a personal essay I wrote, and an interview of me on a TV show.  Because of this exposure, the primary entertainment journalist of the U.S. arm of one of the largest multimedia conglomerates from my country of origin (ethnic tribe) is requesting an on-camera interview with me.

4.      My university alumni magazine agreed to include my book in an issue featuring alumni authors (education tribe), adding to their need for content. 

5.      Someone (friends tribe) recommended I join a Facebook group for certain moms (racial/cultural/gender tribes).  Because the group rules prohibit self-promotion, I made myself known by posting on issues that mattered to the group or that helped others in the group.  Several members googled me, saw my book, told the group about the book, and bought it for themselves.

* * *

            This will often feel like networking on steroids.  But because the current marketplace of competing ideas is overcrowded and noisy, your tribes can help you be seen, heard and, ultimately, read. 


Marissa Bañez is a lawyer and author of the children’s illustrated book, Hope and Fortune.  Her second book, Hues and Harmony (How the Rainbow Butterfly Got Her Colors) will be published on July 20, 2023.








Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez


Hope and Fortune

Book Summary


Hope and Fortune is a modern-day fairytale, featuring multicultural, multiracial (e.g., Filipina, African-American, Latina, Asian, Muslim, etc.), multigenerational, and multigender (including a boy) fairies of different shapes and sizes who help a sad little child who has lost her way to find her path.  Each fairy represents an ideal - Hope, Innocence and Wonder, Truth and Virtue, Generosity and Kindness, Strength and Courage, Respect and Dignity, Confidence, Imagination, Happiness, Beauty, Wisdom and Intelligence, and Love and Friendship. Although the protagonist is a little girl, the life advice given by the fairies is non-gender-specific and could resonate with anyone facing a difficult situation at any point in her/his/their life.


Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1685131174

ISBN-12: 978-1685131174

Print copy pages: 46 pages


Purchase a copy of Hope and Fortune on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.


About the Author


A first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from the Philippines, Marissa Bañez is a graduate of Princeton University and a lawyer licensed to practice in New York, California, and New Jersey. She has published legal articles for the prestigious New York Law Journal and the American Bar Association, but her true passion is in her children's stories. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, whose childhood was filled with many original stories and puppet shows made up entirely by her mom. In her free time, Marissa likes to travel, design and make clothes, cook, binge-watch Star Trek shows and Korean dramas, and occasionally strum a guitar.


She is currently working on her second book, Hues and Harmony (How the Singing Rainbow Butterfly Got Her Colors), a story about mixed or multiracial children, self-discovery, and respect for others as told through the life and adventures of a caterpillar. It is scheduled for publication on July 20, 2023.


You can find her online:





Friday, February 17, 2023

How to Write Truths About People Who May Be Hurt by Them by Norma Watkins


How to Write Truths About People Who May Be Hurt by Them by Norma Watkins


Do we have the right to write bad things about people, family members or friends, who may recognize themselves and be hurt?


My novel In Common is based on my family. This is how I tried to apologize for potential hurt in the Acknowledgments:

This book is pure invention except for the parts that are true. I have changed the names of fine, decent people because I don’t want to embarrass them or their descendants. I have kept the names of public figures, and a few beloved servants, who never received the recognition they deserved. The historical events happened. In between, I made up a lot of stuff.


When you get ready to write the hard stuff, ask yourself three questions: Is the story true? Is the story meant to hurt, or are you presenting facts necessary to tell the story? If the answers are yes, it’s true; no, I’m not trying to hurt anyone; and yes, this truth is necessary to the story, you’re okay.


Authors have various opinions about how much to reveal. Faulkner says you should be willing to sell your grandmother for a good story. Annie Dillard says she would never write about people who don’t have equal access to a printing press. Some writers show the work to family members and get their approval. You can change names if you tell us you’re doing so. If you are writing memoir, that carries the implication of veracity, so if you are changing names, making up dialogue, or inventing where you can’t know what happened, insert a little author intrusion and tell us.


From Barrington, Writing the Memoir: Laying bare the soul with absolute frankness is still an act of courage. To speak honestly about family and community is to risk accusations of betrayal, of being a whistle-blower on the myths that families and communities create to protect themselves from painful truths.


But a memoir (or a disguised memoir) does need to be candid. And there’s nothing wrong with speculating on what might have been, or telling the reader how you’ve always imagined your parents’ early lives. Realize that there may be conflicting claims between the exact truth of the story and its emotional truth as you experienced it. If anyone complains, remind them this is your story, your truth, and invite them to write their own.


Be prepared to check facts where you can, but don’t be afraid to tell the truth. Women, especially, have been told, “You can’t write about that.” “It will kill your mother.” We know in advance about the turned backs, the raised eyebrows, the gossip. We know what we must do to be approved of, that we are expected to keep the peace, smooth over conflict, and “make nice.”


Here’s Virginia Woolf writing in l931:


I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draft, she sat in it—in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of other. .And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing.


You need to risk unpleasantness and tell the truth. We learn from each other’s stories and that is, perhaps, the great gift of story-telling. Shared humanity makes us feel a little less alone in the world.


Alice Walker wrote in The Same River Twice: “If you go deeply enough into yourself, you come up in other people. We have the capability to connect to absolutely everyone ….”


Some subjects are so prohibited they have become taboo: childhood abuse, sexual violence, certain mental and physical illnesses. Overcoming your own inhibition is the first step in dealing with these monsters. You must write in a way that is engaging without compromising the truth. Tell the story for the story’s sake. You are not asking for sympathy. You have made peace with the facts. The rewards you seek are the rewards that go with courage: you take the risk. It is that unique blend of truth and art that touch a reader’s heart with immediate sorrow or lift a reader’s spirits in a flash of recognition.


When dealing with painful subjects, Ursula K. le Guin says, there’s a distinction between wallowing and bearing witness.


Distance helps. To describe something painful or difficult, tell us the story as if you were talking about someone else. Keep us at an empathic distance. The story can be maddening, but the writing isn’t mad. The story can be heart-breaking, but the writer doesn’t whine. This usually means using third person, but you can use first if the tone is right.


Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1.Make a list of things you consider taboo for yourself.

2.Write a piece that begins with the words: “It would be much too dangerous to talk about …”

3. Pick a problematic story from your past, something you would have trouble dealing with: Tell it in the first person, present tense. For example: I am standing barefoot in the hall outside my parents’ bedroom …

5. List any events or people you would not write about if your writing were to be published. Pick one and write a page about it or him/her.

6. Write a portrait of someone you hate, knowing that person will never see it.

7. Write how it would feel if that person did see it.


There are other strategies you can use when truth becomes too painful. 1)Turn it into fiction. 2) change the gender of the main character. 3) Use my trick—wait until they die.


Another strategy to remember:  When you begin the write about a painful event, slow the writing down. We have a tendency to race through the hurtful stuff. Resist this. Let the reader feel what you or your character felt: the shortened breath, the pounding heart, the nausea.


Write now; worry later. In the end, most people do want to be written about, and if they don’t, disguise them. if the event is what wakes you up at night and gives you bad dreams, that’s exactly what we want to read. 






In Common by Norma Watkins



Lillian Creekmore grows up at her family's popular rural spa. She successfully runs an entire hotel, yet longs for a husband. Then she meets Will Hughes.


Velma Vernon accepts life on a small, struggling farm until a boy she barely tolerates proposes marriage. To accept means duplicating her parents' hard life. Alone, she leaves for the city and triumphs, not as a wife, but by being the best at her job. Velma is content until the most beautiful man she has ever seen walks into her office.


This moving and darkly humorous novel follows the intertwined lives of women willing to surrender everything to a man.


Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684339235

ISBN-13: 978-1684339235


Print Pages: 595 Pages


Purchase a copy of In Common by visiting Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Make sure you also add In Common to your Goodreads reading list.


About the Author


Raised in the South during the civil rights struggles, Norma Watkins is the author of In Common and two memoirs: The Last Resort, Taking the Mississippi Cure (2011), which won a gold medal for best nonfiction published in the South by an independent press; and That Woman from Mississippi (2017). She lives in northern California with her woodworker husband and three cats.


You can find her online by visiting her website or reading her blog.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

In Common, by Norma Watkins

 In Common, a first novel from award-winning memoirist Norma Watkins (The Last Resort, That Woman from Mississippi), is the story of how much women willingly sacrifice for love.

Lillian Creekmore grows up at her family's popular rural spa. She successfully runs an entire hotel, yet longs for a husband. Then she meets Will Hughes.

Velma Vernon accepts life on a small, struggling farm until a boy she barely tolerates proposes marriage. To accept means duplicating her parents' hard life. Alone, she leaves for the city and triumphs, not as a wife, but by being the best at her job. Velma is content until the most beautiful man she has ever seen walks into her office.

This moving and darkly humorous novel follows the intertwined lives of women willing to surrender everything to a man.

Publisher: Black Rose Writing
ISBN-10: 1684339235
ISBN-13: 978-1684339235
Print length: 595 pages

Norma Watkins

Wednesday, February 15, 2023


 Amen! Cheers to all my empath warrior friends! You only make up 1-2% of the population but make life much more vibrant!

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Guest Post: Career Development by Marla J. Albertie


Can you imagine all the things you like, love, and adore in one book?


Let’s be honest. We tend to forget how amazing we really are. It is easy to see it in others, but when it comes to seeing ourselves, we tend to have bad vision.


This is why I wrote this book! All your favorites are captured at one time with space to write more. How often do we brag about ourselves, take time to think about what makes us happy, or do the things we like? If I had to guess, not as often as you would like. You deserve to brag about yourself, so why not? Not only is this a bragging book, but it is a book of ideas you can use to start your next project, business, career move, or anything your heart desires.


In this book, you will learn:

     How to vision board your next big career move

     How to inspire yourself by seeing you

     That you are worthy


This book is for everyone who wants to see themselves as the person they are. You deserve to be your own cheerleader. Grab this book today and start bragging on yourself!


ISBN-13 (paperback) 979-8887592923

ISBN-13 (e-book) 979-8887592930

Print Length: 218 Pages


Purchase a copy of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself on Amazon or get a signed copy on the author's website. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.


About the Author


Marla J. Albertie has lived on board a United States carrier therefore, she feels she is unstoppable. As a native of Jacksonville, Florida she loves to read, travel, and shop. Many of her travels have been on cruises as she has taken 16 thus far. Marla believes life is a journey and we all can create the life we want so why not; you only live this life once. She has a passion to see growth in peoples’ lives and wants others to pay it forward.

As an energetic visionary, she is the owner and founder of the TruthSpeaksGroup LLC, a multi-media company that creates strategies and solutions for work-life integration/harmony (WLI/H). She is also the founder of MJA Notary Services LLC., MJA Publishing LLC., and JEMA Holdings LLC. and Being the founder of I/O for Teens Inc. is her greatest work yet!


Marla doesn’t believe in work-life balance as she believes all areas of our lives can be integrated and we can create harmony in our lives by means of I/O Psychology and Positive Psychology methodologies.


However, harmony cannot happen if we are not in tune with who we are, therefore “The Ultimate Brag Book” was born.


Marla’s mantra is to #TeachTrainEducate working woman who desire to understand their truth and live a life of success defined on their own terms.


Marla's one word philosophy is #Learn.


Marla is a certified professional career, executive, and life coach, trainer APTD (Associate Professional in Training and Development), Certified Chief Happiness Officer, Certified Positive Psychology Practitioner, Director of HR, Instructor, of Psychology, Amazon Best Selling author, and has over 25 years of business, coaching, and training experience.


Marla holds a Master of Education in Adult Education, Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management, and an Associates of Science in Financial Services. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.


Marla loves speaking, teaching, and writing. Among the many ventures she is involved in here are just a few: The founder of the Motivational Movement K.I.M. (Keep it Moving), Truth Speaks Academy, an annual Women’s Empowerment Conference. I.M.A.G.IN.E. (I’M Awesome Growing IN Excellence), YouTube Channel featuring the talk show Creating Your Career with Marla J. Albertie which has 36 episodes, and blog She has also published two books and co-authored a third.


Marla is an active member of the Junior League of Jacksonville, ATD, SIOP, SHRM, Blacks in I/O, APA, ICF, IPPA, and NAHSE. She is also a Well-being and Data Literacy champion at Mayo Clinic.


When she is not trying to save the world, Marla loves a good story and frequents the movies to eat her favorite movie snack, nachos. She loves spending time with her family and friends cruising, shopping, and reading.


Here is where you can find her online:


Main Site:

Follow her as a writer on Medium

Subscribe to her blog:

Take a course at Truth Speaks Academy

Subscribe to my talk show on YouTube:




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