Cold, White, Beautiful, Christmas

Christmas 2013 was spent in Grand Junction Colorado with four of our five kids, and five of our six grandkids. It was very much a cold, white, Christmas, but being with our family very much made up for being cold, and I mean REEAL COLD. Like 9 degrees COLD

My husband, Bill, daughter, Shantel, and I made the nine-hour trip by car. We saw what I thought was a lot of snow as we drove through Flagstaff Arizona.

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But, I soon found out the Flagstaff snow was nothing compared to what we came upon in Colorado.

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Holy cold cow, those little black dots are cows up to their necks in snow…BRRR!!!

When we arrived at our son, Pat, and daughter-in-law, Celina’s house we were greeted by these two very excited little girls. Our granddaughters, Emma, in the red, hugging Hope .

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Our kids took us out to lunch on Christmas Eve afternoon. Yum… I couldn’t get everyone in the picture, but our daughter, Katie, is in the red. Her husband, Josh, is in the orange cap. Our granddaughter, Alex, is sitting next to our son, Pat, in the gray shirt. After lunch we all headed back to our son Pat, and his wife, Celina’s house to start cooking Christmas Eve dinner. Yummmers!!!

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After dinner, the fun began. Each of the grandkids were allowed to open one gift from under the tree. This is our twin grandkids, Bailey, and her brother, Aiden, opening their gift.

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Which happened to be ping-pong paddles to go with the ping-pong table that was set up as a surprise in the garage. Even little Hope was excited to learn how to play the family game.

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I don’t think I have ever seen anyone get as excited over a bag of cookies as our 17 yr old granddaughter, Alex, was when she opened her gift… must be REEEAL good cookies 🙂

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Christmas Morning, we all headed over to our daughter, Katie, and her husband, Josh’s, house for breakfast. Katie made monkey bread served with fresh fruit. She even made some with Splenda for me and her daughter, Emma, because we can’t eat the regular kind. It was REEEAL good! Thank you Katie 🙂

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Our granddaughter, Emma, received a VERY special surprise from Santa. Emma asked for an American doll, which apparently is VERY popular. However, Santa miscalculated his requests and ran out. But, he left Emma this hand written note explaining what happened and told her she would be first on the list for an American doll next year. He gave her a very nice beauty parlor chair for her other dolls to have their hair done in. I told Emma she is very lucky to have a hand written note from Santa and that she should frame it and hang it on her wall to remind her how special she is.

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Our son, Marty, gave Bill, Shantel, and I a supper great gift. He works at the Enstrom candy factory in Grand Junction, and gave us both regular and sugar-free almond toffee in milk chocolate and almond toffee popcorn!!! How special are we to get that? Thanks Marty, we love it and you!

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Marty received a pretty special gift himself from the family. A Broncos sports banner! Is that a happy face or what? They love their Broncos… 🙂

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Our beautiful daughter-in-law, Pat’s wife, Celina, was the hostess with the mostest and received this lovely candle and holder from our son Marty.

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We all had so much fun just being all together again. Our son, Pat worked his fingers to the bone cooking home-made soups, smoking ribs, pork shoulder, turkey and even ham… Thank you Pat for the labor of love you show in your fabulous cooking!

Our daughter Katie made a delicious home-made stew, and pecan pies to die for…

Josh and Katie invited us to meet Josh’s grandparents, in their beautiful home on Christmas day, where we had another delicious meal of ham, mashed potatoes, home-made rolls, vegetables, and all the pie and candy anyone could eat… What a delightful couple Josh’s grandparents are. We were so honored to be invited into their home for Christmas lunch with their family.

I thought I was dreaming when our grandchildren asked if they could come to our hotel and go swimming… did I mention it was a very COLD 9 degrees with knee-deep snow outside…? True, the pool was heated, and inside, but just outside the windows beyond the pool was all that snow…AND, kid like, they also wanted to get in the hot tub which was outside in all that COLD snow… They didn’t mind a bit standing outside in the snow getting back and forth from the hot tub to the inside pool… They wanted to know if I would get in with them… Are you kidding me…not for all the love or money in the world… 🙂

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What a fun-filled, wonderful, Christmas 2013 was. Thank you to all our kids and grandkids for making it so special. I will always treasure each and every moment and memory we made in Grand Junction Colorado. And, I will never say it’s too COLD here in sunny Arizona again!!! 🙂

Stay Tuned!

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A Major Turn Of Events

Our daughter, Shantel, stopped eating meat about four years ago after watching the movie Food Inc. and reading a book called The Jungle. Before that, Shantel ate a wide variety of meats. She loved B-B-Q ribs, steak, real pork bacon, and like all teenagers of course, she LOVED hamburgers.

For a while, Shantel experimented with becoming a vegetarian. But she somehow justified in her own mind that eating chicken and/or turkey would be alright. So she started eating only chicken or turkey. This as you can imagine, became a real challenge for me as the cook of the household, because my husband, Bill, and I were not going to limit ourselves to eating only chicken or turkey. That meant I, as the cook, had to make sure I always had chicken or turkey for Shantel to eat when Bill and I were having beef or pork etc.

Shantel has always been tall and thin. Now, at 5’10” and approx. 152 lbs she is really looking much too thin. Keep in mind I lost over 100 lbs,  30 yrs ago, and have followed Weight Watchers and maintained all but 18 lbs of that weight loss ever since. So, I know the difference between healthy weight either too heavy or too thin. And, I would never force feed Shantel, or restrict her food intake, but would instead refer her to her Doctor… However, as Shantel’s mother, over the past few months, I’ve noticed Shantel has started losing too much weight. She eats her meals with us, which of course, is usually a chicken breast, baked potato, and vegetables, and she consumes a lot of junk food, i.e. cookies, candy, chips…  I fix her an egg every morning before school but she wants to stop by Burrito Co. a couple of days a week to get a breakfast burrito made up of eggs, potatoes, vegies and cheese all good for her… But still, I’ve noticed a significant weight loss with Shantel.

So, today, I mentioned to Shantel that I thought she was losing too much weight and expressed my concern about it to her. I was surprised, and amazed, when Shantel told me that she realized she was losing too much weight too. She said the jeans she had on were a size 10, and they were bagging off of her. I shared with Shantel that I thought her weight loss was due to the fact that she only eats chicken or turkey and that in the past four years she has grown tired of limiting herself to just that source of protein and so she only eats a small amount of it then fills up on junk food… At that, Shantel told me that she realized that when she ate “real” meat, she wasn’t losing weight like she is now. She said she misses eating “real” meat and would like to be able to eat it again. I asked her what she would eat if she were to go back to eating “real” meat again. She said the first thing I would want is a Whopper from Burger King.

I told Shantel the only thing stopping her from eating “real” meat is her, and I asked Shantel if we were to go get her a Whopper from Burger King, would she actually eat it? She said yes. Bill and I left right then to go to Burger King and came home with a Whopper, medium fries, and a diet coke…

Shantel was VERY excited to receive her first Whopper in four years..

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She wasted no time unwrapping that burger and sinking her teeth into that first bite.

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Once she had the taste of that Whopper again…. she DEVOURED it!! I mean she ate that burger like she hadn’t eaten anything in weeks… 🙂

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After she consumed the Whopper, she started talking about all the “real” meat she wants to have next. She said she wants to have B-B-Q meat, real bacon, ham, etc… Oh My!!!

We are going to spend Christmas with our kids and grandkids in Colorado. Our son, Pat, is a fabulous cook, and especially great on the B-B-Q. I told Shantel that Pat sometimes has Elk and I told her Elk is REALLY good meat… I asked her if Pat happened to make some Elk, would she be willing to try some? She said YES!!! OMG, don’t know what caused this “major turn of events…” but we’ll take it! What a great Christmas gift for Bill and I… 🙂

Stay Tuned!

Christmas Lunch With Mom

Since we are not going to be home for Christmas this year because we are going to Colorado to spend Christmas with our kids and grandkids, and my mother was feeling down about not being able to come “home” for Christmas this year, I decided I would take a Christmas lunch to the Care Center to share with her today.

The timing was perfect, because today was the big annual father/daughter Christmas cookie baking day at our house. My husband, Bill, and daughter, Shantel, were up very early getting everything ready for the big baking day event. The kitchen-aid was poised at the ready along with measuring cups and mixing bowls.

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All the ingredients were lined up and waiting. What organization they have… 🙂

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Bill and Shantel were so excited to get started. God bless their little sweet hearts… those two LOVE baking their Christmas cookies.

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I had already decided I just needed to leave the house, and kitchen, to them for the day so I wouldn’t be stressed out by the baking frenzy, or the usual big mess that goes along with it… 🙂

So, I got myself ready, and left the house at 8:00 a.m. to head out to the stores for a fun-filled day of “window shopping.” I went to several different stores and just spent the entire morning looking, touching, and just taking in all the beautiful sights and sounds of Christmas.

Then, at 11:00 a.m. I went to Jason’s Deli to pick up the Christmas lunch I ordered for my mother and I, and  headed over to the Care Center where my mother was waiting for me all dressed up in her read jacket and new Christmas scarf she got from her “secret Santa.”

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I took a picture of my mother by the Christmas tree in the activity center as she was trying to sing “ho, ho, ho, who wouldn’t go…

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Then we sat down to a tasteful lunch. My mother wanted ham and swiss cheese with baked chips and a “real” coke, not diet… She said it was the best ham sandwich she’s had in a long, long, time because they don’t get food like that in the Care Center dining room.

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I surprised her with a chocolate nut brownie for desert but she said she was too full and would save that for later tonight.

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I gave my mother her Christmas gift by the beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the lobby. She said she loved it and thanked me for taking the time to bring lunch to her and making her day feel like Christmas. I wished her a very Merry Christmas, we hugged, said our good-byes, and I told her I would see her when I get back from Colorado.

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When I returned home Bill and Shantel had mounds of Christmas cookies on the dining room table all ready to pack up and take to Colorado. These are the famous Neiman-Marcus cookies they make every year. I can’t eat them but everyone that does eat them rave about how good they are.

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These are the next favorite, Ginger Cookies. Again, people who eat these always come back for more… 🙂

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They also made a batch of Five-Minute Fudge from a Rachel Ray recipe that everyone says is “to die for…”

I’m so happy that Bill and Shantel enjoyed their annual Christmas cookie backing day, and that my mother and I had a nice Christmas lunch together… And, I’m very happy that my kitchen was absolutely spotless when I got home.. Just the way I like it!

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Hey, maybe I do love Christmas cookie baking day’s after all… 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Stay Tuned!

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

My favorite soup of all when the weather turns cold. IF it’s homemade slowly as a labor of love…

Ingredients:

Beef stew meat (you could use steak but I like it with stew meat)

Onion – chopped

Fresh garlic – minced

Baby carrots – chopped

32 oz Beef stock

Fresh mushrooms – sliced

2-3 Bay leaves

Worcestershire sauce to taste

A.1. steak sauce to taste

1/2 small can tomato paste

No salt seasoning to taste (you can use salt t0 taste if you like)

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Olive oil

Sear beef in a heavy bottom skillet using a little olive oil. I use my 25 year seasoned, never been washed, cast iron skillet… It releases 25 years of goodness every time I use it…YUM!

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Remove meat from skillet and set aside. Then sauté onion and fresh minced garlic in the same skillet adding a little more olive oil if needed.

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Slice fresh mushrooms.

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Remove onions and garlic from skillet and set aside. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté in same skillet until softened and nicely browned.

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Remove mushrooms from skillet. Add chopped baby carrots to skillet adding a little more olive oil if needed. Saute until lightly browned.

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Put meat, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and carrots into a crock pot. Add 32 oz beef stock, 1/2 small can tomato paste, about 1 cup water (more if needed) , 2-3 bay leaves, Worcestershire and A.1. sauces, and seasonings to taste.

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Add a cup to 1 1/4  cups of barley. Stir to blend everything. Put lid on crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours so beef gets really tender… Go about you day knowing when dinner time arrives, you will have a crock pot full of goodness waiting for you to enjoy…

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I served this up with cornbread muffins, and I mean it was so good, even Bella came out to have some… 🙂

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Cooks note: You could just throw all the ingredients into the crock pot and turn it on low to cook all day, BUT taking the time to sear the beef, and sauté each of the vegetables separately, really gives the end product depth and full-bodied flavor. It truly is worth the “labor of love” time to do each step…Enjoy!

Stay tuned!

I’m Celebrating Christmas

I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas, except baking cookies of course. But, lucky for me, my husband, Bill, enjoys baking cookies with our daughter, Shantel. In fact, baking cookies together has become a father/daughter tradition for Bill and Shantel. I get to leave the house for the day while they just bake to their hearts content…win, win, for all of us! 🙂

I love decorating the Christmas tree, and putting Christmas decorations in every room in the house. I love cooking special Christmas meals. I love visiting with family and friends, but most of ALL, I love knowing that the reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s it. There is no other reason to celebrate Christmas in my book, because I believe without the birth of Jesus, there would be no Christmas!

I often hear people say they’ve lost the Christmas spirit… I wonder how that happens. I understand perhaps some people don’t have loved ones around them to celebrate Christmas with, or perhaps they lost loved ones at this time of the year. I have too. But, my missing a loved one has nothing to do with my celebrating the birth of my lord, Jesus Christ. I miss my loved ones each and everyday, it’s not more profound at Christmas, it’s always there. But, I know my loved ones would want me to keep living, and enjoying every minute of my life, especially Christmas. It doesn’t matter who is around to celebrate with, what presents were bought or not bought. I’ve seen homeless people on the street smile and say Merry Christmas. Why, because they know the real reason for the season…

As a Christian, the joy of celebrating the birth of Jesus comes deep from within my heart and soul. It’s not something I celebrate just once a year at Christmas time. No, I celebrate Jesus, and the life he gave me, each and every day of my life. But, I look at Christmas as a birthday party for Jesus. So I will decorate for the party, I will cook for the party, and I will always celebrate at the party, even if it were a party for just two, me, and my lord Jesus Christ!

I want my children to know when I’ve gone to my great reward, it’s OK to miss me, but please don’t stop living, and enjoying every minute of your life, just like I lived and enjoyed every minute of my life, especially Christmas!

Yes, I believe Jesus Christ is the reason for the season, and I plan to keep Christ in Christmas. I’m celebrating Christmas in every way I can.

Merry Christmas!

Stay Tuned!

Oh, No, It’s Cookie Baking Time Again!

It’s no secret that I do not like baking cookies. It ranks right up there with being cold to me… But, every year, my daughter, Shantel, talks me into helping her make a batch of cookies to give as gifts to some of her friends at school. Today was our mother/daughter cookie baking day. All I can say is I am so thankful that my husband, Bill, volunteers to help her with the “big” cookie baking day, where she insists on making dozens of three different kinds of cookies for Christmas.

There are several reasons I don’t like baking cookies. First of all I can’t eat them, and I find it cruel and unusual punishment to have to do all the work, and smell them baking in the oven, then not be able to eat them… Then, of course, there is the “big” production of just getting ready to start making the cookies…

Like scrubbing all the already clean countertops, and already clean sinks, in our kitchen with Clorox clean-up bleach…

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Then the already clean kitchen-aid has to be sanitized with Clorox..

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And don’t forget the already clean kitchen-aid mixing bowl…yep, scrub it out with Clorox, then wash it again with dish soap just to be REEEEL sure it’s clean..

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and OMG, don’t even think that the already clean baking sheets could escape the same Clorox and dish soap fate… And, of course it is a MUST to have a clean dish towel, that Shantel will choose, because she only thinks certain ones will do the job right… Now doesn’t this just sound like the kind of baking fun everyone wants to have…? 🙂

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But, at least while all the pre-baking sanitizing was going on… I was able to sit and look at my beautiful Christmas cactus that has actually opened up some of its flowers… That helped ease some of my cookie baking pains…

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Then, once chef Shantel is convinced everything is “fit to bake in…” she began asking me to put the ingredients she would need out on the spotless, sanitized, counter…

I put the butter out to come to room temperature.

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The baking power, baking soda, coarse salt, and pure vanilla, were all lined up for chef Shantel.

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Chopped baker’s chocolate and chocolate chips were all ready to be measured.

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Brown sugar and granulated sugar were at the ready so chef Shantel can measure them out..

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Flour sifted and whisked with the other dry ingredients..

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Eggs cracked into two separate bowls so they can be added one at a time.

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Then, once everything had been measured, it all went into the kitchen-aid mixer to be mixed well…

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After it’s all mixed, the chocolates were folded into the batter by hand, but not before chef Shantel gets to taste it by licking the mixer paddle…

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Speaking of the kitchen-aid, while I was helping Shantel with her baking.., she asked me if she could take my kitchen-aid with her when she moves out in February… After some thought, I finally told her, yes, she could take the kitchen-aid. Hold that thought..

Next, the chocolates were added.

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And, yep, you guessed it… chef Shantel needs another taste just to be “sure..”

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When the final OK was given, the cookies went into the oven, and I was instructed to sit where I could watch the cookies bake and make sure they didn’t burn… Looks like I passed the test. Chef Shantel said they were good, so I didn’t get fired from this job.. Not sure if that is a good thing or not… 🙂

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Only thing left to do was clean up the MESS and I mean it was a MESS… But Shantel is always good at making sure it all gets cleaned, and I mean cleaned…!

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The only reason I even put myself through all this every year is because Shantel loves to bake cookies so much. AND, when we’re not arguing about if the kitchen, and baking pans, etc. are clean enough for chef Shantel to use…, we do manage to have fun, and a lot of laughs!

As Shantel was washing the dishes after the baking session, I guess she thought she was on a roll, so she took the opportunity to ask me if, in addition to taking my kitchen-aid mixer when she moves out, could she also have one set of my measuring cups that are “her favorite” AND could she have one set of my measuring spoons that are also “her favorite?” My husband Bill happened to be walking through the kitchen right then, and since he had already heard me tell Shantel she could have the kitchen-aid mixer, and now the measuring cups and measuring spoons…, Bill laughed and said “why don’t you just take the house and mom and I will move?” We all had a good laugh at that, and I just looked at Bill, shook my head, and said “gotta love it because that’s our girl…”

Stay Tuned!

It’s A (B)!

You might remember I posted a blog a few weeks ago talking about my daughter, Shantel, having a huge biology experiment project that would count as a big part of her final grade for the semester. Shantel decided she was going to do her experiment on hair relaxer’s and the effects they have on hair, skin tissue, and the environment. I was even drafted into the project when I was asked to help Shantel weigh and measure each of the samples used in the experiment before the hair relaxer was applied, rinse off all the relaxer after each sample had been in the hair relaxer solution for the specified time, and weigh and measure each sample after the relaxer had been rinsed off…

Once all the data was collected, Shantel had to create a PowerPoint presentation for the class and her professor.

Shantel has a wonderful friend, Jaz, who graduated college last year with a biology major, and who spent hours helping Shantel create her PowerPoint presentation. Shantel needed help creating the PowerPoint because her computer will speak to her, but it will not show or tell her about graphics which makes it all but impossible for Shantel to place the correct pictures/graphics into the correct slides…

Shantel provided all the data from the experiment to Jaz via attachments sent through email. Then, working over the phone throughout the night sometimes, Shantel told Jaz how she wanted the information displayed. Jaz then pulled all the information into a beautiful PowerPoint presentation. Jaz even added in chimes to signal Shantel that the next slide was up. Then, in the name of true friendship, Jaz took a bus from her night shift job to the college, and assisted Shantel by changing each of the slides as Shantel presented the information… What a great gal and fabulous friend Jaz is to Shantel.

Here are a few of the slides Shantel and Jaz created for the biology final project PowerPoint presentation. There were several more slides but I just wanted to give the highlights here.

This is Shantel all dolled up in her goggles, as we get ready to begin the weighing and measuring part of the experiment. Notice she is not about to let go of that purse… 🙂 P.S. the little bell in front of Shantel’s mouth is the chime Jaz put into the PowerPoint slides.

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This is Shantel, her chemistry professor, in the white (she let us use her lab even though this was a biology project), and yes, that’s me, yours truly, in the blue lab coat and goggles, learning how to use the super sensitive scale that will change weight if you even breathe on it…

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This slide spoke to the method and materials used.

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There were several slides showing each numbered sample used in the experiment.

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I found this information and slide most interesting as it shows and tells how the chicken, used to represent skin tissue, actually looked like it was starting to cook…

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This results slide showed the weights of each sample before and after the hair relaxer solution had been applied. Very interesting results…

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The conclusion slide pulled the whole experiment/presentation together, and told how the experiment supported the hypothesis.

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Of course, a work cited page was a must to complete the project and presentation, which earned a (B) for Shantel.

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Yeah!!!! Great job and excellent teamwork Shantel and Jaz. We just could not be more proud of you… 🙂

BTW… this is post number 300 for me… Yeah me!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Stay Tuned!

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