Ask Auntie A! Helping children cope with school violence April 2018

Ask Auntie A
Dear Auntie A. My son will be entering into high school next fall and he is showing signs of anxiety concerning the latest rounds of school shootings. He has asked how he can be assured that he is safe while at school and these questions do not have easy answers. I have assured him that the likelihood that he will encounter such a tragedy is very slim but you and I both know that no-one can really predict that. How can I guide him through this uncharted territory in a society that appears to be growing closer to violence rather than peace and help him navigate his own way through school? Truthfully I am concerned myself and feel like home schooling might be the better option however he will be leaving eventually to university and I feel that now is my time to help him so that he can leave with confidence and excel as a young adult.
Auntie A : My heart hurts for all of us as parents in this day and time. Our society has much to be changed and held accountable for, especially with regards to our youth. Your son has good reasons that are legitimate to feel anxious and fearful as all of us have been affected by the prevalence in school killing grounds. He will need to weigh whether going to school is just too much emotionally and find a place where his focus is on education. If home schooling is an option I would encourage you to do that. He can find several rigorous programs that will challenge and prepare him for college certainly, however does that as you mentioned prolong the problem? What happens when he leaves for university? Will his fears and anxiety just come back again? I think the best course of action is to encourage him to attend where you have planned all along, and find a counselor that he can also share his feeling with. Make sure you two have a game plan for a safe place he will flee to in the event that God forbid he finds himself in a dangerous situation. Teach him how to cope with this world’s problems rather than hide in fear. Most importantly though counsel him that children that go off the deep end and find themselves so disconnected as to kill others is a slow process. They almost always show signs that they are in trouble before they grab weapons and start shooting their friends. Teach your son to look for that. If he sees a friend being bullied show him how to end that. If he realizes that a friend is too preoccupied with guns or violent video games ask him to share that with an adult. Mental illness is the root cause of this issue and identifying it and getting the person affected professional help will stop the killing. Now is your time to teach your son to be a leader and look to find a problem so he can help. This will empower him to move forward with his life and try to enjoy his education.

Alisa Murray’s “Fresh Finds!”         Bring on the sunshine! Summer 2018

If your like me, the guest potty is the perfect opportunity to shine as a host. I love to add pressed hand towels that reflect the season coupled with homemade hand soap. It’s a nice touch with a little vase of freshly picked flowers from my garden, to show your guests that you care about their experience while visiting you. My garden is a major priority during the summer months because tending to my vegetables and cuttings now means a better harvest and opportunity to can and put away for the winter months to come. Healthy living happens with a diligent practice of conscious good choices and so does a good garden grow with thematically taking the time to care and tend to those herbs and vegetables by keeping the weeds that suck up there nutrients out! My “Auntie A’s Special Weeds NO MORE garden spray” will keep those bugs away without creating an environmental unfriendly mess both with your plants, our bees and your gut! There’s nothing that tastes more of summer than my blueberry, basil and goat cheese pie. The plump blueberries take me back to hanging onto an old fence in the mountains of North Carolina and picking fresh berries right off the bush and gobbling them down before they ever made it to my granny’s kitchen. An impressive dish that’s easy to make is my BBQ strawberry chicken! Everyone loves it and making it allows my strawberry garden (all the hard work I have put into it I might add) to shine! Lastly if you’re like me and love a crisp salad poolside with ahem…a cold glass of white wine you’ll love my bacon, avocado and gorgonzola salad. You’ll find all the recipes here! 
The Best Hand Soap EVER! 
What I really think you’ll love about this recipe is the flexibility. During the spring and summer months you can add a few drops of rose or geranium essential oils and to stay in tune with the seasons you can make a batch with cinnamon or clove or peppermint in the winter. Your guests and yourself will feel a little extra pampering at the small attention to detail! 
You’ll need: A soap dispenser preferably glass 
1/2 cup of castille soap
2/1/2 cups distilled water
10-15 drops of essential oils (choose those that reflect the season) 
2 tablespoons of vitamin E oil
Fill your container with distilled water followed by all the other ingredients. Place on the sink in the guest potty and enjoy a moisturizing and fantastically scented experience! 
Auntie A’s Special Weeds NO MORE  Garden Spray
You’ll need: 2 cups of vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of castille soap
5-10 drops of cinnamon essential oil
spray bottle
Mix in a spray bottle and very carefully aim this at the weeds only. This mixture does best when used on a sunny day so that the vinegar’s acetic acid can use the sun to effectively kill those weeds. Be warned though that you must not spray the vegetables or flowers with it because vinegar kills everything! 
Alisa’s Blueberry Basil and Goat Cheese Pie
You’ll need: Pastry puff dough
2 cups of the plumpiest gorgeous blueberries that you can lay your hands on
2 tbsp plus a handful of sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp minced freshly picked basil from your garden
1 large egg
1 tsp water
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
Preheat the oven for 375, Spray your pan and place the puff pastry down
Combine plump berries, sugar, cornstarch, and basil. spoon that into the center of the dough and fold the pastry around the mixture leaving it open in the center. Take the egg and mix with water to make a wash and brush that over the edges of the dough. Toss a handful of more sugar over the top and bake for 30 mins. Remove and top with the goats cheese and bake some some more…around 10 mins. When cool add more basil leaves freshly cut! 
Best BBQ Strawberry Chicken
You’ll need:
4 chicken breasts or 8 thighs (I chose thighs because that’s what my family likes but either will do fine)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup BBQ sauce ( I like FOOD TRK  Dang ‘Jang BBQ Sauce with peaches and molasses)
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 cup freshly sliced strawberries
Preheat oven to 350. In a large oven proof skillet brown  the chicken. Remove from pan and add in onions. When minions are a little tender add the BBQ sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and honey and let boil to thicken for about 6 mins. Add the chicken back to the pan and cook for 15-20 mins in oven. When done remove and add the fresh strawberries! 
Auntie A’s Bacon Avocado Salad
This salad is so popular it is often requested when having a gathering. The children eat it no questions asked and I think it’s because I use fresh bacon and a lot of it! 
You’ll need: 1 bunch of romaine chopped into squares
8 pieces of Wrights brand hickory smoked bacon cooked and torn into chunky pieces
3 medium tomatoes ( to make it even more beautiful try using one heirloom, one red and one yellow)
1 medium red onion
3 medium rip avocados peeled and cubed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese 
For the dressing:  3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic-minced
In your jar add all ingredients for the dressing and shake it up baby! In another bowl dice up all those avocados and add the lemon juice. In another big bowl place the romaine, bacon, tomatoes and onion. Add to that big bowl the lemony avocado cubes and Gorgonzola cheese. Pour the dressing over it all and stir til completely covered. Enjoy! I have found that this salad is so filling it can be used as an entire meal.

Alisa Murray’s “Living the Sweet Life”      Finding your Good Stuff                                    April 2018

How’s your dream life? Mine is alive and well thank you very much! I think I probably have at least ten children’s books flowing around in this head of mine and the numbers keep growing. There’s one where I am the head of a ship and the ocean is filled with screaming babies…those littles are driving me crazy but I somehow manage to use my elastic stretchy arms and grab each and everyone out of the ocean into a big blanket that is covering the entire ship deck. I’d be willing to bet Freud would have had a lot to say about what that one might mean! Truthfully though, our dreams matter and even more importantly they can show us how to solve problems, assist us with grief and generally make our inner self an interesting thing to study.
In the study of the brain and it’s activity, dreaming is just as important as our waking states. For when we dream we are unlocking our creativity. Most recently psychologists have posited that we consolidate our memories, and try to work through perceived threats during sleep state. Over the past twenty years through many studies, there have been some significant strides in learning what our dreaming states mean and how we can use the information we gather during sleep to benefit us in our daily lives.The cortex that we know associates with imagery and movement perception are heightened during sleep while the parts that allow us to recouping socially inappropriate and logical thoughts are depressed. Perhaps this is why often you will hear someone say they have dreamt something WILD. It has no logic whatsoever because in our wonderful dream state there is absolutely none… and there’s no need for it at all, after all you dreaming! 
Some of the best known art and science have come from dreams. Did you know that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dmitry Mendeleev’s layout of the periodic table and Friedrich August Kekule’s discovery of benzene’s structure all yes indeed all of them came from a dream? So I think it would be of great interest to each of us to take a few notes down when we wake up just in case one of us happens to be a genius and just not know it quite yet! A few years ago when I began to consider myself a serious writer, I started leaving little notebooks on my nightside table and always carrying one in my purse. That way when something popped into my head it could be written down. There have been a  few nights that I have forgotten to get up and write the good stuff down only to find that in the morning my stuff was gone… but I know its still in my head I just can’t access it!  Can we say FRUSTRATING!! You know that feeling too I am sure. So that was when I made the commitment to not loose the good stuff by simply being lazy or sleepy. It has paid off, granted I have a lot of very weird and sometimes socially unacceptable stories or episodes that I figure when I am retired will make for some great writing exercises or at the very least a great little story to develop and tell my grandchildren. I can see though after analyzing thoughts where I have worked through problems. It is there in the good stuff along with the random and sometimes strange.
Training your brain to catch the good stuff is healthy and fun. Here’s a few ways to make sure what your dreaming is remembered so you can thoughtfully contemplate what subconsciously you are going through or use the information to become the next big thing! 
  1. Before you go to sleep write down your thoughts… like a dairy? you ask? yep… just like that. It can be a problem that is bugging you or it can be a loved one you miss that has passed away. It can also be how much you want to go on vacation with a visualization of that place including the smells and scenery description.
  2. Get in the bed and think some more about what you just wrote… think bout it til ya fall asleep!
  3. When you get up don’t roll out of bed and start your day… snuggle in and try to remember what you dreamed about. Whatever comes to mind, no matter how disconnected the thoughts…write that down. If you keep consistent with it, you can bet that some of your good stuff will eventually come to the surface too! 
Take Care of YOU! 
Have you had some interesting dreams? Wanna share them? email me at alisa@absolutelyfocus.com 

Alisa Murray Interiors “Love Where YOU Live!” How to Hang Art April 2018

 

Perhaps the most important one thing you can do to personalize your home is to hang pictures of your family. That is why almost every realtor asks first thing for new listings to remove all personal items before they can show the house. There on your walls is a lot of space that can be personalized and not just with actual portraits but with art, with cool grids and textures. Walls are a very important part of any space and hanging art creatively will dramatically change the way each space feels.
There are several ways that I like to hang art for my clients. Here are some examples of what you can do to elevate your living space with your photography or paintings in any space.
You can make one large Statement by selecting a piece of art that hangs alone and make it a size worthy to see and admire. Like a 20×30, or larger… add a cozy chair or an accent table in front of it. The next style is what I call the Collector. Collect several pieces with varying sizes and stack them on floating shelves along the wall. This style is very free and appears that you are more creative and laid back than the prior.
The Gallery wall style is nice because it allows for multiple sizes and multiple mediums freely without creating an unorganized and lost look. I usually use different but coordinating frames and do collections such as all of the art is in one medium say photography and all of that is the same…say sepia or black and white. This keep a streamline of consistency in what look you are achieving. However, mixing multiple mediums such as paintings and shadow boxes and photography is equally interesting and the best way to do it is to trace out the design first and then place painter’s tape on the walls and then start hanging. The most structured style of hanging is the Grid. It is very simply achieved by hanging in a tic tac toe pattern six exactly the same size in exactly the same frame pieces. For my clients that thrive on symmetry and are never able to just purchase that one lamp for feeling like they will be off balance… this is what I always recommend for them. You must measure all of this out again similar to the gallery style so that exactly the same space is calculated between each picture. I usually do 1-2 inches between the frames. For the library or home office I like to utilize the bookcase. The Bookworm is really cool because it stares back at you from a backdrop of books. Easy to install because all you do is hang it on the actual bookcase! The Mantle is one place that should always have some art. Coupling candles and leaning pictures with a mirror is aesthetically pleasing and personalizes the space. Small spaces between windows or accent panels of brick can always be dressed up by hanging art that is vertical. Whether it is hung as one long piece or as a grouping vertically, each offer more interest in spaces that are often overlooked in decorating. Traditional hanging is best described as balanced. It is comfortable to your eye and easy to achieve by first selecting a mirror say as the center star and then surround that with a vertical hanging on either side in exactly the same size smaller frames and spaces in between each.
As you can see there are many ways to hang art in your home and countless ways to create beautiful spaces with art. The design is created once you select the style that best suits you. Each deliver an impact to any space and I advise my clients to hang in multiple styles throughout their living spaces. In this way your home is a unique statement of you!

~Alisa

Have a design question? Email me at alisa@absolutelyfocus.com

Alisa Murray’s “The List” Top Ten Things to do in the month of April

 

1.Designate an area in your backyard or if you’re daring in the front, and plant yourself a cutting garden. See my Lifestyle column for more info on how to’s.
2.Get to the farmer’s market and seed company store and plant started and seedlings for the summer harvest. Cucumbers and tomatoes with the basil and rosemary in a place all her own!
3.Dust off the bikes and check them to see if they need new tires and plan for a family biking time around the neighborhood while it is still not so hot outside.
4.Make my Asparagus and Lobster custard, pair it with a salad and crisp white Texas wine and invite over a few ladies to discuss the Oscars and what’s on their nightside tables.
5.Plan for a quick getaway to Galveston end of month for just the two of you to reconnect and unwind before school is out and the house is full of children again.
6.Gather cereal boxes and take to the food bank so the supplies are full for when the children are home and are not able to receive free breakfasts and lunches. We always have a need for these items and one box of cereal will feed a child over the weekend in a household that is financially compromised.
7.On my own nightside table now…Tin House Summer, Shutter the sales and marketing edition and Erin Gates Elements of Style.
8.Take a class online on anything that interest you. I am always enrolled in something. Right now I am studying French, Cooking and Interior Design.
9.Schedule a visit to the salon for a “new do” for summer and go ahead and spoil yourself with a full mani and pedi since those toes are coming out to play!
10.As always… take the children for a picnic and do not let one little moment be taken away by electronics. Ask them some hard questions about God or what they think about things that are important to them and most importantly LISTEN… they’ll only be little for a while!

Auntie A’s Asparagus and Lobster Custard

2 cups of chopped asparagus RESERVE you’re tips cause you’ll need them later)
6 eggs
1 cup of bone chicken broth
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of cream
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons of lemon zest
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
2 cups of chopped and cooked lobster

Preheat that oven to 325
Place in the blender the asparagus, eggs, stock, milk, cream, lemon juice and zest and cheese in your blender and make a smoothie. Then take 6 oven stage containers and divide evenly the lobster into each of them. Pour the smoothie over the top of the lobster evenly into each of the containers. Divide those tips of asparagus into the cups as well. Sprinkle over all of them some cheese. Place each container in a bain-marie and bake for 25-35mins until custard is set.
This is excellent for a ladies brunch paired with a simple spring mix salad and a glass of cold and crisp white Texas wine.