Apple Nachos

           “And when crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:

           Your seeds shall live in my body,

           And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,

           And your fragrance shall be my breath,

           And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”—Khalil Gibran


close up of fruits hanging on tree
Photo by Pixabay on


           “Mrs. Hill, do you think there are any bad kinds of apples?”

           I look at the earnest sixth grader who spoke these words. He was not speaking metaphorically.  He was crunching on an apple during the delegated “snack time” of the school day. In reality, it is part of my third Reading/Language Arts class of the day.  During this class period, students have permission to bring a snack with them to class and eat it. Although work typically continues, I do give students about 3-5 minutes to talk while eating their snack.

           Recently, the inquiring student had been bringing an apple to class nearly every day.   They were beautiful, succulent looking orbs full of vibrant reds, yellows, and greens that he would thoughtfully bite, then chew as if tasting a rare delicacy.  He clearly did not believe in the traditional practice of bringing an apple to his teacher as he made the noshing of each apple look scrumptiously special. Thus, I decided it was high time I partake of one of autumn’s favorite fruits!



           Fuji, Gala, Crispin, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Jazz, Ambrosia, and Cripps Pink, to name several of my personal favorites, are full of nutritional benefits—even in the age of low-carb, Keto, and Paleo! Apples contain quercetin, catechin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acid—four beneficial antioxidants.  These ingredients combat free radicals, help stave off oxidative stress as well as aid in the fight against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Additionally, regular consumption of apples can promote bone health, weight management, pulmonary function, and gastrointestinal protection. If that weren’t enough, apples, as part of a whole food diet, can combat both diabetes and asthma!  That said, in order to get the maximum benefits of apples, it is important to eat the whole fruit, including the skin. No wonder there is the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

           Last weekend, my daughter, Madelyn, a student at Bethany College, and her friend, Gigs, came home to visit during a short, four-day fall break.  When I asked her what sorts of foods to stock up, one of her first request was apples—enough to have some to take back with her to school!

           “The kind they serve in the ‘caf’ are never good!” she added.


Maddie and her friend, Gigs, at our home on Fall break.


             I understood. While her school does have a nice cafeteria, the apples they offer students are typically Red Delicious and Granny Smith.  While there was once a time in my youth in which Red Delicious were quite yummy, over the past few years it has been my experience that Red Delicious are often now mushy and mealy.  Furthermore, although I absolutely love the tart, crisp, tang of a Granny Smith, I understand, they are not for everyone. Therefore, I had no problem honoring this request to pick up Fuji, Cripps Pink, or Honeycrisp apples—her favorite variations.  In fact, I must have bought more than the girls wanted because even though they took several back to school with them, they still left me with five! Hmm . . .

           I recalled over winter break, coming up with a unique breakfast idea for Maddie—apple nachos.  As I recalled, she greatly enjoyed them, and said I should definitely make the recipe for myself sometime; however, I never did get around to it.  Therefore, when I came home from work on the day Maddie and Gigs returned to Bethany and spied the apples in fruit bin of our refrigerator, I knew what I wanted to do with at least one of those apples—make nachos!


Apple nachos I made for Maddie over winter break.


         When I made my original variation for Maddie, I slightly thinned out peanut butter with water in a bowl, added the mixture to a baggie, cut off one corner, and squeezed it over sliced Fuji apples—a variety usually available year-round.  Then, I sprinkled both raisins and mini-chocolate chips on top. Whereas, when I made apple nachos for myself, I mixed powdered peanut butter with water, but I, sadly got it a bit too thin, although it still tasted good! Then, I topped my nachos with mini-chocolate chips, dried cranberries and hemp hearts.  


Apple nachos I made for myself. Even though I accidentally added too much water to the powdered peanut butter, they were still tasty!


           Apple nachos are such a simple, and easy to individualize recipe.   Any favorite apple variety can be sliced and arranged on a plate. The “sauce” can be made of cream cheese, yogurt, caramel, all types of nut butters, and even maple syrup. Additional toppings can include, but are not limited to all varieties of nuts and seeds; chocolate, peanut butter or butterscotch chips; coconut flakes, dates, figs, raisins and other dried fruits; as well as any number of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.  


           Any way you slice up this recipe, it is sure to be a winning meal or snack!  However, do keep in mind that apples are part of the “Dirty Dozen” produce items that are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Therefore, it is worth buying organic, or, even better, purchasing from a local farmer/market.

           From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!


apple business fruit local
Photo by Erik Scheel on


Apple Nachos

Makes one serving

1 apple, any variety, sliced thinly

1-2 tablespoons of favorite nut butter, powdered peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt, caramel and so forth

1/2-2 tablespoons of water, depending upon how thin you prefer your sauce

Optional stir-ins to sauce:  ½ -1 teaspoon vanilla or other favorite extract, maple syrup, honey

1-2 tablespoons of as many optional toppings as desired, such as: chocolate, peanut butter, or butterscotch chips; favorite candy pieces; favorite dried fruit; favorite chopped nuts/seeds

A sprinkling of favorite spice


Arrange thinly sliced apples on plate.

In small bowl, mix nut butter, powdered peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt, or caramel with water (and/or extract, if desired), ½ teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Pour mixture into Ziploc baggie and cut off one corner.

Squirt “sauce” mixture over sliced apples.

Sprinkle with desire toppings.

Serve immediately.



How Long Does it Take to Make a Life?

           “Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.”—Rabindranath Tagore

           “We’ve had bad luck with our kids—they’ve all grown up.”—Christopher Morley

           “The world is going to hell in a handbasket,” was an expression from my childhood that I often overheard grown-ups use that I never quite understood at the time.  Of course, now, as an adult, I certainly understand those sometimes-still-stated words. In fact, I’ve even been known to think it a time or two! Then, I go to work, see the kids, and rethink that phrase.


           I have been blessed with an amazing career—education.  I became a certified (now licensed) teacher, unbelievably, at the age of 21; naively thinking I would set the world on-fire!  Now, thirty-one years later, I realize, it is the opposite. It is the kids, as well as my own daughter, that have continued to ignite and inspire my own inner fire.  They give me hope that, well, maybe, just maybe, society, as a whole, is not doomed to a fiery abyss.

           While I have had the privilege of working in several wonderful schools, my current place of employment is St. Joseph Catholic School.  One of the unique qualities of this school is that our students’ ages range from 6-weeks (daycare) to preschool age, as well as from Kindergarten to grade 8.  While I spend most of my time with students in grades sixth through eighth, I do have occasional opportunities to indirectly encounter and interact with younger students, such walking through the halls, attending our weekly mass (church-service), and during school-wide events such as assemblies, the upcoming pumpkin drop, and so forth.   Additionally, there are school-families, one of, if not my favorite, cross-grade activity.

Many of our SJCS middle school students “dressed down” (not in school uniform) in pink to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.


           Arranged differently each school year by our administrators, a school family is one or two students per grade from each K-8 grade level paired with a teacher or instructional aide.  Then, throughout the school year, special activities are specifically planned to be completed as a school family. When these activities occur, middle school students are asked to gather the younger students, K-5, and lead them as a group to their assigned staff member.  Then, the staff member helps facilitate the activity.

           Benefits of school family activities are numerous, including fostering positive and appropriate communication, increasing empathy and understanding, encouraging team-building and problem solving, as well as an opportunity for leadership and role-modeling for the older students to name a few.   As a teacher, school families allow me to see students as kids—the whole child, not just the student-side.  Furthermore, it puts me in touch with wonder—the unbridled joy and enthusiasm with which children view the world!

Painted pumpkins drying in my classroom–a product of school family day activity.


           Recently, staff and students at SJCS took a break out of our regular daily schedule for our first school family event.  I individually talked to each member of the middle school students in my family—Caleb, Hope, and Carson–regarding my expectations for them.  As I talked to Caleb, Hope and Carson individually, I tried to be both cheerleader and guide. All three students responded with nods of agreement, yet I still wondered if they would step up and own the full leadership potential I saw within each one.  It would only take minutes to discover my answer.

           The two kindergarten students tentatively entered my classroom holding Hope’s hand.  First and second grade students burst through the doorway vibrating with liveliness, two of the *four kids, holding onto Carson’s hands. Lastly, walking politely and energetically came the third, fourth and fifth grade students with Caleb in the center, smile spreading widely across his face.  As I assembled the group around a table set up with supplies to paint pumpkins, I could not help but feel a sense of pride for the middle school students as they assumed their role as caregivers and leaders.


           Natural conversation ensued as the painting began.  It never ceases to amaze the ease with which younger kids can engage one another with little to no apparent bias, judgment, or preconceived notions.  Further, I love the way in which the little guys can fully embrace their task with a can-do attitude. By middle school, most students have lost part, and sadly sometimes all, of that openness.  Thus, it is good for the middle school students to observe and once more be around that genuine spirit of all-is-possible.



           Once painting was completed, I allowed students the freedom to draw, talk, and even read to one another, although one student read simply chose to read to himself.  The conversations grew more animated. I walked about the room hopping in and out of the chatter, taking pictures, and overall soaking up the sweetness of the moment.  Then, my ears perked up.

           “How long did it take you to get to middle school?”   

           It was a second grader, his face intently and earnestly gazing at Hope, a seventh grader.  I couldn’t help but smile and inwardly chuckle; and from the look of Hope’s face as well as the twinkle of her blue eyes, so was Hope as she tried to explain the math to him.  His question stuck with me though.



           How long did it take to get to year 31 of my teaching career?  How long did it take for my own child to grow up and move on to college? How long did it take for my husband, John, and me to arrive at nearly 30-years of marriage?   How long, how long, how long . . ..



     The older I get, the more precious time and life become, and yet still, I move through each day more likely than not, forgetting that life is short.  Like that slice of Grandmother Helen’s decadent brownie I can never recreate as much as I try, or Mamaw Musick’s beloved sugar-laden, thick-crusted apple pie that John swears was the best, life must be savored because it too will soon be gone as quickly as a fork being placed across an empty dessert with only a few crumbs of memory left.  

           Isn’t it ironic that some of the most important life lessons are presented in the form of child’s question?


Just as I savored and enjoyed this rare treat, life must be savored too. (Thank you Paradise Donuts for creating a Gluten-Free Donut that doesn’t make me sick!)



Rise up

          Author’s note to reader: This was not easy to write, and I realize by sharing a story so personal that I risk offending and/or losing readers.  Further, I do not write this to change minds, but rather to offer additional insight.  I am NOT promoting one political party or position.  Instead, I am sharing how one short-term experience with trauma forever impacted me.  I cannot begin to imagine what other victims of long-term abuse, violation, and/or suppression have experienced and been impacted.  My hope is that readers begin to see there truly are faces behind statistics, and that the other “you” is a real person.


lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on


           “Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and everyone of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.”—Pope Francis


           I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but my mind, heart, and soul are a swirling with questions.  As I type this early Sunday morning, I am reflecting over events of my lifetime, events of recent years, and current headlines.   I am one who rarely speaks to topics of controversy, but my heart and soul are urging me, an ordinary person, to share my story in order illustrate why there is often a great divide.

           I am but one person, one voice, and one point of experience.  I am not naive enough to think my thoughts will impact the world in a big way.  However, as I sat this past week in Morgantown overlooking the Monongahela River, I observed a random leaf drift down onto the chocolate-milk-colored water.  As soon as the leaf alighted upon the river, it created a wave that reached the shore. That is my hope for these words—they will resonate and/or increase understanding/empathy within a person or two.  


As seen in a presentation by Sheri Wohlfert, Keynote Speaker at recent Professional Development for educators.


           “Don’t say: ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.’”—St. Josemaria Escriva


           As a child I often received spoken and unspoken rules from a male-dominated society.  Some of these messages included:

            “It’s not good for a woman to be too smart.  She won’t get a husband.”

           “Women should only be nurses, teachers, or secretaries; otherwise, they are taking work away from a man.”

           “Women who wear _______________ (short skirts, low-cut blouses, high heels, and so forth.) are asking for ‘it.’” (What “it” was, I never understood as a kid.)

                       “Women who go to a/n ______________  (bar, restaurant that serves alcohol, empty street, boy’s house, and so forth.) alone are asking for ‘it’.”  (Again, I did not know what “it” was, but I sensed “it” must be bad.)


           As a youngster, I questioned the validity of these messages.  In fact, I questioned most everything, including my own family rules. I am sure I drove my parents crazy because “why” seemed hard-wired into my child-brain.  My siblings have often told me they learned from me, mostly due to my frequent bouts of “punishments,” including getting my mouth washed out with soap on more than one occasion, the rewards of not talking back.  Still, I kept speaking out, questioning. Then, I learned the hard way, not everyone cares what you have to say.


person washing his hand
Photo by Burst on


           I was an older teen when it happened. How it exactly happened, I am unsure.  Just as I cannot tell you the dates or the exact words I said as a kid to get my mouth washed out with soap, I only remember the bitter taste of the soap, so too is this memory.

           The shag carpet of the staircase in my face, and pain exploding in my body.  I said, “stop”, but the carpet was in my face. The pain was like no other. The carpet fibers chafed my tear-stained cheeks as I continued to say, “No.” The pain continued to explode as my voice fell on deaf ears.  Shame filled my mind. Can. Never. Tell. Must. Not. Ever. Tell. It. Must. Be. My. Fault. Hurt, hurt, hurt.

           I do not remember how I got home. I only remember the bathroom, lying on the cool linoleum, overcome with pain and shame that would not go away, and continually sobbing. Must. Not. Tell.   

           I remember him.  He is clear as the taste of Dial soap, but I don’t recall the date or many pertinent details.  Most days, I don’t think of him or the event. Most days, I have moved beyond that event, and even forgiven him because he was (and is) a product of the times in which we were raised. However, I can now recognize how that event forever changed me, changed the way I perceived my voice, created fears and inner demons within me, and planted seeds of mistrust of others and myself that have taken decades to acknowledge and understand.


As seen in a presentation by Sheri Wohlfert, Keynote Speaker at recent Professional Development for educators.

           “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”—Mother Teresa


          These past two weeks though have brought much of it back: the nightmares; feelings of shame; the knot in my stomach; and the feeling of being powerless.  The talking heads of society that mock, ridicule, and/or hide behind positions of power often remind me of the same vitriolic attitudes I sensed so long ago–those attitudes and “rules” I once questioned as a kid.  I feel those same questions begin to rise once more as bile rises when one begins to get sick. And, yet, my faith and personal disposition at age 53, remind me that I must move beyond the hate, the judgment, and acridity of headlines.  Therefore, I choose to use my voice, my words, and my thoughts to promote change; and, I do this with the full love and support of my husband and daughter.





As seen in a presentation by Sheri Wohlfert, Keynote Speaker at recent Professional Development for educators.


           “Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing.  Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.”—Pope Francis


           I say, not just to women, but also to all victims of oppression, cruelty, and repression: Rise up.  Let your voices be heard in government, churches, businesses, educational institutions, corporations, social media, news outlets, and all other forms of societal groups.  Tell your stories. Be quiet no more. Act upon your words and beliefs. Work to bring about change. Uplift and support others. Watch and protect one another. Do not dwell on past events; but rather, use them as a point of motivation.  

           Most of all, now, more than ever, embrace an attitude of hope, rather than defeat.  For it is by embracing hope that we are motivated to work towards a future of change—a tomorrow that, albeit, may never be perfect, but can be filled with progress—progress toward a path in which ALL voices can be heard/seen; positions/institutions of power and policies can be questioned; and the content of character matters more than media image, political party, bank account size, or special interest affiliation.   

           “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”—Jeremiah 29:11


As seen in a presentation by Sheri Wohlfert, Keynote Speaker at recent Professional Development for educators.


As seen in a presentation by Sheri Wohlfert, Keynote Speaker at recent Professional Development for educators.




Lewisburg, WV: Part 2 of Greenbrier Valley Travel

            “Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grade finale.”—Lauren Destafano


          “And the rivers and mountains that captivated the first settlers? Their inspiring beauty remains preserved and protected for our visitors to enjoy and explore.”—Kara D. Dense, Executive Director, Greenbrier County CVB


          Author’s Note:  This is part two of a travel installment of the beauty of the Greenbrier Valley.  In a previous article, I wrote about the wonder, history, and natural beauty of Alderson, WV.  Today, I focus on its sister town, Lewisburg.


I recently heard on a local public radio station that the higher elevations of WV are coming into their peak fall colors. With that in mind, the time is right for a weekend autumn adventure in nearby downtown, historic Lewisburg, WV.  Overflowing with colorful flowers, notably preserved buildings, an eclectic mix of locally owned eateries and bars, as well as unique shops, arts, and antiques, Lewisburg has something for everyone as John and I discovered this past August.


While we stayed in a cottage in nearby Alderson, John and I traversed to nearby Lewisburg daily.  We enjoyed strolling the flower-lined streets filled with numerous 18th and 19thcentury buildings, most repurposed and in use.  Further, we found the shops, antique/craft stores, and dining venues to be right up our alley. In fact, during our three-day visit, we felt as if we barely scratched the surface of things to do in Lewisburg.



With regard to shopping, John and regularly visited Bella the Corner Gourmet Shop.  The staff was welcoming and gracious, offering delectable samples that enticed us to purchase a few unique treats not found back home. Furthermore, they were also helpful with regard to making dinner, lunch, and brunch suggestions during our stay.  Additionally, we dropped by Edith’s Health & Specialty Store where I was able to talk to a couple of staff members regarding several local yoga classes. Finally, we visited several unique gift, antique, and craft shops.



Finding places to dine was not difficult in Lewisburg.  The challenge was deciding upon which dining establishment to choose as there was a wide selection. Therefore, after consulting locals as well as a bit of on-line research, we did our best to experience the spectrum of food adventure Lewisburg has to offer.


On our first night in town, we gave the Stardust Café a try.  We had been told they offered numerous gluten-free choices, something I require, as well as many meat-centric dishes, something John prefers.  Sitting at the bar, watching the chef cook our meals while the attentive staff waited upon patrons, we relished every moment in this green and local-focused eatery.  From the prosciutto wrapped dates, to gluten-free chocolate cake; and, from the Trust Me dinner salad, to the Standing Pork Shank, this meal hit the spot!


                      Food choices at Stardust Cafe.


The next day, we visited The Wild Bean, the local coffee shop, for a bag of freshly ground coffee and a latte.  Then, we noshed in Thunderbird Taco for a quick lunch, and enjoyed its energetic and quirky atmosphere.  Later in the afternoon, John and I made our way to the Irish Pub for a drink as we listened to owner Patrick O’Flaherty play Irish music.  In fact, all three of these local establishments were found near one another on Washington Street.


The chalkboard message outside of the Irish Pub made me laugh out loud!


In between all of our downtown stops, we made time to drive out near the Greenbrier airport for a tour at Smooth Ambler Spirits, a local distillery “patiently craft(ing) Appalachian Spirits.”  This is a tour we highly recommend even if you don’t drink spirits, but especially if you do! We had hoped to also visit Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co., a local beer crafter directly across from Smooth Ambler, but were unable to schedule a visit.  (Sigh, I guess we will just have to visit another time!)


Images from Smooth Ambler Spirits featuring Val Colella, Tasting Room and Retail Manager, who acted as our vivacious host and tour guide for the day.


Another great local dining establishment that we ultimately ending up visiting twice was Hill and Holler Pizza.  This restaurant, just outside of downtown Lewisburg, serves up Neapolitan style pizza cooked in their wood-fired oven. They also offer 16 beers on tap, and it has the nicest staff around!   John and I thoroughly loved our dining experience.  I was especially impressed with their piled high fresh salads as well as the fact they offer a freshly baked gluten free pizza; and, boy, was it good!! No cardboard crust here.  Hill and Holler also regularly offers live music and other public events and serves locally crafted beer, ciders, and spirits.   In fact, one local told us that on any given Friday evening, the place is packed with music lovers!

Images from Hill and Holler Pizza as well as one of our sweet and attentive servers!


Surrounded by natural, mountainous beauty, as well as sparkling, gurgling creeks and rivers, even the outskirts of town offer plenty to do for the nature enthusiast.  John and I, also lovers of the great outdoors, were excited by the prospects of fishing and hiking in and alongside the Greenbrier River.  In fact, the Greenbrier River Trail seemed the perfect spot to combine both.  This 78-mile long trail offers plenty of opportunities for bicycling, backpacking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, fishing, swimming and even overnight camping.






We entered the trail at milepost 3 (I never could figure out where milepost 1 and 2 were located though!)  This was a short drive from US Route 60, not too far outside of Lewisburg. We hiked and fished our way past milepost 5, and then made the return trip back down the trail.


Milepost 3 of Greenbrier River Trail.



One of our fishing stops was at milepost 4.7 where there was a trailside tent campsite complete with table, fire ring, and a nearby outhouse—which I have to say, was one of the cleanest I have used! I couldn’t help but notice this milepost also had a hitching post for horses!   This is one beautiful trail John and I hope to explore again!


                   Images from one of the campsites at around milepost 4.7.



Overall, John and I thoroughly loved our time in Lewisburg!   We hope to return on another visit as there are still many places we did not get to visit including Organ Cave, a National Natural Landmark that is the 2ndlongest cave on the East Coast.   While preparing for our visit to Lewisburg, I came across a quote that said, “Only two kinds of people ever leave Lewisburg—those who return and those who wish they could.”  John and I couldn’t agree more.  So throw together a bag, gas up the car, grab your family, friends, or a loved one, and make the short drive along scenic US Route 60 to Lewisburg; and tell them, Steph simply sent you!

Images from boat ramp outside of Lewisburg filled with a beautiful area in which to “play,” picnic, and launch your favorite water craft into the Greenbrier River.


This made us laugh out loud. It was seen on a sign outside of a tavern between our driver from Alderson to Lewisburg. We decided to preserve it here!