“Flap. Clop.”

Flap, Clop

“Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop.” This is the sound made when a ballet slippers is coming off the foot of a chicken who is not really made to wear a tutu and ballet slippers. At least, it is what I heard the first time Blanche was dressed for ballet.

All chickens enjoy dancing, just not necessarily ballet dancing. It is Gracie’s dream to be a ballerina, and so we all support making her dream come true. She is quite beautiful in the ballet outfit I made for her.

Blanche can seem big and boisterous, and yet from the very beginning, she was gentle and forgiving with her hatchling mate, Pearl. No matter how noisy or annoying Pearl would get, Blanche was always kind to her and put up with all of Pearl’s silly and pestering ways.

As patient and long-suffering as Blanche has been with Pearl, she was not that way with herself the first time she put on her tutu and ballet slippers. For Pearl, it just came naturally because she loves the stage and performing.

If Pearl ends up looking silly, so much the better. She will just use it as an opportunity for a few laughs. But not Blanche. She may look like Pearl on the outside, but she is an entirely different chicken on the inside.

Blanche does not want to look silly. She is taller than any of the others, and that is really all of the attention she wants. She doesn’t even want that much attention…unless it means reaching up for treats before anyone else!

Her first time in a tutu and ballet slippers turned out to be an attention-getting disaster. She wanted so much to look and do like the others, to simply blend in with the rest, but it didn’t happen.

She just couldn’t move the way the ballet slippers wanted her to move, and the tutu got in the way so she couldn’t see what her feet were doing.

“Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop.”

At first she tried to ignore it and keep dancing. Then she tried to fix it with her beak while hop-dancing on one foot. It just kept getting worse, and all of the others had noticed.

This was more than Blanche could bear. She wanted so much to be like the others, but it just wasn’t happening for her. Although I was tempted to tell her “Get back in those ballet slippers and keep trying,” I knew in my heart it was not going to work.

“Hold it, Sweeties! Your Daddy needs to say something.”

Everyone stopped and looked at me, because we almost never stop in the middle of a dance. Blanche hung her head as if she was in for the worst reprimand ever…and no treats for the rest of her life.

“Blanche, Honey. This is all my fault. I should have realized your dancing talents are only hindered by ballet slippers. You are meant to be a free spirit, a natural dancer, or as the French say, ‘une danseuse aux pieds nus’ and we must honor that.”

The older girls all repeated back and pondered these new words, “Une danseuse aux pieds nus!”

“How wonderful!” Everyone exclaimed. “Totally brilliant! So very French! Oh là là!”

Blanche looked relieved, particularly because everyone was paying attention to me rather than the mangled ballet slipper just barely hanging from her foot.

“Sweetheart, if you don’t mind…and I know this is a terrible sacrifice to ask of you…but would you mind not dancing with ballet slippers until we can figure out how best to use your natural talents? We may need to order special ballet slippers for you and matching ones for the others…all of the way from Paris, France.”

Everyone was beyond excited. “Paris!”

They all looked ready to faint, especially little Emily. “France!”

“Why that is the absolute ballet capital of the whole world!” exclaimed Gracie who knew exactly what I was doing but didn’t let on. She just gave me a knowing wink.

So we all helped Blanche take her off her outfit and then we all danced barefoot, ‘aux pieds nus’ just like Blanche was made to dance. Though to tell the truth, I mostly just stood with my shoes off and watched while dancing in my heart.

Are there special ballet slippers made only in Paris, France which are designed specially for chickens? I don’t know. But I do know Love covers our inadequacies, all of the things we will never be able to do on our own. We are made to dance with Love.

My Life With Gracie taught me not everyone is made for a tutu and ballet slippers, but everyone is made to dance, even if only in their hearts.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

A Leap Of Faith

The Villain King

It was easy to tell Gracie was worried and trying to hide it, so I scattered around some sunflower kernels. While everyone else was enjoying their treat, I called Gracie to me to see what was concerning her.

“There’s been a monster creeping around here when it starts to get dark and before you come home,” she said all at once.

I could tell she felt a bit better just by saying something about it. So I asked her to tell me what it looked like, and she did.

“With a long narrow snout and all of those sharp pointed teeth, that sounds like an opossum,” I said. “Did it have a naked pink tail?”

“Yes,” she said, relieved I believed her and knew what she was talking about. It hurt me to see her trying to be brave while carrying such a heavy responsibility all alone.

“Gracie, Sweetie, you were right to be alarmed. Remember though, it’s an opossum, not a monster. It only becomes a monster if you let it become one in your mind. Understand?”

She nodded.

“But tell me, why didn’t you say something before now? Is it because you didn’t want to make the others scared?”

She nodded again and then added in her softest voice, “I didn’t want you to think I wasn’t a good leader. I don’t know how to protect anyone, not even myself, from something so mean looking.”

She waited to see if I was going to say I was disappointed in her. When I didn’t, she continued, “And he hisses the most evil things at us! So I just stood there, looking him in the eyes and not moving. But I didn’t do anything.”

She lowered her head, waiting for me to say something, even if it was something she didn’t want to hear.

“You are a better leader than you realize, Gracie. Are you afraid right now?”

“No. But that’s because you’re here.” She looked up and saw I wasn’t angry or disappointed.

“And when I’m not here…Have I made things safe for you even when I’m not here? You girls are more important to me than anything. I would never leave you without making sure you are protected. You do believe that, don’t you?”

Gracie took a while to think that over. She looked at the strong fencing I had used to build their home. She looked at how everything they needed was safe and secure, just like they were. She nodded.

“And what do I tell you every morning before I go away to work?”

“You say to be good to each other and take care of each other. Then you say to never forget you love us more than anything here.”

I smiled my biggest smile and said, “Exactly right, Gracie! Take care of each other. You don’t have to do it all. Just be someone the others look up to because you put them first.”

She looked at the others and then back at me.

“Most important of all, remember how much I love you. I would give up anything you see here to keep you with me. Are you afraid when you think about how much I love you?”

“No!” she said with so much amazement she actually surprised herself. “No! I’m not afraid then!” She fluffed out all of her feathers like she was a whole new girl ready for a fresh start. “I’m not afraid then!”

“Sweetheart, you just taught me a very valuable lesson. Thank you!”

Gracie looked stunned. “Me? What could I ever teach you?”

“Oh, you know what I mean, Gracie! You are so modest, and you teach me things all the time. But look. Let’s turn the opossum into part of our ballet about The Rose Garden Princess. We need an evil character to make the story more interesting. We can call him The Evil King Of Darkest Night. What do you say? Can you only pretend to be afraid? For the ballet? For your ballet!”

“Yes!” she clucked again and again, overflowing with more joy than I’ve seen in the longest time.

Gracie hurried back to the others to get a few sunflower kernels before they were all gone. She even did a few ballet leaps along the way, or certainly what might pass for ballet leaps…at least in my eyes if no one else’s.

She is so beautiful, my beloved little Gracie, and one day we will dance together, just as our hearts already do. It will just take a leap of faith.

My Life With Gracie gave me a chance to see fear only has power when we forget how much we are loved.

You can read more about our production of “The Rose Garden Princess” if you’d like. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Bessie’s Best Ever Ricotta Frittata

Ricotta Frittata

Here is a new recipe from Bessie as we work to fulfill her dream of being a master chef. It’s easy to make and fun to say!

Bessie likes to call this a “One Frying Pan and One Bowl” recipe, and it is our weekend (or anyday) gift to you, our readers. As you may remember, she insisted on illustrating each recipe herself so anyone could follow them, and look at that! There really is one frying pan and one bowl. She is so clever, and the chicken drawings are really nice too!

If you have any chickens or children at home, they can help out using Bessie’s easy-to-follow recipe illustration, starting with getting out one medium bowl and one 8-inch non-stick frying pan! Arrange everything like you see it and get started! (Except you won’t need three separate measuring cups! Just measure three times.)

Although her recipe illustration tells just about all you need to know, below is her recipe in a more traditional format if you don’t have chickens or children at home to help you!

Special Notes: If you have a large “flock” of your own to feed, use a 10-inch non-stick frying pan, and double all ingredients. Baking temperature and time can stay the same. This is a great way to use leftovers!

Bessie’s Best Ever Ricotta Frittata

Ingredients for 8-inch Frying Pan

Butter (just enough)
1/4 cup (more or less) your choice already cooked meat such as ham, diced bacon, crumbled sausage, etc.
1/4 cup (more or less) your choice raw veggies such as onion, sweet pepper, corn, etc.
All of one and none of the other is okay too! Just keep the total about 1/2 cup.

Ingredients for Bowl

1/4 cup Ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Part A In your frying pan, add small amount of butter and turn on heat to melt. Add veggies to pan and sauté. Add meat to pan just to warm since it should already be cooked. Turn off heat. Set aside.

Part B In your bowl, add 1/4 cup Ricotta cheese, wisk lightly to break up. Add 3 large eggs and then salt and pepper if you’d like. Wisk all together.

Part C Pour cheese and egg mixture into pan over your meat and veggies. No need to stir in…otherwise you’d have scrambled eggs! Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. (Since oven temperatures and pans vary, you should watch carefully at least the first time or two when you make this. After that, you’ll know exactly what time works best for you.)

While you are waiting, Bessie suggests drawing and coloring your own little chickens…just like she did!

Part D Remove from oven. Let cool slightly while you’re making your toast. You can serve right out of your frying pan if you’d like! Just cut into wedges, sort of like a pizza! Or since you’re using a non-stick frying pan, you can slide your Ricotta Frittata out onto a serving dish.

Additional Information Bessie thought adding some other type of cheese to the top before placing in the oven might be a great idea, either grated or sliced. I have to say she was right! American cheese slices placed on top and then covered with the egg mixture make a nice oozy cheese filling! Don’t forget the better the eggs, the better the results!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is true appreciated, especially if you’ve tried Bessie’s recipe! And if you did, what did you use for your meat and/or veggies? We tried quite a few different things, but the possibilities seem almost endless!

Ricotta Frittata