Friday, December 31, 2010

45 Life Lessons

 Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland , Ohio
this gave me much inspiration for my 2011 New Years resolutions (which I will share with you tomorrow).

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written."

45 Life Lessons

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone
else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come...
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Fun Finds!

Today I was lucky.  Very lucky!
I went into the consignment shop where I spent some time with my mom yesterday to see if this beautiful dining room table and chairs had been priced yet.  (It had just come in yesterday and they couldn't price it until later in the afternoon or today some time).  There was not a price on the table, so I asked one of the salesmen and was told that they had just gotten off the phone with the seller and she told me the price.  I was in HEAVEN.  This beautiful table and 6 chairs, with 2 leaves and the pads to go with it were all in my price range.  I bought it on the spot and had it delivered this evening.
I'm SO in love with it! 
It's basically brand new, the seller had never used it and the seat cushions are a beautiful off white/cream that don't need to be recovered or anything!

And then I found the most gorgeous painting to hang in the living room at Home Goods.  It looks PERFECT!

The beautiful plantations shutters were installed on the bay window and all the windows in the kitchen.  The just look fabulous and add so much to the house.

The last thing I did was pick up a reddish wing chair that I had ordered for the living room.

My house is finally becoming my home! I'm so excited!!!  Can you tell?!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Great Minds = Perfect Finds!

This, my friends, is the best mom ever!!!
She is like a woman on a mission when it comes to furniture shopping for my new home!
Thank God for her!!!

I always knew I would love decorating my home one day,
but I never knew I would have this much fun!

My mom and I have been on the "hunt" and running around to all sorts of furniture stores and consignment shops, moving furniture in, and dragging it back out when it's a "no-go."

BUT, today we finally made some progress!

Look at this gorgeous chair we found for the living room.
Plans include (in the future) to redo the needlepoint on the chair, but for now, it goes perfectly with my yellow couch with beautiful print pillows.
(I'm pretty traditional, in case you couldn't tell!)

And look at these babies. I saw these a couple weeks ago at a consignment shop, but thought they would never match my decor in my living room.
Well, today my mom and I tried them in the kitchen sitting area and they look perfect!

We found one more chair for the living room, but that won't come in for a little bit, but I'm getting there. Slowly, but surely!

I hope by tomorrow to show you my new dining room table and chairs!!!

I'm so thankful to have a mom like mine.
Not only is she the best shopping partner, but she has more energy and spunk than I ever will! She had us moving furniture all over the house and running in and out of stores…and thanks to her I got A LOT accomplished.


Tuesday Treat: Buckeyes

As I told you, I did not get much baking or dessert making done the week before Christmas, so I'm using the week before New Years to get back in the kitchen and get some of these ingredients out the door before a healthy and happy new year begins!

Last night I decided to make some Buckeyes (oh, and some more Pretzel Kisses). What could be better than chocolate and peanut butter together?!

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 pound confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening

1. Combine melted butter, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla and mix well.
2. Refrigerate for one hour, or until firm.
3. Roll into one inch balls and place on waxed paper.
4. Melt chocolate chips and shortening, stirring constantly.
5. Use toothpick to dip balls into melted chocolate, leaving small uncovered area so balls resemble buckeyes.
6. Place balls on waxed papers.
7. Use fingers to blend in toothpick holes.
8. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm.



Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have a Very Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Remember the days of waking up and opening the presents "Santa" left for you and your siblings? I remember my sister and I looking over the banister to see if we could get a "sneak peak" while my dad was busy getting the (humungous) videocamera ready for us to come down the stairs. It seems like the good old Bicycle, Barbie, Play-Doh, Hot Wheels, Easy-Bake Oven, Mr. Potato head, Lite-Brite, boardgames (Candy Land, Sorry!, Chutes and Ladders, Boggle, LIFE, Connect Four), and G.I. Joe's have been replaced by Playstation's, ipods, and cellphones.
Call me old fashioned, but I always loved opening my gifts and running outside trying to ride my new bike, use my new roller skates, or open up all my new arts and crafts (of course there was no glitter…my mom did not like the "mess" it caused in the house). It always seemed like each of those years made for the best Christmas.

But now, as I have "matured" over the years, I remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Now, instead of gifts, I can't wait to spend time with my family and friends. It means more to me than anything.
Cherish each of your family and friends today. I know I will!
Hope you all have a Merry Christmas full of love and laughs!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Treats: Canoli Dip

Around Christmastime I always make this for dessert for friends and thought last night was the perfect time to break it out again!
It's so easy and I promise you will get asked to bring it back again and again!
Again, this is not my photography, as I haven't gotten everything squared away in my new home yet, but I thought this looked great and shows how I sometimes serve it with Graham Cracker Sticks too! Last night, though, I used Stacey's Pita Chips, Cinnamon flavor.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Mix cream cheese and butter together using a spoon.
2. Add sugar and mix on low speed.
3. Add vanilla.
4. Add mini chocolate chips and stir to mix well.
5. Refrigerate for at least three hours.
6. Form mixture into a ball.
7. Right before serving, roll ball onto plate of nuts to cover.
(If you are limited on time, follow steps 1-4, refrigerate as long as possible, and serve in a bowl as a dip)


Monday, December 20, 2010

Who the heck was that Sad Sap Earlier?!

Girlfriends, I'm back!
No more Sad Sap or Debbie Downer here!
I got the heck out of bed and decided to take action into my own hands.

I went to Lowes. Yup, me, at Lowes. And guess what, I didn't have to ask a single guy what to do or where to go. I knew my way around that place!
I was freezing in my basement so I got a space heater, some foam things for around the outlets, some firewood, fireplace tools, and some other gizmos and gadgets.
I went to a couple other stores and came home and guess what I did?
I used tools. And no, they weren't Fisher Price tools. I mean real tools.
And I put together a table, lamps, an ottoman, and the space heater myself.
Then, I did the unspeakable...

No one thought I could do it on my own, but I did it!
I made my very first fire all on my own!
So far, the fire department hasn't shown up.
Hmmm….maybe I should have a little "accident."
I always thought a man in uniform was cute ;)
Just kidding…kind of!

Then, I went back to my usual ways and into the kitchen I went.
I made Canoli Dip for the girls tonight.
(I'll be sure to share the recipe tomorrow with you all!)

And now, I'm home, enjoying a little downtime before my friends stop by.
I think I'll enjoy a glass of wine by the fire and read my Nook until my evening begins.


Just Another Manic Monday

So, this is supposed to be a blog about "Sweets & Treats" and everything in between, right?
But this blog also reflects myself and my life.
And sometimes it just feels good to get things off your chest and to be open and honest.
So, I have to be honest with you all…
I did not bake this weekend, not one single thing!!!
Can you believe it?!

Instead, I did some of this...
But I think I deserved to shed a few tears. This year has been hard. Very hard.
Just a year ago this weekend, my Granddad passed away.
If that wasn't hard enough on our family, my husband left me just days before our anniversary, draining our bank account.
Then our family friend was diagnosed with cancer, after yet beating childhood leukemia TWICE (That's how strong she is…she is already beating this next obstacle…she's AMAZING!)!
My mom's dear friend, and coworker, passed away suddenly.
A family friend has a rare illness, Guillian-Barre Syndrome and she is (hopefully only temporarily) paralyzed in the ICU.
My uncle's Parkinson's Disease has progressed and he has been in and out of the hospital with a stroke and abdominal aortic aneurysm and has landed himself a spot in the nursing home.
This year has been hard on my family, but through all this I have had help from a friend to lean on, who has turned my frown upside down, and has turned tears to laughter. Although I have many friends who have been here for me throughout this tough year, this one in particular has made me smile like I haven't in a very long time. But this friend has a lot on their plate too and needs to take some time to for themself in order to heal.
And therefore, yet again, my heart has been broken.
Not for me, but for all these friends and family.
You see, I lost my husband, but I know that was a GOOD thing in the long run. He wasn't good for me and therefore, it's easier to lose something that was never that great in the first place.
But my heart goes out to our family and friends who are experiencing such a difficult time during the holiday season.
If you could all think of them and pray for each one of them, I would so greatly appreciate it.

On days like this, I try to remember this quote to keep positive.

"It's not our past which most determines the possibilities open to us, it's what we choose here and now to make happen in our present and future."
~Nick Baylis~

Instead of thinking of Granddad leaving us the week of Christmas, I try to remember how Granddad had over 80 years of wonderful life. I was lucky enough to have him in my life for almost 28 years. Many people were never able to meet a single grandparent. I'm so lucky that I was able to meet all four of my grandparents. Each and every one of them were amazing in their own ways and taught me something different. Granddad prided himself on family and always lectured us on "sticking together." He was right on target! I don't know what I would do today without a single one of my family members. After a tough weekend for me, and many tears, it was nice to have lots of laughs, hugs and kisses from all of my loving and supporting aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, sister, and soon-to-be brother-in-law!

"If you find a path without any obstacles, it probably doesn't lead you anywhere."
~Frank Clark"

But, one of my very favorite cousins was missing this weekend. Kates lives in South Carolina so it's hard for her to come up all the time. However, she will be home in just a couple days and I can't wait to smoother her with hugs! We missed you yesterday, and always, Kates!

"Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward."
~Henry Ford~


"Think of what you have rather than what you lack. Of the things you have, select the best and the reflect how eagerly you would have sought them if you did not have them."
~Marcus Aurelius~

Tonight I'm having some of my very best friends over. Wine, food, and great company…what else could you ask for?! I cannot wait to see these girls and spend some quality girl time catching up on their lives and having them over to my new home! These girls have been there for me since I can remember. Childhood on up, we have remained close, and I love each and every one of them dearly.

"Real generosity to the future lies in giving all to the present."
~Albert Camus~

And now for some really GREAT news!
My little sissy is GETTING MARRIED!!!
We are so excited around here, to say the least!
But you know what I'm even more excited for?!
The fact that she has asked me to be her MOH and I get to plan a shower for her!!!!
I already have so many ideas, as this is my one and only sister, who deserves so much more than I could ever give her.
Even though she is younger, she has been my rock through a very difficult time and I have actually learned so much from HER!
I love you, Sissy!

And my last and final quote of the day
to get me through this cold Monday morning…

"I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down."

(How great and corny was that?! Hope I made you smile or laugh!)


Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Baxter!!!

My baby boy turned one year old (or I guess really seven years old) today!
Here he was as a baby. Baxter is the one in the middle, resting his head on his sister. He still loves to rest his head like that everywhere!
This was his first night home. Poor thing was scared to death. He cried all night long!
Which made for lots of rest the next day.
And since he came home in February, we tried to keep him warm in his winter coat, but Baxter did not like this coat very much and would fall right over as it was a bit to heavy for him.
And now my little boy has grown up (but his playful pup mannerisms are still sticking!).
I think he's working on his tan here. He loves the sun as much as his mom and finds all the warm sunny spots at the beach!
Boy, did he need a spa treatment in this picture! Good thing I took him for a nice cut today and he got to pick out a yummy cupcake to celebrate his special day. I wish I had taken a picture, but the little thing scarfed it up before I could get my camera out of the case!

Happy Birthday, Baxter!
Here's to many more years of lots of licks!


Busy Weekend

I have a busy weekend ahead of me doing one of my favorite things…
Holiday Baking!
Can't wait to share the recipes with you as I go!
Have a wonderful weekend! XO

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Party Do's & Don'ts

So your party doesn't end up in a bust....
or so you don't come uninvited or improperly dressed....
Here are a couple party Do's and Don'ts for you!

1. Always remember, the host's mood sets the tone.

2. Have a stiff drink before anyone arrives. If you are having fun, everyone will have fun.

3. Don't come to a party empty-handed.

4. Keep hors d'oeuvres to one bite. No one wants to talk or kiss with a mouthful.

5. Never, never run out of ice.

6. Always, always make introductions. If you're going to make a guest feel alienated, why invite them?

7. You should aways have a cold bottle of bubbly stashed in your refrigerator in case friends stop by, and a bottle of something sparkly for nondrinkers.

8. Always start with an empty dishwasher.

9. Seat guests next to someone they know and someone they'd enjoy meeting.

10. Light up the backyard so there won't be a big black hole outside your window.

11. Don't tidy up the table too soon. Once the plates are cleared away, often so is the mood.

12. Put individual guest napkins in the powder room (prevents yucky over-used guest towels). And a soap pump (no gooey soaps).

13. Music should be just loud enough so that people have to talk above it slightly.

14. In case of an entertaining crisis, take a deep breath and ask, 'what would Auntie Mame do?' If a guest accidently breaks something regardless of value, simply say, 'Thank you. I've been looking for a reason to replace that old thing.'

15. Do always include the single friend or extra surprise guest, even if it's 13 at your table. you can always make room, slice the roast a little thinner.

~101 Party Do's & Don'ts~
House Beautiful November 2010


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Wellness: Salmon

This weekend I had a fabulous time in NYC. The first night there we went to dinner at Bobby Flay's restaurant, Bar Americain.
I got the Plate of the Day, Cedar Planked Pacific Salmon. It was DEE-LISH!
Had a glass of white wine and wonderful was PERFECT!

So, since I'm not Bobby Flay, I have no idea how to recreate his mouthwatering dish, but I thought I would share with you one of my very favorite ways I prepare salmon at home.

Simple Salmon
Salmon filets
Soy Sauce (I use low sodium)
Minced garlic
Lemon, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Place salmon filets on foil and add 2-4 tsp soy sauce on top of each filet.
Spread minced garlic on top, for taste.
Top with a little lemon juice, if preferred.
Bake for 25 minutes.
(I never bake it that long, just check on it every so often as it depends on the size of the filets. I think I usually bake for about 20 minutes)



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Treats: Tips on Making the Perfect Cake

So, I'm doing a little something different today for Tuesday Treats. I decided to go with some tips on baking and icing the perfect cake!
This inspiration came straight from my own baking. Look here, hardly what you would call a pretty cake.

So, I found some help in Cooking Light's June 2010 issue.

Here are their 10 tips for making the perfect cake:

1. Results start in the mixing bowl.
Examples: pound cakes get their soft, fine texture and moistness by first creaming together fat and sugar, adding eggs and slowing incorporating dry ingredients. Whereas Angle food cakes get their signature airy, foamlike texture when whole eggs or egg whites are whipped until voluminous, then folded into batter.

2. Know your oven.
To prevent under- or overdone cakes, get an oven thermometer to be sure your oven is calibrated correctly. Always bake the cake in the middle of the oven, as too close to the top or bottom can cause over browning. Gently close the oven door- a hard slam can release air bubbles trapped in the batter.

3. Choose the proper pan size (and color).
(I think this was written just for me!)
If the recipe calls for a 9 inch pan and you only have 8 inch round pans what do you do? Go buy 9 inch pans. DARN!
Pan size is specified in recipes because a cake increases in volume 50 to 100 percent during baking. Color is important, as a glass or dark nonstick pan usually requires a 25 degree reduction in baking temperature compared to a silver colored aluminum pan. (ah ha moment for me!)

4. Use the right flour for the recipe.
Different flours contain different amounts of protein which means the more protein, the more gluten. So, cake flour for angel food cakes, bread flour for denser items, and all-purpose flour is the middle.

5. And weigh, don't measure, it.
You could end up with double the amount of flour needed, depending on how it's packed in the measuring cup, so best bet is to weigh it.

6. Cake love 101: The intimate chemistry among these ingredients.
FLOUR: gives cake its structure. Don't overmix or your cake might become tough.
LEAVENERS (baking soda or powder): cause your batter to expand during baking and cause the cake to rise.
FATS (butter or oil): provides moisture for the cake to ensure a tender texture.
SUGAR: keeps the cake moist, enriches the flavor, and helps the cake brown.
EGGS: help the cake batter set in the oven.

7. Give your cake a cooldown.
Let cakes cool on wire rack for 20 minutes and then remove from pan. Once cooled, place a plate on top, invert the pan, and gently tap or shake it to release the cake.

8. Frost like a professional.
Put a small dollop of frosting in the center of the cake plate and place the first cake layer on top of it. This will keep the cake from moving. Use an offset spatula to frost the top, add the next layer, then coat the whole cake with a thin layer of frosting. (This "crumb coat" holds loose crumbs in place). Place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes, then remove and finish frosting, starting with the top, then the sides.

9. Fondant may make for a beautiful cake, but...
it usually doesn't taste very good.

10. How to factor in a higher altitude.
Increase oven temp to 375 degrees and liquid by 2 Tbsp for each cup used. Decrease each cup of sugar by 1 Tbsp, each tsp of baking powder by 1/8 tsp, and the baking time by 5 minutes. Phew...I'm glad I don't have to do this...too much math for me to enjoy baking!

So, I was so excited to get all this new non-stick bakeware. However, look what it is doing to my cakes...

and again...

Although the cakes still taste great, I wish they would look more like this...

So what do we do about this problem? Well, besides returning all my brand new bakeware that I have waited forever for?!

Well, the only thing I've found so far is that you don't need to spray these pans. That is actually causing some of the discoloration.

But the pan still states to follow the recipe instructions for greasing and flouring so that the baked good will rise properaly and can be easily removed after baking.

*sad face*

Maybe I'll try reducing the temp by 25 degrees like the article stated and see if that helps...I'll let you know!

ENJOY your holiday baking!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hugs and Kisses

Wanted to send you all lots of hugs & kisses!

I wanted to Thank You all for all your love and support recently.
As many of you have noticed, I have been slacking on my blog posts, and I'm sorry for that, but it's for a good reason.
My husband of 11 months decided 3 days before our first anniversary in September that he no longer wanted to be married. He said he was "confused" and did not know if he wanted children and the life we had planned for anymore.
As devastating as it was at first, I can honestly say I'm happier now than I have been in years.
Each day gets a little easier and I hope the tears are far and few between now and are replaced with smiles and laughs along the way.
I owe it to my friends and family and you all to get me through such a difficult time.
All your emails and messages meant more than you will ever know, so

I wanted to give you all a hug and kiss to say THANKS, but since that is not possible (although I would love to travel to see/meet each one of you), I thought I would add some of my favorite recipes made with
Hershey's Hugs and Kisses that is!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

(Makes about 4 dozen cookies)

48 Hershey Kisses
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1-1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Unwrap Hershey Kisses.
3. Beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar, and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add dry mix to peanut butter mix.

4. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a Hershey Kiss into the center of each cookie.

6. Remove cookie to wire rack and allow to cool completely.


Christmas Pretzel Treats

bite size waffle-shaped pretzels
Hershey's Kisses or Hershey's Hugs

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
Spread pretzels in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Top each pretzel off with an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss or Hug.
Bake about 4 to 6 minutes until the chocolate feels soft when touched with a wooden spoon.
Remove cookie sheet from the oven and quickly press M&M candy into center of each Kiss.
Allow treats to cool for a couple minutes, and then place into refrigerator to set for about 10 minutes.




Friday, December 10, 2010

Taking the Train to....


and we're going to see...

"Rock of Ages"
Have you all heard about it?! It's supposed to be similar to "Jersey Boys," but for the "younger" crowd.
I'll let you know all about it when I return.
Have a wonderful weekend!