Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Years Eve


Good morning! Happy New Years Eve! Are you ready for the new year? I personally had a good year so I am not as anxious as most for the calendar to flip. Frankly, I am not so sure that all of the angst that so many are feeling is going to disappear with the new year but I guess it is like they say, "everyday is a new day".




I have had a fabulous time this week with sister and her family, we shopped, walked, ate WAY too much and just enjoyed a belated holiday together. They left this morning to visit my brother so now we are home preparing for the new year ad New Years eve.






My husband and I are pretty low key, we like to skip the parties and have dinner at home. Sometimes we do not even make it to midnight, I guess that is one of the perks of age, you don't care.





What do you have planned for this evening? Whatever it is I hope that you enjoy and are safe. Happy New Year.




Friday, December 30, 2016

Just Curious...Do You Make New Years Resolutions?





Good morning! How is your week? Are you lucky enough to have the week off between Christmas and New Years? Or are you back to the grindstone this week and counting the days until the weekend and the start of 2017?

Typically around this time of the year people start contemplating New Years resolutions, out of all of those that make resolutions only 8% actually active them, most people give up by February. So I am curious, do you make resolutions? If so are you successful? If you are successful why? If you are not successful why do you think that you do not achieve your goals? Do you think you sabotage yourself?

I personally stopped making resolutions years ago, mainly because I made the same ones over and over, like loosing weight, going to the gym everyday, not eating junk food, etc and I never achieved them. Not because I did not have good intentions but because they were unrealistic. 

For instance I really do not like to workout and I do not like the gym because I am too lazy to drive there, so after a few weeks I stopped going. Instead I decided a few years ago to work out more doing the things I liked, for instance taking long walks with my dogs, or alone or making a point of getting on my treadmill at home everyday. 

I like food, especially comfort food and junk food so it was completely ridiculous for me to resolve to stop eating junk food. Instead I decided that I can eat whatever I want but it has to be in moderation and I have to eat well 80% of the time. For the most part I only eat junk or comfort food on the weekends or holidays. 

I will not be making any resolutions this year but I am committed to making improvements in myself and my life. Small little tweaks that should help me to be healthier and happier are a better fit for me. 

If you will be making a few resolutions, and need a little help to achieve them, maybe one of the 7 Secrets of People Who Keep Their New Years Resolutions will be helpful to you. 

Or if you are on the fence about making a resolution or are undecided about what resolutions to make, here are 50 New Year's Resolution Ideas and How to Achieve Them.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, ideas and opinions. I always love hearing about what you think about my curious questions. 

Have a great day!



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Red Wine Beef Ragu





Good morning! Did you make it out yesterday to do a little after Christmas shopping? Or did you skip that Christmas ritual? I skipped it myself as I am over the shopping for this holiday. In fact I am tired of all of the cookies, and holiday food and ready to get back to my regular eating schedule. So yesterday as I was sure that my sister and famiyl felt the same way we tucked into a  bowl of pasta instead of leftovers.  The perfect antidote for "too much" Christmas food. 





This recipe is delicious, it is rich and hearty and a great meal after a long day. Not to mention that it is easy because you put everything into the crockpot and at the end of the day it is finished. 


Red Wine Beef Ragu

Recipe from Pendulum Meats

1 lb. beef stew meat
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary
12 oz. pasta noodles
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

In a slow cooker, whisk together the crushed tomatoes, red wine, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. of pepper. Add the whole tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands. Stir in the garlic, carrots, onion and rosemary. Add the stew meat and turn to coat. Cook covered 4 to 6 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. Remove and discard the rosemary and skim off any fat that has risen to the top. Using a fork, break up the meat into smaller pieces. Fold in the parsley. Serve over cooked pasta and top with pressman cheese. 





What do you have on the menu for this week? Are you back at work and back into your routine? I hope that whatever you are doing that you have a great day!




Monday, December 26, 2016

The Day After



Good morning! How was your Christmas? Did you have a great day? We had a quiet day. Naturally I ate way too much convincing myself that I only have this stuff once a year and now I resemble this little guy above. I need a detox but that won't happen for another week because my guests are arriving today! I cannot wait. 

I am going to be enjoying my day off and awaiting my guests. I will be back tomorrow. I hope that you have a fabulous day! 



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Christmas Eve!





Twas The Night Before Christmas or A Visit from St. Nicholas
Clement C. Moore

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"


Legend has it that if you sit under a pine tree on Christmas Eve you can hear the angels sing. I will be sitting under my tree this evening hoping to hear the angels sing. What will you be doing? 

Whatever you are doing I hope that you are surrounded by the love of family and friends because at the end of the day that is all that matters. 

Happy Christmas Eve!


NORAD Santa Tracker


Good morning and happy Christmas Eve! I cannot believe that tomorrow is Christmas. One of the things that I love at Christmas is the NORAD Santa TrackerAre you familiar with the Santa Tracker?




 It began in 1955 when a local department store misprinted a telephone number to speak to Santa and track his progress on Christmas Eve. Instead the children were calling CONAD, the predecessor to NORAD( the North American Aerospace Defense Command).
Luckily Colonel Harry Shoup was in command because he ordered that each child who called be told the exact coordinates of Santa, and to this day the tradition continues. Just in case you are wondering, this is paid for by corporate sponsors and all the phones are manned by volunteers. 




If you visit the NORAD Santa Tracker web site with your children or grandchildren you can see the countdown to Santa's visit, videos, games and much more. It really is a cute webpage and I think your little ones would like it. I know that my niece and nephew love it!
In addition to tracking Santa NORAD also supports the US troops all over the world and they provide links to all sorts of organizations that supports the troops and their families, you can see all of the links at Operation Goodwill


The holidays are an incredibly difficult time for the Armed Forces and their families, please think of them over the coming days. I know many bloggers that have children, or family serving and I am sure they would love to know that people are thinking of them and are gratful for their service and sacrifices.  The information is provided in the links above. 

If you would like to read more about this history of NORAD, click here.

Have a great day and a Happy Christmas Eve to you!


Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Favorites from Alexandra's Kitchen, Hello Lovely, Cote de Texas and More

Good morning! Can you believe that Christmas is two days away? Where did the time go?  Are you ready? Are all of your gifts wrapped and under the tree? Have you prepped the food for the big meal? Our guests arrive on the 26th of December so it is actually going to be a quiet Christmas day here, with just my husband and I and our pups. 





One of my favorite "gifts" to give is food. I love making and baking sweet treats to send to friends and family. One of the things that I made this year was gallons and gallons of caramel corn. In the past I have made Amish Caramel Corn but this year I decided to try a new recipe from Better Homes and Gardens and it is fast, easy and delicious. 





I have also made three batches of marshmallows, although I love them plain I could eat an entire batch covered in dark chocolate. This is the easiest recipe that I have ever made and honestly, these might be my new favorite treats. You could whip up a batch today for gifts or for yourself. If you need a few additional last minute food gift ideas click here.


Image from Alexandra's Kitchen

This year I made a lot of family favorites for the holidays and have thrown in a few new tasty treats as well. I have this fabulous and scrumptious looking Chocolate Studded Panettone from Alexandra's Kitchen on my list to try bake while my sister is in town next week. 


Image Elle Decor via Hello Lovely


Michele at Hello Lovely posted some of the most beautifully decorated Christmas rooms that I have ever laid eyes on. If you need a little inspiration head over and check them out. 


The Crown Image from Vanity Fair. Photograph by Julian Broad

If you are a fan of The Crown be sure to check out the extensive two past posts of the the movie sets used to portray  both Buckingham Plaza and Clarence House that Joni of Cote de Texas wrote. And if you want to read more about the stars of the show check out Vanity Fair


Did you make, read, watch or see anything interesting this week? If so, please share. 

I hope that you have a wonderful and safe weekend! Merry Christmas!




Thursday, December 22, 2016

Homemade Marshmallows


Good morning! How are you and how is your week coming along? Are you ready for the big weekend? I said this past week that whatever was not finished on Tuesday was not going to be finished, luckily I finished everything on my list. Including a few extra things like these scrumptious homemade marshmallows, some of which I left plain and some of which I covered in chocolate. 




I have always want to make marshmallows but never have because they seemed like a challenge. These tasty morsels could not get any easier though.  You basically put the gelatin in the mixer bowl with water and then the rest of the ingredients (minus the vanilla) in a saucepan and boil, when the mixture reaches 250 degrees pour into the mixer and blend for 12 minutes. Pour into a pan, let sit and voila you have sweet, tasty marshmallows. 




Homemade Marshmallows

3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cup sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar for dredging

Line 9×13-inch pan with wax paper and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water to soften, let sit about 10 min.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt  and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan, cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the mixture reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer.  With the mixer on low speed slowly pour the syrup onto the dissolved gelatin. Then turn the mixer on high speed for 12 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.  After 12 minutes, add vanilla, and beat to incorporate.

Spray a rubber spatula with cooking spray, be careful the mixture might be quite hot.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.  Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking spray and softly press onto the top of the marshmallow mixture.  Let the mixture cool on the counter to set for a few hours or over night.

When you are ready to cut the marshmallows, lightly dust counter with powdered sugar and tip the marshmallows out of the pan, then dust the top with powdered sugar. Cut into pieces using a knife or scissors then dredge in powdered sugar.  Store in an airtight container.

At this point if you want you can chocolate cover the marshmallows. 





I put the marshmallows into cellophane bags tied with ribbon and give along with a some of my favorite drinking chocolate. The chocolate covered marshmallows I add to the  trays of chocolate and cookies that I give to friends. 




Have you ever made marshmallows or do you have another tasty treat that you make? I hope that whatever you are making or doing in the last few days before the holiday that you are enjoying yourself.

Have a wonderful day and safe travels. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Cards


While Valentine's cards were first sent in the 1400's it wasn't until the 1800's that the first Christmas card was sent in England. It took a few more decades for this practice to catch on in the United States. Now days over 2 billion Christmas cards are sent each year through the mail, and around 500 million e-cards are sent, by the way 61% of all cards purchased are Christmas cards! Who knew?






I personally love "snail-mail" and enjoy each and every card that I get. I can remember as a child my parents getting what seemed like hundreds of cards, it was probably more like 30, and taping them on the door and around the frame so that we could see them all. Back then everyone sent cards, as it was often the only time of the year to catch up with far-flung family and friends. 






Do you send Christmas cards? What sort do you send? A beautiful handpicked card? A photo card or a family letter? 

While I would like to say that Christmas cards are the first thing on my Christmas to-do list I would be lying. I actually put them last on my list so that I can take my time, relax and write a note with each card instead of just signing my name. Often times I find a card with a snowmen or a beautiful scene, but this year I decided to go in a different direction and have a card made of my kids, fur kids that is.  I had no idea it was so easy, I simply went to Tiny Prints uploaded a photo of my pups Pisa and Paris and viola, a family photo card.


Christmas Photo Card 2016 Tiny Prints


For many years, before the internet, email, Facebook and modern technology, my family lived away from the rest of my relatives and our only communication was a Sunday call and "snail mail." To say that we lived for letters, cards and packages would be an understatement. Some of my fondest memories and moments are the cards and letters sent to me when I lived away but none as much as the cards and letters that held photos of the "goings on" in the family.




I am not sure when the photo card was invented but I love it because I can see all of my friends and family, that live all over the world, in a beautifully captured or perhaps even an un-staged, everyday moment. For that one frame I am a part of their world no matter where in the world we live.

For many years, before the internet, email, Facebook and modern technology, my family lived far away from the rest of my relatives and our only communication was a Sunday call and "snail mail." To this day day my favorite for of communication and one of my favorite parts about Christmas is the cards, letters and photos.


Family Christmas 2016

What about you? Do you still send cards, letters and photos for the the holidays or have you switched to e-cards?

Do you still receive a lot of cards? Do you enjoy them? What are your favorites? And because I am nosy, do tell, do you have any favorite memories of letters and cards from Christmas past?





I have finished my baking, wrapping, and shipping and today I will be mailing my cards. Now I can relax.

Have a great day!




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Monday, December 19, 2016

Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate Biscotti



Good morning! I don't know about you but I am in full Christmas mode! For a while I had lost my Christmas mojo, I am not sure why because I love Christmas. But it is back and I am full speed ahead. For me that means bakingn, baking and more baking. 





I baked from sun up until sun down on Saturday and Sunday. I love to give homemade gifts to family and friends who either don't like to bake, are too busy to bake or just like sweets. Today, after yoga I will join the masses to ship all of my baked goods on the busiest shipping day of the year. Oh joy. This easy and delicious biscotti is one o f this cookies that I made. 






Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate Biscotti
Recipe from All Recipes

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg whites
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or almond extract 
3/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup dark chocolate chopped
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 325. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk together egg whites, eggs, and almond or vanilla extract in a separate bowl. 

Using an electric mixer on medium speed add egg mixture to dry ingredients.  Then add cranberries, almonds and chocolate and mix thoroughly. 

On floured surface, divide batter in half and pat each half into a log approximately 14 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Place on a cookie sheet and bake 30 minutes or until firm. Cool on a wire rack about 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
  1. Cut biscotti on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Reduce oven temperatures to 300 degrees. Place cut biscotti upright on a cookie sheet, space them about 1 inch about and bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool then store in a loosely covered container. 

      Did you do any baking this weekend? Or did you relax and enjoy the dwindling season? After today I am going to sit down by the light of the tree and enjoy a cup of chocolate and a good movie. 
       I hope that you have a fabulous day!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Friday Favorites from Half Baked Harvest, Simply Delicious, Pink Peppermint Design, Camille Styles, Sweetopia, Tone on Tone and More!


Chocolat chaud


Good morning! How are you and how was your week? I am feeling a little stressed to be honest. Typically I am finished baking, shopping, wrapping and everything else well before this, but not this year. I decided though that whatever is not finished by Tuesday is not going to be finished and I am going to just stop and enjoy what is left of the Christmas season.



Image from Pink Peppermint Design


I love all Christmas movies like Rudolph, Frosty(I guess it's the kid in me), It's a Wonderful Life and of course, Elf and this idea from Pink Peppermint Design for an Elf Movie Night is so cute.  I would serve the pancakes for dinner and cake for dessert, doesn't that sound like the perfect sugar laden dinner?



Image from Martha Stewart


At the holidays, although I have a few fake trees I still try to use fresh and natural pine boughs, holly, and fruits in my decor. One of the things that I always make are pomanders, typically with oranges but sometimes with lemons and lime as well. This year I found an interesting link from New Hampshire Garden Solutions that tells how to make your pomanders last long after Christmas. 



The North Pole Cocktail from Half Baked Harvest


If you are looking for a new cocktail to serve over the holidays check out this scrumptious looking North Pole Cocktail from Half Baked Harvest.







Or perhaps this Cranberry and Ginger Mojito  from Simply Delicious is more your style. 



Recipe and Image from Sweetopia


If you are looking for something new to bake this your for your family and friends check out the 27 Best Christmas Cookies from Camille Styles including these adorable Peanut Butter Snowmen made by Sweetopia.



Image Here


I will be making this Cranberry Almond Coffee Cake for my friends and family this weekend. The recipe is easy and delicious!



Image Tone on Tone

I am a huge fan of Loi from Tone on Tone, I love this store, his blog, and his designs. If you would like to see his latest design project, his and Tom's new Tudor beautifully and naturally decorated for Christmas click HERE.






If you still need a stocking stuffer for your best friend or the special women in your life, this little book, Besties by Leah Reena Goren is an amusing, illustrated book about her relationship with her best friend. That said, just because the book is specific to their relationship doesn't mean you can't relate to the conversations, antics, amusements and  activities that all friendships have. "A fully illustrated celebration of female friendship that is a gift, a thank-you note, and a love letter all in one. " The adorable illustrations had me smiling and reminiscing about my own relationship with my friends. I liked the book so much I ordered a few to give to my friends and siblings for Christmas. 



I hope that you stay warm and have a fabulous weekend.  Only 9 more sleeps until Christmas!




Thursday, December 15, 2016

Just Curious...What is on Your Winter Bucket List




Good morning! I hope that you are having a good week. I cannot believe that we are 11 days away from Christmas. Are you ready? I have a lot of baking and candy making to do this week so that I can send it to the recipients next week. Aside from that, everything else is finished, the house is decorated  and the presents are wrapped.





Winter seems to be roaring across the country, in fact the news mentioned this morning that 100 million people will be affected by the snow storm and cold in the coming days, stay safe and warm if you are in its path.  As with summer and fall I like to make a list of things I want to do in the coming months, a little bucket list as they say. Do you do the same? If so I am curious, what is on your winter bucket list.





Here are a few of the things I have on my bucket list:

Snow on Christmas

Make a snow angel

Go ice skating





Build a snowman

Sit by the fire with a stack of books and drink copious amounts of cocoa

Make a buche de Noel

Start a new tradition

Practice random acts of kindness




Have a winter picnic

Make a gingerbread house

Go snow shoeing





These are just a small sampling of things from my Winter bucket list as I understand it is going to be a long cold one. 

I hope that you have a fabulous day! Thanks for sharing!



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Almond Snow Balls




Good morning! How are you and how was your weekend? Mine was fabulous! It was so nice to be home and stuck inside because of the unusually cold weather. I started baking on Friday morning and did not stop until Sunday night. I made biscotti, Carmel corn, fairy food, sugar cookies, rugelach, candied almonds and one of my husbands favorite cookies Almond Snow balls among other things.

If you are not familiar with "snow balls" they are also know as Mexican wedding cakes or Russian tea cakes and are basically a butter cookie with ground nuts, either almonds, walnuts, pecans, or pistachios.


Almond Snow Ball Cookies  

Ingredients

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup butter softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
21/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake almonds in a single layer in a pan for 6 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stir halfway through. Cool completely (about 20 minutes). Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.  Process almonds in a food processor 30 seconds or until finely ground. Beat butter at medium speed with electric stand mixer until creamy. Add vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well. Dough will be  a little crumbly.
Combine flour, salt, and almonds; gradually add to butter mixture, beat mixture until blended. Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on parchment paper or silphat lined baking pans.
Bake at 325F for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and cool 10 minutes. Roll cookies in 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
What did you do this weekend? Did you decorate? Bake? Relax and do some traveling? Whatever you did I hope that it was relaxing. 




Have a great week, be safe if you are in the path of the snow!




If you are looking for a scrumptious and easy cookie these bar cookies know by several names such as 7 Layer, Magic Bars or Hello Dolly Bars are a great cookie to whip up at the last minute for parties or to give as gifts!



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