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Everyone is someone’s valentine, don’t forget to spread the love

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and love is in the air everywhere I turn!  It makes my heart smile so big this time of year.  Valentine’s Day isn’t just for new love or celebrating old love.  It is also for celebrating friendships and family.    This Valentine’s Day, remember to do something for those extended friendships or family members that deserve to know how much they mean to you just as much as your husband, wife, or significant other. 

This is one of my favorite times of year.  It gives us all the ability to re-enact the “Secret Santa” idea and leave secret notes to brighten a day.  If you have the means, send flowers to your best friend.  Leave a little love-note for your child in their lunchbox from time to time through the days surrounding Valentine’s Day (or all year for that matter).  Make pancakes or eggs in the shape of a heart for breakfast.  (NOTE: Use a metal heart-shaped cookie cutter as a mold when you break the eggs into the pan or when you drop pancake batter into the pan.)  Why not have breakfast for dinner and change things up just to add a pinch of spontaneity to your day. 

Make this day, weeks and month fun for everyone.  Try a scavenger hunt through your home for your loved one or for your children with a treat or gift at the end.  Send a card or note in the mail to your parents reminding them how much they mean to you.  Spreading love with make your heart feel warm and fuzzy inside and knowing you’ve brightened someone’s day is the cherry on top. 

My wish for you as Valentine’s Day approaches is to think outside of the box.  This is always my challenge for you.  Get creative, get generous, get crafty, and get sentimental.  Don’t forget those less fortunate.  Money isn’t always the answer.  Sometimes holding a door or offering a hand goes so much further  What a better time to spread the love than now?

Lastly, remember to love yourself on Valentine’s Day.  Dress a bit nicer.  Be sure to do your hair and/or make-up and give yourself a little extra smile in the mirror.  After all, if we don’t love ourselves, no amount of love from anyone else will ever measure up.  I was once told that you can’t take “pretty” with you unless you have it on the inside.  A compliment is wonderful and always welcomed, but get up, get dressed and look at the person in the mirror.  Tell that person you love them and they are worth it. 

As always, have a happy day!

A Tidy home – a little cheat sheet of suggestions to save time and money

Keeping your home clean can seem like a constant battle, especially for a large family or people with little one’s in their home.  (This is also the case after guests come to visit).  House-keeping is a constant and never-ending chore.  Here are some great tips (life hacks) for keeping up with your home and making the tasks easier or more efficient.

First, you need a few regular items on hand.  I try to get as much as I can from the dollar store and rags can come from the thrift store or even recycled clothes or possibly that one sock the dryer forgot to eat.

1.       Fresh lemons.  They last a while and are a great additive for a cleaning agent. 

2.       Kosher Salt (or table salt of some kind)

3.       Vinegar (White)

4.       Baking Soda

5.       Old socks

6.       Hair Dryer

7.       Olive Oil

8.       Cream of tartar

9.       Dryer sheets

10.   Chalk

11.   Plastic Bags

12.   Lint Rollers (Dollar Store Purchase)

13.   There are countless other items that are handy so feel free to add to this list and personalize it.

Here are some house-keeping life hacks to give a try and see what fits nicely into your schedule allowing for more time and some cost savings:

1.       Vinegar and baking soda = clean oven

2.       Vinegar and water (50/50 mix) and an old sock = clean blinds

3.       Lemons = clean facets and sink handles

4.       Lemons and salt = clean cutting board and clean coffee pot

5.       Cream of Tartar = clean stainless steel appliances

6.       Dryer Sheets – adds a fresh smell to your freezer or refrigerator (change monthly)

7.       Dryer Sheets – clean and protected baseboards

8.       Plastic bag filled with vinegar wrapped around shower heads = clean shower heads

9.       Toothpaste = clean jewelry and clean sneakers

10.   Lint Rollers = clean lamp shades

11.   Hair Dryer and Olive Oil = clean drink rings on a wooden table

12.   Baking Soda = removes oil stains from carpet

I hope this either makes things a bit easier, solves some mystery for you, or just changes up your routing at home to get your house neat and clean.  As always, have a happy day!

 

Stay Warm and get cozy!

I don’t know about you, but I am a true blue Florida girl and in case you aren’t aware…. It is soooo cold right now!  So, I thought I would share with you a few ideas I’ve had about getting and staying warm.  Of course there are the old stand-byes of dressing in layers and hanging out by the fire, but I think it is time to get creative.  Let’s not let this crazy winter weather get to us.  Let’s take charge and have fun with it.  I started off by adding a heating pad to my bed.  Yep!  You read that right!  It’s not like I have an electric blanket handy down here in the typical tropical weather, so I slipped a heating pad between the sheets.  I turn it on high about 10 minutes before bedtime.  That is one warm and toasty bed that I slide into at night.  However, I did realize last night, that it does not warm up my husbands side at all and that wasn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever done.  But sometimes, you have to crawl before you walk and it’s all about learning.  Here I am, brainstorming with my friends on the internet….
Enjoy my latest list:

  1. Take a hot bath – nothing says warm and cozy like  hot bubble bath.  Not to mention it is super relaxing after a long day.  Add a good book to that and it is pure bliss!
  2. Get to cuddling – what a perfect reason to get close to your loved ones in front of a good movie or under the covers!
  3. Exercise – start breaking a sweat and get your heart pumping and blood flowing.
    Right after the holidays is the perfect time to jump on a treadmill  or do some jumping jacks anyway.
  4. A hot beverage – this will not only warm your insides but your hands too!  And the steam from your drink feels great on your face.  It’s a trifecta of perfection!
  5. Here’s a fun fact, run your ceiling fans in the opposite direction.  There is typically a little switch that makes them turn the other way pushing the air toward the ceiling.  This will help circulate the air the opposite direction in your house.  (Super helpful if your have a fireplace roaring.
  6. Open curtains and blinds during the day to let the sunshine in and allow the natural light to warm your home or office.  (and remember to close the flute on your fireplace when it is not in use to keep the cool air out)

I hope these tips help.  If you have any other ideas, post them in the comments.  This lady needs all the help you have to offer through the cold season.  Most importantly, keep a smile on that beautiful face of yours and I will do the same.  Be sure to enjoy each day and not let a dreary day get the best of you.  As always, have a happy day!

Loneliness – the feeling that can happen as you stand in the middle of a crowded room.

Sometimes during this time of year it is easy for the feeling of loneliness to overtake us.  The Holidays have passed, family has all gone back home to their day-to-day lives and on top of all that, the weather is gloomy and cold.  Has this feeling ever crept up on you?  Loneliness in some form, happens to all of us at some point in our lives.  It happens to different degrees and for different reasons, but it happens. There is a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely.  If you are nodding your head as you read this, than I suspect, you’ve experienced both.  I thought it would be a great time to share some ways to combat this awful feeling since my personal goal this year is to keep that holiday cheer and inner happy glow burning bright.  Loneliness is a feeling that can creep up and extinguish that beautiful glow inside of us if we are not standing guard over it and making the most of the days, week, and months as they pass by.  Here are a few tips from myself and a few others out there in internet land.

Be aware of yourself – pay attention to your moods and feelings.  Don’t go too long without a quick gut check.  Are you happy, sad, bored, or restless?  Staying on top of your feelings can help to keep the ugly ones at bay.  When we find ourselves getting a bit down, don’t wait to change our situation, be proactive and jump start your emotions into a happier phase

Write it down – journal, be creative, and be expressive.  Sometimes, there is a good reason for the lonely feeling and we just need to work through it.  Keeping a journal is a great way to work through our emotions and understand them rather than let them mill around and rent space in our head.

Look for like-minded people – If you are feeling alone vs. lonely, it’s time to find people you have things in common with and get active.  Start talking, texting, e-mailing and fill your schedule or time with conversations and activities.

Make your current bonds even stronger – Reach out to your friends and families.  Learn more about them and let them learn about you.  Make a lunch date with an old friend, go for a road trip to visit a cousin, or plan to go shopping or see a movie with a sibling.

Be aware of your health – don’t let the cold weather get to you and don’t let feeling down lead to not eating or sleeping well.  At the first sign of a health change, again, be proactive.  Fight back with a change in your lifestyle.  Start taking walks, work out at home to a you-tube video, plan meals or try new recipes to find enjoyment in eating rather than feeling like food doesn’t taste good.  Eat smaller meals rather than one large one if you aren’t in the mood to eat.

Set goals to get involved, set a schedule, volunteer, and get involved in your community.  Use your resources.  Read the happenings on the bulletin board of a local coffee shop. Take a class at a DIY store or craft store.  Take time to learn a new skill or hobby.

Surround yourself with things that provoke positivity.  (Humorous feeds on social media, comedy on television or movies, Art with positive slogans in it).  I can tell you, I have even gone the distance of writing my self notes and leaving them around the house from time to time.

Just to be clear, I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist or hold any medical degree whatsoever.  I am just a lady who has felt lonely a time too many and wants to share how I manage to get through a few dark days in hopes that you can do the same.  If you are feeling overwhelming sadness or significant loss of interest in life, please seek professional help or reach out to someone.  This is just a blog to offer suggestions and a virtual hug for those who need one.  Sometimes, it’s nice to know that others have been there, and made it through dark days so you can too.  As always, have a happy day. ~ Mrs. Go to Girl

 

Apple Pie Stacks – A Recipe Promised

I made these cookies for the first time this year and they were amazing!  Personally, I think they would be great any time of the year.  They were a huge hit with my family and adorable to boot!  I will admit, they were a bit messy to set-up, but fun and very worth it.  My husband requested I make these over a year ago and I finally did!  I highly suggest you give this recipe a shot if you are up for a cookie challenge.  (And I know you love a challenge if you are any friend of mine).

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

4 apples, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoons cornstarch

4 sheets pie crust pastries (I used frozen pie crusts)

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Icing: (Optional)

¾ Cup Confectioners’ Sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons milk

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples; toss until coated with butter. Stir in brown sugar, white sugar, lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves; cook and stir until apples have softened and sugars have melted, about 5 minutes. Bring to a boil.
  3. Combine water and cornstarch in a bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into the apple mixture; cook and stir until apple mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool completely, about 20 minutes.
  4. Dust work surface lightly with flour (This portion of flour not included in ingredients). Roll out 1 sheet of pie crust on a work surface with a rolling pin; Use a round cookie cutter and create circles for cookie base. Cover each base the cooled apple mixture. Roll out a second sheet of pie crust with a rolling pin; slice into thin strips with a sharp knife (or pizza roller works well too). Weave pie crust strips together over apple mixture to create a lattice top.  NOTE: Alternative method is to make one large pie flat and cover with apple mixture and lattice then cut circles all the way thru with floured round cookie cutter or drinking glass. Press cookie cutter through dough to create 12 round pies. Transfer to a pre-greased baking sheet or one covered with parchment paper.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until crust is cooked through a golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 10 minutes. Be sure not to over-cook.
  6. Repeat with remaining pie crusts and apple mixture; place on a second baking sheet. Bake in the oven until crust is cooked through a golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. Combine confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a mixing bowl; add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in milk slowly until desired consistency is reached; drizzle over cooled pies.

Let cool to set-up and as always, have a happy day!

What is a resolution?

Every year so many of us make a list of our New Year Resolutions.  What does this mean and what is the point?  I think I either need a better understanding, a change in perspective or a new list (and oh I love lists!)

First, lets define the word resolution.  According to Google, it is a firm decision to do or not to do something. Ok.  That being said, let’s define the word goal.  Again, according to Google, it is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.  Slightly similar, but I like goal better.  A resolution is a firm decision, thus not allowing for a stumble along the way and let’s face it, we all do that.  Maybe this is why not many of us succeed at resolutions.  A Goal is an object, a focus, sort of a light at the end of a tunnel, thus allowing you to fall as many times as you want as long as you keep going.

My point here, is that let’s make New Year GOALS this years.  I challenge you to make a list of things you want to accomplish this year.  Places you want to go, things you want to do, books you want to read, etc.  Make them realistic, budget minded and creative.  Write them down.  Hang your list up somewhere in your home where you will see it on a regular basis.  Mine will be hung in my bathroom.  My husband and I have been talking about making our list for a week or so now and thinking about the things we would like to plan for the new year.  He has a few items as do I that we would personally like to see happen this year and combined I think our list will make for a great 2018.

I hope this ignites a fire in you and your family for a creative and fun start to your year and helps to keeps the spirit of family, sharing and caring in your heart from 2017.  As always, have a happy day.

Happy New Year!

I always get super sentimental this time of year… Goodbye 2017, hello 2018. Lessons learned. Friends made. Loved ones lost. Memories made. Here is my list (I do love a good list) of lessons/thoughts/memories/ I will keep close to my heart.

1. Always keep it simple and when all else fail go back to what you know… Back to the basics. It will always help you find your way to the right side of the road.

2.  Put a little of yourself and everything you do and the details really do matter.

3.  When seeking the opinions of others be sure to seek the correct ones. Don’t ask a professional ballerina how to fix a car just because she is your best friend. Everyone has a gift but not everyone has every gift. And remember that everyone will have an opinion, you don’t necessarily need it.

4.  Find the best in everyone. We all have bad days. I know I have and will. Love people despite your differences.

5.  Try new things. Even if it means trying food that touches!  You might just like it. You only get one shot at this life. Make it count.

6.  Smile often. It’s contagious. (But be careful, apparently so is the flu). Just the same, give hugs to your friends and family. You might just make their day.

Happy New Year to all of my friends and family. I Love You for being a part of my very strange beautiful roller coaster ride of a life. Thank you for loving my silly gypsy spirit.  As always, Have a Happy Day!

Re-purposing Christmas Cards – a Fun DIY way to keep them going

Have you ever thought that there should be a way to keep Christmas cards after the Christmas season?  So many of them are beautiful and some are sentimental.  Some are photos of loved ones and it is a great way to see how our friends and family members grow and change from year to year.  I thought it would be fun to share some DIY ideas of how to re-purpose and craft the Christmas Cards you received so that you can cherish them throughout the years.   As usual, I‘ve done some research, so I can’t take credit for all the ideas I share, and I would love to hear about any ideas you have as well.  NOTE: before you re-purpose any Christmas card or toss an envelope be sure to update your contacts and make sure you have the senders correct address so you can be sure to have them on your birthday and holiday card list for the coming year!  Especially if you have a growing business.  Sending holiday cards is a great way to keep your growing business in full swing at the close of the year.

  • If there is no writing on the backside of your card cover (where the image is), you can cut off the top fold and use it as a postcard, writing your message on the blank back side.
  • You can slice card covers into four to six different rectangles and use them as gift tags. Punch a hole in the card and slide it onto your ribbon before you tie your bow.
  • Cut the card covers into festive shapes like Christmas trees, ornaments, and stars. Then punch a hole, and tie a loop through it with ribbon. Then, use it as an ornament on your tree. You can spice them up with glitter, beading, etc.
  • Cut the card covers into star shapes and letters to spell out words like “Merry Christmas.” Then, make a garland out of them by stringing them together with twine, yarn, or ribbon.
  • Use them for book marks! Cut the image out of the front that of the card that you want to keep in a long rectangular shape.  Punch a hole in the top and thread a ribbon thru making a knot around the hole.
  • Use the images from your cards to decorate an ordinary brown gift bag. Cut the images out of the card and glue them onto the gift bag turning your gift bag into a beautiful and unique 3D gift bag and keepsake.
  • Keep photo gift cards for ornaments on your tree. Cut the photos out.  You can either laminate the photo and hot glue ribbon to the back and remember to add a date or insert the photo into a store bought photo ornament with the year already on it.  Year after year your tree will turn into a family and friend tree and keepsake.
  • In the past, you used to be able to donate your Christmas cards to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.  This program has since been discontinued, but if you have a local organization that you work with, reach out to them and see if they can use your Christmas cards for Re-purposing.  (Be sure to remove any personal info first, of course).

Lastly,  I hope your holiday was everything you wished for and more.  Mine certainly was.  As you take down the decorations this week and move into the new year, please be sure and not pack that beautiful holiday spirit away.  That special feeling should stay with you all year long.  As always, have a happy day.

The Gingerbread House Mystery

I have questions about holiday gingerbread houses. This year, my husband and I made our first gingerbread house. It was a blast, messy, but lots of fun. However, it was not at all what I was expecting. We bought a kit from our local store and bought it home and to our surprise the walls came pre-constructed. The icing was premixed and in a foil bag. The decorations were pre-portioned and there were even decorating instructions included in the box! It was like a paint-by-number page. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I half expected to half to bake the walls and mix the icing ourselves. That the kit would have simply included a recipe, cookie cutters and the candy decorations.
We built the house and had plenty of laughs along the way none the less. Since the construction of our tiny holiday cabin of candy and icing, he and I have noticed these little houses in every holiday movie and commercial. We have found ourselves discussing the construction of the ones we see and how we would like to enhance our house building skills in years to come. So my questions for you are as follows:

1. Have you ever built a Gingerbread house? Is so, was it a kit or homemade?
2. Do you eat it after you construct it? How long after you construct it?
3. Should eating your Gingerbread House be a Christmas Day tradition in my home?
4. Is it even safe to eat the boxed kit Gingerbread houses? After all, how long have they been sitting on a shelf or in a warehouse?

I’ve done a bit of homework on the subject and asked around. Here are a few fun facts on Gingerbread houses.
1. Gingerbread is made from Ginger, cinnamon, Cloves, nutmeg, Cardamom, anise, and sweetened with honey or molasses.
2. To be considered Gingerbread, Ginger must be the dominant flavor and use either honey or molasses as the sweetener instead of sugar.
3. Queen Elizabeth I is believed to be responsible for the first Gingerbread mas as she had them made to resemble visiting dignitaries and presented to the visiting dignitaries as gifts.
4. Unmarried women in England would often eat Gingerbread men for good luck in meeting a husband.
5. Since the early 1970’s, pastry chefs have baked, constructed and decorated a gingerbread house for the enjoyment of the First Family, the American people, and White House visitors. This gingerbread house is typically a mock of the actual white house as it is decorated for Christmas that specific year (window wreaths and all)
So the mystery of the gingerbread house is this, I’ve seen many holiday movies and many house constructed in our home by families and friends, but I’ve never seen them eaten.

MYSTERY….. What happens to these houses right after Christmas?
a. Eaten?
b. Thrown in the trash?
c. Put outside for critters to find?
d. Demolition derby by children (or adults?)

Looking forward to hearing what you do or have done.  In the meantime, Have a Happy Day!

The importance of a morning routine

Ever stop to think about your morning routine?  Ever try changing it and feel either totally rejuvenated or completely out of sorts.  Isn’t it funny how one or the other is bound to happen?  I will share with you my morning routine and hope to hear about yours as well.  First let me share with you the back story for this little blog.

I never used to have a morning routine.  Or, maybe my routine was that I didn’t have one at all.  I would set my alarm, hit snooze about five or six times and then after running very late, charge out of bed like a mad-man, rush around then out the door!  It wasn’t very relaxing and not the least bit productive.  I was neither reliable or organized.  Oh how times have changed.  I have come to learn the value of a morning routine.  Looking back at my childhood, I remember my parents and their morning routines.  Each had their own, but each definitely had specific routines.  It is my mother’s that stands out the most to me.  She would get up before my sister and I and make her coffee.  She would sit on the end of the couch in total silence and sip her coffee and just be still.  These days, she still does the same getting up before my step-father and before her dogs awaken to enjoy her peace and quiet.

As an adult, and a wife in my own home, I see the importance of this very routine.  It is the way you start your day and it truly does set the tone for your day.  Looking back on  days that I jump up out of bed and run through my morning, my whole day tends to follows suit.  I feel rushed, unorganized and behind the eight ball all day.  More often than not, my morning routine is as follows:  I still awaken to an alarm and I still tend to hit the snooze button once or twice. My husband and I enjoy a cup of coffee together outside on the back patio as our dog does her morning business in the yard.  Then my dog and I chill out in the hammock and watch the birds flutter around in the trees and we listen to the leaves dance in the breeze for about 20 – 30 minutes.  There is very little conversation between my husband and I in the morning.  Not for lack of points of discussion, but more for true enjoyment of space and time.  It is my favorite time of day.  To be with the one you love and just be still.  It is beautiful.  To watch my dog be happy in the yard and then cuddle with me in the hammock is blissful.  (side note: she is only three pounds)  After our little outdoor time, I wander inside, feed the puppy and then begin getting ready for my day by making the bed, showering and getting dressed as usual with the accompaniment of a great playlist.

My point in sharing this with you is two-fold.

  1. to share with you my beautiful morning routine and reflect on the idea of enjoying a slow start vs a quick jolt to your morning.
  2. to ask you how your morning routine is?  Do you prefer to fill our morning with news and social media?  Do you prefer to exercise?

Think about how you start your morning.  As I asked before, what happens when there is a change in your routine.  When I am running late, my whole day is a mess.  On the flip side, When I am trying like crazy to start a new healthy routine, I am frustrated and rejuvenated all at once.  Like trying to start a new work out regime, or trying to switch up and do my household chores in the morning so I come home to a cleaner house.  I’m happy with the change, but a bit frustrated until I get the swing of things.  (Neither ruins my day, in fact I feel empowered).  There are so many versions of a great start, I hope whatever you do provides you a very happy day!

 

What quirks make you… you?

Some would say I am a creature of habit and others would say I am a wild unicorn with a gypsy soul, leaving a trail of glitter wherever I go.  Is beauty in the eye of the beholder or is it your the time of day you catch me?  I will admit there are not too many thing I do on an extremely regular basis and I find it incredibly difficult to pick up good habits (bad habits are a completely different blog all together, and thankfully, a different time in  my life).  However, there are a few things I am know to do and my day is a miss when these things are out of sync.  Ever stop and think about the silly little idiosyncrasies of your life and how if you don’t do them regularly you just feel all out of whack?

I will share of few of mine with you in hopes that you can feel a bit more normal. (And I will assume there are readers out there nodding their heads saying, oh yes I do that to, so I too shall feel a little less out of place).  Here we go…

  1. I must make my bed everyday. (Today, by the way, I did not and it’s making me nuts)  I love to have my bed made and when I am running, so late that I don’t make it, I come home at the end of the day and make it anyway.  I truly enjoy climbing into a freshly made bed.  I love having the sheets folded back like my own turn down service.
  2. Speaking of bedtime, I always sleep under the covers and I prefer a comforter to a quilt so if it is super cold, I will just pile blankets on top of my fluffy comforter rather than exchange the comforter for a heavy quilt.  Also, if it is hot, I will turn the AC to super cold just to I can feel nice and cuddly at night.
  3. I drive the same way to an from a destination.  Once I go somewhere once, that is how I know to get there and I cannot deter from those directions or I get lost.  don’t get me wrong, I love to go on driving adventures and do very frequently.  However, as I drive to work, my kids house, my husbands work, etc. I can only go one way or I am completely lost.  Additionally, I get very frustrated at the suggestion of a new way to travel.
  4. Whenever I take a road trip, I must have the proper road trip snacks.  These consist of a Fountain Soda and something sweet (usually skittles) and something salty (usually Pizza pretzel Combos).  And a road trip can be any drive longer than two hours.

These are just a few of my always, no matter what, absolute never changing things I do.  I would love to hear some of yours.  I love my little quirks and I have plenty more that I’m sure I will share along the way.  I hope these made you smile a bit today.  As always, have a happy day.

The Hustle and Bustle

Its that time of year where no matter how hard we try it seems that we can’t slow down the clock and there seems to be more on our “to-do” list than there is time in the day.  It’s crazy how that happens year after year.  I have to share a few phone calls with you that made me just sit back and smile and reminded me that the world will go around no matter what I do and that is really just fine with me.

I spoke to my mother the other day.  She started a business a few years back and this is her busy time of year.  She has yet to put her tree up or trim her house in holiday decorations and I was surprised to hear this.  Her answer was that it will get done next weekend and she didn’t seem that rushed to do it.  It will get done before the holiday and before the family gets there.  That was what mattered.  It made me smile.  Now, I know she loves her decorations and I know she loves her morning coffee in front of the lights, but she reminded me without even knowing it, that everything will get done in due time.  I needed that reminder so very badly.

Around the same time frame, I spoke with my step-mom who had been ill for a few days.  She and my father have company coming for the holidays. Though the company won’t be staying in their home, they will be in and out and they want their home decorated for the holiday.  Due to not feeling well she said she felt like things just wouldn’t get finished in time.  My father and she looked around the house and decided that what was decorated would be great and  once the boxes were put away, what was set-up would be perfect.  Again, another reminder that we get what need to get done in perfect timing.  Another reminder for myself was that sometimes we set the bar higher for ourselves than others do and our friends and families love us just the way we are.

Ironically, for the first time since I can remember, I have my tree up and gifts wrapped and am not stressing over the holidays.  My biggest concern is making sure I am setting traditions and keeping traditions with my family.  I have a goal this season of making the most of the little things and finding the good in the smallest things. Its funny, with parents like mine, ever reminding me that life will go on and not to sweat the small stuff, I have learned to calm down and get the things that really do matter to me done and let the rest fall to the wayside.  I may not have the finest things in the world, but I sure do have the greatest family a girl can ask for.  They are crazy, silly, and full of quirks in all the ways you can think of, but I would not trade one of them for all the gold in the world.  I sure do hope you feel the same about your family.  Large or small, friends and family are the greatest gifts by far.  You can’t take it with you in the end so enjoy the life you are given and make the most of each beautiful day.  As always, have a happy day.

 

It’s time for cookies

I love love love this time of year!  There are so many reason to be happy and spread the cheer.  Cookies are one of the top things on my list to do each year.  I love to bake and I love sharing fun cookies with my friends and family.  This year will be no different.  Cookies are coming out of the oven this weekend.  I thought I would share a few of the recipes that my family has enjoyed over the years and encourage you to jump into the kitchen yourself.  If you are not much of a baker but have always wanted to, baking cookies is a great way to start.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

½ cup shortening

14 cup granulated sugar

12 cup brown sugar

18 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon Hot Water

1 14 cups flour (all-purpose)

12 ounces chocolate chips

12 cup nuts (optional, but if you prefer I suggest pecans)

1 egg, well beaten

Instructions:  Cream shortening then add granulated sugar, brown sugar and egg.  Dissolve baking soda in one tablespoons of HOT water and then add.  Add flour, salt, vanilla extract and mix well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips and mix again.  Drop teaspoonfuls of your cookie dough onto greased cookie sheet. (Note the change from Tablespoon to teaspoon size measure for these cookies, they will spread) Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes.

German Chocolate cookies

Cookie batter

2 boxes German chocolate cake mix, dry

4 eggs

10 Tbsp. butter, melted

FROSTING

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

½ cup butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1⅓ cup sweetened shredded coconut, for drizzle

1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions: Combine cake mix, eggs and melted butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until well mixed. Batter should be sticky and thick.  Roll into one inch balls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. 12 balls to a cookie sheet. (Try using a Tablespoon Measure as a scoop to keep your proportions)  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. DO NOT overcook these cookies. Place on wire rack once they are out of the oven and let them cool completely. (Add frosting to completely cool cookies to avoid melting your frosting and having a drippy mess)

Frosting Instructions:  Add evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla to a large pan and place on stovetop over medium heat. Stir to evenly combine and continue stirring until thickened (takes about 12 minutes). Once thickened remove from heat and add coconut and pecans. Beat until thick enough to spread. Spread frosting over the tops of cooled cookies.  You can always add an extra touch by melting some chocolate and drizzling over the tops of the cookies.  Before packaging, let the cookie set-up so the drizzle can cool and the frosting can stay thick.

Snickerdoodles (My Daughter-in-law’s favorite)

Ingredients

1 Cup (2 sticks) Unsalted butter

2 Cups Granulated Sugar

2 Large eggs

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3 Cups All-Purpose Flour

½ tsp Baking soda

½ tsp Cream of tarter

¼ Cup Sugar (separate from the above amount of sugar)

1 tbsp Cinnamon

Instructions:  Combine butter with 2 Cup Granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until well creamed together.  Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix into butter and sugar until egg is well beaten.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Slowly add into batter and beat on medium low speed until well combined and dough forms.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a small bowl, combined cinnamon and a ¼ Cup granulated sugar and stir to combine.  Use a Tablespoon to measure your cookies proportionately and scoop cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roll each cookie dough ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350° F 10-12 minutes. Allow cookie to cool on the baking sheet for several minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oatmeal Raisin (My husband’s favorite)

Ingredients

¾ Cup Granulated Sugar

¼ Cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ Cup Butter

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Egg

¾ Cup All-Purpose Flour

½ Teaspoon Baking Soda

½ Teaspoon Cinnamon

¼ Teaspoon salt

1 ½ Cups of Quick-cooking rolled oats

½ Cup Chopped nuts (Walnuts work great in this recipe, but nuts are optional)

Instructions:  Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg; blend well. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Stir in oats, raisins and nuts.   Use a Tablespoon to measure your cookies proportionately and scoop cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roll each cookie into a ball prior to setting the dough on the Parchment Paper, and set each cookie about 2 inches apart.   Bake at 375°F. for 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets and transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Peanut Butter Thumbprint

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (Stir the flour and then scoop it, so it’s not packed into the measuring cup/spoon.)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 Bag of Hershey Kisses

Instructions: Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl.  Add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. Mix well and scrape the bowl.  Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture all at once and mix well, but don’t go overboard.  You just need the ingredients combined.

CHILL dough for 2 hours in fridge. (This keeps helps keeps the dough in good form rather than melting into a flat cookie)  Scoop dough and shape into balls, about 1 rounded Tablespoon each. Place 2-inches apart on silicone lined baking sheets. (Use a Tablespoon as a scoop, this will help with your proportions)  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately place a single Hershey Kiss in the center of each cookie while still warm. Let the cookies sit on the tray for about a minute while the Hershey kisses set, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Here a few tips I’ve either read about recently or learned along the way:

Start your recipe with cold butter. It takes longer to soften in the mixer, but warm butter makes the cookies spread too much.

Refrigerate the dough before baking or you will have flat pancake cookies. 30 minutes is good enough, but an hour would be great.

If you are doing a “great cookie bake”, (baking several different types of cookies for sharing).  Try to make all of your cookies the same size.  Using a Tablespoon for measuring is a great way to help your portion control.

Use parchment paper rather than a greased cookie sheet.  This will help is you are using several different recipes or baking a lot of one type.  Unless you clean your greased cookie sheet between each batch, you may end up with severely cooked grease on your pan and a funny taste on the edges of your cookies.  You can toss the parchment paper after each batch and ensure a smoother trend across all of your cookies.

Use butter instead of margarine.  I promise, it makes a difference.  If you choose to use margarine, check the label and be sure it has at least 80% vegetable oil.

Happy Baking, Happy Holidays and as always, Have a happy day!

Holiday Cheer Challenge

Winter is here, Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas (or Hanukah or Kwanza) is at the forefront of every mind right about now.  But why do we celebrate these Holidays?  I can’t speak for Hanukah or Kwanza as I am truly not that knowledgeable on either, but I can speak about Christmas.  This is a season of giving and family.   Whether you are a religious or spiritual person or not, this description pretty much fits the bill.  For those a bit more spiritual, it is a time of celebration and reflection.  A time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  No, I’m not going to get super religious in this blog, not to worry.  I simply want to point out that however you celebrate and for whatever reason, a general basis world wide is that this season is about family, giving, sharing, and love.  (Insert the holiday song Peach on Earth…  in fact, turn on your Christmas music!)

I would like to generate a Holiday Cheer Challenge.  For the rest of the month, I challenge myself and all of you reading this blog, to promote Holiday Cheer each day for the rest of the month.  I am a huge fan of making every day a happy day and sharing your happiness with the world.  By doing a Random Act of Kindness, being a secret Santa, making a conscious effort to pay it forward daily, I am positive you will find that your heart grows daily and by helping others, you will be filled with a little more peace and happiness in your soul.

Take a moment and think of a few ways you can do this:

  1. Random Acts of Kindness (these are always fun and usually super easy when you extend the olive branch to help a stranger)
  2. Become a Secret Santa.  This is fun to do in your home with your family or even extended family or ignite the tradition in your workplace.
  3. Pay it forward.  Surprise the car behind you in the drive–thru line by paying for their lunch or cup of coffee.
  4. Get involved in your community.  Commit to volunteering for one or more charitable organizations this month.  There are so many opportunities for adult, kids or the whole family together to help organizations or participate in community events this holiday season.
  5. Be a greeter for a while.  This may sound strange, but try standing at your local store this month for about 10 minutes and just hold the door for guests coming in and out.  Wish them a happy holiday season and brighten their day.  It may sound strange, but how many times has a door been held for you when your arms are full of shopping bags and it really made you grateful for the help?
  6. Spend more time with your family (near and far).  Turn the television off, jump n the car and go look at Christmas lights.  Visit a local church to hear a living Christmas Tree.  (If you have never heard or seen one, they are breathtaking.)  Keep that television off and play a board game.  Write a note to a friend or family member each day wishing them a beautiful holiday season and new year.  (Sending out holiday cards is always a great time and reason to send a little hug in the mail).

There are countless ways to spread a little happiness and if we all did this for just this month, the world will be a little bit brighter and less stressful for all of us.  Who knows, it may become a tradition in your family or a habit you keep all year long.  This may sound trivial to some of you, but by taking a moment to stop and think of others daily, you will find a little renewed pep in your step.  (The trick is to do these tasks without expecting anything in return, truly share and give of yourself).

I hope everyone one is jumping into the Holliday this year with both feet.  In my humble opinion, there is no greater time to get into the habit of sharing and caring for others more than right now.  Wishing you all a beautiful and blessed holiday season and as always, have a happy day.

Enjoy shopping during the holidays

It’s officially December and holiday shopping is in full swing! If you are anything like me than you have the very best intentions for early Christmas shopping in the hopes of having this task checked off your Holiday “To-Do” list.  Though I do have the best of intentions, I always find myself, year after year, still shopping during December for my entire family.  There is just something about shopping for others during the holiday season that is just more fun.  The deals and sales are fun to find.  The glitter and sparkle of the holiday decorations in the stores and the hustle and bustle is fun to be a part of.  So, here I am yet again embracing the month of December as my holiday shopping month.  I thought I would take a look at a few ways to keep myself organized and hopefully not end up overwhelmed the day or two before Christmas.  Here are my top five helpful tips to help make the most of your holiday shopping by having fun, saving some cash, and not becoming crunched for time.

1.       Make a list of everyone you need to shop for.  Figure out who you will be celebrating with all month long and add them to your list.

2.       Put dates next to your names on your list.  Will there be a secret Santa for your company holiday party that you need to have a gift for by the 17th?   Is there a neighborhood Christmas party that you need to have an extra bottle of wine on hand to give the host?  Checking your calendar while you make your list will help alleviate the “OMG” moments of realizing you forgot a friend or relative on your list

3.       Plan for extras.  Leave a few blank spaces on your list labeled male, female, girl, and boy.  These will allow you to have a few general gifts on hand in case someone shows up unexpectedly.  Scented candles, lotion, pocket, scarves, blankets, and trendy toys are always great for these slots on your list.  (Just remember to make them things that will last or are useable by members of your own family in case you end up with the extra gifts under your tree at the close of the holiday season.)

4.       Set a budget and make it realistic.  This may seem like a tall order, but if you generally have an idea for gifts for the people on your list, write down a monetary value next to their names and help yourself come to a total once your move thru your list top to bottom. 

5.       Plan your shopping days.  Set aside time to actually go shopping and not be rushed.  Are you more comfortable shopping a few hours a week in the evening or would you more enjoy a full Saturday shopping extravaganza?  This is YOUR time to enjoy the gift giving experience.  Finding great items that you know will put a smile on a loved one’s face.  In your scheduling, remember to schedule some treats for yourself.  A great cup of coffee and a biscotti mid-day, or maybe a nice dinner during the week after you wrap up your shopping.  Spoil yourself a little and ensure that you keep the happy festive holiday mood throughout the month.  

There are a few other things I like to do to get and stay in the Holiday Spirit all month long.   Here are a few of those little things that make me smile almost daily. 

1.       Playing Christmas Music.  No, I’m not 24/7 holiday music kind of lady, but the days that
I’m shopping or maybe late in the evening, It’s so peaceful and calming to listen to. 

2.       Plan to watch your favorite holiday movie and if you can’t then record them for when you can.  My favorites are a Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and of course Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

3.       Dress comfortably, but festive.  When I’m shopping, I like to keep in style, but comfort is important.   I love to wear high heels, but on a full day of shopping, flats and a comfy sweater is perfect.  Also, I change my purse to a backpack purse or cross body purse.  There is nothing more annoying that having a bunch of bags to carry and trying to keep your purse on your shoulder as you pick them up and set them down. 

4.       Do a little decorating all season and if you enjoy wrapping gifts, don’t wait till the last minute.  Turn on some Christmas music and do a few a week or on the weekend.  It will make your tree look complete, help you to feel a sense of accomplishment and start to make little minds wonder what is in their box.

I hope this helps you to enjoy your holiday preparations this season.  The most important moments are those with family, friends, and enjoying the peace that is in our hearts.  Have a happy day!

Do you get the winter blues?

I have to be honest, I didn’t really think seasonal depression was a real thing until I moved up North many years ago and found this to be a real harsh reality when it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I am a true-blue, home-grown, Florida girl from the word go.  It is very possible that my first steps were on sand. (OK, that may be an exaggeration, but my close family and friends can attest that my happiest place is on the west coast of Florida on the cool soft sandy beaches and in the warm waters of the Gulf).  Moving on, back in 2004, I moved to New Jersey for a brief stent on a whim and I loved it for a while.  The changes of the season were new to me; the colors of the trees, being so close to NYC, all the great day trips.  It was a great place to be. And then it got cold!  I mean real cold!  The sky turned grey and the sun went into hiding for months!  The snow came and it didn’t go away.  I may sound like a crazy person, but I had no clue that snow fell on the ground and stayed there!  I truly thought that when snow melted, it really melted.  I didn’t know it turned to ice.  (Not a lesson they teach you in science classes in a Florida Elementary school by the way.)  For a girl who did not travel much in her younger years, I was in total shock.  All of my travels have ever been in the Caribbean.  (Did I mention I love the tropics?)

Anyway, I soon found myself very sad and moody for no reason.  I didn’t want to go exploring as I had in the fall.  I found myself not wanting to do any of the things I had an interest in typically, even at home.  This wasn’t like me at all.  What was happening?  My friend informed me of an affliction known as “Seasonal Depression”.  I thought this was crazy.  How can the weather affect your mood?  But yes, much like the changing of the tides, the cycle of the moon, the gloominess of the weather can as well.  So, my friends, if you are like me and you find yourself getting sad or even depressed during the winter months, take matters into your own hands.   You can be proactive and prevent the winter blues from happening to you.  Here are a few tips on how to maintain your mood level this winter season:

1.       Exercise – even if it is a little more than you are used to.  If you live in an area where it is super cold out, try an at home regiment.  It can be as little as fifteen minutes in the morning.  Something that gets your heartrate up and your blood flowing.  If you have the gumption to do it again in the afternoon or evening, even better.  Trying 30 second planks at your workplace is always a great option as well.  (Get your friends to join in and make a challenge out of it).

2.       Talk about it – If you live with family or friends, let them know that the winter weather makes you a bit blue and most likely they will be more than happy to help find ways to counteract the symptoms.  Let your doctor know as well if you feel it necessary.

3.       Stay connected – Do not isolate.  This is so easy to do during the winter months.  (Trust me, I can live inside my little internet box, but thanks to my husband, kids, and grandkids, they don’t let me).  Force yourself to get out by signing up for a new class, going to a workshop, or volunteering.

4.       Surround yourself with happy thoughts – This really works.  Literally surround yourself with visual reminders to be happy.  Post notes on your fridge, bathroom mirror, or front door that have happy quotes that make you smile.  Change the screen saver of your phone or computer to something that makes you smile.  Sign up for jokes or funny things on your social media feeds.  Laughter truly is the best medicine. 

5.       Create a great playlist – Start and end your day with uplifting music.  Music can change a mood so quickly.  If you find yourself feeling glum, tune into to some Disney theme songs (you know the words).  Turn on the latest pop songs and turn off the hard core stuff or even country.  And I have to say, I am guilty of this myself.

6.       Step into the light – Try a light box.  They say tanning beds are bad for you and I am not here to advocate for them, but this beach girl does get into the tanning bed now and then.  I crave the sun and I am not afraid to admit that I feel better after I’ve been in the sun or a tanning bed especially after a week of nothing but grey skies.  (I am not suggesting that you become a habitual tanner or that you should tan if you have sensitive skin. Please tan at your own risk.  I myself, am aware of the risks of tanning.)

7.       Avoid depressants – Drugs and alcohol are the obvious ones here.  If you are someone that is easily depressed or sensitive to the winter blues, than maybe lessen your alcohol intake during the winter months and substitute with a non-alcoholic beverage.

8.       Take a break – Change up your schedule every once in a while.  Schedule a day off for no reason and take a little vacation and treat yourself to some fun. 

I hope these suggestions help.  I am by no means a doctor and these suggestions have helped me.  I found them all by googling over the years.  I can tell you, it is a trial and error thing and when you find what works, stick with it.  You do not have to suffer through the winter months, you can enjoy them as you should all the seasons.  I left New Jersey immediately after that first winter and went back to Florida.  Having just moved a little further north again, and finding myself again in a cooler winter season, I am again having to try the above suggestions myself.  If you are like me, I wish you luck.  As always, have a happy day.

Turn your gratitude into your goals… even better, a bucket list.

I’ve been thinking about all the things I’m thankful for and watching my friends and family lately.  Talking to them on the phone. Learning about their lives as time rolls on and finding out what is important to them.  It’s made me think about what is important to me and has me thinking about my goals for the future.  The New Year will soon be upon us and, as we all typically do, a list will get made of resolutions. As quickly as it’s made, it is forgotten.  I propose a challenge for us all, to do something different this year.  Let’s turn our gratitude list into our goal list.  Let’s create a bucket list for one year only.

This may sound sort of strange at first and I haven’t carved the whole thing out yet but let me start by sharing a little story with you.  A few years back my sister and I asked our mother to create her bucket list.  Her response was of course, “Girls, I’m not dying!  I’m not even sick!”  We laughed and agreed.  Our mother couldn’t be in better health.  In fact she will probably out live all of us.  We corrected her and pointed out that the fun part of a bucket list is doing the things you’ve always wanted to do while you can actually do them, NOT when you are past your prime and wish you had the strength or energy.  She thought about it and at first her list was small.  We went to a painting class, then a hockey game.  Her list grew as the ideas came to her of things she had never done but wanted to do or sounded like fun to try.  My sister and I have had so much fun helping our mom to tick things off her bucket list one by one and her list has grown just as quickly as we knock items off.  That is the fun of it, never finding the bottom, but always finding new adventures together.  We have since gone to her first concert, gone zip-lining, taken a Segway tour around a quaint town we had never visited before.  Just this past summer we were able to enjoy a cruise to Mexico with our mom.  It was the first time our mom had ever been on a cruise and she loved it.  The best part; it was just the three of us, my mother, my sister and myself.  It had been so long since the three of us had taken a trip that I’m not sure if it was the destination, the method of the destination or the company that made the trip absolutely perfect and a memory for a lifetime.  The point of this short story about my mom is that by asking her to make a bucket list, my sister and I have been able to share experiences with her that we never knew she had wanted.  These experiences are now beautiful memories for us all.  Now, each time I miss my mom I send her a note and ask what our next adventure will be.  For Christmas, my sister and I get a hand-made gift certificate from her good for one day to do whatever we want, a date with our mom.  That may sound trivial, but in a large family whom all have very busy lives and live across several cities, this is one of the most beautiful gifts I get each year and I look forward to it each year.

Circling back to the point of this blog if I haven’t lost you yet, I would like to take this time to think of all the things we are grateful for.  If you have small children in your life I’m sure they are bringing home crafts from school with little turkeys and feathers indicating all they are grateful for.  If you have older ones, take your next meal and make this a topic of discussion.  Learn about each other.  From there take a few days to think about it and begin to think how you can take what your family is grateful for and turn that list into a bucket list for next year.  If your family is grateful for “family” than take a family trip or maybe one day trip a month to somewhere new; A trip on a tankful.  If your little one is grateful for breakfast (there are always funny things they are grateful for), thank take that to heart and have your little one cook breakfast once a month on a weekend or maybe go out to breakfast once a month to a new restaurant or a special place.  The point is to turn your gratitude list into goals or a bucket list for the next year and embrace what your family feels is important.  Have fun with it and include them in the decisions for your list.

The experiences my sister and I have had with our mom have been priceless and each year we learn more about her; what her likes and dislikes are, what her dreams are and what she is looking forward to.  It was not until I was older that I have learned to appreciate these qualities in another person. They are what make up their whole person and what make them special.  Take time as you are learning about what your family and friends are grateful for this season to step back and really see what makes them special.  What are their wants, their fears, theirs hopes and dreams?  Can you help them accomplish them and in turn be a part of their memories and them be a part of yours?  Enjoy this beautiful season and enjoy your family and friends.  As always, have a happy day.

Tips for preparing Thanksgiving Dinner (or any big dinner)

When you have a big family dinner there is a lot of meal planning and set-up that goes into it and it can get overwhelming.  Don’t let it.  This is such a great time to not only embrace your more creative side but also really take your time and enjoy the process of setting up your meal and preparing a great meal.  Your family gathering can encompass everything from a great table setting, a DIY centerpiece, fun recipes and even the family joining in to help if you so choose.  Here are a few tips to help you have a successful and enjoyable large family dinner/gathering.

  1. Excellent Time Management is Essential: The first thing to consider is your timing for the whole production from start to finish and begin planning from there. If you are considering a big meal and the date is tomorrow, than do not over indulge on the items you want to include on your event.  However, if you have a week or more to plan, than by all means, include a centerpiece and possibly three courses, etc.  The goal is always to enjoy the experience and NOT to stress yourself out in the process.  I suggest sitting down with pen and paper first.  Plan out what you would like to include from the recipe, to the décor, to the invited guests.  From there, plan out your itinerary for the big day and work backwards.  If you plan to have dinner at 2PM on a Saturday and serve appetizers, than examine your recipes and calculate cooking times then prep times.  From there, incorporate your mise en place. (To be explained further down in this blog).  Remember to figure in the arrival time of your guests, the table setting time frame, house cleaning, and any DIY centerpiece projects.  This should give you a full planning process.  Of course, there are more items to be added as you specialize your specific event. (i.e., grocery shopping, out of town guests, work days or travel, etc.)
  2. Plan your seating style and expect last minute changes – Flexibility is important, left overs are always awesome! (prepare for those with Tupperware and baggies for your guests to take home with them) Cleaning your home and planning your seating style will help with how you plan to serve your dinner.  Will it be family style (all dishes served on platters for guests to serve themselves), buffet style (all dishes available in one location for guests to serve themselves and then return to a general seating area together), or will guests be served individually?  My specific preference, especially for Thanksgiving dinner, is buffet style form the kitchen or sidebar area, then eating together at the family dinner table with a few staples on the table such as dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and of course condiments.  This leaves your table beautiful and clutter free.  Guests can get up for seconds as needed and no one is passing food rather than eating.  NOTE: Setting your table and serving dishes the night before is super helpful and a great time save on the day of your event.  Don’t forget to protect your table with a table cloth and folded napkins or napkins with napkin rings are always a nice touch of class.
  3. DIY Centerpiece(s): What will your theme be for your family gathering? Are you getting together for a holiday?  A birthday? No particular reason other than it’s been too long? (Great time to keep your centerpiece seasonal).  I cannot suggest enough using Pinterest or google images to find the best DIY project for your event.  The options are endless if you search long enough to find the right project for your event and your skillset.  Don’t pick something that seems like it is way over your level at the current time, you may be disappointed and that’s never any fun.  Also, remember your budget.  Trying a DIY that ends up costing $300 will also put a bit of a damper on your centerpiece ideas.  I will add some to my Instagram and Facebook pages specific to each holidays if you so choose to try those out.  NOTE: having children help with centerpieces is always a fantastic idea.  They love to help and the projects always turn out super cute and heartfelt!  It leaves the kids beaming with pride to see their hard work sitting in the middle of the table at dinner.  (Plus, it is a great way to have some fun family time).
  4. Mise en place: This is a French culinary term meaning “putting in place”.  This is key to great time management for a large meal.  In your planning process, figure out which parts of your cooking you can do (or should do) in advance.  This particular term refers to cutting meats, par-cooked items, chopping vegetables, etc.  Anything that will aid in coordinating the timeliness of your actual cooking event.  You can even whittle this process down to pre-measured spices if you have the time, space and motivation.  (I’ve never made it that far)
  5. Family Involvement: Assign tasks and ask for volunteers. This is great for the centerpieces, the mise en place section of your planning or even table setting.  You can even break out your meal planning and ask for guests to bring a portion of your meal (i.e., desserts, appetizers, bottles of wine).
  6. The big day: On the day of your event, enjoy yourself. It’s time to officially cook the rest of your meal and your house will smell amazing.  You’ve planned, you’ve prepped, and now it’s game time!  As your guests arrive, don’t worry about being busy in the kitchen or fusing with a few different things.  They are coming to enjoy a meal so they should already expect you to be a bit pre-occupied.  Pre-planning will help ease a bit of it, but some business is just unavoidable.  Use timers and accept help when offered, but remember to relax and enjoy yourself.

The most important term in large events is flexibility.  Understand that not every single item will be perfect and there is always room for an adjustment here or there.  It’s ok, never be too hard on yourself.  The most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself from start to finish and not get too overwhelmed.  That takes the fun out of the whole process after all.  I hope your holidays are a great success, filled with giggles and great smells from the kitchen.  I hope these tips help you as you are planning for your festivities.  As always, have a happy day!

An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s November and this is typically the time of year when we all take more time than usual, or possibly stop for the first time all year, and begin to list the things we are grateful for.  Thanksgiving brings that warm loving feeling out in a lot of us and reminds us of the importance of family, friends, and quality time.  Here are a few challenges for yourself, your family and friends this fall season.  I challenge you to try one or all of them, bringing an “attitude of gratitude” into your home and possibly having it last beyond the holiday season.

  1. A daily gratitude list – Each day write down one thing you are grateful for. Put it on a small piece of paper and drop it into a mason jar.  On Thanksgiving Day, take time for each person to pull out their papers and share with family and friends what they are grateful for.  To expand on this idea, make it one jar per family and write your name / date on each note (so you remember who wrote it and when).  These can be one word notes or maybe a small message.  It will be a great way to start your Thanksgiving Holiday as well as start each day with an Attitude of Gratitude.  To keep this fun tradition going past the holidays, set dates for family gratitude dinners.  (Christmas Eve, New Years, Day, the first of each month, maybe every Sunday Night).  It can be a great way to keep a grateful heart and a great way to keep your family close. You might be surprised to find that one moment you took from your day, really touched a family member enough to make it on their gratitude list.  Now that is a full circle of happiness!
  2. A daily or weekly Random Act of Kindness – These can be a lot of fun and really make your heart smile! Do something for someone else that is unexpected and unsolicited with no expectation of a return gesture.  Some ideas that are fun can be paying for the car behind you in a drive thru line at a fast food place or coffee house.  Leave a kind note randomly on a parked car in the mall on a busy shopping day to simply wish a stranger a great day.  Stop and speak to a cashier or retail associate, look them in the eye, and ask how their day is going.  Thank them for working today.  If you have ever had a retail job during the holidays, than I’m sure you know that a person taking a moment to be nice goes a long way.  NOTE: This is also a great opportunity to set an example for the little ones shopping with us.  They learn by what they see and if your manners are great, it will rub off on them so remember please and thank-you as well.  There are so many ways to leave a smile, help another, the possibilities are endless, and this is a great way to use your imagination and do these things as an individual or make a greater team effort as a family.
  3. Contribute to a charitable organization or participate in a charitable event – Contributions come in many forms other than money. Two that come to mind are time and effort.  Volunteer for a local event, participate in the planning process, or maybe stay after to help clean-up along with participating.  This is a great way to help important causes in your community, get to know your neighbors, and work together as a family.  It feels good to give back.  Soup kitchens are always looking for volunteers, as are pet shelters.  Another great way to contribute (and get ready for Christmas) is to clean out your closets and toy boxes.  So many toys and clothes go unused / unworn and eventually get tossed out with the trash.  Make it a habit to help your children donate the items they are no longer using or have outgrown.

These are just a few ideas of how to have an attitude of gratitude and to help keep it past the holiday season.  I hope you and your family are enjoying the cooler weather and as always, I have a happy day!

Send a hand-written note

When was the last time you received a hand-written note in the mail.  Whether it be a thank you note, a birthday card, or even a letter from an old friend; do you remember the feeling you had when you checked the mail and saw the envelope?  Did you get a sudden warm-fuzzy feeling as though someone literally hugged you through the mail?

Long ago there was no e-mail, heck there was no internet.  There was no text-messaging or face-time either.  The world was a simpler place, and it seems a lot less busy.  As time has passed by so quickly, the art of a hand-written note seems to be a thing of the past.  Don’t let this happen.  Be the one to send the note.  You!  Yes you!

If you know what it has felt like to be an excited kid getting a card from Grandma or a twenty-something young adult receiving a care package in college, then as an adult wouldn’t it be great to carry on this tradition?    You have the ability to hug someone or put a smile on someone’s face who truly isn’t expecting it.  The beautiful thing about the old fashioned U.S. Postal system is that when you put your letter in the mail, there is NO instant gratification other than your personal knowledge of doing a nice thing.  This simple act shows that you took time out of your day to think about the receiver of your note.  (insert the warm-fuzzy feeling).  Your message can be short and simple or long and heart-felt.  It’s absolutely the thought and time you put into it that counts.  And I must confess, I have kept many of the hand-written cards and notes I’ve received over the years.  I can probably bet you have kept a few yourself.  By sending your note to a loved one or friend, you too will become a kept memory to reflect back on and smile.  Face-time and text messages can’t exactly do this, now can they?

Tip of the day…  the next time you pass a dollar store, pick up a few cards and keep them around the house.  (Even pick up some stationary if you like from your local card store.)  Also, keep some postage in your home office as well.  From time to time, take a moment and send someone special a note in the mail.  If they live around the corner or across the country, getting a piece of mail that is personal and NOT A BILL is a refreshing moment in anyone’s day.

Second tip…. If you are travelling somewhere and you happen to be without your loved ones or significant other, send them a postcard from wherever you have travelled to (while you are in the midst of your travels).  Even if you are gone a few days, it is a great way to show them they have been on your mind even as you are away.  I actually sent my husband a postcard when we first started dating while I was on vacation in Kay Largo, FL just to let him know I was thinking of him.  He still has that postcard today.  It makes both of us smile when we run across it in the house.

My friends, take a moment to send some love in the mail, share a kind thought and as always… have a happy day.

Changes, I did warn you

So today there were a few changes to the site.  (1), because I learned how. (2) because I wanted to make it a bit more user friendly for you.  Also, I think I like the new look.  I hope you do as well.  I just wanted to write a quick post letting you know, I’m still here and still the crazy old lady writing silly things on the internet.  I’ve just learned a few new tricks and made a few changes.  Hope you like the new look.  Have a happy day my friends.

Start your day off right

There is something to be said for making your bed every day.  I have to confess, I do make my bed every morning.  Well, almost every morning.  There is the occasional day when I skip out due to running late and don’t.  There are a few reasons behind this concept and I want to share them with you.

  1. It feels so good time climb into a made bed at the end of the day. The pillows are fluffed, there is no laundry or mess piled up on top and the bed is just ready and waiting for you to climb in and be very sleepy.  It is a stress-free zone ready for you at the end of the day.  This is the last place you need to be greeted by any pending “last minute to do” items such as fold laundry.  (I confess, I am guilty of this and regularly work on making sure my bed is clear of clutter).
  2. It’s a great opportunity to have a fresh start to your day. When you get up in the morning and make your bed you are mentally telling yourself it is time to start your day and get your engines going, so to say, to head in a positive direction.  Almost like checking the first item off your “to do” list.
  3. If you have pets such as dogs or cats that can gain access to your bed and pillows (assuming you have pillows with shams that cover your sleeping pillows) in your absence, this allows your bed to be free and clear from any pet dander. This will also help you sleep better.  A clean bed always is a better night’s sleep.  In this case, I would encourage you to add an extra blanket across your comforter or quilt for your animals to lay on, thus keeping your sleeping area extra clean and fresh.

This may sound silly, but give it a try and you may find your days have a little more pep in their step and your nights may be a bit more restful.  One added note, if you find yourself having a super bad day, you can always give yourself a very literal restart.  Go back to bed, take what I like to call a disco-nap.  A little 20-minute snooze under to covers and even in your pajamas if time permits.  Then get up and start your day again by getting dressed and making your bed.  Leave the earlier part of the day in the past and move forward.  We all have a rough patch here and there and it’s ok.  It’s how we handle it and what we do with it that matters.  If you can do a literal restart, try taking a quick five minute walk outside and a few deep breaths this will help you with a restart as well.  Fresh air is always a great remedy for ugly negativity.  We only go around once, make every minute count.  As always, have a happy day.

Fun fall drinks, get cozy

When it’s cold outside it’s always great to get cozy inside by a great fire with a warm drink so I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you to get everyone started off right this season.  These are all family friendly recipes (but each have a twist for adults if you prefer).  Stay warm this fall and winter season and as always, have a happy day!

Butterscotch Cocoa (My all-time favorite)

Ingredients: (makes 1 serving each)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoons cocoa mix
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon butterscotch syrup
  • Whipped Cream

Mix the cocoa and sugar together in your mug.  Add the milk slowly to your cup and stir while adding to ensure your cocoa is smooth.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Remove (be careful in case your mug has become too hot).  Stir and check the temperature.  If you prefer it to be a bit warmer add another 30 second in the microwave.  Remove again, add the vanilla extract and butterscotch and stir carefully not to splash.  Top off with chilled whipped cream.  Enjoy!  (For the adults trying this… over 21… switch out the butterscotch syrup for butterscotch schnapps and make it one shot sized portion)

Warm Apple Cider

Ingredients: (Makes about 8 cups)

  • 1 gallon store bought apples cider
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Orange
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar

In large saucepan, heat cider to a boil over medium heat.  While heating, add cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks (broken into smaller pieces), orange (cut into quarters), and the brown sugar.  Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.  Before serving, strain your cider and remove cloves, cinnamon and oranges.  IF you prefer, add new cinnamon sticks and orange slices as garnish.  (For the adults trying this recipe… over 21… add 1 cup of your choice of spiced rum or 1 cup of Brandy.  Add this after the boiling process once the heat is reduced to a simmer.)

The days and weeks after Halloween… pumpkins remain!

We all had tons of fun carving pumpkins with our family and friends and then of course roasting the seeds, but now Halloween has come and gone and we are left with a giant “squash” on our front porch!  Not to worry my dear friends.  There are tons of options available to put your amazing pumpkin to good use following such a fun and frightful eve.  Read through the options below and see which best fits your family and home and then get a little create.  This is a great way to help the Halloween festivities fade into fall and then to Thanksgiving.  And as always, have a happy day!

  1. Feed the birds – Remove the topper of your pumpkin and fill it with a great blend of bird seed. It can be store bought or you can make your own.  Set the pumpkin in the yard away from your house (buried a bit into the ground for stability) and watch the birds enjoy their treat.  NOTE: The pumpkin will eventually turn to fertilizer for the area you place it in so if you do not want the area to absorb the pumpkin.
  2. Fertilize your garden – This brings us to returning the pumpkin back to the ground. Make great use of it by making an all-natural fertilizer out of it.  When your pumpkin begins to look soft and a bit on the rotten side, it’s time to smash it (or chop it) and mix it into small pieces for your garden.  NOTE: before you do this make sure there are NO seeds inside your pumpkin are you will have pumpkins growing in your garden as well by next year.  Also, be sure to remove any melted candle wax as this will not biodegrade and is not healthy for your garden.
  3. Plant some flowers – This is fun way to move your pumpkin to your garden and bring Halloween to your patio (and still have an opportunity to pack up the spooky décor). Simply clean out the inside of the pumpkin and plant some flowers inside. Bury the pumpkin with only about an inch or two of the top showing through to bring the orange color to your garden area.  The pumpkin with break down in the soil and naturally fertilizer your garden and your flowers should love it!  NOTE:  Don’t forget to remove the candle wax and any seeds for fear of adding a new pumpkin sprout to your pretty garden.
  4. Create Potpourri – This is a fun idea if you have just recently carved your pumpkin and are not ready to let it go to waste. Also, if you have smaller pumpkins, this is a great way to add décor to your dinner table and a great conversation piece!  (a fun DIY).  Lightly dust the inside of your pumpkin with cinnamon and poke cloves and star anise into the inside (the fleshy part).  Light a candle and a wonderful autumn scent will fill the room.

Layering for style and warmth

Fall is here and soon to be winter, that means it’s time to break out the winter wardrobe.  Let’s be sensible this year about how we all dress in hopes that we are not only all fashionable of course, but also not overly dressed as to sweat in our clothes as we go from the cold to the warmth of a heated room.  That’s a great way to catch a cold!

So this brings me to the topic of layering.  This is one of my very favorite ways to dress.  It allows you to not only dress for all climates (both inside and out), but also slowly moves from summer to fall to winter without just tossing those tank tops or light long sleeves into a bin to be forgotten until next spring.  This may sound like a silly thing to write about for you permanent northerners. But for those southerners or transient folks, this is an important lesson that has to be learned.  I myself, have migrated slightly north from a very southern area and have learned that it is a bit colder here and for longer periods of time.  YIKES!  No flip flops and tanks tops year round?  There are places with seasons?  It’s beautiful yes, but that means learning how to dress appropriately for all types of weather.  Again…. Layering.  A light long sleeve or short sleeve shirt and pants or leggings is a great start.  Add an open flowing sweater with some flats.  Need a bit more warmth outside, add a scarf.  Need warmer yet, lose the flats and add boots and to go even warmer add leg warmers or fluffy socks and turn those leggings into thicker pants.  There are endless possibilities.  It is important to remember to keep in check your textures and lines.  You don’t want to end up looking like a crazy bag lady with a thousand pounds of clothes hanging off you.  If you are going with a little more bulk on top, even that out with a thinned out sleek look on the bottom and some fun shoes.  Keep that balance in your look no matter what.  NOTE:  Remember to check the mirror a few times as you are layering because as you take those layers off inside, your look will absolutely change!

No matter what, always have fun with your look and keep your brand and your trend true to you.  And remember, have a happy day.  Dressing good will help you feel good all day.  Stay warm this winter!

 

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