Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - Top 5 Posts plus a Favorite

 

 

It is always interesting to go back and look at all the posts written in a year and see which were the most popular of all. Since I write about a variety of topics, it makes sense that the most popular posts also fit this criteria.

 

Green Roses at the Rose Bowl

 

The most popular post was also the first post of the year and very appropriate for today. Last year at this time my husband and daughter were on a trip of a lifetime at the Rose Bowl in California. This year we will be cozy at home, watching MSU play Baylor in the Cotton Bowl.

 

Hair Remedy

 

The number two post was about my solution for winter dry hair and while I don't often write about beauty products, I think that hair issues are something that everyone can relate to. I still use and love both these products.

 

Updating Tired Landscape

 

A gardening post was the number three most read post of the year and it is really nice to go back and revisit this post, especially this time of year. I wonder what my next gardening project will be in 2015? Something fun to think about on the long, cold winter days ahead.

 

Sparkling Raspberry Margarita - Skinny Version

 

The number four post was a skinny cocktail and I was happy to see this since I always enjoy writing and sharing the skinny versions of drinks I come up with. Doesn't this look like summer in a glass?

 

Low Sugar Cherry Coffee Cake

 

The number five most popular post shows that any recipe can be made low sugar and it also highlights my love for seasonal ingredients. I think this would even be delicious with canned cherries if you wanted to make it right now.

 

Empty Nest Feels Empty

 

My favorite post of the year is a heartfelt one on living with an empty nest and how the adjustment is never easy. This blog has become a part of my empty nest life and helps me think things through by writing them down.

Happy New Year to all!

 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Individual Tiramisu

 

 

 

For dessert, coffee and presents at my sister in laws house on Christmas Day, I made these Individual Tiramisu in pretty little dishes and everyone loved them. I think that individual servings of a dessert are so fun and it also really does give instant portion control when placed in a small serving dish. This recipe is one I made up as I went along and it turned out to be delicious. I also used Truvia for the sweetener instead of sugar to make up for all those Christmas cookie platters.

You can make this dessert ahead of time and it holds up very well in the refrigerator. I think this would be an elegant dessert for any New Year's Eve Celebration or an occasion where you need something just a little special. But, like any good recipe, it looks like you went to a lot of effort and in fact, is very simple.

 

Individual Tiramisu


1 cup heavy cream, divided

3/4 cup sugar, divided ( I used Truvia equivalents)

8 ounces marscapone cheese

1 tsp vanilla

1 package lady fingers

3/4 cup strong coffee

2 ounces Kahlua

Cocoa powder


In eight small serving dishes place two ladyfingers in bottom. Set aside.

In a chilled bowl combine 3/4 cup of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of sugar. Whip with mixer until soft peaks form. Cover and place in fridge until ready to use.

In a large bowl combine the marscapone cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream, vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Whip with mixer until light and fluffy.

Mix coffee and Kahlua together in a small bowl and drizzle about 2 teaspoons over the lady fingers placed in each small serving dish.

Put a heaping tablespoon of the marscapone mixture over the ladyfingers in each dish. Drizzle with a small amount of the coffee mixture, them top with a generous dollop of prepared whipped cream.

Place cocoa power in a shaker or sieve and sprinkle over the top of the whipped cream.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Enjoy!


Happy Tuesday!

 

{Linking with these friends}


A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Serenity Now

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Craftberry Bush

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

Coastal Charm

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm


Mostly Homeade Mom


Gooseberry Patch

 

Monday, December 29, 2014

After Christmas Fun

 

 

 

While Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were busy with family parties, the days after the holidays are always relaxing, yet still fun. We try to spend time together, even if it is just going to the mall and making returns and exchanges or watching football at home. I just love having my daughters home and they love nothing more than being cozy on the couch, with a fire burning, Harry Potter marathons on the television and a kitchen full of snacks just steps away.

Saturday night we ventured out to dinner at a Japanese steak house, just minutes from our neighborhood. It is always a fun way to enjoy a meal and we had not been back for a few years, but the food was still as good as we remembered.

 

 

Yesterday, my daughter, Megan and I saw Into The Woods and both enjoyed it very much. I have not seen the play, or really knew much about it, but it is a clever reimagination of the fairy tales so familiar to all. The songs were perfect for moving the story forward and the actor's singing voices were very good for the most part. My only issue was with Meryl Streep and I know many love her and would disagree with me. I just feel there are other actors with stronger voices, who would have been better suited for the part. She is very good, but I find her singing a distraction. The other actors, including Emily Blunt and Johnny Depp were really good.

Happy Monday!

 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mimosa Bar

 

 

 

My family always celebrates Christmas with a brunch on Christmas Eve. It is a wonderful and easy tradition, with a meal that is easy for the hostess to put together. We serve a variety of egg dishes, ham, spinach potatoes, quiche, fruit, bagels and this year I added a delicious strawberry, cream cheese french toast.

Another part of the festivities are the mimosas we serve as everyone arrives. I decided to prepare a Mimosa Bar this year with everything set up for ease of serving and it looked pretty too. In two special glass pitchers, I pored both orange juice and cranberry juice. Sparkling champagne glasses were lined up and a good quality prosecco was in an ice bucket, chilling. A dish with raspberries sat on the counter too for a lovely and festive garnish.

When my family arrived, the mimosas were easily offered and served, with the choice of traditional orange juice, cranberry juice or a delicious mixture of the two juices. As brunch was being put on the buffet table, everyone was happy with a festive drink in their hand, because our family Christmas celebration had arrived for another year.

Happy Friday!

 

{Linking with these friends}

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm


Between Naps on the Porch

Savvy Southern Style

Gooseberry Patch

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Pajamas

 

 

 

My daughters are home for Christmas and this empty nester is happy. We hosted a wonderful Christmas Eve brunch with my side of the family, attended Mass and then relaxed and opened presents last night. I always get the girls matching pajamas and don't think they will be too old for that tradition anytime soon.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Model T's and Lantern Lights

 

 

 

My husband and I kicked off the holidays with a visit to the Holiday Nights event at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Greenfield Village is a magical place any time, but during this event the simplicity and beauty of an old time Christmas really comes alive. The only light is by lanterns lighting the paths or Edison light bulbs strung here and there. The sounds of Christmas carols fill the air, along with the jingling bells of horse drawn wagons. There are also authentic Model T cars whizzing around the streets, giving short, but fun rides.

 

 

The village main street is filled with activity and volunteers in period costumes stroll from store to store. There are wares for sale, made by village artisans, chestnuts roasting and hot chocolate to warm you up. You can even bring your ice skates and skate under the stars.

 

 

The authentic artisan shops provide demonstrations of crafts, by volunteer artists, such as glass blowing and pottery.

 

There are beautifully restored homes and businesses from the 1700's, 1800's and the early 1900's. All are decorated for Christmas, befitting their time period. In most homes there are docents telling the history or giving an authentic cooking demonstration. There is no electricity used (except in Edison's laboratory) so the candle and lantern lit rooms are beautiful.

It is interesting to note that in many of the homes in those early time periods of history, there would not have been elaborate Christmas celebrations due to their Puritan roots. There was simple greenery used as decoration and a special meal may have been prepared. As years went by Christmas celebrations became more elaborate and it is interesting to see the progression in these authentically decorated historic homes.

The evening ends with fire works set to the sound of carolers on the village green - a beautiful end to a magical night.

Happy Tuesday!

 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chocolate Chai Cookies

 

 

 

It's that time in my holiday preparations when I am baking up a storm. Megan and Melissa are both home and it's great having them in the kitchen, even if it is just to keep me company. There are traditional recipes I use year after year, like our favorite Ginger Cut Out Cookies, but every year I also like to try a new recipe.

These wonderfully spice filled Chocolate Chai Cookies have a unique flavor, but could end up being a new favorite on the cookie platter. As I was baking these cookies and doing a taste test, (yum) after one bite I immediately made a cup of tea to enjoy with the cookie. Some cookies just pair so well with tea or coffee and this is one of them. I foresee a snow day in the not so distant future making these perfect wintertime cookies.

 

Chocolate Chai Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp white pepper

1 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray baking sheet with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the sugar with the spices. Reserve 1/4 cup for rolling cookies in.

Cream the butter with the remaining sugar and spice mixture until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until combined. Blend the flour mixture into butter mixture in three additions. Stir until just combined.

Form dough into balls. Roll in reserved sugar and spice mixture to coat. Place on prepared baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes. Cookies are done when top of cookie cracks. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

 

{Linking with these friends}


A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Serenity Now

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Craftberry Bush

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

Coastal Charm

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm


Mostly Homeade Mom


Gooseberry Patch

 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Minute Homemade Gifts

 

 

Homemade gifts can be both economical and heartfelt and there is still time to put these easy and quick ideas under the tree. The three DIY ideas shown below would be fun and unique gifts for many names on your list.

 

 

Last year, I gave these chalkboard serving platters to several people on my list and they were a big hit. The instructions can be found here and they could not be any easier to make. One of these, tied with a pretty bow, would also make a wonderful hostess gift.

 

 

For the dog lovers on your list, these Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits are a thoughtful, healthy treat that looks pretty and festive in a bag with a Christmas bow. Many dog biscuits from the pet store are filled with preservatives, but these are made from ingredients found right in your kitchen. And, they are as simple to make as any cookie recipe.

 

O

 

Anyone would love these Wine Cork Coasters and if you have a glue gun and some wine corks you will have a set put together in no time. Even if you dont save wine corks, I have seen bags for sale at places like Target or any craft store. A set of two or four coasters with a bottle of wine or some basic, inexpensive wine glasses would make a wonderful gift.

Have a fun and productive weekend before Christmas!

 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fa La La Randoms

 

 

 

We were able to get a photo for our Christmas card this year when both girls were home at Thanksgiving. I feel like our days of getting both girls in a photo will require some planning in the future, so I'm happy we were able to pull it off this year.

 

 

When I thought about what to give for my favorite thing gift at our book club holiday party, I immediately thought of the newly published Skinnytaste cookbook. I adore the Skinnytaste website and just knew the cookbook would be wonderful and filled with delicious and healthy recipes. I honestly have never made one of Gina's recipes that wasn't really good.

 

 

I made Paula Deen's Taco Soup recipe the other night and it was very good. This is the first time I have made Taco Soup or have eaten it. I don't think it is a popular recipe in the Midwest, though I have seen it mentioned by many southern bloggers. Wondering if it is a regional recipe? I served it in these pretty bowls I received for a hostess gift on Thanksgiving - everything tastes better in a pretty dish :-)

Happy Thursday and one week until Christmas!

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Simplifying Christmas

 

 

 

I felt the need to somewhat simplify my Christmas decor this year; to create space instead of filling it. I realized that I didn't need to use every piece of decoration in the storage boxes and by strategically placing the treasured favorites, I could still enjoy them with a calmer feel. I looked at everything I placed with a new eye and the thought that less could be more.

A perfect example of this is the three simple wreaths I placed on my two story foyer stairway instead of the garland I have used in the past. Tied with pretty, plaid burlap ribbon, the effect is simple and sweet and the tree becomes the star. I didn't worry about tying a bow and think the knot gives the casual charm I was looking for.

 

 

When you enter my home this holiday season, the tall foyer tree shines bright in Christmas greeting with the lights of the mantel beyond. Dramatic, yet simple. A backdrop for the tree, that helps it stand out in all it's lighted beauty. Simplify - I like that word, even when it comes to Christmas.

Happy Tuesday!

 

{Linking with these friends}


A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Serenity Now

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Craftberry Bush

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

Coastal Charm

Stonegable

Thrifty Decor Chick

 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bunco Holiday Progressive Party

 

 

 

My neighborhood Bunco group has a holiday tradition, where we have a progressive event to make our holiday party special. We have members from all around the neighborhood, and while the majority are on my street, there is a group on an adjacent street that were the hostesses this year. We had a wonderful time and started out at the first home with martinis (cosmos - my favorite) and appetizers that everyone prepared.

 

 

We moved to the next home, right across the street, with appetizers in hand, to continue the party, where bunco was played. Our hostess served lovey, light and crisp prosecco, garnished with festive pomegranate seeds. As always, we manage to eat, drink and talk while getting in two lively and fun rounds of Bunco.

 

 

This decadent, chocolate tuxedo cake awaited at our last stop, where we enjoyed dessert, Kaluha spiked coffee with whipped cream and even a few toasts to our 20 plus years together. We opened presents, each more thoughtful than the next and truly meant what we said in those toasts - here's to many more years of celebrating with neighborhood friends.

Happy Monday!

 

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Book Club Christmas

 

 

 

We celebrated the Christmas season at my book club last night with our yearly dinner and gift exchange and like always, did not schedule a book discussion. We were having way to much fun and chose to keep our holiday dinner about the lovely meal and the company of good friends.

 

As we arrived, we all remarked on the beauty of the decorations in our lovely hostesses home and right away we were put in the holiday spirit. The wine was poured and everyone began to enjoy the opportunity to be together to celebrate the holiday season.

 

 

Our dinner; spendini, an Italian beef dish of thinly sliced steak, rolled with proscuitto and provolone, served with homemade strozza preti (Choke the Priest) pasta, was sinfully delicious. And the dessert was so beautiful too. There were three cakes to choose from; lemon, raspberry and chocolate and almost everyone had a sliver of each, with authentic Italian spumoni on the side.

 

 

At the end of the evening, as is our tradition, we exchanged gifts by bringing a favorite thing. The best part of this tradition is the story told of why that particular item is a favorite and the love with which it is received. We all agreed that by serendipity, everyone received the perfect gift, perfectly suited to them.

There was much love and friendship in evidence all through the night.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

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