Category Archives: Holidays & Birthday

The SLow Down

Ah, February – the month of Love!  January did a fly by on my radar.  It was a busy month, full of emotionally charged days that I’m glad are past me.  I ate my way through the month and I’m currently trying to come down off the high of feeding my stress.  As I sit here typing this, I’m wishing I had on my pajama pants since my jeans have become less like clothing and more like a torture device.

My mother had her aortic aneurysm surgery in the middle of January and she did very well.   I can now say with certainty for a fact, I am not capable of taking care of her in any way, shape or form.  And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  The facts are as follows:

#1. She wants things the way she wants things and I am too much of a controlling person to be ok with that.

#2.  She’s not willing to help herself and I cannot feel responsible for that.

#3.  She does not trust me, never has, never will.

We are oil and water and a life and/or death situation does not change that fact. Those reasons are enough to fuel the fact that this type scenario will not – can not – take place again.

However, every rain cloud has a silver lining.  About 7 years ago when we moved to Indiana, we (I) gave away our dachshund and I’ve never really gotten over wanting another one (or feeling guilty that I gave him up).  Knowing this, the Better Half decided to buy me a new dachshund puppy as a late Christmas gift.  She is an absolute joy!  She’s adorable and so, so sweet!  My youngest daughter named her “Gretchen Wieners” but to simplify things a little bit, we call her ‘Indy’.  She, like most doxies, is a cuddle bunny, her favorite thing is to be held and snuggled.  She bunks with the oldest as she doesn’t have a “pet” other than her Betta fish, Bae and he’s too hard to snuggle with.

It’s been chaotic trying to potty train her and to keep up with everything else, but I have no doubt as things calm down and I can focus more attention on her she’ll have it in no time!  As they say, there are no bad dogs, only bad owners and I don’t want to be a bad owner!

It’s only the 1st, but I’ve already started working towards Valentine’s Day!  It’s one of my favorite days of the year. Here are some of the ideas I’m tacking for this Valentine’s Day.

Valentine Pretzel Buttons

Seven Days of Love, for both the Better Half & the girls

and because they know I love to make them, the girls requested my cut out sugar cookies, which I’m happy to do because really, who doesn’t love ❤️s?!

Yesterday I jumped in feet first and decided to experiment with my new silicone heart molds, I melted some Ghirardelli dark chocolate wafers and some Ghirardelli white chocolate wafers.  I put in the heart molds, pistachios, craisins, dates, toffee chips, mallow bits, rainbow & crystalized sugar sprinkles and then piped in my melted chocolate.  Placed them in the fridge for abut 30 minutes and boom!  Instant “homemade” chocolates!  Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!  You can see it here at No.2 Pencil!

I do hope you all have a beautiful and love filled February!  I hope to see more of the blog this month!!  (I’m saying that a lot these days, aren’t I?!)

Do what makes your heart happy!

xoxo

 

 

Finishing

Happy New Year!

My 2017 has finally begun!  Four days late, but hey – better than never!!  I wish I could go back and write every day for the last month, but there’s absolutely no way that’s going to happen!!  I’ll be good to finish a thought here, today, now!

December was busy doing normal December things, shopping, baking, eating, decorating and just enjoying (well, not a lot of enjoying, mostly running from one thing to another) but it was good all the same.  Nothing monumental and thankfully, we all plowed through unscathed.

To begin the year off on the right foot, I did a little critiquing of myself.  I found that I am a terrible “finisher”.  I used to finish EVERYTHING I started and I couldn’t – wouldn’t – stop until I finished.  And I did it well too, none of this half-assed stuff.  That was when my OCD was at it’s worst.  However, as I’ve come to be more comfortable with myself (and loved for who I am not for who someone wants me to be) I have become much more lax in my abilities to finish what I start.  Starting is really easy, finishing is (apparently) extremely difficult!  And instead of concentrating on finishing what I’ve started, I’m wanting to take on more and more things!

Here’s just a few examples of things I’ve started that I really, really need to finish!

#1. The girls baby books (and they are 14 & 15).

#2. A cross-stitch I started over 20 years ago for my now ex-husband.  I work on it off and on because I WANT to finish it!  The funny thing is it’s of endangered animals and I joke, they’re all gonna be extinct by the time I finish the damn thing!

#3. Organizing my photos

#4. Painting the basement.

#5. Making CD’s for our jukebox.

And this is only a PARTIAL list…there are tons of projects that have been started around here and I’ve just set them aside.  This year I am vowing to finish things I’ve started.  I am not going to start another project until I complete the ones that are hanging out there.  It’s going to take definite determination and focus.  There are tons of things I want to be different this year than last, focusing on my family, weight loss, projects both new and unfinished, keeping up with my cooking, my photography, etc.  I’m hoping that I can share a lot more of my 2017 with you!

xoxo

 

I’d Like “Sa-moa” of Those Please

Like a lot of kids, I wasn’t a fan of nuts or coconut when I was a kid.  And of course, as my daughter states, “Mom, fruit in a dessert is NOT a dessert”, I didn’t really care for fruit filled desserts.  Although I wouldn’t turn them down, they certainly weren’t my first choice.  (I could suck down three or four Hostess fruit pies, but are those even real fruit?!?)  Well, and like a lot of things, my attitude towards many foods have changed over the years and I am now, indeed, a fan of all of those things and then some.

My favorite Girl Scout cookies were thin mints, samoas and tag-a-longs.  But as I grew older, I found myself just wanting the samoas.  The buttery, chewy caramel with just the right amount of chocolate and coconut, so yummy.  A couple weeks ago when I was searching Pinterest, a pin for Samoa truffles showed up on my feed.  I thought, hmmm, those look delicious!

A few days ago I compiled a Christmas baking list and the Samoa truffles definitely made the cut.  I mentioned I was making them and my mother said, “oh, the Girl Scouts gave away their recipe did they?”  After tasting these I’m beginning to think they may have!

Here’s the recipe: Samoa Truffles from shugarysweets

 

The only difference, I couldn’t find the dulce de leche so I used jarred Smucker’s salted caramel. The samoas did spread some and were very soft but they were still delicious and I would make them again in a heartbeat with or without it!!  I just simply kept them in the fridge.  I have since found the brand she recommends using at our local grocery store in the Mexican Food aisle.

If you like samoas, I would suggest giving these a go.  They really do taste just like a samoa.  Such buttery goodness!

xoxo

Brownies with a Twist (actually more like a sharp turn)

Good morning!!  I owe you a huge thank you if you’re still with me!  I’m not doing my part here at ALL!  Hard to fathom it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything.  The last three to four weeks has been filled to capacity with one thing after another.  After our trip to Shipshewana, we all proceeded to enjoy a viral infection that ran it’s course through all four of us and has really taken it’s time leaving.  The better half and I still have some congestion, but thankfully the girls are all clear.  We do believe our cat has it currently, as she’s sneezing and her eyes are squinty and watering.  We took her to the vet on Tuesday and they gave her an antibiotic injection. 

My mother flew in from Georgia the week before Thanksgiving.  She has come for the holidays as per tradition, but this time she will be gracing us with her presence for a bit longer than usual.  She has an AAA, an abdominal aortic aneurism that will need to be fixed via “open” surgery.  We have been running to and from doctor’s offices during the past couple weeks to make sure all is well.  She’s already met with the surgeon and recently took a stress test, which we are now awaiting the results.  I believe then the surgery can be scheduled.  Once the three hour surgery is complete, she will spend a week in the hospital and another 6-8 weeks recuperating.  It’s going to be a very long, long three months for me.

This Christmas the girls will head to their dad’s.  We will delay our Christmas with them until the end of the month.  It’s not the worst thing in the world, it gives me a little more time to shop for last minute gifts but I sure don’t like them not being home – no matter what time of year it is.  All a bit stressful, but so far manageable with wine.  But despite all that – the REAL news here is – I baked something AMAZING yesterday!  This is the first thing I’ve baked this holiday season (other than a poundcake that turned out to be pretty gross).

Let me introduce to you…Godiva Liqueur Brownies!  Holy Smokes, these little beauties are to DIE for!!  Godiva became my favorite chocolate a few years ago during my stressful, five year divorce I was going through.  We really bonded during one New Year’s Eve, when I broke down and spent $350 on a box of handmade Godiva chocolates and spent that night in bed watching the ball drop and all whilst marveling over every bite.  Yep – it’s a tight bond.  I’ve never forgotten her getting me through that New Year’s.  She will always hold a special place in my heart.

I don’t drink alcohol any more only wine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like liquor, I just don’t drink it – but I will eat it on occasion!  Like when I saw this recipe and immediately said to myself, “yep, that’s gonna be in the Christmas Lineup!”  So without further ado – here’s the recipe, found in the December 2016 Taste of Home 12 Days of Christmas Cookies by Terry Rasey, Cadillac, MI.

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Godiva Liqueur Brownies

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
2 T. chocolate vodka (I used 360 Double Chocolate)
2 T. creme de cacao (I used dark)
 1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. baking cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Glaze: (although I turned mine into icing by tripling the recipe)

1 c. confectioners’ sugar
4 t. butter, melted
2 T. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1 T. chocolate vodka 
1 T. creme de cacao

Preheat oven to 350*.  Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the liqueur, vodka and creme de cacao.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking cocoa and baking powder until well mixed.  Stir in the semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture just until combined.  Transfer to a 13×9″ baking dish coated with cooking spray, bake just until center is set, 24-28 minutes (do not overtake).  Cool brownies completely in the pan on a wire rack.  

For the glaze, mix all ingredients until smooth, spread over brownies.  Cut into 24 bars and store in an airtight container.  

Really, these are super delicious!  If you’re baking for adults (my kids tried them but weren’t big fans of the icing) that enjoy a little nip with their holidays, give these a try!  Have a wonderful day and I swear, I’ll post more than this one post this month!!

xoxo

DC Bound

I’ve decided that today – I write.  Not that I haven’t tried during the last eleven days mind you, but I haven’t been able to write an entire post that I felt was worthy or that was really even complete!  But today, I’m home alone with minimal pressures to get things done so with coffee, phone, and quiet house, I’m ready to go!

Sunday evening, the youngest boarded a transit bus. She and four full buses of other 8th graders made their way to Washington, D.C. for their class trip.  She (and her sister and me too) was born there so basically she took a very expensive bus trip home.  Her father still lives there and yesterday was her birthday.  Although I haven’t had an update yet, he was supposed to meet her at their hotel to meet her friends and celebrate her birthday.  I can’t wait to hear all the details! *A very brief update – he showed up with cupcakes and cash, it was good.  And like I said – I can’t wait to hear all the details!

This trip brings back memories of my own trip to D.C. when I was in the 9th grade.  I was living in S.C. at the time and although I was born and raised in D.C., I’d never toured the White House or the Washington Monument or really any of the main landmarks you think of when you think of our nation’s capital.  It was where we lived, we didn’t “tourist” there.  My parents were divorced and my father still lived in D.C. so the same situation applied, my dad met me and all my school mates downtown, it was just an exciting and memorable time.  I’m hoping the same for her, that she’ll look back on her trip with good memories.

dc-trip

The trip and her birthday were a couple of the reasons I didn’t have a chance to formulate a full post!  I had to make sure she had everything she needed and we decided to celebrate her birthday prior to her leaving, not to mention it all coinciding with the fall orchestra concert and the end of the soccer season.  Then of course, trying to keep up with Hurricane Matthew and his whereabouts since most of my family and friends live on the East coast.  It’s been a fairly active eleven days.

H’s cake selection this year was a pumpkin spice ice cream cake.  I followed the original ice cream cake recipe that I tried last year and came up with this beauty!

dsc_6321

A layer of graham cracker crust, a layer of Edy’s pumpkin pie ice cream, a layer of caramel sauce with crushed gingersnap cookies and toffee bits, another layer of Edy’s pumpkin pie ice cream, all frosted with a layer of Cool Whip.  And I have to mention, I thought it would be cute to decorate the cake with those little Brach’s candy pumpkins, so I bought a bag, and then…I made the huge mistake of reading the ingredients.  The rest of the bag was promptly tossed into the trash.  When the wax candles were blown out and removed from the cake so were the wax pumpkins and before anyone could object they all went into the trash.  Once I read the word shellac on the ingredient list, that was that.

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lac tubes created by the kerria lacca insect

Here is the description of confectioner’s glaze from Wikipedia and the reason I’ll never purchase these again <gag>, “Pharmaceutical glaze is an alcohol-based solution of various types of food-grade shellac.[1] The shellac is derived from the raw material sticklac, which is a resin scraped from the branches of trees left from when the small insect, Kerria lacca (also known as Laccifer lacca), creates a hard, waterproof cocoon.[2] When used in food and confections, it is also known as confectioner’s glaze, resinous glaze, pure food glaze, natural glaze,[3][4] or confectioner’s resin.[5]”  Seriously?  Ugh!  Sometimes I think I would be better off to not know so much.

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I’d give the cake a C grade.  If I were to make this again, I’d change a couple changes.  The crust would be half as thin as this was, it was simply too thick and it was hard to cut.  I wouldn’t use (at least this particular) pumpkin ice cream again.  I would purchase vanilla ice cream then add real pumpkin and spices to the vanilla.  I found this pumpkin ice cream too artificial or too “perfumey” tasting.  And of course, I’d leave those shellacked wax pumpkins at the store.  The idea was good, but the execution needed a little fine tuning, a couple minor changes and I think this could be a really tasty dessert!

We are on fall break for the next two weeks, so the rest of this week should be a breeze.  I’m looking forward to finishing the posts I started and posting regularly again!  Have a great day everyone!

xoxo

Pizza Casserole and a Betta Fish

Things are calming down finally after a whirlwind month!  Between starting school, starting another soccer season, working on the house and celebrating a birthday, the calm is greatly welcomed!  The oldest’s birthday was a success, no party just immediate family.  She was given an Xbox One and a betta fish, the two things she asked for specifically.  When she was given the fish, she looked at me and said, “What if I’m just not ready for a fish?”  LOL, uh…too late now.  Luckily it doesn’t have to be fed three times a day and have its diaper changed!  I don’t think she thought that was too funny.

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I baked her cake myself and tried – unsuccessfully – about four times to write happy birthday in pink icing – her favorite color.  I flubbed it each and every time, I finally gave up and just covered it with the candles and called it good!  Nothing fancy, but it sure did taste good!

I made this recipe a few days ago and because everyone like it, it’s making it to the blog!  It was so easy and really super tasty!  The only complaint – too much bread, not enough guts!  But –  it is supposed to be representative of pizza and usually that’s a lot of bread.  We, however, usually order thin crust because we like the toppings!  When I make this again, I’ll double the recipe and only use 1/2 the can of biscuits!  Other than that, it was an easy meal to whip up and the best part – the kids ate the vegetables with very little complaining!

Other items that could be added as well: sausage, black olives, pineapple, ham or whatever else you like on your pizza!

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Pizza Casserole (Weight Watchers Recipe)
original recipe here from food.com

1 lb. 96% lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 t. dried basil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. tomato, diced
16 oz. refrigerated biscuit dough, should be 8 biscuits per can
1 1/4 cup fat free mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350*.  In skillet, brown meat over medium heat, stirring to crumble.  Stir in onion, tomato sauce, basil, garlic and Italian seasoning.  Add veggies.  Add quartered biscuit dough to the pan of sauce and meat; stir gently until biscuits are covered with sauce.  Spray a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish with cooking spray.  Dump the mixture into the dish.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes or until biscuits are done.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I have discovered podcasts recently – well, ok, one podcast in particular.  In all the years with an iPhone, until a couple weeks ago, I had never, ever listened to a podcast.  One that initially sounded interesting to me was Sword and Scale.  I’ve always enjoyed reading and watching true crime so this podcast was a perfect fit!  It has really captured my attention.  If you enjoy true crime, I would recommend listening to a couple episodes and try it out!

I’ll be updating soon on the changes in the basement so keep a lookout!

xoxo

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