Posted in Blog, Family, Holidays & Birthday, Self

“Don’t Go Overboard”…

…from your mouth to God’s ears.  Apparently November makes people crazy with the stressors of the holidays, and apparently I am no exception to this rule.  I tried to brush off Thanksgiving this year, simply because I just don’t feel much like hosting, cooking, cleaning or eating anything except perhaps some Chinese take out.  After declaring my boycott of our typical traditional Thanksgiving, I was “strongly encouraged” to cook dinner and invite the normals.

Sooo here I sit here trying to pull together a menu of foods that I don’t like – all so I won’t be inclined to eat “all the carbs” since that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple weeks – non stop.  I’ve had the blah’s and I’m sure it’s the fault of the weather and the impending holidays.  Thing is, I’m not a holiday hater at all, in fact I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, like a lot!  But…I am a do it all kinda person (read control freak) and I’m tired.  I’d rather focus my energies somewhere else.  A trip perhaps, a family vacation – a relaxing Alaskan cruise, a red eye flight to Bermuda, a leisurely drive to South Dakota – all scream YES?  I really don’t want to put a lot of effort into the holidays because really…who cares?  It’s all been taken for granted for years and who am I to believe I haven’t created monsters out of the people that do enjoy these seasonal traditions?  Packing on the over-indulgence repeatedly only to have it repeated a couple times a year – with again, more indifference to the day – seems kinda mind-numbingly ridiculous to keep putting myself through this considering I’m not sure what my “pay off” is.

I surely don’t care about gifts, I don’t care about working constantly to make sure the house is perfect and all the lights on the tree are placed correctly, I don’t care what people think about me, my home, my traditions or lack thereof.  I care about spending time with my family, having fun and making memories.  I just wonder if finally I’m completely brainwashed on one the two schools of thought; 1.) That Christmas is pretty much a thing of the past since religion is a dying belief and not to mention WAY over commercialized for it to be anything good or  2.) Christmas is THE holiday, the ONLY holiday!  Go crazy!  Start in July – the over planning, over indulging, over feeding, over spending!!  Jesus is the reason for the season!!  I lean towards 2, but it’s simply not effective for me any longer, at least not the way I’ve done it in the past.  It simply does not garner what I am in search of.

The girls are in their teens now, so the magic of Christmas is not what it used to be.  The joy and excitement of Christmas morning is lost on “more sleep” and snapchat streaks.  As of this very moment, I’m leaning toward one tree instead of three, a small dinner for the four of us and simple minimalistic gifts.  As my best friend’s words ring in my ear concerning my now revised Thanksgiving plans, “…don’t go overboard…”.  I’m going to try to heed her advice and simply chose to do what matters.

Wish me luck, as I am really no different than the other millions of sheep, I too become caught up.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this year I can focus on the things that ultimately do matter and truly enjoy the holidays.

xoxo

 

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Posted in Family, Food, Holidays & Birthday

Flu Shot Season

Ahhhh, here we are – mid October; a break from school when it seems it just started, winter clothes shopping and a visit to the med clinic for the dreaded annual flu shot.  I know, I know, it sounds like a blast.  My kids bitch at me because I have a tendency to schedule such “unfun” things on what should be “fun” days.  My oldest daughter constantly reminds me that in the past I scheduled a couple of her dental visits on her birthday.  With all her crabbing, you would have thought I’d FORGOTTEN it was her birthday altogether, but no, it was just a day that was convenient and that I could remember!

Yesterday, I told everyone to get up and get movin’, we were heading out…for flu shots.  They were anything but thrilled, but thankfully we got it done.  It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, but hey, I hear it’s better than the flu!

We had had the better half’s family over for a birthday get together on Saturday.  Since we have so many October birthday’s, I considered making birthday cakes for everyone, but instead I decided to go with cupcakes and an apple crisp.  I didn’t really ask how everyone felt about the cupcakes, but personally, I loved them!  These “not too sweet” pumpkin cupcakes with Kahlua cream cheese frosting hit the spot!

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Look deep into my eyes…lol

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Kahlua Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 12 (although I made 19 with this recipe)

Cupcake:
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/3 c. milk
3 T. vegetable oil
2 T. applesauce
1/2 c. walnuts (optional)

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
2 T. Kahlua
2 c. confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 400*. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In another large bowl, whisk the egg, brown and white sugar together until smooth. Stir in milk, oil, applesauce, pumpkin and walnuts, just until combined. Don’t over mix. Fill a cupcake pan with batter 2/3’s full.

Bake in oven for 16-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and Kahlua together using an electric mixer. Gradually add in confectioners sugar until smooth and creamy. Frost cupcakes, serve and enjoy!

Making 12:
342 per cupcake (eek)

Making 19:
Cal: 216
Fat: 8g.
Carb: 35g.
Pro: 2g

These were more adult than kid and really fit this time of year.  It goes without saying that I love Kahlua, but if you don’t the taste can be a little strong.  I’d half it or omit it all together if you’re not a fan.  If you give them a try, let me know what you think!

xoxo

Posted in Family, Holidays & Birthday, Home

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

 

 

Posted in Holidays & Birthday

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

 

Posted in Food, Holidays & Birthday

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

Posted in Family, Food, Holidays & Birthday, Home

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

Posted in Family, Food, Holidays & Birthday, School, Travel

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!

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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