Monday, December 31, 2012

Waiting for the New Year

Susan Branch is one of my favorite artists. She is a talented writer, illustrator, author and her cookbooks transport me back to wonderful childhood memories. Her Christmas post was about a dinner party that she held recently. As eight dinner guests sat around a beautiful holiday meal, candles glowing, wine glasses sparkling... someone said, "You can always see the kid in a person if you look closely." There was a hush over the chatty table, guests leaned forward looking into the faces of each other. Suddenly they were transported back in time, little girls in party dresses and black patent shoes swinging back and forth under the table...little boys squirming and fidgeting in their seats trying to be good!

What an insightful notion, that inside each of us.... is that wide-eyed child of long ago. Waiting and hoping for snow on Christmas or that one special present under the tree. Thrilled with the simple pleasures of the lights on the Christmas tree or that delicious coziness of flannel pajamas and a hot cup of cocoa topped with marshmallows. 

Let this be our resolution for the New Year, to allow ourselves to recapture that sweet magic of childhood. To keep kindness in our hearts and expect good things to happen. We all need that special quality of youth to give us hope and encouragement for the New Year ahead!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pork Fried Rice

Sometimes you just don't now what sounds good for dinner. It happens on Sunday nights at my house, we start the day with a lazy breakfast, grab lunch around 2 and don't even think of dinner until 7 or so. By then we're starving and open the fridge to leftover pork chops, a Rubbermaid container of cold rice and this is what I make...

2 cooked leftover pork chops or pork tenderloin
leftover cold rice, 2-4 cups
2 teaspoons peanut or vegetable oil, divided
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce 

red pepper flakes to taste, optional

Cut pork chops into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add egg and cook until cooked through, flipping once. Remove egg from pan and slice in half, then into strips. In the same pan, heat remaining teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2 minutes. Add rice, cubed pork, frozen peas and carrots, soy sauce and red pepper flakes if you like it spicy. Mix well to combine. Cook 1 to 2 minutes to heat through, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in egg.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter in the Country

Well, we missed out on the big snowstorm Christmas Day. If you were in the path of it and got hammered with ice and snow that prevented family from being together, then I'll apologize up front about this post. I was on the prayer chain FOR SNOW. I have to be very quiet when I say this... verrrry quiet. My snow dreams have to be done in secret since I'm married to a snow hater.

There's a reason he turned out this way...while I was making snowmen and snow angels in Missouri, he was building sandcastles in Florida. While I was sipping hot cocoa in front of a blazing fire, he was eating snowcones at the beach. It ruined him, totally made him into a Winter Grinch!

There's no hope that I can reform him, we live together in a mixed marriage. Me praying for snow, him refusing to read the forecast!

For all you snow lovers out there, five glorious minutes of Winter in the Country. Nothing but the quiet solitude of snowflakes falling over the lake and one lone Cardinal enjoying the flurries...enjoy!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Disaster

Murphy's Law says what can go wrong will go wrong immediately before you need for things to work, at least at my house. At bedtime, just hours before company was coming, I went to make the coffee and realized that the hose that goes to my kitchen sprayer had sprung a giant leak. Not the sprayer head but the metal hose that pulls out. As soon as I saw the problem up top, I knew I probably had a mess under the sink. Sure enough, after removing enough cleaning products to fill a shelf at Walmart I could see the puddle underneath the sink. Rats--- the house was company clean, the kitchen spotless, the floors mopped and shining until Jerry and I started trying to fix this disaster! We did every trick we could think of before finally giving up and just deciding to limp along with the leaking hose through the next couple of days until we could get a plumber.

The day after Christmas we went to Lowe's to see if we could buy just the hose. No such luck, you have to order the part from the company... that is IF they still made the model you had. We could replace the whole faucet... have you looked at the price of kitchen faucets recently? I really liked the new touchable ones until I saw the pricetag! Needle in a Haystack chance , but as soon as we got back home I called Pfister and they reminded me I have a LIFETIME WARRANTY on their faucets!

It's on it's way and best of all it clicks into place, no plumber required! This may be the lucky streak that started on Christmas Eve when my stocking included a scratch off Lottery Ticket. I won $2 that has been burning a hole in my pocket! 

* Following the 2010 Stanley acquisition of Black and Decker, Price Pfister is now part of the Stanley Black and Decker Hardware and Home Improvement Group. Following the merger, Price Pfister changed its name to simply Pfister.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I am the Champion!

Christmas Eve was a busy day, we visited my father-in-law at the nursing home then had lunch with my mother-in-law at her new digs, Brookstone Assisted Living. It was a delicious meal, very enjoyable and then we came home to get ready for our Christmas celebration with the kids. I had made a big pan of lasagna to pop in the oven after we opened gifts, so there was some free time before company arrived. My mother-in-law and I set down on the loveseat looking over her new Facebook page. Surprised that she had so many friends after only a month, she asked me where friends come from on Facebook. I think it's pretty dang amazing that she's learning how to use her new smartphone... she clicks the Facebook icon and sees new messages daily from new friends. "Where are they all coming from and how do they know where to find me," she wanted to know. I said, "Well, when one friend adds you their friends see you and then they recognize you from church or maybe a relative and then another relative and so on and so forth." We set there reading and clicking this person and that person, looking at pictures and finding old friends. She's enjoying it even if she doesn't know how it works!

Once the kids arrived mid-afternoon it was crazy, noisy and in no time we had trashed the living room with boxes, paper and bows! We opened JOKE GIFTS first, it's so much fun finding the "perfect gift" for everyone! The rules state it has to be something used, re-gifted or dumpster dived but being the rule breakers that we are... some of this year's gifts were brand new. By the way, Grandma's new elf socks won for Best Joke Gift! 

Contenders for the coveted award was a 1970's model of Dr. Scholl's Foot Massager with heat... in Harvest  Gold no less and a pair of NICE underpants complete with purple and orange Naughty and Nice socks. Yeah, we bad... we make you model your embarrassing gifts!

These too failed to make the cut, a perfect little Charlie Brown Tree, a perfectly preserved Harvest Gold and Burnt Orange Mushroom arrangement and the Best Seller "Who Moved My Cheese? All LOSERS... I am in possession of the coveted Golden Cup for a whole year until someone can bump me from the TOP! I am the Champion my friend... cause I am the Champion of the World! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino

You can easily re-create that wonderful after dinner coffee you've had at your favorite restaurant. Treat yourself and make this easy drink at home this weekend after a busy day of shopping!

Make your own Pumpkin Cappuccino by combining about 4 ounces of light cream with 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, warm lightly. Next, fill two heavy mugs about half full with your favorite coffee. Top each with the warmed cream/spice mixture. Garnish with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel and a sprinkle of pie spice or cinnamon.

Friday, December 21, 2012

So you think you can dance?

Then you haven't seen this couple! Amazing... labs are sooo smart and this beauty has the moves too! This little song makes me HaPpY!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lipstick Personality Test

Alright girls, if Christmas errands have you stressed to the max, you may need a little "brain vacation." Just for your entertainment, here's a Lipstick Personality Test! Check the shape of your used lipsticks. Chances are they will all have the same shape, see if you fit one of the profiles! Choose the pictures most resembling the shape of your used lipsticks then check out the personalities below...
Slant keeps close to original tip shape
Abides by the rules
Great follower
Does not like too much attention
A little self-conscious
Somewhat reserved
Likes a schedule
May occasionally color hair to attract attention

Rounded tip to a point
A "doer"
Exaggerates sometimes
Stubborn over little things
Needs people around

Rounded, smooth tip

Flat top
To the point
High morals
Needs approval
Careful about appearance
Very dependable
Quick mind
Loves challenges

Sharp-angled tip
Dislikes schedules
Selective of friends
Likes attention

Flat top concave
Makes a great detective
Makes friends easily
A prober

Sharp angled but curved tip
Loves attention
Falls in love easily
Needs schedule, but dislikes one

Sharp angled both sides
Seeks attention
Big ego
Looks for easy way
Loves life

So, how accurate was this little test?

I'm a flat top (needs approval)!!! I think it has a "Magic Mirror" or something built in!
Tell me what kind of Lipstick you are...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Appetizers so you can be the Hostess with the Mostest!

The Hostess with the Mostest doesn't have to be the Tiredest! There are lots of great recipes out there that are Santa Special and don't require hours to prepare! 

Only 5 minutes to make!
Keebler® Club® Original crackers
Brie cheese, cut into thin wedges
apricot or strawberry preserves
coarsely chopped pecans 

Arrange crackers on sheet pan, top with cheese and preserves then sprinkle with pecans. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 2 to 4 minutes or until preserves bubble and cheese begins to melt.

Start to finish, 40 minutes! Serves 16
16 (6-inch) bamboo skewers
1 1/2 ounces pepper Jack cheese or cheddar cheese (not process cheese)
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 cup Sunshine® Cheez-It® Pepper Jack crackers
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup cooked real bacon bits
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
16 large grape tomatoes
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 16 pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

1 1/2 cups salsa (optional) In a shallow pan soak skewers in water to cover for 30 minutes. Cut cheese into 16 1/2" cubes. In a small bowl, toss together cheese and flour until the cheese is coated on all sides. Cover and refrigerate at least 10 minutes. In food processor finely crush SUNSHINE CHEEZ-IT Pepper Jack crackers. In large bowl combine crackers, egg, bacon, onion and cumin. Add beef. Mix well. Drain skewers. Thread one cheese piece onto each skewer. Divide beef mixture into 16 portions. Shape each portion into ball around cheese on skewer. Thread one tomato and one zucchini piece onto each skewer. Lightly brush meatballs on all sides with oil. Grill skewers directly over medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes or until meat is no longer pink, turning occasionally.* Serve kabobs with salsa as dipping sauce, if desired.
*Note: Instead of grilling skewers, place them on rack in shallow roasting pan. Bake at 375° F for 20 to 25 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. (Turning of skewers is not necessary)

Everyone loves this dip, here's a way to make it in only 10 minutes and serve 32 people!
1 medium avocado, peeled and mashed
1 container (8 oz.) sour cream, divided
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 can (16 oz.) refried beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 cup Sunshine® Cheez-It® Original snack crackers 1.25 oz Bag 

In a small bowl combine avocado, 1/2 cup sour cream, lime juice and pepper sauce. Set aside. In small saucepan combine beans and chili powder. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until warm. Stir in green onions and 1/4 cup of remaining sour cream. Spread in 9-inch pie plate or on 10-inch serving plate. Spread avocado mixture over bean mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, tomato and olives. Spoon dollops of remaining sour cream on top. Just before serving, arrange 1 cup of crackers around edge of dip. Serve with additional crackers.

A crab dip that won't break the bank and serves 16 lucky guests!
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened*
2 tablespoons sliced green onion
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can (6 1/2 oz.) crab meat, drained, flaked, cartilage removed
Slivered almonds (optional)
Carr's® Table Water® Crackers 

In a small bowl stir together cream cheese, green onion, milk, pepper sauce, horseradish and salt. Gently stir in crabmeat. Spread in 3- to 4-cup casserole or 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with almonds, if desired. Bake at 375°F about 15 minutes or until heated through. Serve with crackers. 
*NOTE: Soften cream cheese in microwave at high for 15 to 20 seconds.

You know this will be a hit! Serves 24.
12 hard cooked eggs, peeled 
1/3 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup sliced green onions 
1 teaspoon paprika 
1 teaspoon dry mustard 
1 teaspoon cider vinegar or white vinegar 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
3 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, crumbled 
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1/4 cup chopped black olives 
1/4 cup chopped dill pickle or sweet pickle 
Keebler® Town House® Original crackers 

Peel and chop eggs. In large bowl use potato masher to slightly mash eggs. Stir in mayonnaise, green onions, paprika, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mound on serving platter in oval egg shape. Sprinkle with rows of bacon, parsley, olives and pickle. Serve with crackers.

One more, this one starts with prepared meatballs so is ready in only 5 minutes tops!
2 packages (8.5 oz. each) Morningstar Farms® Meal Starter® Veggie Meatballs 
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter 
1/2 cup vegetable broth 
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce 
3 tablespoons rice vinegar 
3 tablespoons chile paste with garlic (sambal oelek) 
2 teaspoons grated gingerroot 
1 teaspoon sugar 
3 tablespoons sliced green onions 
3 tablespoons dry roasted peanuts 

Prepare Morningstar Farms Meal Starter Veggie Meatballs according to package directions. Meanwhile in a small saucepan whisk together peanut butter, broth, soy sauce, vinegar, chile pasta, ginger root and sugar. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until heated through. In a chafing dish or 2 1/2 quart casserole, place meatballs. Spoon peanut sauce over the top, gently stir to mix. Sprinkle with green onion and peanuts

No stress, no worry... you can do it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

1 Corinthians 13: Christmas Version

"If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook. 
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child; Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse; Love is kind, even when harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. 
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.  

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of LOVE will endure."

May the joy of Advent bring God’s love into your life in a special way this Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown's Children

Newtown's children... who simply were present for another day at school, parents who dropped them off without a second thought for their safety. As a nation we are shocked and saddened, everyone feels this latest attack to our core. Reporters can barely report the events, our President choked with emotion as he made a statement Friday afternoon. Just 11 days till Christmas they were making Gingerbread Houses in the classrooms, choir classes were singing carols and trays of cookies set on teacher's desks. Without any warning, for no reason that can possibly be explained, the violence that took the 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary has stopped us in our tracks. The joy we felt leading up to Christmas is gone.

How can we end this, how can we ever make schools safe, malls safe, theaters safe? What is making our society so very sick?  The killers often come from families just like ours, parents who work hard and devote their lives to raising happy children. How does a child ever grow up to commit such an act of evil? 

We all hold our children a little closer, praying for comfort and healing to those who lost so much in Friday's tragedy.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tres Leches Coffee

Are you needing a great gift for a "foodie" on your list? This recipe makes enough to share with your friends and would be perfect with a couple of glass mugs like these that sell for next to nothing at Walmart! It's as easy as mixing up the Tres Leches milk syrup...

Stir together:
1-14 oz can of evaporated milk
1-14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 Cup heavy cream
Add 4 oz. hot coffee or espresso to the mug, add 5 oz. hot milk, 3 oz. of the Tres Leches syrup and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract. Top with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce and a cherry. Don't worry about the calories, you can diet after the holidays are over!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pretty, Pretty Please!

Pretty, pretty please listen to Kayleigh's beautiful entry in First Night Springfield's song contest. I'm related, twice removed but I still claim this talented teen as kin! 

First Night is a family-friendly New Year’s Eve event that takes place in multiple venues in Downtown Springfield, Missouri (my hometown!)  This community-wide celebration of the visual and performing arts will ring in 2013 with live music, theatre, children’s activities, fireworks and more. Kayleigh's already made it to the finals, she's that good! 

With a simple click on this link to LIKE her and you'll place a vote. The winner will perform at First Night Springfield and win $500 cash prize. Please take the time to vote and make Kayleigh's dream come true!

*Voting ends at midnight Dec. 14th, that's this Friday so please vote now!

Good news, Kayleigh WON! Thanks so much for your votes...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I don't have time to bake...

Yes you do!!! Lots of great ideas out there for EZ quick-to-fix,"Make and Run" recipes that are perfect for the crazy days we are having right now! If you have 30 minutes or even LESS to spare, you can whip up any of these great recipes or ideas...

Pepperoni slices and cheese will make these favorite appetizers!

Candy canes, Oreos and Almond Bark flavor microwave popcorn for that person on the "Naughty List!"

A Christmas wreath you can eat! A must-have recipe for holiday gatherings, this mini sausage wreath is simple and quick to make and is a cute centerpiece for your table of Christmas hors d’oeuvres.

Just like the elves in Santa's workshop, you can turn a few bags of microwave popcorn into the perfect teacher/neighbor/or child's gift for pennies! Those elves are so smart...

Having an old fashioned Christmas this year? So pretty hung on the tree or in the windows...I bet you remember how. If not, here's an instructional pdf to share with your kids!

So much fun to have on the table Christmas Day! Another old English tradition, the tubes are filled with candy, coins and small toys... grown ups love them too!

If you're looking for a way to make a child's Christmas Wishes extra special, let them find a letter from Santa in the mailbox! Several letters to choose from, download and print for the little ones on your list!

Ho HO Ho!
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