Friday, December 30, 2011

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. being home again
2. spending Christmas with my family
3. meeting up with a good friend on our way home
4. time to spend to veg - and get over this cold
5. seeing our kitty cats after being away from them so long

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. arriving in Minnesota safely
2. that Michael is feeling better as he didn't feel very good traveling up here
3. meeting my niece for the first time
4. her reaching out and touching my nose and smiling like she knew who I was
5. spending time with my family

Monday, December 19, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Gratitude

I am thankful for...
1. time that get to spend with Michael's parents
2. trip coming up to see my family
3. getting a chance to see good friends before we left for the holiday
4. fitting everything in the car
5. nice drive over to Denver

Glee - Do They Know It is Christmas?

Michael and I have heard so many stories of hope this year it has just always gets to me.  Watched a story on the news about a guy that goes out to the mall and hands out hundred dollar bills to people. He handed it out to one young man who he ended up saying he was a good man and it seemed to be just what that man needed to hear.  Probably more then the money.  Even though he needed the money too. But you could see how the telling him he was a good man got to him.  It was a very special Christmas gift to that man.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In a Hurry

Life just got terribly rushed for us. We were planning on leaving next week for Denver and then to Minnesota but a job came up and Michael couldn't turn it down as it is with one of his favorite clients.  So I had to drop a ton of things from my to-do list and just make do with what I could. I made gifts which I can't wait to post about after the holidays.

We got to enjoy our tree a week before needing to leave. I was really bummed that we weren't going to have time for our traditional drive to look at lights but Michael did surprise me with a mini-drive and we went to an area that had a house that coordinated the music with the lights. We also drove through our favorite neighborhood where almost every house is decorated. So the quick drive before needing to leave was a nice surprise.

It really hasn't felt like Christmas this year and now with this rush it is making it feel even less like Christmas. I am not sure if is the weather - we have had really nice weather almost like fall to spring like temperatures.  Then with things being rushed - I think there just hasn't been time to enjoy the season.  But I am sure when I get to see my family and my niece and nephew that it will seem more like Christmas with them around.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Mint Cake

Michael really enjoys a minty flavor in bars, cookies or cake.  But I don't often find recipes I really like that call for mint.  This recipe happened to be on one of those recipe cards you receive in the mail - where they are trying to hook you into buying them forever.  I usually go through those sample packs and keep ones that sound good and throw out the rest.  Well this Chocolate Mint Cake is one I kept, because it had peppermint in it and also because it looked so easy.

It was really easy and very moist and minty.  It is just a small cake - an 8x8 (or 9x9 will work too) but perfect size for just a few people and not having to eat cake forever.
Hard to take a photo as the chocolate is so glossy

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 - package small chocolate covered mint patties*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.  Stir to mix.  Add brown sugar and cocoa powder and mix well.  Add water, vinegar, oil and extracts. Mix well.

Pour batter into an 8" x 8" pan.* Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Arrange mint patties on top of cake. Return to oven until candies begin to melt  - about 1 minute. Remove from oven.

Spread melted mint patties evenly over cake with a knife. Cool completely. Cut cake and serve.

* The original recipe says 13 ounce package of small chocolate covered mint patties - well I wasn't paying attention to that and bought a 5 ounce package and it worked really well. I think it would have been overkill on mint using a 13 ounce package.

* The original recipe calls for an ungreased cake pan but I can't imagine not greasing a cake pan so I coated it with cooking spray and it turned out find.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

All Natural Cleaning

I have used this recipe for years as an all-purpose cleaner but have gone to another one.

OLD RECIPE - that is quite good and a nice place to start if you are just going green or trying to do natural cleaners for the first time.

All-Purpose Spray
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp liquid dish soap or something like Dr. Bonner's liquid soap
10 drops of essential oil (citrus, peppermint, or tea tree - I use tea tree and lemon)
water - to fill spray bottle

Mix ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake before use.


All-Purpose Cleaner

Heat about 28 ounces of water to boiling (enough to fill your spray bottle), turn off heat and add 2 tbsp BORAX powder, 3/4 tsp of liquid soap, 18 drops of essential oils - usually a mixture of 2 or 3. Stir until the Borax is disolved and won't clog your spray bottle.

Essential oils I use - I always use tea tree oil - in any homemade cleaner - as it has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties. I then add in lemon or a citrus scented one, and maybe rosemary - which all of these ones have disinfecting properties. But for Christmas I have just done tea-tree oil and peppermint so that it smells more like Christmas around the house as I clean. Peppermint essential oil has disinfecting properties too.

Basically these are the things I have moved towards when cleaning now:
Baking Soda - It is really good natural abrasive with mild alkaline properties. It is affordable, rinses easily and is completely non-toxic - no dangers for kids and pets.

Vinegar - It is an all natural and known disinfectant. It is affordable as well because you can get a pretty big jug of it at Walmart inexpensively. Only surface that you can't really use it on is marble as the acid discolors marble.

Hydrogen Peroxide - is also non-toxic and is known to be a disinfectant. Also very affordable.

Essential Oils - All natural and many have disinfecting properties. A little goes a long way so when looking at prices they do seem like they can be expensive but often you are using 6 to 10 little drops of it. I have had a bottle of tea tree oil for over 3 years and not even near being empty. Natural food grocers will have them, sometimes health food stores, Whole Food or Trader Joes I believe sell them too. But you can also get them online.

Liquid Soap/Liquid Castile Soap - You can use any liquid soap but to be green and more natural - Liquid Castile Soap is best. It isn't inexpensive but again a little goes a long way. Dr. Bronner’s sells liquid castile soap and I have found that at Target but Trader Joes and Whole Foods I am sure would have it too. Castile soap is a vegetable based soap where most others are petroleum based. So that makes Castile soap completely non-toxic so it can be used on your face and body but will also work well when it comes to cleaning your home.

Just a few little things I do to clean:

* Liquid soap and Baking soda make a great soft scrub (add in essential oil for a nice scent).

* Microwave vinegar and water in a little bowl and it steams all the cooked on food - and makes it easy to wipe clean.

* Clean fruit with 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water. Spray on produce and then rinse after 3 to 5 minutes.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. beautiful weather - sunny and bright
2. house is clean 
3. tree is up - just not decorated. We will do that tomorrow night.
4. wonderful peppermint smell from adding peppermint essential oil to my cleaning supplies today so that it smells very Christmasy here today
5. my love picking up take-out for dinner since I had been working hard on the house today

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Sausage Stuffed Baked Potato

This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.  She has amazing recipes.  Almost everything she posts - I think looks good and I want to make.  I actually made this late winter/early spring and never got around to posting it.  It is a really good cold weather - comfort food type recipe.  

I did make a few changes so posting my version. But Smitten Kitchen's version is here that she adapted from Gourmet Magazine.  Smitten Kitchen served with a salad and so did I - it was a really nice accompaniment to this recipe. 

Sausage Stuffed Baked Potatoes

2 large russet (baking) potatoes (if you don't have or can't find really large baking potatoes - just use a few more of the size you have)

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon water, divided
3/4 teaspoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for coating potatoes
1/2 slice firm white sandwich bread
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage or 1/2 pound of breakfast sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Prick potatoes with a fork. Wrap each potato with a paper towel and microwave on high power until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Cutting lengthwise, remove top fourth of each potato and scoop out centers (reserve for another use), leaving 1/2-inch-thick walls.

Whisk together mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon water, tomato paste, and 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Add some olive oil/vegetable oil to skillet and cook onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.

Tear bread into small pieces.  Soak in the bread in milk - in a medium sized bowl.  Soak until very soft. Mix in sausage, parsley, onion, and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise sauce with your hands.

Divide filling between potatoes, then coat skins lightly with oil. Bake in a 4-sided sheet pan until sausage is cooked through, about 30-40 minutes.

While potatoes bake, whisk 1 tablespoon mayonnaise sauce with lemon juice, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon mustard and 1/2 teaspoon water, and salt and pepper to taste.

Remove potatoes from oven and turn on broiler. Spoon remaining mayonnaise sauce over filling and broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until charred in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Reverb11 - Discover/Important/Remember

Prompt: What did you discover?
Need to take more moments to just be myself.   I don't take enough me times is more what I mean. I don't take enough time to do what I want.  I do put my proprieties right is more to the point.

Prompt: Who was important to you?
Michael is important to me but I think really this year told me - especially the end of this year told me I  need to be important to me.

Prompt: What do you hope to remember?
All the great people I met in 2011 - including some to come - such as my niece.  As I will be meeting her over Christmas.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Reverb 2011

Last year Reverb really affected me in positive ways. I just didn't let that positive force that I started out with - continue. I let some things trip me up and then I stayed back and stagnant - again.   This year Gwen Bell isn't doing Reverb but a couple of her Reverb 2010 co-founders are and I am using prompts Kaileen posted. I might change a few out and add in some of my own though. 

Prompt: Where did 2011 begin?

2011 started with me getting my migraines down so that they didn't impede on my quality of life so much. I get them still, but before it was about 22 days out of a month that I got migraines.  Now I get them when a couple times a month and maybe up to 7 a month. But down from 22 to 7 is AMAZING!   My doctor that helped me with this has left the clinic I go to but he was my ROCK STAR for 2011.  

Prompt: Who did you meet?

I met people I have known online for years.  

We met Colleen and Scott after knowing her just a little bit online. They lived on the other side of Colorado, but were visiting family who live in GJ.  They were also in the process at that time of trying to decide where they wanted to move.  We are thankful that they decided to move to our side of the state and are about an hour away now.  We were lucky enough to spend some quality time with them soon.  They have become really good friends and we wish we could spend more time with them. 
I also met someone else I have known online for quite a long time. Kathie at Two Frog Home.  Kathie and her significant other Jeff invited us for dinner when we were in Montana.  It was an amazing night and I wish so much that we lived closer together.  Kathie is one of those people I have always had on a mental list of people I would love to meet - and I am so very grateful that happened in 2011.  
I thought and continue to hope we might get to Montana for Michael's work one more time  in early 2012. I keep my fingers crossed as I would love to spend some more time with Kathie. 

Prompt: What books did you read?
Not as many as I would have liked to read.  But I did read the Karen Moning Fever series mostly because my cousin talks about them quite a lot and then she sent me the first book.  So I got hooked on them.   

I also read the Harry Potter books - first time I had picked one up. I started and kept on going to the end. I am hooked on the movies too and watch them several times a month. 
I read a couple books by Brene Brown and they deeply impacted me.  I really saw through so much guilt and shame I had/have still working inside me.   

I read probably close to 100 books this year. I just haven't logged them all into yet. 

Prompt: When did you struggle?
I didn't struggle this year a lot - but really I feel like I just gave up on some things.  It was hard due to health reasons so I did struggle there because I couldn't do anything. I felt like I was in a prison - if I took the trash to the curb - I coughed and needed several hours if not all night to recover. Just little tasks sent me over - because I couldn't breath.  That happened in the end of July I was hit with really bad asthma attack and after that I just couldn't breath right.  That went on for 3 months and then I started to heal some but then it came back.  Oddly enough after this ER visit I had recently - my breathing problems went away after taking the powerful antibiotics. I am grateful it did. I mean still have some wheezing and little asthma problems but not like the 3 months were I couldn't sleep because laying down made me choke and cough.  Luckily I am feeling better and just still struggling with some health issues but not to the extent I was before. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

A Few Christmas Ideas

I just love the simple look of this for decorating at Christmas. Or this next one too...

Such a cute idea for a place-card holder for a holiday dinner

Source: via Darby on Pinterest

This looks fairly easy to do and would look good placing one on top of a tray of goodies as a gift.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. Getting to see good friends tomorrow
2. the smell of freshly baked Pumpkin Cookies with Maple Icing
3. making some plans to meet a good friend on our way back from Minnesota
4. getting excited to see my family and especially my niece and nephew!
5. the Roku having so many music options for Christmas music
6. a wonderful gift of Chicago Pizza and Eli's Cheesecake from someone special

Thursday, December 01, 2011

I've Been Pinned

That is Christmas Subway art I created last year. It was put on Pinterest!

Here is a link to the post that has 3 different color options to choose from.