December 23, 2011

Thank God For American Humor

Another book down on my 2011 list, which is so exciting since we are nearing the end of the year rapidly. I know I won't complete my current list but guess what folks? I've still read a crap load of books this year!! so YAY!!

Now on to the most recent one "Always the Bridesmaid" by Sarah Webb.

I would love to blame my non -Irish sense of humor on why I didn't like this book but lets' be real here. The main character Amy is one of the most miserable and moody people I've ever read in my life. There is absolutely nothing to like about her, even when you finally make it to the end of this 337 page book you still can't, or at least I couldn't. I wanted to smack this chick every single page of the book and I don't feel she got what she deserved.

Aside from the main character sucking, I did like her sister who I can only relate to as Amy Adam's character in The Wedding Date (minus the cheating part). You absolutely will fall in love with her Sister Suzi and her fiancee Matt. But since this book is about Amy and not Suzi you don't get to enjoy every single page.

My advice to anyone who isn't Irish, because I really think a lot of the humor would be funny to those who like Irish humor, similar to how only some people (Americans I guess) get British humor and others don't understand. But back to the point, if you aren't a fan of Irish humor STAY AWAY!! I'm definitely wishin' I had gotten the right "Always the Bridesmaid" from the beginning!!

Overall grade = F. Sorry Ms Webb - if you write a book with a better main character I'll give you another try.

December 22, 2011

Nifty Gifty!

Remember those cake in a mugs I teased you with...? Of course you do! Well here they are when given away as gifts!

I used festive ribbon to tie off the little baggies of cake mix and glaze.

And I just used some festive paper to make the tags.

Then printed out the "Directions" to make your cake and used the same paper I used for the tags! Plus added the AWESOME tree rub on! Don't you just love rub ons? 

Got out the basket... 

And the fun filler!  

The super cute mugs! 

Then just started putting it all together. Added the green filler first.

Filled those mugs up with filler too!! And I added some of the red and white filler to fill out any corners of the basket that needed more. 

Place the baggies into each mug! 

Add in your recipe card! 

To hide the recipe card I just place a card in front of it! You don't want to spoil the gift before they open up the basket. 

Then added in some hot chocolate mixes and the smore pops! How cute are they all wrapped up?

And voila you have a nifty (and easy) gift for your friends. We gave one to our amazing neighbors and this one went to Danielle and Jeff :-). I loved making these and the cake in a mug is so NEAT and delish!! I had to make one just to be sure :-)

Anyone else do any homemade holiday gifts?

December 21, 2011

Tis the Season for Giving!

One thing I love about the Holiday Season (out of the millions of good things) is homemade gifts! Since we don't usually get that many (however we have gotten some delish baked goods from Chuck's Aunt & Uncle) I decided this year to put together two gift basket gifts for our wonderful neighbors and another wonderful couple that is very much part of our family.

I had found a great idea for Cake in a Mug gift and knew it'd be a great gift. Originally we were going to do these for Aunts and Uncles (on Chucks side) but we found out we won't be seeing them so I was very excited to still have awesome people to give these to.

For the cake part you just need - Cake mix and instant pudding, and for the glaze you need powdered sugar and vanilla coffee creamer.

Mix the pudding and cake mix together.

Mix the powdered sugar and powdered creamer together (I'll get the exact measurements for these)

Then you divide those up into little baggies (which you will see in my next post)

In addition to the cake in a mug I saw this cute idea on

They are called Smore Pops and all you need is - Chocolate Grahamn Crackers, Marshmallows (I had the mini's but the bigger ones will work better), Sprinkles, Chocolate, and Popsicle Sticks.

First things first I laid out my crackers and sticks. You need two crackers per stick, one for the actual stick and the other to help the stick stay on the cracker when drying. (Don't worry it makes sense)

Next up melt your chocolate using the microwave - nuke for 30 seconds, then stir the chocolate until melted. You should not have to microwave your chocolate longer than the 30 seconds.

Next up start spreading the chocolate on each grahamn cracker (the one for the pops not the other ones, a.k.a the ones on the bottom).

Then sprinkle with sprinkles! :) This is optional but who doesn't love sprinkles?

Put some chocolate on the popsicle stick and then place on top of your chocolate covered cracker.

Top with your marshmallow. If you use the big ones (I recommend) then cut each marshmallow in half and stick it on top of the stick (Thats on top of the cracker). For the mini's I just used four and made a little cluster.

Notice the bottom cracker is just there to help the stick dry to the cracker.

See a little cluster of marshmallows YUM!

Once you've got them all ready to go, transfer to your fridge to let the chocolate set. I left them in there 20 minutes and they were good to go :) 

These are so much fun and so cute! A perfect addition to a smaller food gift! Stay tuned to see how I used both of these food gifts in the gift baskets............

December 19, 2011

A Blue Christmas!

Calling all Mary Kay Andrews Fans!! This is one of her book to NOT miss!! It'll get you in the Holiday Spirit and of course you will fall in love with Weezie and Bebe all over again!

Of course Ms Andrews brought back her two characters Weezie and Bebe for some awesome Holiday Cheer!! It starts off with a Christmas Decorating contest, an inspirational Blue Christmas Idea, yummy food, a mystery woman (although not hard to figure out who she is), of course some Antique auctions, as well as a wine auction (a shoutout to Sonoma County where I live WOO HOO - Yes that was pretty dang cool) and two extremely lovable pups!

It's another short Christmas story so I won't give you more details than that, but if you love her books then make sure to read this one before Christmas, or save it for next year!!

Overall grade - an A+!!

December 14, 2011

A Time for Giving

For our December Book Club book we decided to go with a Christmas Themed and we chose Christmas Jars by Jason Wright!

This book is more a short story than a book. Only 122 pages long but filled with a storyline that might inspire YOU!

The story focuses around a young woman named Hope who was "gifted" a Christmas Jar by an anonymous person. Being a newspaper writer she of course had to dig deeper and find out where it all started from. Since it's a short story I won't give you more than that but I highly recommend you read this book. It's inspirational, touching, sweet, and a great Christmas read!

Overall Grade - A!

December 12, 2011

Life of a Lady's Maid

I just finished reading The House at Riverton by Kate Morton and I am so happy I included this book on my list. I will be the first to admit it was a little random for my list and I can't even remember where I heard about this book!

The story takes place in London during WW1 and after. The narrator is Grace who is 98 years but takes you back in time to her days when she started as a house servant when she was just 14 years old. Throughout the entire novel you hear of the lives of the "rich" and highly honored people of that time. But just like in our modern times now all that you may think of those people is not always correct.

All throughout the story Grace keeps referring to a secret she has kept her entire life that has to do with the family and I'll be honest - I was getting a little frustrated because it took so long to get to it but it was worth it. The author writes so you are completely wrapped up in the time period and does a wonderful job of keeping you interested!

I don't want to give too much away but for those of you who love historical books you must read this one!

Overall grade - an A+. Not only did I love the writing style but the author managed to keep me intrigued and I was dying to read every time :)

December 11, 2011

Sausage and Sourdough Dressing!

This year I decided to make a new dressing recipe. Despite my very successful dressing from last year this one calculated out to less weight watcher points.

The first thing I did was cut up the loaf of sourdough and baked off the pieces!

Nice and Crispy!

Then I gathered the millions of ingredients needed: Chicken Broth, Celery, Onion, Butter, Pepper, Italian Sausage, Cooking Spray, Water, Bread, Egg, Thyme, and Parsley!

Melt your butter in the pan and then toss the celery and onions in and cook until soft.

While that's cooking combine your chicken broth, water and egg in a bowl.

Once the onion and celery are soft set them aside in a bowl.

Brown your italian sausage.

Once your sausage is all cooked toss into the bowl with your celery and onion.

Then toss in your bread crumbs (or cubes) and the seasonings.

Mix well.

Then pour the egg/water/broth mixture on top of the bread mixture.

Again mix really well. You will want to coat every bit that you can!

Dump into a 13 x 9 pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Cover and put in your oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Uncover and bake for an additional 20 - 30 minutes.

Nice and browned and ready to go!

Just like last year I made this first thing in the morning and set aside for the rest of the day. When dinner time was ready I simply popped this back in the over for about 15-20 minutes.

Unfortunately this recipe lacked the amazingness of my other dressing. It was good but it was not anywhere near as good as my other one, which is very similar but so different in taste.

So it's decided. From here on out the Sausage Brioche dressing will be the regular in our household!

And on a side note the recipe is available here...but I must point out they have incorrectly called it stuffing. It is indeed a dressing my friends at Cooking Light!

December 9, 2011

Brussel Sprouts = My New Go To Veggie!

Another great veggie recipe for you all!! This is actually from my friend Laura so I call it Laura's Brussel Sprouts! Kind of funny is that a recipe (pretty much identical to this, minus 2 ingredients) was in Cooking Light!

Super simple - bacon, olive oil, chicken broth, salt and pepper, brussel sprouts, 1 shallot, and balsamic vinagrette (which I did not have and kicked myself for).

First things first - cut up your bacon and then cook it off to the crispyness you like. And then set aside, but leave the grease in the pan.

Throw in your shallots and cook for about 4-5 minutes.

Toss in the brussel sprouts and about 3/4 can of chicken broth. Be careful this will sizzle and pop!

Cook those brussel sprouts until they are to your liking (i like mine soft soft soft) and then toss them into a bowl, add the bacon and if you have it the vinagrette.

Even without the vinagrette these were delish! I was stoked because I have recently discovered I like brussel sprouts so to have a go to, super easy peasy recipe for them! Another veggie that will continue to make an appearance, even if Chuckles doesn't like them!

Anyone else discover veggies they never had as a kid but discovered as an adult?

December 8, 2011

Baking Day 2011

Excuse the interuption but I have to share a few pics from our 2011 Annual Baking Day!!

This past saturday I headed on down to my Mom's for a whole day of baking and hanging out with my awesome family!!

Here we are at the end of the day, all cookied out, but still smiling!

This year I brought lunch (since I'm trying to stay healthy) so I brought in the amazing new recipe I discovered for Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

And since I don't want to bore you with a bunch of shots of us just baking away I will share with you our final product picture! We filled Mom's entire table (like usual)!!

Our grand total was more than last year - we made a total of 460 cookies which calculates to 38.33 dozen!! WOOHOO!!!  

And out of all those cookies all day long I ate ZERO! I didn't have one single cookie until I got home that nihgt! YAY me! Normally I'd stuff my face ALL DAY LONG!! Cause when you are surrounded by cookies what else is there to do but eat away! Nope I kept myself in check and I couldn't be more happy or proud about it!

However the minute I bit into the Salted Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Truffle Cookies my Mom made it was all over from there. They are soooo amazing!

How is everyone else's Holiday Baking going?

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