December 30, 2009

Full Of Possibility...

Well, it's almost that time.  Time to close out this year and welcome a new one.

The time of year when some folks reflect back on the previous three-hundred-sixty-five days with pleasure,  some with disappointment and then there are some who don't give it much thought at all.

Some set resolutions. resolve.

Do you set resolutions?

I can honestly say I don't recall ever setting one.

Probably because I know me and I know that I am more likely than not to break it.

What is it about a new year that causes one to make resolutions?

Better yet, what is it about a new year that causes some to acutely analyze the previous 365 days?

We sure don't put that much stock in a week or a month.

So why do we put so much focus on a year?  

I don't have the answer but for whatever reason the summation of 365 days gets a lot of attention from some people.

I once had a dear friend who told me each year on December 31st that the new year had to be better than the last because the last was the worst year of her life.  I never understood her fascination with those cumulative days - the year.  Each new year was a daunting thing to her - so daunting that one January day she took her own life.  

A few days from now will mark the 20th anniversary of her passing.  There were no words then and are no words now to describe the devastation brought on by her actions.

She had an illness...

and as her illness progressed she became unable to see past each day...

and although there had been many happy days in her past she could no longer see them in the rear view mirror...

she saw no joy in yesterday and no hope in tomorrow...

and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't help her to see.

I don't know for sure but I'd say there aren't many days that slip by me that I don't think of her.  And it might sound odd but when I do think of her it is no longer with sadness for my rear view mirror does work and I can clearly see our happy days.  I also clearly see tomorrow and know that there is a great big world out there just waiting for me. 

Yes, a new year is on the horizon...

there will be no resolutions from me...

there will also be no looking back regretting what might have been...

Her memory reminds me to live my life one day at a time...

I will say my prayers and try to make each day the best it can be...

and if its not...

there will be tomorrow...

clear and full of possibility.

December 23, 2009

I Am My Own Version of Betty Crocker...

I am a magazine junky.

I just love opening my mailbox and having a new one or two there to greet me.

I especially love cooking magazines.

Prior to Christmas the lovely folks at the magazine companies like to taunt people like me with pretty pictures of their "simple" candy recipes.

And then there is my cooking hero Ina Garten.  You might be familiar with Ina - she prides herself on getting "back to basics".  Ha!

Well folks, in my opinion there is nothing "simple" or "basic" about cooking anything that requires my arch nemesis the candy thermometer.

You see, I fear the thing.

Any recipe that says something along the line of "insert candy thermometer and bring the mixture up to 245 degrees and then lower the heat and bring the mixture to 295" scares the *@^*@% out of me!

Anyway, Ina makes marsh mellows.  Yes, MAKES them.  No marsh mellow from a plastic bag for Ina.  And they are very pretty - and after watching her make them a couple of times I became envious and decided that I too could make a marsh mellow.

So, I gathered the ingredients, dug the candy thermometer out from the back of the gadget drawer, brought out my handy dandy stand mixer and got to work.

Step 1:
Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment.  Let it stand 30 minutes. 

Step 2:
Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved.  Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high.  Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage).  Immediately remove pan from heat. 

Step 3: 
With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin.  Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to incorporate.

I should mention that sometime around the beginning of step 2 the Senor came in from the office.  He sat down at the bar and we chatted about the day as I monitored the candy thermometer.  We hit 244 degrees, removed from heat, added to gelatin mixture and began to "beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes".  YES, SUCCESS, I have overcome my fear of the candy thermometer!

The mixture began to turned became thicker...

We were about seven minutes in to our 15 minute process when...


The mixer made a large thud...

There was a familiar smell...

A burning smell...

Surely not...

Yes, the mixer was DEAD.

Burnt up...

I have a large blob of half-way beaten marsh mellow mixture and a DEAD mixer.

I immediately go in to something along the lines of panic.

The Senor, being the Senor, is calm and goes in to "fix it" mode.  We discuss the hand mixer option.  We don't think it will work but, hey, what is a girl to do?

This my friends is when when the Senor began snapping photos and through much laughter informed me that I am my own "Betty-Effing-Crocker" and that I could quote him on that!

As you can see getting the beaters and mixture AWAY from the stand mixer got interesting and things with the hand mixer were a complete disaster.  I believe I had as much marsh mellow on me as I had in the bowl!

At this point we decided we had done all we could do and poured them in to the pan, covered them in roasted coconut and called it good.

The next day I cut them, coated their edges in powdered sugar and I guess for my first effort they turned out pretty good.  I'm sure they aren't as fluffy as Ina would like hers but after all she has an endless amount of stand mixers to burn through!

We did continue on that night and make Hazelnut Crunch (the Senor handled the candy thermometer portion of this recipe as I was covered in marsh mellow and still a little traumatized by the mixer situation!) and Holiday Biscotti.  They look holiday-eee, don't you think?

 Tomorrow is Christmas Eve - may you and yours have a joyous Christmas filled with love, family and friends and may each of us never forget the true meaning of Christmas. 

December 20, 2009

Santa Has Nothing On The Senor...

I am in shock!

The Senor and I exchanged gifts over the weekend and YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE what he gave me - a MacBook; Yes, you read me right - a Macbook!

I am loving it! I have never used a Mac so I have much to learn. There seem to be many differences in my new friend Mac and my old friend PC but I make friends easily and know that we will soon be best-friends-forever!

After all, the keyboard rocks, the screen rocks, the graphics rock!

Yes, I realize I'm 47 years old and probably shouldn't be using the term "rocks" but hey, if it rocks it rocks!

Then, I opened another package and it was a fabulous Na Hoku flip flop necklace. It is absolutely precious!

From the first time I saw it I thought it was the perfect adornment for a girl whose toes are claustrophobic.

It is a rare occasion when this girl is speechless but I really am.  All I can say is this...yes, I am rotten...and so very blessed...not because of the gifts but because I have the love of this man.  He is thoughtful, considerate, handsome, generous to a fault and is the person I will spend the remainder of my life with - and that folks is the greatest gift of all.

December 18, 2009

Feast of Seven Fishes...

Last night the Senor and I attended a cooking class at our local Central Market.  We have talked about taking cooking classes for years but somehow never found the time.  How we suddenly found the time during what songs and fairy-tales term "the most wonderful time of the year" but we in the real world know is the most HECTIC time of the year escapes me but we did it and it was a nice break from hectic.

The class was put on by the Central Market cooking school and was an Italian Feast of Seven Fishes.  Now, a side note on the "class" - it isn't really a "class" per se but more a presentation put on by chefs as they prepare their dishes and then serve them to the attendees.  The presentations are full of great tips but there was no "hands on" participation.

A little background on the Feast.  Many Italians and Italian Americans follow the tradition based on La Vigilia di Natale, the vigil of the holy night, and do not eat meat on Christmas Eve, the night of the birth of Christ.  Because the day is sacred, no meat is consumed, so the typical dinner includes fish.  For Italians and Italian Americans, especially those from the southern regions of Italy, the Christmas Eve dinner includes at least seven fishes but has been known to include up to as many as twenty-one fish dishes.  (On a personal note, I was stuffed after seven!)

Why seven fishes? My research shows there are many theories but the most popular explanation is based on the seven sacraments - Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick.  

The menu of fish varies and is based upon what is available at the time but usually includes calamari, clams, mussels, cod and shrimp. 

Our feast started off with a wonderful Italian-Style Crab Cake.  To put an Italian spin on the cake the chef added Parmesan and Ricotta cheeses and coated the cake in Italian-style bread crumbs.  The cheeses really added an Italian flare and was a nice touch.

Next the chefs prepared Sauteed Mussels with Leeks, Garlic & Wine, Broiled Salmon with Green Olive Tapenade and Skillet Shrimp Scampi.  When it comes to cooking fish I sometimes find it a little intimidating and I was surprised how quick and easy the recipes came together.  Each dish was very good but the star of this plate was the mussels.  The Senor and I both really enjoyed the mussels and the leeks were a wonderful addition to the recipe.  I've always been weary of cooking both mussels and leeks but after seeing them prepared one-on-one I am up for the challenge!

The last course consisted of Pasta with Clam Sauce, Calamari Fritto with Tomato-Caper Sauce and Sole with Vegetables and Artichokes.  Each of these dishes were also enjoyable. I especially liked the Tomato-Caper Sauce.  I LOVE fried calamari and hoped seeing it prepared would help to overcome my aversion to cooking it but I can already tell you that it didn't!   There is just something about the look of raw calamari that I find very unappealing!  

The only real negative to the evening was the quality of the wine they served.  We were poured a glass of white with the appetizer and first course and a glass of red with the last.  The white was passable but the red was just bad.

Overall the experience was was fun, the food was good and we learned something new about the Italian culture...and, a little fun, food and culture never hurt anyone. 

December 15, 2009

What a Sweet, Sweet Santa!

Okay, I'm sure you all think you had THE most sweet and thoughtful Secret Santa of them all...

and I'm sure YOURS was sweet and thoughtful...

BUT it turns out it that it was I

who had THE most sweet and thoughtful Secret Santa of them all!

I mean just look at what this girl did for me!

First, she went digging through my blog and learned that I am a complete Muir Woods LOVER.

She then found a BEAUTIFUL photo of Muir Woods and had a nifty little spiral notebook made for me with the photo on the cover.

She then went EVEN one step further and had this gorgeous inscription that I love inscribed on the inside cover.

I mean REALLY, can a Secret Santa be more THOUGHTFUL?

Then, she took it even further by sending me this precious mug stuffed with yummy biscotti and chocolate covered peppermint sticks.  Santa really MUST know everything because THIS girl LOVES her some biscotti!

And check out these PRECIOUS note cards with my initial and the SEASHELLS.  I ADORE all things paper and, of course, I LOVE seashells!

So yes, it is WITHOUT A DOUBT that I do have the SWEETEST AND MOST THOUGHTFUL SECRET SANTA of them all and I THANK HER from the bottom of my heart!

December 8, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree...

This Precious Little Ornament...

The decorations are out...

and the tree is up...

but none can compare...

to this precious little "ornament"...


December 3, 2009

An Award? For Me? Woo-hoo!

A big thanks to Tammy over at The Fly On The Wall for honoring me with my very first blogger award!  I have to say I was very surprised at the mention and it just made my day!

Superior Scribbler Award

So, as I understand it I am now supposed to do the following:
  1. Pass the award on to 5 deserving blog friends.
  2. Link to the Superior Scribbler who gave me this award.
  3. Display the blog and link to this post, which explains the award.
  4. Add my name to the McLinky list on that blog post.
  5. Post these rules on my blog.
So, here are five of my favorite blogs to visit (in no particular order).  I hope you will check them out - they are all fabulously fun!

Deep South Dish

That Girl Blogs

Sweet Nothings

Thrifty Decor Chick

The Style Sisters

Thanks again Tammy, as I said, YOU MADE MY DAY!


The tree is up and almost complete but I need a few more items from the attic (darn those attic stairs - the ones that it is best I don't climb!)

I love this ornament on my tree. 


"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace goodwill toward men." Luke 2:14

As our country prepares to deploy an additional thirty-thousand solders to Afghanistan please remember to pray for peace this Christmas season and always.

December 2, 2009

That Ho, Ho, Ho Kind Of Spirit

I'm so excited!  It's 45 degrees outside and, although not in my neighborhood, it snowed nearby today!  Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The cold weather and the mention of snow put me in a Ho, Ho, Ho kind of spirit so after I did a little on-line Christmas shopping at Macy's (using the FABULOUS savings code "macysff" and receiving 25% OFF PLUS FREE SHIPPING on orders of $99 and up!) I ran up to my neighborhood MJ Design's and grabbed a couple of $3.99 Christmas floral bunches came home and got a little crafty!

Now, you remember that $5.95 Southern Living bucket I bought at the junk store a few months back?  Well, I disassembled the fall arrangement I put together back then, clipped the Christmas floral bunches apart and made like an elf.  Ta-da!  What do you think?

Tonight, when the Senor gets home, he is going to once again brave the attic steps and bring down the trees and all the trimmings.  Tomorrow, I deck the halls!

December 1, 2009


Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year.  Ours, like most American families, was packed with the three F's - Family, Football and Food!  It started Wednesday night and went full throttle until late Sunday morning and I loved every second of it.

Those of you who know the Senor and I know that we are all about family.  (A shared blood line is not always required to be a member of our family - but that's for another story on another day.)  Now, back to  Thanksgiving...

We were blessed to have the kids, the grand baby, the brothers, the sister-in-law (who I love as if she were truly my sister), my parents, my grandmother, the nieces (plus one boyfriend and a Morky!), the nephew, my Uncle and a bunch of awesome cousins!  At one point the scene in my kitchen resembled that of a Chinese fire drill - it was sheer chaos and I thought my heart might explode with joy!  The families mix and mingle as if they are one - it is a rarity and an oddity and it works perfectly!

So, another Thanksgiving is behind us and once again I give thanks for the blessing of family...