Archive | December, 2010

Happy New Year!

31 Dec

What a wonderful crazy week it has been! Not only did we celebrate Christmas multiple times and get to spend time with my parents who were in town, yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and today is my hubby’s birthday and New Year’s Eve! What a great way to end 2010.

Have you thought of your New Year’s resolutions yet? Every year I make a big list of things I want to accomplish. This year, I’m sticking to three resolutions. These three things are so important, that I decided to stop the list there.

1. Lower my blood pressure.
This was, of course, my number one resolution for 2010 and I made a lot of progress on it. At the beginning of the year, my blood pressure was upwards of 170/120. Over the first six months, I managed to get it down to an average of 150/100. But, it’s been stuck there since June, with the occasional reading slightly lower. I still have a few things I want to try, and my diet will be modified again to see if that helps.

2. Lose 20 pounds.
I know…everyone puts “lose weight” on their list of resolutions, right? This will become my top priority — not only so I look and feel better, but because I think this might be what’s keeping the blood pressure from dropping any further. In 2010, to lower my blood pressure, I went vegan. I assumed this would cause me to lose weight effortlessly, and yet I weigh exactly the same as I did last year on New Year’s Eve. Not a pound more, not a pound less. So exercise will have to become a higher priority in my life (which kind of stinks since I hate to exercise).

3. Say “no” more so I can say “yes” more.
I volunteer…a lot. I give time to the kids’ school, the PTA, the football team, the theater, and various non-profit organizations that need graphic design help. I love to help people and I rarely say no when asked to volunteer, but it’s starting to take time away from my kids, my husband, my clients, and my “me” time. Yes, I will continue to give of my time, but I will work on saying “no” a little more often so I can say “yes” to other things a little more often.

So there you go. My three resolutions for 2011. Although I have lots of little things I want to accomplish next year, these will be my main focus. I’ll be blogging as often as I can with successes, failures and many, many new recipes.

I wish you all a fun, safe New Year’s Eve and a happy, healthy 2011. I’m heading to the annual family New Year’s Eve celebration with a variety of appetizers, biscotti, and these fantastic little no-bake treats I made (since my oven is dead).

Rachael Ray’s Pretzel Turtles (recipe here) — a pretzel nibble wrapped in caramel, dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with toasted pecans. Yum-O!

Peace. Joy. Love.

24 Dec

Here it is. December 24. Christmas Eve. And I have only blogged one day this month. It’s unbelievable how fast this holiday season arrived! Thanksgiving was just last Thursday, wasn’t it?!

I had hoped to share some really good holiday cookie recipes with all of you. Unfortunately, my oven has been suffering from some health issues, too. The bottom heating element no longer works, and I think only the center section of the top heating element is working. The first batch of cookies I made last weekend were sugar cookies for the kids to decorate. I checked them halfway through baking and the cookies in the center of the cookie sheet were brown while the ones on the edges were raw. I rotated the tray in the oven, crossed my fingers, and hoped they would be okay when finished. Well, they came out of the oven looking fairly evenly baked, although a little more brown than I like them. I let them cool for a minute or two and then lifted them off the cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack…only to discover that the bottoms of the cookies were raw. ERGH!

Now, if you have kids, you’ve experienced this: kids…jumping up and down…asking over and over again, “When can we decorate? When can we decorate?”

So I flipped them all over upside-down on the cookie sheet (the cookies…not the kids!) and stuck them back in the oven to try and finish them. They came out brown and crunchy and not at all chewy like I like them. Luckily, kids don’t care. They decorated them with all the sprinkles and goodies and didn’t complain one bit about them being too crunchy. Whew.

After that, I didn’t attempt any more cookies. Thank goodness I had made biscotti earlier in the month! To complete our selection of sweets to take to various Christmas gatherings, I went with items that didn’t require baking: white chocolate dipped pretzel rods and a fabulous White Christmas Cherry-Almond Fudge from the Inn at Cedar Falls near Hocking Hills in Ohio (recipe here).

As we head into days of gift-opening, I’m crossing my fingers again…in hopes of finding a gift card or two to Home Depot where I picked out an awesome new stove (made in the USA!) with all the fancy features. I wish solving my personal health issues was as easy as solving my old oven’s health issues!

I also wish all of you a wonderful, stress-free holiday season filled with love, laughter and fun with family and friends. I’ll see you at the top of the new year with new ideas and recipes.

Merry Christmas!

Where did December go?!

18 Dec

Goodness…it’s December 18 already?! I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since I blogged anything. I apologize to my regular readers!

I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that my daughter, Madison, auditioned and got a role in the Monroe Community Players’ production of “A Christmas Story.” She played Helen, one of the school girls in Ralphie’s class. Well, the week leading up to the shows was crazy. She had rehearsal every night at 6:00 in Monroe, which is almost a half-hour drive for us. So we were eating dinner at 5, leaving at 5:30 and getting home somewhere between 10:30 and 11 every night. She was exhausted. I was exhausted. It was crazy. But the show was fantastic and I’m so proud of her for working hard and doing such a great job.

Needless to say, that didn’t leave any time for blogging. The day after the last show, I came down with some kind of stomach bug, I think. I had 4 days last week where I just felt nauseous all the time. No other symptoms; just nauseous and tired. That meant…no energy for blogging or doing anything worth blogging about. And now, all of a sudden, it’s the week before Christmas. I still have shopping to do, baking to do, wrapping to do and more.

Tonight I decided to get a jump start on my baking. The kids settled in front of the fireplace to watch a movie and I made two different kinds of biscotti.

A few weeks ago, I had a gingerbread biscotti from Starbucks (I know…not vegan…but fabulous.) Anyway, it was so good I decided to try to create it at home. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that had received a ton of good reviews. I altered it only slightly — I added 1/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts, and I’m going to dip the bottom of each finished biscotti in melted white chocolate, like the Starbucks one. Delicious!

I also had been thinking for a while about making alterations to my standard chocolate biscotti recipe. I was envisioning a chocolate biscotti with a hint of peppermint in it. Then the top drizzled with white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes. I decided to try a different chocolate biscotti recipe as my base. Bad move. I should have made the one I always make, with the alterations. Instead, I used a recipe I found in a cookbook that used a box of vegan chocolate cake mix as a base and added 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract to the mixture. The finished biscotti have the most amazing, rich, dark chocolate taste with the hint of peppermint…but they are crumbly and didn’t hold together well. Lesson learned. They are definitely still edible (don’t think those will be going to waste!); they just aren’t gift-giving quality.

After both batches were out of the oven and cooling on racks, I walked back into the family room to check on the kids and there was my baby (Logan, 6 years old) sound asleep in the chair by the Christmas tree. Ah-dorable!

More baking to come on Sunday so I’ll try to post some recipes. It’s a whirlwind month and I’m just going with the flow! (Still working on Plan B for this blood pressure situation, too.)