Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! 2013

Made it to watch the ball drop, although iffy at first.  We all laid down to watch a movie and fell asleep.  But my son woke me up for some apple crisp pie at 11:00p.m. and I toasted the New Year with my husband and sons.

I am looking forward to this new start of this new year.  I am hoping to continue a healthier lifestyle, enjoying my family and friends, and maybe even getting started on my bucket list!

I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy, Safe, Fun and Prosperous New Year.  May 2013 be a banner year for us all!


Friday, December 28, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Last night I received an email from a wonderful fellow blogger, C. Michelle Ramsey at WRITING MY DREAMS.  She had given me the Liebster Blog Award and I am truly flattered.  I have been amazed that there are people actually reading my blog.  Since May, over 4200 of you have stopped by and that truly is an honor for me, especially as I am such an amateur!  

The rules of the Liebster Award are as follows:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you;

2.  Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees;

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you         feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)  

4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

Questions asked by Michelle: 

1. What is your most memorable 'Aha' moment in life?  One of the greatest pleasures  is doing what others say you can't.

2.  Favorite Food.  - Burgers

3.  Greatest Secret You Never Kept - I always keep secrets (wink)Seriously

4.  Favorite Song - Set the Night to Music - Roberta Flack (our wedding song)

5.  Favorite Book - Hershey's Chocolate Lover's Cookbook

6.  Favorite Author - since joining Twitter,  I have been purchasing and downloading many  books from the numerous authors I have been following.  I have enjoyed them all and cannot pick a favorite - but as a kid, I loved Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew).

7.  Scariest Moment as a Kid - Growing up.

8.  Random Word - flabbergasted

9.  Favorite Historical Person - Cleopatra

10.  Dream Vacation - a week (or month) on a private island

11.  Greatest Adventure You've Ever Taken - my marriage

Random "Me" Facts:   

1.  I love junk food.

2.  I am in the midst of a mid-life crisis and all I want to do is have fun.

3.  I hate going out by myself.

4.  I cry at movies, I even cried at the end of Wreck It Ralph. (happy tears).

5.  I have a major crush on Bruce Willis.

6.  I'm afraid of the dark. (and spiders).

7.  My new favorite phrase is "Holy Crap".

8.  I love New York!

9.  My favorite place is anywhere there is a beach.

10.  When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

11.  I sing in the car all the time, loudly and out of tune.

Questions for my Nominees:

1.  What is the one food you can't do without?

2.  One thing you want to do before you die?

3.  What is your favorite hobby and why?

4.  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

5.  What book are you reading now?

6.  What are you looking forward to most in the New Year?

7.  Favorite meal when eating out?

8.  If you have one 'do-over', what would it be?

9.  What is your favorite movie and why?

10.  Who is your favorite TV character?

11.  If you had a day to do anything you wanted to do, what would you do?

My Nominees:

 I have enjoyed following these blogs and hope that you will too - please be sure to check them out as well as Michelle's blog WRITING MY DREAMS.  

As always, thanks for stopping by!!  Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy, Fun, Safe and Prosperous New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Cookies Anyone?

Every year at Christmas my friend Linda gives me a plate of her delicious home-made Christmas cookies.  My sons don't eat the cookies because they are allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.  They don't even ask for them as they know they can't eat them...until this year.

Mikey went up to the plate Linda gave me and asked, "Mommy, can you make me some Christmas cookies?"  So I said to myself "Oh crap."  and to Mikey, "Of course I will.  We'll have to look for some recipes tomorrow and I'll see what I need."  I love to cook, but hate to bake.  I overcook things, put in baking powder instead of baking soda and at some point the kitchen ends up looking like a flour sack exploded in it.

One year I made Christmas cookies with a friend of mine so I went in search of  the recipes we had used which I put in my Chocolate Lover's Cookbook.  I looked in the cabinet that I thought it was in.  It wasn't there.  Oh no, it must be in the bookcase in the garage which was boxed in by some old toys, beach gear and outdoor furniture.  There was a small opening on one side where I began sliding cookbooks out and then smash.  A candle on the shelf fell and the glass smashed in a million pieces.  So I cleaned that up, replaced all the cookbooks and tried to figure out where on earth my cookie recipes were.  As it turns out, the book was in the cabinet over my refrigerator.  

I made my list and picked up the ingredients at the market in the morning.  

And had success!  I first made thumbprint cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies

1/2 C  Fleischmanns no salt margarine (dairy free)
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg replaced with Ener-G Egg Replacer 
1 tbsp vanilla
2 1/2 C quaker oats
2 C flour
1/2 teas salt
2/3 C apricot preserves

350 degree oven
Beat butter & sugar until fluffy - beat in egg and vanilla.  Combine oats, flour, salt in another bowl then add to butter mixture.  Form 1 inch ball, place on cookie sheet.  Press center with thumb and fill with apricot preserves.
Bake 12-15 minutes, then cool

makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen

The next batch of cookies I made were Craisins Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies.

Craisins Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 C Fleischmanns no salt margarine (dairy free)
2/3 C brown sugar
2 eggs replaced with Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 1/2 C old fashioned oats
1 1/2 C flour
1 teas. baking soda
1/2 teas. salt
1 5 oz pkg. Craisins
2/3 c (allergen free from Whole Foods) chocolate chips.

375 degree oven

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy - Add eggs mixing well.  Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Add to butter mix in batches, mixing completely.  Add the craisins, then the chocolate chips.  Drop by rounded teaspoons full on ungreased baking sheet - Bake 10-12 minutes

Makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen.

Today we began with Butterballs.  The recipe I had made in the past called for regular sugar and was very dry.   My friend Cindy gave me a recipe which called for confectioners sugar and they came out nice and moist.  (I used the wrong measurement for the vanilla (more) and it came out great!)

Cindy's Butterball Recipe

1 cup Fleischmanns no salt margarine (dairy free)
1 teas vanilla (I used a tablespoon)
1/2 C sifted confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 C sifted flour
1/4 teas salt
(I omitted 3/4 c finely chopped nuts due to nut allergy)

325 degree oven

Mix all ingredients together - roll into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake to desired texture 20-30 minutes, I eyeballed it - Cool, not completely and roll in confectioners sugar.  Once cool, roll again in confectioners sugar.

My sons now have three different dairy, egg, and nut-free cookies.  They taste pretty good in spite of the substitutions.  Mikey's favorite is the butterballs!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house
My sons and I decorated, with no help from my spouse.

The stockings were hung on the rail by the stairs
The blankets and pillows decorated the chairs.

Unfortunately we tied the tree to the wall,
Because after a few days of tipping we feared it might fall.

Part of the village was set up under the tree,
And some even sat on the table near the TV.

The nutcrackers guarded the TV remotes.
To see the outside, we had to put on our coats.

Santa and Mrs. Claus looked out below.
At Rudolph's nose glowing right there in the snow.

A family of reindeer stood in the side yard.
Where at Halloween, there was a graveyard.

A moose and a wagon out front with a light.
The beautiful decorations lit up the night.

A snowman will welcome Santa, that jolly old elf.
When he comes here on Christmas all by himself.

But no, he won't be alone this year.
He'll have his sled and all the reindeer.

And after he leaves, and rides out of sight,
He'll say, 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

(this was composed with a little help from my 11 year old son)

Have a wonderful holiday everyone!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

RIP Little Angels

I hugged my kids harder this weekend.  We all slept together on Friday night, although I didn't really sleep too well, waking up quite frequently.   In Newtown, Connecticut signs are hung saying our hearts are broken, and my heart is broken too.  I cannot wrap my head around the fact that little 6 and 7 year old children were targeted in such a horrific and senseless attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I look at my beautiful sons and cannot image the horror and fear of initially not knowing if your child is alive or not, then the overwhelming grief of learning they are not.  My heart breaks for those families who have lost their precious children and loved ones.

So, I hugged my boys tighter, we watched some Christmas movies together, read some books and cuddled on the couch.  This afternoon, we took a ride to the cinema and finally saw Wreck It Ralph which my younger son had been asking for weeks to go see.

Later this evening, after the boys went to bed, I turned on CNN and watched Anderson Cooper name each slain child and teacher, show a photo when available and tell a little bit about each one.  I'm glad I watched and hope you have the opportunity to do the same.  If I were those parents, even in the midst of such personal loss and suffering, I would think I would want everyone to know what wonderful, special children they were.  I hope by watching I did a little to honor their children by learning a little about their own stories.  Parents should not be burying their children.  My heart is broken for them.  May God help somehow ease their pain.  

RIP Little Angels.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Sharon Springs Christmas - Victorian Style

The small upstate New York town of Sharon Springs has hosted 3 annual Victorian Festivals, but this is the first one we have had the pleasure of attending.  

We awoke to a crisp cool morning with a fresh coating of snow giving this Victorian Christmas Festival a magical touch.  A horse and buggy carriage ride departed from The New York House, a quaint bed and breakfast around the block from Main Street which conveniently was the place we were staying.  

I met up with another woman who was checking into the New York House, while my husband and sons went to a neighboring town for a late breakfast.  She and I took a walk together into town and stopped at the American Hotel where they were offering $5.00 Bloody Marys (although I opted for the $7.00 Mimosas!).  

We then walked around a bit where I was reunited with my husband and sons and we met up with the Sharon Springs local celebrities, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge.  

Then off to the Roseboro to get a picture with Santa!!

Back at the American Hotel, owners Doug & Garth were preparing for the reading of the Sharon Springs Christmas Chicken story.  Doug read the tale about the chicken who didn't cross the road, and told the real reason why, while Garth accompanied on the keyboard.  It was hysterical and had us all in stitches!

There were other activities throughout the town including Victorian dance lessons, book signings, singing, and even a classical guitarist.  The shops were decorated and open for some serious Christmas shopping.  

A new shop just opened in town called Decades.  Decades is owned by Roger & Chris Hazard.  Roger is the producer/designer on A&E's Sell This House.  The showroom was originally a bank, and they had the vault set up exquisitely, featuring a stunningly gorgeous blue chair which is part of their extensive line of customizable furniture.  There is a large selection on their website and it is all made in the USA!   

Roger & Chris' website can be seen here:

The evening was brought to a close with the best costume contests where  applause by the crowd determined the winners.  Josh and Doug escorted the contestants on their walks in front of the judges.  

The last events for the evening were the lighting of the tree and the classical guitarist at the New York House.  We missed the tree lighting as we indulged ourselves in a fantastic meal at the 204 Main Bar & Bistro, our favorite restaurant in the area!  The food is always fantastic, service is great and the company is terrific!  And we were able to meet up with some friends from Cooperstown which made the evening perfect! 

Norm, the chef, really outdid himself with the appetizer of dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon over baby lettuce.  I thought I died and went to heaven.  It was one of the best dishes I had ever had!

By the time dinner was over, we had missed the tree lighting, but we were able to catch the last set by the classical guitarist Harry George Pellegrin at the New York House.  

Before checking out on Sunday, I walked over to the Beekman Mercantile and picked up some Christmas gifts including their lump of Khol beauty bar, some cheese, a fruitcake, sugared plums, cinnamon honey and some other odds and ends.  

Shop Beekman products here:

Brent was in the shop Sunday morning and we chatted for a bit.  When my sons came in, Brent took a photo of us in the shop with his Polka Spot (the Beekman Boys' temperamental llama) iPhone app.  

And with our goodies in tow and memories of a fantastically, fun Christmas of yesteryear, we packed up our car and headed back home, making sure our reservations were made for next year!!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Team Beekman ~ The Amazing Racers

We were introduced a couple of years ago to the reality TV show The Fabulous Beekman Boys and fell in love with Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell throughout their journey of running a goat farm in upstate NY.  The Cooking Channel is currently re-running season 2 episodes on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. EST and we fans are hoping to see a new 3rd season on The Cooking Channel soon.  

From city boys to farmers in Sharon Springs, NY, Josh & Brent bring class and flair to all they do.  They have a growing line of successful products in their Mercantile including goat milk soaps, their own BLAAK goat cheese and other tasty treats including a fruit cake which is absolutely delicious (believe it or not!!!)   Check it out!!

But in the meantime, fans were in for another treat this past September.  Josh & Brent secured a spot as a team competing in this season's "The Amazing Race" Sundays on CBS at 8:00 p.m EST.  

And Josh & Brent have been FABULOUS!!  

Phil Keoghan, the host of The Amazing Race, referred to Josh & Brent this past week as the little train that could!  They have fought back from a missed flight, a four hour delay, a speed bump, and a sprained ankle and they now will be racing on the 2 hour season finale against the other three finalist teams for a grand prize of $1,000,000.00.

And as we have done for the past few months, we will be yelling at the TV, cheering them on as we anxiously await the outcome of this edition of The Amazing Race.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pause a Moment - Send a Card.

We are full speed ahead into the Christmas hustle and bustle.  Traffic is crazy.  Stores are busy.  People are rushing to finish their Christmas shopping. 

Tonight a friend posted a picture to Facebook and gave me a moment to pause and think, 'what a great idea'.  Upon checking, the original address was incorrect as Walter Reed Medical Center does not have the capability to properly screen the cards.  

This program is actually sponsored by the Red Cross and cards need to be postmarked by December 7 and mailed to:

Holiday Mail for Heros
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD  20791-5455

No glitter cards, must be signed but no return address or photos.

It really doesn't cost too much, just a postage stamp and a card.  So I am hoping that some of my Facebook friends, Twitter followers and blog readers take the opportunity to add one extra Christmas card to their lists.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Another Thanksgiving Down...

Thanksgiving dinner was a raving culinary success this year.  All the holiday dinners ultimately turn out wonderful, but this year I really don't know what happened. Normally, on a typical holiday morning, there is complete chaos in my kitchen.  Because of my son's food allergies, I cook the entire meals myself.  Oh, the in-laws may bring over a pumpkin pie (for themselves), but appetizers, the main dinner and even desert is my job.  The menu is pretty much the same.

Appetizers around 1:30 include:

pickled peppers
shrimp in lemon, olive oil with spanish and black olives
My Grandmothers fritatta (omelet)  - recipe previously posted
Antipasto salad

Dinner around 5:00 includes:

Turkey with Gravy
Ham (this year's recipe - crock pot - is at the end of this post.)
Butternut Squash
Sweet Potatos/Yams
Green Bean Cassarole
Cranberry Sauce


Pumpkin Pie
Apple Crisp Pie - recipe previously posted

But this year, things went smoothly - too smoothly.  In fact I posted the following status on my Facebook page at 11:30 am Thanksgiving morning...

"I'm very afraid...every year Thanksgiving dinner turns out wonderful, however there are several hours of chaos prior to the actual meal. Today things are going eerily smoothly. Hope there are no surprises later!!"

And at 12:00, I got my surprise.  My in-laws pulled a stunt with my husband and decided not to come.  So, my 22 pound turkey, 9 pound ham and all the fixings would be served to my husband, my two sons, my daughter and myself.    And, it was the best Thanksgiving we had ever had!  The food was fantastic, we made lemon drop martinis (recipe for that was also previously posted on my blog), and we watched movies all afternoon!  Don't worry, they got their leftovers, but for Thanksgiving dinner we were actually drama-free!

As I began the morning's preparations, I realized that I would not be able to fit both the turkey and ham in the oven.  I once tried a crock pot ham, but it had turned out dry, perhaps because it was a spiral ham.  As a matter of fact, I spoke with a girl in the butcher shop at the market who suggested to stay away from the spiral ham and recommended an inexpensive smoked ham.  I googled crock pot ham and found a recipe with mixed reviews.  They were mostly high ratings, but one gave me pause.  It was not rated highly as the person used a smoked ham and said it turned brown.  I decided to proceed anyway.  The recipe called for the  ham and brown sugar, but I also used 1/2 can of crushed pineapple.  Pretty simple!

I spread a generous layer of brown sugar on the bottom of the crockpot and put the ham, cut side down on the brown sugar.  I spooned out about 1/2 of a large can of crushed pineapple over the top of the ham and then with a plastic glove, I pressed several handfuls of brown sugar onto the sides of the ham.

The recipe called for 8-9 pound ham and stated to cook for 8 hours on low.  My crockpot runs hot, so I decided on 6 hours.  When I noticed the liquid boiling after about 3-4 hours, I lowered to warm for about an hour and when it stopped boiling for a bit, I put back on low.  

We took the ham out of the crockpot when time to serve and it was brown on the cut side, but only for one slice.  The ham wound up being the juiciest, most succulent ham we had ever had.  

I had tried a spiral ham several years ago in the crock pot and it had dried out, but this was fantastic.  Have you tried ham in a crock pot?  I know I will never make an oven ham again!!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Tis the season... 

The holidays are upon us in full force.  Grocery stores are stocked up with fresh and frozen turkeys, hams, and all the fixings.  Department stores already have their Christmas trees lit and decorated with aisles full of wrapping paper, gift bags, and hundreds of decorations.  One of the local radio stations has switched to 24 hour a day Christmas music.  My tradition has always been to begin the Christmas season after Thanksgiving.  The day after Thanksgiving to be exact.  

Up until about 15 years ago, I never cooked Thanksgiving dinner, we had always gone over to my sister's house.  However, once I married my husband, I began taking over the holiday cooking for my in-laws due to my mother-in-law's declining health.  I would cook Thanksgiving dinner for the in-laws and then my husband and I would have desert with my family at my sister's home.  Keeping full control of the holiday cooking became a necessity during the past decade due to my sons' food allergies.   I could not take the risk of a dangerous ingredient migrating into a dish that someone else prepared.

We've lost some family members over the past 10 years.  My mother-in-law's two sisters have died, her nephew would rather spend Thanksgiving with his friends and not the family, and my brother-in-law's girlfriend goes with her family.  On my side, my father passed away 9 years ago.  With his passing, my own family's dysfunctional natures fully manifested, causing some insurmountable rifts and hurtful betrayals.  We no longer go to my sister's house for desert. 

In spite of the family dynamic changes, I do have so much to be thankful for.  My husband, children and I are blessed with good health.  We love each other and have a strong nuclear family.  We have a comfortable home.  My in-laws have always been there for us, in spite of the health challenges they face daily.  I have wonderful friends that treat my sons as part of their families.  My daughter has grown into a beautiful, self-sufficient, hard-working young woman.  My sons are thriving in school and love to learn.  

So this week, I prepare for our Thanksgiving feast which will consist of my grandmother's frittata (recipe below), antipasto, turkey, ham, baked yams, butternut squash, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, apple crisp pie and pumpkin pie.  

My grandmother (on my father's side) made a frittata, or omelet, as we used to call it, for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Before she died, many many years ago, she gave me the recipe and I have been making this for over 20 years.  It is not a cholesterol friendly or low calorie dish, however it is delicious.  I guess a little piece once of twice a year won't necessarily kill us!

My Grandmother's Italian Omelet


Pepperoni - 1 stick  (cubed)
Sausage (I used garlic & cheese flavored) - 1 pound (cooked and cubed - I grill  it to get as much fat out as possible)
1/2 pound of thick sliced ham cubed (about 2-3 slices)
1/2 lb Ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons parmesan or romano grated cheese
ground pepper to taste
1 dozen large eggs
2/3 cup water
chopped parsley to taste

Preheat the oven at 375 degrees, with the cast iron skillet**  preheating as well.  Generously grease pan with oil prior to preheating.  You should see a little oil freely sliding around in the pan. (I use canola oil.  My grandmother used to use shortening!)

**While this can be cooked in a large baking dish, it tastes so much better cooked in a large cast iron skillet.  Make sure the skillet is properly seasoned by coating generously with oil, place it in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  1/2 way through, turn pan over on a large enough pizza sheet or cooking sheet to catch the oil as it bakes into the pan.  Also, be sure to use potholders and caution, as the cast iron gets terribly hot.  Let it cool for several hours and wipe down with clean paper towel - do not wash with soap.  Season at least a day before making the omelet.  

Placed cooked and cut up sausage, cubed ham and pepperoni in a large bowl.  Add the ricotta cheese, grated cheese, ground pepper and chopped parsley.  Mix well.  

In another bowl, beat the eggs with the water.  Once beaten, add the egg mixture to the meats and cheeses.  Mix all together.  Pour into the preheated cast iron skillet or baking dish.  

Bake approximately 35-45 minutes or until the center is set.

If using the cast iron skillet, place a serving dish on top of the pan and flip omelet out of the pan while it is hot to prevent it from setting and sticking to the bottom of the skillet - 


I wish you all and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving and a safe, happy and fun Holiday Season!