Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poised on the precipice of a new year

I love turning the calendar over to a new year. I think of it as a fresh start: a clean slate I can mark up as I choose, a story that I'm excited to write. There are few things that rev me up as much as possibility and I associate the dawn of a new year with an abundance of possibility.
As individuals and as a couple 2013 was a difficult year for us, one that required a lot of growth and change. I've been writing this blog since August 2011 and I still wrestle with being authentic and real in this space while keeping what should be private private. Having a blog does not mean being an open book, and people should not expect that that's what it means. *I* should not expect that that's what it means. Vulnerability is not a comfortable coat to wear, and what I write here always opens me up to scrutiny and sometimes pushes me out of my comfort zone. It challenges me and I like that but sometimes it also makes me shrink back, reluctant to share. Thank you for knowing you aren't seeing everything behind the curtain and reading anyway.
We are each on our own journey in this life, and I'm really glad I get to share pieces of mine with you, and hear pieces of yours through our interactions. I love your comments here, conversing with you on facebook, and talking about something you liked (or didn't) on here in person. Thank you for another year of being on the other side of the screen.
What's ahead? I feel at peace in my heart approaching 2014. I'm kicking it up a notch at work and I'm on the verge of offering sponsorship and advertising on this blog. Things are humming along for me, and MFD is in a great place as well and is looking forward to working at a new brokerage office with a lot of great opportunities ahead for him career-wise. We're anticipating an awesome 2014.

I don't make resolutions. I'm much better keeping myself accountable with seasonal goals (you can see my winter goals here). However, I do have some intentions for 2014: acceptance, possibilities, and self-discipline. I want to be more accepting of things I can't change, more aware of all the possibilities I have, and more self-disciplined in regards to my health and wellness. Like put the fucking cookies down and back away type of self-discipline.
And, as with every year, I want to be better, kinder, stronger, braver, smarter, more aware and more fierce.
Whatever else you do today, do yourself a favor and leave your old shit behind in the vestibule as you close the door on 2013. Don't carry it with you into another year.

What about you? Do you make resolutions or set goals for the year?

I'm wishing all of my mum friends good luck tomorrow, especially MFD and the men of the Joseph A. Ferko String Band. Mummery is a great, storied, long-time Philadelphia tradition MFD has been involved in for 26 years. This is the first year in many years that I won't be having a parade party in the warmth of my own home but will instead be down on the street catching a bit of the string bands. It was originally forecasted to be a high of 28, but now it's a merciful 36. Still, I'm pretty sure I was wearing flip flops last year. Layers, be kind to me. Check back here tomorrow early for a link to watch the parade live (string bands should be on around 1:30) and see how Philly does New Year's Day.
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Hot apps! Get your hot apps here!

Yes, we've eaten a lot, haven't we? At this point I should be eating lettuce for eternity, but I'm not there just yet. I am off of the big meal right now though and digging apps only, which my mom had on Thursday night at her house. Here's what I brought with me, both are super easy:

2 - 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 cup mayo
1.5 white sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp each of ground mustard, garlic salt, and salt
8-10 oz chopped jalapeno peppers (I buy the 12 oz jar and use 8 oz or 10 oz depending on how much heat I want. NOTE do not chop those bitches and touch anything near your face or eyes)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Allow cream cheese to soften on the counter. When soft, mix cream cheese, mayo, one cup of cheddar, 1 cup of parmesan, jalapenos, and spices in a bowl.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pour mixture into a baking dish. Top with another 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

Mix the panko bread crumbs and 1/2 cup of parmesan in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dip.

Bake in a preheated 350 oven until the sides are bubbling and the cheese cheese has melted and turned golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips. Original recipe from Closet Cooking
a big wedge or wheel of brie
Phyllo shells - at least two boxes of 15
jam of your choice

Cut brie into small pieces and put in phyllo shells. If you are travelling, put them right back into the boxes and assemble the rest at your destination.

Put a dab of your jam on top of each. Bake on a baking sheet out of the packaging in a 350 oven for six or seven minutes, until the cheese is melty. 

Boom. Two hot apps. Got any gatherings coming up?

Happy Friday! Although when you're off for nine days they all start to run together. We're headed out to see The Wolf of Wall Street this morning because we are 1. old and don't like crowds 2. cheap and don't want to pay $748 for a movie ticket at night.

Whatever you're doing, enjoy! And don't forget to consider joining me for a January Spending Freeze. All the cool kids are doing it. The Christmas-poor kids are doing it too.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Brownie Batter Dip - it's as good as it sounds

You guys, this is holy shit good. Must-make good. The next time you need to bring a dessert, I suggest you bring this. It's super easy, you probably have all the ingredients in your house, and it's very very delicious. I saw the recipe on Chef in Training.

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2-3 cups powdered sugar
5 TBS All Purpose Flour
5 TBS Cocoa
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 TBS milk

Allow cream cheese and butter to come to room temp, then cream together with a hand mixer until well mixed. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 TBS milk and mix again. Add another cup of powdered sugar and another TBS of milk and mix again. 

Add the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla, and brown sugar. Do a taste test. At this point I added another quarter cup of powdered sugar and 2 TBS of milk as well as another teaspoon of cocoa powder. Taste test for your taste. Mix well and store in the fridge. 

I served it with strawberries, pineapple, and pretzel crisps. The strawberries were by far the most popular. 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 in Review

Let's do this. Settle in, it's a whole year in review.
I'm currently reading my 50th book of 2013. These are my top 10:
1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
3. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
4. Looking for Alaska by John Green
5. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
6. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
8. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
10. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

1. The Blacklist
2. The Americans
3. Downton Abbey
4. Veep
5. The Killing
6. Sons of Anarchy (I'm up to season five)
7. The Sopranos (I watched all episodes this year)
***Favorite People to hate on TV: Dana on Homeland, the inept FBI on The Following, Elena on The Vampire Diaries, Clay on Sons of Anarchy

Favorite Songs 
1. Get Lucky - Daft Punk/Pharrell Williams
2. Royals - Lorde
3. Pompeii - Bastille
4. When I Was Your Man - Bruno Mars
5. Ho Hey - Lumineers
6. Suit & Tie - JT
7. Wake Me Up - Avicii
1. Engagements! Kim & Steve, Stephen & Aubrey, Shawn & Maggie. Happy things. 
2. Babies! My aunt Dawn and Sergio and cousin Tiffany and Brandon had babies in June. Two of MFD's cousins had babies - Matthew and Laura and Nicole and Patrick. Frank and Amanda found out they're expecting in 2014.
3. Weddings! Laura & Chris! Lauren & Kevin!
4. Beach weekeends: OCMD trip with family, Girls' Weekend in Cape May,  OCNJ with Kim & Steve and straight on to Strathmere with Frank & Amanda
5. Kim & Esteban's Bridal BBQ shower
6. Maisel joined our family
10. Relay For Life
11. Declaring Sundays stay at home days whenever possible
12. Getting a new king bed
13. Expanding the gallery wall going up the stairs
14. Turning the office into a dressing room and rearranging the upstairs
15. Re-doing the front retaining walls and painting the front door yellow
16. Learning how to do a sage smudge on my house to usher out negativity, how to make perfect rice in the crockpot and freeze it, that hard boiled eggs are easier to peel when you make them in the oven, and how to fold a fitted sheet
17. Already started paying for 2014's vacation
18. MFD had a successful year in his business even though he was on crutches for over 12 weeks - not cool when you're a realtor and need to be on the move
19. We got a fake tree! Finally!
20. I did three spending freezes with not too shabby results, and my next one is set for January with a link up planned for February 4 if you're down. More info to come.

(when the link goes to my pin on pinterest, I've noted alterations in the description)
1. MAC lipstick in Twig
2. Essie nail polish (above L-R) Madison Ave-Hue, Sunday Funday, Cashmere Bathrobe, and It's Genius
3. L'Oreal Voluminous Million Lashes, the poor lady's Lancome Definicils
4. Erin Condren planner
5. Trader Joe's Face Wash and Moisturizer
6. Palmolive Soft Touch Aloe
7. Lodge Enamel cast iron dutch oven - total kitchen work horse.
8. Coconut oil - Good for face, body, hair...Christ even my dogs eat it to better their skin and coat
9. Muji Makeup Storage
10. Nordic bakewear - that  photo is after using it all year and never once spraying it with nonstick spray. It is exceptional. I buy them at TJ Maxx or Marshalls.

In general, 2013 as a year was harder than most for many people I know, me included. I won't be sorry to see it go. I also won't be listing the shit events because who wants to read a wahhhhmbulance list? No one, son.

However, from all bad comes good if you're open to it. The things that were hard for me taught me the most even when the only thing they taught me was that I could persevere. Plus look at this large list I've amassed, all these good things! There is always yin and yang, good and bad. I really think you need some bad to appreciate how good the good is. That's life, and there is beauty in the nuances. Signing off with one of my all-time favorite quotes:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Soup - tomato bisque a la Disney Cruise Line

I am a crazy Disney Cruise lady. I love everything about them, especially the food, which is glorious. They serve a lovely tomato bisque that my friend Jill requests frequently. I found a recipe for it online and recreated it, lightening it up a bit. It did not disappoint.

2- 28 oz cans plum tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
3 tbs butter
diced celery - 1 cup using a liquid measuring cup
sliced carrots - 1 cup using a liquid measuring cup
diced vidalia onion - 1 cup using a liquid measuring cup
salt to taste
16 oz light cream
16 oz fat free half & half


Preheat oven to 350.

Drain juice from tomatoes into a bowl and set aside.

Place tomatoes on a baking sheet with a lip and roast for 25 minutes.

Melt butter in a stock pot and saute onion, celery, and carrots until translucent. Add reserved tomato juice and tomato paste. Stir until the paste is broken up. Add tomatoes and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.  I put a lid on it because Sweet Brown ain't got no time to clean up tomato splatter from the entire kitchen.

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the crap out of it. If don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender and blend in batches.

Heat cream and half and half on the stove, stirring so it doesn't stick. Add to the soup, stirring well to mix. Add salt to taste. Top with basil if you choose.

If you are doing this, maybe don't wear a white t-shirt or if you do wear white, maybe just don't be a spazz like I am and get it everywhere.
Paired with grilled cheese, this was a perfect meal for a snowy and cold Saturday.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

One dish broiled chicken

Hi ho friends. This is a super easy one-dish recipe, which is awesome because hello no mess. It also allows me to incorporate artichokes, which MFD loves so much he eats alone, and I only love when spinach artichoke dip is the vehicle. AND prep time to cook time, it's done in less than 30 minutes.

I also like this recipe because if you're like me you have this stuff in your house already. And if you don't, they're cheap to acquire.

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
a few shakes each of garlic powder and parsley
2 14 oz cans artichokes, drained
1 cup bruschetta or petite diced tomatoes (I used Sam's bruschetta, I might be obsessed with it)
10 sliced baby bella mushrooms (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (any type, I used parmesan)
Olives would also be awesome in this, but I didn't add them this time.

Spray bottom of a broiler pan (or any pan that can withstand temps of 500 degrees +) and preheat broiler. Move rack to the highest setting (3 inches from broiler)

Put chicken thighs, artichokes, and mushrooms in a bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and mix well to coat.

Put into pan, ensuring the thighs lay flat. Broil for six minutes, then turn thighs with tongs and broil an additional six minutes. Check doneness - you may need to flip one more time to ensure they're cooked through. If you do, check on them after two minutes then if done move on to the next step.

Remove from oven and top with bruschetta/tomatoes and cheese. Broil an additional 2-3 minutes.

Remove and serve as is with or over pasta, in which case it is no longer one dish. However I couldn't resist the siren song of the pasta. I boiled Ronzoni SmartTaste thin spaghetti, tossed it lightly with olive oil, then topped it with goodness. It was delicious. Chicken thighs, you are the unsung hero of the kitchen.

Mangia mangia.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

We have so much.

Fresh off of a weekend chock full of food and family and shopping for most of us, we are checking in online on our computers, tablets, smart phones. We're likely somewhere warm, having some coffee, in comfortable clothes. We live an abundant life.

If we have a list of needs, they're likely actually wants. When we say we need it, we know we're exaggerating. Most of us have no idea what it's like to truly be in need of water, food, shelter, heat, etc.

Even when we're having a poor month, to most of us that means having to cut down on cups of coffee on the go or the amount of beers we drink or bottles of nail polish we buy to round out our collection. It means stretching food in our pantry and staying in. Sure, there are times we struggle to pay bills or have surprise expenses that wiped out savings. But to struggle daily or not be able to provide for our kids is not something that's familiar to most of us.


I want to help others, even when the a amount I can afford to give or the time I can afford to spend is small. I want to help others even if they never know it's me that went shopping for canned goods, me that raised the money for that ride to chemotherapy, me who donated the clothes they're wearing. I actually prefer to keep the me out of it. I imagine that having to rely on charity is humbling and I don't need to be out there tooting my own horn. I don't give to get recognition.
I give because I believe that giving back to others to ease their load is one of the best ways to feel like a human being. It makes me feel like part of my community. I feel grateful that I can contribute, no matter the size of the contribution. It reassures me to know if I ever find myself in dire straits that someone will be out there ready to give me a leg up when I need it.

MFD and I like to be charitable and make a difference volunteering where we can throughout the year, but there's something that tugs at your heartstrings even more at Christmas, isn't there? So many people in need, so many wishes to be granted. 
Since most of us truly have so much, this month I'd like to do a giveaway that will extend your charity to whatever organization you choose. Happy holidays to you and yours and to whomever you choose to help if you win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How do you choose to give back?
 photo smdpicmonkey_zpsdb8c311e.jpg p.s. Happy birthday to my uncle Billy today!
Linking up with
Because Shanna Said So - Random Wednesday
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