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Archive for November, 2010

The holidays season is here. Are you ready? Organized? Have everything under control and well in-hand?

Me either!

I decided the best way to get through the next month is to get myself organized. So here is an easy game plan designed to help keep you on track, cut down on stress and get you through the holidays with a little more order and a little less fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.

Let’s start by looking at your calendar, organizer or day planner. Pull out all those post-it notes with dates and appointments scribbled on them and start entering them into your calendar. The idea is to get everything into one calendar so you can see at a glance what days you have appointments and commitments and what days you have open. Think about everything coming up in the next month like church programs, rehearsals, the kids’ school concerts, any parties or gatherings you will be attending, any doctor appointments, hair appointments, manicures and pedicures (if you are so lucky!) and so on. Get all those dates entered into your calendar.

Now, make a list of all the things you want to accomplish before Christmas. Are you planning to send out holiday cards? Will you be doing holiday baking? Hosting a party? Making ornaments? Having the best outdoor light display on your block?  Write down everything you would like to do this holiday season.

Once your list is complete, compare it to your  calendar. What dates are open? You will probably find that your want-to-do list is far longer than the dates you have open. So be realistic.

What can you cut out or cut down on? Instead of baking yourself silly for two days straight, why not invite over a few friends for an afternoon, bake together, share the spoils and call it good. Do you really need to make 14 different kinds of Christmas cookies?

What can you delegate? Your spouse and kids can certainly put up outdoor lights. The kids can make ornaments.  Don’t be afraid to spread around the chores. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Really!

Take another look at that want-to-do list. Circle the top five things you absolutely want to happen and choose dates to enter them on your calendar. Look at the rest of your list and decide what other things could be delegated or could be optional. And when I say optional, I mean that if they happen, that is great, but if they don’t you will not allow yourself to stress or fuss because they didn’t. That is why they are optional. Get it? Great!

Choose one day on your calendar between now and Christmas that is just for you. That’s right! A day just for you. Whether you spend it getting a massage, reading a good book by the fire, or at the spa with a friend (oh, sign me up for that one!), carve out one day for you to rest and recharge. You’ll be glad you did and so will your family. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle all the jolly holiday fun you can handle.

And please remember, at the center of all the holiday hub-bub, no one cares if your house is perfectly decorated, if your cookies came from the store or your holiday greetings weren’t the first out this year. What people care about are the relationships, spending time enjoying one another and sharing from the heart.

If you focus on that, I guarantee you’ll have a very Happy Holiday season.

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

 

 

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Ambrosial

Word of the Week: Ambrosial

am·bro·sial

am-broh-zhuhl

–adjective 

1. exceptionally pleasing to taste or smell; especially delicious or fragrant.
2.divine.

The sweet rolls were positively ambrosial.

My BFF came over Saturday and we were up to our elbows in giggles and flour as we endeavored to make pumpkin rolls and cinnamon rolls.

The cinnamon rolls we made were the result of me getting a new cookbook and deciding I had to try a recipe. Of course something sweet and completely bad for you was the thing that drew my attention. These were, quite possibly, the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever eaten. From the gooey cinnamon sweetness on the bottom of the rolls to the light, airy bread right on to the frosting that drenched every last little millimeter of the tops of the rolls – they were delicious. Divine. Dreamy. Finger-lickin’ good (not that anyone at my house would like their finger, but if they did, these cinnamon rolls would definitely be a reason to.)

I promise to post the recipe soon, but for now I feel the need to go make friends with my treadmill and walk off a few of the cinnamon rolls I may have devoured.

Happy Monday!

Shanna

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My Wednesday Shout-Out this week is going to Pillsbury’s website. You can find it right here.

I really like this site beyond the obvious reason that the cute little Pillsbury Dough Boy hangs here. How can you not like him? He’s doughy and sweet and looks like he has been known to indulge in some good food on more than a passing occasion. That last part is where I really feel a kinship to him.

Anyhooooo, I have found a number of great recipes on their website, especially at the last minute when I was searching for a new appetizer recipe.  I’ve yet to find a recipe that had ingredients I couldn’t find or so many steps that it looked impossible to complete. It is simple, easy to follow cooking and ideas – and that is what I truly like about it.

So if you are searching for something different to make, pop on over to their website at www.pillsbury.com and check it out! And wave to the Dough Boy for me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shanna

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In the past few weeks, I’ve posted a Thanksgiving Countdown, Thanksgiving Tablescape Ideas, a variety of suggestions for using up Pumpkin, and Handy Hotlines in case your turkey bursts into flames or some such tragedy (just kidding, people! I’ve been up since 4 a.m. you have to cut me some slack today. Please!).

So today’s post isn’t about being a hostess. Today’s post is for anyone who will be attending Thanksgiving (or any celebration this holiday season) at someone else’s home.

Having been a hostess more times than I can count, I for one am here to tell you anytime someone brings me a hostess gift, it nearly melts me in a puddle. It means so much to know that person appreciated the invitation into our home and wanted to bring a token of that appreciation to share with us.

A lot of people avoid giving hostess gifts because they don’t have any idea what to give. Here are a few “safe” bets that are sure to be welcomed by most any hostess.

Monogrammed Napkins

Most  hostesses would be thrilled to receive monogrammed napkins. Did you know monograms are widely popular right now? I found some really cute napkins at Tuesday Morning a few weeks ago and gave as hostess gifts. The three hostesses all seemed to enjoy them immensely!

Good Chocolate

Make sure the hostess has the opportunity to hide the candy away from the pack of ravenous wolves gathered in her home. You want her to be able to enjoy it all she wants! Really, you do. Trust me on this!

An Apron

A funny one for a host, or a pretty one for a hostess. I  seem to never have enough aprons when we host a big gathering. I found some cute ones at Kmart not too long ago.

Coasters

Who couldn’t use a few extra coasters? If you know something your host is fond of or collects, see if you can find a few coasters that fit that theme. Otherwise, look for something unique and memorable. If you are feeling a bit crafty, you could make your own coasters using tile. You can find small tile squares at home-supply stores like Home Depot. Just add a bit of felt to the bottom to keep the tiles from scratching surfaces (if you have five minutes and a glue gun, you can do this!).

Tea or Dish Towels

What host or hostess wouldn’t appreciate a few new towels for their kitchen. These are some seasonally appropriate ones found at Macy’s.

Hand Soap

A bottle of nice, fragrant hand soap is a great gift. If you don’t know what scents the hostess likes, go for something simple. One of my favorites for gift-giving is Kitchen Spice from Bath and Body Works.

Recipe Journal

If your host or hostess likes to cook, a recipe journal would be a great gift and give them somewhere to tuck all those loose recipes floating around their kitchen. (Not that anyone has that problem.) You can find these at most any kitchen supply store and often at bookstores.

Bottle of Beverage

See, you thought I was going to say wine. If you aren’t sure if your host drinks wine, purchase a higher end bottle of sparkling cider. Believe you me, it tastes a whole lot different than Martinelli’s. If your host is a wine lover, then by all means, pick up a bottle and take.

Bottle Caddy

Go one step better and purchase a fun Wine Bottle Caddy and insert a bottle to give as a gift. These are super handy for carrying all sorts of bottles, but especially if they have wine and will travel.

Perfectly Pleasant Potted Plant

Say that fast five times. Seriously, though, a beautiful potted plant is always a lovely gift. Now would be a great time to gift your hostess with a poinsettia. Not only is it seasonally appropriate, but every time she sees it though the holidays, she’ll be reminded of your thoughtfulness.

These are all easy to find gifts that can fit into most any budget. So when you knock on that door Thanksgiving Day, think about having a little something special to say thank you to your host. You’ll be so glad you did!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shanna

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Word of the Week: denial

de·ni·al

[dih-nahy-uhl]

–noun

1. an assertion that something said, believed, alleged, etc., is false
2. refusal to believe a doctrine, theory, or the like.
3. disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing.
4. the refusal to satisfy a claim, request, desire, etc., or the refusal of a person making it.
5. refusal to recognize or acknowledge; a disowning or disavowal
A few months back awful, terrible, dark rumors began circulating. I heard them and decided to blissfully ignore them. You wouldn’t believe what people were saying!
They claimed… they warned… they alluded to the fact that we were going to have a harsh winter.
I chose to go forth in a state of denial. I was already having issues dealing with the fact summer had left me in its dust. You didn’t expect me to embrace the reality of a cold, long, snowy winter, did you?
When my BFF emailed some happy little statement about wanting it to snow  few weeks ago, I quickly lambasted her with a scathing email reminding her of all the reasons we (using that term really loosely, here) hate the snow. The cold, the mess, the smelly mittens, and  – my personal humungous reason  – driving to work in it every day. Ever tried driving through a town that rarely plows? Stop lights become torture devices made to turn my hair gray at an even more rapid rate.
As a kid, I remember being excited beyond anything when it snowed. But things are different when you live on a farm, attend a country school where your Dad or older brother can drop you off via the snowmobile, and have 106 reasons to enjoy the snow. Sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling, snow forts and gallons of hot chocolate were among the top reasons I loved the snow as a kid. It was awesome and fabulous and if school got closed, who cared? There was snow to play in!
Now, as an adult, who must drive into town to a job that does not close due to inclement weather, I find myself looking at the snow with disgust, irritation and dread. I’m fairly certain I’d have a whole different attitude if I could stay home and watch the feathery flakes drift down outside the window while I sat cozied up to the fire with a good book and a spicy hot cup of tea.
But since that fantasy isn’t happening, I guess for now I’ll have to suck it up and stop being in denial.
My denial of the impending doom… er, snow came to a halt yesterday. When I walked out of church, a few fine flakes had started falling. By the time I got home, there was no ignoring the fact it was trying to snow. By the time mid-afternoon rolled around and the ground was completely covered, I gave in.
I was, however, happy to see I was not the only living thing in denial.
So were my beautiful red geraniums.
And my sweet little sweet peas.
Not to mention my prolific parsley plant.
(Sigh).
Wishing I lived in Arizona,
Shanna

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Easy Pumpkin Bread

What can I say? It is nearly Thanksgiving and other than chocolate, my head is filled with thoughts of pumpkin delights. This easy pumpkin bread comes together quickly and has a nice mellow texture and flavor. You can add all sorts of wonderful goodies to it like chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, cranberries, whatever tickles your fancy. Or enjoy it plain!

Pumpkin Bread ingredients

Start by mixing sugars and spice - and everything nice.

Add eggs, butter, milk and pumpkin.

Add flour mix and whip it up.

Pour mix into a greased bread pan. Isn't this one pretty? Thanks, Hubby!

If you are a chocolate freak like me, this is where you realize chocolate chips or chunks would be really good and stir them into part of the batter.

Finally, the bread is ready to bake. (Please ignore the few chocolate chips giving away my chocolate addiction and the fact I forgot to add them until the batter was already in the pan.)

Hot out of the oven and ready to be devoured.

Yum!

Pumpkin Bread
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup milk
1 cup canned pumpkin pie filling
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

Mix together sugars, cinnamon and spice. Add in eggs, milk, butter and pumpkin. Mix well. Add in flour mixture. If you want to go crazy and add nuts or chocolate chips, now would be the time to do that (as opposed to after you have the batter in the pan and end up poking things through the batter with your spoon – not that I have ever done that).

Bake for about an hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool. Thank yourself for making the bread from scratch and enjoy!

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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The party go-ers.

Hubby and I drove four hours one way last weekend so I could attend a Tea Party being held by some of my favorite cousins.

Hubby’s incentive was to escape to one of his favorite stores where he could drool over guns and hunting gear without an uninterested female tagging along asking inane questions or spouting off stupid jokes about the store in general.

We both were quite pleased with the arrangement!

My cousins Twylia, Nancy and Bonnie played host to all the women in the family for an afternoon tea party. It was marvelous. We all converged in Twylia’s new home, which has a fantastic view, and spent two hours chatting, laughing, bonding and catching up with one another.

Then there was the food! Scones, quiche, fresh fruit that was so flavorful, tea sandwiches and decadent desserts as well as some really tasty tea! The table was set beautifully. The three hostesses pulled out their mom’s  china and tea sets. It was so special to use those dishes because it made it seem like a little bit of Aunt Louise was there enjoying the party right along with us.

We all were asked to wear a hat and that in itself was a hoot. Those who didn’t have hats were able to choose one from a vintage collection Nancy borrowed from a friend.

Aunt Robbie

I think my most wonderful Aunt Robbie had the best hat: stylish, sassy, and spunky – just like her.

Nancy and her nieces.

Young and old alike gathered. Nancy is so much fun, even the younger crowd catches her enthusiasm.

Then there were those who just can’t be serious. Ever. These are my kind of people to hang out with!

I really mean ever.

I hope when I am nearing 80 that I have as much fun as Aunt Robbie. She really is an inspiration! And Julie, Sweet Julie, is always loads of fun.

I highly recommend spending time with your favorite group of girls. It really does your heart good. Thank you to all who attended and made the afternoon fun and especially to Twylia, Nancy and Bonnie for hosting!
Your Devoted Tea Drinker,

Shanna

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