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Archive for December, 2010

If you are looking for a delicious and easy punch to serve to a festive crowd of revelers this weekend, this one will fit the bill.

Not only is it beautiful, it is really, really tasty!

Punch Ingredients

Moisten the rim of your glass

Pour your rimmer crystals onto a flat plate. If you can't find rimmer, you could use large sugar crystals for the same look (although the taste will be decidedly different).

Place the rim of your glass in the crystals until coated, set aside.

Cut the top off your pomegranate.

Then cut down through the sections to get at the lovely red seeds. Scatter a few in the bottom of each glass.

Put ice into the punch bowl then add pop, juice and syrup. Stir briefly to mix.

Enjoy!

Pomegranate Punch

1 bottle Cranberry-Pomegranate Juice

1/2 cup Grenadine Syrup

1 bottle Raspberry Pop

Pomegranate Rimmer Crystals (I find mine at Cost Plus World Market)

1 Pomegranate

To keep the punch from being watered down, I froze the soda pop in silicone pans and added instead of ice. You could use ice cube trays to achieve the same thing. I thought the snowflake and tree shapes were just fun! Just do this a day or two before your party (or drop everything and do it now if you are hosting a gathering for New Year’s Eve).

Just before you are ready to serve, pour the Pomegranate Rimmer Crystals onto a very flat dish. Wet the rims of your glasses. You can do this with a lemon or lime wedge or plain ol’ water. I just dampened a paper towel and ran it around the rim. Dip the rims of the glasses into the crystals and set aside.

Cut the top off your pomegranate and then slice down through the sections. This is the easiest way to get the seeds and all the sweet-tart goodness out. Drop a scattering of seeds in each glass.

Place the ice in your punch bowl, pour in the pop, juice and grenadine syrup. Stir lightly to mix. Ladle into glasses and watch your guests turn into glass-licking crazies as they try to get every last little speck of the rimmer off their glasses and dig the last little seed out of their glass. (Besides being tasty, the punch will provide you with unlimited entertainment!).

Enjoy!

However you celebrate this New Year’s Eve, please be safe!

Wishing you a wonderous New Year!

Shanna

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If your New Year’s Resolutions last just as long as the holiday fudge holds out, you might want to rethink your approach in 2011. Most people make resolutions that are not based on something realistic or achievable. Say, for example, your time is very limited and fully scheduled. It would not be realistic to resolve to take up playing a new instrument and set aside two hours a day for practice.

Instead of making resolutions, why not set a few goals?

SMART goals are a good way to move from thinking about doing something to getting it done. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.

To get a specific goal, ask yourself the who, what, where, when and why questions. Who is involved? What do I want to accomplish? Where will this take place? When will it take place? Why do I want this to happen?

A goal that is measurable is one that can be tracked by progress.  When you measure progress, track results and meet deadlines, it spurs you on toward greater accomplishment. Ask yourself questions like “How many?” “How much?”  “How will I know the goal is accomplished?”

Attainable goals help you identify what is most important to you. Once you do that, you can figure out step by step how to make it happen. You will develop the attitude, skill and ability to reach that goal.  This part of goal setting requires planning. You need to think out each step of action you need to take to make the goal happen and the time frame in which you’d like to see the results. Even goals that are a stretch (ones that get you beyond your comfort zone) are attainable when you grow to reach them. If your goal is get out the door on time in the morning, what specific steps can you take to make sure it happens?

To be realistic, a goal must represent an end result you are willing and able to achieve . You can have a stretch goal that is up there in the stars and still have it be realistic. You are the only one who can decide how lofty your goal should be. Just make sure it represents progress. Some of the highest goals accomplished didn’t seem that difficult because they were a labor of love or evolved from a deep passion. If you honest-to-goodness believe your goal can be accomplished, then it is probably realistic. You can also determine if a goal is realistic by looking at past accomplishments or determining what conditions or factors need to exist for the goal to be realized.

A goal is timely when it is tied to a time frame and has a sense of urgency. The steps leading to the accomplishment of your goal will also be time-based.

So let’s look at a goal. You might set a goal  that states   “I will lose weight this year!”

While that is a good start, when you make it SMART you make it doable and provide the basis to hold yourself accountable.  “I will lose 50 pounds by 5 p.m. Dec. 20, 2011.” Anyone could show up at 5 p.m. Dec. 20, 2011 and see if you have lost the weight.

This is where you will also create your action steps. You might write down something like:

” To achieve this goal I will …

• Exercise for 45 minutes Monday through Friday between 6 and 7 a.m.

• Eat balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables, consuming no more than 1,600 calories a day.

• Drink 64 ounces of water every day.

• Check in weekly with Susie and Jane to h0ld me accountable to my goals.

…”

You get the idea.

When you share this goal with at least two other people, it will hold you accountable and help keep you on track.

The last part of the goal is setting a reward for yourself when you achieve it. Put it in writing and hold yourself to it. What realistic thing would you award yourself for meeting the goal? A pedicure? A new outfit? A spa day? Think of something that will give you some inspiration to keep going when you feel yourself dragging.

I’d love to hear what goals you are working on for 2011.

May it be your best year ever!

Happy New Year’s!

She Who Needs to Get Crackin’ on her own Goals for 2011

 

 

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If you and your friends aren’t into the stay up late party scene of New Year’s Eve but you would still like to entertain for the holiday, think about hosting a New Year’s Day brunch. Plan to start around 11 a.m., giving those night-owls plenty of time to get up and moving before your party starts.

Keep things simple and uncluttered (a great way to start the new year, huh?). Don’t go over board with decorations or food. You want to have things looking clean and elegant.

Have guest share a New Year’s memory or tell about a resolution they kept.  If you want to do something really fun, have everyone right down one goal or resolution, place them all in a sealed envelope and stash it away until next December. Pull them out when you do your Christmas cards and send to your friends. They will appreciate that you did keep the info and will probably get a chuckle over what they wrote down. Or host another New Year’s Brunch in 2012 with the same crowd and open the envelope there.

Tell guests the dress is relaxed and keep the atmosphere casual. Offer a buffet selection of sliced fruits and some make ahead or easy to prepare food.

Quiche is a great option. It is warm, delicious and easy to make. Try my bacon quiche or spinach mushroom.

 

Easy Pumpkin Bread

 

 

Quick breads are also a fabulous choice. They can be made ahead and are tasty plain or slathered with butter. You can make a variety of these (or cheat and pick up a three-pack at Costco!). Here are recipes for banana bread or pumpkin bread.

 

 

Ham and Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

 

 

Breakfast casseroles are another great way to get something hot and comforting on the table with minimum effort. One of my favorites is this ham and hashbrown casserole.

 

 

Yummy and Beautiful!

 

 

Make sure you serve this Grenadine Sunrise as a beautiful start to a beautiful new year!

Happy New Year Entertaining!

Shanna

 

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Planning on hosting a New Year’s Eve gathering this weekend? Good for you!

Today I’ll be sharing a few savvy entertaining ideas with you on how to get the most fun out of your party. If you’d like some basic New Year’s Entertaining Tips, check our my post from last year here: New Year’s Entertaining Tips from 2009

Let’s start with a theme. Are you just inviting people over, setting out some munchies and keeping it casual? Or do you want to add a bit of fun and organization by choosing a theme? Maybe you want a masked event with everyone removing their masks and revealing their identity at midnight. Maybe you are hosting a formal affair and would like everyone to dress up. Or maybe you are keeping it informal but would like everyone to come dressed in a particular color. Think about what it is you want to accomplish and go from there. Make it clear through your invitations what type of party it will be and what mode of dress is expected.

Use simple decorations. This is a great time to go all white or all cream. That way you can use just about anything you’ve got in the chosen color scheme and it won’t matter if individual pieces match or not. New Year’s is also a great time to add some sparkle and shine, so you could go for a white and silver or cream and gold party. White and blue are also a popular choice or if you want to be a real trendsetter, see if you can work in some purple or gray. A party that featured gray, cream and purple would be pretty spectacular!

You really can keep things simple while still having fun. Arrange noisemakers, beads, whatever party favors you want to pass out on trays or cake plates and use as centerpieces. That way the favors are close at hand while creating a fun touch to your party atmosphere.

For a really fun accent, make confetti out of copies of photographs. Make sure the photos include those who will be gathering in your home. Use a scrapbook paper punch or have the kids cut out confetti. Once I discovered the joys of bombarding my dad in confetti, I would spend hours on New Year’s Eve cutting up old papers into bits of confetti. It was not unheard of for us to have a gallon bucket of confetti that would be strategically hidden until the stroke of midnight when we would gang up on Dad and cover him in it. The only drawback was that someone had to spend an hour or so cleaning up all those tiny bits of paper the next morning and the job usually fell on the one who cut up the paper in the first place. So I would strongly advise using bigger pieces of confetti and having a designated clean up crew!

Keep food simple and easy to handle. Set a buffet of heavy appetizers and sweets. Have veggies, cheese and meat trays, crackers, sliced fruit, and a few warm appetizers. These taco cups are super easy to make and a real crowd-pleaser. Then have a few sweets like cookies or bite-sized portions that are easy for guests to eat. If children will be present, skip the booze and find some recipes for non-alcoholic drinks. Punch is festive and simple and serves a crowd. If it is chilly, make a big pot of mulled cider or have hot chocolate with all the trimmings available.

However you decide to entertain this weekend, please play it smart and be safe!

Happy New Year Entertaining!

Shanna

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Well, if you are like me, you are in a state somewhere between joy over the wonderful Christmas celebrated Saturday and sadness that it is over for another year.

To get yourself over the post holiday doldrums, find a fun project to work on.

One that is perfect to start this week is a Holiday Idea folder. I like to use red file folders and hide them at the back of my filing cabinet. Believe me, no one ever looks in there!

Things you can put in your folder (or binder) include gift ideas, decorating ideas, recipes you’d like to try. Then add to the folder all year. If you are a hyper-organized kind of person, you might want to have several folders  or divided sections in your binder with titles like “Gifts,” “Decor,” “Recipes,” “Traditions.”

As you browse through magazines and catalogs, pull out the pages that capture your interest and add to your supply. If you are pulling out gift ideas, make sure you label them somehow or come October when you get out your files, you’ll have a bunch of pages and no idea what you intended to purchase for whom (not that I’ve ever done that before).

Now is the perfect time to get cracking on this project because the ideas are all fresh in your head. As you gathered with family and friends during the weekend, you probably had several ideas for “perfect gifts,” tasted a few recipes you’d like to add to your own collection for next year and thought of at least two fantastic decorating ideas or fun things that might make great future traditions.

Capture all that info now and you’ll be so glad you did!

Happy Holiday Entertaining!

Shanna

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Christmas morning the last thing you want to do is be tied down to the kitchen making breakfast. Plan ahead now and you can have a fabulous breakfast on the table with a minimal amount of effort!

So here are a few ideas…

Quick Breads

You can purchase these pre-made at stores like Costco (their apple or pumpkin bread is sooooo good), you can buy packaged mixes that are easy to whip together or make them from scratch. If you are planning to make them either from a mix of scratch, make these now so you don’t have to mess with them in the morning. If you want to be Betty Baker and go from scratch, here is a recipe for yummy banana bread.

Sweet Rolls

You can purchase pre-made sweet rolls or cinnamon rolls or whip together a batch. Just pop in the oven for a few minutes to warm and you’ve got a breakfast that everyone will enjoy. Here is a recipe for super easy cinnamon rolls that make my mouth water just thinking about them.

Casseroles

A breakfast casserole you can assemble the night before then pop in the oven to bake the next morning is ideal. They are warm and filling and will hopefully carry your starving crew through gift opening and morning festivities. Serve with a fresh fruit and it is a wonderful meal.

My favorite breakfast casserole involves ham and hashbrowns. It is so easy to make and so tasty good. Assemble the night before, set out for about 30 minutes and then bake.

Here is another recipe that is quite filling. You can use any type of meat you like, just make sure it is pre-cooked.

Ingredients

Beat eggs, then add milk and combine.

Dice up some ham (or crumble cooked bacon or sausage).

Add ham, breadcrumbs and salt to mixture.

Blend in some cheese.

Pour into greased pan, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bake the next morning!

and enjoy!

Breakfast Bake

6 eggs

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups diced cooked ham (or bacon or crumbled cooked sausage)

1 cup shredded colby jack cheese

3 cups croutons

Beat eggs and milk, add in remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch casserole dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Remove from fridge and let set for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes or until eggs are set.

Enjoy!

Happy Holiday Entertaining and Merry Christmas!

Shanna

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My sister, as a baby.

For many of us, the holiday season is much more than an opportunity to eat too much food, spend too much money and get presents (notice I did not say too many – can there be such a thing?).

The holidays are about the relationships we share with those we love. About the special feelings we keep in our hearts and the individual moments of innate sweetness that we want to remember forever.

The Christmas season always make me think of my sister. She was born with a brain tumor that continued to grow throughout her life. She also had epilepsy and never quite reached mental maturity. Five years ago, she passed away from head trauma resulting from one of her seizures.

She was 14 years old when I was born and really messed up the good thing she had going. She had been the baby of the family for all that time and liked things as they were. Along came this interloper who threw the world as she knew it into a tailspin. To say there was a bit of resentment on her part would be a mild understatement. Most of the time, I think my presence was a constant reminder that her position had been usurped.

But Christmas…Christmas, with its wonderful magical air would sweep over her with a beautiful blanket of peace and goodwill and things would be different. The desire to have fun, to be good because Santa was watching, took over.

My Dad and brothers with my sister - mid 1950s.

She would start making presents for everyone. Under different circumstances, I think she would have been a great artist. She liked to draw cartoons and did a bang up job with it. Her favorite character to draw was Snoopy. She also liked to do stitching. The last Christmas she was really with us, she stitched up two little pictures of dogs (another of her favorite things) and gave one to me and one to Hubby.

Although she wasn’t overly fond of the great outdoors, before Christmas she could be found outside attempting to build a snowman or plotting some way to bombard unsuspecting individuals with snowballs.

She would get involved with things she normally ignored the rest of the year, like baking and decorating. The decorating would nearly throw my Mom into a tailspin sometimes.

I don’t know where it came from but there was a music box – a little golden bird cage with a tiny bird inside that would tweet a holiday tune (which I can’t even remember now). She would dig through the decorations until she found it, the nostalgic aroma of bayberry wafting out of the storage box and filling the room with a scent that forevermore will bring a picture to mind of our family decking the halls, circa 1978. Once found, she would have that bird tweeting over and over until I thought my parents would throw it in a snowbank. As annoying as it was, it wasn’t Christmas until she got that music box out and played it a dozen times.

I’d like the opportunity, just once more, to watch her play that music box, to hear the bird tweet, to see the look of wonder and joy that filled her face each holiday season.

So my wish for you this holiday season is a wish that you cherish every precious moment with those you love and hold dear. Make some beautiful Christmas memories with them this year. Ones that take up a very special little corner in your heart.

With Christmas Love,

Shanna

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