Esther 4:14b

"...and who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Don’t be a Screwdriver

Saturday hubby and I took a jaunt to Havre de Grace, MD to see one of my college buddies and meet the new man in her life. After a delicious lunch of scallop and red pepper bisque and pizza with feta, tapenade, roasted onions and hummus, we stopped in a few antique shops. Nothing that I couldn't live without, and most of the junk stuff was WAY overpriced, but I did find one thing that made me chuckle (well, maybe a few...any one want to buy a lamp made from popsicle sticks for $35?):


Did you know that traffic authorities say 25% of all STOP-and-GO is caused by thoughtless, selfish driving – by “Screwdrivers”?

Too bad Shell doesn’t still offer this program, because I was really interested in receiving the free booklet that shows the boners “Screwdrivers” pull.

Don’t you wish we still had advertising like this nowadays?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cold Feet

This is my footwear choice for today. Obviously I forgot to check the forecast before I got dressed:

Hopefully the SNOW will hold off until I get home and can put on some socks and slippers.

On a much happier (and warmer) note...we're having our wonderful new (and soon to be moving out of!) friends over for dinner tonight. Can't wait!

What's on the menu?

Chicken with Grapes and Couscous
Roasted Asparagus
Spinach Salad with Toasted Pecans, Craisins, Apples & Goat Cheese
Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Ganache

It's going to be an AWESOME night! And tomorrow is even more fun because hubby and I are travelling to Havre de Grace, MD for the first time to hang out with another great girlfriend and met her new man. Fun times!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No-Frost Cupcakes

Monday night I was craving chocolate and cheesecake so I combined the two and made my mom's "No-Frost Cupcakes". She didn't have much luck making them in Colorado because of the altitude, but I had no problem with them here on the East Coast.

They definitely hit the spot! And, I have enough of the cream cheese filling left to make a tray of brownies later in the week. Hubby LOVES brownies with cream cheese.

(I got 16 cupcakes with half the filling leftover for another use)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips

½ t. salt
¼ c. cocoa
1-1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. oil
1 c. water
1 T. vinegar
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Blend all the filling ingredients together, except the chocolate chips, until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside. In a large bowl sift together ½ t. salt, cocoa, flour and baking soda; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, oil, water, vinegar, and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients. Place cupcake liners in pan and fill about 1/3 full. Press 1 t. of cream cheese mixture into center. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Mantlescape

Spring has finally sprung here in the Northeast and I couldn't be happier!

This past weekend was gorgeous and I took full advantage of the opportunity to spend time outside collecting loose moss, moss-covered rocks, leafing branches and brown "pokey balls" as I like to call them (if anyone knows what they really are, please let me know).

Back at the house I arranged them with some other things I already had to bring a touch of spring to the mantle.

My sister sent me this white cabinet for Christmas and I LOVE it!

This cute little bunny and the wire dress form I picked up a year or two ago at the Christmas Tree Shops. No money in the budget this year for decor items, so it was fun shopping the house and the abundant natural decorating supplies God so richly blessed us with outside. Hopefully the moss will stay fresh for awhile, if not, there's plenty more where it came from!

Happy Spring!

I'm linking this up to Kimba's DIY day. Hop over here to check out more projects.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Fabulous Day!

I hope you all are having the same glorious weather we're having here. I think the mid to upper 70s is my absolute favorite temp. Hubby and I needed some cheering up today because we found out that our good friends from church (who we just really got to know the beginning of this month) are moving in a couple Lexington, KY :( We are so sad!

I think God sent us this glorious weather today to lift our spirits. I spent some time collecting different brown and green themed nature items to make a mantlescape this weekend for spring so hopefully I'll have something to post from that this Tuesday.

Oh, and I made the Pioneer Woman's pizza dough last night for dinner. It is GOOD! If you haven't tried it yet and you regularly make pizza at home, I suggest giving it a whirl. It's super easy to put together and good tasting too.

Off to enjoy more gorgeous weather and get ready for dinner with friends.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Don't Forget the Sour Cream!

This past Sunday our pastor and his wife had us over for dinner. She cooked a delicious meal of steak with carmelized onions and a gruyere' cheese sauce, salad with walnuts, craisins and prosciutto, and olive bread. It was so tasty!

Their children are so sweet and we loved having the opportunity to get to know our pastor and his wife on a deeper level. We're also really looking forward to the new invitation to be on the leadership team. It's a great group of people and we can't wait for more time fellowshiping and serving together.

Our contribution to the dinner was dessert. I was told they loved chocolate and that fruit was a bonus. Not having a ton of free time, I recalled a box mix cake recipe I made a couple years ago that was super moist and was served with berries. Perfect!

The cake tasted really good, but it was a little drier than I had remembered. When hubby and I were talking about this in the car on the way home, he asked me what was in it and I started listing off the ingredients only to realize I had completely forgotten to add the sour cream! That totally explains why it wasn't as moist as I remembered. So, if you decide to make this cake, please make sure to add the sour cream.

(recipe courtesy of Kraft Foods)

1 box chocolate cake mix (not the kind with pudding in the mix)
1 box (4 serving size) chocolate instant pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
8 oz. sour cream

3 cups cool whip, thawed (I just used one 8 oz. tub...not quite three cups, but plenty)
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Assorted berries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Mix all the ingredients for the cake together (don't forget the sour cream!) on low until moistened, about 30 sec. Mix on medium speed for two minutes. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes and then invert on to rack to finish cooling.

In microwave safe bowl, combine cool whip and chocolate chips. Microwave on high about 1 minute and then stir together until chocolate is melted. Pour over cake (I didn't use the full amount that it made). Garnish with berries and enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

What A Relief

So I finally bit the bullet and called my doctor to schedule a test for Celiac disease. The stomach issues are flaring up again (though not nearly as bad as before thank goodness) and we had read in a few different sources that unchecked Celiac disease can lead to difficulty getting pregnant (at this time we're pretty much willing to try anything to finally be with child).

I was waiting to hear back from his office about whether they'd mail me a script or if I needed to go in to see the doctor prior to my May appt with him. Well, the nurse just called back to let me know the good news that he actually checked me for Celiac disease back in November and it was NEGATIVE! Wahoo!

I know I still need to seriously limit my intake of gluten in order to feel my best, but that is much easier to deal with than having to read the labels on everything from toothpaste and lipstick to tortillas and baked beans for the rest of my life.

However, I am supposed to go in this Friday for a breath test which would let him know if it's a lactose issue or anything else like that. I really hope that's a negative because I really can't fathom a life without cow's milk products, especially cheese enchiladas. That may kill me before the lactose does!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring has FINALLY Arrived!!

Yesterday as I was walking out the door for work I let out a squeal of delight when I saw this waiting for me at the end of the walk:


These are some of my favorite spring flowers and it took everything in me to hang on to the tray of brownies in my hand and place them safely in the car before grabbing my camera to take a document this momentous occassion.

Aahhh. Spring. It's nice to see you again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Today is my boss’s birthday and being that it’s the month of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured it fitting to have a “green” type of dessert.

I remembered times visiting my grandma around Christmas and the delicious brownies she’d make with a green mint layer. I thought these would be perfect. Sure enough…the boss devoured three within 5 minutes! I’m keeping how many calories he consumed to myself, though. Wouldn’t want to spoil his birthday.

Chocolate Mint Brownie
Makes: 5-6 dozen (I have no clue how because I only got 28)

1 cup flour
1 stick butter, softened
½ t salt
4 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 can (16 oz) Hershey syrup
1 c sugar

2 c powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 T water
½ t mint (or peppermint) extract
3 drops green food coloring

1 package (10 oz) mint chocolate chips (see “Notes”)
1 stick butter

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. Pour batter into a greased 13 x 9 pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (top of brownies will still appear wet).

Combine filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl: beat until creamy. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate until set.

For topping, melt chocolate chips and butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Let cool for 30 minutes or until lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Spread over filling. Chill thoroughly before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.

NOTES: If you can’t find mint chocolate chips, simply add ½ t mint or peppermint extract to the plain chocolate chips. The topping called for 9 T of butter, but I only used 8. Also, I used “Promise” butter sticks and based the below calorie number on that.

According to my grandma, these get more moist by the day and they’re the greatest brownie you’ll ever eat. I haven’t had one yet today…I’m waiting until I get home with hubby…but I liked the spatula after making each layer last night and it sure was yummy!

CALORIES: When cut into 28 pieces, each serving contains about 255 calories.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another Fabulous (but unproductive) Weekend

Hubs & I had the BEST time Friday night! We had dinner at the home of some new friends from church, and I knew she and I would get along as soon as she served us PW's lasagna. As the 5 hours of laughs rolled on, we discovered just how scary it is how similar our husbands are. Definitely think we have found some new quality, and hopefully life-long, friends. We're looking forward to many more nights of laughter in the future.

Saturday we made a trek out to PA to tour a modular home factory. It's amazing how fast those homes are built (6 days in the factory; about 3-6 months from start to finish) and how well-made they are. We're hoping to meet with a builder this week to see if our lot is conducive to modular home building and then to get pricing. It's so exciting! On the way home from that we stopped by some family friends of hub's family and had a great conversation and meal with them. It was a long day (left house by 10am and didn't get back until after 9pm), but a very fun one.

Sunday was another awesome morning with everyone at church (can I just say again how much we're LOVING our new church family!) and then a fun-filled afternoon 4-wheeling around the property. We got a little lot of mud on us, but that's half the fun. Can't wait until it dries out and we can go exploring in the woods instead of just the fields.

Hope you all had great weekends too.

This week my goals are to tackle my house. Our busy lives lately have resulted in one messy bedroom and bathroom, PILES of paperwork to be filed (and tax forms to be located so we can file those), and a couple baskets of clean laundry that have been waiting to be put away for a couple weeks now. We've banned TV during the week, so hopefully we'll get back to being productive around this joint!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cream Puffs

Tonight hubby and I are having dinner at the house of some new friends from church. We're super excited to have the opportunity to really connect with other young Christian couples in our area.

We are bringing the customary hostess gift of wine (that's what it is in this part of the country...what do you normally bring for a hostess gift?) and also some dessert.

I didn't feel like running out to the store last night, so I decided to use what I had on hand and came up with the idea to make my mom's cream puffs. I haven't had these babies for a long time and remember them being so good. Hopefully they'll taste just as delicious as they look.

Though they look fancy, cream puffs are super easy to make. If you haven't ever made them, try them won't be disappointed.

Makes about 12 puffs

1 c. water
½ c. butter or margarine (I use Promise)
¼ t. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
4 eggs

1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding
1-1/4 c. milk (I use skim)
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped (I only had a tub of light Cool Whip on hand)
1 t. almond extract

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 T. butter
1 T. milk
1 T. light corn syrup (this is what gives it a nice glossy sheen)

Preheat oven to 400. In saucepan over medium heat, heat water, butter and salt until butter melts and mixture boils. Remove from heat. With wooden spoon, vigorously stir in flour all at once until mixture forms a ball and leaves side of saucepan. Add eggs to flour mixture, one at a time, beating (or stirring hard) after each addition until mixture is smooth and satiny. Cool slightly. Drop by heaping tablespoon (I used an ice cream scoop) onto lightly greased and floured cookie sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool on wire rack.

Prepare pudding using 1¼ c. milk. Fold in one cup of heavy whipping cream, whipped (or 2/3 tub of cool whip), and 1 t. almond extract. Fill puffs once they are cooled.

In microwave melt chocolate chips with butter (about 30 seconds and then stir and reheat in 10 second intervals if necessary). Add milk and corn syrup; stir until smooth. Drizzle over filled puffs.

Store in fridge until ready to serve.
NOTE: Instead of using chocolate, you could just cover them with sifted powder sugar, or put the sugar on top of the choclate once it hardens before serving. I had left over chocolate and dipped a banana in it and froze it for a future treat.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Allergen-Free Baking

I was watching Martha the other day and she had this guest on who wrote a book all about allergen-free baking. Personally, we don't have any allergies in our family, though, I do think I have developed a small gluten-intolerance if I eat too much of it.

Despite the fact we have no allergies, I still am dying to get my hands on this book and try out some of her tricks because they look delicious and sound so healthy for you.

She even did a blind taste test on some people in the audience with egg-free cookies. One cookie had eggs and the other used a mix of flaxmeal and water to replace the egg. The taste testers chose the egg-free cookie!

If you have allergies or intolerances, or you want to experiment with healhier baked goods, check out this book:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thank God I'm a (converted) Country Girl

Those of you who knew me growing up are probably just as shocked as I am that I am THRILLED over the fact that as of last night at 5pm, hubby and I are now the proud owners of 94 acres of farm and woodland! Despite the fact I always said I wanted to marry a city-rancher kinda guy, I grew up in the middle of a subdivision in Colorado and never imagined myself actually living on 94 acres with no neighbors, but I'm looking forward to it. Still not sure I'll really get into the whole feeding the cows early every morning, but that's what my hubs is for; I'll just make sure to have a hearty breakfast ready for him when he's done.

This land really is an awesome piece because when you're on it you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, yet it's only 5 minutes from where we live now which is smack dab in the middle of a Northeastern "bedroom" community. I think we just bought the last piece of land in town...most residents don't even know there still is farmland in town.

It's nerve-wrecking and exciting at the same time. It's scary not knowing exactly where the money for a third monthly mortgage will come from (until we sell off our "flip" house we bought a couple years ago and we convert the other mortgage back to hubs parents), but we prayed over this land numerous times asking the Lord to provide if it'd be His will for us to own it. He's come through so far and I'm sure He'll continue to do so.

We have our application in the works for farmland preservation and once that comes through it should be paid in full in a little over a year. What an awesome opportunity for our future family and for ministry. Church bonfire anyone?

This weekend is one of our first meetings with the modular home builder we're hoping to use for the "guest" house that we plan to build first. Our hope is to build a 3-stall garage with a 1400-1500 sq. ft 2-bed, 2-bath "ranch" on top. Hubby & I will live there until we can off-load the other two mortgages and then use that money to build our main house. We'd then love to loan out the guest house to family, friends, missionaries, etc. who are looking for an affordable (most likely free) place to stay short-term.

I'm still shocked that I'm wanting to stay living in the state where we reside given it's incredibly high property taxes, but the fact that we're getting plugged into a great church and had this awesome opportunity for a little slice of heaven is changing it allows hubby to stay in politics (providing he wins his second re-election this November).

Ya, I think I can gladly say, "Thank God I'm a country girl!" 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

DIY Day: Duck Hooded Towel & Washcloth Puppet

Click here to see more projects

The birthday boy opened his gift the other day and loved it! Based on how small he is, I think he'll get many years of use out of this hooded towel.

To make the hooded towel, I used a tutorial I found on Infarrantly Creative. I actually came across it while doing a google search and thought it was the best tutorial of the search results. I chose a yellow towel because the birthday boy LOVES yellow and he LOVES bathtime, so I decided to turn it into a duck hooded towel by sewing on an orange fleece beak and some white and black fleece to make eyes. I think it turned out very cute.

To give him even more fun in the bath, I made a duck washcloth puppet to accompany it. I followed some instructions I found here doing another google search.

These were so easy to make, even for a novice sewer (what's the proper word...I don't want to call myself a name of where waste goes) like me. Can't wait to find new sewing projects to expand my skills.