Switching over to “Just Like Perfect”

On Tuesday March 3rd, the plan is to redirect visitors to this site over to my new active site, “Just Like Perfect!”. I am still sharing fresh and thoughtful gift ideas as well as my gift of gab over there, and I have room to share so much more now.

Please come on over and if you enjoy your time there, sign up to receive posts by email or follow along on Facebook.

“Just Like Perfect!” can be found at: http://www.justlikeperfect.com/ 

or

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/justlikeperfect

See you soon!

From me…to you

Aaryne

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“Follow” Along

It’s bittersweet to move on from this blog because it is where I started almost a year ago. I have loved every moment of it, which is why I wanted my own website to grow into. As I get ready to make this site inactive, there is a slight hesitation to do so.

Sniff, sniff.

Some of the “not wanting to let go” may be from my own world as a momma. My wee ones are growing and the last one will eventually be moving out of the “baby” lifestyle. There are lots of things to look forward to in the new phases to come, like not having to fill milk cups 225 times a day. But it’s the “leaving behind” that puts a catch in my throat.

But, the time is coming to move forward soon.

For those of you who have “followed” me and were able to receive emails every time I posted (aren’t you glad that you picked that option?), I believe that you will need to “follow” me again on my new website, “Just Like Perfect”. At the top of the sidebar on the right, you will see an option to follow along through Facebook or by your email address. I have also added Pinterest as a way to follow me, but my Pinterest boards for Just Like Perfect are in the “development” phase at this point. Other social media options will be coming in the future too.

If you were tired of hearing from me (I know, like that is possible), then this is a way for you to move on.  I will miss you very much and I thank you for hanging in there with me, but I understand that you need to do things differently. I will be happy to see you again, my friend, if you decide to stop back in to “Just Like Perfect” at another point.

In the next few days, I will make “Make it, Bake it or Buy it” inactive and you will be redirected to my new site if you try to come here.

I look forward to seeing you in my new place!

From me…to you

Aaryne

It’s Time for My New Website!

Ready or not, my new website is open to share with all of you!

Yippee!

I am so excited to share this and thank you for being patient with me while I developed it. I am ready to be back and focused on one site and all of the wonderful things that I want to share for your gifting moments and all of your moments made.

Please click here for the link to “Just Like Perfect!” or search for justlikeperfect.com (but since I am new I may be a few pages back…!)

http://www.justlikeperfect.com/

See you at my new pad!!

Almost Ready…

It’s Thursday already…how did that happen?

Well, then it must be almost time for me to unveil my new website.

I am getting “Just Like Perfect!” spruced up for you and tomorrow I will post the link to my new website!

Did You Really Think I Could Stay Away?

Yah, I can’t.

But, I am getting things accomplished, more or less, so you can join me soon on my new website “Just Like Perfect!”.

Today was very busy in a fun way because I was actually able to spend a good amount of time cooking and baking so that I can add some new recipes to my site. I love being in the kitchen and it was so much more fun to do this for my website than to sit and try to figure out all of the technical stuff that is not working or to fix all of the back posts (I am sooo not done with that yet).

I won’t spoil the surprise but there are desserts, soup and a deliciously moist quick bread with a twist to look forward to.

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The only problem is that I think I used every pot and pan that I own so cleanup is ginormous.

I’m Lonely

sad

I’m lonely over in my big ole messy half-empty website without you.

So, because it’s no fun doing this without you and I want you to keep me company, I have decided to spend the next week working like crazy to get my place presentable and then switch over to my new website. Does that sound selfish? It might be, but just maybe you would enjoy grabbing a box to sit on and keep me company. From there, I will keep working on many things that need tidying but it will be so much more fun (for me any way) to have you along. What’s the point in waiting until my website is perfect when the whole point of my website is that it doesn’t need to be perfect to make a moment?

Thus, I will not be putting posts on here this week so that I can focus on getting “Just Like Perfect!” ready enough for switching over next weekend.

I would love to be “open” for the start of March. It is my 1 year anniversary for blogging, ya know. How can it be one year already? But, it makes the moment fun to switch to my new site during my anniversary month – lots to celebrate!

By the end of next week, I will be back and let you know what my plan is for the weekend…it is all just so exciting!

Talk to you soon and have a great weekend and week…

From me…to you

Aaryne

How’s My “Just Like Perfect!” Website Coming Along Now?

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Fabulous, just fabulous!

It has been a few weeks now and for the last few days, I have stopped complaining. That in itself is fabulous because I was getting tired of the “complaining me”, it’s not my nature.

My site is taking shape, finally, and I have not had any major setbacks (I just jinxed myself for sure) and I am getting excited. At the moment, I am knee-deep in tedious manual technical labor but my mind is busy dreaming about what I want it to look like, both temporarily, and as I move forward.

If you don’t know, I am a big dreamer. Big. And with big plans, often much bigger than can be accomplished in the near future – or ever. This website dream is no different.

So, I just reel myself in and make adjustments to my mindset. The biggest kink in my plan is that I need to go through the blog material that I have transferred over, post by post, because links are not working and my new website has the ability to include “featured images” (like my recipe blog had) but this site does not. So, I have to add an image for each post, fix links and clear any other cobwebs that I find. There are over 500 posts. Phew.

First, I started just going page by page and post by post. But I only got to page 7 out of 30 pages and I needed to see more success. I am the person who paints a wall and then cuts in because I need to see results fast. Granted, cutting in takes the longest and it is best practice to cut in first. And technically, once the cutting in is done, the rest of the wall goes quickly. But, at some point, I need visual stimulation to see that I am actually accomplishing something.

This post-fixing project is no different either. So, I changed up the routine and started fixing posts by category. Ahhh, seeing the categories get checked off of a list was the visual accomplishment that helped. I have left the largest category for the end, as I do with painting and cutting in, and will probably be sorry, but by that point, it will just have to get finished.

Thus, in the mindless task of going post by post, I think I have decided that I will open the Just Like Perfect! website once it is operable and invite you all to stop in and look around as construction is going on. I will still have to fix posts and get organized but right now, I am doing double the work by posting here and then adding it to the new site. It just doesn’t make sense. The whole point of my new site is that things do not have to be perfect to be enjoyed. It is about making moments that matter and perfection is rarely a key component. In my younger years, I spent so much time making moments perfect that I missed out on enjoying them and no one really noticed all of the details and “perfection” any way. There is a time and a place for perfection (although as I get older I am not sure when that would be) but I for one, am not going to miss out on a moment with life and loved ones because I could not present perfection. “Just Like Perfect” is perfectly acceptable and much more fun! I am missing you and need to spend more time with you again.

So, soon, very soon, I will invite you to join me in my latest adventure as I expand my blogging world. You can dust off a seat, bring some coffee for both of us (I am not sure where I packed the coffee maker yet) and chit-chat while I clean out cobwebs and corners and find places for all of my pictures and dishes. Eventually, I will return the favor and one day you will come in to smell the coffee brewing, find that fresh-baked goods are waiting for you and I am ready to share some scoop because I have settled in and it has become my new home.

(In case you haven’t noticed or are completely confused, I have been thoroughly enjoying comparing moving into my new website to moving into a new home. It’s stressful and tiring but exciting and cozy as well. – That’s how my crazy mind works!)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

All right…so are ya wonderin’ if I managed to redeem myself and if I came up with a gift idea for my husband? (A few days ago I had no idea what I was going to give him as a token gift for Valentin’es Day.)

He somehow got wind of my lack of gift ideas (probably because he is a loyal blog follower). I asked him if he was nervous and he said that he wasn’t…but I think I saw a worry line.

Well, my husband has to work on Valentine’s Day so it finally occurred to me to treat him to a lunch filled with all of the decadence that he normally does not lunch on.

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A BIG sandwich called The B.O.S.S (Big Oversized Sub Sandwich – that is one of his faves and it is also fitting because he is a boss) – and lots of sides were packed away and sent to work with him. I was quite pleased with myself, and almost as important as that was that I think he was happy too…

I also decorated our windows with paper hearts and treated the wee ones to smiley face donuts for breakfast, complete with a crafty puffball critter. They noticed the hearts on the window right away and were quite tickled. About half of the hearts have disappeared because a wee one took them to make their own cards and a toddler just took them. The crafty critters were not a well made craft because they were held together only by glue and I have made many modifications throughout the morning with tape. The toddler’s critter is missing most of its add-ons, but hearts were happy and a moment was made…it is just like perfect!

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Don’t Tell My Husband…

but I am not entirely sure what I am doing for Valentine’s Day…

I know, I know…how can it be that the world’s greatest gift idea gal is not all set for Valentine’s Day? Well, I have a plan in place but I like to get a thoughtful little token gift and I am not on top of my game this year.

Last year, Lindt Chocolate made these adorable Frog Prince Chocolates so I picked one up for him from Target. This year, Target has a frog prince tin with chocolates (ya know, in case you still need an adorable token gift – you have to purchase it from the store) but I cannot do the same thing this year. We already enjoyed my Chocolate Cherry Chip Brownie, in it’s fabulous heart shape.

Lindt Milk Chocolates in Frog Prince Tin 4.7 oz

Valentine’s Day comes hot on the heels of Christmas, our anniversary and both of our birthdays. We are not in need of gifts, although I did give him an idea for me (I can always enjoy some spices from the Spice House).

I will keep you posted…will this gifting gal get it together?

Stay tuned….

How’s My New Website Coming Along?

It’s a mess. An absolute mess.

Thank you for asking. I am neck deep in trying to design my new website “Just Like Perfect!” and it isn’t even close to perfect.

It is disorganized, stuff is all over and I cannot find anything I need. It is cluttered, messy and just plain chaotic. There is no place to sit down or put things. It is disturbing to the eyes.

Hmmmm….that sounds familiar but I cannot put my finger on it…..hmmmm.

Oh yah…it looks a lot like this…

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and this

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and this

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and this

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(Yes, there are still holiday decorations up but they are “winter” decorations people…)

I have a tech person in the family who is giving me some assistance. This is the person who wondered why my site didn’t look like “XYZ” (and XYZ was exactly how I had always wanted my site to look but didn’t think I could have a website yet so I got very excited to hear the tech person say that) when I had questions about changing the name of my blog. So, with this person’s encouragement I set off on my quest for the website that I had always wanted.

This person is an absolute whiz in the tech world. This person could design a technical world in a warehouse the size of a football field all by themself and be able to find one specific needle based on that design. No problem. But you would not want to visit this person’s warehouse, it would be too cold and too harsh and that is exactly how it would be planned. It would not be meant for visitors, it would be strictly for function. I, however, am looking for a warm cozy fuzzy place for everyone to come and sit for a while. Big cushy couches to sink into with your coffee while you lose track of time hanging with me. A place that feels fun and inviting. That is a new design world for this tech person who is helping me. We are both bringing something different to the table and I think that it will be one fabulous website, a place you never want to leave, once we are done. But, I am not sure we are ever going to get done.

I am grateful for this tech person’s help because just when I am completely stumped, they give me enough clarity to push through and move on. They give me hope when I am ready to pay someone a million dollars to design my site. It’s too much, I am in way over my head, “WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH” – insert tears and foot stomping – “I can’t do it!!!!!!!!!!”. The worst thing about working with this tech person is that this person believes that I can do this (I can’t). They will not let me give up and hire someone for a million dollars (it’s the only way). This tech person feels that I should know how to do all of these things myself because

A: it is fun – (ok, it kinda is)

B: I will need to know how to do it any way to manage my site in the future (yes, I guess that is true) and

C: I will feel so accomplished once it is complete (probably way more accomplished than trying not to eat a waffle sundae every night)

That tech person’s calm voice cuts through my drama and says that I can do it and that there is a way.

Sniff, sniff – insert nose blowing – “Ugh, Ok, I will keep working on it”.

By the way, tech person, I also don’t know how to get my pictures to organize on my new computer. And how do I get my new camera to take better pictures? Oh, heck, can I pay you to come here and fix all of my technology issues? I would happily give you the million dollars that I want to pay someone to create my website.

This tech person knows how I live and just laughs. They offered to meet me, alone, in Maine and handle my tech issues, but none of my other issues. They are not coming to my world. Wimp.

Maybe it is because I am designing my new website on a notepad?

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(and yes that is a gingerbread tablecloth on my table still and yes, I do know that it is February.)

I need to go make something in my kitchen, a place where I feel comfortable and know what I am doing, to rejuvenate my soul…and then get back into my website refreshed and ready to tackle the unknown. Unless I use up all of my free time in the kitchen….hmmm….that could work….

 

My Daughter’s “Blogging”

My daughter has been watching me and paying attention and I did not even know it, until I saw her one day going around with her kid camera getting in close for her shots.

She also loves to “cook” and craft and she has made these for my blog. She had an idea to scoop out the inside of an orange and then fill it with other fruit and yogurt, then top it with the other orange peel. She considers it a recipe (I do too when I barely did anything for my food, it sounds like I was much more involved) and calls these “Treasure Chests”. She must have seen an idea for them somewhere but I just think she is quite clever. She has only just turned “5”.

Her most recent creation is a cupcake made with little colored “puff balls” and a glittery-topped chapstick for the candle (it was a birthday present).

Of course, I think she is so stinkin’ cute…

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Just Like Perfect!

Yippee! Wahoo!

…[insert happy dance]…

Thanks to you and your encouragement to hang in there, I finally have a new name! (I had outgrown my blog name-read about it here)

This past week it came to me and it was inspired by these pathetic little cupcakes that I made for my daughter’s birthday. I shared these with you in this post.

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They looked fine going into the oven.

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They did not come out looking anything close to fabulous.

Not even close. The tops were sunk in and crunchy. The batter had spilled out over the sides and was baked on.

But, that was not what mattered. It was about celebrating a birthday for my muffin and she loved these cupcakes. It didn’t even occur to her that they looked pathetic.

It was just us and I was juggling a sick kid too so starting all over was not an option and I did not have to.

I salvaged them with frosting and candy and hearts were happy. It was a moment made and for me, that was more important than a lovely looking cupcake.

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I caught myself whispering, “just like perfect” as I finished the first cupcake and I realized that I enjoyed that motto a lot. A lot. More often than not, my best intentions for perfect produce less. But the outcome I wanted was not a perfect cupcake, it was a happy little muffin who felt special on her birthday and I succeeded in that. THAT came out perfectly!

It must have been “meant to be” (I believe in the energy of the universe and all that jazz) because later that night when I looked up the phrase, I could not find anything online that would be a problem for having it as a title for my new website. Nothing. I have searched hundred of names and phrases and they have all been taken.

Then…panic set in…

I still had not figured out HOW I was going to have a website and I did not want the name to be taken before I could “own” it. I wanted to do it right but fast. Here and there I was able to put the pieces together for a plan and became the new “owner” of a website called Just Like Perfect!

I have only just moved into my new digs and now I am trying to figure out how to build my site but I am excited to get it “livable” and invite you to the Open House. Until then, I still have lots to share here, but I will keep you updated. And maybe I will share my journey in the event that some of you are thinking of self-hosting your site. I truly am starting from scratch and with limited knowledge.

So far, it is Just Like Perfect!

Mouthwatering Superbowl Must-Haves!

As a batch of chicken wing sauce simmers away on my stove, let me tell you a story…

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Meet one of the loves of my life…oh how I long for those wings and that pizza!

But we have a long-distance relationship because they are in NY and I am not.

Sure, it just looks like pizza and chicken wings, so what is my problem you are wondering – they are all over the place. Sadly, not all chicken wings and pizza have the same flavors and I cannot find those exact flavors in my Midwestern world.

So, I set about to see if I could create them myself.

I make a homemade pizza (homemade as in using frozen pizza dough!) that is tasty and has been a pleaser for years so it satisfies me when I want pizza even tho it is not the pizza you see above.

Thus, the chicken wing sauce became my obsession and after trying many recipes online I came up with the recipe below that is pretty darn close to the flavor that I crave. It seems that simmering the sauce to reduce it and then refrigerating it is key. Once you have the wing sauce, the possibilities are endless. Obviously it is perfect when paired with chicken wings but it is also delicious when tossed with popcorn chicken or as a dip for your chicken fingers. How about dunking your fried egg sandwich or adding it to a burger?

It is also fabulous in a Buffalo Chicken Pizza (see below) that was another favorite food from a restaurant in NY that I just had to figure out how to make myself.

I have also included a recipe for Blue Cheese Dip from the Pioneer Woman (adapted ever so slightly), that goes perfectly with this chicken wing sauce.

Just below the pictures are the links to my original posts and then the recipes follow in case you just need to get to the good stuff (although why you would want to miss out on my gabbing session is beyond me…)

Oh – and keep scrolling for the Hot Dog of your dreams!

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(I needed to show you two shots because you just had to see the melty blue cheese dollops)

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

  • Difficulty: easy but has a few steps
  • Print

Buffalo Chicken Wing Sauce

– adapted

8 tablespoons Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce (try to use Frank’s Original – I have tried with the wing sauce version and it is not the same)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar (I used seasoned Rice Vinegar for a little flavor)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or less if you do not like as “garlicky”)
3-4 splashes of worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on a very light bubble for 15-20 minutes. Add more “cayenne heat” if you need to adjust the taste.

Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

You can use the sauce now, but I discovered that refrigerating it overnight made the flavors and ingredients blend into a much better “sauce”. Give it a stir. If you prefer or need to reheat it, you can use the microwave for short bursts at a time or use the stovetop just to warm it. If you are adding hot wings to the sauce then you really do not need to reheat it because the heat from the wings will soften the refrigerated sauce.

Blue Cheese Dip

I like the Pioneer Woman’s version of Blue Cheese Dressing so I used that and just tweaked it a bit.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/fast-blue-cheese-dressing-recipe.html

1/2 cup mayo
3/4 cup sour cream
3-4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Blue Cheese Crumbles
1/8 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate.

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What a Perfect Pair!


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Yes this dog just might be your next best friend, the kind that you love to bring to parties and show off .

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Sometimes, a simple hot dog is best. But when you want to add a little somethin’ somethin’ to it, you can’t go wrong with meat sauce, and a hearty one at that. It’s easy to throw together and very forgiving if you need to substitute an ingredient or two.

Hot Dog Meat Sauce

Hot Dog Meat Sauce

1 lb ground beef (chicken, turkey, or even tofu I suppose)
1/4 cup pasta sauce
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons hot sauce of your liking (or omit)
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar, any kind – I used seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes of soy sauce
salt & pepper to taste

– Brown and drain the ground beef.
– Combine all of the ingredients and mix in the ground beef.

Serve with fresh diced onions, fried onions and banana peppers…yum!

That’s it – you’re done! This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated if need be (just warm it before serving).

Home from Surgery

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes yesterday during my wee one’s day surgery. He did a great job and is recovering at home today after a long day at the hospital.

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These are the bags that I took with me that were filled with food and activities for me and my wee one, but mostly me. Let’s face it, his day was pretty much planned out. There were various snacks of the sweet and salty variety and a Diet Pepsi, of course. A thermos with water and one with ice. The shining star was a turkey sandwich on a beautiful roll that was only slightly less “shining”” because it lacked bacon. But I was too tired to make it the night before and yesterday morning making bacon felt inappropriate when my wee one could only eat JELL-O. I had to call on the gods for self-control. I REALLY wanted bacon. I settled for bacon bits. It was still a delicious sandwich and I even packed chips and pickles. I had to have pickles and they made me so happy.

I found a section of the waiting room that I could call my own and set up my little fort. It was lovely. I ate half of my sandwich and a variety of accompaniments around 10:30 am when my muffin was in surgery. That time frame is normally second breakfast or first lunch for me when I am home, so I was right on schedule. It was delicious. I read a bit and eventually the surgery was over and I was called to meet with the surgeon. All went fine and it was to be about 30 minutes to an hour before my wee one would wake up and I could see him.

When I came out of the physician meeting room, the people in the waiting room had multiplied and I saw that I lost my large section that had been all to myself.  I tried to act casual as I looked around to see that there were other empty chairs that they could have selected from. My giant collection of bags should have been a warning. I needed to corral my bags so I squeezed me and my bags into the allotted space for one chair and then proceeded to become “one of those people”. The ones that we roll our eyes at. There are times when I fill that role very well and yesterday was one of those days.

I decided that I needed my Diet Pepsi. I really wanted the ice from my thermos in a cup with my Pepsi but the ice had melted enough to become one block. I would have needed to shake the thermos to break it all up. In the woods, that action would have been just fine. In the waiting room where parents were anxiously waiting for word on their wee ones, that behavior was not appropriate. So, I resigned myself to pouring the soda into the hard packed ice-filled Thermos so that it would at least be cold. My soda filled the thermos almost to the brim so I was going to need to politely sip out of the top of the thermos a bit before I could put the sippy-type cover on. No problem. I settled back with my book about self-publishing and prepared to wait out my time. Before I even took a polite sip of soda, a lady called for the mom of my wee one. She said that it was time to go with her. What? I just sat down. Is this the real deal? Do I get to go back with him now? Do I bring all of my things?

Yes.

Oh happiness! I started to gather my things realizing that I had a bit of work ahead of me to get packed up, all while the lady was waiting for me. Talk about pressure.

The first thing that I did was to put the top on my very full thermos of soda because I forgot that it was a very full thermos of soda. You guessed it. Soda spilled out onto the little end table. The people around me (that had not been there earlier in the day mind you) tried not to look.

At this point, I knew that I was just going to have to accept being “one of those people” and I may as well do it gracefully.

I tried.

But the soda just seemed to keep showing up on the table and I had to take it to the garbage and spill some out then make a few trips to grab tissues and throw them out. One of my giant bags that I had already slung on my shoulder kept falling and getting in the way as I tried to cleanup my mess and gather my belongings. It was not going well. I cheerfully offered that the doctor had just told me that it would be 30 minutes to an hour so I wasn’t expecting to go so quickly. No one seemed to see that THAT was the reason that I was in this predicament. They just kept pretending to look at their tiny little technology devices – the ONLY things that they brought with them.

Eventually the lady who was waiting for me came over and told me that she would take care of my mess. I told her that she did not need to clean up after me since it was my mess. I think she just could not take it anymore.

As I finally left to follow her to my wee one, with all my bags hanging off of me, I looked back to make sure that I had everything and saw that my neighbors were still pretending to look at their little devices but I think I heard them breathe a sigh of relief.

I was so happy to see my muffin that I had already “moved on” from my performance.

Eventually, he and I were settled in a room and when he fell asleep I grabbed my thermos full of soda. Ice-cold soda. Delightful.

It went just perfectly with the second half of my sandwich, chips and pickles.

I got to watch Sesame Street, which I think is one of the funniest shows ever made. The hidden humor gets me every time. And don’t even get me started on how funny Grover is.

And the highlight of the day was that the Tooth Fairy made a stop by the operating room since a tooth was hanging by a thread. That crazy lady even left a dollar. Who knew she made hospital calls?

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Today I am balancing a recovering child’s needs with a birthday child’s needs…and a toddler’s needs.

A recovering child who feels worse than when he went in for the surgery that was supposed to make him feel better. He is frustrated.

A birthday child, who already had the “big bash” but is still excited (and rightfully so) because it is the “real birthday” and is looking for the hooplah.

A toddler who may not know exactly what is going on but knows enough to make sure that he isn’t left out of any of it, good or bad.

Phew…

But I still think my day is better than my neighbor’s who has her first few day old newborn.

I think…

My house is a mess, laundry is piled up, kitchen counters and dishes are in their various stages of clean/unclean and the countless other tasks that are always with me. I am tired.

But…

the ice cream cone cupcakes were made.

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And as it would figure, this is what our cupcakes look like.

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I know it has nothing to do with me. I am not taking it personally.

They are far from perfect but I was the only one who noticed and not a one of us cares. It’s a good thing that we never met a cupcake that we didn’t like! With a little love it will be just fine. A moment is made…

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Hip-Hip Hooray for store-bought cake mix (although this one produced a not so soft cupcake) and frosting as a pantry staple (and for store-bought pre-made dinner!). It will be the best birthday ever!!

Set for Surgery

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Bright and early Monday morning me and a wee one are headed off for some child-related day surgery. We were able to get in on a cancellation, which meant that I had some scrambling to do Friday afternoon to get ready. With insurance authorizations, school teachers on notice, childcare for my other wee ones in place, and all other related tasks in order I now need to prep for the surgery day.

Naturally, my first priority and concerns are for my wee one undergoing surgery. But there isn’t anything more that I can do for him at this moment.

So, it becomes about ME.

Yes, me.

Will I have enough to eat?
(Probably a tuna fish sandwich is not a good choice in an enclosed waiting room. But bacon might be.)

What am I going to bring to keep me busy?
(This is not a problem at all. I have piles of things that I want to do and cannot get to. The better question is how do I narrow down the things that I bring to keep me busy to things that I would actually get to because I cannot bring in a rolling suitcase.)

What am I going to wear?
(Luckily, this is not a formal affair. But I suppose that fleece jammies and fluffy socks would be inappropriate since I am not the one actually undergoing surgery. I need to find the outfit that feels like sweatpants but looks like I put in a little effort. That will take some planning.)

Do I have enough headache medicine?
(Hanging around is not one of my strengths.)

In preparing for this day-long venture, I have become aware that I am actually going to have some rare time by myself. It’s not at the spa or at a bookstore but I always say you need to enjoy your opportunities however they come to you even if it doesn’t look exactly as you would have planned. It’s the only one coming so make it count.

I am getting a little excited. A cup of coffee, perhaps. I can leisurely read my books about self-publishing, a book by Marlo Thomas on ladies in the prime of their life starting their dreams (I do fit into that category) and one of the fabulous series of “Dummy” books  instructing me on how to use my new camera. Plus, there are still those holiday magazines that I have not looked at yet.

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Yes, it is a bit exciting.

There are also thank-you notes to get to and my holiday stories that need work.

And that pesky task of finding a new name for my blog/website. That task is like a mosquito flying around. I get tired of it and swat it away but it keeps coming back making noise.

Most likely I will be fraught with anxiety on separating from my wee one while away in the hands of others and I will sit with a nervous foot tick counting the seconds until we can be reunited, completely unable to focus on anything for myself. My giant stack of fun things to do will come home untouched.

But, it is a fun thought and is keeping me busy!

 

 

 

A Late Bloomer’s Identity Crisis

“It’s me. I am the late bloomer.

I don’t like my name.

My blog name.

It’s never felt “quite right” but at the time that I started blogging all of the names that I really wanted were taken so I went with that one.

It’s practical and describes my gifting philosophy but it isn’t “me”.

Since then I have been trying to come up with a new name that is “me” but I started blogging late and jumped into a saturated pool so EVERY name I can think of has been taken. The world is full of smart creative people and they beat me to it.

My mind is tired, it is fried.

Maybe I need to stop thinking of something that has to do with me and my blogging/website aspirations and pick something completely irrelevant.

Like

“Gal who lives in jammies”

or

“Momma who doesn’t want to vacuum”

or

“Crazy-eyed orange owl pen.”

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Yes, I am losing it…

Happy Birthday to Me!

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Today is my birthday! (For some reason the date of this post is Jan 13th not Jan 16th – quite possibly I “published” my post instead of saving the draft when I started working on it…hmmmm.)

I love celebrating my birthday and I always have a wonderful day no matter what it looks like. It is called “Happy” Birthday, after all.

Are you on the edge of your seat wondering just how a gift idea blogger would celebrate her 44th birthday? (I know that you are thinking that I do not look a day over 25…thank you so much, that is so very kind.)

When you are also a mother of three young children, there really is only one way to celebrate….

With a dress-up tea party for lunch, of course.

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A princess, a Skylander Giant and a toddler who ditched his hat by the time the party started were all in attendance as well as a grandma and me. My daughter and her grandmother planned the party and it was quite an event.

 

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The kind of event that is talked about long after it is over.

In the evening, the festivities continued with tacos and quesadillas and a cakeroll that I had wanted to make for Christmas. With a little tweaking, it became a birthday treat! Instead of red and green sprinkles, I used rainbow ones. I skipped the cake bits as that was not something that I have on hand and I did not use white chocolate to cover the cake. I reserved some of the frosting for the filling and topped the cake with it too. It was fun and delicious but very sweet!

This is my cake…

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Yummy!

And here is the recipe from Roxana’s Home Baking…http://roxanashomebaking.com/christmas-vanilla-roll-cake-recipe/

What would some fresh and thoughtful gift ideas include? I asked for some yoga DVD’s and a new candy/deep fryer thermometer. (I guess I can stop procrastinating about that exercise thing now. Right after I make some chicken wings…)

But on the top of the list are homemade cards and lots and lots of hugs and kisses.

and a McDonald’s Hazelnut Iced Coffee never hurts either…

 

“Over the Hill” Party

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We recently had an “Over the Hill” party for the male that has been in my life the longest.

I was fresh into my 1st apartment when he moved in with me and he was a bit of a bad seed. He had behavioral issues and my mom was not thrilled about him.

(You should always listen to your mom…they just know about these things.)

But I couldn’t let him go, so he and I have been together for 20 years now.

If you had told me at 24 years old that I would still have this guy in my life, I probably would have gone into a panic. There was no way that I was interested in that kind of commitment.

But 2o years later we are still together and we have had quite a history together. A celebration was due.

He’s scruffy now and cannot hear, but it serves him well in our kid-friendly home.

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Happy 20th Birthday Raja!

He is still beautiful and full of spunk, at least once or twice a year. He tolerates me and my craziness. Every time I have to reorder his 16 lb. bag of prescription cat food, I consider a smaller bag, then go for the big one deciding that I can donate any leftover food. That was like three or four 16 lb. bags ago.

He needs nothing, as is often the case when you have lived a full life. But this Christmas he was thrilled with cat nip and scratch pads, things that he had not used in the last few years.

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And then he needs a nap.

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His favorite hobby has always been being outside, although he has had to accept supervised visits because I cannot let him go out on his own.

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He loves snow.

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and eating grass.

Here’s to many more lives, Raja, since I am sure that you are only on your first one!

(and no, he did eat any chocolate cake…that was for us…but did you notice the animal print candles? He he he…)

My Name in Lights!…well, not really

Being that I love gifting and all, I use various sources to browse around for fresh and thoughtful gift ideas and magazines often have some super cool ideas.

Well, while looking through the December 2014 Holiday issue of the Food Network magazine, I saw that they had a section with food related gifts. They shared a gift idea for Birdseed Donuts from Gardener’s and I was totally like, “Hey…I posted a blog about those! My idea is in the Food Network Magazine!”.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/holidays-and-parties/photos/100-gifts-for-food-lovers.html –  (go ahead and check out their other fabulous ideas).

Granted it was only one of my ideas and they had LOTS, but I was able to make it out to be “big”, BIG I tell you. (Here is my post).

Now, you know that it had nothing to do with me and that it was all pure coincidence. Yes, I know that too.

But wait…

It happened again in the section where they shared candy ideas from each state. They shared Aplets & Cotlets and I had posted about them too! (here is my post)

I made that whole moment out to be fabulous, I tell ya!

Frozen…and freezing cold

I had to use that title in honor of my daughter who loves the movie “Frozen” and anything that relates to it.

My reference is to the freezy cold temperatures this week and today.

I love it and here is why…

Last year was freezy cold most of the winter and we were not sick. This year we have been sick all the time. My theory, that I am now putting to the test, is that germs just cannot survive in this freezy cold weather so we will not be sick. I feel so alive and healthy!

I pay attention to MSN Weather for my updates and there is a warning for “Ice Accretions”. What in the world is that and how should I prepare? It is considered “heavy freezing spray”. We still do not know what that is but we are kinda excited to see it – bring it on!

I love to hear the sound of the snow crunch under my tires and boots and the sound of my coat crackling because it is sooooo cold.

The air just smells of crispness.

And probably my most favorite is seeing everyone wear hats.

And I mean EVERYONE…

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(He’s used to it and he tolerates me)

There are even hats worn in cars and in stores. (Except for those two people who didn’t want to mess up their hair…)

The Afternoon Nap, Chapter 5 – A Cozy Warm Drink with a Toasty Sandwich

I know that the holidays have passed but I still need your help! I could not get these last few chapters to you for the holidays but since it is still winter, and we even have snow now, and I am still wearing my Grinch socks, I was hoping that I could share them with you and that you would not cringe.

For anyone who had been interested in this little book project of mine, I have 2 complete-ish chapters and then 2 that I am still drafting. I am interested in your feedback on how to improve the story and any comments that you have (aside from copyediting – that has not been done at this point beyond my own editing). I plan to add recipes, gift ideas and pictures too for a complete book when I ever get to that point.

Thank you…

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Chapter 5

I love going to holiday music concerts this time of year, so I really lucked out when a friend called last-minute and said that she had two box seats for a show the afternoon that she could not use. She asked if I wanted them and I happily accepted. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to find an available companion on such short notice, especially since the show was during the day, but I had no issue in going solo either.

A few phone calls proved that I was right, there was no one available to join me for the holiday music concert. Oh well, this was one show that I was not going to pass up so I hurried and got myself ready.

I managed to spruce myself up quite nicely considering that I had been in comfy clothes and very unadorned and I was pleased with the results. After getting directions to the concert hall, I hopped into my car and headed out for the show. It was a lovely afternoon for a show. The sky was gray and there were a few lightly falling snowflakes but the weather forecast was clear of any accumulation for the evening. That meant that I would not come out at the end of the show to find myself snowed in. There was just a dusting for effect or should I say “for show”.

I liked that.

Finding a parking spot proved to be relatively easy and I only had a short distance to walk to the concert hall. This was the first time that I was at this concert hall and it was a beautiful old hall that had been restored through the years and it was perfect for tonight’s holiday concert. I gazed around as I followed the directions to my seat based on my ticket seat number. My box seats were up in the balcony off to the side. Once seated, I noticed that there were three box seats on each side of the hall and they were separated from each other with thick red velour hanging curtains to the back and dark stained wood-paneled walls on each side. It was so lovely and I tried to imagine what it would have been like to watch a show here when the theatre had first opened up.

The box seats came with a lunch selection and I was quite pleased to see that a seasonal sandwich and warm drink were on the menu for today’s show. It was going to be delivered during intermission so I did not even need to leave my seat. How lovely! Unless I had to use the restroom. That thought made me decide that I had better head there before the show so that I did not miss a thing.

While walking to the restroom I smiled noticing all of the happy people walking around dressed in their fancy clothes for the afternoon holiday concert. Even the hosts and hostesses for the music hall were fun to look at since they were all decked out in seasonal attire. Santa hats, peppermint colors, angel wings, red Rudolph noses and many other costumes walked around. How fun! On my way back to my seat, I stopped quickly at the concession stand and bought a bag of roasted nuts. The smell made me do it and as I popped one into my mouth the taste took over my whole being. It was warm, toasty, buttery, spicy and sweet all in that one little nut, not that I stopped at eating just one nut.

Arriving back at my seat I settled in and the lights dimmed. It was so exciting! There’s something special about the hush coming over the crowd as the lights dim while you wait in anticipation for a show to start. Once the curtains parted the show started right off with a lively holiday tune that led into another. Then the conductor spoke for a few minutes and created the story line for the afternoon’s music. There was applause from the audience and the music began again.

It was such a lovely concert and I felt badly that my friend was unable to attend, but quite pleased that I had been available to take over. I would need to send a thank you note and definitely a package of these amazing nuts so at least she would not miss out on them. During intermission I would go grab a bag of nuts and also see if the performers were selling a CD of their holiday music. If so, I would pick up two, one for my friend and one for me.

The songs that they played combined a nice mix of classic holiday tunes with sing-a-longs. During one of the slower angelic songs I felt my eyes start to droop. It figured. I enjoyed my afternoon naps, especially now that I accepted that they would involve holiday magic and I really looked forward to them. In all of the rushing to get to the show I forgot that it was during my afternoon nap. I was missing it today but it was well worth it for this wonderful concert. It wasn’t long though and my eyelids became heavier and heavier. Soon, I was slouched down in my comfy oversized seat heading off on my afternoon nap adventure after all.

The last words I heard from the concert music were, “Come on, we’re going for a sleigh ride…”

The chilly night air was my first clue that I was no longer enjoying the holiday music concert. The next clue was completely unbelievable. I was sitting in a sleigh whizzing along above the sparkling snow-covered countryside with a full moon in front of me. Actually, the moon was in front of the reindeer that were in front of me. I was wondering if it was the sleigh from the cabin where I packaged up an arsenal of chili but I did not dare look over the side to see if it was a pale golden color sparkling in the night sky. I was quite happy, beyond happy actually, to think that I was getting this magical ride no matter what the sleigh looked like.

Obviously, I do not have to say that it was unlike anything that I had ever done before. As my afternoon nap adventures have continued I have wondered “why me?” and if anyone else has ever experienced these magical sleepy time glimpses into this holiday world. I never see anyone else, real or unreal.

Sitting here in a sleigh behind reindeer that were flying me across the most perfect landscape that I have ever seen under the cozy glow from the moonlight had me thinking that I did not care why I was picked to experience this and that I only hope that I am not the only one. I surely hoped that there were other believers in this unknown magic of the season that accompanied me on these journeys even if I never knew it. Words would never be able to describe how I felt and what I saw, even if I could tell someone about it.

The reindeer had jingle bells around their necks that made the most wonderful holiday rhythm as their legs pumped backed and forth effortlessly gliding us along. As I settled back in my seat and accepted that I was here and no matter what it was, it was worth experiencing to the fullest, I looked around me. As if my sleigh ride were not magical enough, I saw before me what looked like a vibrantly colored gingerbread village. There were bright white pillowy frosting borders on rooftops and multi-colored gum drops plopped in a row on top of the frosting. Red and white peppermint candies adorned the doorways along with sprinkles and sparkles. I was not sure if they were decorations that looked like candy or if they were really made of candy but it was wonderful!
Farther on there was the largest greenhouse that I have ever seen and it glowed from inside with seasonal colors of red, green, white, blue, gold and silver. I could only imagine how beautiful it must look inside. Beyond that, the view made me blink and squint. If someone were to ask me, and why would they because no one was here, I would say that it must be the North Pole. It was the most magical lighted scene that seemed to have no other explanation. I sat forward to get a closer look and then the sleigh veered away so I could no longer see that area. I felt disappointed but also a little relieved. If that was really what I thought it was, I did not want to know. There are just some things better left to the imagination.

Things were looking familiar to me now, which was a strange thought. But then I knew why. I saw the cabin below where I had made chili and then the cottage from my first nap-time visit. The reindeer circled and we started to descend. There was a clearing ahead and as we got closer to the ground I heard the most lovely music playing somewhere. It got louder as we landed and I saw before me the grove of trees that I had walked through outside of the cottage on my second visit. I figured that must be where the music was coming from and I was hoping to get a glimpse of the source this time.

The reindeer came to a halt and by their head movements I assumed that they were motioning for me to hop off so I did. The snow on the ground was light and fluffy and made me feel like a kid again as I shuffled my feet along kicking up snow. I did not really know where I was supposed to go so I looked back at the reindeer in the hopes that they just might be able to give me a clue. One reindeer caught my eye and pawed the ground. It nudged its head toward the left so I looked and saw a pathway through the trees. It looked like a thin path but lit enough to follow due to the stars that were out that evening. I started to walk that way but could not think of a reason to be heading off into the woods. I looked back at the reindeer and it shook its head as if to say “yes” so I kept walking. I was feeling very unsure of the whole thing but I decided to keep going and not look back in case I became annoying with my humanly disbelief governing my every move. I was not going to irritate my ride home, if that was even how I was getting home.

The air was chilly but calm and thick with winter magic. The peace and serenity inside me made me feel connected to another realm as I walked slowly breathing deeply of the pine scented air allowing the chilly nighttime air to fill my lungs. The moonlight sparkled over everything and all of my senses were alive. I could taste the season.

As usual, time escaped me so I had no idea how long I walked through the pines but it did not seem to be too long before I saw a silvery glow coming from around the next corner. The music still played and I was excited to think that I might see what was making that glow and I was hoping that it was where the music was coming from.

The pine trees parted into a clearing and before me was, once again, winter magic beyond words. There was the largest fluffiest warmest looking fleece pillow that I had ever seen and it seemed to beckon me to come and sit. It was bigger than a couch and looked like it could seat at least ten people, but tonight it appeared to be all mine. The music stopped, or at least I could not hear it anymore. I shuffled over to the pillow trying not to kick snow into it and gingerly sat down, but I sank right in. Boy, was it cozy and dreamlike.

The trees started to sparkle and I saw that their twinkle lights were coming on all around me. Then the music started again but this time it did not surround me but came from in front of me. Somehow a beautiful golden stand appeared with various sized sparkly silver bells on it. It resembled the shape of a pine tree with larger bells on the bottom and the smallest bell on the top that glowed the brightest. The whole thing looked like it was floating above the ground. As a slight breeze came the bells started to play faintly and the lights on the trees twinkled rapidly as if to say that the show was starting. I felt like they were performing a concert just for me as I heard the faint sound of bells grow louder as they began to play a holiday tune.

I forgot about my manners and climbed backwards into the pillow with my snowy boots so that I was surrounded by the warm fleecy material. It was like the pillow was also a blanket because I could tuck myself right in. The clear chilly night air patted my cheeks while the rest of me was all snuggled up toasty warm. The bells played enchanting seasonal tunes that brought my spirit alive with pleasure and relaxed it with peace and serenity all at the same time. I loved this magical concert that was playing just for me and each song seemed to be more beautiful than the one before it. As the fifth song started, I looked up at the sky which was layered with stars. The lighted trees, the music playing and the starlit sky created one incredible scene.

I was completely immersed in this magical moment when I heard a bell sound that did not seem like it belonged to the bell concert playing in front of me. It reminded me of the jingle bells that the reindeer had worn and I wondered if they were coming to collect me. I wriggled my way from under the cozy fleece pillow that had been snuggling me the whole time and made my way to the edge of the fleece pillow. As I plucked myself out from under that blankety goodness I looked around for the reindeer and noticed that my neck felt really stiff. Then I saw that I was back sitting in the chair at the music hall, or more like slumped down in the chair. That would explain the stiff neck.

Strangely, I thought that I heard the jingle bell sound again but since I was back at the concert hall I knew that it was just my imagination. Then the red velour curtain parted and my lunch appeared, followed by my host who managed to get himself through the curtain with my tray full of goodies. He was short and stout and his eyes twinkled as he handed me my warm drink. Then he set my warm hearty sandwich that smelled delicious and some sort of holiday sweet treat on a small fold-out table next to me. I loved this time of year! I realized that I was quite hungry and decided that a winter trip via sleigh and reindeer could do that to you. I chuckled. Oh my, no one would ever believe this, I was not even sure that I believed it. Maybe this time it really was just a dream since I did not wake to any particular evidence awaiting me from my nap adventures like I had grown accustomed to.

As my host bent over to put down my tray, the jingle bell sound from his Santa hat made me catch my breath and I looked at him. It was the same jingle sound that I had heard only a few moments ago while riding on the sleigh with the reindeer. He said not a word, but turned his head to the side so the bell jingled again, then he winked at me with a smile. He held out his hand to shake mine, as he said, “Happy Holidays”. His hands were ice-cold. I sat there looking at him with wide eyes. He winked again and as he left through the curtain, I saw that he left snowy footprints behind. That snow could not have been from outside the concert hall even if we did get more snow than a dusting. It never would have stayed on his boots by the time he traversed all of the flooring in the concert hall to get here.

As the curtain closed behind him, I heard him chuckle…and then the jingle bells again. I was not sure who he was and if he had been on my snowy adventure because I had not seen anyone.
Then I saw that the sweet treat on my luncheon tray was a reindeer cookie and a mini-cake shaped like a bell.

I love winter holiday magic.

This had been the most magical holiday concert ever. But who was that jolly little man?
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Source of inspiration:

My wee ones provided the source for the music in this story. I was unsure how I wanted the music to be played so I asked them to think about a magical winter story with music that was playing outside. Where did they think that the music was coming from? My daughter said that it came from bells and my son said that they played when the wind blew on them. Since my preference is for anonymous seasonal magic, I loved the idea of the bells making music by a winter breeze. It also fit in nicely since I had already written an earlier chapter with that sound of music that seemed to be carried on the breeze.

Thanks muffins!

My Pretend Christmas Day

Growing up in the Northeast, part of my vision for Christmas charm involves snow. There is nothing like a white Christmas but it does not always happen, and this year was one of those years.

In those instances, I hold the hope that it will snow some time before I take down my decorations and then I pretend that it is Christmas all over again, minus most of what happens on Christmas day. I still have my lights and my music and even foods. I also have peace and appreciation because all of the hoopla is over.

Today it snowed…yippee!

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So, the lights and music are on, I still have cards to write and send, there are still foods that I missed out on making and I am in “pretend” mode.

It’s wonderful!

While the cooking shows are sharing recipes for healthy salads, we are making popcorn with lots of butter as we enjoy watching them.

In a few days, I will have to accept the new year, healthy salads and all of its busy-ness and responsibilities, but today it is Christmas.

Again.

I forgot the butter…and to publish

(As I was looking at my “posts”, because I am in the process of creating a new one, I noticed that this post was listed as a DRAFT when I thought that I had published it days ago. I checked my blog and sure enough – it is not there on my home page. I hope that forgetfulness is not in store for 2015!)

Here is the post that was supposed to be shared days ago…

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The night after the day that I made it my mission to bake for my neighbors so that I could finally deliver their gifts, I saw a measuring cup half-filled with melted butter on my countertop. At first I thought that our guest was using it for something but it was late and that did not make sense. My kids were in bed and making popcorn did not seem like it was on the agenda.

Then I realized that it was the last ingredient for my Scandinavian Almond Cake that I had already delivered to my neighbor’s house.

Oops!

The cake HAD looked different and tasted slightly different when I tried a piece but it wasn’t my best one. Now I know why.

Bummer.

So, in keeping with the theory of making lemonade from lemons, we made popcorn with the melted butter.

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Eventually I will need to redeem myself with my neighbors and deliver a better homemade treat, but until then we enjoyed all of that melted buttery goodness ourselves!

Happy New Year!

Wild parties, lots of people, bracing against cold temperatures and late nights are no longer on my New Year’s Eve agenda.

Making it past 9:00 or 10:00 PM is big news for me. But living in the Midwest has a weird perk on New Year’s Eve where I can watch the New York City festivities and the ball drop to ring in the New Year, but it is only 11:00 PM for us. Then the hour until midnight is a bit of a limbo hour where TV has nothing to keep you going and the air has been let out of the excitement bag so I can go to bed and not feel like I missed out.

I suppose if I would get back into wild parties and lots of people that weird limbo hour would take care of itself…

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Happy New Year however you celebrate, and be safe!

See you in 2015!

Shepard’s Pie so I don’t cry

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So, you may remember that I have mentioned that some sort of evil virus permeated our family before Christmas and took over our home and our holiday prep. Or maybe you were busy enjoying your holiday season like you should have been so you had no time for my whining. I hope that is the case!

Me, on the other hand, have had lots of time to complain and whine about being robbed of my favorite season and all of the goodness that I was looking forward to. Our evil virus is still staying with us and today I could take no more. I woke after a sleepless night in a defiant mood and was ready to roll out the cookie dough that keeps staring at me from the fridge, make cakes for my neighbors and get dinners ready to freeze so we could pull them out at night when we had no more energy.

I still have yet to make my baked goods but that is because I also needed to get out of the house and go to Applebee’s and laugh like they do on their commercials. I really needed that.

But my Shepard’s Pie and Turkey Pot Pies are ready for the freezer.

After naps, I will tackle the baked goods (I so hope) and make ice cream sundaes…because we really need that too.

Now, I just wish I could taste all of this good food…

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