Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Favorites & A Giveaway!

I hope everyone enjoyed their turkey! I surely did. I had an amazing day watching the parade with my mama while Ted and his dad went hunting for pheasant.
We cooked together all morning and got everything ready.

Ted came over to my moms around 1:00 and we took a ride to the cemetery to visit with my dad...
One of his traditions from Thanksgiving was to always listen to Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Gunthrie at least once but usually three or four times on Thanksgiving day.

So as I got older, he always made me sit with him and listen to it. If you've ever heard it, it's kind of a talking story telling type song more so than an actual song.
So every year on Thanksgiving for the past 4 without him, I go to the cemetery and play it on my phone and sit there and listen to it. And every year I cry and miss him desperately.
Ted has gone with me for the past 3 years. He always has tons of tissues stashed in his pockets. And always listens to me tell him about how we used to sit at the kitchen table and listen to this each year and what my dad would say and how he'd laugh and I just never found it as humorous and entertaining as he did..... but it's different now obviously, so it's kind of special and something I will never stop doing. Ted met my dad one time and shook his hand before we went out one night. Soon after, he suddenly passed. We had only been dating a very very short time and he was there for me, and stood by me and attended services and just 110% knows how to help me through a tough day, or minute, or thought when I'm upset or missing my dad.....
Dinner was amazing of course, as was dessert.

I love being with my family more than anything. My mom always makes everything so pretty. And her food is just amazing... We only had 7 of us this year, but next year we may be in our new house so we might host !!
 Jake thoroughly enjoyed lounging by the fire all day 
And I managed to snag a picture with this cute bearded fella...
Fiercely wearing my blanket scarf of course!
Now on to the good stuff.....
Since Thanksgiving is a wrap, I'm fully moving into Christmas mode....
SO... Who doesn't love a good giveaway!? 
I know I do. Now, I am new to the blog scene, so I don't have a fancy raffle copter thing (yet) 
HOWEVER - I promise to be super fair and kick it old school by pulling names out of a hat! Haha. 
Who really cares HOW I pick, just so long as one of you walks away with a sweet prize...
Therefore, without further ado, this is what the winner will receive!

My favorite Christmas time lotion, Vanilla Bean Noel
A $5 Starbucks gift card 
A goodie bag from my favorite place to buy chocolates, Gertrude Hawk. 

To enter, simply tell me your favorite Christmas tradition in the comment section below.
I'll choose a winner and announce it on Monday!
I'm spending the day taking down Fall & Thanksgiving and decorating for Christmas.
My hubby and I are also taking a ride to a local brewery for a special beer they bottled!
I love a good craft brew & supporting our local businesses!
 Happy Friday Ladies & Good Luck!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone. 
Enjoy your time with family and friends. 
Enjoy your holiday feasts! See you tomorrow for Friday favorites and a lil giveaway! 


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recipe Club - What's Cookin' Wednesday

Happy Wednesday!
Today is my Friday!!
So THANKFUL to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow and have off Friday with my hubby.
I'm excited to watch the parade and cook with my mama...
while Ted pheasant hunts with his dad...
I love traditions!
Last night I made Andrea's Pulled Pork and we brought it to my moms to have for dinner while we began Thanksgiving prep.
And as usual, it was delicious!
Speaking of which, I'm linking up with Andrea for Recipe Club!
Today I am sharing one of my favorites... It isn't "my own" recipe, but it sure is delicious!
Brace yourselves...
Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Tomato Gravy &
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Compliments of Ree Drummond...aka The Pioneer Woman
Ok so this may be touch or go with most gals... Not everyone LOVES meatloaf.
I know this because I used to be a hater! But when I got her recipe book last year, and saw this I said hmm... this looks quite good actually.
THEN I saw the show she makes it on and I was sold.
So off to the grocery store I went to get the fixins...
Heres what you need to make your very own, I promise your hubby's will love it...
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 6 slices White Bread
  • 2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 cup (heaping) Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon Seasoned Salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Minced Flat-leaf Parsley
  • 4 whole Eggs, Beaten
  • 10 slices thin/regular Bacon

  •       Sauce
  • 1-1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • Tabasco To Taste (I used Worcestershire)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    For the loaf:
    Pour milk over the bread slices. Allow it to soak in for several minutes.

    Place the ground beef, milk-soaked bread, Parmesan, seasoned salt, salt, black pepper, and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Pour in beaten eggs.

    With clean hands, mix the ingredients until well combined. Form the mixture into a loaf shape on a broiler pan, which will allow the fat to drain. (I used a baking rack, hah)
    (Line the bottom of the pan with foil to avoid a big mess!)

    Lay bacon slices over the top, tucking them underneath the meatloaf.

    For the sauce:
    Add ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and hot sauce in a mixing bowl. Stir together. Pour 1/3 of the mixture over the top of the bacon. Spread with a spoon.
    Bake for 45 minutes, then pour another 1/3 of the sauce over the top. Bake for another 15 minutes. Slice and serve with remaining sauce.
    Mashed Potatoes: (This makes a lot, you can modify easily by halving or quartering the recipe)
          5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 3/4 cups Butter
  • 1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/2 cup (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
  • 1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

  • Whipping up your taters:
    Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.
    Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.
    Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.
    Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

    This is seriously delicious. You will love it . Your husband will love it. Your kids will love it. The dog will love it, the mail-man, your co-workers at work the next day when you heat it up for lunch....I promise.
     It's worth it.
    When I make this, I serve it just as above....Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes... I change up the sides from peas to steamed broccoli or a big salad. It's always a hit. I bought the stuff for it at the grocery store last night and will be making it very soon!

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving tomorrow !
    Give Away on Friday!!


    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    What matters in a new house....

    It's another muggy rainy day here... humid and oddly warm for the end of November here in Jersey. I kind of hate it because I'm loving the scarf/coat/sweater weather...not this "it's hot when I'm driving home and need to open windows" I'll take the cold over warm (this time of year at least) any day!
    Since it's a bit crappy, I figured it was the perfect day for Andrea's almost famous, insanely delicious Pulled Pork !
    Excited for dinner tonight!!
     As I've mentioned before, Ted & I are selling our house and will be moving closer to my mom & brother/his family. And by closer, I mean 20 minutes north of where we are now, but trust me, it feels further! Ted purchased our home in 2009 so he's done the whole "buy a house" thing. I on the other hand have never done this. So it's all new and exciting as well as a little overwhelming and kinda crazy trying to figure out what will work best for us now but also be good to grow into with children. SO... on that note, what is important to look for?

    We're pretty much leaning toward new construction. The ability to make it what you want from the start is extremely appealing, but the price tag? Not so much. Not that it's far out of reach, it's just not necessarily comfortable.
    It's so pretty though, it's hard to resist!

    I'm hoping this is the road we go down. Because we've looked at "older" homes.
    We've discussed buying a slight fixer upper that needs cosmetic fixing. But I have this fear that behind the walls we'll discover major problems or something. I don't know.
    Maybe it's just a little paranoia.

    So when you DO build new, what actually matters as a "must have"
    I'd say an amazing kitchen. Large enough to function in and host guests, because we all know that women gather in the kitchen

    I need enough counter space to cook, bake, serve, and just "work" in my kitchen.
    Right now, I have limited space. It's enough and I make it work but the above would be amazing to have. It's even bigger than the picture shows too....

    That being said. I also want a large enough master with a bathroom.
    I'd like 3 additional bedrooms and a place for storage whether it be a basement, garage or both. Right now we are limited on storage so I'm using a bedroom to store "stuff"
    We actually NEED a garage for my Austin Healey.

    Another major necessity is MORE BATHROOMS! haha
    We share one right now, which is OK for the most part, but can be a bit frustrating at times.

    Oh Hey fireplace near the tub.... amazing.

    Doesn't this look like a page out of a log cabin home magazine or something fabulous!

    I'm not really needing anything that elaborate, but another potty would be super-fab!
    And by the way... how awesome is this drawer set up.... keeping this in mind...

    So to me, those things are the most important.
    I need a great kitchen. A garage. And more bathrooms!

    Anything else is just a bonus.

    The house goes on the market officially this Monday.
    We're excited and hopeful that it sells and we can move before the spring!

    And if I truly had my way and life allowed, I'd be living in something like this:

    On a totally different side note, we got our professional wedding pictures back last weekend.
    They came out so amazing!

    These are pictures of pictures because I didn't have a scanner handy.
    But you get the idea.... love them!!

    Happy Tuesday...
    Recipe Club/What's Cookin' Wednesday tomorrow
    Give-Away at the end of the week!

    PS: I welcome any thoughts or suggestions on buying/selling houses and building a new house from the ground up!



    Monday, November 24, 2014

    Favorite Things Party ~ Stocking Stuffers

    Christmas is hands down my favorite holiday! Heck, the entire Christmas season is my favorite. The lights, the trees, the smells, the cookies, the family time! Ahh It's the best! So today I'm sharing my favorite stocking stuffers under $10!
    First of all - my adorable stockings from Pottery Barn are the best thing I ever bought.
    Last year, once we were engaged ~ I bought one for each of us. Ted & Tiffany. This year, I bought two small ones, one for Jake (our pup) and one for "The Cats" for our little fur balls. They are just as cute.
    Ok - On to my stuffers!!!
    Russell Stover Chocolate Santas & Marshmallow Santas
    These are staple Christmas chocolates.
    They are ALWAYS in our stockings at my moms house and now, at our house.
    My Dad Santa used to leave one of those mini foil covered solid Santas on my night stand or under my pillow when I was little and I thought that was the most amazing thing in the world. I didn't know how he snuck in to my room without me seeing him.
    And the Marshmallow Santa was always in my stocking.... Sometimes two!
    These are available at most stores and they have them at Hallmark as well.
    Everyone loves it. Everyone needs it. And what better time to stock up than Christmas!
    I'm a chapstick addict. I have them stashed everywhere.
    So for me, this is truly a favorite!
    iTunes Gift Cards
    This is a more recent stuffer idea since the rage of iPhones and iPads and iEverythings.
    I like to put a $5 - $10 iTunes gift card in Ted's stocking to purchasing songs, or apps or whatever he'd like on his phone, ipad or ipod.
    Roll 'em up and stuff 'em down in the toe of a Christmas stocking!
    Usually around Christmas time they go on sale for like 3 for $10
    These are the best stuffer out there. I love gap socks.
    I mentioned Gap Socks here and I will continue to love on them until the end of time!
    They make a great little gift too!
    Totes Mini Umbrella
    These are great to shove in your purse in case the weather looks like it might rain but you don't want to lug around a huge umbrella. They are compact and super adorable. Check out those fun prints! I have one that I keep in my purse just in case.
    They may be just over $10 but I've seen non "Totes" Brand ones for less!
    And last but certainly not least.....
    Bath & Body Works "Stuff"
    From lotions, to sprays, to candles to sanitizers and soaps this place has you covered!
    They have so many wonderful things for gifts and stuffers.
    Every woman loves this place.
    I'm sure of it!
    It's a gloomy, muggy, rainy Monday here at the Jersey Shore....
    BUT - it's a 3 day week!
    Stay tuned for my giveaway this week!!

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    White Mountain Vacations

    Linking up with the fabulous Andrea & Erika
    for Friday Favorites!
    This Friday - since it was super cold out this week - I'm in full winter mode.
    I am a lover of all things travel, believe me. I love to be on the go!
    I also love every and all destinations.
    I love to sit on the beach or by a pool in the Caribbean.
    I love to sweat in San Antonio.
    I love to freeze my tush off in New Hampshire.
    I love to relax by a lake in Wisconsin. 
    And I've mentioned all of these before...
    (click back and check it out)
    So my Friday Faves are about the COLD! New Hampshire to be specific. And even more specifically, two amazing resorts... so kick back and get cozy and prepare to book a trip after reading this.....seriously I'm willing to bet on this...
    New Hampshire Vacation
    ~The beautiful White Mountains~
    2 different resorts!
    If you are looking for an amazing place to vacation to this winter....look no further!
    I have been to both of these resorts and I can say that both places are amazing.
    Like something out of a movie.
    My family went to each of these around Christmas time on both occasions a few years apart.
    Since I live in New Jersey, New Hampshire isn't all that far for me, probably a 8 hour drive.
    The first one up...
    The Mount Washington Resort

    Website here

    This place was ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.
    It has so much charm and such an old feel to it.
    It was decorated so perfectly for Christmas.

    I literally couldn't believe my eyes when we were pulling in from the highway and saw it sitting among the mountains, covered in snow just as it's pictured above. I mean, doesn't that just take your breath away!?
    Let's peek inside shall we?

    The beautiful front porch (when it's warmer out obv.)
    One of the main hallways
    Guest Rooms
    Dining Room - gasp

    "The Cave"
    I love this! We did this both times we went. It is seriously amazing. The beautiful Clydesdale horses are so majestic to look at. The sled has jingle bells on it  and there is Christmas music playing. You take this breath-taking ride through the snow covered woods....
    gaaaahh it's just amazing.
    I believe we had a package over a long weekend which included dinners and breakfast.
    Lunch was on our own which was simple because of all the cute little places to eat nearby.
    There were activities for kids and adults together and separately.
    They had a huge gingerbread house display. There were carolers and a choir playing bells.
    There are tons of fire places to sit near and drink coco... Several bars to grab a cocktail
    A full library/board game room with numerous options to choose from.
    It was so beautiful. I'd go back in a heart beat.
    I'll have to save up and take my husband there :)
    Ok - Next up is down the road...
    The Mountain View Grand
    Their website here
    I mean..........isn't it just as amazing as the previous one?!
    This place is more modern, but still has a warm cozy feel to it.
    Let's look inside this one.....
    Their beautiful porch
    Main Dining
    The Garden Dining room

    Tavern Bar
    Guest Bedrooms
    This here too - gaah I love it
    Both of these places on the inside remind me of scenes from Titanic right?!
    You forget where you are and fall into this amazing picture perfect world.
    They both have beautiful spas and luxury indoor pools.
    You can ski, snowboard, snow tube, snow shoe, snow mobile snow ANYTHING.
    There are tours, events, specialty nights etc.
    If you are planning a trip and want to go somewhere fabulous for the winter GO HERE!
    And if these places are pricey, check out one of the many
    Inn's and B&B's in the white mountains.
    Has anyone been here? I'd love to hear about it!
    * Stay tuned next week for a give away! *
    Have an amazing weekend!!

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    What's Cookin' Wednesday ~ Cookies!!

    I think I'm going to start a series of "What's Cookin' Wednesday" and share a recipe or recipes each Wednesday. Since I mentioned cookies iyesterday's post and told you about the almost famous cookie swap I attend every year, today, I'm sharing some of my "award winning" cookies. 
    The first ones I learned to make from my mom. I believe they are called 7 layer cookies elsewhere but in my world they are Magic Cookie Bars... 
    The second ones are Mint Chocolate Chip cookies - a girlfriend of mine made these a few years ago so I snagged the recipe from her and make them every year since. The are so delicious.
    The third are traditional Italian cookies that are quite time consuming, but worth every minute put into them.
    *Please note the pictures are googled as I couldn't track down any good photos*

    Magic Cookie Bars

    Here is what you need:
    Graham cracker crumbs
    Chocolate chips
    Butterscotch chips
    White chips
    Chopped nuts of some sort
    (I use walnuts)
    Sweetened Condensed Milk 
    Pyrex (13x9)
    *You can literally dump whatever you want on top of the crumb mix... Mini m&m's, marshmallows, shredded coconut, peanut butter chips, etc
    Really flexible with your toppings

    Here is what you do...
    Mix the little box of graham cracker crumbs with a stick of melted butter. I apologize for not having measurements but I really do wing this one. I eyeball it and try to get the consistency right. You want it to look like crumbly wet sand. Pour it into the Pyrex and smoosh down really well to cover the entire bottom of the Pyrex. Then pour a good sprinkles mf of all three chips over top. I'd say about a cup of each. Maybe a little less (omg these directions are awful) and a half cup of the nuts. Then drizzle the whole can of condensed milk over top of the whole mix. Bake at 350* for 25 minutes.
    Let them cool completely and cut into squares!
    *These are seriously addicting!*
    Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Here is what you need:
    1   pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker  Sugar Cookie Mix   1/2   cup butter or margarine, softened 
    1/4   to 1/2 teaspoon mint extract  6   to 8 drops green food color  
    1   egg  
    1   cup creme de menthe baking chips  1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
    Here is what you do...
    Pre-heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, extract, food color and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in creme de menthe baking chips and chocolate chunks. (I used crushed up Andees Mints instead of the baking chips)
    Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
    Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. (Don’t let them brown)
    Cool 3 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature.
    So dang good!! Mmm
    Anisette Cookies
    Here is what you need:
    COOKIE1/2 cup butter, softened  
    1/2 cup sugar  
    3  large eggs  
    2  teaspoons  anise extract (or almond extract)  
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may need up to 3 cups)  
    1  tablespoon baking powder  
    2 -3  tablespoons milk    
    2  cups confectioners' sugar  
    3  tablespoons milk  
    1/8 teaspoon  anise extract   decorative candy sprinkles
    Here is what you do...
    Preheat oven to 350*
    Line cookie sheets with parchment paper
    For cookies, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
    Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add anise extract.
    Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of these dry ingredients to the butter/sugar in your mixer, then add 1 T. milk. Add another third of the flour and
    another 1 T. milk. Finally, mix in enough of the remaining flour until your dough is like a brownie batter (it should be softer than a drop cookie dough).
    Use a 1 T. cookie scooper to make simple round drop cookies
    use wet fingers to pat any rough edges
     Bake cookies 10-12 minutes (they won't be brown but the insides will be soft and cake-like).
    For icing: mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze.
    When I make the icing, I make it slightly thicker so it coats white
    Hold cookie in your hand and turn upside down so you can dip the top half in the glaze; turn over and immediately top with sprinkles so they will stick.
    Let dry completely and then enjoy!
    These are so good too!!
    Mmm I love cookies!!
    Happy Wednesday