Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 recap

I've already posted the Top 12 of 2012....those posts that received the most pageviews this year.  However, there are some highlights from the year that did not make the list.  So, I thought I would do a little recap of my own.  There have definitely been highs and lows this year, but overall, I have so much to be thankful for.

I started 2012 off with a kidney stone, so I am hoping that I do NOT have a repeat of that.  Definitely a low, since it caused me to have to cancel my middle daughter's birthday party :-(

Speaking of birthdays, the Angry Birds birthday party we had for my oldest daughter produced some pretty angry cute cupcakes.  I was quite proud of myself!
I also got crafty for my cousin's baby shower and made this cute hooded towel.

I discovered the fabulousness that is lemon curd! Oh.My.Goodness.  My favorite muffins of all time (and I've made A LOT of muffins) are these Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Curd Filling.

As far as chocolate goes, I have a lot of favorites and firsts this year.  These recently updated DIY "Twix" Bars were delish.
I also made Biscotti for the first time.  Full of chocolate of course.
I also made a fabulous super duper chocolate-y cake for my brother's birthday....and proceeded to take the worst pictures ever of it.  The cake was awesome however.  
And adding bourbon to baked goods....
Phenomenal.  Chocolate Bourbon Banana Bread. Do it.

I really got into making soup this year.  My top two faves are the Meyer Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, (and I have a bag of Meyer Lemons sitting on the counter right now, calling my name to make this!) 
Another not-so-fabulous picture. But the soup....muy bueno.

I also discovered a couple of quick and easy recipes that went over so well with the family, yet were so simple to prepare.  It's nice to have a few of these in your recipe arsenal!
I love these Speedy Sausage Muffins, probably more than the kids!
and these Hot Ham Dips were surprisingly good.  The homemade slider buns made them extra tasty, but when on a time crunch, any good roll would do!
and these Crash Hot Potatoes with Chopped Salad.  Super easy. Super delicious! 

I also had fun creating, re-creating, and experimenting in the kitchen.  I've done a lot of 'lightening up' classic recipes, with very good results.  I plan to do a lot more of that this upcoming year.  Check out this 'Lightened Up' Loaded Potato Salad.  So good!

This year we also celebrated my Dad's 2 year Anniversary since his life saving stem cell transplant! That is awesome and incredible all by itself.  If you are interested in learning how to become a donor, please check out Be The Match.  Our donor actually lives in Germany!  We have never met her, but we love her dearly.  It was such a miracle that she was found, and that her cells were a match for my Dad.  It is amazing.
Cancer has taken several family members and friends over the past couple of years.  I pray everyday that a cure will be found.

And....I couldn't highlight this year without honoring my Grandma.  She passed away in October and is missed so much. I just take comfort in the fact that she is no longer in pain and is walking around, holding hands in Heaven with my Grandfather :-)  She is a part of who I am, and I think about her often.  Just the other day, when I made my first Country was grandma I was thinking about and how proud she would be! Yep, embracing my Southern roots and proud of it!

My family also moved, my puppy had emergency surgery, our roofed leaked in our new house, as well as the septic tank backed up.  So yeah, 2012 was eventful.  I'm not complaining. There are so many worse things that have happened all around us. I just feel blessed.

However, I don't feel bad in saying, GOODBYE 2012,  and HELLO 2013! 
(Which still doesn't even sound like a real year to me. Yikes!)

Wishing you all a HAPPY (and safe) NEW YEAR!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

How to Cook a Country Ham

Country ham.  Like, real, salt cured, comes in a bag, country ham.  I think this may be a Southern thang.  Often served with red-eye gravy and grits!  Also a Southern thing.  So, all y'all non-Southerners out there...are about to get a little Southern education.  Yep, ham so salty you need a gallon of sweet tea afterwards, and gravy made with coffee.  You are probably baffled.  About how we feel when someone tries to feed us Cream of Wheat and hot tea :-)  For the record, I actually like Cream of Wheat.  Ixnay on the hot tea however.  Anyway, I've grown up eating country ham.  My great grandparents cured their own many years ago, but I've never actually cooked one.  So, when my husband came home from work the other day with a BIG ol' Smithfield Country Ham...I was clueless.  It was his Christmas present from the big boss, and my husband loves country ham, so I knew I had to figure out how to prepare it.  I, of course, called my mommy for guidance!

Well, turns out, my mom relies on Martha Stewart.  She said she has tried several methods over the years, and this one is her favorite.  She uses the recipe from one of Martha's cookbooks, but pretty much the same one was on-line.  (link below).  Turns out, it was not difficult at all!

Baked Country Ham recipe from my mom and Martha Stewart

1 Country Ham (Martha says 16 lbs., I have no idea what mine weighed.)


The afternoon before you plan to serve the ham, fill your sink with water. Soak ham 4 to 8 hours to lose some of the saltiness; change the water two or three times if possible. This step is optional, depending on how salty you like your country ham.  I soaked mine for about 4 hours, but my stupid sink kept losing water,  so I don't know how effective it was.  Rinse ham well, and scrape off any mold or green rind. (yes, it may have some mold. This is okay.  Mine however, didn't have any.)

Place ham in a large pan (like you would use to cook a turkey.)  Place about 1 inch of water in pan and wrap top of pan well with aluminum foil. At 7 p.m. the night before you plan to serve the ham, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Martha is pretty specific, but I put mine in at 6:30 pm)  Bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, but do not open the door. At 10 P.M. (or 9:30!) turn the oven back on to 500 degrees. Bake the ham for 15 minutes more. Turn off the oven, but do not open the door. Leave the ham in the closed oven overnight.

In the morning, remove ham from the oven, and remove the aluminum foil. Using a very sharp knife, trim the rind and all the fat from the ham. (Get as much rind off as possible, b/c it gets really hard once the ham sits and is hard to cut through).  Serve the ham warm or at room temperature; cut into very thin slices.  

You want to cut it thin, because it is salty!  I bet all of our blood pressures are elevated right now.  Not to mention my rings are tight.  But, it's a once a year!  Country ham and black eyed peas are a New Year's Day tradition around here.  (not at my house, but 'around these parts' in general.  I hate black eyed peas!)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 12 of 2012

I can't believe we are looking at the END of 2012.  Hellooo?!  I still feel like 2012 is some future year that sci-fi movies talk about, and here we are getting ready to enter 2013.  So weird.  Of course, I still feel like 1990 was about 10 years ago.  Yep, I'm getting old.  Ughhh.

Anywho (see, only old people say that)....these are my top posts from 2012 (based on number of pageviews).  I think all food and craft bloggers are saying "Thank You Pinterest!"

Bubble Up Pizza - definitely one of my kids' favorites this year

Easy Caramel Sticky Buns - yum

Lightened Up Butter Pecan Popcorn 

Pizza Monkey Bread

Skinny Brownies (this 2 ingredient method works well, but I prefer the brownie mix + yogurt)

Chocolate Pudding Dump Cake

Speedy Sausage Muffins - love these!

2 ingredient Apple Angel Food Cake

Boston Cream Poke Cake

German Chocolate Cake Bars

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti

'Egg McMuffin' Casserole

It's been a tasty year!  A big thank you to all of you who have read, commented, pinned, and shared this blogging journey with me!  It has been so much more rewarding than I ever imagined, and I look forward to sharing more kitchen adventures with you in 2013!  Any of you have big New Year's plans?  Do tell, so I can live vicariously ;-)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sharper Image for sharper gifts!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sharper Image for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


Christmas Day may be over, but it is very possible that some of you out there are still searching for the perfect gifts. I know a lot of people have to spread out their family get-togethers over several days, in order to see and spend time with everyone they would like.  OR you may be like me, and have birthday presents to buy immediately following Christmas!!  Yes, in 3 weeks, I have a child with a birthday. Not just any birthday either, but her first DOUBLE DIGITS birthday!  So needless to say, this birthday is highly anticipated.  So...what does any of this have to do with Sharper Image?!  Well, Sharper Image is a website and catalog (only) business (since 2008) where you can easily research and purchase their latest products. The great thing about their site is you are able to do extensive product searches, watch informative video clips,  conveniently track your orders; and have access to real time, toll-free customer support and company related information.  However, my favorite thing is the customer product reviews and rankings.  I find these very helpful when purchasing a product or brand that I am unfamiliar with.

If you are not familiar with Sharper Image, you may be wondering what kinds of things are available.  So I thought I would share some of my "must haves". They would make great holiday gifts, whatever the holiday or occasion!


This Sound Soother is so awesome.  Imagine....falling asleep to the sound of gently falling rain, or maybe the sounds of a bustling city are more your speed?  Either way, the Sound Soother White Noise Machine has something for everyone.  Not only does it make all kinds of sounds, it also comes with dual alarm settings, and can also be your alarm clock. It also looks great, has an extra large display for sound description and digital time, and resets itself after a power outage and daylight savings time.  It is pretty great, so much so, that it is currently sold out! Keep a check to see if they get anymore of these in, b/c they would make a great gift (for yourself or someone else!)


And hellooo?!  Yes please to this Back Massager!  Turn any standard chair into a deep-kneading shiatsu or rolling massage! How incredible does that sound?!  It has four independent rollers that travel up and down your back and you can use Spot Shiatsu and Perfect-Fit™ to customize the massage to your back and height. Soothing heat is also an option for a deeper, more relaxing massage. With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I so need one of these!  It even comes with a carrying bag so you can take the massager wherever you go.  Too work maybe?!  That would make the workday a little better!  It also received 4.1 out of 5 stars by reviewers! Nice.


This Bluetooth Speaker is also great for all the music lovers in your life.  This would be great for either one of my girls, who can not be without their tunes for more than a few minutes.  This is big enough for a great sound but small enough to take on the go.  It is great b/c it connects wirelessly to smart phones, laptops and most notebooks, up to 30 feet away! Since my oldest just got a cell phone for Christmas, the bluetooth hands free conference calling with any smart phone is a feature I'm sure she would love.  

So what about y'all?  Which products do you like best?  

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New Year Resolutions

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  Some folks are still celebrating I'm sure.  For me, I can't believe it is over, but I'm looking forward to getting back into a better eating routine.  I have really gone overboard these last few days!  Which leads me to the topic of this post.  What is at the top of everyone's resolutions list?!  Well, for me, it's WEIGHT LOSS.  EVERY YEAR since 2001. (Which is when I had my first child. Not coincidental.)  Now that I am OMG 40, my metabolism is about as slow as cold molasses.  Running uphill.  In the snow.  I have gottagottagotta start exercising again.  I've been saying that since May, but seriously, I have to. My mom is only 61, and has seriously high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and my family history just gets worse.  So, instead of depressing myself with all that, I am looking at what I can do.  What I WILL do.  Soon.  I hope.  Y'all are going to help motivate me right?

One of the things I have been trying to education myself on are supplements.  I think there is a time and place for nutritional supplements if taken correctly.  When your diet lacks all of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs, I think supplements can be good.  I also think too many or used incorrectly can be bad.  So, I'm doing some research before taking any.  (It is also a good idea to consult with your doctor before taking anything, especially if you have other medical conditions.)  Just for the record...I am not a doctor!

My main focus will be on proper diet and exercise.  I think that is key to optimal health, and I need to get back on track.  I've had way too many Christmas cookies this season!  But I have also read that calcium pyruvate  may help.   Pyruvate is a substance that naturally occurs in the body, so I am wondering if this would work for me.  Anyone tried it before?  I found some helpful information here regarding calcium pyruvate if you are interested in learning more and it is available for sale here.  I've also got a few more items to check into, and I would love to hear about anything that has worked for any of you! I know there is not a miracle drug to lose weight. It has to be done with diet and exercise.  However, anything that will give my old metabolism a boost will definitely be appreciated!

**This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.**

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Easy Holiday Treats {Round Up}

This is my last post until after Christmas (unless something really important comes along to help keep me in butter. And wine.)  My kids are FINALLY out of school (they went until Friday!) and it's time to bake and watch Christmas movies, and  There are several things on my list to make, most are tried and true, with a couple new ones thrown in.  None of these are real time consuming or difficult and all are delicious!

Reindeer food aka white trash candy and this year's name - Christmas Crunch ;-)
(I've already made one batch, but we gave a bunch as gifts, so I will probably be making  more! The sweet and salty combo gets me every time. Side note - My daughter had a friend over the other night and she saw this on the dessert tray and said "oh, I love white trash!" I thought it was pretty funny.)

"Nut Balls" as they are so affectionately referred to at my house.  Also known as 'Mexican wedding cookies'.

Saltine Cracker Toffee - or Christmas Crack. You gotta try this if you haven't.

Old Fashioned Fudge - in my opinion this is the only one that is a little difficult.  If you are an experienced candy problem.  If not, get a candy thermometer. I have to use a thermometer!

Sausage Balls - Definitely a family favorite.

Oreo Truffles - so easy, so good!

New (to me) recipes -
We gave some as gifts, and saved some for ourselves! It's a fun and yummy way to make hot chocolate. Also, check my adult version.  The fudge is delicious by itself, and it makes a chocolate-y, creamy cup of hot chocolate.  

Loaded Chocolate Bourbon Fudge by How Sweet It Is
fudge and bourbon...need I say more?! 

CrockPot Cinnamon Almonds by Detrimental Beauty
sounds and looks delish...and the blog post/comments were quite entertaining.

And for Christmas morning...our traditional Monkey Bread!

I hope everyone has a FANTASTIC Christmas. 

Be safe and be merry!
(I have the ingredients for Bellinis & I'm going to focus on being merry for a little while.)


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hot Chocolate on a Stick!

Everything is more fun on a stick, and hot chocolate is no different.  I made this to give as gifts, and luckily we had plenty leftover to sample for ourselves :-)

Hot Chocolate on a Stick 
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (slightly overflowing)
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free)
  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, heat cream and condensed milk over medium-low heat until it is warmed throughout - do not bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add in chocolate chips.  Stir well until the chocolate chips melt. Add vanilla.  Mix well (mixture will be thick) and pour into an 8 x 8 baking pan lined with tin foil or parchment paper. (You may want to lightly spray the aluminum foil with cooking spray...I didn't and it was a little difficult to remove.  Not much, but spray may have made it easier).
Allow this pan of goodness to cool for at least 12 hours and up to 24 per original recipe.  Cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces and place it on a lollipop or peppermint stick.  Give as gifts or place one cube in a cup of warm milk and let melt...and enjoy!

(We placed ours on a stick with a marshmallow.)

For a delicious and grown up hot chocolate - 
Take 8 ounces warm milk, 1 T. Bailey's coffee creamer, and a shot of bourbon, then mix in your 'hot chocolate on a stick'.  Yep, Merry Christmas ;-)

Linking up with Mums Make Lists

Friday, December 21, 2012

Easy Teacher Gift Ideas

Chalkboard paint may be my newest obsession. Wednesday, I painted several things, and had ideas for many, many more .... until my children had an intervention. But, but... chalkboard paint is cool!  They said, "you have to stop painting stuff".  So, we settled on a few teacher gifts.  And by "we", I mean "me". My kids are interested for about 2.6 seconds, then they move on to something else.

Unfortunately, I don't have many pics, since I was super busy (because I always wait until the last minute) and I wrapped some before I realized I hadn't taken any pictures! I wasn't about to unwrap, sorry!
I bought jars and plain clipboards from the dollar store. Painted the tops of the jars and the back of the clipboards with chalkboard paint.  For the clipboards, I found some free printable subway art and glued it to the front of the boards.  You can see one here, and the kids wrote a little message to their teachers on the 'chalkboard' on the back.  We added some ribbon to the tops and they ended up super cute!
For the jars...I wrote 'Christmas Crunch' on the tops (b/c putting "white trash mix" didn't seem very festive) and after the picture was taken, I added 'love, mr. three' in the middle.  I added some ribbon (not pictured) to the side with a little handmade (by my MIL) stocking. 

No nonsense Tights & Leggings

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of No nonsense for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Did you know that No nonsense isn't just pantyhose?!  I recently had the opportunity to review a pair of No nonsense tights and leggings.  Yes, they have tights AND leggings!  This is what I received for review - 

A pair of burgundy tights with a geometric design in them and a pair of super comfy black leggings.  The leggings are perfect for me because I only like to wear clothes that are very comfortable.  I hate for things to bind and squish and feel constricted.  Maybe if I was a size 0 this wouldn't be an issue.  But I'm not.  Let's move on.

When I think of No nonsense, I think of a hosiery that is available in drug stores and mass retailers.  Well, they are, PLUS their line of colorful tights and leggings!  That means you have convenience, style, and affordability, all at your fingertips.  If you are like me, you may be wondering how exactly to add colorful tights and leggings to your wardrobe.  Black leggings, I'm good with....but start getting into a variety of colors and I'm a little fashion challenged.  That's where Jill Martin comes in.  She is a fashion expert, as well as an Emmy winning TV personality and co-author to New York Times bestselling style guide "I Have Nothing to Wear!", and she is working with No nonsense as a Brand Ambassador and Style Expert.  How cool is that? Keep up with No nonsense on Facebook and Twitter to find out all the great things coming up for this new product line and to "cash in" on Jill's style tips!

Now, if you are curious as to what I did with my tights and leggings, I took a couple of pics. ..

I love big sweaters and boots...and the No nonsense black leggings went great with this.  I added my bright red scarf to give the outfit a little color, since grey and black are my faves!

The light in my bedroom wasn't very good, but you can see from the very first picture that the tights are burgundy.  It gave this outfit of a black sweater and charcoal wool shorts and little color!

What about you? What's your favorite way to wear tights and leggings? Do you go for color or no?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Microwave Fudge

I have a 3-ring notebook that I keep all my recipes in that I have printed out or torn out of magazines.  When        going through it the other day, pulling out my holiday recipes, I found one that I had forgotten all about.  It was for microwave fudge.  It is a small little recipe cut out of a newspaper, and taped to an index card.  I have no idea how old this recipe is or where exactly it came from, but I decided to let my middle daughter make it.  She was excited because she could make it all by herself.  I was excited because it was chocolate. And she could make it all by herself.  I have microwave fudge many years ago, and I remembered it was pretty darn tasty.  It is reminiscent of old-fashioned fudge, without all the work!
We left half plain, and covered half with crushed peppermint. 
It would have been nice to give as gifts.  
But we ate it all. oopsies.

Microwave Fudge

3 2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa (we used Hershey's Dark)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 T. vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (we omitted)

Mix powdered sugar and cocoa in a medium size microwaveable bowl.  
Add milk and butter and microwave on high (full power) until butter is melted, approx 2-3 minutes. 
Stir until smooth.
Blend in vanilla and nuts, if using.
Spread in a buttered 8 inch square pan.
Let cool and cut into squares.

This is a firm, sugar-y based fudge, not a creamy, marshmallow fudge.  It is very rich/sweet, so you will want to cut it into small pieces. The 8 inch pan yields pieces about 1 inch thick, so you could use a larger pan if you want thinner pieces of fudge.  My kids crushed this fudge in record time!  It's a great recipe for kids, b/c everything is done in one bowl, in the microwave!  It is also great for when you need something last minute and are short on time.  It takes about 5 minutes to make, and you could cool it in the freezer/fridge pretty quickly.  During this busy time of year, we all need a little recipe like this in our arsenal!  It is also egg free, nut free (nuts are optional), and I feel like could be dairy free by using almond/soy milk and coconut oil or a dairy free margarine. I haven't tried this, so let me know if you do!

affiliate links -

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wet Ones Sticky Situation Facebook Contest

Anyone interested in winning a brand new iPad mini or prize packs with tickets for 4 people to go to Six Flags?!  Yes, me too!  Wet Ones is giving us the opportunity to share all of the Sticky Situations we have found ourselves in and tips on how to deal with them through their Facebook Contest. Simply log in and share your story and tips, and you can be entered to win an iPad Mini or Six Flags Tickets! 
I just entered (it only takes a couple of minutes). Here is the link so you can enter too:

I shared the time when my little one decided to prove the M&M slogan "melts in your mouth, not in your hands" wrong! I gave him pretzel M&M's and he only ate the chocolate off the outside, leaving the pretzel in the middle...what a mess! I now know he does NOT like pretzels, and to give no chocolate unless under strict supervision...with Wet Ones hand wipes nearby :-)

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Wet Ones. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.


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