Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cranberry Trifle

Cranberry Trifle with Candied Orange Zest

2 bags fresh or frozen cranberries
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
1 8oz bar cream cheese at room temp
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 store bought pound cakes
Candied orange zest (see below)



  1. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, 2 cups granulated sugar, ginger and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium; cook until cranberries begin to burst, 8-10 minutes. Let compote cool completely.
  2. Make cream filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, brown sugar, remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar and vanilla on high until well combined.  With mixer on medium, gradually add heavy cream. Continue beating until soft peaks form.
  3. Arrange 1/3 of cakes in 3 quart serving dish.  Spoon 1/3 of compote over cake, spread to sides of dish.  Dollop 1/3 of cream filling over and spread to side of dish.  Repeat twice. End with cream filling.  Cover, refrigerate 2 -24 hours. Garnish with candied orange zest:
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Add zest of 1 orange (peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler). Simmer, swirling occasionally, until zest is tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a plate. Dredge zest in sugar and thinly slice.


Last Day of Attitude of Gratitude - Day 30


On this last day of November, I would like to end my gratitude journal with a shout out to one of my faves: white merlot.

Today I am thankful for alcohol! :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

I realize that Thanksgiving is over, but I have had a few requests for some of my Thanksgiving recipes.  For the next few days, I'll be finishing up the Attitude of Gratitude posts, as well as posting some recipes. 

Also, December is right around the corner and I have decided to participate in the December Daily challenge, like I did last year.  The point of the challenge is to take photos every day in December, to showcase how my family celebrates the holidays.  Most people who participate in the challenge create an album before the months starts, so that they can print pictures as they go and just pop them into their album.  I, of course, can barely find time to sit down and blog, so I will create my album afterwards!

The first recipe up for grabs is my Sweet Potato Casserole. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic, so you'll have to imagine what it looks like. LOL

Sweet Potato Casserole

3lbs of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups mini-marshmallows

  1. Preheat oven to 375*. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Salt generously. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until easily pierced, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes and return to pan. Heat over medium, stirring until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat; add milk, butter and nutmeg. Mash until smooth, season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 2 quart casserole. (To make ahead, refrigerate after this step).
  4. Top casserole with marshmallows and bake until center is warmed through and marshmallows are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 29

Thank you, Lord, for modern make-up! Where would we women be without you? LOL

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gratitude - Day 27

It may sound silly but I am really grateful for cookies.  When I was a kid, I would help my Great Gram bake lots and lots of cookies for the family.  She made these amazing cookies that my family still talks about to this day.  My mom would also bake tons of cookies.  I am so happy to carry on the tradition.  I get my kids involved in helping and we usually make about 10 different kinds of cookies.  For about the past 8 years or so, I have also been involved in a Christmas Cookie swap with my friends. What a great way to celebrate the holidays and share a piece of heritage and home with friends and family.

Today I am thankful for cookies!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thankful for... Day 26


I am allergic to caffeine, so I am unable to indulge in a warm cup of coffee or hot cocoa on a cold, brisk day.  I can, however, savor a nice, hot cup of decaf tea. I am so thankful for that!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Grateful for Black Friday Day 25


Every year on Thanksgiving, my mom, my sisters and I scour the sales ads to plan our itinerary for Black Friday.  The next day at the crack of dawn, we brave the crowds (and usually the frigid cold weather) to shop til we drop!  One of our usual stops is Old Navy, where each year, my sister, Stef, and I buy ourselves a pair of jeans that are on sale for $15.  Needless to say I have a LOT of jeans. One year I counted that I had over 40 pairs of jeans. I've been trying to widdle that pile down by donating jeans to Goodwill, but I just can't get enough of them!

So, today, I am very grateful for a great fitting pair of Old Navy jeans that are on sale at a Black Friday price.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude Day 24

Oh, I am so grateful for the ability to take long, hot showers. I do my very best thinking in the shower and usually end up remembering something that I forgot to do the day before! LOL


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 23


Today I am grateful for an amazing life partner who takes turns with me.  Every other night one of us reads books and sits with Zoey while she falls asleep, while the other puts Matt and Lily to bed. One of those jobs is much easier than the other and I'll let you guess which it is.

I am so very grateful for taking turns!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So thankful for...Day 22

Today I am so grateful that I do not have everything I desire, because then I wouldn't have anything to look forward to.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 21

I am so grateful for good t.v. with quality writing and upbeat music and fantastic characters with humor and depth.  So very thankful today for shows like the Office, Modern Family, the Middle and Glee!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 20



I am so grateful to live in a place where I can experience all 4 seasons.  It really makes me appreciate each season more fully. Although I love to wear flip flops all year round, and can't resist fuzzy velour socks when I'm at home watching t.v., I still appreciate the first snowfall and the first nice day, with the car windows down. 


So grateful to experience Mother Nature's four seasons.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 19


I am so thankful for my camera. How else would I be able to make time stand still and capture those precious memories for my children to have?

So grateful for my camera.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude Day 18

Who doesn't love curling up in front of the fireplace with a good book? Getting lost in an imaginary world with amazing characters? Drifting on an adventure with no worries in sight?

Oh, how I love a good book.

I am so very thankful for the love of reading and great books!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 17

Today I am thankful for art.  I always wanted to be an artist when I was a kid. I took my crayons and paper with me everywhere I went and would draw pictures of my family and parents' friends all the time.

Art has been such a cathartic vehicle in my life.  When I was pregnant with Matt, I was unable to sleep. I would pace the house in the middle of the night, dreaming up projects to do. So, one day I decided I would start painting.  So, I watched some art programs on PBS and read some books and began painting on canvas in the middle of the night. It was so relaxing. 

I have been an avid scrapbooker since high school and this hobby has always been a fabulous way to preserve memories and family history and capture my children's lives for them to remember always.  I have also met a lot of friends all across the country through the different artistic communities to which I belong.

The Art Institute has always been my absolute favorite museum to visit! I enjoy taking my children there and watching them learn about artists and mediums as well.

I am so very grateful for art!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scrappy Update

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit with old friends and spend some time catching up on my scrap.  After a little silliness between Margie and I, using Candi's cool photobooth app...

I finally got to some scrappin, and accomplished the following...









Hopefully I'll get a chance to scrap some more during the upcoming weeks, because I'm sure I won't during the holidays!

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 16


I am so very grateful for good teachers. I have had many in my educational career and I have worked with so many wonderful, amazing teacher.  Now, as a parent, I am experiencing the joy of watching my children have great teachers too! So very thankful for good teachers today!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude - Day 15


I am thankful to live in (or near) a town with a World Series-winning baseball team! Thank you White Sox for providing me with hours of excitement!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Warning!! Proud, boastful mother post!!!

This weekend I was one, proud momma! Lily was in her first musical as Mouse #3 in Cinderella: Return of the Glass Slipper!  The play was so fabulous! It was all kids and they were so professional and entertaining!

Personally, I think Cinderella and her little mice stole the show! Aren't they super cute??


The entire cast did such a great job! Lily was so happy that so many of her friends and family members (and even her OT and Girl Scout Leaders) came out to cheer her on!







We are so proud of Lily! She is a Super Star! Can't wait for the Spring Musical!!!

I'm grateful for.... Day 14


After a long stressful day of working, mothering, shlepping or anything...there's nothing like a Culver's concrete!  I am grateful for Culver's! Hehehe

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thankful for sooo much - Day 13

Today I am thankful for the greatest band to ever make music!! I spent years in high school and college blasting their music so loud that I blew out my speakers!! I drove to the ends of the Earth to attend concerts (sometimes 3 times in one weekend!) The best documentary ever made was Cameron Crowe's PJ20!  Best song to jam out to on a summer day with the windows rolled down and the warm air blowing my crazy hair all over is RearViewMirror.  Best song to listen to while feeling glum is Black! Today I am so very grateful for Eddie Vedder and the greatest band on Earth, Pearl Jam!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

IMHO - Day 12

I know lots of people who like to complain about the current state of the economy, politics, religion and the rest.  I happen to love this country, our current president and the freedoms that I have been given! I am so very grateful for the men and women in our armed forces, (some of which are my former students) and  the veterans who fought for my freedoms! And today, I am so grateful for this country. God Bless the USA!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 11



I come from a close-knit extended family (on both my mom's and dad's side). I grew up spending lots of time with my great grandmother and my second cousin, Stacy.  We have so many fond memories of Gram and our sleepovers at her house!  I am very grateful for my relationships with my aunts, uncles and cousins. Family is such an important support system and I am lucky to be a part of such a great one!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 10

Today I am most grateful for my health.  I have had a few health scares in my life. Nine years ago I nearly died when I went in for a routine gallbladder surgery and had to be admitted for over a week because a stone was blocking my pancreas. I became jaundice and developed pancreatitis and had to leave my 6 month old baby with my parents while I recovered in the hospital.  Then, earlier this year, the spot where the bile duct connected to the gallbladder closed up and I was unable to eat for several weeks. I had to have 3 surgeries to repair that.  I am so grateful that all is healed and I am once again able to enjoy one of my favorite things on Earth: FOOD! LOL

Also, I am thankful for my exercise buddy, Tracy. She motivates me to exercise daily and I am grateful that I am healthy enough to do this!  This pic is pretty old (I had just given birth to a baby girl about two weeks before the pic was taken, so I have a sort of disheveled, new-mom look) but it was the only pic I could find of the two of us! LOL

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Birthday Zoey!!!

Can you believe it has been 3 years already since this little princess was born? I cannot tell you what a joy it is to be this adorable little girl's Mommy. She is the light of my life and I know that God has special things in store for her!  Zoey is so sweet and kind and good natured.  She is patient and loving and says the sweetest, funniest things. Even when she wakes up in the middle of the night and asks for a cup of milk and we drag our groggy bodies into the kitchen to get her a cup, she looks up and smiles and says, "Thank you Mommy [or Daddy]! I love you!" It melts us every time!  She told each person who gave her candy on Halloween to "Have a nice day!" (Without being prompted!) She is the smartest, kindest 3-year-old I know and I am actually a little sad that she is turning 3. I want to keep her this age forever. She is my baby and I want her to stay a baby. But I can't. Life moves forward and she is growing up. Happy birthday, Princess! We love you!!!

Since I already mentioned how grateful I am for my children on Day 1 of my Attitude of Gratitude journal, I will mention something else that I am grateful for today. And that is...Sesame Street.  Thank you for teaching me my alphabet and how to count to 12 using a pinball machine. And thank you for keeping my children occupied for hours on end!! They listen to Sesame Street soundtracks in the bath and shower.  They play on PBS Kids online.  Thanks to Jim Henson and the Muppets and the whole Sesame Street cast of monsters! I am grateful for you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude - Day 8

I have heard the horror stories. Friends and some family members have married into families of inlaws that were...well...just plain scary.  I've heard about those hideous controlling Mother-in-Laws, Psycho "Everybody Loves Raymond"-like Father-in-Laws and those Crazy Brother and Sister-in-Laws that are disown-worthy!

Luckily, I don't have any horror stories to tell. Today I am grateful for non-scary, non-controlling, and non-Psycho inlaws!! :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

I have an attitude of gratitude - Day 7


I have the greatest job! I fell into my job purely by accident (or perhaps by God's intervention), but it was not in my plan.  I was teaching full time and just had my second baby when I met some wonderful people from the organization.  At the time I didn't know that my child would have special needs, requiring me to spend many days at doctor's offices. But through Divine Intervention, I followed my heart and switched from my full-time teaching career to the part-time position I currently hold.  I live the best of both worlds, spending time at schools with the most amazing teachers out there, and spending time at home raising my third child. 

Not only that, but the people that I work with are some of the most outstanding human beings on Earth! I adore them and they have taught me so much about professionalism, collegiality and myself!

I am so grateful for my SLI family!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I am grateful for my friends

I have the world's greatest friends.  I am so sorry to say that some of them are not pictured here because I could not find a digital picture of them! Sue D - the only pic I could find of the four of us was 14 years old (at my wedding) and we were all sweaty from dancing! I guess I should have just scanned it in, but it wasn't flattering and we WILL take a better pic the next time we are together!

Anyway, I don't care if these pics are flattering or not, I love my friends...near and far...each and every one of them have seen me through good times and bad, have made me smile and I wouldn't survive without them! Thank you to all of my friends - pictured here or not! I am so so thankful for you!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude - Day 5

Today I am thankful that I am not an only child.  Who else would I tease, argue with and shop for?
I'd be alone on Black Friday. I'd have no one to buy the $14.99 Black Friday special jeans with (right, Steff?), no one to collect the JCP one-inch snowglobe (right, Jackie?) and I'd have no babysitters and no Godmothers for my children and no aunties to spoil them rotten.
Thank God for sisters.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My attitude of gratitude - Day 4

Today I am thankful for my parents.


I am thankful for the values they instilled in me. I am thankful that they raised me to be appreciative, especially of education.  I am thankful that they live a mile away and have a good relationship with my children.  I am thankful that they are young, spry and healthy.

I am very lucky that I knew all four of my grandparents growing up, and I even knew 3 of my great grandmother's quite well too.  I am grateful that my children get to spend quality time with my parents and that they get to enjoy the love of grandparents too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An attitude of gratitude - Day 3

Today I am grateful that my children go to an amazing school in a fantastic school district.  The teachers and staff at the schools where my children have attended have exceeded my expectations (which are incredibly high considering I am an educator).  It is not easy having a child with special needs and the schools have worked proactively to prevent any misshaps.  They have been so understanding and compassionate.  I feel blessed knowing that I don't have to homeschool them (which would cause me to lose my mind!) They are safe and loved and learning!!


Stay tuned for more bits of gratitude, and remember that these will appear in no particular order, so don't be upset if something comes before you during the month!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Gratitude Journal - Days One and Two

Oh, crap. Is it November 2nd already? Well, I'm a day late, but I forgive myself. This November I wanted to share a list of what I am grateful for.  I thought it would be nice to post something different each day that I am truly feeling appreciative of or for. 

So, I'll post two today to make up for yesterday.


This morning I watched a dvr'ed episode of Oprah's Lifeclass. It was the most horrific story I have ever, ever, ever....heard.  Without going into details, a woman lived through the death of her four children. It was so unbelievably moving. I sobbed through the entire episode. I just wanted my kids to come home from school today so I could hug them all.  So, of course, I'm going to begin this daily account of gratitude by saying how truly grateful I am for my wonderful three children.  We don't have a perfect life and there are many ups and downs, but Thank God that they are in my life!!


And, how could I handle all of those ups and downs without my amazing partner in crime? Who else would I drink wine with after a long day of child-rearing? LOL  Who else could I complain to? Who else would understand exactly what I want to say without my even saying a word?  No one could be better at nearly everything in our home (except playing Words with Friends), than my loving husband, Jack. I am sooo, sooo, sooo grateful for him.


Stay tuned, I have 28 more days of gratitude to come! Hehehe

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Fun

Since the month of October was pretty much spent on wedding festivities and Girl Scout activities, we had to cram all of our Halloween family fun into the weekend before Halloween.

We aren't complaining, because we still made the very best of it. It was just not as savored as usual.  We began with a party at the local library. It was dark, so I wasn't able to get any good pics, but Matt won an award for scariest costume and Zoey won for cutest costume. Lily played lots of games at the party and came home with a bunch of prizes!

Then we began the art of making the dreaded gingerbread house. ARgh! They are not my friend. I don't have the patience to hold pieces of gingerbread together while the frosting dries and the pieces slip this way and that, eventually toppling over.  But this year, my sous chef, Jack, took over and did a fantastic job!!


I usually buy a pumpkin for each family member, but because we were carving them so late, I only bought two.  One of Matt's buddies came over to help us carve our pumpkins...


This year we just couldn't squeeze in a trip to our favorite pumpkin patch.  Instead, we took a trip over to Odyssey Halloween Fun Farm and the kids had a blast. It was really cold, but they had so much fun burying themselves in corn kernels, riding the cow train, watching pig races and making their way through the scariest inflatable I've ever seen: The Beast.  Matt and Lil said it was like a haunted house inside. Ew!



The kids each had a really fun party at school. Zoey's Prepper class decorated milk cartons and made them look like haunted houses that they filled with candy.  Jack went to the 3rd and 4th grade party and got to run the bushel basketball game for Matt's class and the other 3rd and 4th graders.  I helped out with the 1st and 2nd grade party, running the treasure chest ring-toss game.


Afterschool, the kids headed out for some tricks or treats...

 My cute little witch.  Zoey was so sweet when I took her out trick-or-treating.  She would usually yell "Trick or Treat" before people even opened the door. LOL  And, when they would put candy in her pumpkin, she would say, "Thank you. Have a nice day!" It was adorable!!!


Maddy, Zoey, Matt and Lily made out like bandits with candy!!


At a couple houses, Matt had to take off his mask because there was a little one-year-old baby trick-or-treating behind us and she was frightened of his face! LOL


The three little witches did a lot more trick-or-treating than Matt the Zombie.  Every year he will go down 2-3 blocks and then calls it a night. The girls came in to warm up with some hot cocoa and went back out about 3 more times!!

When all was said and done and the kids counted and sorted their loot, we hunkered down for some good ol' fashioned family fun. It was Family Halloween Poker, of course!! LOL

Lily seemed to have the best luck. I think she had three-of-a-kind about three of four times. Unbelievably good luck! So basically, she won all of her candy back! Hehe Matt did pretty well too. He had a straight and lots of pairs!  It was a nice way to end a busy weekend!

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend and a happy Halloween! How did you spend the spooky day?

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