Saturday, November 26, 2011

Yankee Candles & Stuffed Mushrooms

Hello Everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I had a great day with both of my families (hubbie's and mine).  It was a day filled with food, family, and fun.  My little one had a great time with all his cousin's playing and being silly.  He fell asleep with a full belly and a smile on his face.  Love that! 

So now the Official countdown to Christmas is on.  To get you in the mood I thought I would share with you a few pictures from my fabulous weekend shopping trip with my mom.  We left Saturday morning and came back Sunday night.  I'm happy to say the trip was complete success as most of my shopping is done - sigh of relief!  It's amazing what can be accomplished in two days with no interruptions (i.e. mommy/wife demands).  I also managed to fill my own stocking with goodies, so my little guy isn't the only one who is counting the days till Christmas!  wink...wink....

When we arrived at the Yankee Candle store the sun was just starting to set.  We were a bit tired from shopping all day, but as soon as we pulled into this parking lot and saw the lights, and heard the music, it was an instant wake up call!  We couldn't wait to get inside...

At 5:00 on a Saturday night the place was packed!  I know why....

Inside the Yankee Candle store, it's much more than candles (although there are millions in every corner!).  There is a home section, kitchen section, gardening, clothes, food, toys, and just about everything else you can thing of.  My favorite part is the home area.  It's full of beautiful displays like this.  I loved these dishes!!!!

There is also a whole area dedicated to Christmas decorating called the Bavarian Village.  There are rows of rows of ornaments!  So hard to choose... but I did : - )

If you are lucky enough to go at Christmas time there is a tree in every room - each one with a different theme.  So many different ideas and styles to pick from.  The possibilities are endless....

I think it took us about three hours to go through the whole store, but it flew by in a blink.  Mom and I both had baskets choc full, and boy did the car smell good on the way back to the hotel.  Before we left we had dinner at the adjoining restaurant called Chandlers.  There are no electric lights in this restaurant.  It's lighted by over 100 candles!  Kind of scary really, but very pretty. 

When the bill came we each got a complimentary votive candle to boot.  Mine was cinnamon roll.  What an ending.  I loved this day!

The next morning we got up early and had lots of coffee and a hearty breakfast....

Blueberry pancakes with warm maple syrup...mmmmmm.

There was no photography permitted inside the craft show so I am not able to show you what it looked like.  Needless to say it was just as beautiful as I imagined.  It never ceases to amaze me how talented and imaginative people are.  My mom and I were one of the first ones in the door and we stopped at every booth.  We had so much fun.  On the way home we stopped at Starbucks for a hot chocolate and a treat - fuel to get us home.  We already decided same time next year.  As soon as I got home I marked it on my calendar.  My mom and I had a lot of laughs and these are memories that we'll have forever.  It's not just about the shopping. That's definitely something to be thankful for.

Speaking of thankful, I want to share with you an appetizer recipe I made for Thanksgiving.  It's my version of stuffed mushrooms.  In the past I've tried many variations, and I think this one is my favorite.  All you need is:

2 cups instant stuffing mix (like Stove Top or the store brand)
1 lb large mushrooms
3-4 tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 small green pepper, chopped
1/2 small red pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
handful of shredded mozzarella (optional)

Prepare stuffing mix according to box directions. 

Wipe mushrooms with a damp towel, making sure all dirt is removed. 

Remove stems and chop finely.  (I used a Pampered Chef chopper - what a time saver!)

In a large skilled, cook and stir mushroom caps in 3 tbsp of butter until lightly browned. 

I could not fit all my mushrooms in this skillet, so I did two batches.  Once these were browned I added another tbsp of butter to the skillet and browned the rest.

Once brown and tender arranged in a shallow baking dish.

Add stems, peppers, and garlic to the skillet. Cook and stir until tender.

When done, stir into stuffing.

With a teaspoon, spoon into mushroom caps. 

If you want, you can sprinkle a bit of mozzarella cheese on top as well.

Broil (5 - 7 inches from heat) for about 5 minutes. 

If you are entertaining this holiday season or are looking for an appetizer to bring to a holiday party I suggest these.  You can make them ahead of time and they reheat beautifully in the microwave.

So long for now.  I'm happy for a nice L-O-N-G weekend ahead.  I'm off to the attic to get the boxes.  Time to start decorating the house!!!

Bye xo

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thanksgiving Wish...

I wish for all of you a day of sparkling china, flickering candles, cranberry sauce, and little Norman Rockwell moments that warm your heart. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  I love you xo

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nightly Thoughts and The Best Mac & Cheese Ever!

It’s cold and gloomy tonight. I am sitting at my desk with a red scarf around my neck to take the chill out of my body. The scarf wraps me like a hug and I feel cozy all over. I love that feeling. Merry Christmas Baby is playing on the radio and I just finished ordering my holiday cards online. The kitchen smells of fresh baked gingerbread. I can hear happy snoring from two rooms in the house. Life is good.  

Before the sun went down I peeked out the window and took this photo of my front yard.  The maple leaves are at their brightest red now.  Only a few left on the trees - the rest scattered across the lawn, happily fluttering like birds past the windows. I blinked twice and smiled, happy I stopped and caught a glimpse of this wonder. It's almost over.  The kettle is whistling and I'm preparing myself for tonight.  Lot's on my mind these days.  Things to prepare for. 

Nighttime is my time. It’s the only time of day that is just for me to do with what I may. Sometimes its sleep, and sometimes its not. Last night I took everything out of my china cabinet and washed it. My mother recently handed down to me a set of cobalt blue dishes that I am over the moon for. I wanted to reorganize the cabinet and in the process make everything sparkle. I love how the flickering of candle light reflects off newly shined glass. It twinkles like kitchen magic and somehow makes me feel special. 

 For the next few weeks my nights will be spent drinking peppermint mocha hot chocolate (my new addiction) while baking, wrapping, and watching as many old movies as possible. Last night while puttering around the china cabinet I watched It Happened One Night with Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert. Something happens to me when I watch a movie like that. I feel like anything is possible. Some call it fantasy. I call it hope.  

A week from today will be Thanksgiving. I was talking to a friend of mine today and she randomly commented on how “mad” she was that the world had so quickly skipped ahead to Christmas and had forgotten her favorite holiday. Thanksgiving does seem to get lost between Halloween and Christmas, doesn’t it? There are no songs, no trees to decorate, or gifts to exchange. Oddly enough, these are some of the best reasons people love Thanksgiving so much. There is no pressure, no rush. It’s just families getting together to celebrate and give thanks for all they have been blessed with. They sit among loved ones at beautifully set tables and eat turkey and stuffing until their buttons pop. What could be better? Maybe the pumpkin pie for desert….? Of course! For me the best thing about this Thanksgiving is the card you see below.  This is what I'm thankful for.  Handmade with love.

I have to admit, as much as I love Thanksgiving I do get caught up in the Christmas mode very early. It’s hard not to. To me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all rolled up in one giant cinnamon bun – loaded with sticky, sweet icing. It’s a 2 month long celebration. During that time I try to de-stress by enjoying the little things that don’t involve a charge card. Like sitting in the living room with my favorite blanket and all the lights off except the Christmas tree. I think about the Christmas' of my childhood and pray that my son has the same fond memories one day. Or like coming home from work on a snowy evening and seeing the white twinkle lights glowing from under our snow covered railings. (Home looks so inviting when it’s outlined in twinkle lights : - ). Or best of all, the inquisitive look on my son’s face when he looks over his shoulder (after doing something naughty) because he really does believe Santa is watching – which of course he is. I never want it to end.

I try not to think about the things that make me sad, for there are many, but try and focus on all the joys ahead. This year we are hopeful that there are good things ahead for us (knock-wood and fingers crossed). The gift of faith is God's greatest power. Believe.

I just heard that there is a possibility of a dusting of snow tonight. Be still my heart. It’s what I’ve been waiting for. I love snow so much. Anyone that knows me knows I’m not a summer girl. I’m not a fan of the dog days of summer, and much prefer frosty window sills and thick, chenille socks (which I am wearing right now). There a over a million ways to get warm, but not too many to cool off. I much prefer “Baby its Cold Outside” to “Hot Child in the City”. But that’s just me J

Snow also adds to the holiday spirit don’t you think? I remember a special moment I experienced last year involving snow. It was the night before Christmas Eve. After work I stopped at our local outdoor shopping village to pick up a few last minute stocking stuffers. I was feeling the pressure with it being the day before Christmas Eve. I never shop that late. I had thought I was done, when the feeling of “do I have enough?” swept over me. I needed to get just a few more things to feel better. The parking lot was full. Shoppers were shoulder to shoulder, anxiously shuffling from store to store. Everyone was in a rush, including me. Fighting my way through the crowds I got what I needed and was heading back to the car when all of a sudden it started snowing. Not the stormy, wet-in your-eyes snow, but the soft and fluffy, gentle falling snow. It was magical. The storefronts were almost instantly frosted and the lighted trees were illumating under a blanket of snow. This was unexpected and everyone was talking about it. Angry shoppers suddenly seemed happier. The rush calmed down and I heard laughing. Without hesitating I changed directions and instead of going to car, I went to the café. I got a hot chocolate, a copy of English Homes magazine, and took a walk in the snow. I took time to admire the store window decorations and even ran into someone I knew. A lot happens when life slows down. There I was – two days before Christmas, shopping in the snow. It was my own little “magical – Walt Disney – Currier & Ives” moment. This year I decided I’m going to save my stocking stuffers for two days before Christmas. Will I have the same magical experience? I pray so. That’s the magic of snow….. Are you ready?

Before I sign off for tonight I want to share with you my favorite recipe for .....

...the best Homemade Mac & Cheese ever! This is actually my mother's recipe that she has been making since I was little.  This is what Mac & Cheese is supposed to be.  Smooth and creamy, with crunchy breadcrumbs on top. good! 

I was over the house today and she just so happened to be making it and I just so happened to have my camera, so here you go....

You will need:

1 lb elbow macaroni
8 tbs (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/2 cup flour
1 quart milk

16 oz (2 cups) shredded cheese - I used a mix of Cheddar, American, & Swiss, but use what YOU like

1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook macaroni in salted water according to directions on package - usually about 6 - 8 minutes. 
Drain well.

In a separate saucepan, heat milk (but don't boil it). 

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in another large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.  While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more - until thick and smooth.  Once thickened, remove from heat and add the cheese.

Season with nutmeg and a dash of S&P.  Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. 

Pour into a 9x13 glass baking dish. 

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle on top and bake for 30-35 minutes - until sauce is bubbly and the top is browned.

This is comfort food at it's finest. 

 I'm feeling a little stuffed tonight, but it was oh-so-worth-it. 

Tomorrow morning we leave on our overnight shopping trip so I need the carbs!
Ha-ha : )

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  I'll be back early next week with photos from the craft fair and also the beginning stages of my gingerbread house.

Thank you so much for reading ~  xo

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Heath Bar Cookies & the start of THE season

It's beginning to feel like the holiday season around the Heartfelt Home these days.  Now that Halloween is over I'm starting to get into the spirit of my two most favorite months of the year - November & December.  So much to do and yet through all the chaos and craziness, I still love it as much now as I did when I was little (minus the bills : - )

This past Saturday Hubbie and I started our Christmas shopping.  We had an agenda, we had lists, and we had coffee! I can't say we are near done, but it was enough to get things underway.  What has been bought will be wrapped and placed in a closet for safe keeping and I hope to be adding to that closet weekly.  The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas passes so quickly, I don't want to miss any of the good stuff because I'm stressing about shopping and wrapping.  When the time comes for the family to snuggle up on the couch with hot cocoa and watch Judy Garland in Meet Me in Saint Louis, I want to be at peace with the Mall.

It was surprising to me to see that most of the stores have already started their holiday decorating.  Fully decorated trees were on display as Jingle Bell Rock played in the background.  While humming along I thought to myself, I guess it's time.  Am I early or am I late?

I popped into one of our local gourmet markets and I was overjoyed with the selections of gourmet cheeses, imported chocolates,  and all of the other wonderful goodies that you only see during the holidays.  I made a mental note to go back and get some beautiful figs and cheese they had on display for a special dinner we will be having in December.  The florists are bulking up too.  The last of the mum plants are being replaced with mini fur trees and poinsettias.  I could see people starting to hustle and bustle. And I must admit - there was a spring in my step and a hustle in my bustle

Last night I sat down with my calendar and noted all of the important things that I want to get done over the next few weeks.  I made a list of recipes and decorating ideas I want to share with you on this blog, including my stuffed mushroom appetizer recipe (which I'm making for Thanksgiving), and my gingerbread house. You are going to love it : )

Next weekend my mom and I are going on our annual "girls only Christmas shopping/craft fair weekend".  It's a road trip that we've been doing for many years now (so many I've lost count!).  We'll shop our way up to Deerfield, MA and visit the Yankee Candle Co.  If you nave never been there please check out their flagship store on the website -  It's so much more than candles.  It's a Christmas wonderland!

We'll stay overnight and the next morning we'll attend the Old Deerfield Country Christmas Sampler Craft Fair.  It's the biggest one we've been too with over 300 vendors from all over the country.  This place is an explosion of creativity and craftsmanship.  I can't wait to soak it all in.  We'll taste our samples of gingerbread coffee and apple crisp while we browse hand painted wood items, dried florals, blown glass, and barrels of fresh pine potpourri from Vermont - and that's the beginning.  Check it out at

Afterwards, the car will be loaded with bags and packages ready for wrapping.  We'll drink tea in the hotel and have a snack of fudge along the way.  It's our one girl's weekend that we look forward to all year.  Let's hope the boys will be okay without me!

Since we are in holiday mode now {i.e. cookie season}, I thought I would leave you today with a new cookie recipe.  This one is made with Heath Bar Toffee bits and is soooo good!  Not just during the holidays, but anytime you feel its a "cookie kind of day".  Which could possibly be everyday, right?

Here's what you need:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup Heath Bar Toffee Bits (the chocolate covered ones)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl beat together butter, sugar, and brown sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla.

Blend in flour mixture a little at a time until completely combined.  Stir in Heath Bar bits, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. 

On a side note: I actually like to chill this dough overnight.  Make it before you go to bed, and then in the morning while you are having coffee bake the cookies.  Your early morning, cold kitchen will be filled with the warm, sweet scent of chocolate toffee....Mmmmmm. What better way to start the day?


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spoon 1 inch size balls onto a greased cookie sheet.  Arrange dough balls about 3 inches apart (these cookies spread).

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for a few moments, and then transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

I hope I have not bored you with all this holiday talk so soon.  Growing up the holidays were always so special to me.  My parents worked very hard to make sure all of us were happy and had very special holidays no matter what was going on in the "grown up" world.  Now that I'm a grown up myself I understand what they went through.  Parents will do anything to see smiles on their children's faces.  I want to see that wonder and excitement in my son's eyes. I want him to be able to look back on the holidays with only love, as I do.  That's what it's all about.  The adults will enjoy the gourmet cheeses and after dinner cordials, but the kids will feel the butterflies.  The same butterflies I felt on Christmas eve knowing what was to come.  It's something you can't describe and once it's gone it never comes back so we have to hold on to is as long as possible. 

It's not always easy, but we do the best we can.  Why?  Because that's all we can do. 

Thank you for reading and I hope you'll be back soon. 

Enjoy the cookies!  Mine are all gone.... xo