Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Puttering Around the Kitchen

Hello to all my friends in blogland!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  All is well in my part of the world. 

This past weekend the weather was chilly. There was no wandering about the yard.  Too cold. Instead I did some cleaning, three loads of laundry, went grocery shopping, and paid bills.  Such is the life of a domestic goddess....: )

By Sunday night I was itching to bake something.  This seems to have turned into a ritual lately.  I like to bake on Sunday's, then we have goodies to snack on all week.  I reached for my recipe box and picked out something that I knew my little guy (and big guy) would love.   Blondies.  These are so easy and a perfect lunchbox treat.  All you need is:

3/4 cup of butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan.

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Add to egg mixture, mixing well.

Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Spread batter into pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes. 

Place pan on a wire rack and cool before cutting.

While waiting for my Blondies to come out of the oven and cool I did some puttering around the kitchen.  My definition of puttering is simply the inability to sit still. I inherited this from my mother who is an expert putterer. And now that I think of it, it seems that I have passed it on to my son who can Never sit still. 
The circle of life...haha...

Because my time is so limited anything I get done on any given day is a gift. If I accomplish the slightest thing, I am content for the rest of the week.  No lie.   The fact that I am even able to write this blog post is an accomplishment to me : )  

So there I was, 40 minutes to putter while my Blondies baked and my house slept (I was the only one awake, which is always a good thing). 

I decided to tackle this....

In case you can't tell, this is a heap of candles that has been stuffed (as is) in the bottom cabinet of my hutch.  I Love, love, love candles.  I go to Yankee Candle all the time and stock up on all my favorites so I never run out. I look forward to changing the scents with the seasons. I have so many and I'm always adding more.  I don't need them, I just want them.  You get the idea.  I've always had a problem on how to store them.  Up until now I just stuff the bags in the cabinet and go on my merry way.

Rob, the hubby, actually came up with an idea on how to store them.  I have several cookie tins that I have been saving for years.  They have no purpose, I just won't throw them away - just in case.  What if I ever need an extra cookie tin?  I would never BUY a cookie tin. The concept of saving something that you don't need NOW, but might need later, is something that he can't seem to understand.  He uses what he has and if it has no use then he throws it away.  We come from two different planets.

The other day he said to me, "why not use those old cookie tins to organize your candles?"  I have to admit it was a great idea.  Then he added "because you're not using them for anything now, right?"  That was his way of emphasizing that I wasn't using them and they were just sitting there. I got the point.  Anyway, here's how it came out.

I took three empty tins - filled one with tea lights, one with votives, and one with tarts and scented tea lights.

It felt good to throw away all the plastic bags and organize what I have. 

Now I can just slide these back in the cabinet and whenever I need a candle I can bring out the appropriate tin and get what I need. 

I gave myself a pat on the back because if I hadn't had those tins on hand, I never could have done this.  I knew they would come in handy someday. Hubby didn't see it that way.
See what I mean....two different planets.  : )

The next idea I got from something I saw in my mothers pantry.  She has all her baking goods in glass jars.  What do you do with all those half empty bags of chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, etc.  Mine were all piled up on the shelf of my pantry (much like the heap of candles you saw above).  Until now...

I emptied out more bags and filled these mason jars. 

The contents will stay fresh (have you ever had stale coconut? Not good) and my pantry shelf will be a lot more organized.  I love this idea.  Hubby did too. 

Finally, with only a few more minutes left to kill I filled up one more tin.  I bought this Paris tin at Michael's a few weeks ago. 

Since then I have been trying to figure out what to do with it.  It was too cute to pass up.  I had first intended to put cookies in it, but I changed my mind. 

Now it is the keeper of all my tea bags!  Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Lady Gray, etc.  I love it when I can actually USE something I am crazy about.  It's not just cute, it's functional too.  


Ok, there goes the timer.  Puttering is over and Blondies are done.

It's time to reap the benefits of my little ideas.  Sometimes it's the smallest, tiniest, things that can really make your day and make your day to day life easier.  Maybe that's what being a domestic goddess is all about.  While you are wearing lipstick of course.... 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Easy Entertaining

I love, love, love casual evenings with friends – hanging out in the kitchen, having a few drinks, and some laughs. No fuss, no muss.

Here are two easy dip recipes that your friends will love.

Both go fabulously with good conversation and margaritas : )


Cucumber Dill Dip:

2 cups sour cream
1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning mix
½ peeled cucumber, seeded and chopped
½ tsp dried dill weed
1 small garlic clove, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. 

Mix well. Best if chilled overnight.

Serve this with veggies, fruit, or pita chips.

(For something a little different spread on cocktail pumpernickel bread and top with a cucumber slice. Yum!)

Easy Mexican Dip:

1 8oz package of softened cream cheese
15oz jar of chunky salsa (I always use medium or mild, but use what YOU like)
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese (usually consists of Monterey Jack & cheddar)

Spread the cream cheese on the bottom of a glass baking dish (an 8 inch pie plate also works well)

Next, add a layer of all the salsa.

Finally, spread all the shredded cheese on top.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve with tortilla chips.

Your kids will love this one.  Mine sure did!

These dips not only taste delicious, but also look great on your table (or kitchen island).

I served these on Saturday night and a good time was had by all…..


Friday, March 18, 2011

My Late Night Project

I’m always pleased with myself when I finish a project or follow through on a promise that I made to myself. Most of the time things get put off until “I have the time” which is usually never. But last Saturday I made good. For some strange reason, after everyone had gone to bed I got a burst of energy. I had been nursing a cold all week and had drank so much tea, I think the caffeine had finally taken over my body. Anyway, since I was wide awake - and since the world was sleeping - I decided to be productive.

There are three shelves that hang in my living room that I had been dying to paint white. I never liked the finish on them. They were natural wood, but way too light and boring. They needed a face lift. Since I knew at 1:00 am I would not be interrupted I proceeded to take myself, in my pink pinstriped pajamas, down to the garage to get my supplies - paint, brushes, sandpaper, etc. I spread newspapers over the kitchen island and got to work. As luck would have it there was an I Love Lucy marathon on The Hallmark Channel that night. Jackpot!

In between coats I kept busy. At this point if I sat down I would have surely fallen asleep and since I had started my project I was determined to finish it. I checked my email, caught up on blogs, and then out of the corner of my eye I saw the pile of my grandmothers doilies sitting in my craft room. They had already been washed and pressed. I was just waiting to set aside some time to decide where to place them. Well, time I had. I put another coat of white paint on the shelves and went back to the doilies. I pulled out all of my favorite ones that I thought were the most springy. Right away I knew the two crocheted ones would be perfect on my newly painted white shelves.

I picked out one for the coffee table, one for the sofa table, and another one for the side table. I had so much fun puttering and painting, not even realizing how late it was. To top it off, I forgot that it was daylight savings. So at 2am it was really 3am! I was very cranky Sunday morning, but in the light of day, when I was able to actually see what I had done and how beautiful everything looked I was so happy.

It’s the little things in life that lift your spirits and make your world beautiful.

So as it turns out, Sunday turned out to be a great day. Yes, I was sleep deprived, but Spring had arrived in my house.

Tulips - means Easter is on it’s way : )

I got these “faux” books at Michaels two weeks ago. I have them on the end of my sofa table and I just love the way they look. The one on the bottom has the Eiffel Tower on it, and the one on top has flowers, butterflies, and French writing. Reminds me of Paris in the Spring.

Paris luminary - also from Michaels. I love the postage markings on this.

I have this hyacinth plant on my kitchen island. Hyacinths are always the first plant of the season that I buy. I love the way they make the house fragrant and alive.

As a finishing touch, I hung this vintage tea towel that my Nana made on the handle of my stove. It has an embroidered tea kettle on it. I love it. I recently saw on Martha Stewart a project where she made aprons out of old tea towels. I’m thinking of maybe doing that with this towel. Wouldn’t that be adorable?

With all this light and wonder inside, I decided to venture outside and search for signs of life. Here’s what I found...

Things are waking up…

I saw greens, blues, and yellows. The yard is coming back to life after a long winters nap.

It won’t be long until the forsythia is in full bloom and the tulips are opened. Spring has sprung and I will be making my daily checks every morning.

Welcome Spring! We are so happy you have finally arrived. 

Now I’m going to go take a nap…. : )

Happy St. Patricks Day

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day we go to my parents house for dinner. My mom makes a boiled dinner with all the fixing. She chooses to make a smoked shoulder over corned beef because it is more lean and tasty. Let me tell you, this year did not disappoint. We look forward to this meal every year and it was delicious!

The meat was lean, not salty, and cooked perfectly.

For veggies, we had potatoes, carrots, turnips, onions, and of course, cabbage!

We are the first ones to admit that cabbage may not be an all time favorite, but since it’s St Patties day, we just have to have it.

My father’s family comes from Sligo, Ireland - which proudly makes me half Irish. (My mother’s family comes from Italy, which also makes me half Italian. In my world, this is a fantastic mix)

My Dad has visited Ireland a few times already. I’ve grown up on stories of the rolling, green hills and the romantic histories of the castles. It’s a place that I would love to visit. We still have family over there and I would love to meet them. Our family has talked about renting a thatched roof cottage and exploring all the wonder Ireland has to offer together. Maybe someday…


Our Irish meal wouldn’t be complete without Guinness beer, which my hubby is in charge of. It’s not my cup of tea, but hubby and Dad Love it. It’s certinally a change from the red wine that usually adorns the table - but I don’t think would have really gone with this meal anyway : )

For desert my mom picked up these cute little cupcakes at the supermarket at my son’s request. And because he thinks every holiday is someone’s birthday we had to put a candle in his and sing Happy Birthday to St. Patrick.


The only thing that was missing from our celebration was Irish Bread. I had intended to make it, but it was a busy week and I simply ran out of time. But who says we have to save Irish Bread just for St. Patties Day? I will make it soon and have it warm with melted butter on it for breakfast. Yummy….

I hope you all had a Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May the luck of the Irish be with you.