Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist

This post is broken up by a bunch of YouTube videos ~ so, 1) make sure to scroll all the way through to see the complete list of Christmas songs, and 2) I didn't make any of the videos, and most are not "official" videos put out by the artists.  Enjoy!

Oooooh, boy, do I love Christmas music!  It is not unheard of for me to spin a holiday tune {or pop Elf into the DVD player} in the middle of summer.  Christmas music makes me happy, and I tend to know all the words to all the songs, so that's an added bonus.  I decided to compile my "ultimate" Christmas playlist to share with you all ~ maybe remind you of some songs you'd forgotten about, or give you inspiration for your own Christmas-season soundtrack this year.

That may sound like a fairly easy task for someone like me, who loves all things Christmas.  However, when I pulled up my Itunes Christmas playlist, I discovered that I have well over five hours of Christmas music on there!  Of course, there are duplicate versions of some songs, but still ~ I truly love every song that's on there {which is why I downloaded them, of course}.

So, after some serious thinking {really ~ this just took me forever} and the weeding through of every Christmas song I have, I came up with my playlist...well, two playlists.  One is my bare-bones, gotta-hear-it-or-Christmas-just-isn't-the-same playlist {yes, that's the official name}.  The second is my really-love-it-and-it's-on-my-playlist-but-Christmas-wouldn't-be-ruined-if-I-couldn't-hear-it playlist.  I should probably rethink these names.

And these songs don't even include everything that is on my Itunes Christmas playlist.  Most are here, but not all.  My favorite holiday songs include a lot of classics and oldies-but-goodies {and a whole lot of Bing Crosby, which I hadn't noticed until today} mixed with some more contemporary songs, like the Deck the Halls/Up on the Rooftop hybrid from the cast of Glee.  I also like some plain-old silly ones like The Twelve Pains of Christmas and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.  I also decided this year to throw on songs from the scores of some of my favorite Christmas movies {Home Alone, Elf, etc} ~ take a listen to any of John William's Home Alone numbers and see if you aren't instantly transported to a snowy Chicago Christmas in your mind!

Certain songs are on practically every Christmas album ever recorded, so I've picked my very favorite versions of the songs to share with you {on a couple of occasions, an artist isn't listed, so I wrote the name of the movie or album it's from}.  There a couple duplicates, when I really couldn't pick my favorite or thought both versions were great in their own way.

I present to you my Ultimate Christmas Playlist{s}!

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist

A Holly, Jolly Christmas Burl Ives {Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer}
All I Want for Christmas Mariah Carey
Away in a Manger Martina McBride
Baby, It's Cold Outside Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton
Believe Josh Groban {The Polar Express}
The Chipmunk Song {Christmas Don't Be Late} Alvin and the Chipmunks
Christmas Eve {Sarajevo 12/24} Trans-Siberian Orchestra
The Christmas Song Nat King Cole
Do You Hear What I Hear? Whitney Houston
Feliz Navidad Jose Feliciano
The First Noel Josh Groban and Faith Hill
Frosty the Snowman Jackson 5
{There's No Place Like} Home for the Holidays Perry Como
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus Jackson 5
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Bing Crosby
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Johnny Mathis
Jingle Bell Rock Bobby Helms
Jingle Jingle Jingle {Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer}
Jolly Old St. Nicholas Christmas Classics
Last Christmas Wham!
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays NSYNC
O Holy Night NSYNC
The Polar Express Tom Hanks {The Polar Express}
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree Brenda Lee
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Burl Ives {Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer}
Santa Claus is Coming to Town Jackson 5
Sleigh Ride Boston Pops Orchestra
This Christmas Donny Hathaway
The Twelve Pains of Christmas Bob Rivers
We Need a Little Christmas Glee Cast
We Wish You a Merry Christmas John Denver and the Muppets
Welcome Christmas Boris Karloff {Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas}
What Child Is This? Josh Groban
What Christmas Means to Me Stevie Wonder
When Christmas Comes to Town Matthew Hall & {The Polar Express}
You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch Boris Karloff {Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas}
'Zat You, Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong

More of My Christmas Favorites

Blue Christmas Elvis Presley
Carol of the Bells Destiny's Child
Carol of the Bells John Williams {Home Alone}
Christmastime is Here Vince Guaraldi Trio {A Charlie Brown Christmas}
Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy Tchaikovsky {The Nutcracker, Op. 71: No. 14c Pas De Deux Variation II}
Deck the Rooftop Glee Cast
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer Elmo & Patsy
Happy Holiday Bing Crosby
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Martina McBride
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Nat King Cole
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Christina Aguilera
The House John Williams {Home Alone}
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas Gayla Peevey
I'll Be Home for Christmas Bing Crosby
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Michael Buble
Jingle Bells Kimberley Locke
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Dean Martin
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow Michael Buble
Little Drummer Boy Faith Hill
Main Title John Debney {Elf}
Main Title/Somewhere in My Memory John Williams {Home Alone}
Mele Kalikimaka Bing Crosby
Merry Christmas, Baby B.B. King
My Only Wish Britney Spears
March of the Toy Soldiers Tchaikovsky {The Nutcracker, Op. 71: No. 2 March}
O Christmas Tree Aretha Franklin
O Come, All Ye Faithful Faith Hill
O Tannenbaum Vince Guaraldi Trio {A Charlie Brown Christmas}
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Gene Autry
Run Rudolph Run Chuck Berry
Santa Baby Madonna
Silent Night Charlotte Church
Silent Night Michael Buble
Silver and Gold/Most Wonderful Day of the Year Burl Ives {Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer}
Silver Bells Johnny Mathis
Sleigh Ride Ella Fitzgerald
Somewhere in My Memory John Williams {Home Alone}
Step Into Christmas Elton John
Up on the Housetop Kimberley Locke
Welcome Christmas Glee Cast
White Christmas Bing Crosby


Chinese Conception Calendar

Have you heard of the Chinese conception calendar?  It's a chart that's allegedly 700 years old that can predict what your baby's gender will be, simply by using the mother's age at the time of conception, and the month of conception.

Now, it's really meant more for entertainment purposes ~ it's definitely not founded in modern medical beliefs.  However, when I discovered this chart years ago, my husband and I figured out what genders we were supposed to be according to the chart, along with our siblings, niece and nephews, friends, friends' kids {basically anyone we knew whose mother's age we were also aware of}.  We found this chart, among the people we had analyzed, had around an 80-90% accuracy rate ~ well over 50/50 odds.

So whether you want to time your pregnancies to aim for a specific gender, or if you want to just check it out and see how accurate it is for your family, click here to check out the chart on

Have you used the Chinese conception calendar to determine your baby's gender?  Did it work?

Happy charting!


{photo credit:}

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Deals from Around the Web!

Every year I think I should give Black Friday doorbuster deals a shot, but I never actually do.  By the end of Thanksgiving day, sleep just sounds like a much more appealing option; plus I don't ever need to purchase those "big-ticket" items {a TV; a laptop; the craze "it" toy of the year} that Black Friday is really known for.  But, who doesn't love a bargain when they're holiday shopping?  Enter Cyber Monday!

Cyber Monday has been around for several years now ~ the modern world's alternative to standing in long lines at 3 a.m. with sleep-deprived {read: crazy} strangers who will cause you bodily harm in order to get the last Cabbage Patch Kid/Ninja Turtle/Power Ranger/Furby/Beanie Baby/etc.  From the comfort of your computer, today, you can enjoy Cyber Monday bargains.  {A lot of companies offer multi-day Cyber deals and/or free shipping ~ check the websites for details and fine print}.  Also, don't forget about sites like Groupon and RueLaLa, which are free to sign up for and offer different deals every day.

So here you go ~ a sampling of online deals available today...

COUPON CODE NEEDED  Enter code CYBERMON to receive 30% off your order   Enter code 49827101 to receive 25% off your order {also good at and}  Enter code HUGECYBER at checkout to receive 30% off your order  Enter code HUGECYBER at checkout to receive 30% off your order  Enter code N7C7K8T at checkout to receive 30% ONE item  Enter code BMFIRST20 to get $20 off your first order Enter code CYBERMON at checkout to receive 30% off your order

Crate&  Enter code SAVE15 to receive 15% off your order  Enter code CYBER2011 at checkout to receive 40% off all stationery  Enter code CYBER11 at checkout to receive 20% off your order {+ BOGO deals}  Enter code HUGECYBER at checkout to receive 30% off your order  Enter code CYBERSALE11 at checkout to receive up to 50% off your order  Enter code HUGECYBER at checkout to receive 30% off your order Enter code HUGECYBER at checkout to receive 20% off your order  Enter code CYBERMONDAY at checkout to receive 25% off your order {$75 or more}

NO CODE NEEDED ~ Up to 67% off DVDs, plus rotating limited-supply deals throughout the day  ~ Various deals and discounts on books, movies, toys, and more ~ 30% off the entire site  ~ $5 "Web Buster" deals and 40% select gift items ~ 30% off the entire site 25% and up off the entire site  ~ Various deals and discounts, free gifts with purchase deals, plus code for free shipping and $10 or $20 off your purchase {found on homepage}


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Cupcakes

Looking for a last-minute dessert idea for Thanksgiving?  Perhaps something to keep the kids entertained while you're busy in the kitchen?  Try this one from Family Fun on for size!  {Pulling this together super-last-minute?  Grab some already-frosted cupcakes in your supermarket's bakery section!}

Turkey Cupcakes

24 frosted cupcakes
24 Nutter Butter cookies
2-3 Tbsp white frosting {or decorator's gel}
Mini chocolate chips
Fruit leather {various colors and flavors}

  • To make each turkey, press the lower portion of a Nutter Butter cookie into a frosted cupcake for the bird's head.
  • Use tiny dabs of frosting to stick on mini-chocolate chip eyes and a red fruit leather wattle.
  • For each turkey's tail, use a butter knife to cut out a dozen feather shapes {about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide} from fruit leather.
  • Lay 6 of the feather shapes on a flat surface and place a wooden toothpick lengthwise atop each so that one end of the toothpick extends about an inch below the feather.  Layer another fruit leather layer atop each of the 6 shapes, sandwiching the toothpicks between them.
  • Press the 2 layers together to make them stick, then fringe the edges of the feather with a butter knife.  Stick the colored feathers into the cupcake behind the cookie head.

Gobble, gobble folks!  Have a great Thanksgiving!


{photo credit:  Family Fun}

Crazy About Marilyn Monroe!

My favorite celebrity ever is Miss Marilyn Monroe.  I did a research paper on her life and death in high school, and I've been fascinated by her ever since.  She was a paradox of characteristics wrapped up in one of the most beautiful packages Hollywood has ever seen ~ a bonafide sex symbol on the outside, but childlike in many ways on the inside; a woman who inspired a thousand crushes but could never find someone to really love her; a girl positively surrounded by people all the time, yet alone most of the time.  Her story is amazing, tragic, inspiring and cautionary all at once, and her pictures are stunning to look at {I've mentioned how much I like pinup girl fashions; Marilyn is the poster girl for the pinup era!}

One of two upcoming Marilyn biopics, the critically acclaimed My Week With Marilyn, hits theaters today {click here to check out the official movie page}.  In conjunction with the movie release, People Magazine put together a slideshow of Marilyn playing with four-legged friends over the years on their People Pets page.  Here's a sneak peak...

 Marilyn at the beach with pup Ruffles, pre-fame in 1947

 Marilyn and a Chihuahua share camera time in 1950

Happy Marilyn snuggles with a canine friend in 1962


{photo credit:}

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kids Table versus Grownups Table

Thought this comic from The Oatmeal was too funny ~ and too relatable! {Click here to check out the entire post ~ warning:  some "adult" language}.  Does anyone else find the grownups table so boring sometimes?  Sure, I like catching up with siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.  But if I wanted to sit around and discuss politics and current events, I'd join a CNN roundtable.  The kids table may be a whole lot noisier, and messier, but at least they chat about interesting, entertaining, and varied topics!

This Thanksgiving, I'll be at my dad's house.  No kids table and adults table there ~ we're all adults {sort of} and no one has started having kids, so we'll be at one long table together.  Luckily, we tend not to discuss politics and such anyway; we'll talk about what's going on in our lives, and seeing as how I have four brothers, a dad, and a husband, sports {another topic that would send me straight to the kids table to talk about dinosaurs, school, and iCarly, if I could}.

Will you be at the kids table or the adults table this Thanksgiving?  Which table do you prefer, and why?

Enjoy your holiday weekend, everybody!  Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

What's that, you say?  You'd like me to share with you what might be the world's most delicious cookie recipe? Well, okay.

In 2006 I caught an airing of Ham on the Street's Thanksgiving special on the Food Network {filmed mostly right in my town of Plymouth, MA ~ home of the first Thanksgiving!...sort of}.  One of the recipes from this episode was for these yummy looking pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  I decided to try them out that Thanksgiving, and I have been making them every year since ~ usually for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Christmas gift baskets, plus on request from friends and family {I sent Kaydee's fiancee a double-batch for him and his friends when he was on the road for work this summer}.  I made a batch last week, just in time to snap a pic and post them for you before the holiday.  {I didn't take a picture of my step-by-step process, but the end result is what really matters, right?}

Without further adieu...

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie mix
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups {12-ounce bag} milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
Non stick cooking spray or parchment paper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth.  Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.  Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds.  Stir in the chips.  Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons {I started to use a cookie scoop, which is smaller, to make more cookies out of one batch for gift baskets} onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges.  Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes.  Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.



Selling on eBay ~ Worth the Effort?

I'm sure you've bought something on eBay at one point or another.  I myself have bought everything from hard-to-find movies to gently used designer clothes {like the Lily Pulitzer dress I wore for my friends' Lily-themed bridal shower ~ I got a genuine Lily for a bargain, wore it for the shower, and promptly consigned it and got a bit of cash back...Lily is not something I would wear on any other occasion} to concert tickets ~ lots and lots of concert tickets. 

A customer at one of my jobs told me a while ago that she sells stuff on eBay all the time and makes a pretty decent profit ~ not enough to survive on exclusively, per se, but definitely enough to supplement her income and pay for the kids' "extras".  So I went through my closet and pulled out items I never wear {and some I've actually never worn ~ tags still attached}, and combed my expansive DVD collection for exercise DVDs that never clicked for me.  I figured why not take some pictures, toss the items up on eBay and see what happens?  One girl's {never or barely used} trash can be another girl's treasure, right?  Easy peasy.  So why has that bag of "things to sell" been sitting on my closet floor for the past six months?

I think I'm nervous, although of what exactly, I'm not sure.  I finally started listing items this weekend, and it's a lot of work!  Way more work than I ever would have anticipated.  I took the pictures of my items a while ago, but there's still the issue of uploading them all {and looking at them thinking "maybe I should retake these"}, and then the process of writing up a listing for each individual item.  That process consists of selecting categories and details for each item from eBay's drop-down menus, plus writing up your own item description, deciding on the auction start prices and/or the 'Buy It Now" price, and determining shipping methods and costs.  You need to figure out a price that allows you to at least break even after shipping {if you received the item as a gift to begin with, that makes it easier to list low}, but you also need to stay competitive with other sellers listing the same or similar items.  After all that, of course, you have to wait for people to actually bid or buy it, and field some {sometimes stupid?} questions from potential buyers who probably didn't read the listing information to begin with.  It's like it's own little job.

My thought was that I'd clean out my closet, list items people might want to buy, make a teeny profit, and everybody wins!  But after my experience listing just a couple items, I'm wondering if it's even worth it.  I know some people have a lot of success selling products on eBay and seem to do it with relative ease, and maybe it gets easier as you go along. 

Do any of you sell items on eBay?  If so, what are your tips, tricks and advice? 


{photo credit:}

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Trendspotting ~ Polka Dots!

I just love polka dots.  I don't know why, but I find the pattern so appealing.  So you can imagine how happy I am that I've been seeing polka-dotted clothing everywhere lately ~ shirts, skirts, shoes, tights, and more!  I prefer the more dainty, ladylike small dot pattern {although I do have a large-dot sweatshirt from Boston-area boutique 344 that is adorable}.

Want to get in on the polka-dot craze?  Check below for items in every price range; from casual and bold big-dotted pieces to flirty and feminine small-dotted ones.

Big Dots
Big polka dots make an outfit that much more fun ~ from cozy clothes to dressy casual pieces.

Forever 21 Polka Dot Backwards Cardigan ~ $24.80
Victoria's Secret 'The Dreamer' flannel pajama ~ $49.50
bebe 2b polka-dot skirt ~ $29.95
Nordstrom Commando 'Big Dot' sheer tights ~ $32

Small Dots
Teeny dots on dressy pieces are decidedly girly and sometimes even give a retro feel.

Forever 21 Sprayed Dots Dress ~ $24.80
JCrew blouson dress in polka dot ~ $168
Banana Republic dotted wool scarf ~ $50.50
Old Navy cropped ruffle top ~ $22.94
Nine West Crusader shoe ~ $99

Do you love polka dots as much as I do?  What pattern do you prefer ~ dots, plaids, stripes...or just classic solids?  Happy shopping!


{photo credits:  all photos are from retail sites mentioned}

Easy Cleaning Tips You Never Knew About

I found this list on Shine from Yahoo! of cleaning tips, utilizing household items in ways you probably wouldn't have thought of.  Thought I'd pass it along!

Baby Oil as Chrome Polish
Forget keeping skin soft, baby oil also polishes chrome.  Apply a dab to a cotton cloth and use it to shine everything from faucets to hubcaps.  You'll end up with shiny, happy surfaces from a medicine-cabinet staple.  {Who actually owns chrome cleaner, anyway?}

Broom as Long Distance Duster
To dust crown moldings, place a microfiber rag over the broom's bristles and secure with a rubber band.  Then use the long handle to dust areas that your arms can't reach.  No more circus acts {starring you, on a rickety, wobbly stool}.

Rice as Coffee Grinder Cleaner
Mill a handful of grains in your grinder and the fine particles will absorb stale odors and clean out residual grounds and oil.  Discard the rice and wipe clean.

Toothpaste as CD Cleaner
To restore a damaged CD, apply a dot of non-gel formulat toothpaste to a cotton cloth and rub in a straight line from the center of the CD outward, covering any scratches.  Rinse off the toothpaste with water.

Masking Tape as Scuff Preventor
Keep baseboards free of skid marks when you vacuum.  Cover the edges of the vacuum head with masking tape so they won't leave dark smudges when you inevitably bump into the walls.  There will be no more black marks on your cleaning record.

Fork as Carpet Fluffer
Use the tines to gently fluff plush carpet fibers back to their original height, removing dents left by heavy furniture.  Now, that's a real fork lift.


{photo credit:}

Friday, November 18, 2011

Yes, You CAN Afford Versace!

Well, sort of.  Versace is the latest brand in a growing trend of high-fashion designers creating limited-edition, affordable lines for department stores.  {Remember the Giambattista Valli and Karl Lagerfeld lines at Macy's this fall?}.  Starting tomorrow, you can find Versace's limited-edition line for H&M at select stores.

As a fashion house, Versace is known for their bold, fashion-forward, sometimes avant-garde red-carpet gowns.  They incorporate rich color, luxe fabrics and unique detailing to make their pieces stand out.

Now, you probably don't have much need for a red-carpet-esque gown {or do you?}, but never fear.  The Versace for H&M line is full of everyday and special occasion items.  It's actually divided into no fewer than six unique collections ~ Stampa {bright colors and bold prints}; Baby Doll {flowy, above-the-knee dresses}; Bottoni Oro {structured dresses with almost futuristic detailing, especially at the neckline}; Frange {bold, flashy pieces, all bedecked with fringe}; Metal Mesh {metallic-colored dresses}, and Pelle Borchie {lots of gunmetal grey and black pieces, many with studded detail}.  Prices range from $29.95 for leggings to $299 for certain jackets and dresses, with many items falling in the $100-range.  On the pricier side for you? Perhaps there's an item you could include on your wish list to Santa...

Here are some of my favorite pieces from Versace for H&M {anyone who knows me will not be surprised that pretty much everything I picked is black}.

Baby Doll silk chiffon dress with satin details ~ $149
Pelle Borchie studded, draped shift dress ~ $79.95
Stampa bright silk dress with asymmetrical hem ~ $149

Pelle Borchie faux-fur vest ~ $69.95
Pelle Borchi cropped, studded leather jacket ~ $299

Pelle Borchie studded black skirt with Greek-key detailing at hem ~ $129
{my favorite piece!}

Preview the rest of the Versace for H&M collection right now by clicking here, and find it in stores tomorrow!


{celeb photo credits:;;;; ...Versace for H&M photo credit:}

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Easiest Pumpkin Pie You'll Ever Make

I realized yesterday that I haven't blogged in a few days!  Sometimes life just gets in the way, and I got wrapped up in "life" this week.  But I'm back, and I have a fantastic Thanksgiving {or Christmas} dessert recipe to share!  This has to be the easiest pumpkin pie you'll ever make ~ probably one of the easiest pies, period.  Why?  Because it's no-bake!  Which means it's that much quicker for you to whip together, and even the little ones can help because there's no oven.  {In fact, my mom has told me that I made this very recipe, by myself, for Thanksgiving one year in grade school}.

I tore this recipe out of a magazine many moons ago ~ five or six years ago, at least.  I can't even attribute it to one particular source ~ it was an advertisement put together by several companies {Cool Whip, Philadelphia, Honey Maid, and Jell-O, among others} with a pumpkin pie recipe and a chocolate caramel pecan pie recipe {also delicious} included to promote their products.  Not only is this recipe easy-as-pie {ha!}, it's unique because of the whipped topping/cream cheese layer under the pumpkin mix ~ it's pretty, and a surprise to guests!  Here's the recipe {with my commentary in parentheses and italics ~ tips and tweaks from years and years of making this recipe}.  Enjoy!

Double Layer No-Bake Pumpkin Pie
4 ounces cream cheese, softened {I use whipped cream cheese ~ it saves a few calories and mixes a little easier.  I also microwave for 10-20 seconds}
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tub {8 ounces} whipped topping, thawed {regular or lite are fine, but I'd skip fat-free}
1 graham cracker pie crust {I do the "two extra servings" kind ~ keeps the filling from overflowing}
1 cup milk
1 can {15 ounces} pumpkin {not pumpkin pie mix!}
2 pkgs {4 servings each} vanilla instant pudding & pie filling {sugar-free works fine}
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Mix cream cheese, 1 Tbsp milk, and sugar in a large bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Gently stir in half of the whipped topping. {Gently is right ~ too much stirring will cause whipped topping to thin out too much}.  Spread onto bottom of crust.  {Place filled pie crust into freezer to firm up, just while you mix the pumpkin layer}.

Pour 1 cup milk into a large bowl.  Add pumpkin, dry pudding mixes, and spices.  Beat with a wire whisk {or electric hand mixer} 2 minutes or until well blended ~ mixture will be thick.  {Remove pie crust from freezer}.  Spread pumpkin mixture over cream cheese layer.

Refrigerate 4 hours or until set.  Top with remaining whipped topping just before serving.  Store leftover pie in refrigerator.  Makes 10 servings {or 12, with the 'two extra servings' crust}.

 Gather your ingredients {only one can of pumpkin is needed ~ I accidentally put two in this pic}

 My much-loved, oft-used copy of this recipe

 Mix the cream cheese layer and spread in pie crust

 Pop crust in the freezer for just as long as it takes to mix up pumpkin layer ~ otherwise, the cream cheese layer can ooze up and over the sides once the heavier pumpkin mix is atop it.

 Now mix up the pumpkin layer of the pie and spread to completely cover cream cheese layer

 The finished product


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keeping Your Pets Healthy

I came across this Yahoo! article about helping your pets live longer and thought I'd share with all you pet-lovers.  It's mostly just common sense, but it's good to have a little reminder now and then ~ after all, our furry family members can't tell us what they need.  Here, tips adapted from the article...

1.  Keep your furry friend indoors.  Staying inside, or at least on a leash, protects your pet from all kinds of dangers.  Also, as pets age they can't regulate their body temperature as effectively, making them more prone to weather-related ailments like heatstroke.

2.  Watch his weight.  Obesity in dogs and cats causes the same serious health problems that it does in humans ~ high blood pressure, breathing problems, diabetes and joint pain.  It's not easy to put a portly pet on a diet, but not doing so could shorten his lifespan {and from a practical ~ and more selfish ~ standpoint, you really don't want to have to give a cat daily insulin injections}.

3.  Don't skip vet appointments.  It's tempting to bail on the vet if your pet seems healthy ~ the exams, shots and treatments can add up to a big yearly bill if you don't have pet insurance.  But our pets can't tell us when they don't feel quite right; the vet can ~ sometimes just by looking into your dog's eyes.

4.  Dental health is overall health.  Poor dental health is the most common major health problem affecting cats and dogs; the bacteria from dental and gum disease can travel elsewhere in their bodies, causing more serious issues.  Check your pets teeth and gums about once a week.  Feed kibble and treats that promote dental health; keep an eye out for signs of dental or gum disease; and brush your pets teeth with pet-formulated brushes and paste.  It's worth it ~ bad teeth can reduce your dog's lifespan 2-4 years.

5.  Spay and neuter your pets.  Spaying or neutering your pet can protect them down the line from various reproductive cancers.  Also, some studies show that fixed pets live longer than "intact" pets, although scientists aren't quite sure why.

Kisses to your four-legged family members!


{photo credit:}

Homemade "Ultimate" Mudslide

I'm not much of a drinker.  I know ~ no fun.  I just have never been a girl who goes out for drinks, or just needs a drink at the end of a hard day, or gets good and liquored up at weddings and typical drinking holidays {New Years Eve, St. Patrick's Day, Fourth of July}.  So many types of alcohol are an "acquired" taste, and I've never felt like forcing myself to keep trying something I don't like again and again until I like it {like beer, for example...blech}.  Plus, drinks are just empty calories, and truth be told I'd much rather get my empty calories in the form of dessert ~ which probably explains why one drink I do like is TGI Friday's Ultimate Mudslide.

Like I said, I'm not a person who needs a drink after a long day ~ which is a good thing, right?  But I have had a somewhat difficult week {which included quitting one of my jobs, and my soon-to-be-former boss takes everything personally and is very moody.  I'm there until the end of the month, and I have a feeling these next few weeks are going to go sloooowwwly and include their fair share of drama}.  So last night, I didn't necessary need a drink, but I wanted one.  And what I wanted was an Ultimate Mudslide from Friday's ~ but I didn't really want to go to Friday's.  Having all the necessary mudslide ingredients on hand, I decided to just make it at home ~ and it. was. yummy!  I used Edy's Slow-Churned ice cream, which has fewer calories and fat than regular ice cream {hey, save calories where you can, right?}, and my measurements are approximate ~ there was a lot of adding a bit of this, and a little more of that, until I was satisfied.  Also, I don't really like the taste of vodka, so I went light on that ~ tweak it to make it your own Ultimate Mudslide!

Homemade Ultimate Mudslide

Vanilla ice cream {1 cup}
Milk {1/3-1/2 cup}
Kahlua coffee liquor {1/4 cup}
Bailey's Irish Cream liquor {1/4 cup}
Vodka {2 Tbsp}
Ice cubes {I used 3}
Chocolate syrup
Whipped cream
Mini chocolate chips

In a blender or Magic Bullet, combine ice cream, milk, Kahlua, Bailey's, vodka and ice cubes.  Use a spoon to taste and add more liquor or milk as necessary to achieve the taste and consistency you want.  Squeeze chocolate syrup around the inside of a glass {I used a pint glass}, top with whipped cream, and sprinkle with chocolate chips if desired.  Serve with a straw.

As my good friend Glory would say ~ cheers, my dears!


{photo credits:;;;;;}

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pilgrim Cupcakes {P.S. ... Adorable!}

How precious are these Pilgrim Cupcakes from Tonya Staab?  They are adorable and festive, as well as being a great project for your little ones!  Wouldn't these treats make the perfect centerpiece for your dessert table on Thanksgiving Day?  And the best part is there's a lot of "semi-homemade" elements here ~ pre-made cookies, candies and icing are on the list, making it easier for you!  {Simplify even more by buying already-made, unfrosted cupcakes instead of making your own!}

  • Plain vanilla cupcakes {even better -- in brown paper cupcake liners!}
  • White icing
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate for melting {I find mini-chips melt the easiest, at 30 second intervals}
  • Large marshmallows
  • Chocolate-coated cookies {like fudge-striped cookies}
  • Wilton Sparkle Gel in white, yellow and black
  • Large round Wilton tip with a disposable piping bag
  • Toothpicks {or narrow skewer}

Begin by making the Pilgrim hat.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave.  Using a pick to dip the marshmallow, coat each marshmallow in melted chocolate.  Place marshmallow carefully on top of an upside down cookie.  Repeat with the other marshmallows and cookies, and refrigerate until set.  Once chocolate has set, gently remove toothpick.  Using the sparkle gels, draw white bands and yellow buckle on the marshmallow and set aside.

Mix a small amount of cocoa powder with plain white icing, gradually adding cocoa until you have a color you are happy with {for your Pilgrim's "face"}.  Assemble frosting tip and bag and fill bag with icing.  Holding your hand steady, keep the tip just above the surface of the cupcake and pipe the "face" on {see middle picture below for how it should look at this point}.  Push down slightly while piping to get frosting to spread a bit and cover more of the cupcake.

Place the marshmallow/cookie hat on top of the icing face and use black sparkle gel to add facial features.

And there you go!  Easy, adorable, and fun!


{Photo credit:}

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Schedule

ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas programming guide has been posted!  Click here to view and print a copy of the schedule.

Like most years, they have a mix of Christmas classics for all ages {The Polar Express, The Grinch, Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause}, ABC Family originals {Holiday in Handcuffs, 12 Dates of Christmas}, and movies that have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas {a Harry Potter marathon again this year, ABC Family?}.  Many on the 25 Days of Christmas message board are already voicing their displeasure at the non-Christmas movies ~ and I agree, when I think "Happy Holidays", Disney-Pixar's Up is not the first {or second, tenth, or top 1000th} film that comes to mind.  However, there are plenty of traditional films available for viewing throughout the month of December.  Plus, don't most of us own our favorite Christmas movies anyway?  See below for a quick reference guide to when you should set your DVR for your faves...

The Santa Clause
Thursday December 1 7pm/6c
Wednesday December 21 8pm/7c

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Friday December 2 8pm/7c
Friday December 23 8pm/7c

The Polar Express
Monday December 5 8:30pm/7:30c
Tuesday December 20 9pm/8c
Sunday December 25 8pm/7c

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Wednesday December 7 9pm/8c
Monday December 12 9 pm/8c

That's just a sampling of the air times for some of the more popular Christmas movies.  Check the 25 Days of Christmas schedule for a complete list of their holiday programming {including their late-November "countdown" offerings}.  Surprisingly, there is no classic Rudolph listing ~ just an airing of Rudolph and the Island of the Misfit ToysSanta Clause 2 also slipped through the cracks, although parts 1 and 3 made the cut.  Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is featured several times in November and December, but there is nary an original Home Alone showing in sight.  Some strange choices by ABC Family, but I suppose the idea is to mix it up each year. 

If you're hoping to catch some traditional Christmas flicks that ABC Family doesn't have down on the schedule, you may be in luck ~ Saturday December 17 and Saturday December 24 are both listed as airing a "Holiday Classics Marathon" all day long.  Here's hoping for a little good old-fashioned, Burl Ives and psuedo-claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer action!

Happy Holiday Viewing!


Yummy & Easy Shrimp and Pasta Dish!

I love a good home-cooked meal ~ and if that meal includes pasta, even better!  One of my very favorite home-cooked meals in the whole wide world is shrimp and linguine {or shrimp scampi}.  There are probably a million versions of this recipe out there, but this one is ours that we have tweaked and modified bit by bit over the years.  We switched from white pasta to whole wheat a few years ago; from fresh broccoli to frozen {it's cheaper and just as, if not more, nutritious since it's flash-frozen at the height of  its' freshness}; and bit by bit I think we've added more garlic as the years have gone by.  There are a lot of approximations with this recipe ~ a lot of eyeballing instead of actually measuring.  I had my husband give me his version for this blog ~ I tend to be a bit more heavy-handed with the spices than he is {more "shakes"}.  See where the recipe takes you and tweak it until it's just perfect for your family ~ of course, I think it's pretty perfect as is!

Shrimp and Linguine

1 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 lb bag of frozen broccoli
1 box whole wheat linguine {we use Nature's Promise brand}
1 glass white wine {pinot grigio - approx 6 ounces}
6 cloves garlic, minced
Approx 1 Tbsp dried basil {8 "shakes" or so}
Approx 2 Tbsp dried oregano {12 "shakes"}
3/4 cup - 1 cup extra virgin olive oil {enough to coat pan plus a bit more}
Salt and pepper
Grated cheese

Place a medium {4 quart} saucepan with about an inch of water and a large {6 quart} saucepan filled 3/4 full with water over medium-high heat to boil.  Place broccoli in a metal colander over medium pan to steam, covered.

Coat both sides of peeled shrimp with salt and pepper.  Place a saute pan with olive oil over medium-low heat.  Once oil is warm {a minute or so}, add minced garlic to pan.  Let garlic simmer for 1-2 minutes, taking care not to let garlic burn {you don't want garlic to brown ~ turn heat down if necessary}.  Add basil and oregano and let simmer for a minute.  Add wine and turn heat up to medium; simmer until the alcohol smell has burned off {3-4 minutes, approximately}.

At this point, the water in large saucepan should be boiling.  Add pasta and cook according to instructions on box.

Turn the heat under saute pan down to low.  Place the shrimp, laying flat and not overlapping one another, in pan.  Allow shrimp to cook on this side until the tails and sides turn pink {approximately 3 minutes, but watch carefully ~ shrimp can overcook very quickly}.  Flip shrimp to other side using tongs and allow to cook for another 2 minutes or so.

Add cooked broccoli to saute pan and turn off flame.  Serve shrimp/broccoli/oil mix over linguine with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.



{photo credit:}

Shopping in San Diego!

Earlier this year, my husband and I took a trip out to sunny California to visit my best girl Kaydee and her fiance, and finally see her hometown.  {Kaydee and I met in college in Boston, and I never made it out to the west coast to see her side of the country until 10 years into our friendship!}.  Miss Kaydee hails from La Jolla, outside of San Diego, but earlier this year she was living in the Solana Beach area of San Diego.

During our week-long stay in southern California, we crammed a lot of activities in ~ touristy stuff in the L.A. area; trips to both Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park; horseback riding and an afternoon in Old Town San Diego; and of course a bit of shopping.  Kaydee brought us to a favorite store of hers in the the area called Leaping Lotus.  Located on Cedros Avenue {Solana Beach's Design District}, Leaping Lotus has a bit of everything ~ plenty of unique home decor; clothing; jewelry and hair accessories; holiday decorations; and more, from local, national, and global vendors and artists.  It is an amazingly unique space, and a great place to find the perfect gift!  Or, if you're like me ~ a great place to find stuff for yourself!  {Plus, it was my birthday ~ you are always allowed to buy yourself presents on your birthday}.  :)

The first item I saw that I knew I just had to get was this rustic-looking chalkboard.  In Italian it reads
Buon Appetito, Bella Cucina
Buon Cibo, Buon Vino, Buoni Amici
{Translation:  Kitchen; Enjoy Your Meal, Beautiful Kitchen; Good Food, Good Wine, Good Friends}

My husband and I both have Italian roots, and I loved the rustic style of this piece. For some reason the surface of this chalkboard was a bit strange when I got it ~ regular chalk wouldn't work at all, and chalk pens wrote fine but the words and markings would still show up on the board pretty clearly after I'd wiped it clean.  Last week I grabbed a small bottle of chalkboard paint at Michaels {99 cents, and it can transform just about any surface into a chalkboard ~ a great idea, especially when you have kids, is to paint a square of chalkboard paint on the wall in the kitchen, their playroom or their bedroom for family messages or for art-time}.  I painted a few coats over the surface, so hopefully that problem is fixed.

I also bought these small framed cupcake paintings, which are now hanging over my stove.  I am sort of known as the-girl-who-is-always-baking among my family and friends {last year I single-handedly did the baking for Thanksgiving ~ I think I cranked out something like seven or nine desserts}.  Plus, who doesn't love a cupcake?  These pieces were too perfect!

Well, this isn't the greatest picture-of-a-picture, but I wanted to show you this piece I got at Leaping Lotus too.  It's painted directly on the wooden canvas {no frame}, and I hung it next to my vanity table.  Before you get too impressed with the fact that I have a "vanity table" ~ it's in my kitchen, and I put it there because it was that or stand up in the living room putting on makeup every day.  Ah, apartment life :).  Anyway, I loved the pseudo-glam vibe of the chandelier on this piece, which is countered with the perfectly-imperfect nicks and grooves in the wooden base.

So with my four wall-hangings, plus some sparkly hair pins, Chips Ahoy-flavored lip balm {why not?}, and a strand of paper-thin, fragile, glittery butterflies for my butterly-lovin' mama {similar to the ones in the picture Kaydee took, below, except in a strand that hangs from the ceiling}, my shopping trip to Leaping Lotus was complete.

I know I have some California girls who follow this blog ~ whether you live in or visit the San Diego area, I would definitely recommend a trip to Leaping Lotus.  You could probably find a gift for just about every female in your life, and at any price range too.  If nothing else, stop in to admire the hanging butterfly display section {it was upstairs when I was there} ~ so sparkly and pretty, it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Pin Up Fashions for the Modern Girl

Well, hello gorgeous!

I was just searching the internet for cute, fun party dresses {because sometimes you want to search the internet for cute, fun party dresses}, and I came across Pin Up Girl Clothing ~ too much fun!  This site is chock full of retro-style fashions from dresses, skirts and tops to lingerie and hosiery to swimwear, shoes and handbags.  There is a decent range of prices, with most items being moderately priced {comparable to what you'd spend on a similar item at a Macy's, for example}.  The items range from ladylike and subtle to vampy and sexy to kitchy and borderline over-the-top {but fun!}.

Pin Up Girl Clothing offers items in sizes XS - 3X {and 2 - 18}, so there is literally something for just about everyone.  Whether you are a big Mad Men {or Bettie Page} fan, or you'd just like to add some super-girly, vintage-style fashions to your wardrobe, check out Pin Up Girl Clothing!

Anyone else have tips on unique shopping sites?


{photo credits:}

Friday, November 4, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Doughnuts - So Yummy!

Well, isn't that pretty picture?

If you can believe it, these super-yummy beauties come from a mix!  They are baked, not fried, so you can feel better about treating yourself to one of these bad boys than to one of the deep-fried doughnut shop varieties.  And they are EASY!  {So easy ~ by the time the oven was preheated, I'd already whipped up the batter and spooned it into the doughnut pan!}

Stonewall Kitchen, a Williams-Sonoma-esque company based out of Maine, offers chocolate and cinnamon-sugar doughnut mixes, along with seasonal varieties like pumpkin in the fall and blueberry in the winter.  I first discovered Stonewall Kitchen a few years ago on a family trip to Maine.  They have several store locations throughout New England {and one in Maryland}, including a few "outlet" or "warehouse" stores where they sell overstock, irregular, and past-season items for a super-discounted rate.  {Note:  "past season" doesn't mean "expired" ~ right now, for example, they're probably selling perfectly useable and delicious summer flavors such as lemon and blueberry}.  When I spotted these baked-doughnut mixes on our trip in 2010, I knew I had to try them ~ I'd been wanting to make homemade doughnuts for a while.

Stonewall Kitchen marks their products as "all-natural", which I know can be a relative term.  However, when I glanced over the ingredient list on the box, it was surprisingly short and thoroughly pronounceable ~ no "hydromalydexatrosinate" type words here!

The Stonewall Kitchen mix includes two package of dry ingredients ~ one for the doughnuts and one for the frosting. And you don't need to add too much from your pantry either ~ an egg, oil, butter, and buttermilk {I used regular milk and lemon juice instead}.  You'll also need a doughnut pan {which you can buy just about anywhere you'd buy other pans}.

P.S. ~ you know those "irregular" items they sell at the warehouse stores?  Here's an example.  Under the directions, there is a misprint.  They printed "Whisk together egg, melted butter and buttermilk..." instead of "Whisk together egg, oil, and buttermilk".  There's absolutely nothing wrong with the product itself ~ just a simple misprint.  So they slap a sticker on the box and sell it to you for around half off!  Not a bad deal!

Stonewall does have a sale page, but I don't think it contains the "irregular" items like these.  I believe the website sales are more past-season products.  For the best bargains, get yourself to one of their outlet or warehouse store locations if you can {We hit up the Rochester, NH location}.  Their flagship store in York, ME is also beautiful and spacious, containing several rooms of jarred and packaged food and mixes, baking and cooking tools and accessories, candles and soaps, plus a cafe and a space for cooking classes.  They do have sales there as well, although you won't find the 'irregulars' there.  Definitely visit if you can ~ and if not, thank goodness for the internet!

In retrospect, a yellow plate makes a jarring background. :)  Oh well ~ check out those yummies!  Delish, and they've made a great afternoon snack for the hubby all week!

To purchase the chocolate doughnut mix, or to peruse everything Stonewall has to offer {hint: a LOT!}, click here.  I also found a two-pack of the mixes on Amazon that would save you a few bucks ~ click here to check out that deal.


{photo credit:  top picture only,}