Friday, November 30, 2012

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 72.

Goodbye short week that seemed to go on forever (why is that?).
Goodbye Super Hubby's attempt of Maple Fudge - it still tastes good even though it spreads like butter.
Goodbye to this book on CD as it kept me company while working on some jewelry orders.
Goodbye beautiful trees that once stood tall in our yard; we're missing you dearly.
Goodbye coping with a nagging headache that just doesn't seem to want to leave my head.

Hello sticker-shock and investigating how to make my own Roman Shades thanks to Pinterest.
Hello sharing sentiments of good cheer in all those Christmas cards that need to find their way into the mailbox by Monday.
Hello finishing up the last of the Team Spirit bracelet orders I was blessed to receive.
Hello trip to the butcher to snag a beautiful beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner.
Hello building excitement as December's start conjures up all the magic of the season.

Lots of Lessons Learned this week so I'll have to put them all in the queue for upcoming posts. In lieu of the trees we lost this week, I want to share a lesson I learned about surrounding yourself with beauty. Here's the thing: it doesn't just come from the trees, it doesn't just come from things, and it certainly doesn't come from brick and mortar, no matter how high or wide it's stacked. It comes from what you do with what you have to work with. Remember Oprah? Once, I was watching her show where she explained how, on a recent trip to Africa, she sat in a tiny little tent with a dirt floor. There was no light penetrating through even the loose stitchings that lined the simple abode. Yet, the girl who lived there had one simple flower in a broken vase, smack dab in the middle of this tent. When Oprah asked her why, in these deplorable conditions she would go to the trouble to pick a single flower everyday to put in the meager vase, the girl responded with, "It makes it beautiful."

We all want to be surrounded by beauty, but beauty is what we make it to be. If a girl in Africa can beautify her tent with one single flower, what can I do here to make beauty reign again, even with downed trees and stripped privacy? We must adjust and change with the tides of life, and make use of our resources to bring in beauty, everyday, in any way.

Have a beautiful weekend, friends.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Cry For Broken Trees

Hurricane Sandy claimed a few trees as victims in our yard as her trailing winds blew through the Northeast Ohio region. Our home remains upright and dry, for we were not, in any way, in the eye of the storm and for that, I am grateful.

I can't help but feel a tinge (OK, that's an understatement) of sadness over the loss of those trees. We live in typical suburbia. Our home is found in a planned neighborhood where sidewalks run down every street, where lot sizes are the size of matchbox cars, and where finding trees in the yard is like finding a Yankee in Mississippi - trees are precious commodities. So, when we end up losing two trees, it's a pretty big deal. It changes the landscape, especially in this case. The two towering pine trees we've enjoyed for years acted as a natural privacy fence to the neighbors behind us; so much so, I don't even have drapery coverings in the kitchen because we've always felt shielded from view. Not any more:-(

The view before the chainsaw.
I now stand at the kitchen sink, more aware of the flood light above my head as it spotlights my pan-washing abilities to the neighbors. And, I'm sure it's no picnic for them, either. I now have a clear, unabated view directly into their family room. If I stare long enough, I can see the video games the kids are playing on their computer. I'm not sure what's worse: that our lives have been exposed to one another or that this new view may cause unjust arrest for voyeurism. I want my privacy back!!!

The view after: hello neighbor!
We can't plant new trees until Spring and it won't be a quick fix anyways. Do you know how many years it's going to take for those trees to grow to the size of their ancestors? As I am tempted to put up a For Sale sign in the front yard and move to the forest, Super Hubby calms me down and gets all "positive-talk" crap on me. But, all I want to do is sulk and be upset at something I cannot change. Grow up, Lilly. I read some of my old posts as if I were a new visitor to this blog and the words of wisdom (that I, myself, wrote) started to absorb through my thick skull. Just another bump in the road. As my Dad says, "You get used to it." And so, for now, I'll have to learn to get used to it. I will spend the next hour perusing the site and see if a nice Roman shade above the window sink might be a good solution in gaining privacy. I will think about all the people on the East Coast trying to find where their kitchen sink used to be. I will be thankful that a loss of a few trees is the only thing I've got to be upset over.
Even our Pear Tree needed some work.
It's truly all about perspective and my sadness over a loss of a few trees and $700 (the unexpected expense of cutting down the trees, stump grinding, and peforming tree surgery to another tree that split) is trite compared to the devastation seen by so many out East. But, reality is truth. So, here's the truth dear family and friends: unless you are under the age of 12 years old, there will be no Christmas gift for you under our tree this year. There will always, however, be an open door where we welcome you with open arms, a set table, and an abundance of good food and even better love to share with y'all!
(and for all the neighbors to see - bonus!)
Every tree is worth trying to save in our yard!

Now, go hug a tree!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What I Made Wednesday {Best French Onion Soup Ever}

I jest not, friends. This is the best onion soup you will EVER taste. No restaurant I've been to, 5-star or not, can touch the mild buttery smoothness this French Onion Soup delivers every time. Honestly, it never disappoints. Need proof? Here's what I can offer: Super Hubby is allergic to onions. I know! Can you imagine? It's tested my culinary aptitude a time or two, but I've managed to modify recipes to help Super Hubby's affliction. So, knowing the ill-fate of Super Hubby's reaction to onions, Super Hubby throws caution to the wind, puts his comfort aside, just to enjoy this French Onion Soup. We only attempt it over long weekends, mind you, but Super Hubby will attest that the after-affects are worth the trouble. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a pot and get slicing to those onions. And, it doesn't get any quicker or easier than this simple recipe, either.

What You'll Need
2 large Sweet Onions, sliced thinly and separated into rings
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons flour
3 cups hot water
4 beef bouillon cubes
French bread, sliced
Swiss cheese, buy it pre-sliced

What You'll Do
Brown the onions in a heavy-bottomed pot using all the butter. Sprinkle with flour to thicken. Microwave the hot water with bouillon cubes for about 2 minutes. It doesn't matter if the cubes are fully dissolved. Add the water to the onion mixture. Simmer for 20 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste. I usually omit the additional salt as the bouillon cubes have a high sodium content, already.

What You'll Need to Know to Finish
Years ago I purchased these French Onion Soup crock bowls, just for this recipe. If you can't find them or don't own a set yourself, be sure to grab a regular soup bowl that is safe to put under the broiler.

Bread, then soup, then cheese.

Slice the French bread about 2-inches thick. Place one piece at the bottom of your soup bowl. Ladle enough French Onion Soup into the bowl and over the bread to just about cover the bread. Take 2 slices of Swiss cheese and place it over the bread. If you have the crock bowl, drape the cheese over the sides - great effect! 

Be sure your bowls can withstand the heat.
Place the bowl under the broiler just until the cheese starts to bubble and melt. Super Hubby likes the cheese somewhat crispy so leave it in longer if you desire the same.

When it comes out all bubbly and hot, it's quite a moment when the spoon punctures through that cheesy shell. The broth begins to invade the cheese plateau and your spoon hunts for a piece of bread below. When it finally comes up for air, you hold in its cradle a sampIing of all the deliciousness this soup offers. I hope you give this simple and easy soup a try the next time the winds are howling and the snow is blowing. Enjoy!  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Something, Not Anything

I know you, friend. I know you are easy-going. I know you can be too agreeable at times, even when you don't want to be. Today I want you to have an opinion: your own. Today I want you to begin to express Something, not Anything, but Something. Something real, Something that is what you want, even if you think it's not important.

There's a big difference between Something and Anything. You know the old saying, "Stand for Something or you'll fall for...", well, you know the rest, right? Begin by taking Anything out of your vocabulary. Instead, say Something. "What do you want for dinner?" "Anything" - NO! Start saying Something specific. "What do you want to do today?" "Anything" - NO! When you respond with Anything, you get what you get. When you respond with Something, you send requests on the wings of wishes. Place yourself in the driver's seat and start to say Something. It may not be the seat you are used to, but settle in and get comfortable because you'll begin to like the way Something feels. Anything is nothing. Something can be everything.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gratitude Journal Monday

Thanks for the great feast, Mom and Dad!
Thank you for taking time out of your Cyber Monday shopping to join me today. I'm thrilled you are here! The official start to the holiday season is well underway and hearts are more easily filled with love this time of year. We give thanks on Thanksgiving and we believe on Christmas. What if these traits weren't just seasonal, belonging to just one day or time of the year, but rather rooted in our daily living? Even Gratitude Journal Monday isn't just for Monday's, it's for the everyday. Open your heart and live the magical holiday season all year-round.

351. I am grateful for the feast-of-a-meal my parents prepared for Thanksgiving - they work so hard and do such a marvelous, scrumptious job.
352. I am thankful for the 6-day weekend we spent together as a family, just hanging out and enjoying the warmth of the fireplace.
353. I am thankful our wood for the fireplace is finally dry enough to burn on its own instead of tending to it constantly to keep it a-flame.
354. I am super thankful for Super Hubby's and Kiddo's assistance in putting up all the Christmas decorations this year (looks great, guys).
355. Although I'm not looking forward to writing all those Christmas cards, I am thankful I have wonderful people in my life to send the cards to.

Wondering how and why to start your own Gratitude Journal? Click here to discover my own beginnings.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 71.

Sponsored by American Express
Goodbye short school week.
Goodbye celebrating Movember with yummy chocolate suckers - YUM!
Goodbye giving up making the bean green casserole and just steaming the green beans, instead.
Goodbye traveling over the river and through the woods for a delicious Thanksgiving Feast.
Goodbye sunny, mild weather - here comes the rain and cold, then, dare I say it, snow!

Hello skipping the shopping madness.
Hello decorating every square inch of home with Christmas ornaments galore.
Hello putting up with Super Hubby's continuous harking that we have "Way too many Christmas decorations."
Hello sneaking off to buy just one more Christmas item to add to the collection.
Hello snuggling the evenings away in front of a cozy fire, hot chocolate in hand, and a good-old movie playing in the background, like White Christmas.

My lesson learned this week is how even I have my limits when it comes to taking advantage of shopping opportunities. I have to say, I'm saddened by many stores' decisions to open ON Thanksgiving. Of course, I can't really just blame the stores, I must also blame the people that leave their families right after turkey and pie to save $100 on a 6-month old model of the latest T.V. If family-time on a holiday isn't sacred anymore, what is?

I remember the days when stores used to close at 5:00 on Sundays. My parents remember when stores weren't even open on Sundays. The funny thing is, even with less "shop time", America, as a nation and as a people, were never richer or more prosperous than they were back then. Today, we can shop 24/7 on the Internet, Thanksgiving has fallen aside to shopping, and American consumer debt is up 5% this year. Will wonders never cease?

I'll admit to being a former Black Friday shopper. When you are younger, it's kinda fun to map out your sales path, be amongst the excitement and buzz of getting the one-time deal. But, now that I'm older, spending time with my family, sans fluorescent lights and long lines, is all I need to make my season merry and bright. How about you?

If you are out and about, try to shop local this holiday season. Saturday, November 24 is Small Business Saturday, sponsored by American Express. Support your community by keeping the dollars in your town. Happy Shopping!  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Where ever you are today,
I hope you choose happiness.
I hope you receive with a thankful heart.
I hope you give with pure love.
I hope you share some kind words with another.
I hope your attitude of gratitude shows strong.

Thank you for being here with me and
have a Happy Thanksgiving!

LOVD tidings, Lilly

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I Made Wednesday {Movember 'Stache on a Stick}

Learn more.
 30 days has November: that's 30 days of opportunity to spread awareness for cancer-screening of prostate and testicular cancers. Men around the world become walking billboards for the cause as they grow moustaches in solidarity, hence Movember. Here's a terrific website if you'd like to learn more, click here.

To spread the word, it starts with the youth of the world. Explaining Movember to kids in a fun (and delicious) way may very well save a parent's life (or even their own, one day) - you never know.

3 different styles!
 If you've been a regular visitor, you know I'm Room Mom for my son's Homeroom. I'm always looking for fun ways to make them feel appreciated (the Target dollar aisle at the front of the store is my favorite stomping ground). So, while I was roaming the aisle at my local Michael's store and stumbled upon a moustache candy mold - why, it had Movember awareness written all over it. The kids had a blast with these, and, now, know a little bit about Movember.

What You'll Need
Chocolate mold from Wilton #2118

Lollipop sticks

Milk chocolate melting wafers

White chocolate colored yellow melting wafers

I did not wrap these but you could also place them in a cellophane wrapper.

 What You'll Do
Melting chocolate is easier than you think. I'd be careful, though, with the white chocolate because it tends to scorch easier and quicker than milk chocolate. When that happens you have no choice but to throw it out. To make sure you don't cry if this happens, melt the chocolate in small batches in case things go awry.

Dump half of your chips into a microwave safe bowl.

 Set your microwave to only 45 seconds. Remove and stir with a rubber spatula. BE PATIENT. Keep placing back into the microwave for 10-second intervals, stirring the chocolate between nukes. The microwave will not completely melt the chocolate, you stirring it will - remember that!

 Using a small spoon, fill the mold only half-way with chocolate. Tap the mold on the counter to release any air bubbles that may be sitting at the bottom of the mold. Be pretty generous with your taps. This will ensure a smooth, holeless surface to your chocolate. Take the lollipop stick and place it in the groove of the mold. Turn the stick in a circular motion in the chocolate to coat it. This helps act as a glue. Next, spoon more chocolate on top, covering the mold and making the top even with the mold's surface. DO NOT OVER FILL. You'll have more to clean-up around the finished product.

 When you pop your mold into the refrigerator, be sure to ensure that the lollipop stick is still embedded in and covered with the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to harden, about 15 - 20 minutes. You'll know its done when the bottom of the mold gets a bit frosty on the inside.

Grab a cushy towel and place on the countertop. When the chocolate is ready, remove from the refrigerator and flip the mold over onto the towel. The padding will prevent the chocolate from breaking. The chocolate falls out quite easily and quickly - trust me.

More than likely, you'll have chocolate left over in your bowl that was not entirely used for your molds after the first batch. No worries! Just clean-off the spoon and spatula. When you are ready to mold again, just heat the chocolate again like you did before. Reduce the time by 10 seconds since you are not working with as much volume as when you started. Chocolate and water are not friends. At all costs, do not accidentally get drops of water into your chocolate. If this happens, add more chocolate than you think you need to dilute the water and continue to melt until it reaches a smooth consistency.

What You'll Need to Know to Finish

If you overfilled a few, you'll see you'll have to "clean-up" some of the excess after it hardens. You should be able to just break it off, or, if there's a thick overfill, take a knife and trim it off.
Place the finished chocolate suckers onto a baking sheet until you are ready to store in an airtight container and place in the fridge. I didn't wrap these, but instead placed them in a container and took them to school the next day. My son said they were a HUGE hit with the kids! 

Happy Movember!

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