29 December 2015

Christmas with My Family

We had the best week leading up to Christmas!  Ashley and her husband, Eric, were here all week.  It was a week of good food, fun games, seeing Christmas lights and just simply enjoying each other's company, the way it should be!

Monday:  Botanical Gardens Glow Lights
Tuesday:  Wild Lights at the Zoo
Wednesday:  Vino Van Gogh painting at Padavan's
Thursdsay:  Movie
Friday:  Christmas!!

Merry Christmas to all!

22 December 2015

Elegant. Delicious. It's What's 4 Christmas. Beef.

Christmas is such a wonderfu time to really create a special meal for your family.  This Christmas, our family has chosen Certified Angus Beef, particularly Beef Wellington, for our Christmas dinner.  Since the dinner hasn't happened as of yet, I will tell you of our plans.

Using the #RoastPerfect app, my husband and I will make Beef Wellington.  We've made it before, but not using this recipe.  The recipe calls for mushrooms of all kinds, butter, puff pastry, demi glace, what's not to love?  Download the app to get the entire recipe!

We are purchasing our beef from our favorite Schnuck's store in St. Charles, Store #179, that is closest to our house in New Town.  These wonderful butchers will be serving us!

I'm so looking forward to our beautiful Beef Wellington, and hope you will consider a beautiful #CertifiedAngusBeef roast this Christmas, too!  Let me know if you do!

Merry Christmas!

20 December 2015

Top Ten Winter Crockpot Meals

Winter is another good season to use your crockpot (the others are spring, summer and fall!)  I like using the crockpot to make thicker stews and soups and meats that might require a lot of watching over.  These Top Ten Winter Crockpot Meals are sure to warm your belly on those cold, cold days!

1.  Ravioli Casserole from Recipe 4 Living.  What I love about this one is that it starts with frozen ravioli!  It is such a comforting dish and perfect after a day in the snow.  Pair with warm garlic bread...

2.  Turkey Meatballs from Mom's Kitchen Handbook will be good for your heart as well as your tummy!  Serve in a shallow bowl with crusty french bread in order to sop up the red sauce.

3.  Macaroni and Cheese in a slow cooker?  Yes!  And, this version is creamy and delicious.  Check out this wonderful recipe from Culinary Cory and make your heart go a little faster!

4.  Crockpot Beer Cheese Soup?  Oh, yes, please!  Since this soup cooks for six hours, the alcohol will be cooked out, but if you are worried, just leave out the beer!  A delicious recipe by
Family Fresh Meals.

5.  Slow cooker sloppy joes.  One of my favorite meals, any time!  These sandwiches, along with fruit and a great bun, will make suppertime a breeze.  A great recipe from Six Sisters Stuff.

6.  I love the simplicity of a baked potato in the winter.  Topped with chili, butter and sour cream, or cheese, this becomes a meal all by itself.  Serve with some sliced fruit and what a great meal!  This beautiful recipe comes from My Frugal Adventures.

7.  Another delightful crockpot meal from Family Fresh Meals is the Cowboy Casserole.  What child wouldn't want to eat something with such a cool name?  Loaded with cheese, this just looks right for a winter day!

8.  When pizza delivery isn't available due to snow and ice, make this yummy pizza in a crock pot given to us by Real House Moms  While this isn't real pizza, it is all the flavors of pizza in a dish that cooks in under three hours, so a perfect one to try when you forgot to set the timer!

9.   Sometimes you just want a sweet for breakfast and the smell of this waking you up on a snow day just feels soooo gooood.  Recipe from 16th and Bliss by Centsless.

10. and, the wonderful pot roast, this one a pork one that will be delicious as a Friday night meal to share with guests or just to sit down together at Sunday Supper.  Shared with us by Jamie Cooks it Up!

Go and check out these other Top Ten Winter posts.  Games, snacks, ideas for your preschoolers, all kinds of ideas to celebrate the season of Winter!

For other fabulous Winter Top Ten Posts, visit these blogs!  Your winter will be fun and exciting and your families will thank you!

Top 10 Winter Warmer Ideas from Powerful Mothering
Top 10 Winter Sensory Bins from Adventures of Adam
Top 10 Snowy Science Experiments from Lemon Lime Adventures
Top 10 Winter Crockpot Meals from Our Good Life
Top 10 Fun Winter Snacks for Kids from Sunny Day Family
Top 10 Snowflake Crafts from Play & Learn Everyday
Top 10 Winter Printables for Preschool from Living Life and Learning
Top 10 Winter Science Ideas from P is for Preschooler
Top 10 Cool Snowmen Crafts from Crafty Kids at Home
Top 10 Winter Art Projects from Rhythms of Play
Top 10 Penguin Crafts for Kids from The Resourceful Mama
Top 10 Winter Sensory Bins from Study at Home Mama
Top 10 Snowman Science Activities for Kids from Little Bins for Little Hands
Top 10 Winter Busy Bags from Something 2 Offer

15 December 2015

New Town Residents Home Tour

The 2015 New Town Residents Home Tour was a huge success this year!  This year we had the largest ticket sales and that means that two food banks in our local area will each receive a big check this year and that is what we are all about!

Here are some of the highlights from this year's tour, from my perspective:

The colors in this room are sparkling and gorgeous.

Beautiful tree and bedspread

Love the European pillows angled like this!

Love seeing the carolers!

It's the year of the Peanuts characters!

A sweet spot to relax in.

I love this book tree!

This is favorite quotes from books.

A cute way to keep visitors from rooms you aren't willing to share.

Merry Christmas everyone!  Another very successful year of Christmas homes tours!

10 December 2015

Things I Like

It's easy to find things you like during the Christmas season.  While this isn't a gift guide, per se, you might see something here that you would like for yourself, or that someone you know might like!

I love these sunglasses from Vacay. Reasonably priced around $30, they are designed for both men and women.  My round face loves these glasses!

I fell in love with this ice bucket and then proceeded to use it for a salad bowl!  This ice bucket, larger enough for two bottles of bubbly and ice, is really pretty in person.  You can get it from Amazon for around $30.

This is the neatest cutting board I have ever used, and it has become my go to chopping board, even though I have a perfectly good chopping block sitting on my countertop.  Why?  That green sliding tray.  You can chop, scoop all your veggies into the tray and keep on chopping.  I love it.   It's priced at $30 on Amazon.

My last awesome find were these step lights.  I love these little lights that provide some lighting on our steps.  Solar powered, these lights also add a bit of sparkle at night!  They are on sale at Amazon for $19.99.  I have seen people use them on their fence posts, too, and I love that look!

I love sharing my little finds.  If you happen to purchase one of these products, would you leave a comment and let me know?  Thank you and happy shopping!

07 December 2015

Make It Happen Challenge: Egg Nog!

Our November Make It Happen Challenge is Egg Nog!  When we were looking for this challenge, we wanted to do something we hadn't done before, and somehow, egg nog came up!  It was a great challenge, as some had never had it, some had only tried it store boughten.  You will see some interesting takes on this challenge!

As for me, I have had egg nog at Christmas for every year of my life!  So for me, the challenge was going to be for me to find something different.  I've posted on egg nog here and I made egg nog fudge here and an egg nog cake here... so I was really going to have to stretch!

Then, I found Alton Brown's Aged Egg Nog.  Aged.  This held some promise.  As I read the recipe, I knew right away that this was going to be a challenge.  For one, egg nog never lasts beyond a day at my house.  Never.  Second, we never serve it with alcohol.  So these two details were going to be the challenge!

The recipe:

12 egg yolks.  Yes, 12.
1 lb sugar
1 pt. heavy whipping cream
1 pt. half and half
1 pt. whole milk
1 c. bourbon
1 c. cognac
1 c. rum
1 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t kosher salt

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until you get pale yellow ribbons when you lift the beaters.  Add in the dairy and beat well.  Add in the nutmeg and salt, beat well.  Add in the alcohol, beat well.  Move into a large glass jar and store in the fridge for at least two weeks.  According to Alton, a month and even two, are better!

Serve in a mug with freshly grated nutmeg on top.

So far, so good.  No one has gone for the egg nog yet.  I have promised each a taste at two weeks.

So... nearly two weeks has passed.  The egg nog has taken on a creamy color, not so yellow, and is calling my name!  I will be doing my first taste test on Sunday!

So my husband and I tasted our egg nog today.  It is definitely alcohol!  We love the texture, it is silky smooth.  Can't wait to see what happens in another two weeks!

Go and check out the other eggnog challenges!

An Italian in my Kitchen


Lauren Caris Cooks

A Good Life

05 December 2015

New Town Book Club~The House on Sunset

I love reading and sharing books with people, so I was determined to have a book club in my new location when I moved here three years ago.  After several months of trying, we finally got a small group of dedicated people to meet regularly to read and discuss books.

Recently we had the opportunity to read a book by a local author.  The book, The House on Sunset, is a book about surviving domestic violence.  The main character, Sarafina, tells her story upfront and personal.  She describes the process of falling in love, and then watching it turn into brutal abuse at the hands of her boyfriend.  In the story she weaves the signs of abuse, the circular cycle of reconciliation, the beatings, the mental abuse and torment that an abuser does with the skill of a brain surgeon.

 Our book club with Lindsay, the second from the right.
I had to read Sarafina's story in small chunks, because the prose would take my breath away in unexpected ways.  You can feel your insides start to quiver, and shrink, when what you thought was going to happen, did, but worse than you could have imagined. When the story ends, you are certain that her life will never be the same, and you are worried for her.

I was fortunate to get to meet with the author, the Sarafina of the story, and see that after years of counseling she is blossoming and loving and kind. Her message of survival is filled with hope for those who are in an abusive relationship.  I am amazed how she is able to discuss her abuse openingly with those of us who read of her struggles and are amazed that she is still alive and with us.

Our book club met with the author, Lindsay Fischer, at a local restaurant.  We asked all kinds of questions, becoming more and more relaxed as we can see her evident success at survival.  We moved the meeting to our beloved Wine Bar, where we continued to enjoy each other's company and learn more about Lindsay's story.  We were pleased to learn that she is a guest speaker, sharing her story with police departments, abuse centers and others, to help them learn how to better serve abuse victims within the system.

Lindsay blogs at Survivors Will Be Heard.  There you can follow her story and learn what we can do to help with her work.

Our Book Club was in agreement that this was a wonderful meeting, our best yet, and we plan to purchase and read book 2 that was recently started.  For those of you who haven't read The House on Sunset, go and check it out.

03 December 2015

How to hold a Cookie Exchange

I held my third annual cookie exchange this year.  I was really brave when I moved from Jefferson City to St. Charles and decided to host a Cookie Exchange in my new town, after having lived there for only six months.  I had a few people attend.  I had a lot of fun and I met a couple of new friends.  Last year, I was brave again, and held it in a house I had lived in for less than a year.  More people came and that was a lot of fun, too.  This year, though, was so much fun!

First, I selected a date and sent out a Facebook invite several weeks in advance to a group that I know likes to cook/bake/eat.  I asked for Rsvps and I had five who responded quickly.  I held the invite open a few more days, but I ended up with five, six counting me.

We decided to bake a dozen cookies for each of us plus a few to share.  You needed to pack them in some kind of container so that they could be easily carried home.

Second, the menu.  For the first time I decided to have a soup and salad supper with the ladies I invited.  My husband prepared the food.  We attended a cooking class a few weeks prior and had pumpkin soup and a harvest salad.  With a little changing, we created our own soup and salad recipes, inspired by those at the Dierberg's Cooking School.  My husband created a great cocktail using the Blood Orange Soda from Aldi's and a bottle prosecco.  Delish.

Third, I chose what cookies I wanted to make.  I found these red and green chocolate chips, so I made a sugar cookie with the chocolate bits stirred in.  Very festive cookies!

Fourth, clean, decorate, cook and set the table!  We spent the evening just talking and discussing our families and holiday plans.  Such a great time!

Greens, goat cheese, red onion, dried cranberries, candied pecans, pears and apples with a roasted citrus vinagrette

Our table, with Christmas tree folded napkins!

Our cookie stash!
The cookies for me!
This year's guests: Ali, Shannon, Kathy, Amy and Sherry!
Already making plans for next year!  I hope all these ladies can return next year!

01 December 2015

Ornament Swap!

I participated in an ornament exchange like I did last year.  I love doing this, I meet a lot of new bloggers this way!  Not to mention, collecting a lot of fun oraments, too!  This year I sent an ornament to Linda at a la carte who was a fun gal to send to.  She and I found out that we like to do pocket letter swaps, so we also exchanged one (to be seen later!)

I was surprised to learn that my swap partner was someone different than Linda.  Stephanie, from The Enchanting Rose was my partner.  She has a beautiful blog and also owns Rose Petal Blessings, an Etsy shop.  She's taking a little break before the big holiday rush, but check back after November 23 and see what the shop is offering!

First, my box was beautifully wrapped and packaged.  I didn't show it to you as it had both our names and addresses on it.  You know, safety reasons.  Trust me that it was lovely!

On top, inside was the ornament, a white sparkly snowflake with a pink ribbon to hang it from the tree.  There's a breast cancer ribbon in the center of the snowflake and in the middle of that is a vintage bauble of crystals and pink stones.  Beautiful!

Underneath the ornament was cute gingerbread box holding a darling towel, a gingerbread cookie cutter, candy cane sprinkles, cupcake papers and a bookmark.

Such a sweet swap.  Last year I was Vicki's swap partner, the one who organized the exchange.  She's a teacher and I love that we met during a swap!  Thank you for hostessing us again, Vicki!