Monday, December 31, 2012

Hello 2013!

Obviously 2012 has been an incredibly special year!  I just can't wait to see what is in store for us in 2013!  Stephen and I have just gotten back from a wonderful trip home to NY for the holidays.   During the 10 days we were up there, we packed in as much quality time with friends and family as we possibly could.   It's true, there is no place like home for the holidays, AND there is nothing like Christmas in New York!  So grateful for the new memories we made during this trip, and beyond thankful for the opportunity to spend time with our loved ones!

Right now, we are back in our cozy apartment having a low-key New Years Eve.  Unfortunately, hubby isn't feeling well...but there is nowhere I'd rather be than snuggled up with him as we ring in 2013!

As for this little blog of mine.... I have a lot in store for the next year, can't wait to see where this adventure takes me next!  I hope you all have a safe, healthy, and Happy New Year!!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chipotle Mac & Cheese

I figured now is the perfect time to share this recipe, before all of those resolutions kick in!  Although, I must say....there are MANY mac & cheese recipes out there that would do a lot more damage "calorie-wise"!

The funny thing is, typically I am SO NOT a fan of mac & cheese!  I didn't really grow up on loads of it....I can't say the boxed version was one of the first things I learned how to make, it just was never my "thing".  It's not that I won't eat it, I just don't seek it out...and it is especially not something I would see a recipe of, and say "oh man, I have to have mac & cheese this week".  For some strange reason though, the second I came across this recipe for Spicy, Smoky Chipotle Mac & Cheese on Kristin's blog {w/ milk and sugar}.... I just knew I would love it, and I had to make it.  It did not disappoint, AT ALL!  Hubby is still talking about it... he says "it needs to be on the rotation"!  I know I have said it before and I'll say it again...check out Kristin's blog, she is all about cooking/baking, decorating, and crafting...all of my favorite things.  Thanks so much  for sharing Kristin!  :)
***Don't forget to enter a chance to win a few of my favorite kitchen essentials!!!  Thanks to Glam Hungry Mom for hosting this fun giveaway!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's The Most Wonderful Time... For A GIVEAWAY!!!

The AMAZING Andrea from Glam Hungry Mom is hosting my first very special giveaway on her blog....check it out, and you could win a few of MY FAVORITE things!  This is clearly another step for me in the "blog world" that I am very excited about!  What a fun way to thank you all for so much support in such a short period of time!  Seriously, thanks a bunch...and of COURSE thanks to Andrea!  Here is what I am giving away...just a few items I couldn't live without!
*Go to Glam Hungry Mom for more info!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mom's "Bowl Tipping" Chicken Soup

It's a cold, windy, "wintery mix", miserable kind of night here on LI!  My nose is stuffy, my throat is scratchy, and all I want to do is curl up under a blanket by the fire.  It couldn't be a more perfect night for my Mom to have made her chicken soup, and obviously I had to share the experience (and the recipe).  I don't think I can stress enough how PERFECT this soup was on a night like tonight....the only words coming from our mouths were things like "ohhhh man", "this is insane", and "soooooo good"!  I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did! 
Ingredients:
1 whole chicken (cut up...include the gizzards (ew) if you want full flavor)
1 package of soup greens in produce aisle (usually consists of carrots, celery, parsnip, turnip, parsley, and onion)
Extra carrots 4 whole (cut into large chunks)
2 extra stalks of celery (cut into large chunks)
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
Low sodium chicken broth 32 oz box
6 cups of water
Box of small pasta (this time she used shells)
Grated parmesan cheese to top soup off

Directions:
1.  In a large pot, put in chicken(gizzards optional), along with next 8 ingredients (through water), cover and bring to a boil - then reduce the heat to low (a low boil)
2.  Let it cook for 2 hours covered - stirring every once in a while
3.  Turn off heat - let sit for half hour (you may or may not need to add a little extra water to the soup depending on if it evaporated at all...mom added about an extra cup at the end)
4.  Strain all liquid into a pot - separate chicken into a dish and put just carrots and celery back into the soup (everything else get discarded)
5.  Shred chicken off the bone - you can put the chicken back in with the soup, but mom always keeps it in a separate bowl for people who don't like dark meat
6.  In a seperate pot, boil the pasta until al dente, then add to soup
7.  Place shredded chicken into a bowl (if seperate), ladle soup over, and top with parmesan cheese
This chicken soup will seriously warm you up on the coldest winter nights, don't forget to tip the bowl back to get every last drop....enjoy! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Making Christmas Memories

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I can't decide what I love more about Christmas time....cherishing old memories and traditions...or creating the new ones.  It has to be a tie!  Even though so many things have changed, a lot remains the same.  Right now I am hanging out in my brothers room, we are about to embark on a home movie marathon...the holiday edition, obviously!  Super psyched!  We are sleeping upstairs tonight, so in the morning we can wait at the top of the stairs until Mom and Dad tell us it is "okay" to come down.  Cherishing these moments where we still get to be kids!  Haha...we are waiting for the tape to rewind (lol, how "old school").  Just had to take this moment, to wish you all a VERY Merry Christmas...I hope you are also having a blast reliving old memories, as well as creating new ones!!!  Goodnight! :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What I WOULD be cooking this week & Sunday Social

We are officially HOME for the holidays, and it is wonderful!  There is no place like home, and I couln't imagine Christmas anywhere else!  I vowed not to neglect NTSST while I'm away, so there are a few things in store for the week...yay, for planning ahead!  Although, I obviously have a great excuse, I'm feeling a little guilty for not having my meals planned out.  So, here it is....
What I WOULD be cooking this week:
(A few of my favorites, as well as new recipes I would like to try in the very near future)
Tonight - Pasta Primavera
Monday - Chicken w/ Pepper Jack Sauce & Jalapeno Rice
Tuesday - Crock-Pot Pasta Fagioli
Wednesday - Healthy Jambalaya
Thursday - Honey Lime Chicken
Friday - Tuscan White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup (Crock Pot Recipe)

And now (real quick) because I have to run to the store with my mom to but ingredients to make MORE (yes, more) Jelly Buttons...a link up!
 
1. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Vanilla Bean....but it has to be topped with graham cracker crumbles....mmmmmm!
2. What is your favorite smell?
I hope you don't all think I am crazy, it's not like I want to walk around smelling like this, or that I would want it as a scented candle....but I absolutely love the smell of sauteeing garlic and onions.  Smells like Sundays!
 
3. What is your favorite TV commercial?
This one gets me every time!
Ugh...it won't let me embed the code, and I don't have time to mess around with it...so click HERE!

4. What is your favorite day of the week?
I'm a big fan of Friday and Saturday...obvi!

5. What is your favorite way to waste time?
You're looking at it...although, waste is a harsh word!

 6. What is your favorite article of clothing?
I WOULD live in leggings if it were acceptable!
Thanks to Neely from A Complete Waste of Makeup & Ashley from Ashleys Carnival Ride for hosting!!!  Now, back to enjoying some more family time!  :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Anticipation, Procrastination & The 6 Stages of Packing

It is almost here!  We leave for our trip in the morning, and I am seriously excited to just get there already!  I wish I could say that our bags are all packed, and we are ready to go...but procrastination is sort of my "thing" (especially these days).  Let's just say those piles of clothes on my bedroom floor are a good start, there is a system I promise...or at least I think there is?!  My productivity is on an entirely different level (or you could say my priorities are a little "out of whack"), as you can see by this post.  Confession - I am horrible at packing, space is limited...and the monumental task of "only bringing the necessities" has me stressed out.  Here are the many stages I go through during the packing process...maybe it is just me?

Stage 1 - The Calmness Stage:  "I have plenty of time, I can do this, and I will even make a list to make sure I have everything."
Stage 2 - The False Sense of Security Stage:  "I don't really NEED to reserve so much time...we travel all of the time, I am basically a pro by now."
Stage 3 - The Illusion Stage:  "I am just going to dump everything into this pile so that at least it appears as though I have started."
Stage 4 - The Houston We May Have a Minor Issue Stage:  "Yea, so....I have no idea what I even threw into that pile, and what else needs to be added to it...I'm exhausted, I'll just have to do it all in the morning."
Stage 5 - The Panic Mode/ Over-packing has been Initiated Stage:  Nothing makes sense... the suitcase is a disaster and I'm just going to throw all of these random things in just in case."
Stage 6 - The I'll Just Buy Whatever I Forgot When I Get There Stage:  It's basically too late, game over, just zip it up and get out the door!!!!
*Please note, you may get some "angry eyes" from your significant other during Stages 4 through 6
Organized chaos...perhaps?
Right now I am at a solid Stage 4...whatevs, it will all work out eventually (it always does)!  I can barely keep my eyes open...time for bed!  Ahhhhhhh, colder weather here we come! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chicken Shredding 101

Sometimes when I post these "tips", I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am just making this discovery for the first time.  But then I think, if I had to google it...maybe someone else is googling it too!  You know when you are reading a recipe, and it calls for "shredded chicken"?  Basically, I was on the lookout for the absolute EASIEST way to get shredded chicken, without it being a whole process!  In the past, I have shredded a rotisserie chicken (seems wasteful to me for some reason), and even baked chicken in broth in a covered baking dish (takes a while).  These methods obviously work, but it turns out there is a much better way (just my opinion)!  
Step 1: Bring pot of water to a boil
Step 2: Place trimmed chicken into the pot and boil for 15-20 minutes (until juices run clear)
Step 3:  Shred with a fork
I just tried this out for the soup that I made tonight, it was the most perfect "shreddy" chicken...and of course, ridiculously easy (my favorite part)!  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

Good morning, and Happy Wednesday!
Looks like I am linking up once again with Jamie for...
First of all...
I'm loving...my Keurig!  Without these Black Tiger K-cups, I would not be functioning!  I very much recommend...especially if you want to get some early morning blogging in!
I'm loving... the fact that we are leaving for New York, SO SOON!  It has been a long run since we were there last.  During all of the wedding planning craziness...we were heading up there every other month (spoiled)!  We are due for a trip, can't wait to see everyone for the holidays!
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I'm loving... making Grandma's cookies!  In case you missed the post and the recipe, click HERE!
Yes, the sliding door is open...weird!
I'm loving...these Christmas quotes I found on Pinterest from one of my favorite Christmas movies!
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I'm loving... my new tote bag!!!  I ordered these for Team Guidance (Christmas presents, but of course none of us could wait...it wasn't even ME being the impatient one).  They were completely customizable...so happy with how they came out!  Erin was wonderful to work with...here is the link to her shop!  They came packaged so nicely with a cute little ribbon too...great presentation!  I was going to have it say "Keep Calm OR Go To Guidance"...but we really do prefer they are at least semi-calm when they get to us...wishful thinking!  Ha!  Can't wait to use my tote now (of course, I had to get myself one too)!
I'm loving... my MISTO!  This thing rocks!  I usually use way more extra virgin olive oil than I should. This ensures that I am using just as much as I need.  It prevents you from pouring on a load of oil that you don't need, which is beneficial for not only your figure...but your wallet too!  That stuff can get expensive (especially the way I was going through it)!  Stick around, I *just might* (wink,wink) be giving one of these bad boys away in the not so distant future!

I'm also LOVING... my husbands new haircut, but he refuses to let me take a picture right now...take my word for it...he is the most handsome!  :)

Okay, need to go finish getting ready for work!  Can't wait to come home and read what you are all loving too...I hope it's a good Wednesday!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Grandma's Jelly Buttons

Not a year goes by that I don't make these cookies...I HAVE to carry on Grandma's tradition.  The first Christmas after she passed away, I made these and sent them to everyone in the family along with a copy of her handwritten recipe.  Now, I think it is time that I share it on here!  Chances are, you have tried these cookies somewhere before...you may know them as "thumb print cookies", or "thimble cookies", but I have been calling them "jelly buttons".  Christmas just wouldn't be complete without a batch of these...I know Grandma would want you all to enjoy them as well!

My cousins make them too of course - here is a pic from this year...

AND the kiddo's that I used to babysit obviously adapted the tradition from ME.... I love that they make "Sessy's Grandma's cookies"!

Jelly Buttons
Ingredients:
*Grams considered this a double batch - if you make them small enough, you should get about 80-100 cookies!
4 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
1 Cup of brown sugar- packed down
4 Egg Yolks (save the whites in a separate bowl)
4 Cups of Flour
2 cups of finely chopped walnuts (buy them chopped, and then finish them off in a chopper if you want them to be more fine)
Preserves....I use Raspberry (my favorite), Apricot (Grandma's favorite), and Strawberry
Confectioners Sugar

Directions:
*The best part about these directions are that they are the specific instructions that I scribbled down one year when she told me the recipe over the phone...makes it more fun!  
1.  Make sure the margarine and butter are room temperature....(it is a pain to do this when it is right out of the fridge)
2.  Cream the butter and margarine together with the brown sugar - this may take a while, use a wooden spoon and keep smearing it against the side of the bowl (don't try to use a mixer becuase it will just all get stuck on the thingys)
3.  When it is all mixed together, add in the 4 yolks and mix some more (don't forget you are saving the egg whites in a separate bowl)
4.  Mix in the flour one cup at a time as best you can...you will eventually need to get your hands dirty - put some flour on the table and your hands to prevent it from sticking a little bit.... add more flour if it is too sticky...in the end you will probably have to add more than the four cups in order to work it all into a dough but try to use the bare minimum if you can. (i made it this weekend and used about 4 and a quarter cups of flour)
5.  Make the dough into a log shape and wrap in plastic wrap, put in fridge for about a half hour (Grams told me I could skip this, but it made it easier to roll the dough out for the cookies if it hardens and settles a bit)
6.  Roll the dough into small balls (Grams was very specific...a TINY bit smaller than the size of a ping pong ball)
7.  Dip half in the egg whites and then in the walnuts, and put face up on an UNGREASED cookie sheet
8.  Press your finger into the dough, be careful not to push all the way through because cookie will break after they are cooked
9.  Fill the holes with the preserves....make sure they are level, if you put too much it will melt after you bake them and it will be a MESS!!!
10.  Bake at 350 Degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown
11.  Sprinkle with the confectioners sugar when they cool off

I did acquire her actual recipe book....she had such pretty handwriting! 
Gotta make it with love
The process can get a little messy, so worth it!  
Now, blast some Christmas music.... and get baking!  Enjoy!  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What's cooking this week, Sunday Social & Support for Sandy Hook

It's going to be a three-for-one kind of deal this morning at NTSST.  Let's start with FOOD, always seems like the way to go!  I just realized, this is probably going to be my last Sunday doing the "meal planning thing" for the rest of 2012!  Next Saturday morning, we are heading up to NY for the holidays...so I will have to take a little break!  I'm just going to have to make this week a really good one...
Tonight - Broccoli, Cannellini Bean & Cheddar Soup, steak for hubby
MondayThai Chicken and Pineapple Stir Fry
Tuesday - Taco Tuesday (with flair)
WednesdaySpicy, Smokey Chipotle Mac & Cheese, with salad...Kristin, I told you I would add it to the rotation...can't wait to try it! :)
ThursdayCreamy Chicken and Brie Soup, with salad
Friday - Subway...eat fresh! (Stephen told me to put Friday on here, and since I know I will be scrambling at the last minute to pack...this is what we are having)
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Switching up my routine a bit - I decided to link up with Neely from A Complete Waste of Makeup & Ashley from Ashleys Carnival Ride for the Sunday Social!

1.  What is the wallpaper on your cellphone?
This handsome, bearded cutie...

2.  What do you keep beside your bed?
What don't I keep beside me bed?  This is what it looks like right now, of course I spruced it up a bit...honeymoon hat, book, possible dumbest Christmas movie of all time (but a favorite nonetheless), pictures, earbuds, G-ma/G-pa coaster, medicated blistex, and phone/ipad charger. 

3.  What is your least favorite chore?
ANYTHING involving a sponge (GAG)!

4.  If you could eliminate one thing from your daily routine, what would it be and why?
Straightening my hair....fo' sho'!  What a waste of time, and so bad for my hair!  I. Just. Can't. Stop!

5.  What do you do to vent anger?
I think this happens in three stages (depending on where I am, and how angry I am).  First, I will whine and complain to the nearest person....examples...(included but not limited to) a fellow guidance counselor/co-worker, husband, friend, or parent.  Next, I will say something ridiculous to make light of the situation.....this is the part that usually has to happen behind closed doors due to the few choice words that may come out of my mouth.  Last, I will do something to take my mind off of whatever is causing said anger...for example - cooking or running.  This process works for me...whatever works right?!?

6.  What is your favorite holiday of the year and why?
Well, obviously Christmas....I love decorating, watching movies, doing "Christmas-ey"things, spending time with family and friends.  6 days and a wake-up until NY!  :)

Typically, I end my "What's cooking this week" post with a weekend update...but I'm thinking of saving that for another post.  We'll see how the week goes!  I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday!  I will be spending mine making COOKIES....all day, for real!
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***Take the time to cherish your loved ones and never take a single minute for granted.  If you are a blogger, please spread the word about Tuesday.
On Tuesday, December 18th, there will be a blogger day of silence.  We will post the button and that's it.  Please try to not post anything else that day if possible.

We are also raising money that will go to an organization in the memory of this tragedy. The organization is called The Newtown Family Youth and Family Services. Here is the official description of the support service we are donating to:

"Newtown Youth and Family Services, Inc. is a licensed, non-profit, mental health clinic and youth services bureau dedicated to helping children and families achieve their highest potential.  NYFS provides programs, services, activities, counseling, support groups and education throughout the Greater Newtown area.

ANY DONATIONS MADE TO NEWTOWN YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES WILL BE DONATED DIRECTLY TO THOSE EFFECTED BY THE SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING."

Please visit THIS PAGE to make your donation.

We can't imagine how they must be feeling, especially this close to the holidays.  We would love for you to spread the word on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let's make a difference and use blogging in a positive way.  Thank you in advance for participating.

Love,
The Blog World

P.S. - If you would like to, copy-paste and repost any part of this, please do. Share on.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Count Your Blessings

My heart is breaking, it truly is a sad and scary world that we live in.  The tragedy in Connecticut today really puts things into perspective.  This of course hits close to home being someone who works in a school where we not only teach and guide our children, we also actively strive to keep them safe within our walls.  It is so important to count our blessings, not just on days when something horrific happens....but always.  I'm feeling so deeply saddened for all of those affected, say a prayer and hug your loved ones extra tight! 
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How do you explain the tragic event that occurred today to a child...click HERE to read this great article.
(Thanks for sharing - J.T.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

Normally, I try to keep my status updates and blog posts free of negativity, BUT...I need to vent just a little!  Without getting into the specifics, let me just say this week has been ROUGH!  It scares me that it is only Wednesday (and the day has barely gotten underway).  I know we just had a week off not too long ago for Thanksgiving, but Christmas break can not get here fast enough.  Fingers crossed that things settle down...I feel like everyone is just so ready for a break!  Okay, I'm done...enough of that!

With that being said, now seems like the perfect time to switch gears and talk about the things that I am LoViNg this morning!  How is that for an attitude shift?
I'm loving... this post from my Mom...it made me smile!  She is good for that...I guess that is what mothers are for!  Gotta love the entire support system!  It is important that I never forget all of the people in my life who are there for me, and who I can turn to when I have one of those days that makes me want to scream into a pillow!
I'm loving... all of the holiday cheer!  So maybe it's normal that this time of year is incredibly hectic...but it's the little things that make it all worth it!  Totally loving my Santa pants wine bottle holder, I found these at Kirkland's a few years ago...and you can order them online HERE!  Seriously, how cute are they (and the flamingo wine topper)!?! 
I'm loving... listening to Christmas music.  I highly recommend tuning into the "She & Him (Holiday)" Pandora station!  Discovered it last year, by far one of my favorites!  Instant good mood!  
I'm loving... painting an "oddball" nail!  I think it's really called an "accent" nail...opinions?  Anyway, it was weird at first, but now it just looks strange to me when they are all one color.  I like experimenting with different color combos!  In actuality, I just think it's cool to be like the middle schoolers!  Ha!  This is a deep purple and a silvery/gold...hard to tell in this pic.  
One more... sort of...
I'm loving... these yummy Christmas cookie recipes that I pinned last night!  I so badly want to make them all!  I probably won't be making any of these, but I do have a very special cookie recipe that I will be making vast quantities of....and if you are all lucky, I just might share it on here!  We'll see!  (If you know me, you more than likely know EXACTLY what I am referring too).
Peanut Butter Mocha Presents
Joy & Noel Jam Tiles
Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies
Coconut Snowball Crisps
White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies
Holiday Shortbread Cookies
What better way to take my mind off of all of that other nonsense?!  I feel better now, thanks to Jamie at This Kind Of Love for hosting this link up!  Let's make it a Happy Wednesday people!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My FIRST Guest Post!

I hope you are all having an amazing day!  I'm especially excited on this lovely Tuesday, because my new friend Ashlee has asked me if I would like to do a guest post over at her blog ABpetite!  I'm sure even if you haven't been following NTSST for long, you can tell I am a big fan of hers...so needless to say I am thrilled that I have this opportunity!  If you like yummy recipes (especially healthy ones), then you will love her blog!  I had to make sure the recipe I chose to post about was the perfect fit for ABpetite...trust me a lot of thought went into this one!  So head on over and check out my very first guest post by clicking HERE!   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's cooking this week?

It's that time again already!  This month is flying by, and there is still so much to do!  This week is going to be another whirlwind so I am keeping it simple in the dinner department.  I'm going to have to resist the urge to get fancy!  Let's see how that goes...

Tonight - Chicken Fajitas
Monday - Cream of Zucchini Soup, and steak for hubby
TuesdayMediterranean Flatbread and roasted cauliflower
Thursday - Grandpa's Marinara and salad 

Ok, so maybe these sound a little fancy, but I have made all of these before and they are EASY!  I'm not going to get adventurous by experimenting with new recipes.  Trust me, this is not the week for it!  Speaking of being busy....yesterday was quite the day!!!  I started the day off running the Jingle Bell 5K (kicked off the Christmas parade), and then ended it at my work Christmas party.  Good times!  Here are some pics I have to share from the race... 
Festive Feet!
There were a TON of spectators....parents and students cheered us on the WHOLE way!  I'm still not sure how I felt about that!
Post race - feeling good...well I was happy it was over!

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