Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2 for 1 - Le Creuset & Italian Sausage Soup

I've got two special gals to thank for this post - my mom and my sister-in-law. Last Christmas my mom gave me a Le Creuset Dutch Oven for a gift. I love it! It looks great, cooks great, and cleans up easily. I love the deep red color and the heavy cast iron is perfect for simmering a big pot of soup. Speaking of soup, this recipe from my S-I-L, Amy, is one of our family favorites. I'm so glad she shared it with me. It's delicious, and perfect for the windy, wintery weather we are having today.

Italian Sausage Soup

1 lb Italian sausage (Bob Evans)
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 c carrots, chopped (make it easy - use the shredded carrots you toss on salads)
1/2 c celery, chopped
10-12 c chicken broth
1 x 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 x 8oz tomato sauce
1/2 c orzo pasta
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp rosemary, chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp thyme (optional)
Cook sausage, onions, carrots & celery over medium heat until done. Drain off fat. Add everything but the Orzo and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook for 30min - 1 hr. Add pasta, return to boiling and cook for 15-30 min, checking pasta for doneness. Serve - but don't forget to throw out the bay leaf.

Monday, November 30, 2009

CamelBak Water Bottle

I love it when someone shares one of their Favorite Things with me, as it often becomes one of my favorites, too! This Pearl comes from my friend, Liv. She tipped me off to these CamelBak Water Bottles. My old water bottle lost it's little rubber seal and I ended up with a soggy tennis bag, so I was in the market for a new one. This Camelbak water bottle is dishwasher safe and has a spill-proof bite valve straw. It holds 750 ml - enough to really hydrate. I'll admit, every now and then, I forget about the straw part and tip it up to drink and get nothing but air, but that should improve with practice. And, the straw makes it safer as it doesn't block your view when driving. There are lots of color choices - enough so that you could have a different color for each member of your family. I ordered mine from Amazon, but I have also seen them at Dick's Sporting Goods in our area.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss Trio

This is my all-time favorite lip gloss - Bobbi Brown Lip Tint. I love the hint of mint flavor, the beautiful colors, the SPF 15 protection and the easy, discreet application (No Messy Wand!). Now you can get a special holiday gift set - 3 lips tints for $28 - a steal as a single tube is around $17-18. And the colors are beautiful ~ Cherry ~ a sheer red; Blossom ~ a soft pink that I think I might save until spring; and Twilight Shimmer ~ a pretty neutral. You can find Bobbi Brown cosmetic counters at Nordstrom or Saks, or order direct from their website.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

10-Scarf Hardwood Hanger

Scarves are popular - but how do you keep them neat, tidy, and accessible? This scarf hanger is the answer. Made of sturdy wood with very smoothly sanded holes - just slip your scarves through. These hangers are available at the for $9.99. Now your scarves will be easy to see and easy to store. Love it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creme Brulee Almonds

If you are nutty for almonds like I am, then run, don't walk, to your nearest Sam's Club for some Creme Brulee Almonds. They are heavenly! Toasted almonds with a sweet cream layer, dusted in a thin layer of carmelized sugar. What's not to like? If you are not a Sam's Club member, google them and "Squirrel Brand" should pop up, which can be ordered from Amazon. These are soooo good!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Latest, Greatest Target Finds

Can't wait to tell you about my latest, greatest Target finds. The top T is C9 by Champion. It is made of duo-dry fabric, which feels like cotton but its moisture-wicking, comes in basic black, white & gray along with a bright turquoise and pink, and sells for only $9.99. Best of all - it's a little longer than a lot of excersise t's which means my middle stays covered in tennis when I'm reaching for an overhead! (the picture doesn't do it justice)
And have you seen the cute Graphic T's at Target lately? So cute, so fun, and the price can't be beat. I picked up two this fall - a light blue with a little purple bird decorated with beads and sequins and another in a abstract soft gray with a beaded embellishment, both in a textured slub cotton. And the price....only $12.99 - maybe one-quarter of similar styles sold at J Crew! I like to wear them with jeans and a jacket or cardigan - kind of my casual, work-at-home uniform.
What is your latest, greatest find from Target? Please, share!

Friday, October 23, 2009

My all-time favorite shirt(s)!
Boden Crinkle Jersey Shirt
The style of of shirt, the comfort of a T - what's not too love?!
I first came across this shirt several autumns ago in a rustic red print. The following spring, I just had to have the 3/4 sleeve version in a bright blue and crisp white. I thought that was enough, and perhaps it should have been, but this fall I couldn't resist this blue and purple circle print. So comfortable, so cute, so easy! There are several other colors and prints to choose from - check them out at and watch for free shipping and/or 15% off specials.

A Fall Favorite - Pumpkin Cake
This recipe is a family favorite - and quite easy to make, too.
Pumpkin Cake
1 x 18oz yellow cake mix
1 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 x 15oz can pumpkin
3 eggs
1/2 c oil
Preheat oven to 350. Blend all ingredients together. Pour into greased Bundt pan. Bake approximately 45-50.
You could frost it with a creme cheese icing, but it is so good and moist, I usually just dust it with a little powdered sugar.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This post is in honor of my friend, Andria, who ran the Chicago Marathon yesterday. Although my own long runs are limited now, I wouldn't even think of attempting one without a packet of Sport Beans. These little jelly beans, made by Jelly Belly candies, are the perfect combination of carbs and electrolytes to help you get through your workout. No sticky Gu, no cardboard bars - just a neat, sweet, little treat. In four different flavors ~ Lemon-Lime, Orange, Fruit Punch and Berry. Look for these at running or sporting good stores, as well as pharmacies & Target.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My friend Laura tipped me off on these Reisenthel Market Baskets. They are lightweight, roomy, modern, and come in a wide assortment of colors and patterns. And the best part - just pull out the plastic side bars and the basket collapses for storage. Although I must say, I use mine so often, it is rarely in storage! It's a must for the Farmers' Market, and handy when taking a meal to a friend with a new baby or toting supplies to a meeting. It's an updated alternative to the traditional wicker basket.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ahhhhh! Love this! Aveda Foot Relief. It smells fantastic. It's not greasy. It refreshes and moisturizes and helps keep your feet soft and smooth. I make this a regular part of my evening routine. And it's even better if someone you love uses it as part of a foot massage. Ahhhh....
Available at Aveda salons.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I bought one of these for my husband several years ago, but now it is one of my favorite things ~ an Electric Towel Warmer. We first saw these while traveling in Europe where they were fairly common. I'm not sure why they aren't used more in the states. I thought it would make a great gift for Brent as he is an earlier morning runner - how nice it would be for him to come in from a dark, cold run to shower and dry off with a warm and toasty towel. I was right - it is nice to dry off with a warm and toasty towel, even for me without the dark and cold run! As an added benefit, your towels dry out thoroughly so they never get that musty smell. There are two different types of towel warmers - hard-wired wall mount, like we have, or those that stand alone on the floor and plug into an outlet. I think we paid about $200, but there is a variety of styles and price ranges to choose from. Try one and turn your bathroom into a mini home spa!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Keep the tissues handy - you will laugh until you cry - at the Thou Shalt Laugh DVD. This is a collection of six family-friendly stand up comedians, including our favorite, Taylor Mason. This guy is a genius, although I would have not wanted to be his teacher, and especially not his mom! Mason is an amazing ventriloquist. He, along with his puppet friends, Romeo who packs quite an attitude and Paco, the pig with the Mexican accent, will have your entire family laughing hysterically. I picked up this DVD before vacation a few years ago and we received Thou Shalt Laugh Deuce as a gift last year. We watched portions again over the weekend, and it is as funny now as it was the first time. And here is some good news, as I was writing this post, I noticed that Thou Shalt Laugh 3 is now available. Guess what's going on my Christmas list....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Our New Family Favorite ~ Lawry's Teriyake Marinade over boneless, skinless chicken thighs
My boys love this so much, that if I ask them what they want for dinner, they always pick this, even if we had it for dinner the previous night! My husband likes it because the boneless, skinless thighs are a uniform thickness and grill up quick and easy. I like it because it is relatively healthy and much more flavorful than chicken breasts. Just toss them in some of this marinade for at least 30 minutes, then on to the grill. It's a great main dish to accompany fresh summer vegetables like sweet corn or green beans. Try this - you will not be disappointed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Corkscrews for Dummies

This is it – a dummy proof corkscrew. The grips wrap around the bottle and the lever gently eases the corkscrew down then up and out. Perfect – every time. No cork floaters in the Chardonnay any more. You can find these under a couple of different brand names – Houdini, Rabbit, or Screwpull – and a variety of price points. I think mine was in the $20-25 range from Target. If you, like me, are a total klutz when it comes to traditional corkscrews, you will love this one.

Friday, July 17, 2009

So Simple ~ So Good

The perfect summer dessert or afternoon treat - a Root Beer Float! Creamy ~ Refreshing ~ Easy ~ No complicated recipe or fussy ingredients. Just a scoop or two of vanilla icecream and top it off with your favorite root beer. If you have a frosty mug, that's even better - but really, any tall glass will do. And if you are out and about and in need of some refreshment, I've heard that Culver's makes a good one. Even if you are trying to cut back a little bit, just sub out the icecream for some frozen yogurt and use some diet root beer - not quite the same but still a yummy treat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Something for Everyone - America's National Parks
We just returned from a trip out west with stops in three different national parks - Rocky Mountain, The Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone. In a word - Awesome! Beautiful surroundings and accommodations, activities, and meals to fit every taste and budget. For example, Yellowstone offered accommodations ranging from back-country backpacking to campgrounds to family cabins to historic lodges. Time for dinner? You could purchase supplies for a picnic, grab a burger and fries at a grill or enjoy fine dining overlooking sunset on a lake. A little bored? Watch a gurgling mudpot, take a trail ride, or listen to a ranger program around the campfire. The popular sights were acccessible to anyone, but there are many opportunities to get away from the crowd on longer hikes, too. If you haven't had the opportunity to visit a national park, I encourage you to plan to visit 1 (or 2 or 3) during your next vacation.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

So good and so good for you – Emerald Cocoa Roasted Almonds
Imagine this – crunchy, nutty almonds coated in a thin dusting of cocoa – not really chocolate, but more like dark chocolate fairy dust. Mmmm! These almonds used to be kind of hard to find – it was hit or miss in the grocery store but last week I hit the jackpot …Sam’s Club carries them in a 38oz canister. Whoo-hoo! I have to guard them from my teen-age son who eats them by the handfuls. But I have found a handful of these almonds in the mid-afternoon is a perfect protein pick-me-up and satisfies a chocolate craving at the same time. You can’t beat that!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Patent Leather Flats –
In eye-catching turquoise or sunshine yellow –

What a fun way to add some pizzazz to your wardrobe! Last year I found a pair of yellow patent leather flats – so cute and so comfortable. And what fun to wear with denim capris and a T, just about any color of T will work. I felt as if my feet were smiling! A few weeks ago, I spotted the cutest pair of turquoise flats on my stylish friend, Liv. She looked adorable with a khaki skirt and white top and her colorful flats. Simple – stylish – and just a bit sassy! But you don’t need to limit yourself to turquoise or yellow – pick up some flats in your favorite color and add a smile to your wardrobe, too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Toasted Sesame Oil - mmm!

I love the flavor that Toasted Sesame Oil adds to salad dressings and stir fries. You don't need a lot - just a tablespoon or two adds a wonderful nutty flavor. Use it to add a little bit of "mmmm" to an Asian salad or a favorite stir-fry. Just for fun, here's one of my favorite salad dressing recipes that features Toasted Sesame Oil.

2 T sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 c oil
3 T vinegar

Toss together with mixed greens, a few green onions and some slivered almonds for a simple Asian salad. Top with grilled chicken strips and you have a delicous main dish salad.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Double Duty Face Cloths
I started out using Pond's Clean Sweep towelettes just when I traveled or I got home late and was too tired for the full face routine. But, now I use these all the time. They are pre-moistened with a gently bumpy side and a smooth side. The bumps give mild exfolliation, and the smooth side is great for taking off every last little bit of eye makeup. You only need this with a little moisturizer and you are all set for the night. No messy mirrors, no soap in your eyes, no extra steps, no cotton ball fuzz or whatever. And when you're done with your face, use the cloth to take a quick swipe around the sink to keep it fresh and clean, too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rice is Nice - - - when you have a cute little red steamer!
Confession - I can't cook rice. It sticks, it splatters, it doesn't get done, it gets too done and dried out. I would try to avoid making it as much as possible. But I like rice, especially brown, which tested my rice-making skills even more. So, for the last year or so, I have been contemplating the purchase of a rice cooker. I really didn't want another kitchen appliance, wasn't completely convinced I needed another kitchen appliance, and my cupboards are already full of kitchen appliances, but finally I had enough of gummy sauce pans of rice goop. I bought the smallest, cheapest (and even kind of cute) rice steamer I could find at Target. It has changed my life (well, that might be a little over the top) but I do love it. It was so worth reshuffling the kitchen cabinets to make room for this little guy. It is easy to use, easy to measure, easy to clean. I think we have used it at least once a week in the last couple of months. The rice is perfect every time. No more excuses - and rice is nice again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend ~ Euphorbia Diamond Frost

Continuously Blooming ~ Drought Tolerant ~ Never Needs Deadheading ~ Clouds of Airy White Flowers in a Neat Mounded Habit ~ It's the perfect annual! Beautiful on its own but pairs well with others, too. Isn't it gorgeous in the container garden with the Royal Velvet petunias and lavendar Angelonia? I also love it mixed with the light pink Superbells and Pennisetum grass in the lower picture. Here's another tip - check out the Proven Winners website for great container garden ideas and plant combinations. Just click on the 'professional grower' tab (don't worry - they won't ask for your ID) and under 'plants and culture', look for the 'combinations' tab. They even give you a map to follow for goof-proof results.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Love Lucy ~

~ the Lucy vase from Crate and Barrel!

This little white ceramice vase with the embossed vine design packs a lot of style in a little package. Lucy is just 5 1/4 inches tall, features a nice narrow neck, and sells for only $5.95 - but don't stop with just one, buy this one in multiples of three - at this price you can afford to. For a simple, graphic table arrangement at a reasonable cost, pick up three Gerbera daisies or a small package of spider mums like I have in the picture. - you don't need an expensive bouquet. Try it with your favorite flower and you will fall in love with Lucy, too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


What's so special about socks?

After running several halfs and one full marathon, I can honestly say these are the best socks ever. No Slippage - No Blisters - Cool Feet. Even now that I've transitioned to more walking than running and semi-weekly tennis lessons, I still wear only these socks for exercise. They never slip down, I never get blisters, and my feet stay cool and dry. I don't think you can get them at Dick's, but check out your local running store - they probably sell them. I don't know what makes them so special, but I just know that I love them. Alot.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cuckoo for Coconuts!

Like the funny little rabbit who is "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs", the last few months I have been "Cuckoo for Coconuts". Usually, I go for the citrus or herbal scents - nothing too fruity or floral, but lately, I have been loving coconut scented products. I'm not sure what triggered this sudden change - maybe I'm just in a hurry for the lazy days of summer and the memory of the coconut-scented sunscreen or longing for a tropical vacation. My two new favorites are Suave Tropical Coconut Body Wash (a light coconut scent with a little citrus zing - and it's cheap, too!) and The Body Shop's Coconut Body Butter (rich and luxurious - but a little more money - $20 for the larger tub). Hmm, all of the sudden I am craving an Almond Joy....

Thursday, April 2, 2009


It was too difficult to pick just one favorite thing from Great Harvest, so I picked the entire store. I don't think we've ever had a Great Harvest bread that we didn't like. You will find the "Dakota" or "9-Grain" in our kitchen most often. Both of them make perfect toast. Some others to try are the "Popeye", "Honey Wheat", or Brent's new favorite, "Vanilla Almond Swirl". Mmmm! But don't stop there . . . the scones, fruit bars and cookies are yummy, too. And it gets even better . . . through the summer and fall Great Harvest can be found at both the farmers' markets in our area. How handy is that!? Another plus - the bread is preservative-free and made with a special kind of wheat that's supposed to be good for you (see their website for more info). Yummy & healthy - you can't beat that!

Monday, March 30, 2009

What Rhymes with Orange?

Like the four basic food groups, my wardrobe generally consists of 4 basic colors - khaki, black, white and various shades of blue, from periwinkle to aqua. But, last week when I was shopping, a tangerine orange cardigan caught my eye - 3/4 sleeves, little white buttons - basic, but definitely not boring. Just what I needed to spice up my wardrobe a little bit. And it has! I can't believe how well it goes with so many other items I already own - a sheer striped scarf from vacation last year, under my white denim jacket for a pop of color, a blue print skirt to jazz it up a little bit. The bright orange color even helps brighten my mood on an overcast day. Fun, colorful, comfortable . . . and my new favorite thing!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tide Wash Bag

Lingerie bags - basic, boring, and a bit of a pain in the neck. The mesh holes are too big and hooks get caught in them. The zipper can snag on other items in the wash. But, wait, you don't have to resort to handwashing all of your delicates . . . here's some good news: Tide Wash Bags. The bag is made of a very fine mesh, the zipper is tucked up under a flap, and they have a pleat at the bottom to expand a little bit. You can find these at Walgreens and Target for about $4. I have no idea why someone didn't think of these improvements earlier, but I'm just glad they have now.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ugh................American Idol without TiVo

My youngest son and I were watching a live episode of AI last week and it was an absolutely horrible experience . . . not because of Jake, he's cool, but because we were watching it live - with all of the long and frequent commercial breaks. Which brings me to my next favorite thing - TiVo. You get to watch the show you want, when you want to watch it - in about 2/3 of the time! Generic DVRs, like the kind we have from Comcast, are ok - but I really miss our old TiVo box. I miss it enough that I think I will stop by Best Buy next week and see what it would take to switch back. For ease of programming, and stopping the fast forward at the exact moment the commercials end and the show starts up again, you just can't beat TiVo - - - and I miss that cute little cartoon guy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Contact Cards ~ A Great Idea

I saw this idea on Real Simple-Real Life episode (a spin-off show from the Real Simple magazine) and thought "That is GREAT idea!" How many times have you been at a school function, or church, or tennis class, or even just run into an aquaintance at Target and you go to make plans or get together for some project and need to exchange phone numbers or email addresses and you are digging for a pen and paper and end up with some stub of a pencil and the back of an old receipt and all of the contents of your purse spilled all over the floor? Here is an easy and classy solution ~ a business or contact card. Just hand them one of these with all of your contact information. Problem solved. I ordered mine from I would love to show you the entire card, but this is the Internet after all and I probably shoudn't broadcast all my information to the world (although most of you have it already, but still, just in case). Zazzle has an enormous selection of designs to choose from ~ something for every style and personality. And the service could not have been faster. I actually had such a hard time deciding on one design that I ordered two, one with my cell phone number and one without, just because I'm kind of funny about who has my cell number. Anyway, what do you think? Isn't this a great idea?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Perfect Pepper Mill

This may have been one of my very first favorite things - a battery operated pepper mill. Just tip it over and it goes to work, grinding up the peppercorns ~ turn it back upright, and it shuts off. With only one hand operation, you can keep your other hand free to mix, stir, or pour. I have given several of these as gifts through the years - or a similar style I found at Crate & Barrel. This one is made by Trudeau and available from Amazon. It sells for about $25. Love It!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming!

A self-tanner that works instantly, dries fast, does NOT stink, and does NOT turn your legs a freaky shade of orange?! I know it seems like a dream, but this stuff is for real - St Tropez Whipped Bronze self-tanning mousse. I had heard about it a few times but couldn't find it in a store so I ordered some from Amazon. It's about $20 for 4oz - not a steal, but worth every penny. I'm going up to my bathroom right now to throw away all the other tanners I've tried - those stinky lotions that stain your sheets and have you wrinkling up your nose all day. This is the best - and now I'm already for spring break!

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Bouquet of Yellow Tulips...
...or pink or purple or orange.
The perfect pick-me-up for the cold and dreary days of February! I love the simplicity of a round vase with a single color bouquet of fresh tulips, flopping naturally over the sides. It looks fresh and modern and reminds me that spring is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eliminate Twist-ties Forever!

I despise the pokey little wire twist-ties on plastic bags - and I never seem to be able to tightly seal partial bags of frozen vegetables, dry pasta, or chocolate chips. Then I discovered Twixit Bag Clips. These are light weight plastic clips that snap tight to seal up a package. Look for them in the kitchen gadget section of a big box store or gourmet kitchen shops. Cheap, clever, and makes my life easier - - - Love that!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Perfect Pair ~ like salt & pepper or peanut butter & jelly ~ Bobbi Brown Gel Liner & Aveda Flax Sticks #4 Eye Definer Brush

I have used and loved the gel liner for years, but the brushes have frustrated me. The Bobbi Brown brush was too thick, the liner brush from Sephora was too thin and long and flimsy bristled.... Then one day, as I was waiting on my daughter to finish her appointment at the salon, I came across the Aveda brush display and ta-da, there it was, the perfect gel liner brush ~ not too thick, not too thin, not too long, not too short. It works perfectly with the gel liner ~ another perfect pair~

Monday, February 9, 2009

'Cause It's All about the Presentation...

I know what you're thinking - - - it's just a white plate. But there is just something about the crisp square shape and clean white finish that makes any type of food look special. I've used it for a grilled vegetable salad last August, sliced melon with a mint-lime dressing, empanadas for an Argentine wine tasting, and turkey taquitoes at the Super Bowl party. You can pick one up at Target for around $5. That 's a lot of style for a little price.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Salt & Water vs Hardwood

I was complaining to my friend Krista about the water, snow & salt coming into our house and damaging our wood floor. She suggested I check out the Waterhog mats from LLBean. What a great idea! You can order them in several widths and any length and these things really work to suck up all the gunk and keep your floors clean and protected. There's not a lot of choice in color, but the tan is not too light and looks fine on the wood floors.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My new favorite thing!

Gap's Long Waffle Knit Cardigan
It's soft and cozy, the sleeves are long enough, it's dressier than a sweatshirt, more public than a robe....
You will find me in this most evenings and mornings, over my pj's, with yoga pants, or jeans and a tank. I bought it in black when Gap had a 30% off sale and I had $10 coupon, but I would still love even if I had paid full price.