Friday, August 29, 2008

Say Cheese(cake)!


I am always looking for a new excuse to bake up something chocolate, and when a friend visited recently with her boyfriend, it was the perfect opportunity! It seems that he LOVES chocolate cheesecake, and I had this great recipe for mini cheesecakes that were just begging for cocoa. (Have you ever heard cheesecake do that?!) I tinkered with the ingredients and got the thumbs-up from all of my taste testers to share this one!

These are usually baked in cupcake pans with vanilla wafers on the bottom for a tiny "crust", but for these I used chocolate cookies and the mini cupcake pans for a perfect bite-sized indulgence. One of our testers said, "These are so rich that the small size is just enough." (I thought they were just small enough to try two or three, but that's just me!) Absolutely ideal addition to the bridal shower or baby shower menu! Here's what you need:

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
chocolate cookies (1 to 2 dozen)
Berries or other fruit, jam, or pie filling for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat together first five ingredients until creamy. Place cupcake liners in pans, and put cookie "crust" into bottom of each liner. For mini cupcakes, you will need to break the cookie to fit. I used about 1/4 cookie per cheesecake. Add heaping teaspoon of cheesecake mixture to top each cookie, smooth to flatten tops, then bake 10 - 12 minutes. (If you'd rather make standard cupcake-sized cakes, use whole cookies for crusts, heaping tablespoons of batter, and bake for 15-20 minutes.)

Allow to cool before topping with your choice of fresh berry, fruit, or jam. Makes 2 dozen cakes in standard cupcake size, or 4-5 dozen mini cakes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Love your work

"The true way to render ourselves happy is to love our work and find in it our pleasure."

-Francoise de Motteville

Monday, August 25, 2008

What I learned...

On Saturday I picked up my husband and kids at the bus station. I'm sure this is not news to any of you who follow my ramblings; I've been writing about them since they left three weeks ago. A friend asked me if I had any great epiphany while everyone was gone. I'm not really that deep, but I definitely feel like I learned a few things while I was by myself for three weeks. Here's some of what I realized.

1. Don't be a hermit. It may seem okay when you have a family to focus completely on them, but imagine how alone you'll feel if they all go on vacation without you?! Keep in touch with more of your friends! Call them more often! Stay connected.

2. Hug more, yell less. My kids were forever annoying me, and I found myself getting irritated and yelling at them pretty frequently. Then they were gone. For three weeks. Suddenly, those irritating things seemed pretty petty. They've only been here for a few days, but I feel like there are fewer things that are worth yelling about. Normal voices work pretty well. Hugs work even better. Yell less. Hug more.

3. Be grateful. There were days, I'll admit, that I was miserable. The days that I appreciated a visit from a friend or relative, or a great phone call, or that I enjoyed some aspect of my work, were the best days. No matter how bad things might seem, find something to be happy about every day.

4. There are no small kindnesses. A neighbor's hug, a friend's call "just to check in," your mom dropping off excellent dal soup...all of these things are huge. And become things to be happy about and grateful for (see #3 above).

5. There is no such thing as too much zucchini. Okay, so maybe this is silly, but I really did learn this! As the summer winds down you'll find other opinions out there, but I respectfully disagree. Grate some fresh zucchini and sauté it with onion, garlic, and fresh basil, then use it to top pasta or pizza. Add grated, drained zucchini to your favorite brownie recipe, along with a generous handful of chocolate chunks. Everything is better with zucchini, especially if you can share it with your long-lost, travel-weary family!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Really Great

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." -Mark Twain

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Anybody Home?

So this is what it's come to. Not even two weeks here without kids and husband and I have a fridge filled with takeout. You'd have to know me to understand how unusual this is. The good news is that I'm inspired to come up with my own version of dal soup and aloo mutter. Yum!

One more week left before my family returns. I do want to let everyone know that I'll be taking a week of vacation at the end of August and through Labor Day. Any orders received that week will ship on September 2nd and shortly thereafter. There are still a few weeks to take advantage of that FREE lotion/lip balm combo, so email me if you didn't get the last newsletter and I'll send you the code! And please let me know if you'll need your order sometime during that week so I can accommodate your schedule.

Enjoy these last weeks of summer!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Follow me!

In case it wasn't enough for you to follow my every move here on the blog or via newsletter, there are a few other ways we can connect:

Facebook!

Twitter!

MySpace!

I'd love to hear from all of you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wedding Favor Labels

This is just too special to keep to myself! I know lots of you are looking to put together your own favors, or add embellishment to favors that you purchase. For several years now I've been getting all of my product labels at OnlineLabels.com. When I say all of them, I mean ALL of them, from lip balm to lotion, sugar scrub to soap. I do a lot of shopping online, and I can honestly say this is one of the best, easiest web sites that I shop at. Their products are arranged by size, material, and category, which makes it SO easy to find the correct label for your project. The ordering process is easy, they ship quickly and at reasonable prices, and products arrive in perfect condition. What's more, they provide several ways to help you print on the labels, from templates to their online label designer. Could it get any better? Well, actually, yes! It could!

Just recently they added 100% Post Consumer Waste (PCW) recycled labels to their growing list of label materials (love those Green options!). The 92% brightness and non-ooze adhesives mean these labels will perform as perfectly in your print jobs as any of those other labels you've been using, without killing any new trees!

Another new page that caught my eye was their special Wedding Favor Labels page. Honestly, I never realized there were so many cool labels for wedding favors! From water bottles to tins, address labels, and candy embellishments, this page has something for every DIY bride. (Check out the cool shapes at the bottom of the page!)

I'm already making my new shopping list. Maybe I'll order the pink labels this time, too? :0)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Happiness Happens

For those of you who don't belong to the Secret Society of Happy People, this month is Happiness Happens Month, and today is Happiness Happens Day! According to their web site, "The Secret Society of Happy People encourages the expression of happiness and discourages parade-raining. Parade-rainers are those people who don't want to hear your happy news."

Wow! I love this! Sadly, I do know some parade-rainers, some folks who look for the cloud around every silver lining. Sometimes it's hard to stay upbeat when there are people around who want to be discouraging. If you're having the same problem, check out the "Secret Society's" Thirty-One Types of Happiness page, or order a "Don't even think of raining on my parade" t-shirt or bumper sticker!

Today I'm happy that I got a chance to visit with my aunt, uncle and cousin who were visiting from Oregon. It was only for a few hours yesterday, but it was great to see them. What are you happy about today? Please share in the comments! I LOVE happy news! :0)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

August Moon

Please forgive the delay, and the blah photo...this lip balm flavor is anything but blah. The easiest way to describe August's Flavor of the Month is to give you the recipe (for the drink, not the balm...you know what I mean!):

August Moon
1 oz Kahlua® coffee liqueur
1 oz vodka
1 splash Bailey's® Irish Cream
5 - 6 oz Coca-Cola®
1 oz amaretto almond liqueur
1 oz triple sec
1 oz orange juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake well, strain into an old-fashioned glass, and serve.

Order August Moon lip balm here!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Knack

“The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” --Douglas Adams

Sweet Lilies

The windows are all open, though it's been pouring for days. The lilies are in bloom and I can't resist the fragrance. The whole house smells like sweet perfume.

This Newsweek article discusses a new book about the "science of smell," describing the effects this sense has on people in everyday situations. Can certain fragrances encourage people to be nicer, make you seem more attractive to the opposite sex, or lead you to buy more of certain products? And what happens to people who lose their sense of smell? It's fascinating, and I think most people underestimate the power of this sense!!

What I found most interesting is that "commercial flower producers have bred roses for traits like color, shape, disease resistance and vase life. Fragrance has been a casualty." My favorite flowers are lilies, sweet peas, lily of the valley, roses--not just because they are beautiful to look at but because they smell heavenly! I have lots of other flowering plants in my garden but I don't feel the same way about them. Marigolds are nice, but kind of stinky, and cosmos and zinnias bloom in gorgeous colors but there's something missing. I picked a dwarf sweet pea yesterday (something new in my garden this year) and was disappointed to find it had no fragrance. I won't be planting them again. For me, the sweet pea "experience" has to include a fragrance! It's the same with lilies and roses and my other favorites.

How about you? Do you grow flowers? Which are your favorites? Do you choose them because of their shapes and colors, or do you follow your nose?!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Up, up and Away!

I dropped off my family at the train station today. They caught a bus to Logan, then a flight to Milan, and in a few minutes they'll meet my in-laws for the trip to Switzerland. I did well not to cry until I was back in the parking lot! (Particularly after my daughter asked if her dad was going to give her "extra hugs and kisses" since I wasn't coming with them.) I haven't been away from my kids for more than three days since they were born, but somehow I need to get through the next three WEEKS without them! I spent the afternoon and evening moving furniture and organizing, busy things just to keep distracted! Just imagine the damage I can do in the coming weeks!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Modest Weddings

Modest is back. Do you know how hard it is to find a photo of a wedding dress with sleeves? Probably about as hard as finding a wedding dress with sleeves. Enter Tova Marc, a designer with a new collection of modest wedding gowns. More women are having religious and conservative weddings and want fashionable dresses with a bit more coverage.

I think there are lots of other, not-so-conservative-or-religious "Modest Brides" out there who will appreciate these designs! I've recently noticed this trend toward more modest weddings and events, particularly with party favors. I can't tell you how many times people have said, "I'm so glad to find a favor that doesn't have male anatomy on it!" Those lollipops are cute and all, but may not be appropriate for every gathering. I've attended showers that made me cringe, in part because the groom's mom was there and clearly uncomfortable with the explicit party games and favors. When you're planning an event that crosses the generations, or includes several circles of friends, you may want to make more "modest" choices!

I'd love to help you make "modest" bridal shower favors, or "clean" bachelorette party favors! We have lots of cute designs to choose from and I promise--no male anatomy! :0)

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