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raspberryJust wandered over here to see how long it’s been. Wow! Over 2 years since I’ve posted. Not that it’s been over 2 years since I’ve had a “little indulgence” but I’ve been so busy living that I didn’t bother to write about it.

However, I recently found myself struggling to find ways to pamper myself without breaking the bank (especially with another baby on the way). It really is the simple things–an ice-cold glass of iced tea on a hot day. Walking in the rain. Sitting down to supper with your family. These are what keep you going through the hard times.

Since we bought our house last year, we were able to put a small garden in this year and have been enjoying the fruits of our labors. Fresh sugar snap peas, yellow beans, and my personal favorites–big fat black raspberries right off the vine!! That’s what summer’s all about.

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One of my favorite things to do for myself is enjoy a nice meal, solo. Yesterday I was given an unexpected last minute chance to head out for dinner by myself. I could have just grabbed something at the drive-thru and been home earlier. Drive-thru is just not my thing.

Instead I headed over to this little lake front Chinese restaurant that I’ve been going to since I was a girl. It’s cold here so I opted out of the window seat, instead getting a cozy booth with a stunning lake view on an inside wall. Before even taking my seat, I was greeted by a breathtakingly beautiful view of the sunset over the lake. When I entered the restaurant it was at that time that was not quite twilight but close.

As I was perusing the menu, the sky was changing from the light blues of afternoon to the darker blues, purples, and oranges of twilight. The snow and ice on the lake were pale and shimmering against the darkening sky. The bright, orange-red sun shone through the large windows. From my seat, I could see the tree in the courtyard still lit up for the holidays and the garden lying dormant, just waiting for spring to come again. I allowed the peace of the evening wash over me. It was a beautiful way to wind down from the day.

By the time my meal arrived, it was full dark outside and the lights were sparkling against the windows. I turned to my meal and my book, enjoying the peace of a nice meal and a good book. My meal finished, the next chapter read, I was able to return home to my family relaxed and refreshed thanks to my unexpected night out.

I try to do something special for New Year’s Eve. Some years we have take out, some years I’ll make a special candy, cookie, or pastry. This year I wanted to make a special meal. Something to linger over and fill the house with delicious scents as we wave goodbye to the past and usher in the coming year.

In preparation, I took a good look in my pantry and freezer. While I wanted to make a nice meal, I didn’t want to break the bank to do so. Deep in the bottom of the freezer we found a leg of lamb that I had gotten on clearance during my last meat shopping binge a couple months ago. An idea was born–wouldn’t it be great to learn to cook something new using a new food item to celebrate the new year?

I have never in my life cooked lamb. I don’t even eat meat all that often. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement. Still, lamb is one of Da Man’s favorite foods and a celebration is the perfect time to serve up a favorite food.

Luckily for me, the blogosphere is full of many talented cooks who are willing to share their recipes and tips with the world. Off on a search I went. After sifting through and discarding a variety of recipes for lamb, I found Farmgirl Fare. Specifically I found this recipe for slow roasted lamb.

I chose her recipe over others because it uses items I keep on hand and it created a one-pot meal. Since Da Man does the clean-up, I wanted to keep the mess to a minimum. I did make some changes to reflect our personal tastes.  I made several small slits in the lamb and slid in pieces of sliced garlic. Rosemary was used in addition to the oregano in both the lamb and potatoes. While I did use her idea for adding the chopped lemons to the potatoes, I forgot to drizzle the potatoes with olive oil. Still, this was one of the best celebratory meals I have ever cooked.

The meat was increadibly tender and flavorful (as judged by the soulful moan escaping from Da Man when he took a test taste) and the lemons added some extra zing to the roasted potatoes. I served this with my homemade crockpot applesauce, some fresh tzatziki sauce, simple steamed veggies, and some fresh bread from a grocery.

Later this evening we’ll toast in the New Year with some  Blueberry Wine from Leelanau Wine Cellars. Add in a midnight snack of cheese, olives, and bread and we have a perfect celebration!

‘Tis the holiday season around here. It’s time for the annual treat-a-thon where I mange to somehow produce a ton of delicious goodies for friends and family to gorge themselves on. This has become one of the ways in which I cope during the winter. I start planning in October–looking at the prices of supplies, finalizing the menus, picking up things that can be frozen in advance or saved until now. In November, people start asking about their favorites and whether they’ll make the annual “cut” and by December I’ll have my last-minute lists ready to go and my plan of attack completed.

I tend to stack things—I can easily make something melted while the cookies are baking, and cookies tend to bake better after the oven is nice and heated; like after the baklava is baked. Some things can be made with little effort: marzipan. Other things need a little more care: caramels.

Treatmaking day means the entire family gets with the program–kids can stir and spread and mix up cookie dough. They can roll out and cut marzipan shapes and sugar cookies. They can choose the coating for the truffles and the flavors for the fudge. Their favorite task (at least in my house) is smashing the cookies. There’s one special holiday cookie that we make every year–no matter what and my kids just love smashing the cookies flat on the pan.

At the end of the evening, there is always a special little treat for the candy makers. After all, we have to make sure that those goodies are good enough to share. 🙂

Some of my favorite holiday treats: items marked * are made every year, others are made on my whim.

Marzipan*

Fudge

Baklava*

Aggression Cookies*

Caramels–both chocolate topped and plain

Sugar plums

Kifles

Sugar Cookies

Apricot-Coconut Balls

Truffles

What are some of your favorite holiday treats?

Ever since I started working FT, I’ve had to tone down my hobby: cooking. I find that I do not have enough energy after being gone 10+ hours a day to create the same quality of freshly-prepared goodness as I would like. So, I tend to limit my treat making to weekends and holidays.

When I cook—I COOK. The kitchen becomes a whirlwind of activity as enough good food to feed a small army (or my family) comes out. One of my favorite cooking activities is brunch–much too heavy for breakfast or lunch alone. My family enjoys brunch on those rare occasions when it’s available. I take a few of our favorite dishes and make one mega-meal that makes everyone asking for more.

It doesn’t have to be complicated–frequently our brunches will include some type of starch: french toast (a good way to use stale bread), pancakes, biscuits, or hash browns (freshly shredded), a meat: bacon, sausage, ham (the hubs won’t eat non-meat food often–so if I’m making it special, I’ll add some meat), eggs: either in french toast or scrambled with cheese. Depending on what meat is used, I may make a gravy and we always have fresh fruit (usually apples, oranges, and bananas) and tea, coffee, milk, water.

Summertime brings more cold foods–yogurt with toppings, smoothies, fruit salad, bread/biscuits with honey. In the winter we want heartier, warm foods: eggs, gravy, oatmeal, cocoa. The point is to make something the whole family will enjoy and sit down to eat together–something we rarely have time to do anymore since one of us is always on the go. Coming back to the table together is always a nice treat.

Today I had a craving–one of those uncontrollable urges everyone gets once in a while for something completely unhealthy but oh so good.

So, on my way home from work I stopped at the drive-through to pick up a Jamocha Shake from Arby’s. There is something special about a good milk shake comforts me.

There is no shortage of good shake flavors–aside from the old standbys of Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla–many places also offer a wide variety of flavors. I am particularly fond of strawberry and banana or mint chocolate. Any way you like them–some days just call for a smooth, creamy shake!

bjicecream Even in the midst of winter there is something about ice cream that just calls to me. The creamy texture, the way it melts on my tongue–eating ice cream can be a sensual experience.  A reminder of my single days comes in the form of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Back when my friend worked at the shop and I’d come in near the end of his shift for a cool, creamy treat on a hot night. Even today, when I’m feeling a little down or needing to remember that there’s more to life than being a mom–I go back to the ice cream and remember walking down dark city streets, listening to music, and thinking that life really is grand.

coffeecup1In my world, the morning is not complete without a lovely cuppa….something. Lately it’s coffee–the darker the better. But don’t let my preferences influence you. There are so many varieties of coffee and methods of preparation out there.

I tend to be a bit of a coffee snob, preferring to grind my beans fresh. I am also not overly fond of the “traditional” (in my area) drip method of preparation. In fact, I do not own a regular coffee pot at all. My favorite method of brewing coffee uses a french press–grind the coffee and put in carafe, boil the water–add hot water to carafe, stir and let sit. Once it’s brewed (usually about 4-6 minutes)–press the filter down and pour a cuppa. It does take a little while but the result is a lovely, smooth cup of coffee.

There are as many ways to serve coffee as there are to brew it. Most mornings I prefer mine with a bit of cream or milk (only the real stuff, please). Occasionally I will add just a bit of raw sugar. When I’m feeling particularly indulgent I will treat myself to a “coffee drink”–usually some variant of a mocha. Mocha is a fancy term for coffee and hot chocolate.  Make up your favorite hot chocolate–pour yourself about 1/3-1/2 cup and top it off with coffee, maybe adding a little whipped cream and shaved chocolate or cocoa powder to the top. Delicious!

chocolateimg_2725It seems fitting that this would start as the old year dies and the new year is born. For many people, today is a day to celebrate with friends and family while remembering the events of the past 12 months. This past year has brought me much growth and many new insights about myself and the world around me.My goal is to use this space to remind myself of the little things that can be done to make every day a little special and to provide a minute of pampering in my otherwise busy life.

It’s a cold day here so we are starting our celebration with a lovely mug of hot cocoa. Today’s flavor is  Ghirardelli Chocolate Hazlenut Cocoa. For an extra special indulgence, we make it with half and half as well as milk and top with marshmallows or whipped cream and cocoa powder and cinnamon.

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