The Joy of Sunday Baking!

The wind whips steadily as a few snowflakes fall outside on this bright Sunday afternoon. My son Branden is home for college spring break, giving me great inspiration to bake some goodies! Ever since I bought my Kitchen Aid mixer and invested in real Vanilla extract and King Arthur flour, I’ve enjoyed indulging in this baking game.

It brings me great satisfaction and joy to please my family and friends at work with baked goods. Even though everyone is watching what they eat,( including me) we all need a small treat from time to time coupled with our rich cups of coffee. Don’t you think?

The oven heats up as my mixer whirls. Today I chose to create Lunch Lady Brownies, a recipe I have shared before here. Find the recipe at life in the loft house.com. Https://life-in-the-lofthouse.com/It makes rich chocolately brownies with a chocolate frosting to die for. I plan to treat myself and have one today and relish every single bite! Yum!

Mixing the butter and Cacao Powder

I’ll share with you what I feel makes a difference in baked goods:

*Real butter

*Good flour, either King Arthur Four or Gold Medal Flour

*Organic Cacao Powder, according to Food Matters.com, raw Cacao is cold pressed Cacao beans, not roasted like Cocoa is made. When Cocoa is roasted, the Cacao beans molecular base changes, depleting it’s nutritional value. I’m using this instead of Cocoa now.

*Fresh farm eggs, thank you neighbors!

*Real Vanilla

I bought this at our local Ocean State Job Lots. I find unique food products there!

While browsing through the food section at Job Lots I found this Cacao powder, something I needed for my daughter- in- law’s avocado chocolate mousse. I also found cheap spices like Cinnamon and Nutmeg there. They have baking ingredients such as Bob’s Red Mills flour and granola. I discovered a local business, Maple Grove Farms of Vermont’s sugar free Vidalia Onion salad dressing as well as Sugar Free Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing. They’re delicious and with low calories! If you have an Ocean State Job Lots check it out! The store houses cool and unique finds!

I’m so happy our son’s home! Someone else to bake for!

The afternoon has waned with my brownies all frosted and waiting for tonight’s dessert. It was a perfect activity to engage in on a Sunday, to work in my warm kitchen. Now after having so much fun baking I’m ready to exercise to my dvd for an hour. That way I don’t feel guilty about indulging in one and I can work some of it off!

Okay blogging friends, what have you baked and sampled lately? What are your thoughts on baking ingredients…which are a necessity in a good recipe?

I hope you all are enjoying your Sunday!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

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A New Lifestyle ( My tips on Successful Weight Loss)

Before
at 162 lbs

About 10 months later,
after at 132 lbs


Listen to me…I’m no expert nor do I pretend that I know what the right practices for your lifestyle will be. I’ll tell you what I do know and what I’m 100 % confident about as it pertains to my life. If you want to lose weight and become fit, you need to throw away the word diet from your vocabulary. Once you commit to a diet it solidifies pressure on many aspects of your life such as your eating habits, social eating, your exercise regiment, etc. This kind of deep hold on your life works but what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t last. Eventually it fizzles out!

My weight loss journey unexpectedly was launched through a stressful situation. I don’t wish this on anyone but it catapulted me into a different version of my life. It was a negative that transformed into a life changing positive. ( Thank you God) I was living from one sweet to the next with an overload of non-nutritious foods on the menu. I didn’t exercise nor did I wish to. I was sick for weeks every winter with a run down immune system. Lastly my emotional and mental well being went haywire, thrusting me into rough waters to try to swim out of.

One day I woke up…really emerged and I asked myself, is this the way I want to truly live, to exist and not thrive? That day I set a mini goal on the horizon, that I lose a little weight for my son’s wedding. Then I started eating healthier and lighter. Instead of eating a whole sandwich at lunch, I cut back to a half. I snacked on almonds, pistachios, fruit and veggies and hummus. I walked a few times a week with my neighbor Anita, not only experiencing a great workout but a mental strengthener from our enlightening conversations.

As my journey progressed, I maintained active in my garden and did yard work. I stacked wood with Tom while sucking my abs and bottom in. ( This sounds wacky but I feel it helped) I practiced my old Denise Austin aerobic/ exercise/ weight training dvd a few times a week. I journaled( and still do this) all the meals and snacks I ate so that I would see what I actually shoved in my mouth on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic way to stay accountable to yourself. This has been quite an eye opener as I didn’t realize how much I was eating. Journaling goes hand in hand with meal and snack planning. Jot down what your meals and snacks will be for the week and use this for a generated grocery list. Try a variety of foods so you don’t tire of your choices.

stin also has a website and free exercise videos here and there

One trick that worked for me was not weighing myself. In the past on my weight loss journey, I would get upset if the scale didn’t favor me so in turn I ate. This time I went for months not weighing myself but gauged my progress through how I felt physically and how my clothes fit me. As they got baggier and bigger I knew that I was getting favorable results. Now I weigh myself once a week at school for The Biggest Loser program, which isn’t a competition but an individual track of your personal weight loss.

As of yet I have lost 33 pounds and feel unbelievable! I feel healthy, fit and in turn that helps me emotionally and mentally. Knock on wood, I haven’t caught the flu or even a cold this winter! Proper sleep at night and a multi- vitamin has its benefits as well.

Here are some of my tips that may help you:

Start small without huge expectations and pressure

Downscale your meals at first, focusing eating a variety of fresh vegetables, a protein every meal and limited carbs like potato and rice

Eat two snacks a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. That would put you at five times a day of eating( three meals and two snacks)

Drink lots of water and stay hydrated

Start exercising a few minutes at a time every day or every other day. I started at three times a week with the dvd and now I practice it four to five days a week, 50 minute workouts every time

Walk with a friend twice a week to start. Make sure you stretch first to avoid painful Charlie horses at night. This happened to me last summer! Ouch!

I skip eating bread all but maybe a piece of toast a week and sometimes a half a sandwich at lunch. It’s been a tough adjustment as I love bread! But I’ve done it and sometimes I treat myself!

Try to not talk too much about your new lifestyle, unless it’s collaboration with a friend who is doing the same thing.  Sometimes talking about a diet to everyone puts pressure on yourself.

Try simple body moves while washing the dishes or brushing your teeth. I do a stretch where I try to keep my heels up tall and squeeze my legs, calves, thighs, inner thighs, bottom and abs as I go up and down a few reps. While washing dishes I kick my legs up on each side six reps while sucking my abs and bottom in.

My great snack ideas that have worked for me:

Carrot or celery sticks with hummus ( I love red pepper and the garlic flavors)

celery sticks with peanut butter

10 whole cashews, 15 almonds,or 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

apple slices and peanut butter ( sometimes I sprinkle dark chocolate chips and granola pieces on them)

pretzels with hummus

roasted chick peas 1/4 cup a serving, a great source of protein!

Avocado slices and ak- mak sesame crackers

one orange, two clementines, half a banana, one cup berries are all one serving for me

one mini box of raisins


Breakfast ideas:

One piece of whole grain toast ( I buy loaves of freshly baked bread from a bakery in Vermont that sells to Shaw’s) with two tablespoons peanut butter, a half of banana or apple slices

An overnight oatmeal cup, 1/2 cup steelcut oats, 1/2 cup milk, one tablespoon peanut butter, place in a small mason or jelly jar, set in fridge overnight. The next morning add apple chunks or banana slices and more milk if needed. You can eat this hot or cold, I enjoy it cold.

1/2 cup Grape Nuts or Kasha Shredded Wheat cereal with fruit

1 cooked egg with spinach and garlic, one or two slices bacon

2 small homemade pancakes with fruit one tablespoon maple syrup

Treat yourself





One important aspect of my new eating lifestyle is treating myself! I have always savored chocolate and have adamantly decided that I will still eat it in moderation. Most of the time I treat myself three times a week, mostly on weekends so I can workout to limit the damage. Sometimes I indulge in a cup of Haagen Daas almond milk ice cream or a homemade cookie or two. Other times I have a few squares of dark chocolate or dark chocolate raisins. Don’t feel guilty if you go off track, after all you are human! Maybe a rigorous walk or workout will offset your treat intake.

freshly cut carrot sticks to roast, a delicious side dish!

I will post on this topic again as I try new things in my new life and will communicate my strengths and shortfalls. All I know now is that as a 49 plus woman ( a few months shy of the big 50), I currently feel the best that I have ever felt physically! I wish this success for you as well! I feel women need to support other women during the journey instead of tearing each other down!

Believe in yourself for you are worth changing your routine! It may take a few weeks of trial and error with building confidence, but stick with it until it becomes a positive habit.

Let me know how your eating/ exercise regiment is going. Are you committed to feeling the best you ever have? If so, take a chance and make small changes that could grow into an amazing positive lifestyle!

I made these low fat Chocolate Chip cookies with banana yesterday. All they have is two ripened bananas mashed, 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, 1/2 tsp. Vanilla. Mix together. Place in tablespoons on cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 350 F for ten or twelve minutes. They will be soft and need to be stored in the refrigerator.



All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

How I Transformed a Dislike into a Love ❤️

Can you tell that I enjoy cooking now?

For many years cooking for my family unfortunately was one of my disliked chores. It’s not that I didn’t love serving my family but every day and night I had to rack my brain of meal ideas and then magically throw them together for their consumption. It was the constant pressure of having it done by 5:30 or 6 and no matter what was happening with the kids, it just had to be on the table for all. I can imagine many of you busy moms feel the same way, right?

Fresh sliced tomatoes. Yum!

With that said, the last six months I’ve noticed a change from dread to excitement with a burst of creativity. It may be because there’s just the two of us now or the fact that I wanted to transform these feelings from dread to desire. It happened slowly at first. My flourishing garden produced fresh herbs, greens, carrots and tomatoes ( to name a few), kindling my interest in cooking. As you may know, mastering delicious and healthy meals depends on fresh ingredients!

My garden from last summer!

I would pick the ingredients in the afternoon for supper that night. It was straight from our rich soil to the dinner plate. This excited me beyond belief that I was homesteading in some ways! The food started tasting more delicious, for with freshly grown ingredients and locally raised meat how could you go wrong? I experimented with pungent Basil, sassy Cilantro and lemon Thyme.

My youngest son was greatly influenced by this, learning the herb names and cutting his own for his cooking creations. His interest intensified mine and my love for cooking grew even more! There were a few summer meals we co- cooked, which was so much fun!

My veggie harvest for my dinner!

With a positive and creative outlook, my disliked chore is a loved one now! I think I got tired of the dread hanging over me and I wanted to feel good about creating dinner! Now I plan ahead with the ingredients, read cookbooks, browse Pinterest and borrow recipes from my blogging friends, all to craft delicious meals for my family. I’m truly grateful for making this change and turning meal time into love! Wow, the food tastes more delicious because of my new passion!

Is there a household chore you dread and dislike? Could you put some imagination and creativity into it to make it fun and rewarding? Can you make a game of it? Is there a way you can have fun doing it by listening to a podcast or your favorite music? Whatever it is, I do hope you can beautify this chore to something incredible!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

Kitchen Baking/ Cooking Tips

My kitchen has turned into my sweet little refuge lately. It is huge now with plenty of space to cook or bake. Since I have ample room, I have decorated it with inviting elements that speak to me. As I cook or bake, the winter light seeps into my tall windows. My twinkly lights play their magic as I enjoy the calm space. Glorious heat from the oven makes the kitchen toasty, especially welcoming in chilly January! Being in my kitchen brings me tremendous joy!

In our last house our kitchen was a tight galley space, one that I adapted to, but never really loved. That lack of space, especially counter space, made any cooking or baking task a huge challenge. Now I have a 26 x 14 sized room, enough room to host a family cooking and talking. I have plenty of counter space as well as a bar top, where sometimes I cool baked goods on.

If you feel like your kitchen space isn’t welcoming or peaceful you may want to change that. There are simple things you can do to create a kitchen that you love. I’m working on another post focusing on kitchen ambience so be on the lookout.

Lately I’ve noticed some quick and easy baking and cooking tips that I’ve started using and have aided me as I work.

Try covering top of mixer with a dish towel, when adding puffy flour, otherwise flour will sift all over counter.

Store all your Kitchen Aid attachments in the bowl where they are easy to access. I have my bowl lined with a dish cloth as well.

Place spoon rest next to work area and have paper towels handy.

Cool cookies on racks. I have one with legs and one flat one, a double decker.

The m & m cookies I made for work and the school kids

Place in airtight plastic containers instead of cookie jars. That keeps them fresh. Instead stash packaged candy in the jar or your cookie cutter collection.

Place a fresh piece of bread with cookies to maintain moisture and soften cookies. This works great for me!

Place brown sugar in air tight container. It’s so annoying to try to soften it while you are immersed in a recipe!

Have soapy dishwater ready for cooking and baking dishes, pots and pans.

For a busy family holiday meal, call upon the guys to help with heavy pots and lifting. Tom and my brother-in-law Chris were a great help to Bev and I at Thanksgiving. They helped lift the big pot of gravy.

The guys helping with the gravy and soon after we had a sink of dishes.

I found that having the oven on to help dough rise helps. Place on top of stove with damp kitchen cloth.

Plan your baking times, if needed, bake on different days so items don’t rest too long waiting for the oven. On Christmas Eve my cinnamon rolls rose too big ( they still came out delicious but they rose out of the baking pan) while I was baking the chocolate cake. It would have been handy to have two oven chambers!

I am curious what valuable kitchen tips you practice often. Please share with me, for I’m always looking for cheats to make cooking and baking easier.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😀

Spreading Kindness in the New Year ❤️

‘‘Tis the season to spread a blanket of kindness everywhere you roam! 

Here are some ideas I thought of to spread kindness! 

Pay the road toll for the person behind you.

A little bit of summer, my way of spreading kindness to you!

Let someone with less groceries to skip in front of you in the check out line. ( I do this all the time, it’s a great feeling!)

Put little chocolates in someone’s mailbox at work.

If you work at school, take a co- worker’s duty on your duty free day.

Make sure to comment someone on their haircut or new sweater if you notice it.

Listen to others and don’t listen to respond. Just really listen! 

Bake for your co- workers and friends.

 Bake for nursing homes and hospitals.

Smile at others, the simplest gesture!

Help a handicapped shopper at the store.


If we all pay attention to spreading kindness, our corner of the world would be more peaceful, don’t you agree?

All My Best,

Mary ❤️

Mom’s Christmas Traditions

My Mom’s Traditions 

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What is it about getting older that brings nostalgic thoughts and dream reenactments of childhood holidays? I think this happens to most of us as we age…when we truly realize how special family is and the holidays with them surrounding you. There are some Christmas traditions that mean even more to me as seasons come and go.

Every family has the tradition of special foods that are prepared once a year. My mom made spicy gingerbread men every year. Mom poked holes at the top to string ribbon through. We ate some and hung the others on our Christmas tree. Most Christmas mornings my mom made Bisquick Jam coffee cake. 

Tom’s Mom’s Traditions 

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There was always a clementine nestled in the stocking toe with little boxes of cereal that the four children would eat for breakfast. They would open their stockings early around 4, discovering their new treasures. Meanwhile their mom and dad slept. 

The Sears Roebuck catalog was the wish list and each child picked out one gift they wanted and they always got that one special gift. Tom received a bike when he was 8 or 9. One year the girls got ice skates.

Their father plowed snow and one year he was out all day working and they waited for him to come home to open the presents. I’m sure it was even sweeter that year because the children had to wait, but it was worth it to share with their dad.

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Tom and his cousin Kenny

My Christmas Traditions

Growing up our family had a tradition of opening one small gift on Christmas Eve. I wanted us to continue the fun and so our boys always had one or two presents to open on Christmas Eve. Usually there was new pajamas and an ornament for the tree. It was fun shopping for unique ones that represented the year. One year I bought a little snowboarder for Dylan when he was snowboarding on our hill. Branden got a cinnamon smelling cat as he loved our cats. 


As I wrap up this post I want to thank you all for staying with me and investing your time to catch a glimpse of my life. Many of you have become my friends and I’m thankful for the connections we have made across the country and the world. Things are getting quite busy here with finishing shopping, cooking and baking and wrapping for Christmas. I will not post again until Christmas or after. I wish you all a Merry Christmas with your loved ones and friends. 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🎄❤️

My sons in their new pajamas on Christmas Eve

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

On the last snow day from school, I  decided to bake this delicious looking version of pumpkin bars from Together as a family site and will post the link to the recipe. I apologize for not having a picture of these but take my word, THEY ARE DELICIOUS! Check out the original recipe at https://togetherasfamily.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-bars/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=433083832_14813236_267507.

Who doesn’t love pumpkin, especially in late fall? Chocolate is a huge favorite of mine too. A short time ago I  discovered both together in a recipe on Pinterest. The pumpkin has a bold taste and sweet and creamy chocolate compliments it, much like with peanut butter.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

adapted from Together as Family Blog, Jessica is the author.

My version is going to host semi- sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate chips. I used One- Pie pumpkin filling.

The ingredients
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce ( I used a packaged applesauce cup which was just under a half cup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree ( I used One- Pie)
2 cups milk chocolate chips ( I used semi- sweet chips and it was delicious)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
In a mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients, flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Beat the butter, applesauce, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. I used my Kitchen- aid mixer on low. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
Gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients until combined. Add chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The edges will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and will be golden brown and the center will look “puffy” and done. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with moist/dry crumbs.
Cool bars before cutting out of pan. Store in closed container. These are simply delicious and so moist! I made them last week for Tom and the girls at school and I think everyone enjoyed them!
Check out Togetherasfamily.com to see the original recipe!