Two Years and Counting

While browsing my blog stats and dates, I noticed that my blog has been running for two years. It all started as a simple idea and a whim. I had no expectations or plans tied with the launch. All I knew is that it was time to present my writing and satisfy my need to be complete. For as you and I both know, if you’re not practicing and doing what you love, then you’re not truly being yourself. I had to write and this blog was a way to do so.

 

I want to thank you, all of my readers who many have become lovely friends who I “talk” with back and forth such as Rhonda, Jodi, Tammy and Ellen just to name a few. Others who I check in with from time to time mean just as much. The one thing I’ve learned as a blogger is that you become a family member of the community, gaining a rich patchwork of friends. With all  you special people, I have read fascinating stories, tried delicious recipes and gawked over amazing photos and pieces of artwork! In the process I’ve shared my life stories and pictures and have put everything out on the table and trusted you all. It’s felt natural and good to trust and share my life.

I hope to continue this blog as long as I can for years to come. With this wish, my other dream is to compile alike posts and write a book someday about a mom’s life in rural New Hampshire. 

So here’s a HUGE thank you to my family and friends who regularly read my posts and offer positive comments in response. This is what has propelled me to keep moving forward…it’s something I’m very grateful for! ❤❤❤

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗

Mary ❤

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Capturing JOY

Capturing Joy…

One of my friends on Facebook ( Keri Lyndes) posted this gem of her children enjoying the snow. What a capture of joy! This photo was my inspiration for this post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our niece Michele’s friend’s darling daughter before a dance recital.

 

 

 

My son Dylan and my beautiful daughter in law to be announcing their engagement in our little humble town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace moments of joy…

Feel the very essence

of its beauty,

its exploding energy

that erupts from your core

that can’t be tamed.

 

This joy that speaks to us all,

The excitement of the moment,

the thrill that send chills

up your spine.

 

 

Our nephew Justin playing baseball. 😁

 

My son Dylan pitching in baseball

 

 

The excitement of playing

what you love

is an act of pure joy.

 

 

My nephew’s Spencer and Luke winning a snowmobile race

 

The special graduation milestones

express joy,

these images forever

embedded in our hearts.

 

Our beautiful niece Paula, her precious daughter Alena at her Kindergarten graduation with Paula’s best friend Jill

 

 

Our niece Samantha celebrating her high school graduation with her Stepdad Roger.

 

 

It’s the joy that creates belly laughter

among family and friends.

 

My sister Barb, myself, my mom and my niece Ella.

 

The joy of mothers and their daughters

 

Our niece Jennifer and Tom’s sister Mary

 

Tom’s mom Theo and his sister Pam

 

and of mothers and their sons

being together.

 

Our niece Jennifer and her three sons Justin, Jared and Joe and his girlfriend

 

My sons Branden and Dylan and me

 

 

My husband Tom and his smile of pure joy

Capturing Joy…

recognizing bright smiles

in a family moment.

 

 

 

The joy of knowing yourself and it shines through like golden rays of the sun

 

The joy of young love 💗

 

 

The joy of family reuniting,

bridging long distances

with tightly wrapped up hugs.

The joy of finding the special one

 

Our niece Paula’s awesome stepchildren.

 

How amazing it is

to see evidence of

pure joy

and feel it

and all the love in  a single picture.

 

 

If we could just remember

the joyful moments

from our lives

on sad lonely days

and swallow our sorrows

away!

We could open up those

memories like

pretty packaged gifts!

 

 

Breathe Joy.

Indulge in JOY.

Capture the Joy!

 

Remember to capture your moments of joy! Thanks to Keri, Theo, Pam,Mary, Paula, Jen, Michele and Jojo for contributing their lovely photos and memories! Thanks for the expressive writing inspiration, Michele! 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cream Pies ( Cookies)

I must say so myself, these are delicious! Merely the cookie without the filling would be great too!

 

 

Recently I was thumbing through my Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine. It’s been in my recipe collection for 17 years. It’s worn and torn in places, showing its age and constant use. It has been one of my favorite magazines to find cookie recipes all year. I say all year because many of the recipes are good for all through the year and why limit them to December and Christmas?

 

It was a Saturday afternoon and I wanted to whip up these peanut butter oatmeal cream pies ( cookies) for Tom and the girls at school. I try to bake for them all weekly and the weekend off is a great time to do it! I gathered my ingredients, lit my kitchen candles and away I baked!

 

Homemade Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pies

Taken from Better Homes and Garden Christmas Cookies publication

1/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. quick cooking oats

Filling

2 tsps. hot water

1/4 tsp salt

1- 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream ( Fluff)

1/2 c. shortening

1/3 c. powdered sugar

 

My new mixer that I have used a lot!

 

 

1. Preheat oven to 350  degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl combine butter and peanut butter. Beat on medium until combined. ( I used my Kitchen aid mixer but you could use a hand mixer) Beat in sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until just combined. Stir in flour mixture and oats.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges are light brown and centers are set. Cool for one minute and then transfer to wire cooling rack.

3. In a medium bowl combine hot water and salt. Stir until dissolved. Add marshmallow cream, shortening ( I’m not crazy about shortening and may use butter next time) and powdered sugar. Beat until well combined.

4. Spread filling mixture onto flat side of half of cookies. Top each frosted cookie with another cookie. Makes 13 sandwich cookies.

I store my cookies at room temperature in my plastic cookie keeper that’s air tight. These are so much better than store-bought cream pies…look out Little Debbie’s!

 

 

Enjoy your week and take time to bake for your friends and loved ones!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all! It’s been a hectic two weeks preparing for the holiday, baking cookies, planning and shopping and cooking for our big dinner on Christmas Eve. This year we adjusted our holiday plans because of the winter weather approaching. Our region will get socked with a winter snowstorm on Christmas Day. My husband and his boss will have to plow and sand that day away from their families. Although this makes me sad for them and our families, I am blessed to be able to celebrate some on Christmas Eve. Our son and fiancé will come for a nice ham dinner and present giving. Hopefully Tom can open presents with us early Christmas morning before he plows! 

 

As I finally sit down to catch my breath, I realize how special this blog family is to me! Many of you have become friends, my blogging family! I always look forward to reading your stories about you and your families and hope that you check in on mine from time to time. This way we can stay connected and learn about our families, cultures and countries. This connection motivates me to keep writing and reading your blogs. 

Merry Christmas, my family and friends. Wishing you all peace and love!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🌲🎁

The Lost Art of Christmas Cards

Do you notice that every year the Christmas card pile gets smaller? Just a few years ago the card deluge would commence the last week of November and every day after you could expect cards in the mailbox. It was always fun hearing from family and friends that you aren’t in constant contact with. Sometimes pictures or annual newsletters would accompany the colorful cards.

 

I think the Internet craze and messaging has threatened snail mail and the urge to send cards. Many people decide to use Facebook or email to send Christmas wishes. This way it’s instant, easy and free. But I have a problem with this. I enjoy going to the mailbox and being showered with stacks of colorful envelopes!  After the cards are opened and read, then comes the display.

I have a little card carrier that I housed my cards in a few years but the problem was that you couldn’t see them. I saw on Pinterest a couple of years ago where someone placed thick felt ribbon down the cupboard doors with the cards stapled to them. This year I draped thick red ribbon across our doorway and stapled the cards to it. It’s simple and easy and looks good.

 

 

I admit that my Christmas card list is condensed and always changing! Many relatives and friends have passed away and new friends reappear and are added. This year I almost skipped the tradition due to a lack of time. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t want to send my holiday greetings on Facebook. This morning I worked on six cards and sent them and each day will do a few more.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Christmas card tradition of mine is to save my favorite. I strung groups together with shiny ribbon and put them in my basket. The basket is in the livingroom and now and again I browse through them. I still have some from loved ones who have passed away and so their words are preserved. 

Do you still send Christmas cards or do you use social media? 

I’m wishing many blessings for you all and your families. Hug your loved ones today!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💌

 

 

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!

There’s nothing as comforting as a plate of homemade cookie concoctions baked fresh out of the oven! With a glass of milk or coffee a cookie is a special treat, especially around Christmas. Recently I’ve spent much busy time in my kitchen baking different cookies for fundraisers, co-workers and family. It has been a peaceful and fun week as I listened to my Spotify Christmas playlist and baked my heart away.

 

Chocolate Thumbprints

I found this Chocolate Thumbprint recipe on Pinterest, from Shanon at The Curvy Carrot. She is a physician and enjoys cooking and baking while at home. I’m sharing her recipe for this delicious and beautiful cookie. I doubled the recipe and it made about four dozen. It will be a steadfast addition to my annual cookie list. They are also pretty easy to make and that means a lot this time of year!

 

I used parchment paper and love the results!

 

 

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Servings: about 20 cookies

Ingredients

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup chocolate or multicolored sprinkles

20 (or however many cookies you end up with….) milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.

3. Add sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.

4. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.

5. Beat in the flour.

6. Your dough should be at ball-rolling consistency at this point. If it’s not, let it chill in the refrigerator for a while to firm up a little.

7. Once easily handled, roll dough into 1-inch balls.

8. Roll balls in sprinkles to coat.

9. Place balls 2 inches apart on your lined cookie sheets, and, using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie.

10. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie’s center. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

 

 

 

 

Next I made Melt in your Mouth  Pumpkin Cookies with frosting to top them off. I love pumpkin cookies and believe they are not just for fall but would be great to add to a Christmas cookie tray. I got this recipe on Pinterest, from Crissy at Dearcrissy.com. She’s a mom and wife, writer and food photographer. This recipe is the best pumpkin cookie I’ve ever tasted and baked! It will be a hit at parties, work or just at home.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies Recipe
YIELD: 60 COOKIES PREP TIME: 30 MINUTES COOK TIME: 10 MINUTES PER BATCH

Ingredients:

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
4 cups all-purpose flour
Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (add until desired consistency/firmness)
ground cinnamon sprinkled on top (optional)

 

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the 2 cups of butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder,baking soda,salt,the 1 teaspoon cinnamon,and the nutmeg. Beat until combined. Beat in the eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the four as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
For frosting, in a small saucepan heat the 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.

 

 

Every year I write my cookie list to bake for family, friends, co-workers and neighbors this year. It varies from year to year. Most years I make peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies nicknamed Black eyed Susans, a family favorite. My son Branden and I still make sugar cookie cut outs every year. Since he was about 7 or 8, he has had a keen interest in creating and decorating these beauties. I asked him a message recently if he wanted to continue the tradition when he gets home for college break. He said yes, he would love it and so I look forward to this time with him in the kitchen.

 

Today my sister Barb, niece Ella Kate and my sweet mom are coming for Cookie day, a tradition we started a few years ago. Each of us will bake a batch of our favorites and then we split them up between us. We play music, laugh, reminisce and just enjoy each other while baking cookies. It’s a special day for me and I hope the tradition lasts with my future grandchildren.

Are you baking Christmas cookies soon? What are your favorites?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

Thanksgiving Preparation

This will be my third year hosting Thanksgiving at our home. It’s been a learning process and it still continues as I work on planning the cooking. Somehow it all comes together in the end like a perfect wrapped package, despite anxiety over the details. While I have planned on  how things will go, my go to for organization is to make many lists. I jotted down a simple menu and as the big day approaches it’s been tweaked a bit. It changed as I discovered which relatives will bring what dishes. Next I wrote a grocery list. This year I had two, one for a week ago and one for fresh veggies for today. I picked up chicken broth, pickles, olives and the turkey last week and today shopped for fresh veggies and last-minute additions.

 

 

I brushed up on recipes, talked to my mother-in-law about her tasty sausage stuffing and my sister-in-law Bev on her fabulous gravy. I will make these dishes the best I can in the next few days and every year it should get easier and become a science.

I’ve already made my son’s cookies since he prefers them to pie and tomorrow I’ll make deviled eggs and start roasting veggies for the gravy. I’ve planned what I’ll make on which day and the big pie baking day will be Wednesday. Wahoo!

Here’s some advice for your Thanksgiving planning that have helped me. I always love to read my blogging friends holiday tips!

* Go early to the grocery store to avoid crowds. The next few days will be hectic

* Write a list of dishes you wish to prepare and a separate list of items needed for them

* Communicate with family and friends to see what they are bringing

* Ask your spouse and family members to help peel veggies, vacuum the house or other tasks you may need done while you cook and bake

* Light the candles, wear your favorite apron and play Christmas tunes as you cook. It will lighten the mood and relax you.

 

My son Dylan laughing with our company, my brother-in-law Chris

Laugh with your loved ones. Doesn’t Dylan look happy?

* Most Important, have fun and thank your blessings as you plan and prepare the feast! 

Last year’s gravy, apple crisp, cherry pie and pumpkin pie

 

As I wrap this post up I wish you all a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! Indulge in good food, company and remember to acknowledge what you are grateful for! I’m beyond thankful for my loving family, they are my anchor and life is so sweet with them! I’m thankful that my son Dylan proposed to his girlfriend Alexis this month and will marry her in August! I’m so thrilled to be gaining a sweet daughter in law! I’m also grateful for my friends, my little job at school and the children there.

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗