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 😀

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Netflix Suggestions Part II

We are fortunate to spend under $50 a month on television entertainment. Years ago we were fortunate enough to have our employer pay for our satellite tv. Back then cable wasn’t available in our neck of the woods and that was the best you had. Now many tv watchers are rethinking the high cost of cable and satellite services and are resorting to downstreaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime to name a few. We have those three services as well as YouTube available on our PlayStation console. I’m happy to report my avid tv watching husband is completely satisfied with all the shows, something that worried me in the beginning.

Here are a few Netflix suggestions that are downstreaming currently.

Wonder ( this is on the dvd plan but also available on Amazon’s Prime)

A sentimental family film featuring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. It’s about fifth grade Auggie who has facial deformities and his loving family who supports him throughout. It’s based on the book and years ago I read it in school with fourth graders.

The Holiday Calendar

This movie is about a motivated photographer who is gifted a magical advent calendar. The calendar could lead her right to love. It’s a sweet holiday story with that Hallmark feel.

El Camino Christmas

This movie drew me in and I don’t usually like robberies or violent movies. I’m not sure if it was the acting and their interesting characters or bonds that are formed…all I know is that it was a good movie and very entertaining!

Julie & Julia

An oldie from 2009 but a great movie. It is about a woman who cooks up all of Julia Child’s recipes. Meryl Streep is fabulous in this! I would recommend this to you if you love to cook!

Big Miracle 

This flick is also an oldie from 2010 starring Drew Barrymore. She is a reporter who writes about stranded whales in the Article Circle. Based on true events, the US and USSR work on rescuing the whales. A good family movie!

This time of year I get my Christmas movies out to compliment Netflix. Every weekend and some week nights I choose one to watch in front of our Christmas tree. Yesterday I chose A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. I remember long ago as a teenager watching it and loving his acting. It’s a calming way to indulge in a hot cup of coffee in my comfy armchair. Within the next few weeks I’ll view It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. 

What movies do you watch this time of year?Are you also bypassing cable tv and opting for downstreaming apps? 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

Netflix Suggestions Part I

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I don’t know about you, but this time of year I love watching Netflix at night and on weekends! There’s less to do outside with chilly temperatures and the gardens at rest, blessing me with ample reading and viewing time. My blogging friend Rhonda inspired this post recently with her question what’s good to watch on Netflix? Here’s my list…I hope you can find what you would like and enjoy!

 

Christmas in the Smokies

A young ambitious woman tries to save her family’s farm and wrestles with thoughts of her ex boyfriend as he arrives back in town. A heart- warming story set in the Smokey Mountains.

 

Dear Santa

Crystal finds a lost letter written to Santa by a young girl hoping for a new wife for her daddy. Another heart- warming story to enjoy.

 

A Holiday Engagement

Can you tell that I love Hallmark type of movies? My husband is a good sport and watches some with me. This movie is about a woman who fakes having a fiancé to bring home for Christmas. It’s a funny film and enjoyable to watch the story unfold.

 

Coffee Shop

A small town coffee shop owner and an ambitious writer from New York meet and you have to watch to see what happens.

 

Sixteen Candles

Young Samantha is feeling unimportant as her sister’s wedding overshadows her sixteenth birthday. I watched this flick in the 80’s growing up and still enjoy it with many laughs! It’s a funny and cute movie of her trials over her birthday and crush on a high school hunk.

 

National Treasure

A 2004 movie starring Nicholas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Diane Kruger and Jon Voight. It’s about a historian who discovers clues to hidden treasure and the Declaration of Independence is involved. How hard can it be stealing the historic document to continue his quest? This is a fast paced adventure with a bit of history involved. It was my oldest son’s favorite movie from school and we have the dvd. Currently it is trending on Netflix.

Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End

Another movie installment of Johnny Depp’s interesting character Jack Sparrow. It’s fun and filled with adventure and Orlando Bloom appears once again!

An Unfinished Life

A beautiful film starring Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman. It’s about a woman confronting her past. Set in the country on a farm with a nice story and scenic views. A must to watch!

 

A Beautiful Mind

I watched this years ago at the movie theater with Mrs. Geneen,  her sister Lois  and niece. It’s based on a true story of a brilliant mathematician  who suffers from schizophrenia. I watched most of the movie not realizing this was so. A great story and Russell Crowe delivers an outstanding performance!

 

God Knows Where I Am

A documentary based on Linda Bishop’s slipping through the cracks of the mental health system. Based in my home state of New Hampshire, Linda was released from a mental health hospital and she found an old abandoned farmhouse to live in. Living in secret and surviving on picked apples and rain water, Linda kept a journal of the solitary days hiding. It’s an eerie insight into mental illness and read with so much expression by actress Lori Singer. At the end of this film it shows from route 93 the farmhouse and barn, taking me aback!💜I know exactly where it is and have passed it hundreds of times back from trips to Concord. It’s about an hour and a half from us. 

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

 

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Low Fat Snack Ideas

Over the summer I’ve lost weight due to emotional stress. From there I decided to start eating healthy and cut back on snacks. All summer I pretty much just ate three meals a day with a rumbling tummy in between. Each meal had protein of some kind ( chicken, fish, venison to name a few), a generous serving of fresh veggies and sometimes  a very small amount of rice or potatoes. I drank lots of ice water and stayed hydrated and still do at school. IMG_0138 One factor in my weight loss has been staying active. All summer I helped Tom with cleaning the yard, stacking heavy wood, walking and gardening movement. Healthy eating and physical exercise go together in successful weight loss. IMG_0156   Recently I’ve talked to Christine, our school nurse, who’s lost lots of weight and her advice was to eat snacks and small meals every two or three hours. Otherwise you gain more weight when you do eat because of going so long and of the hunger. She gave me a computer generated list of snacks 100 calories or less. I’m grateful for Christine’s mentoring, which has aided me as I continue my journey. I’ll star my favorites that I’ve had the last few weeks.   IMG_0157  

Fresh cucumber sticks and hummus

 

15 almonds *

 

two tablespoons sunflower seeds *

 

One hard boiled egg ( I’ve been having two for lunch with cucumber and hummus)

 

1 Tablespoon peanut butter

 

one banana ( I use 1/2 a banana with 1/2 cup Grapenuts cereal for breakfast)

 

one apple *

 

one pear

 

1 1/2 cup fresh berries *

 

1 1\2 cup cut up watermelon *

        My advice with snacking is NOT to buy tempting sweets, chips or candy that you can’t say no to. I made chocolate chip cookies for a care package for my son and his girlfriend in Cambridge. I had one cookie and it simply was delicious and it tasted like another. But I asked Tom to hide the rest and he was satisfied with that, as the rest of the batch was his.       Happy snacking! Plan healthy and pack small amounts for work and trips. I believe the trick is planning from the grocery list to anticipating unusual circumstances where binge or fast food would be a temptation. If you are always prepared with bottles of water, it will make your snacking healthy easier!     All My Best, Heart and Soul 💕
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This is my favorite family photo from my son’s wedding. I lost just under twenty pounds for the occasion.

Goodbye Garden Days

IMG_0130.JPG Here we are immersed in September and as most New Hampshire gardeners know, that means gardening days are numbered. There’s a chill in the air and a pungent odor of dying plants. This smell emerges every late August, my warning sign of my gardens last days. It’s a stark opposite of the fresh spring garden scent in early June and quite sad too.   IMG_0135 Tomato plants topple from their weight, resembling small trees. Red plum tomatoes as well as Big Boy fruits ripen, almost ready to pick. Everyday I venture out to my plot to pick a few more gems. My deepest regret is not finding time to pick tomato leaves, especially the dead ones. Carrot tops are brittle as their orange color peeks out from the top of the dirt. Purple beets are globe shaped and neighbors to the carrots, awaiting to be pickled.         Broccoli has gone by and what’s left is greenish brown plants. Corn stalks wave in the breeze, swaying to and fro parallel to my sunflower patch. Scampering gray squirrels climb the towering plants to hoard the sunflower seeds. What a mess they leave, bending the stalks and scattering flower bits all over!       For a few weeks now I’ve made homemade spaghetti sauce from the plum and heirloom tomatoes. We are fortunate to enjoy our grown tomatoes well into winter. I’ve been cutting fresh sweet corn off the cob to freeze as well as freezing a few cobs for mid- winter meals.     Another garden season has come and gone, all fleeting days with racing time. Every year it seems to go by faster and faster! My true hope is that I continue to maintain a vegetable garden each summer until my final days. It’s not only a hobby but something vital to my existence. Are you putting your garden to bed? What did you put up from your growing season? All My Best, Heart and Soul💜

Rehearsal Cook-out

Every wedding rehearsal is unique in some way, whether it’s the location or events that spontaneously happen. Looking back 23 years ago, I remember Tom and mine. It was held at the wedding venue, my in-laws back yard. Picture a sprawling rich green lawn leading downhill to a beautiful tranquil pond with cat tails growing here and there. We practiced the wedding party walk and where everyone would stand. People laughed and visited and soon after we ate outside under the white wedding tent.

 

I’m going to share with you a rehearsal cookout our family had on Friday August 17th, for our son Dylan and our daughter in law Lexy. It took place in our yard under our majestic pine tree. Not far from the set-up stood my majestic uplifting  sunflowers and my garden. We put up two pop up canopies, placed chairs all around, a folding table for the food and our deck table for gathering.

 

 

Tom uses a stump to chop wood on and it usually sits on the outskirts of the wood pile. I wanted it to be a part of our cookout and give it some rustic appeal. It was quite heavy so I had to roll it where I wanted it. Next I fashioned a mason jar with baby’s breath and decorated the jar with burlap and lace and a raffia ribbon.

 

We also had galvanized buckets of ice for the drinks. My son’s girlfriend Jojo fashioned burlap around the outside of each. Thanks to co-worker and friend ( she even was one of my high school teachers as well) Pauline Corzilius for the use of the buckets.

 

 

Unfortunately I was so busy setting up I didn’t get a chance to snap photos of the food. We had grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, ( thanks to Tom for all his planning and hard work on the grill) macaroni salad, potato salad a friend made, vegan pasta salad Lexy’s mom made, a deli wrap platter, a large vegetable platter, deviled eggs, pickles, chips, tortillas and salsa and guacamole. My mother in law made beautiful watermelon baskets of fruit for all to enjoy.

 

What is important to capture to me is the people and connection everyone made…all because of the happy couple’s love. I borrowed some photos from Glenn, Lexy’s stepdad and I thank him for taking these photos for us.

My son and Lexy’s step brother Cole. Cole is starting 7th grade in a new school soon. I wish him well.

 

Lexy’s brother Regan and his wife Megan. It was great to get to know them during the festivities.

 

Lexy and her mom Arlene enjoying a moment

 

Glenn Castro, Arlene’s boyfriend and Megan

 

The New Jersey crew, Arlene’s cousins and relatives all arrived in a party bus, pulling in towards the end of the evening. Everyone was excited that they arrived and hugs and then introductions ensued.

 

We mothers of the bride and groom, Arlene and I.

Last but not least I was determined to say a toast in the kids’ honor. I wrote several, not knowing which I could pick. Finally I listened to my heart and went with this toast. Reading from my iPad and trying to keep eye contact with Dylan and Lexy as I said these words( sometimes a bit choked up with emotion but I got through) This was my first attempt at public speaking. I’m proud of myself for doing it and next time it may feel easier.

Rehearsal toast

I would like to make a toast to Dylan and Alexis.

Thank you all for coming to celebrate these two and we are happy to host and meet some of Lexy’s friends and family.

Someone once said when your children find true love, parents find true joy.

This expresses how Tom and I feel and I’m sure I can speak for all of us parents that this marriage is a blessing and a union of two families.

Dylan, I knew this day would come and my only hope was that it would be perfect in every way for you deserve that.


Lexy we are more than happy for you to become part of our family.


Here’s to many blessings in your married life with all my love. To Dylan and Lexy

The cookout was a success as people’s bellies and hearts were full and we all were looking forward to the next day. I was impressed with how many family members and friends helped clean up the food and trash. Big thanks to Christine Hudson, Jojo Anderson and my son Branden, my husband Tom, Jerry and Monica Hite, Glen Castro, Regan Hite and many others.

My next post will cover the beautiful wedding. Has anyone celebrated weddings this summer?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕

A Short Break

I am going to take a short break from blogging for a few weeks while Tom and I prepare for our son’s wedding and rehearsal cook-out held here. I will miss your posts and will catch up with all of you once things slow down and the wedding is over. I hope you all are enjoying life in whatever season you are in and if you’re not, ask yourself, what can I do to change that? Put a smile on your face rather than a frown.

 

In just two and a half short weeks my son Dylan will marry Alexis. I’m so happy that she will be my daughter-in-law!

All My Best,

Mary ❤️❤️❤️