Happy Valentine’s Day

My family photo taken by Tianna Sparks in October 2021

My Heart

I’m a strong soul

Able to stand alone 

If needed

But this heart

Longs for connections

Between family

And friends

Giving to others

And always to

myself

Lifts me up

This Valentine’s Day

I reach with 

An endless supply of 

Kindness

And love.

❤️This Muscle of a Heart

This muscle of a heart

Bears a thread of hope

A vessel of kindness

That extends to all

a striking reach

longing to enfold

Others in its

passionate womb.


A Hug

Arms clasped around

A tight hold

Flesh to flesh

Heart to heart

An embracing

Bridge from

One soul to another

Physical

With passionate emotion

Feeds my starving soul

To not only

Survive but thrive. 


HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO YOU ALL!

All My Best,

Mary

Heart and Soul

Winter Days

They say there’s a time and season for everything…winter is a slow down season, a time to quietly live and reflect. Here in northern New Hampshire our yards lay blanketed with snow drifts and ice. The air feels frigid and tingles your skin as if you’ve walked into a freezer, yet this lady is thankful for it. Although I enjoy trudging through the snow riddled woods, I welcome entering the heat of our little home just as much. Our wood stove churns and creaks with an industrial strength, belting out waves of a warmth that makes any winter day cozy and celebratory.

During winter days we lug wood and shovel it into our wood closet. The wheelbarrow works great to fill with wood and deliver it out back. We park the vehicle next to the deck and lug by armful to the nearest window. Tom cleverly built our wood closet beside the window and so by lifting the sash you can thrust the pieces into storage.

On weekend mornings we indulge in candlelit breakfasts such as crepes and blueberries or eggs and bacon. Tom makes outstanding omelets!

I love to read books in our bedroom in the rocker by the electric fireplace, while our kitty Smokey contently lies on the bed. I have a kind friend at work who serves as my librarian and brings in books for me to read. It’s a joy to see which book she’ll bring in next and I’ve loved every one but one!

These are just a few activities we do in the winter. Many people up here complain about the cold weather and the snow but we love living here, welcoming the change of season.

I hope you are enjoying your winter days!

The Love in His Eyes

One of the special things I look forward to on my days off is snuggling with my cat Smokey. I have a comfortable well- used recliner that I snuggle in with my blanket and cup of coffee. It doesn’t take long for Smokey to meow his morning greeting of love and then he eagerly jumps up to be with me. I’ve tried to get a photo of his adorable eye communication with me. Unfortunately the iPad camera ruins the moment and my cat looks away in protest! I pet him gently and whisper sweet things like “ we get to be together today buddy” or “ I love you Smokey boy!”. He purrs his motor in a fantastic melody and sports the squinty eyes at me. He doesn’t need to talk human…I know what he means to say. His eyes says it all!

I love my kitty so and my cat Katie who passed away about a year ago. She lives in my memory but most importantly in my heart.

All My Best,

Mary😻❤️

An Easy Valentine Treat

These treats are easy to make if you have some time. You will need:

Mini pretzels

Semi- sweet or dark chocolate chips

1 Tbsp coconut oil

Caramels cut in halves

Jimmies( sprinkles) if desired

First heat oven to 325 F. Lay out a single layer of pretzels on baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent a sticky messy pan. Place half a caramel on each pretzel. Bake in oven about five minutes more or less. While they are in the oven, melt the chocolate chips with coconut oil on the stovetop. Stir constantly so it won’t burn.

Once the pretzels are out dip each pretzel in chocolate. Top with jimmies if desired. Store in an airtight container.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! It doesn’t matter if you are married or have a significant other. If not have your best friend, your pet, your kind neighbor, co- worker or grandchild be your Valentine! Smile at everyone you meet. Spread love everywhere you go!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕💕💕💕

Spending More Time With Family & Friends

Okay let’s be honest here! How many of you truly keep your New Year’s resolution and honor it throughout the whole year? I’ve never kept my intention, not from not caring about it but life gets busy with work and commitments and it gets pushed to the wayside. With that….it’s lost and forgotten replaced with to do lists, bills to pay, etc.

My interest in setting a new year goal for 2020 was sparked by my daughter- in-law Lexy. She shared that she and her best friend were getting together to set New Years goals. I liked the idea of sharing with a friend for accountability sake but it can also turn into a fascinating conversation. Sharing your positive intentions for the new year opens up channels of new ideas and thoughts fostered through friendship. I have always kept my resolutions private and perhaps that’s why I’ve failed at them. Maybe I’ll start shouting from the rooftops of my goal, with a true desire to reach it.

This year I honestly intend to spend more time with friends and family, especially since I’m feeling better. I may go to lunch more often, make a few more phone calls, write quick sweet notes and send them in the mail. I want to see my mom and dad more, making the trips to their homes. I’m blessed to still have them and their spouses alive, in their seventies and early eighties. They mean the world to me and I want them to know how fortunate and happy I feel to have them.

When our Florida family comes in the summer I wish to connect through down to earth talks, nice country walks or by lounging on our deck in the sunshine. I want to hear stories of how their life is going down there and have Tom reminisce of old times growing up and of relatives passed but not forgotten.

This year I vow that I’ll try to keep this goal alive and not hidden. I wish to connect more, talk more, laugh more and let my friends and family know how precious they are to me. 2020 will be an amazing year of wonderful possibilities to carry my resolution through. I pray to God for me to carry it through and reach out to people even more than I have!

What’s your New Year’s resolution and what is your strategy for keeping it alive and going all year?

All My Best for the new year,

Mary🎉🥰

Winter Wonderland

The last few days have been snowy and icy here. It’s a good thing I didn’t plan on any trips on my school vacation, the first week I was busy preparing for Christmas and this week I’m just hanging out. Tom has been in and out plowing, for our town and his driveway clients. He leaves in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rises and I never quite know when he will return. I am sure of one thing…he will return especially for a quick hot meal and the warm bed eventually.

I’ve been happily sleeping until I wake without the obtrusive alarm clock squawking at me. I rise when I rise…whether it be 5 or 6 am, it doesn’t matter. I bundle up in my comfy chair and sip my coffee. The first thing I do upon coming downstairs is turn on my Christmas tree, it is still up! I love having it lit in the early morning and in the evening. It stretches the holiday out for me and I can’t think of a better way to relax in my living room than in front of a colorful pine beauty.

While I’m on vacation it can snow and pile up for I have nowhere to be but here. It’s beautiful to walk in the woods and up our dirt road, an enchanting mass of trees frosted white and glowing in what little sun we have. I do love winter and the change of season. Now if you ask me in late February I may have a negative answer instead.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😘

Baking and Hiding Treats!

Featuring Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

My healthy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies made with banana

Lately I have a problem. A sweet problem, that is. I want desperately to bake sweets to please my family and co- workers, yet the temptation that goes with having goodies in the house is too much for me. ( especially around the holidays) I make my husband hide the air tight cookie container but then he forgets where he has hidden it! Sounds like something I would do!

 

Once it gets frigid here with a blanket of snow everywhere there is a comfort of an oven baking. It warms the whole kitchen with a nesting glow and the scent of fresh baked goodies wafts throughout the house. I tend to bake with candles lit and my music playing in the background. I’m an old school baker as I wear my apron, use wooden spoons yet with a modern twist with the use of my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer.

 

Here is a list of cookies and bars I enjoy to make.

  • M&M cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms ( with a Hershey’s kiss)
  • Lunch Lady Brownies
  • Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

Here is my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies recipe that I make often. They are delicious and are hard to eat just one! This isn’t the recipe made with banana but I’ll try to share that soon. 

The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • You will need :
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats, not instant
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt, optional
  • 1 cup heaping semi- sweet chocolate chips

Combine egg,butter,sugars and vanilla in mixer. Beat on medium speed for four minutes until creamed and combined. Stop and scrape the sides of the mixer. Add oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, optional salt until just combined, about a minute.

Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. Add chocolate chips and beat until combined.

Using a large cookie scoop form equal sized balls and flatten slightly on cookie pan, about two inches apart. If you wish strategically place a few choc chips on each mound. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 11 minutes or until edges and top are set. Don’t overtake as cookies firm up as they cool. Cool on rack. Can be kept in airtight container for a week and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

I hope you will try this recipe. You can make it gluten free by using gluten free flour like oat flour. It may change the consistency but they will be amazing!Happy baking, my friends.

As I close this post I want to focus on positive thinking and faith. If you are going through troubles right now, please remember turning your thoughts ( and praying too if you practice that) to positive and uplifting ones, it will help. When I experienced health troubles for a few months I prayed for strength but acceptance as well. Any bad experience in your life is meant for a lesson. It’s power can build you up, to a stronger person with a new appreciation of all the wonders in life. Have faith that crooked roads lead to beautiful peaceful pastures! 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😘

Highlights of the Year in Photos

As another year closes and I excitedly look forward to a new year, I think it’s imperative to briefly look back on where I’ve traveled ( spiritually not just physically). For in order to know where you are going, you must dwell and learn from the paths you’ve tread on . Don’t you think? This past year held fun new places we explored as well as a few surprises in the mix. I also grew more spiritually and my self esteem boosted as I maneuvered through the year. I invested in myself a little bit more and I think it shows.

In January Branden’s girlfriend Jojo came to visit and we all made our own pizza!

I learned that planting inside in dark New Hampshire isn’t a good idea starting in February! Bahaha!

In April Tom and I visited Las Vegas and stayed at Harrah’s a few nights. We explored the strip and rented a convertible to explore Hoover Dam. It was a magical trip for me and I appreciate that Tom humored me by going. It was my way of welcoming and celebrating my 50th birthday!

In May mom and I traveled to Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas to see my nephew Spencer graduate from TCU. It was a wonderful trip with family!

My dad gifted me a greenhouse in the spring and I was fortunate enough to use it the whole growing season.

My daughter in law Lexy and I attended a beautiful bridal shower for my niece.

In June I hosted my own birthday party. It was filled with friends, family, music and laughter.

My paternal cousins and I met one afternoon to eat yummy food and connect. We all looked at old photos of our dads and moms. It was lovely and I hope we do it every year!

Over the summer my handy husband Tom built a gorgeous deck off of our kitchen. It’s a magical place to be! I can’t wait for spring and nice weather to sit out there again!

My mother in law Theo came to stay over the summer. Despite a nasty fall and visit to the local emergency room, we made the best of it. My sister in law Bev stayed with us during this time. We had a lovely dinner with my nieces Michele and Sheryl and Sheryl’s new husband John. We all sat on the deck and magically a Pilated woodpecker flew in a nearby tree and blessed us.

Michele and Sheryl
My sister in law Bev and my mother in law Theo
John, Bev, myself, Sheryl, Michele and Theo
Theo and I

2019, what a year it was! I started feeling better about myself and investing in my weight and health even more. I exercised five to six days a week, drank more water and ate healthy portions. I did experience a health scare for several months with bladder troubles. After an ultrasound, several pelvic exams and a cat- scan nothing showed anything abnormal despite the painful symptoms I was having. My urologist said it could be institial cysitis, a condition that certain foods irritate the bladder and cause pain and urgency. I have adjusted my diet a bit and started taking an antihistimine. It’s 100 percent better! Boy did I take my health for granted! Never again! This trial brought me closer to God and his peace. He carried me through and I am eternally grateful for that!

I wish you happy and peaceful moments in the new year! Cherish your family, friends and your good health.

All My Best,

Mary ❤️🎊

Almond Butter Brownies, Gluten Free, Delicious!

This is my sweet sister- in- law Bev’s almond butter brownies. She found the recipe online somewhere and made these for our family Thanksgiving dinner. They are gluten free and healthy, using maple syrup instead of sugar but most importantly they are delicious! Even both my sons gobbled them up, convincing me to bake them for Christmas!

You will need:

  • 1/4 c. and 2 Tbls. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. Soft almond butter
  • 1/2 c. and 3 Tbls. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats crushed or I used 1/3 c. Oat flour. You can use almond flour instead if you wish
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease or line a 8 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes and let cool for an hour. Can be refrigerated for up to a week. Don’t overcook. These are soft, rich in flavor and fudgy. Delicious!

An up close photo of the last brownie!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕

Cookie Day 2019

A few years ago

Every year my mom, sister and niece gather with me to celebrate the holidays. Our true intention is to create a way to connect over a busy few weeks of the holidays. We soak it all in in one Saturday afternoon, gazing at our Christmas tree and decorations, toasting to our kinship and time together and lastly but not least, we bake cookies.

In previous years we have all brought ingredients to mix and bake one type of cookie. I’ve made peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate crinkles and cherry chocolate cookies in the past. Now that we’ve mastered this tradition we have gotten smarter. The three of us mix the dough ahead and bring to bake them together. This saves time and space, for four busy bakers in one kitchen can get confusing.

The last several years us girls held cookie day at my house. This year we had it at my sister’s new home about 45 minutes north of me. My mom met me at my house with all her goodies and we packed my car for the ride.

This year’s cookie day toast

My niece Ella Kate rolled out sugar cookies playfully while we listened to Christmas classics such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. We rolled and we laughed. We taste tested and reminisced of days of old when we were little girls at Christmas. My mom made coconut macaroons with a new twist, a plopped Hershey’s chocolate kiss on top. I made peanut butter blossoms with kisses. I designated Ella as my helper to unwrap all the kisses so that when the cookies were done we could quickly press them on each treat. One year I messed up by not preparing them ahead and in the time it took to unwrap them, the cookies started to cool and the kisses didn’t melt and stick. Take my advice, do the prep ahead of unwrapping so once the cookies come out of the oven, the kisses are ready!

We were all having such a good time baking, decorating and talking, I forgot that I had another bowl of chocolate kisses and started using my mom’s. The bowl was hidden among other plates and bowls and I discovered them after I used my mom’s! I easily get side tracked in a hoopla of fun but live and learn! No harm done.

While I’m talking about Christmas cookies I wish to share an awesome yummy cookie recipe I found on tv. For a few weeks I was hooked on watching Giada’s Holiday Handbook, watching her craft holiday treats for her family and friends. I jotted down a few recipes including her Peppermint Sandwich Cookies, little light whoopie pie like cookies with a peppermint filling inside. I made them for my family and co- workers and they were a hit!

  • Giada’s Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

You will need:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 oz melted bittersweet chocolate ( cooled a bit)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. Nonfat yogurt or Greek yogurt, I used nonfat
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

For peppermint frosting:

  • 2 sticks ( 1 c ) softened butter
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • dash salt
  • 8-10 peppermint patty candies chopped

Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix wet ingredients. Gradually fold in dry ingredients to the wet mixture. It will resemble cake batter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 F. Drop tablespoonfuls if dough, five across and 3 down on a standard baking sheet. Bake about 9 minutes.

Cool on rack. Meanwhile mix frosting together. Once cookies are cool, add filling on one cookie and sandwich with another. Can be refrigerated or kept in a sealed plastic container.

You can freeze any leftover frosting for another time. I tried it and it was delicious once I thawed it out.

Serve with pride and expect to have an empty serving platter after. They are delicious!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul😘