Friday, December 15, 2017

What I'm Reading This Week #50

Well, that number means we're down to the last two full weeks of the year.  Sigh.  We've been lucky enough to get a few bits of flurries here but I have to say our hearts are really aching to go on those trails at Trapp Lodge after seeing their snow this week.  12 inches!  Waaaaahhhhh!

Enough of my snow envy, let's get to...

A Holiday Visit to Stowe, Vermont  (Okay, so maybe we'll dwell on my snow envy a little.  Our countdown to next year begins now!)

People In Canada Are Doing Yoga with Bunnies  (Yeah and probably peeling "milk duds" off of their feet when it's over)

Get Rid of Neck Pain With These Physical-Therapist Approved Moves  (I can vouch for the chin tucks)

Cover Collection: The Best Santas Ever  (SEP has some of the most iconic Santas ever.  Love!)

Psychologists Explain The Benefits Of Baking For Other People  (Yep, this is me.  I'm baking today!)

Why We Get Depressed At The Holidays, And How To Deal  (I totally relate to some of these particularly the doing too much part.  I may have to re-evaluate.)

Why Some Of Us Dread Opening Gifts In Front Of Other People  (I think I'm pretty good about faking it without going overboard if someone goes rogue.  Just smile and in your head say "note to self: look up nearest Goodwill location.")

11 Brilliant Ways Therapists Control Their Holiday Stress  (Excellent tips this time of year!)

23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert  (Well, that settles it once and for all.  Total introvert)

As you can see by the links, mental health has been piquing my interest more.  I am in the midst of "that time" coupled with walking the edge of burnout/panic since Christmas is basically next weekend and I haven't even thought about what I'm making for Christmas Eve, dealing with a binge monster that is trying to wreck me for emotional eating.  I've won some battles and I've lost some.  Nothing over the top but I feel like that could change any moment.  Friggin' cycle man.  (On all fronts)

This weekend I'm dropping off cookies to my friend who will have 73 individual treats, which he refuses to share with his S.O.  Literally.  Like he will put a bear trap around them which bolsters my baking confidence but won't win him any participation ribbons for sharing.  We have a Christmas gathering, one that we look forward to so I hope all goes well there.  The Mr is looking forward to seeing Star Wars, of course and I'm looking forward to him taking my cousin as has been their tradition so I don't have to go.  I know he will buy it and I will have to sit through it, I don't need to pay theater money for a movie I wouldn't personally watch for free.

What are you getting into this weekend?

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sharing our Christmas cheer

Since I've asked you to share your Christmas cheer (deadline is Sunday), I thought I'd share ours.

Our tree hasn't changed in 20 years so it always looks the same but we like it that way.

We are suckers for the red, white and green lights and I can get lost just staring at them with the lights off.

I know they are making reproductions of ceramic trees now but I was more than happy to get this antique at a little shop because I'm all about authenticity.  The mantel is pretty traditional with a kind of woodland feel complete with fresh greens and decorative snowshoes.  I took vintage bulbs and painted them with clear glitter and string them on bakers twine and of course, red and white stockings.

The armoire is my woodland vintage feel with birch, deer, bottlebrush tree, Currier and Ives two-horse open sleigh tray, some vintage ornaments in a lantern and of course, Grandma's gumdrop tree.

We had two new additions this year.  One of them was this small tree.  A friend of mine was closing his store and had this small tree they used in their window display.  I thought it would be the perfect size for holding our travel ornaments.

I don't like to put them on our main tree because I like a uniform look but this lets us display our travel ornaments in their own way and I put it on a lazy susan to be able to spin it...gently.

The second new addition is these vintage snowshoes from Vermont I got on eBay.  They weren't too expensive in comparison to some I've seen and I really wanted a pair.  I sewed some little white balls onto these mittens I bought probably 15 years ago to use as silverware holders.  I tacked them together and made a pine cone cluster to hang off of it.

I just love the cozy feel it greets you with.

I bought this tree shelf last year from Pottery Barn kids pretty close to Christmas since it went on sale for almost 50% off.  I filled it with some vintage spice jars I gussied up and little odds and ends like a vintage songbook, ski and snowshoe ornaments and a baby snowman mug I had no idea what to do with but fits in nicely and a little jar of Christmas Nougats.

Once again, Sunday (17th) is the cut off to share a picture of your Christmas/holiday decor to be featured in a post next week.  You can either Facebook message me or send an email to mrs{at}successalongtheweigh{dot}com.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Food Review: Halo Top Gingerbread House

I love gingerbread so you can imagine when I heard Halo Top was doing a gingerbread house flavor for the season that I was all over it.  Actually, the only place that tends to carry the seasonal flavors is this little health food store close to our house and we thought they didn't have it.  Then the Mr. spotted a little cooler up front by the register and when I saw it, I yelled "they have it" and whipped the lid back (which I thought would be heavier) and it echoed through the store.  If the Mr could've shrunk any smaller, he would have.

So let's dive in.

Here's the nutritional info:

The reveal shows us a nice vanilla ice cream with bits of gingerbread.

But how does it taste?

I liked it though I do wish it had a slightly more gingerbread taste.  The vanilla had a very slight eggnog taste to me but it could've been a spice like cardamom or nutmeg.  It had a nice, creamy texture with little bursts of gingerbread.  I think if I were going to get it again, I would do it with the intent of a gingerbread milkshake and maybe add 1/4 tsp of cloves and 1 tbsp of molasses so I would get that punch I was looking for.  However, if you have gingerbread made already, this would make amazing fillings for gingerbread ice cream sandwiches since Kemps cruelly yanked away the Mr and me's favorite gingerbread ice cream sandwiches a few years ago.

Are you a gingerbread fan?

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Releasing the entertainer

I may have told you guys this before but indulge me, if you will.  My grandpa's second wife left quite the impression on how I turned out on the entertaining front.  She loved to entertain and I mean loved it.  She would have these huge spreads in her big U shaped kitchen with every available space covered with elaborate dishes, cake plates of treats and delectable sides.  When you come from a family of somewhat picky eaters, this dazzles you in a way that is bound to stick with you.  I knew when I grew up, I wanted to be that way.  I wanted to pay attention to presentation and make fancy pants dishes.  Her chicken cordon bleu was the first time I had it and I loved it so much we had it at our wedding.  That marriage ended after almost 10 years and I never saw her again but her mark had been made on me.

As an adult, it's been a little frustrating that my pension for culinary flair can't be exercised more often.  The Mr benefits of course, and it's not unusual for me to come up from our workout at 7:00pm and sear a pepper crusted sirloin with a twice baked potato or make mango glazed tuna over barley and red rice with vegetable melange.  Don't get me wrong, sometimes we just have a chicken quesadilla and Brussels sprouts.  But many of you comment on Facebook (when I remember to post dinner pics) about how pretty my presentation is.  Most of the time, it's nothing more than a crumble of asiago or cut scallions but still, it makes a difference.  Sometimes when I have family over for what is a normal dinner for us, I'll get: "What is this "fancy" lettuce??"  Um, it's spinach and arugula.  "What's in this?...*sniff*"  Just eat it!  I know it doesn't come from a box or a chain restaurant but I assure you it's good.  They get scared because we eat stuff like hummus and quinoa and what if I make them eat (delicious) "weird" things?  So to guard my thin skin, I rarely invite people over anymore that I know may make me feel like I'm serving them head cheese.  The entertainer in me feels like she's in a straight jacket bouncing off the walls.  It stinks to want to buy everything in Sur La Table but know that no one is going to see those serving platters.  (I know Mr...we don't have room for them anyway.)

I love making an 'experience' for people when they come over.  I've done Christmas afternoon teas when a friend was in town and a healthy afternoon tea for a friend who is in town but is awed by my entertaining skills because she doesn't have time to cook herself.  Sadly I only get to see her maybe once a year.  I got to cook for a friend and his girlfriend that came in from Chicago a few months ago and made Croque Madame, sweet potato hash with bacon date jam and pumpkin scones.

(Damn that was good)

So unless I've got people taking vacations to my neck of the woods once or twice every other year, that entertainer takes what she can get.  I told you that to tell you this.

You all know how soul-sucking the holidays are for me since Grandma's diagnosis.  (Though Thanksgiving was quite nice.  I'll take more of those, please.)  I decided that I'd invite my mom and aunt over for an 'experience.'  I made up a little invitation for "cookies, cocoa, and Christmas lights" and asked if they were available and dinner would be provided.  Now if my mama is a somewhat picky eater, my aunt is twice as picky.  Plan for your audience.  I knew while spinach and arugula would get maybe eaten by mom that the aunt would pass, so I got romaine which I'm fine with and made a main dish that I knew they'd probably both like.

I set up a hot cocoa bar with all the fixins so we could make hot chocolate...

To be more specific, truffle hot chocolate.

and load up on cookies but made different kinds than the ones I knew we'd OD on in the next week or two.

These aren't so pretty but taste damn good.

The idea was we would get our hot chocolate and cookies, pile into the car to go look at Christmas lights.  Mom and I used to do that when I was a kid and the Mr and I usually try to do that once a season if not more because I still ooh and ahh like I'm 5 years old.

Unfortunately, we got sucked into a time warp and there was no time for Christmas lights with the four of us.  Three and a half hours flew by in a flash but there was gabbing and good eats (well, to us at least.  I don't know how you don't like basically the baked version of fried macaroni and cheese but I didn't get the feeling they liked it and mom snubbed the salad feigning she was saving room.  Mmm hmm) so should I decide to do it again, dinner won't likely be involved.  But they loved the little parting gifts I gave them.  I did a few homemade Christmas crackers with stuff like lip balm from TJ's, lipstick, purse-sized hand lotion and a few little candies.  Then the stuff that wouldn't fit in the cracker was in a little bag which was a pashmina and spruce candle which is mild enough for even my sniffer so I knew it should be okay.  They said they felt so special and how nice it was to do something different so, in the end, I guess mission accomplished.  It was nice to get them outside the normal setting and just enjoy the evening. 

The Mr and I didn't miss out on the Christmas lights though.  When they left, we went out and looked at Christmas lights ourselves.  We loaded up the cookies I made for the purpose and another cup of hot cocoa (which we probably should've skipped, we're not used to that rich milk and were rather symphonic later) and spent over an hour driving around.  This one is always our favorite.

Do you like to entertain?  Who was the person who inspired you to if you do?

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Monday, December 11, 2017

When Winging It Paid Off

Despite having basically 3 months to plan our long weekend in the Detroit area, I didn't.  I was too busy and I think I sat down two days before at midnight and planned the addresses of places I knew were close to the hotel area in Dearborn.  I knew I wanted to see downtown Detroit but no time to really research due to my schedule.  So the morning of Greenfield Nights, I pulled up "things to do in Detroit" and the Eastern Market came up as a favorite.  I'm always down for a good market but having never been to Detroit or knowing the area, we said we'd scope it out first to see if we were going to have to wander aimlessly to find parking, if it was a madhouse, etc. 

It is one of the oldest markets in the United States (est. 1891) and it has a massive layout.

If you want a quick idea of what they're about, click here.

We hit the first weekend in December so the holiday vendors were out in full force.  The poinsettias at this vendor were absolutely stunning and reasonably priced.

Of course, you had lots of wreaths, greens and even a tree lot out back where many people were getting their trees for the season.

I took a particular interest in the Charlie Brown trees and this guy in between the sheds was selling ones with birch bases which I fell in love with.  Or you could buy and plant a live one that would stay Charlie Brown size for a year or two.

We shared some mulled cider as we walked and I got the warm squishees inside from all of the holiday spirit.  Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and ready to make merry.  There are tons of vendors for fresh produce, baked goods, gifts, and locally sourced items.

Kid Rock Kitchen Commons is relatively new and it's a community kitchen where events can be held.

There are some great food trucks on site as well and the smells wafting from all of them make you wish you had three stomachs like a cow.

We got a mini chess pie from a local bakery because...chess pie.  But I also had to go back for that Charlie Brown tree to sit on our porch.

Ain't that birch purty!?  The guy said he has repeat customers every year who said they last until anywhere between January and March which is pretty darn good considering you can't really water them.

Honestly, I would make a return trip to Detroit for this market alone and at holiday time it really seems to shine.  Parking was $5 in the lots closest to it, there's an ATM on site and be ready because some vendors are cash only.  The market is year round so if you're going to be within 1-2 hours away, I highly recommend taking a gander.  Here is the market schedule so you can plan your trip and some FAQ's.

Have you ever been to Eastern Market?  What's the best indoor/outdoor market you've been to?

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Friday, December 8, 2017

What I'm Reading This Week #49

Happy Friday all!  I can't believe it's the 2nd weekend in December!  No more freebies for us on the weekend front as I'm sure is the same with a lot of you.   I didn't have a chance to read too much this week so excuse the randomness of the links.

Now, let's dive right into:

The Age When People Feel Most Confident Is Way Older Than You Think  (We're definitely feeling that 9.2%.  I'd actually say closer to 33.8%)

8 Easy Ways to Up Your Entertaining Game  (I had to crack up at #6.  Do you know how hard it is to make "casually dropping a throw" on a chair or couch look?  I've tried and failed.)

20 Ways to Beat Post-Holiday Weight Gain  (There's part of me that wants to wire my mouth shut but I'm pretty sure I'd just puree cookies with egg nog ice cream and sip it anyway so I'm saving ice cream calories.)

A timeless debate: how do you pronounce caramel?  (I've always said "car-muhl" because cara-mel sounds like you're trying too hard to my ears.  LOL  I'm guessing it's more of a regional thing though.)

The Art of the Post: The Rockwell Cover that Led to a Marriage  (What a sweet backstory!)

Hollywood’s New Maestros: The Rock Stars Who Are Composing Film Scores  (Awesome read for those who grew up in the 80's!)

Your Weekly Checkup: How Much Water Should I Drink?  (I think my happy spot is actually my 40 ounce bottle along with my mug of morning/evening tea and whatever water comes from my garden at lunch time)

Hop on the Meal Train (This is perfect for new moms, those who are ill or have a family member recently passed and need one less thing to worry about.)

The Progression of Alzheimer's Through My Mom's Crocheting  (Try not to reduce to a heap when you see the physical evidence of what this horrid disease does to a person's mind.  She mentions her mom grinding her teeth incessantly.  Grandma has gotten to this stage and the sound has been compared to her "chewing a bag of rocks."  No dental devices are accepted by her but some anti-anxiety meds they gave her seemed to have taken care of the issue in case anyone else experiences this.)

This Woman's Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game Wins the Holidays  (In case you're looking to 1) get your spouse to watch the movies with you and 2) make sure you're both blitzed out of your friggin' minds within 20 minutes and comatose by the end which you will undoubtedly miss!)

It's our last semi-free weekend of the season.  I decided to invite my mom and aunt over for dinner and to go out looking at Christmas lights.  I wanted to take them out of the usual setting and actually do something fun and merry.  I'm not going to promise to do it every year but while I was feeling the spirit, I figure I'd better strike and they need the break.  The Mr's co-workers dad passed so I'll be spending some time making her a few meals so she doesn't have to worry about it.  I've already got a batch of chicken and rosemary dumplings made and frozen and will probably make either meatloaf and/or spaghetti.  Comfort food shall reign.

Oh and I'll need any Christmas decor submissions by December 17th at the very latest.  Facebook message me or email:  mrs(at)successalongtheweigh(dot)com.

What are you guys doing this weekend?

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Our Old Timey Adventure

When I was looking for places to relive that old fashioned Christmas, Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan came up in a search.  I gave their website a peep and it looked like just the ticket.  I saw they start selling tickets in mid-September so I made sure I hopped on it the day they went on sale since I figured the day we wanted to go was probably one of their busiest days.  I was right.  That place was jam packed to the gills with families, cranky bebes, and people adorned in lights and glow in the dark swords that would both be burnt out by night's end.

When we finally got through the line, we decided to follow the posse of carolers on a mission.

Because it's at the Henry Ford Museum, you are able to hop a ride in an old Model T around the block.  You must watch out for them though because people of a certain age might know what an old time horn sounds like but those born after 1995 may not and therefore run the possibility of becoming a hood ornament if they're not careful.

The city hall (I think) boasted the best set of carolers which explains why they had the best amp system.

It was supermoon weekend so we had some assistance from the heavens to light the way.

I'll be honest, without it, we probably would've been a little disappointed.  It was hard enough to see the attractions in the village unless you were right up on something so if there'd been a new moon, we might've been groping in the dark.

The streets are lined with lanterns which are nice but don't give off much guiding light.  The horses seemed to like them though.

Some of the homes in the village had demonstrations and if you were up to showing off your muscles, they'd put you to work!

(Dude is putting his weight into it!  Get it, sir!)

On Maple Street you could choose to walk the village to see Santa on his balcony or barrel past him in a carriage ride that took corners a wee fast whilst belting out Christmas carols as they zoomed by.

At the end of the street, booming music was beckoning us to come close and we stumbled upon these lads and lasses.

They were excellent and the little house next to it had a nice warm fireplace to heat us up for a few minutes before moving on to the next attraction.

I am a friggin' Cotswold NUT and this home was actually too beautiful for me to want to go inside.  I told the Mr my heart couldn't take it, I would flop on the floor and chain myself to the furniture.

He assured me we should go in and just as I suspected, I fell in love immediately.  A Christmas radio broadcast featuring Judy Garland and other performers of the day was playing, a sweet little tree by the window, a spiral staircase and beamed ceilings.

I wanted to push everyone out and pay them to let me stay the night.  I heard a heater coming on so I knew I'd be fine.  Seriously, I love that place and just like Henry Ford, I would've paid to have it labeled brick by brick, moved from England and reassembled on an idyllic plot of land.  They actually do afternoon teas there in the summer so that may have sold me on a return trip.

More carolers were in the lit gazebo.

Some very calm, friendly horses stood patiently letting the Mr and I (and everyone else) pet them.

There were quite a few neat exhibits but they were so crowded and rushed, I felt like I didn't get to see much of them.

They have a cafeteria type restaurant by the church called A Taste of History and when we saw they had a turkey dinner, I was sold.  We had turkey, mashed potatoes, that awesome wet, old fashioned stuffing, a bit of plum pudding (YUM!) and a biscuit (left it in favor of pecan pie, not that it helped me feeling like Violet Beauregard pre-juicing)

That's Cool Whip by the way which made the Mr and I squee.  She wasn't shy with it either.

They had a carousel you could ride.

You could buy Christmas wreaths, kissing balls, garlands and greens for your home.

The line for the Model T rides never seemed to dissipate so we skipped it.

If you're into getting your ice skates on, they've got rentals for you to zoom around the rink.

The night ends with a fireworks display and it is truly one at a time.

They are LOUD too, they sound like cannons!

We both agreed that we likely didn't see all of it but also that we didn't know if we'd need to make it a return trip.  We might though at some point in the future, maybe for that afternoon tea.  There is just so much to see and not enough time to see it all in 3 1/2 hours without being rushed.  If you took the time to go to each house in the village, well, I honestly don't think you could.  So it might be a good idea to visit the village some other time to see that stuff but it's only open at night during December but 9:30am-5pm from mid-April to November.  If you do that, then it might be worth considering a membership because members get discounts on food and certain goods.

It was a great way to kick off making merry in December.  Of course, now I want to learn how to make plum pudding.

Have you ever been to Greenfield Village?  What event/attraction do you like to go to for the holiday season?

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