Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Step one

Christmas is over... time to move on to other things. Step one starts today. Who knows what the step will bring. Joy, sorrow, happiness, pain... all of the above. You can't predict what life holds for you. You can only accept what you are given and keep moving forward. Here we go...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Wonderland Cakes

Since I enjoy cooking and baking so much, I often receive gifts related to these hobbies for Christmas. And last year I received this cute little cake pan from my husband...

What a great way to make a winter wonderland cake centerpiece! I pulled out this pan today and got a box of cake mix out of the pantry. Yes, today was more about the prettiness of the dessert, not the actual baking. I made the mix according to the box directions, but I only baked the cakes for about 30 minutes. I made sure to grease and flour the molds to try and prevent the cakes from sticking. When they came out they looked like this...

I had enough batter to make two batches. In my two batches I only lost one chimney. Success! I cut of the bottoms of the cakes, so they could sit flat. The bottoms also make for a delicious snack. 

Next step was to top with powdered sugar. I decided sifting the sugar would be the best way to make it look like the houses were dusted with snow.

This is what it looked like when I put it on the table...

It still seemed like something was missing, so I removed the middle house and added a Christmas tree candle.

Pretty cute! And I got to use my cake stand again!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Have I mentioned I have a thing for pugs? I love their squished in faces and foldy skin. They slobber, snort, and snore. Our six year old pug can lick the air for hours at a time. And yesterday, we brought home our newest addition... Rocky!

We had been planning on adding a pug puppy to the family for quite a few months, but had a hard time finding one. But it seems as though the time we put in looking for one paid off... I mean look at that sweet little face. PJ, our six year old pug, is getting used to the puppy... he mainly wants to lick him. Rocky is a bit timid around our big oaf of a pug, but he doesn't seem to mind him too much.

Pugs and Kisses!

Hopefully these two puggys will become best friends.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday thoughts

It's December! I love so many things about the holidays... the Christmas tree, the decorations, the music, the desserts... I could go on and on. But it seems lately as though there is so much more focus on the shopping. I love to give gifts, and yes, I definitely also enjoy receiving them. But I must say sometimes it just feels like it is getting out of hand. Some of the holiday commercials have gotten so obnoxious. There is a TJMaxx commercial that I just can't stand!! People dancing around the mall telling everyone to go buy their sweaters somewhere else. Yuck. And the latest Lexus car commercials are just ridiculous. Because we are surrounded by the commercialism of the season, it is pretty easy to become cynical. All this running around to get everything done can make it very easy to miss all the wonderful,  small things that the holiday season can bring!

My favorite things that my husband and I have started this year is our simple advent calendar. I made it thinking it would just be a cute decoration, but it has become my favorite thing of the season. We decided to fill it with fun little holiday events to enjoy together. He fills the even days and I fill the odds. It is quite fun to to open the little door and see what each other has come up with for the day. Our ideas so far have included watching a holiday movie together by Christmas tree lights, enjoying peppermint hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, and my favorite so far... perform a random act of kindness for someone. Just a simple way to remember what the season is actually about. Remember to slow down and enjoy the little things.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Starbucks is part of my life... I admit it. Quite a few of my friends and family members could tell you that I am a grande non fat no whip mocha girl, except in the summer when I get the iced version. Stopping at Starbucks before I head off to work is part of my daily routine. I have tried to break the habit, or cut back, but I always find myself reverting back to my old ways. I am a huge fan of their red holiday cups and I also enjoy a pumpkin spice latte from time to time.

However, I have never tried their famous cranberry bliss bars. They have never called out to me, even though, I know they are a popular holiday treat. This past weekend we hosted our traditional tree decorating dinner, and I thought it might be fun to attempt to make my own bliss bars. (I'm very grateful that my family doesn't mind trying out my initial attempts at recipes!) So I found a recipe online and they came out really well... although I can't compare them to the original. I'm tempted to buy one from Starbucks this weekend just to compare. 


For the cake
1 cup butter, softnened
1 cup packed brown sugar
zest of one orange
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
1 & 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup of white chocolate chips

For the frosting
8oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp butter, softened
zest of one orange
1 tsp vanilla

dried cranberries
chopped pistacio nuts
chopped white chocolate bar

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and mix until well combined.

In separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add this to the butter mixture and mix until well combined.

Fold in the chopped dried cranberries and white chocolate chips... or as I like to call them, the bliss.

Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The batter will be very thick. After removing from the oven, allow the cake to cool.

(When I pulled the cake out of the oven the batter was, for lack of a better word, boiling. I have no idea why, and after a couple of minutes it was fine, and looked like a normal cake. I will be making this again soon to see if that happens again.)

To make the frosting mix together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and softned butter until well combined. Fold in the orange zest and vanilla. Frost the cake, and then top with more bliss!

Enjoy the bliss! These really did come out delicious. Thank you to my baking addiction.com for sharing the recipe!