Saturday, December 29, 2012

Irish Cream Cookies

Third time's the charm!  Tah-dah!  Our 2012 Christmas Cookie!
I found this recipe in the Penzey's Spices Christmas/Holidays catalog on page 23, "Irish Cream Delights"   I made a few, hopefully healthy, changes to the original recipe.


1/4 cup butter, softened (I used unsalted and lopped off a tablespoon)
1/4 cup shortening (I didn't fill it all the way)
1 cup sugar (again, not a full cup)
1 tablespoon Irish cream liqueur (OK, glug, glug!) +
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour

3 cups powdered sugar
Baileys Coffee Creamer, non alcoholic (and fat-free!)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, combine the butter and shortening and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add the sugar, the Baileys, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt and beat until combined, scraping often.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.  Stir in the flour.
OK, here's where I went off the recipe instruction grid again - unless you chill the dough first, rolling into balls at this point is a bit messy and sticky.  I just plopped teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool.

Frosting:  2 tablespoons or glugs as needed, Irish cream liqueur, 3 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons
Baileys Non-Alcoholic Coffee Creamer   Mix until combined and smooth.  Drizzle on cooled cookies
Sprinkle with sparkly sugar.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I found this handmade card at High Tide Gallery in St. Augustine, Florida.  It's called "Bouquet" and the artist is Deane Kellogg.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Tea Time

Lemur tea!
This week - Trader Joe's Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea

Cost:  Only $1.99!
Number of teabags:  20
Caffeine:  Yes
Type of tea:   Black
Steeping time:  5 minutes
Add ins:  Coffee Mate's Natural Bliss Low Fat Vanilla (20 calories, 3 carbs!)
Tea fragrance: Vanilla with a slight hint of cinnamon
Ingredients:   Black tea, natural vanilla and other natural flavors, cinnamon
Opinion:  Endorsed by lemurs.  And by me.  Grab this while you can.  It tastes great by itself and even wonderful-er and even more vanilla-y with the Natural Bliss.  No extra sugar needed.   I bet even after the holidays and cooler weather, this would be interesting iced, too.  (There is also a companion tea with a polar bear on the box, Candy Cane Green Tea, but that was not bought nor rated because it had citrus/orange in it.)
Rating: 4

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Upcoming Jo Ann's Pattern Sales

New Year's Sale - December 30/January 5 

50% off Notions Wall
50% off entire stock of thread
99 cent McCall's
$3.99 Vogue

Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa, Stitched

I embroidered this tea towel back in 1995!  (It took longer to outline than it did to cross-stitch.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Flowers/Berries

Evergreen Weeping Yaupon

Welcome to the First Day of Winter - Texas Style!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Tea Time - CBTL Holiday Trio Teas

This week, three of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's holiday tea canisters!
Winter Fruit Tea, Caramel Cream Rooibos and Apple Cider Tea

Cost:   $3.95 each at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf retail stores and online.
Number of teabags:  5
Caffeine:  Winter Fruit -Yes (a little)
Caramel Cream - No, Apple Cider -Yes
Type of tea:   Winter Fruit - Green, Caramel Cream - Rooibos/Red/Herbal, Apple Cider - Ceylon Black
Steeping time:  3, 7, 5 minutes
Add ins:  All taste great with the Natural Bliss, though the Apple Cider can stand alone.  But with the Natural Bliss, it tastes like apple pie a la mode!
Tea fragrance:  Winter Fruit - pomegranate/fruity, Caramel Cream - caramels, vanilla, honey, Apple Cider - apples and ginger
Ingredients:  Winter Fruit - Taiwan green tea, CARROTS (!), pomegranate flower and natural flavors, Caramel Cream - South African rooibos, natural caramel essences, marigold flower, Apple Cider - Ceylon black tea, apple bits, tea blossoms and natural flavors
Opinion:  Winter Fruit - To be honest, y'all knew I picked up this one because of the carrots, right?!  But surprisingly, you really don't taste carrots.  It brewed very, very lightly, almost to the point, did I forget to put the teabag in the Keurig holder.  Even after keeping the tea bag in an extra 2 minutes it stayed pale, but still yummy.  Caramel Cream - Oh my goodness, they need to make the larger quantity size of this!!  You would swear you have a melted cup of caramels.  So good!!  Apple Cider - Not bad. I thought for sure this would come out on top.  It's still buyable for a nice change of taste pace.  And the fact it is a black tea instead of an herbal wins points.
Rating:  Winter Fruit - 4, Caramel Cream - 5+, Apple Cider - 3.25

Monday, December 17, 2012

Love is Life

I love Target's special co-op promotions (Shall we revisit my infamous Liberty of London craziness?!)    Not all are worth paying full freight, often with patience you can make your score much better on markdown.
But this - I loved as soon as I saw it.  And at $49, still cheaper by far than Lululemon.

And besides, I'm a bit hacked at Lululemon for not normal-sizing their clothes.  I give you the "No Limits Tank Top" which I have been coveting since it came out.  I'm tall, I would look great in this, but only going up to a Size 10?!  News flash -- Real people have some boobage, and practice yoga, and are over 40.  I give you and go to Lucy instead.   And keep the change from the $64 you would have spent.  Still, when I get the emails with the new colors, and still I keep sending them emails asking for a Size 12. . .
Anyways, let's go back to the love here.   I adore Diane Von Furstenberg and all she stands for.
And standing on this mat, measuring 72" x 24", it is super cushy and pretty and vibrant and all things good.  I love the cool carry wrap and straps, the graphic black and white design accented by the red chakra base --Let Target and this mat connect our Earth energies for good and empowerment.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

All Who Wander. . .

You can lose yourself in the things you love.

You can find yourself there, too.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Vera Bradley Christmas!

After picking up my daughter from college yesterday, we stopped at the Vera Bradley Outlet Store in San Marcos - - - 
EVERYTHING is 50% off this weekend!    

The "Tea Garden" print is one of my favorites and when I entered the store, I saw this and thought, "What a cool box!"   
Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found three different ornaments!   

Suggested retail price was $32. . .I got these for $9.99!  They are so pretty, I may just leave them up all year hanging from my sewing studio valance.  

Love the Mother of Pearl Vera Bradley button, too!

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Pistachio Shortbread Cookie all decked out!
From the last issue (December 2012) of Everyday Food, page 102.

The original recipe (Pistachio-Shortbread Sandwich Cookies) was a sandwich cookie with strawberry jam filling.  

For starters, I'm allergic to strawberries and secondly, it is much more fun and diet-friendly to eat these one at a time. and thirdly, the thinnest I could slice these were 3/8" instead of 1/4".  Yeah, diet-friendly indeed.  So I sprinkled some pretty sparkly sanding sugar on top and then baked.  (Did she say diet friendly?)  Oh well, I thought the pistachio green gave it all a Christmas holiday look -- and it made for a nice complement to all those other overly-sweet treats!   Bonus this makes a great shortbread cookie even by itself.  (and sugar sprinkles for any color, any holiday, any occasion)


2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt*
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios*
1/3 cup strawberry jam*

In a food processor, process butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt until smooth. Add flour and pulse until a dough forms. Stir in pistachios. Shape dough into two 8-inch long logs*, tightly wrap in plastic, and freeze until firm, 30 minutes (or up to 1 month).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Cut dough* into 1/4-inch slices and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set and barely golden at edges, 10 to 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon jam on bottoms of half the cookies, then sandwich with remaining cookies.

Store in airtight containers, up to 1 week.
*I used the already-shelled pistachios from Costco.  They were a little bit salty.  You may want to skip the 1/2 teaspoon of salt or reduce to 1/4 teaspoon.
*I omitted the strawberry jam.  Next time if I can get the cookies thinner I may try raspberry or another jam.
*I actually divided the dough into four 5" logs, to help them freeze faster and to bake/make smaller portions.
*Let the dough soften a little or nuke in the microwave for 8-10 seconds.  It can be a little difficult to try and slice when frozen completely, especially when you encounter a whole pistachio.  I pieced a few back together.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Tea Time - Vanilla Chai!

Another two-fer today -- Zhena's Gypsy Tea Vanilla Chai and Twinings French Vanilla Chai

I LOVE my Williams-Sonoma snowflake glass mugs!

I found them at their outlet store in San Marcos, TX - $6.50 each
Worth the splurge -- Everything looks pretty and tastes great in them!
Cost:  Zhena's - $6.99 at Cost Plus World Market,
Twinings - $3.99 at Central Market
Number of teabags:  Zhena's - 22
Twinings - 20
Caffeine:  Yes
Type of tea:   Black
Steeping time:  5 minutes
Add ins:  Just a splash of Coffee Mate's Natural Bliss Sweet Cream.
Tea fragrance:  Zhena's - Cinnamon, ginger and sweet
Twinings - Cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom
Ingredients:  Zhena's - Assam black tea, cinnamon, licorice (!), natural cream flavor (!!), clove, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla bean.
Twinings - Black tea, natural chai, cinnamon & ginger flavors with other natural flavors, artificial vanilla flavor, cardamom, clove, vanilla pod powder
Opinion:  Zhena's - While this one has lots of interesting and organic  ingredients, the licorice and cream flavor, I found the taste a bit weaker and not a lot of vanilla kick I was expecting. Next go round, I doubled up and used two teabags.  Much better.  Oddly, the brewed color was also more amber and deeper, with just the one teabag.
Twinings - Despite the addition of cinnamon and ginger "flavors" and artificial vanilla flavor, this one eeked ahead of the Zhena's taste wise.  Perhaps the combo of the artificial vanilla flavor with the vanilla pod powder made the vanilla more detectable and "French"?
Rating:  Zhena's - 3 (dinged only because of having to go through the canister twice as fast.
Twinings - 3.75

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday Work In Progress

Nature abhors a vacuum, as does and goes my sewing room table!
As soon as one project is finished, it's wide open season for anything and everything to pile on.
New back up iron is now into play.  I checked the receipt from Costco and was surprised to see my other one lasted almost two years.  Whenever I find a good iron, I get another because sooner than later I will need a new one.  Even the best of them can only be used and dropped and knocked off the ironing table for so many times.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Cookie Exchange Party!

Are there some missing?!  A moment of panic when packing the cookies.  Next time count out before nibbling!

Tiger print goes with everything - even polka dots!
These were the cookies I made for this year's Cookie Exchange Party.

I actually made these for the first time last year (click here), but it was after last year's party.  When I saw the Hershey Candy Cane Kisses at Target this year and then the tiger poinsettias and polka dot take-out boxes at Michael's Thanksgiving Night sale . . I put two and two together and got seven dozen!  I thought the tiger stripes looked like the candy cane stripes!

I improved upon the recipe this year by upgrading the sugar - I used the sanding sugar from Central Market (India Tree brand in red) and Williams-Sonoma (green) and Wilton's snowflake and green/red jimmies mix.  Surprisingly I didn't use as much, as the sugar crystals are bigger.  You get more sparkle and jazz for about the same price.


1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses

In medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In large (to be covered) bowl, combine sugar and butter. At high speed, beat 2 minutes until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla, beat 2 minutes. Beat in flour mixture. Chill one hour or until dough is firm.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll dough in 1” balls and then roll in colored sugar, jimmies or confectioner's sugar.
Place 2” apart on cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes, switching racks at 5 minutes. Cookies should start to have cracks. Gently push a Kiss in the center and bake for an additional 2 minutes – watch carefully before the tip starts to brown. Cool and enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wednesday Work in Progress

Burda 5223
I know, you are thinking, poor thing, does she know what day it is?!
Yes, I do!  This is the result of my catch up and now start new projects of the Christmas gifting nature.  But I won't be able to take too many pictures because I don't want to spoil Christmas surprises.  A few hints, yes. That's all in good fun and motivation and anticipation (hopefully)!

But in the meantime, here is good ol' Burda 5223 - finished just in time for Hubby to wear as we get a few days and nights of cooler weather this week.

Thursday Tea Time - Special Monday Edition

This week - The Spice & Tea Exchange Limited Edition Pumpkin Caramel

I am jumping the post with this because 1) it is limited edition and 2) it is so good! and 3) Why wait until Thursday if you can order it now and then have it sooner?!
And I have so many great Winter/seasonal teas waiting to be reviewed!  "Teas the Season" -- haha! I like that phrase!

Cost:  $5.89 online, $5 (3/$15) at the St. Augustine, Florida Spice & Tea Exchange store
Number of teabags:  1 ounce
Caffeine:  Yes
Type of tea:   Black
Steeping time:  5 minutes
Add ins:  Just a splash of Coffee Mate's Natural Bliss Sweet Cream.
Tea fragrance:  Caramel!!
Ingredients:  Black Tea, Cinnamon Chunks, Cloves, Cardamom, Natural Pumpkin and Caramel Flavors
Opinion:  If you can't get to St. Augustine or any of their other retail stores, order this online.  You only need 1 1/2 teaspoons in your filter teabag.  This was taken after the first one and I used two teaspoons.  The leaves really expanded!  I've already had three rounds of this and I've barely made a dent in the baggie.  (I've also re-used an earlier in the day tea bag with a little bit less of a new fresh one and couldn't tell the difference in strength or flavor.  This is good stuff!)   I would really call this more of a caramel tea.  I don't taste the pumpkin.  You can detect a spiciness but pumpkin?  No.  Just a mugful of caramel cream tea goodness.  And the advantage of a nice black tea caffeine buzz.
Rating:  4

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Granola

I was surprised to see Trader Joe's Country Pumpkin Spice Granola Cereal still in the store as of last week.  This is pretty good sprinkled over a cup of Greek yogurt for breakfast in the morning and quite filling.  I also was able to use only 1/3 cupful instead of the 2/3 cup serving size -- Thereby also cutting in half  the calories (210), total fat (7g), saturated fat (2.5g),  sodium (15mg), total carbohydrate (34g), fiber (4g), sugar (13g) and protein (5g). And you can't beat the price - $2.49!    Only drawback I found with it, it was a little bit heavy on the nutmeg.  I'm not a huge fan of nutmeg*, but I liked all the other goodies it had, such as whole rolled oats, milled can sugar, whole rolled wheat, raisins, coconut, dried pumpkin, honey, puffed corn, cinnamon, nutmeg (!), ginger, allspice, cardamom, fenugreek and fennel.

*Maybe it was the fenugreek and fennel?!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Thursday Tea Time

This week:  Zhena's Gypsy Tea - Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Apple

Cost:  $8.99 at Kroger
Number of teabags:  22
Caffeine:  No
Type of tea:   Herbal/Rooibos
Steeping time:  5 minutes
Add ins:  Natural Bliss Sweet Cream
Teabag fragrance:  Pumpkin Spice - Cinnamon/fruity
Caramel Apple - Apples and cinnamon, definitely
Ingredients:  Pumpkin Spice - Rooibos, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla and natural flavors
Caramel Apple - Rooibos, cloves, cinnamon, natural flavors
Opinion:   This was Pumpkin Spice's one to lose.  I actually would have thought quite the opposite.  I preferred the Caramel Apple over the Pumpkin Spice.  Maybe because the Twinings Pumpkin Spice Chai was in the stratosphere, none have compared.  You could taste the spice, but just barely, only if you used two tea bags, the pumpkin.  So if you are looking for a warming spice tea, you would probably like this.

The Caramel Apple was very good - you could definitely detect the caramel and apple flavors.  The Twinings Spiced Apple Chai still wins out for a great apple tea.  But this with a splash of milk is a nice after dinner treat (no caffeine) or anytime you want a little something sweet.
Rating:  Pumpkin Spice - 2 (deducting only because of lack of pumpkin flavor), Caramel Apple - 3.5

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A Very Martha Christmas

Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery wrapping supplies from Staples in Austin, Texas.  And I finally found the red and white baker's string at The Container Store. A cone spool of 1,000 yards was $8.    Bonus find -- the roll of double row of rhinestone sparkle trim!
Some of my bounty from Michael's.  I'm thinking about putting some of the snowflakes on my car windows! Those sparkly glitter paints are Multi-Surface Peridot, and Mother of Pearl and Copper Glass Paint.  I am loving that shade of green - it is everywhere this year as a fresh take on a nice Christmas green.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

New Obsession - Dunkin Donuts Peppermint Mocha

I'm not a coffee drinker, but I will get and enjoy the Starbucks Peppermint Mochas, sigh -albeit in the smallest size.

On a whim heading out of St. Augustine last week, we saw a Dunkin' Donuts and a display of their Limited Edition Peppermint Mocha Keurig K-Cups.  So I bought a box to try at home and figured if I didn't like it, off it would go to hubby's workplace.  Well, I did like love it!   (Even better than Starbucks)
And bonus I can control the carbs/sugar by just using a little bit of skim milk, or a splash of CoffeeMate Natural Bliss Sweet Cream.   Saving money and calories and being able to enjoy this at home and not flip out my nutritionist* over the holidays -- Win-win!
(*Though I did find those white chocolate peppermint coated snowflake shaped pretzels at Costco again this year...shh!)

However, there aren't a lot of Dunkin Donuts in Texas.  While in Austin over the weekend, I Googled Dunkin and there was one store.  I called and they said they had three boxes left and offered to set them aside for me.  Sorry, Austin!  Hopefully they will restock and you will be able to get more, too.  And I shall return to the ATX in a few weeks to pick up my daughter for Christmas break and cross fingers, a few more boxes of Peppermint Mocha, also!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Christmas Holiday Music 2012

In addition to adding to my "Oh Holy Night" iTunes/iPod playlist (How many versions am I up to now?!  At least 16.  It's my favorite Christmas carol), here are this year's additions to my Christmas holiday music collection, so far.   "A Very She & Him Christmas", Christina Perri "A Very Merry Perri Christmas", Yanni "Winter Light" and Colbie Caillat "Christmas in the Sand".    I heard Colbie Caillat's "Mistletoe" in the store last week (thank you, Shazam app!) and was delighted to find it and a CD from her.  What a talented and beautiful voice!
Please, no jokes about Yanni - I love to skate/fly around the rink to his "Song For Antartica"