Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!!
Fireworks over Tempe Town Lake
With Love From
Chandler, Arizona &

Joy, Peace & Prosperity in the New Year!
~Blessings, Janet

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hope Surrounds

Hope Surrounds

Newborn babe on Christmas Eve
Tiny infant, hope surrounds

Little girl angels in the Christmas pageant
Golden locks mingling with frosty white wings

Snow falling on the desert floor
Drifting, floating, softly landing

Living Nativity guided by a star
Breathtaking, awesome, quietly grand

Mom's glittery heirloom Christmas tree
Celebrating family, honoring history

Pampo's pineapple filled empanadas
Flaky, sticky, sweet remembering

Nana's delicious masa tamales
Savory, love-filled, heart songs

Christmas carols fill the air
Praising, exalting, arms outstretched

Champagne mimosas on Christmas morning
Delightful elixir, toasting the Son

Newborn babe on Christmas morn
Tiny infant, hope surrounds

~ Janet Ellis ~

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two Bite Tuesday ~ New Favorite Things

If you've been reading along for awhile you know that I love making mini desserts. You might have also noticed that often my minis are garnished with a swirl of whipped cream. It's the perfect topping for fresh strawberries or rich chocolate mousse.

First Bite ~ ISI Whipped Cream Dispenser

Meet my new best friend
{Squeal} Picked it up on sale at Shar's Kitchen Store in Gilbert yesterday...a little early Christmas present.
 And can create delicious flavored whipped creams that actually stand up and don't completely melt like a snowman in the desert.

This next little find I've actually been wanting for awhile. It's just one of those things that are nice to have when you need it...but you don't really need it all that often. You saw the creme brulee I made for my friend Candace's birthday...the pic didn't really show it, and the taste was delish...but the sugar wasn't exactly as crisp as I would have liked to have seen it.

Second Bite ~ Creme Brulee Torch. Yes it is and I love, love, love it! I wonder what else I could do with it?
The right tools for the job :-)

Making perfect...easy

The perfect sugar topping
I ran across so many great things this week it was tough to choose just two to week I'll be sharing these absolutely gorgeous icing poinsettias I purchased over at ABC Cake Decorating. I went in for cupcake liners and, oh boy, came out with a few extras. I've also been shopping for my daughter, Brandi who loves all things baking and my stepson Christopher who is jumping in on the action. I'm hoping we won't be hosting our own Family Cupcake Wars soon.

Hope all is going well with you all in these last days before Christmas, the halls are decked, the Christmas ham waiting, the gifts under the trees. This evening Rick and I took the puppers for a walk around the neighborhood and just enjoyed all the beautifully decorated homes. It's a light show we haven't seen in a few years and I am so happy to see that people are feeling more festive this year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Traditions ~ Mom's Christmas Dinner

And, of course, I failed to get pictures of Mom's delicious spread. Not all my fault though. It was like a feeding frenzy. She served the most beautiful Sangria in a gleaming cut glass crystal punch bowl...which {Squeal}she gave to me at the end of the evening (the bowl, not the Sangria). Here's a peak at the dessert table though.
Can you find the missing piece?
And here is the "plato de dolces." I just love saying that, even though I'm not entirely sure it is correct. Please check back a little later when I can finish this post....I'm off to the Chiropractor right now, but wanted to get something up this morning :-) You all understand, right? Yes, I know you do cause you are the MOST wonderful people.
Cheesecake, Flan, Chocolate Mousse
See you a little later. ~ Blessings, Janet

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Traditions ~ Nana's Christmas Eve Gathering

I've shared that twelve years ago my beloved sister Barbara was suddenly taken from us by a fatal heart attack. I don't know if it was Nana's infinite wisdom or God's amazing grace, but that year my then 84 year old grandmother, began hosting an extended family Christmas Eve party. She's done it every year since.

Nana and Mom (2008)
Her tiny house fills up with family members who see each other only on this night. Aromas of traditional Mexican dishes permeate the house. We fill our plates with her famous red chili enchiladas, beans, posole, and mom's savory tamales. Nana is 96 this year and I've mentioned in earlier posts, she's had some health challenges this year. She's cute though, feeling better, and looking forward, as always to having her family all together for this one evening.

That first Christmas after Barb's death, loomed over me like a dark cloud. I love Christmas, but I had lost my sister, had gone through a really challenging divorce and this was the first time my only daughter would be away from me for the holiday. Nana's party was one of many blessings God graced me with that Christmas and I am so grateful for the rich memories.

So, we are in the last bits of planning for the evening. Who brings what? Tables, Heaters, Plates & Cups, etc. I am, of course, planning on a plethora of traditional Mexican desserts, made mini. I recently learned that assiete à desserts means Plate of Desserts in French. It would be platos de dolces in Spanish I guess :-). Correct me if I'm wrong...I'm only half Mexican LOL.

Tres Leches Cakes

Rice Pudding
Mexican Wedding Cookies
I'll probably add my Green Wreath Corn Flake Cookies for a pop of color and the kids love them and I won't leave out the favorite Chocolate Mousse either. Otherwise...pretty white...delicious, but lacking in color. :-) I love this part too!

What kinds of traditions do you look forward to every year? Have a wonderful weekend. ~ Blessings, Janet

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Things We Do For Love

Like jumping 100 feet out of a tree and zipping 1400 feet across a river at 40 miles an hour. When my husband suggested we go zip lining on our vacation, I...who doesn't do roller coasters, sky-diving, or any other sort of life threatening activity said, sure....ah No, I don't think so. Then he showed me the video and I was sold.

Most fun I think I've ever had!
Tree Top Soaring in Colorado is an all day adventure of 24 ziplines through beautiful Ponderosa Pine and Aspen Forests and Across the Animus River. It is an amazing day. Mid-morning we are served a delicious gourmet snack of Soaring Cranberry Bars and Fresh Natural Spring Water that comes pouring right out of the spring into beautiful clear pitchers. Such fun. My husband has been talking about those Cranberry Bars ever since and the owners graciously shared the recipe.

Yum! Cranberry Oatmeal Bars

Since Christmas time is cranberry season I've decided to surprise Rick with a batch of homemade Soaring Cranberry Bars but cannot find Plain Dried Dates anywhere. I've found sugar frosted dried dates and fresh dates, but no plain, simple dried dates, so I borrowed Mom's dehydrator and purchased fresh dates, sliced them in half and am patiently waiting for them to dry.
Tick tock, tick tock...:-)
He'll be a very happy man! Here's the recipe...Enjoy!

Soaring Cranberry Bars
Yields 24

1 C dried cranberries                                1/2 C sugar
2 T sugar                                                  1/2 C brown sugar
2 C all purpose flour                                 1 C melted unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. baking soda                                 1 1/4 C dried dates, chopped
2 C dried oats (Quaker Oat Brand)              3/4 C pecans, chopped
                                                                1 1/2 C caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 13 x 9 baking pan
Mix together cranberries and sugar. Set aside
In mixing bowl combine, flour, baking soda, dried oats, sugar and brown sugar.
Add melted butter and mix until crumble like texture. Reserve 1 cup of this for the topping.
Press the flour-oats mix onto the bottom of the baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the cranberry-sugar mix, dates and pecan over the baked bottom.
Pour caramel over top.
Take the 1 cup reserved topping mix and place over the filling and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before cutting.

Enjoy, and think of Soaring! Love, love, love these!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Reason for the Season

Today I came across Meagan's sweet blog Publix Coupon Queen. It is Meagan's generosity that makes her blog sweet. You see, she recognizes the challenges that people are facing in an uncertain economic climate and she is sharing an enormous amount of information on how to make the most of the money you have. She is also featuring a wonderful giveaway this week and I wanted to share it with you.

Willow Tree Nativity
Meagan loves her own set so much that she says she wishes she could keep it up all year. I can see why. Earlier this week I posted a picture of my Angel Tree, but did not tell the whole story about how the tree came about. We'll see if I can do that without causing a watershed.

Twelve years ago, two days before my 39th birthday, my beloved sister, Barbara suddenly passed away. She was on a weekend trip visiting a girlfriend in LaFayette, Louisianna when she had a fatal heart attack. Okay, here comes the watershed. She was only 37 years old. She was my best friend, and the news was devastating. I flew with my mother to Louisiana, why, I really don't know, perhaps because it couldn't be real, perhaps because we were in shock. But, it was real, too real, and she was gone. I walked, and sometimes crawled through the next months, grieving my loss, and about a year later as I began to come out of the fog, I wanted to do something that would be a legacy for her. I decided to put an Angel Tree up in my living room every Christmas. Under it, we place all of the gifts we purchase for our local Child Crisis Nursery. It is a charity that is near and dear to our hearts.

Barbara left two precious little girls behind, and she loved children. She had left the corporate world to spend time with her girls and made her own income by taking care of other children. She was also pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Development. She was full of life and lived out her days joyfully. While I still miss her terribly, I enjoy putting this tree up every year. My mom, my aunts, and friends have all contributed to decorating the tree with angels. They miss her too and they know that she would be pleased. 

The Willow Tree Angels are special because they each represent some unique aspect of life, love, hope, beauty, peace, gratitude, much the same as the Christmas Season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm Falling....and I must get up!

Falling behind that is. I've mentioned before that I NEED order, I CRAVE routine, I LOVE tradition, I AM sameness.....or...I unravel. Well, it's so true, and I feel like I'm unraveling. By this date each year, the house is clean, the trees are decorated, the halls are decked and the gifts are bought, wrapped, and mailed or under the trees. By this time, I am making tamales and cookies. By this time, I am lunching with friends and watching the other frantic shoppers as I leisurely meander through the mall. Ack! What happened?

Double the pleasure.  Double the fun. :-)

Seemingly little things, like adopting 2 five month old cocker spaniel puppies early this summer. They are adorable and we love them and they are completely integrated members of our family. However, I've had to purchased three additional sets of sheets (Michael chews them), rugs (for inside and outside), replant the winter garden, wash and rewash my denim slip covered sofa, clean the carpet over and over and over, purchase gates that turn the house into a fortress....

Frosty and His Magic Hat :-)
And bigger things, like having my 29 year old daughter move back home while she rebuilds her dream. It is lovely having her home, sharing meal times and watching her make an adorable little pink gingerbread house. And I am happy, really, really happy that she is okay...more than okay as she plans this next chapter in her life. However, I've had to make room. Lots of room. She's a baker, she's a designer, and she needs creative space and time. It's important...

Our Angel Tree (2008)

So now what? I'm going to think about and pray for those who are struggling with their health, or caring for loved ones who are ill. I'm going to think about and pray for those who are wondering where money will come from to feed their children. I'm going to think about and pray for those who have lost loved ones this year and will be spending that first Christmas without them.

And our family tree

I'm going to count and be grateful for my many, many, many blessings. I'm going to clean the house today, deck the halls tomorrow, decorate the trees over the weekend, shop on Monday for the Crisis Nursery, and for family and friends on Tuesday, lunch on Wednesday, Wrap on Thursday, make tamales on Friday, and perhaps bake cookies over the weekend with Brandi. Ahhhhh, order...sighhhhhh, routine...yesssss, a plan. I feel better...thanks for listening :-)

Christmas Morning (2009)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Perfume and Desserts ~ A Perfect Pairing

Do you ever come across something that is so very ordinary...and yet, you never thought of the it that way? I do...and I did, this morning when I saw this gorgeous photo taken at "The Perfume Diaries" exhibit at Harrod's in London. So not fair, the closest I ever got to Harrod's is a shopping bag my daughter, Brandi,  brought home from her three week European Tour when she was in high school. But that's another story. Look at this beautiful combination.

Photo courtesy of Chérie City

Really now, isn't that just an amazingly gorgeous work of art? Yes. One of the fun things at this annual event is the service of desserts. Famed pâtissier Eric Lanlard teams up with Harrod's pastry chefs to collaborate on recipes that infuse parfum ingredients into the beautiful selection of mini desserts.

Shot of St. Honoré (photo via Stylisa)

Chérie describes this fresh little treat as "a stylish shot glass dessert filled with vanilla cream, crunchy meringue, fresh raspberries and lychees and a rose petal mousse.  It also comes with a pipette of lemongrass and coconut." Cute huh?
Larmé de Jasmine (photo via Stylisa)
And this one is "a delicate dark chocolate tear covering a rich dark chocolate mousse and Italian amarena cherries, scented with jasmine." Love it!

Of course, after reading these posts I was dying to know what yummy ingredients were mingling in my favorite perfume bottles and I went running to the bathroom cabinet. My two favorite "scents d' jour" are Donna Karan's Cashmere Mist, for day time, and Chanel's Allure for evening.
"Clean and sheer, warm and sexy. Difficult to define. Impossible to resist."

When I went to Chanel's website to find their description I was a little disappointed to find that it said nothing about food. They described it as "Clean and sheer, warm and sexy. Difficult to define. Impossible to resist." Hmmm, I still like it and it would make an interesting description for a dessert. Like Champagne and a warm chocolate chip cookie . (Surprisingly sexy and delicious in the right setting :-) Another, 'nuther story though :-)).

Now that's a sexy little bottle
This soft fragrance is described as "An invisible layer of comfort, Cashmere Mist is a sheer floral, combining the essences of Moroccan jasmine, lily of the valley and the freshness of bergamot against a warm background of sandalwood, amber and musk. Soft and intimate, it is intended only to be smelled by the wearer and those closest to her" Fascinating, I would never have guessed this combination. I find that it is an interesting contradiction of soft, floral and powdery notes with a lively citrus energy. What fun to come up with a dessert combination that fits.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Two Bite Tuesday ~ Presentation is a Gift

I get the biggest kick out of making guests feel like they are part of something bigger than a small gathering and including small touches like cute labels that identify the dishes and desserts give it that "certain feel." That's why I love these two great finds.

First Bite ~ I saw these at Pier 1 a few weeks ago and thought they were great as the photo holders they were intended to be. However, I like to find more than a single purpose for things when I can, and I thought these would make great label holders for a dessert table, so today I stopped in and was surprised and pleased to see that they were 20% off...woo hoo.

You may recall that a few weeks ago I made several desserts for my friend, Candace's birthday gathering. While I have a nice assortment of service ware for my mini desserts, I was having difficulty finding something interesting to present the mini cheesecakes on. That's when I remembered these inspirational little gems that I found over at Kind Over Matter.

Second Bite ~ Freebie printable affirmation circles

I placed a single cheesecake on each unique circle and it turned out to have a much bigger impact than I had planned. Candace loves quotes, affirmations, and positive messages so it was a kick to have each of us read our affirmations out loud and then to make comments about how they applied to us personally. This particular affirmation set was a collaborative project between four generous souls.There are a total of four sheets to the collection with 12 affirmation circles on each sheet. Below are the links for each of the sheets.

Brandi Reynolds of Joy Rebellion
Jamie Ridler of Jamie Ridler Studios
Jenn Gibson of Kind Over Matter
Rachelle Mee-Chapman of Magpie Girl

I stuck this one on the refrigerator :-)))

It's kind of fun to think about the possibilities of using different little circles as a sort of alternative fortune cookie under your favorite mini desserts. There are some wonderful designers throughout blogland more than happy to share their creative genius with us. ~ Enjoy, Janet

Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm Swooning ~ See Me Swooning?

I'm on my way out to the PO to ship the grandkids Christmas gifts, then on to shop with my good friend Candace, but before I did, I had to share this elegant display of mini tiramasu eclairs from Southern Living.

Photo courtesy of Southern Living
Gorgeous no? Yes :-) Ahhhhh roses, chocolate, pink and coffee. Really, what more do we need? Have a beautiful weekend. ~ Blessings, Janet

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweet Surprises ~ Blog Awards....For Me? So Sweet

Yes, it happened. I logged into my blog early last week and found that Meditative Mom had so sweetly passed along the Stylish Blogger Award and The Versatile Blogger Award! After the initial shock wore off and I double checked to make sure I had actually logged into my own blog, I jumped for joy and went screaming through the house. "I won a blog award! I won a blog award!" Thank you so much for visiting my little pink blog and thinking enough of it to pass this sweet sentiment along. You make me laugh every time I read your blog. I had to bring the tissue box back to my desk cause I was getting make-up all over my sleeves from wiping away the tears. Thanks so much for the award...and for writing your blog.

If that wasn't overwhelming enough, I opened my blog the next day and saw that I had also received the Stylish Blogger Award from one of my most inspiring bloggers and I dare say, very special new friend. Kim authors the inspiring A Creative Spirit blog where she shares her life with us. A Creative Spirit is the first blog I read every morning. Thank you my dear, for thinking of me, for sharing your life, for lifting us all up. I can say that I have used that tissue box a number of times while reading your blog as well. You are an amazing, strong, courageous, faithful, compassionate and creative woman and I am so blessed to have "met" you :-).

Now there are rules that go along with accepting these awards and they follow:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded this to you.
2. Share 8 things about yourself.
3. Pay it forward to 15 recently discovered great blogs.
4. Contact those bloggers and let them know about their award.

So first and foremost, Thank you Kim and Meditative Mom, from the bottom of my heart.

Kim's ~ A Creative Spirit

The Meditative Mom
And 8 Things About Myself....hmmmmm, let me think...

1. I love all things Denim...I have a sofa, chair and ottoman that are denim, my master bed-skirt is denim and there is a decorative denim pillow on the bed. I have an accent wall in my office that is painted Denim and I have a dispenser that contains denim colored candy (really ~ see here) I have even had  pencils, book bags, purses, and jackets (of course).
2. I have a "thing" about matching colors. I think it's a psychological condition.
3. I have two adorable and mischievous parti cocker spaniel puppies who have given me a new appreciation for mothers of twins...Is there a support group for me?
4. I have one biological daughter, a step daughter and a step son...all amazing.
5. I am a desert rat ~ Born and raised in the Arizona desert. Well, in a hospital in the Arizona Desert.
6. I am in love with, I'm not gay. {Not that it matters} I just have a deep admiration for our amazingness.
7. I have tested my faith and discovered that I am indeed a dyed in the wool, true blue American Christian who figured out a long time ago that Jesus is so much BIGGER than the little box that most traditional mainstream churches attempt to confine Him to. And He's shown me that I am too! So are you!
8. I NEED order, I CRAVE routine, I LOVE tradition, I AM sameness.....or...I unravel.

And now to pass along these precious gifts. And they really are precious. As I peruse your blogs I just become more in awe of the women who write them, of their lives, their courage, their sense of humor, not to mention their genius and creativity, and their deep sense of compassion. It was hard to choose only 15 because there are just so many who continually inspire, entertain, and encourage me every day.

Fika’s Art Box      
Most adorable, fun, colorful, playful and inspirational artwork
Decorative art and all things pretty and pink. A lovely blog that feels like you’re wandering through a beautiful little boutique.
A pretty little blog featuring all things vintage. It is like walking into the most feminine place you’ve ever been.
Ohhhh another favorite. Debbi is a light pink rose and shares the best on life and love, vintage cottage style.
More beautiful pink inspiration as lovely little snowflakes drift down the page
Oh how I love Mika’s Pantry. She turns everyday dining into special events. You must check out her Thanksgiving post.
A beautiful and thoughtful blog. Gorgeous inspirational photos and posts. Wonderful little snippets that will make you smile.
Julie authors this gorgeous blog with such beauty and passion. It is like taking a cultural arts tour around the world. Just beautiful and serene.
Cori ‘s blog oozes sweetness, love, and creativity.  She has the sweetest new post about her son this week. Wanna smile…need some inspiration…drop in and check it out.
Full of life’s sweetest moments, Jeanne’s blog is uplifting and charming. I love her real life stories. It’s like reading a lovely little picture book each day {that only takes a minute or two}
The title says it all. Meredith’s blog is full of joy, life, living, celebrating, reality. Check out her new post on ADORABLE shopping bags. Wayyyyyyyyy cute! You won’t want to miss out.
Leslie is the Hostess of the Humble Bungalow and how welcome you will feel as she shares her pearls, cashmere socks, and coveted mom’s shortbread recipe.
Michelle authors this adorable little blog and reviews children’s books. I love reading her perspective as she reviews these little gems.  Michelle shares great little finds along the way.
Through Jamie’s words you can feel how full of life she is. Her love of family, her imagination, sense of humor. Beneath the Acacia Tree is such a little pick me up.
Extraordinary Hero Blog is more like it. For a HUGE dose of inspiration, visit Kelly and Charlene’s Blog. It will change your day…I promise 

Now off to contact these wonderful and inspirational women. Please take some time to visit their blogs. You will laugh, cry, be inspired, be motivated, be amazed, and be blessed. ~ Blessings, Janet

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I just asked for the recipe ~ And I Got a Whole Cake!

This is the carrot cake I mentioned here, and it takes the phrase "Dessert First" to a whole new level. My Uncle Al makes it for my mom on her birthday every year and it is unarguably the best carrot cake I have ever tasted. I asked my Aunt Judy for the recipe several weeks ago, things got busy and I mentioned it to her again yesterday. Today she called me to tell me she was bringing it over. {Seriously, I thought she could just email it}. She didn't let on that she had made the cake for us. This is one of the sweetest things that has been done for me lately. I was just speechless. Thanks Aunt Judy and Al.

Ta Daaaaaa ~ Yep, it's just that good!

It's just a beautiful thing...and it is in my fridge...right now. {Shivers up my spine good} I just had to try a piece before dinner.
A little slice of heaven
Hubby didn't get home until almost 7 geez, and duh. I had dessert before dinner. And then when he got home and saw it sitting there...he did too. Then we ate spaghetti :-)...Brandi only wanted cake! Now that's good cake :-).

Stay tuned for tomorrow...I have been blessed with a few awards that I will be acknowledging and passing on. So humbled to be thought about in such a way....Feeling blessed, may you also.