The Next Chapter: Treats

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's time again to make my post for the book club for bloggers to which I belong founded by Jamie Ridler. We've moved on this week to another chapter in Martha Beck's book, The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices from a Happier Life. The chapter is called Treats and focuses on being kind to yourself and treating yourself to life's simple & not so simple pleasures as a way or nurturing your soul.




T R E A T S



I'm going to share the weekly assignment I had with you. It's called the Catalog of Sensory Delights and the task was to fill in the blanks:


1. I love the taste of:

*an extra sharp cheddar cheese
*ripe, fresh peaches
*fine dark chocolate
*my morning coffee
*my homemade panna cotta with chocolate sauce & raspberries

2. I love the sight of:

*twinkling Christmas lights
*my boys....anytime!
*lilacs in bloom at Highland Park
*the foliage on a sunny fall day driving across the Bay Bridge
*the Sunday paper and my breakfast on the coffee table in the morning

3. I love the feel of:

*my favorite soft cashmere sweater
*warm fluffy towels right out of the dryer
*crunchy leaves beneath my feet while taking a walk
*warm hugs
*having my hair shampooed at the salon

4. I love the smell of:

*gardenias
*apple pie baking in the oven
*vanilla beans
*coffee brewing
*Rubino's in Irondequoit...it just smells good in there!


5. I love the sound of:

*our children playing and laughing
* an excited crowd at Yankee Stadium when they team is winning a big game
*the dog galloping across the wood floors
*seagulls flying over the water
*the peaceful quietness in the library

Pumpkin Donut Challenge: THE WINNER!


Happy Halloween, everyone! This rainy morning has drinking my hot coffee--Pumpkin Pie Roast from Pike Creek Coffee, but being very tired of trying pumpkin donuts. I've decided to judge the 5 donuts I enjoyed all week and skip running over to Wegmans to see if they made pumpkin ones this morning.


I have a winner for you!

This was not even close. I tried pumpkin donuts from Dunkin Donuts, Herman's Farm Market, Tim Horton's, Ridge Donut Cafe, and Powers Farm Market. Three of these are local establishments, while the other two are larger chains.

The winner--by a landslide--is the Herman's donut. This blew the competition away. Herman's is located north of Route 104 on Five Mile Line Road in Webster. Go there. Today.

I must confess, I don't know if I can stomach eating another donut anytime soon, unless it's the one from Herman's one last time this season. When you add in a pumpkin donut to your daily diet when you're used to eating very healthfully at least 5 days a week....well, I just have felt blah. I usually eat half a donut at a time when I have one. I ate that one from Herman's without leaving any leftovers. It was so good, I was thrilled when my friend, Elizabeth, brought me some more of them to have Wednesday.

The challenge, though, was fun. Look for a week-long Hot Chocolate challenge in mid November.


Frugal Fridays--Gray Skies for $10 and Under

Friday, October 30, 2009

Today was cloudy and wet, with a nice break from the showers for Nick's parade. Each year, the elementary school has a Halloween parade and the children in kindergarten through third grade march around our neighborhood in their costumes. His parade started with a few showers and the rain took a bit of a break.

Gray skies may not always be welcome, but there are many beautiful gray finds out there to be had! It can be a stunning color.




Light gray scarf from Punkin. Pie, $6



Letterpress note card set from Rochester's own Pistachio Press, $10



Vintage pewter bowl from Ginny's Veranda, $9



Vintage gray grosgrain ribbon from the 40s or 50s, from Fini Ribbon, $1.19



Reclaimed frame from Amye123, $8




Coaster set from Liesl, $5



What a great iPod case from Byrd & Belle, $9




Such a warm and comforting looking mug cozy from Remade Shop, $9



Lovely gray ring made by Shoshannah, $6



Bracelet & earrings set by Wimsy, $8.95


Pumpkin Donut Challenge: Day 5




Tomorrow is the day I will announce the winner of my Pumpkin Donut Challenge. If Wegmans has them back in the bakery tomorrow morning, I will try their creation and let you know how it rates. Otherwise, I will go with the 5 others for consideration.

This morning, I headed to the east part of the Rochester area, arriving at Powers Farm Market on Marsh Road around 9:30. I was meeting my mom in Perinton at 10 and was going to be early, so I decided to stop and get my pumpkin donut there.

Thank you to my lovely local reader who recommended the pumpkin donut at Powers.


My thoughts: I was expecting great flavor from this donut. It looked delicious. I chose the only pumpkin donut they offered and it was a pumpkin glazed. It looked like it was going to taste wonderful.

When I took my first bite, it tasted quite dry to me. I didn't get that freshly made taste I have enjoyed from other local places such as Herman's and Ridge Donut Cafe. It was a bit better tasting than the pumpkin glazed varieties I tried at Dunkin Donuts and Tim Horton's, although it did not come close to Herman's, nor was it as good as Ridge.

This very dry donut had an extremely subtle pumpkin flavor. I could tell it was pumpkin, although there were no spice notes. The exterior was moister and tasted pleasant enough, but the interior's dryness made this one one I wouldn't buy again. This is a case of why we shouldn't choose our books by their covers....this looked like it'd be great, but fell very short in my eyes.

I don't know if this was a day old one that was put out, or just a bad one out of the bunch, but I just didn't really enjoy this as well as a couple others.



RATING SCALE

* POOR

**FAIR

***GOOD

****VERY GOOD

*****FABULOUS!


HOW DOES THE PUMPKIN DONUT FROM RIDGE DONUT CAFE RATE?

Size: ****
Appearance: ****
Texture: **
Flavor: ***

OVERALL: *** 1/4

Soap Giveaway!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I was on my friend Nancy's blog today and noticed she has a SOAP GIVEAWAY going on!

You've heard be rave again and again about Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soaps ever since my first order came nearly 2 years ago.

Head on over and check it out. She is drawing a name November 2nd.

Good luck to you--her soaps are second to none!

My top 5 favorites:

1. Creamy Peppermint with Chocolate Swirl

2. Rose Clay Facial Bar

3. Pumpkin Spice

4. Goat's Milk with Oatmeal & Honey

4. Island Coconut




Stylish, Functional & Saves Energy: The Bedol Water Clock





According to The California Energy Commission, the average electric clock radio uses about 44 kilowatt hours of energy per year. While that may not seem like a lot compared to the major energy hogs such as central air conditioning or a hot water heater, it adds up when you consider how many people use electric clock radios.

I typically wake up without the help of an alarm, thanks to my early riser, Nicholas. My husband, though, needs one every morning to get up at 6 for his long commute to work. He actually works from home...but he walks the dog and has breakfast before heading down to his home office.

As you know, every little bit of energy we can save is imperative for not only our own lives, but for future generations. Little things like turning off lights when leaving one room for another, not standing for long with the fridge door open, etc. all are ways to save energy.

There is a fantastic product on the market now that I have been trying since last Saturday morning. It's called the Bedol Water Clock and I am crazy about it!

There are no batteries and no electricity needed to power the clock. All you need is water!

You unscrew the cap, fill it just under the Max Fill line and set it. I can have a difficult time setting little gizmos such as this one, but I had it out of the box, filled, and set in less than 5 minutes. It's that simple.

It keeps time and functions as well as any other traditional clock and the alarm is dependable.

While it may be a bit more expensive than the basic alarm clock radios from Walmart, you'll never need batteries for it and you'll never have to plug it in and use electricity.

I am one of those worriers who cannot sleep when there's a thunderstorm because I am worried that the power will go out when we're sleeping and the alarm clock won't wake Tom up. With this, I won't have to worry.

The only thing you need to remember is to change the water every 6-12 weeks. This is because everyone has different chemicals and minerals and things in their water supply, so it's a good idea just to add fresh water.

At $29, this is a great investment considering it'll save you money and help conserve energy at the same time. I think it'd be a great gift, too!


Note: As I always do when I am sent a product to try, I am disclosing that I did not pay for this items. This was sent to me to try out and review. While it was free, I pledge to be fair and honest with my reviews, positive or negative. I do not write positive reviews in exchange for free items.

Pumpkin Donut Challenge: Day 4



This morning, Ben and I went to Wegmans to get some milk and a pumpkin donut. They didn't make any pumpkin donuts today, so I ended up getting today's pick from Irondequoit's Ridge Donut Cafe. Ridge Donut Cafe is located on Portland Avenue near Rochester General Hospital and Home Depot.

I have had two of their pumpkin donuts before: a pumpkin fried cake (huge, but very dry) and a pumpkin with cinnamon and sugar (very dense...slight pumpkin flavor, a decent one).

Today I had the Pumpkin Glazed Donut.

If you are familiar with Ridge Donut Cafe, you know that their donuts are huge. Huge as in I can never finish a whole donut. Never...not even when I am starving. This morning's donut was no different.

The donut is huge and can easily be shared by two people with average appetites or eaten alone by someone who eats as much as my husband...the man with the amazing metabolism who eats crazy amounts of food and has weighed the same since 1997.

The donut was still warm when I brought it home. That is always a plus. I have had donuts there before later in the day that are very dry, but when I go in the morning, they are always very fresh.

The donut has a sweet glaze without it being too sugary. The donut itself was very good. It was moist, very tasty, and the ideal donut for dipping in coffee....in fact, it's a perfect companion for a hot cup of coffee.

The one thing this donut lacks, though, is an easily detectable pumpkin flavor.
The pumpkin flavor is so very mild that it could almost pass for their Buttermilk Glazed Donut (another good one!).

I am not saying this was a bad donut. It most certainly was good. It's the second best one I have eaten this week...but the gap between Herman's and the competition is huge in my book.

Still, I enjoyed the Pumpkin Glazed Donut and think you will, too!



RATING SCALE

* POOR

**FAIR

***GOOD

****VERY GOOD

*****FABULOUS!


HOW DOES THE PUMPKIN DONUT FROM RIDGE DONUT CAFE RATE?

Size: ****
Appearance: ****
Texture: ****
Flavor: ****

OVERALL: ****

My $12 Shopping Excursion

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My thrift shop finds from today....all for $12:


I bought an antique table and on it are 3 of my favorite new things!
I collect hobnail and milk glass. The pedestal dish was a yellow tag (50% off) at Volunteers of America and was $1.50! The other two were $1.99 each at Goodwill.




The tag on the bottom of the table indicates that it came from a now-defunct local department store called Sibley, Lindsay & Curr.


The cherry table is in great shape....love the hexagon top! Made by a Maryland company called Brandt.



Oh, did I mention the table was only $5.99?


I had to buy this yellow dish. I made a post all about yellow vintage finds earlier, so when I came across this (50% off of $0.99!), I couldn't resist.




DIY Wednesday: Wash Those Hands....Naturally


This was originally published on my blog nearly a year ago. With H1N1, colds, and other viruses spreading like crazy as we get into the colder months, handwashing is extra important. I wanted to share this recipe once again--with a couple new essential oils blends added in to the mix for more variety.

If you wash your hands often, you know how dry they can end up. So many people fall into the antibacterial hand cleanser trap and that makes things even worse. Find out why I do not like anti-bacterial hand cleansers by clicking here. I am choosing essential oils because many are naturally antibacterial and have great aromatherapy benefits.

Find them at your local natural foods store. If you buy online, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for them.

This recipe will give you about 3 bottles (4 ounces) of hand wash. Put them by all of your sinks.

This is an extremely simple hand wash, and it contains no artificial ingredients.

Here is my base for the hand wash:

1 cup of rose hydrosol (any other hydrosol/distillate will work well, too)
1/2 cup of baking soda

You can also substitute lavender hydrosol or any other hydrosol/distillates you may have access to. Cucumber distillate makes for a refreshing blend, too. I have also made this before in the summer by cutting pieces of lavender from my back garden (roses work well, too), letting them sit covered for a few days soaking in distilled water to create my floral water.


You will also need some essential oils.

Be creative. There are so many wonderful blends out there to create! Here are the ones I made:


1. Rose, Sweet Orange and Anise

2. Lemon and Lime and Lavender

3. Grapefruit, Bergamot, and Lemon

4. Peppermint, Rosemary, and Thyme

5. Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Lemon


The last items you will need (and neither are requirements) are aloe vera juice and glycerin. Again these are nice add-ins, but they will not make or break this recipe!


HOW TO:

Warm 1 cup of rosewater in a pan on low heat or for 30 seconds in the microwave.

Stir in 1/2 cup of baking soda and stir to thoroughly dissolve. Add about 6 drops of each essential oil (if making a blend of 3 oils). Add just a touch of aloe juice and glycerin. I don't measure this when I make it for myself. It would be about 1 T. total.

Stir and pour through a funnel into dark amber bottles. Let cool for a short while, add caps and then let cool overnight.


WHY BAKING SODA?

It's environmentally friendly. Plus, it deodorizes. When you wash your hands and pump this cleanser into it, the water and baking soda will help to soften your hands while getting them clean. It's so simple to make!

I have mentioned before how I use baking soda for cleaning the house. I also use it once every couple weeks in my hair. I add a bit to my shampoo, massage gently into the roots and then it will give volume! I add some to bath salts for an extra fizz. I even brush my teeth with it quite often!

Spreading Some Sunshine

It's been cold and raining quite hard for hours now. On a damp and dreary-looking day, I thought I'd add a bit of sunshine!

Today's items are all vintage pieces from Etsy.



These cansiters are very fun! If you want a punch of color in your vintage-style kitchen, these would be great.

From Mom Wald's Place, $9.95



A splash of sunshine with your dinner....love the retro feel of these shakers.
From Craft Pile, $8



This 60s lucite bangle would be great even now.
From Novel Josephine, $15



Vintage Mikasa yellow mugs from Bettyninja Finds
3 for $14




My late grandmother, Mia, once told me as a small child, "A lady always carries a hanky."
I believe she would have liked this one.




I love this clutch! Picture it this fall and winter dressing up a pair of dark jeans on date night....
Love this! From Vero Vintage, $45




Vintage pill box hat is cheerfully chic!
From The Vintagerie, $25



Yellow pyrex bowl will add some sunshine yellow to your kitchen.




Dansk enamelware pot with a teak handle is from Ameelia Bedelia, $28



Pumpkin Donut Challenge: Day 3

Trying out the Pumpkin Spice donut from Tim Horton's this cold and very rainy morning...



I like the texture...not heavy at all.



I also had my old standby....the team at TH knows me so well that they often have the coffee ready and waiting when they see us hit the drive thru. I have at least one of these a day...I {heart} their coffee.


If you know me, you know I love going for my morning (and afternoon....and sometimes evening) coffee at Tim Horton's in W. Irondequoit. I've been a regular pretty much since they opened, and Ben and Gert (the giraffe I told you about yesterday) go there with me. We know pretty much everyone there and they adore Ben and have fun kidding around with him.


Today's donut comes from Tim Horton's.

I have to admit that I have tried this before. I liked it the first time, but that was right when it first came out and I haven't had it since then. I adore the Pumpin Spice Muffin at Tim Horton's. I'd give it a high rating, but the Pumpkin Spice Donut is just a good donut. Nothing in the range of yesterday's donut. Nothing special. Nothing great. Not bad....but not something I would want to regularly waste calories on.


This is not a dense donut. If you've ever had a donut from Ridge Donut Cafe you will know what I am talking about. Their donuts are stellar, but they are also very dense and I don't think I've ever eaten one in a single sitting. I usually cut it in quarters or sometimes halves.

The Pumpkin Spice Donut from Tim Horton's is a little bit smaller than the Dunkin Donuts one and about the same size as the one from Herman's.

The texture is light...the glazed top is sweet without being over the top sweet. I immediately detect the pumpkin flavor, but what is missing is the spicy flavor of cinnamon or other pumpkin pie spices.

I like this donut. It's good. If I were grading it report card style, it would get a B....or a "Meeting Standards" on our school district's grading scale. Will I order one of these donuts again this season? No.

Truthfully, unless the other two donuts blow me away, I have a feeling I'll be getting any remaining pumpkin donuts that quick jaunt across the Baby Bridge in Webster....


RATING SCALE

* POOR

**FAIR

***GOOD

****VERY GOOD

*****FABULOUS!


HOW DOES THE PUMPKIN DONUT FROM TIM HORTON'S RATE?

Size: ***
Appearance: ***
Texture: ***
Flavor: ***

OVERALL: ***

Pumpkin Donut Challenge: Day 2

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Benjamin at Herman's this morning.


This is the pumpkin donut with cinnamon and sugar at Herman's.



It was love at first bite....



Can you see the little dots of spices? It tastes like pumpkin pie spice is mixed into the pumpkin batter.


Before I even begin my review, I must confess I wish I had purchased a dozen of today's contestants....this donut was that good.

One of my readers in the town of Webster, just a quick drive from Irondequoit across the Bay Bridge suggested Herman's Farm Market & Cider Mill as a local place with pumpkin fried cakes. Kristin, thank you for the suggestion!

Since I added Herman's, I am adding a day to the pumpkin challenge. The winning donut will be announced on Halloween morning.

First off, if you are local and haven't been to Herman's, it is on Five Mile Line Road in Webster just passed Webster Thomas High School. It's located just north of Route 104. It is a quick drive and an easy stop on your way to or from Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, and Kohl's.

Ben, Gert, and I arrived there this morning. If you live in the Irondequoit area and we've met, chances are you've met Gert. It's the worn out and faded stuffed giraffe Ben has taken everywhere with him since he was an infant. You can see Gert in the picture above sticking out of Ben's coat.

I love Herman's. You can find locally grown produce and baked goods. They have fabulous apple cider, too!

For $9.35, I bought 3 donuts ($0.49 ea), a block of Heluva Good Extra Sharp Cheddar (also a local company), a gallon of cider, and a loaf of one of the best--if not the best--Italian breads in the area: Martusciellio's.

Back to the Donut Challenge.... After this donut, I highly doubt there is a better tasting pumpkin donut in the area, but I'll try more this week.


In terms of size, this is a bit on the smaller side. Truthfully, it is probably the perfect serving size. We live in a world where people think bigger is better. Let's be honest, the bigger the donut, the more calories it has. I am just comparing sizes, not suggesting a bigger or smaller donut is better taste wise.

I took one bite of this one and it was just perfect. The texture was perfect, the pumpkin and spice flavor was perfect...everything was heavenly. I could taste lots of fresh pumpkin, all of the spices, loads of cinnamon. What I realized most is that compared to yesterday's donut, this was truly fresh in every way. It wasn't too heavy and dense, nor was it light and airy. It was just an absolute happy medium and I am thrilled Kristin recommended their donuts to me.

This was, so far this autumn, the best pumpkin donut by a landslide. The others I am testing this week will have a lot to live up to....


RATING SCALE

* POOR

**FAIR

***GOOD

****VERY GOOD

*****FABULOUS!


HOW DOES THE PUMPKIN DONUT FROM HERMAN'S RATE?

Size: ***
Appearance: *****
Texture: *****
Flavor: *****

OVERALL: **** 1/2


Baby Gifts Galore!

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's been a while since my friends and I have had one of our traditional virtual baby showers, but we know Tanya is having a girl and we're unsure about what Holly will be having. What is a virtual shower? Well, we call ourselves Sisters Across the Miles.

We've been friends for years, but are spread across the world. We have a friend in Japan, one who was living in England but is in Texas once again, and a whole bunch of us from all parts of the US. We mail our gifts and pick a day and then the recipient posts photos and tells us what she is opening. It's fun!

Baby shower time will be coming around the corner, though, so I spotted some cute gifts for baby girls today for while browsing on 1000 Markets and Etsy.



Here they are!

On the go diaper clutch from The Pat-a-Cake Baby is a great idea!
$25



Who said a wipe case needs to be boring? This giraffe print one is great and comes from Lolibell's on Etsy.

$11


Burp cloths are from Dapper Duds and are just so sweet!
$12



Chic little baby coat from Mani-Mina
$30




What a colorful & fun baby dress!
It's from Dress Me and is $32.50.



A sweet and shabby headband for baby from Acrylic and Steel
$10




Such sweet little shoes with satin ribbons from Barrettz,
$23.50



What a beautiful gift...100% cashmere booties and cap from Plumknit,
$85



This bib is made with Kokeshi doll fabric and is truly unique.





This stunning baby quilt is made by The Enchanted Square.
$139.99



Organic cotton onesie by Farmerkids Organics is eco-friendly and cute!
$28




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