Archive | November, 2011

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay: Tarpon Springs’ Sponge Docks

28 Nov

Have you ever just woke up in the morning and decided to do something completely different with the day? Well, that happened to me over the weekend. PoppaNut and I woke up and we decided to just spend the day doing something completely different.

We picked the Tarpon Springs’ Sponge Docks as our final destination. I have never spent time down there, but it has always been a spot on my list. With the warm weather outside, we hopped in the Jeep and took off.

When we got there, I realized I forgot to bring my camera. Dang it! What kind of blogger leaves her camera at home when she visits a perfect blogging destination. This one I guess! Luckily, PoppaNut brought his camera, so I was able to still get these great photos to share!

We headed to a great little restaurant that had a bakery attached right to it! If I hadn’t been eating leftover apple pie for two days, this would have been heaven. But I managed to just stick to lunch on this trip. With the sangria and Greek food flowing, we ate until we were stuffed … and then we even ate some more. It was delicious!

Next up: visiting some of the little shops along the Sponge Docks. We didn’t find anything we wanted to buy, but it was nice spending the afternoon along the water with PoppaNut. We even enjoyed the Christmas decorations that they had up!

And that’s life in a nutshell … sometimes you just have to wake up and do something different. Help support your local businesses by visiting a little treasure near your home. And be sure to tell me where your favorite local find is! I would love to review it for a future blog.

MommaNut

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Jingle All the Way: Decorating for Christmas

28 Nov

I love the holiday season, and just as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers disappear from the fridge, it’s time to decorate! PoppaNut and I always reserve the day after Thanksgiving to transform our home into an elegant winter wonderland.

And it first starts with the tree selection. We always head to a place right down the street from our home, the same place where we pick up our Halloween pumpkins. It’s a place where they know us by name, and all the trees come from North Carolina.

When we arrived to the tree lot, the trees still had snow on the branches. Now, that’s what I call fresh! With my father-in-law, my nephew and my hubby standing nearby, we all scoured each and every tree, pointing out attributes of each one. “That one is too skinny” and “That one just isn’t tall enough” were our collective opinions, until one tree in the back started to stand out.

PoppaNut saw it first, and by the time I made my way over, I was in love! It was the perfect tree for our home. With that, PoppaNut paid the bill and our Christmas tree was tied to the top of the Jeep. Once we got home and got it all set up, PoppaNut and I spent the rest of the day decorating and running out for more supplies.

Target had the best selection, and we got a lot of things for the house. Because we have silver and blue decor normally, it can make it tricky to find decorations that are blue and silver to match. But Target had quite a few silver accessories. We also went to the famous Clearwater Christmas Store. This store stays open all year long, and I got some really nice silver pinecones to add to some vases I already had at home. PoppaNut found some really cool bubble lights for the bar too.Once the tree was done, the Christmas dishes were out and we were able to shower off the tinsel, our goddaughter Lily stopped over to see all our hard work.

And that’s life in a nutshell. Living in Florida, you are forced to get yourself in the Christmas spirit. And we do that best by adding ornaments and stockings to our home immediately after Thanksgiving. And if you will excuse me, I think it is time for some hot chocolate.

MommaNut

Thanksgiving Baking: Homemade Apple Pie

27 Nov

Ever since I got an electric mixer for my birthday a few years back, I have loved baking. I make peanut-butter pie quite a bit, and I recently made cupcakes for Halloween. So, when it came to Thanksgiving baking, I knew the desserts would be in my court.

So, I commissioned my aunt Debbie to set me up for a baking challenge: homemade apple pie. Debbie’s apple pie is literally famous in our family. Normally, she has to make about five at a time to keep up with the demands. With my nephew Josh by my side, we took on the famous recipe, adding a few special touches of our own along the way.

I texted Debbie several times along the way with needed direction like “Is this really the right amount of cinnamon” and “How does the crust look.” All and all, I think the end product spoke for itself: four men in complete silence eating homemade apple pie with French vanilla ice cream on top during Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m including the recipe below, along with the recipe for peanut-butter pie! Enjoy baking up these favorite for your family. I know it really made Thanksgiving dinner for me … along with the delicious spread my father-in-law and nephew made. The turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green-bean casserole has been haunting my dreams ever since.

Debbie’s Apple Pie

Peel and core 7­–8 Gala apples; then slice them into thin slices and place into a bowl

Add about 1 cup sugar 

Add about 1/4 cup cinnamon

Add about 2 tablespoons flour 

Stir until all apples are coated

Put apples in to a deep-dish pie crust. Just buy the frozen kind. Pet Ritz is the best. Place 3 or 4 chucks of butter randomly on top of the apples. Please another regular pie crust upside down on the top. Crimp the edges to seal the pie crusts together. Cut decorative slits in the top crust to vent. We used a cookie cutter to make leaf cuts on the top. Brush the top crust lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Leave it longer if you like it a little crispy. To ensure the apples are done, stick a fork in it and make sure they are soft.  If not leave it for another 15 to 20 minutes.  

 MommaNut’s Peanut-Butter Pie

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup 4x powdered sugar

1 graham-cracker crust

Whip cream with sugar until fluffy. Mix all other ingredients in a big electric mixer until smooth. Mix in whipped cream. Pour mix into the crust, and chill for several hours. Garnish with chocolate bits.

And that’s life in a nutshell … my favorite part of baking isn’t the final creation; it’s spending time with my family while we enjoy each and every bite of life.

MommaNut

Gobble Gobble: Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

24 Nov

It’s Turkey Day, and I wanted to wish all of you a very special Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Thanksgiving is that time to reflect on your life and take pleasure in the little things that are so wonderful. It’s also an important time to test your tummy capacity and your napping skills. And I hope to accomplish all of these things today.

I’ll start with the warm, fuzzy sentiments with my “MommaNut Is Grateful For” list. So, put the apple pie in the oven, place the gravy on the warmer and sit on down to enjoy!

MommaNut Is Grateful For

  • Having the most amazing husband in the whole world who can’t wait to spend the rest of his life right by my side, even when I’m not the easiest person to live with
  • The sweet kisses I get from Peanut and Cashew after a long day at work
  • Our thoughtful, supportive family and friends who love PoppaNut and I very much
  • Having a job that I love, where I feel rewarded by my work and respected
  • Documenting my life through this blog, which always me to walk down memory lane any time I feel like it
  • Living in Oldsmar, a town I have grown to love where everyone seems to know your name
  • My Way Fitness, because I have been able to watch PoppaNut achieve some of his greatest dreams, and I can’t wait to be along to watch the rest come true
  • All the recipes my family has shared with me, because it has ignited a new passion for in cooking and baking
  • Turning 30 this year, because I know the best is yet to come
  • Scrabble, a game that PoppaNut and I like to play a few times a week
  • Sunday runs near the water, where PoppaNut and I talk about your future
  • Delicious homemade sauce that I could literally drink by the jar (I know that sounds disgusting, but you can’t judge until you try the sauce. I count down every week for it!)
  • Being able to find time to read again, even if it is while I’m on the treadmill
  • Working out, because I’m feeling better than I have in a long time
  • Long naps in the afternoon with just the hum of the dryer in the background
  • Visiting our neighbor vendor for our Halloween pumpkins and Christmas tree, which we will be picking up tomorrow
  • That the Yankees Spring Training will be here soon, because PoppaNut will be so happy
  • Having a walk-in closet filled with more shoes than my little heart could have ever dreamed of

And the best part is that this list could go on and on and on because I have so many things to be thankful for. I’m the luckiest girl in the world, and I never want to take that for granted. I hope you won’t either, so make a list for yourself. What are you really thankful for? Think of that list today as you see your family and friends. Hug each of them a little tighter and say “I love you” more often.

And that’s life in a nutshell … Thanksgiving is really about recognizing what you have in your life and being thankful for it. The food is just a bonus.

MommaNut

Shake What Your Momma Gave You: Zumba

23 Nov

As most of you know, PoppaNut and I opened a gym in August … and we have been working super hard to open a second location to host group-fitness classes in. Well, as of November 21, our second location is now open! Located off Tampa Road in Oldsmar, FL, My Way Fitness now offers an array of fitness classes to complement the gym experience.

PoppaNut has been working around the clock to get this ready to open. The space originally had a putt-putt golf course made out of concrete in there. So, demolition was necessary! That along with a million other little projects made the deadline to open nearly impossible. But, PoppaNut’s determination wouldn’t let him stop until everything was perfect. And it completely paid off. The space is beautiful! And I couldn’t be more proud of him!

Zumba was the first class in this new space, and it was amazing. I hadn’t tried Zumba before, but I had always wanted to. I was a cheerleader in high school, and dancing used to be a passion of mine. But with work and life, I haven’t danced in while (unless you count line dancing at a country bar!).

So, with my new tennis shoes in tow, I joined the Zumba class, and I had a complete blast. Muscles I didn’t even know I had hurt now. You really work up a sweat, but you have so much fun with the dancing, that you don’t even seem to mind. With the music blaring and everyone busting a move, you forget the reason you are there is for exercise. You almost think you are in some remake of “Step Up.”

If you haven’t tried Zumba before, you certainly should. The moves are pretty easy to follow, and it is truly a lot of fun. And there are all different age groups and skill levels, so you are bound to find someone to watch if you are a bit unsure of the moves. You can check out the gym’s website for class schedules at www.mywayfitness24-7.com.

And that’s life in a nutshell … don’t be afraid to try something new. You might just find a new passion!

MommaNut

If the Shoe Fits: Finding the Perfect Running Shoe

21 Nov

I have been on a mission to find the perfect running shoe for some time. Every time I look, I can never find a shoe that I love that also fits well. So, each time I return home from a trip to Sports Authority or another athletic store, I’m always empty-handed.

And shoes are just a must at this point. Until this weekend, I was wearing tennis shoes from Walmart. A few years back, I had run into Walmart to grab tennis shoes on my way to Port Charlotte. My family and I were handing out PB&J sandwhiches to hurricane victims, and it wasn’t safe to wear sandals.

And even after all the damage from the hurricane was fixed, I’m still wearing these silly tennis shoes. They get the job done, but I really need an upgrade. Especially since PoppaNut and I own a gym now! It’s time to do some investing. Plus, my sister, my aunt, PoppaNut and some other people really want to do a 5K run soon, and I’m not wearing these old shoes for that!

So, this weekend, I ran to Dick’s Sporting Goods, and I was surprised to see so many shoe options. I literally tried on every pair they had in a 6.5, and I walked out with the most amazing Adidas pair. They are bright blue, and I know they are going to be amazing while I’m Zumba-ing around the gym.

And that’s life in a nutshell … finding the perfect pair of tennis shoes was a HUGE highlight of the weekend. My Walmart shoes might still hang out in the closet as a backup pair, but I’m excited to sport a new pair tonight at Zumba.

MommaNut

Easy Dinner: Homemade Sloppy Joe’s

9 Nov

Homemade sloppy joe’s is one of my go-to recipes. It is so easy to make, and everyone seems to love it! I haven’t found one person who didn’t rave over this. The recipe came to me from my cousin Ashley. When she lived in Indiana with our cousin Josh, they developed … and perfected … this delicious dish.

So, when she moved to Florida and we got a place together, that is one of the first things she taught me. And I have been making it ever since. In fact, this is the first dish I cooked for PoppaNut after we said “I do.” And when I visited my sister-in-law and her family in Connecticut, I couldn’t resist sharing it again.

Ingredients: garlic, hamburger meat, hamburger buns, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce (Original and Hickory & Brown Sugar varieties), green peppers and onions.

Directions: Place a spoonful of minced garlic into a large, deep pan and let it cook for a minute on high heat. Then, brown meat and drain. Add in peppers, onions and both sauces (add as much or as little as you want depending on how sloppy you like your sloppy joe’s). Place on warm to let the flavor cook together. I usually toast the buns in our toaster oven, then add the sloppy-joe mix and finish it off with some cheese.

You can serve these open-faced or traditional. Make sure you have lots of napkins on hand because these are quite messy. I usually have to eat mine with a fork!

And I wish I had a wonderful “done” photo to share. However, the delicious scent made all of us gobble them up before I could take one.

And that’s life in a nutshell … making family recipes for dinner is a great way to show your family you love them.

MommaNut

Yum Yum: Making Cupcake Pops

7 Nov

So, you all know I’m knocking on death’s door with this bronchitis. I am been so under the weather that PoppaNut and I haven’t been able to do much of anything (unless you count my snoring and drooling as a hobby). So, I reached out to my very talented sister for today’s post.

My sister is really incredible. She has five kids, ages 16 to 2, and she managed to care for all of them while putting herself through school. I know I often say how busy I am, but I literally have no idea how she makes it through her week. I would need one massive app to keep me together!

And on top of that, she is a kindergarten teacher! So, on top of spending her time with her kids, she helps teach kids all day long as well. And teachers have limited resources! You wouldn’t believe all the things she has to buy herself just because she is so passionate about helping her students.

And all of that … among a lot of other things … is why I’m so proud to have her as my sister. She always tells me the truth, she steers me in the right direction when I need guidance and she is a true friend to me!

Well, somehow my dear sister found four spare hours in a day … I have no idea how this is possible. I have a hubby and two dogs and I can’t find time to go to the bathroom alone! But this superwoman somehow made it possible so she could make Cake Pops with her daughter for several classrooms at school. Yeah, I need to give back more to charity because I’m feeling very guilty at the moment.

I wanted to share the recipe and a fun photo! WARNING: My sister says this takes a LOT of time and patience. If you don’t have that, I would suggest forwarding the recipe to someone who does and then sampling what they make. The recipe originally came from Family Circle, and my sister told me to tell everyone about this website as well: www.bakerella.com. Enjoy!

Basic Cake Pops

1 box cake mix
13x9x2″ cake pan
Large mixing bowl
1 container (16 oz ) prepared frosting
Large metal spoon
Wax paper
2 baking sheets
Plastic wrap
Black edible ink pen

1. Bake cake as directed on box, using the cake pan. It is best to bake the cake the day prior to decorating the cake pops.

2. Once cake is cooled, get organized with all supplies, and set aside an hour to crumble, roll, and dip 4 dozen cake pops. (It took me approximately 3-4 hours all together.)

3. Crumble cooled cake into a large mixing bowl. Cut it into four equal parts. Remove one section and break it in half, rubbing the two pieces together over a large bowl making sure to crumble it completely. You can also use a fork to break it up. Repeat with each section of the cake. There should be no large pieces of the cake left.

4. Add 3/4 (I added a little less than that) of the container of frosting to the crumbled cake. Use the back of a metal spoon to blend. You do not need the remaining frosting.

5. The mixture should be moist enough to roll into 1 1/2″balls and still hold a round shape. After rolling by hand, place them on a wax paper-covered baking sheet.

6. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours in the fridge, or place in the freezer for 15 minutes. You want them to get firm, but not frozen.

Pirate Cake Pops

48 uncoated Basic Cake Pops
48oz (3 pounds) white candy coating
2 deep, microwave safe plastic bowls
48 paper lollipop sticks
Styrofoam block
24 ounces red candy coating
About 15 white confetti sprinkles per cake pop
Toothpicks
48 red M&M’s minis
48 red jumbo heart sprinkles
Black edible-ink pen

1. Have the cake balls chilled.

2. Melt the white candy coating in a microwave safe plastic bowl, following the instructions on the package. The coating should be about 3″ deep for easier dipping. (Work with about 16oz of candy at a time.)

3. When you are ready to dip, remove a few cake balls at a time from the fridge, keeping the rest chilled.

4. One at a time, dip about 1/2″ of the tip of a lollipop stick into the melted candy coating, and insert the stick straight into a cake ball, pushing it no more than halfway through. Dip the cake pop into the melting coating, and tap off any excess coating: Hold the pop over the bowl in one hand, and tap your wrist gently with your other hand. (If you use the hand holding the cake pop to shake off the excess coating, the force of the movement will be too strong and could cause the cake pop to fall off the lollipop stick. Tapping the wrist holding the cake pop absorbs some of the impact.) The excess coating will fall off, but you will need to rotate the lollipop stick so the coating doesn’t build up on one side, making it too heavy on that side. If too much coating starts to build up at the base of the stick, simply use your finger to wipe it off, spinning the lollipop stick at the same time. This can happen if the coating is too thin or too hot. It’s not as hard as it sounds; it just takes a little practice.

5. Let dry completely in a Styrofoam block. (Pre-puncture holes in the block prior to getting started).

6. For the bandannas, melt the red candy coating in the second microwave safe bowl and dip the top half of each cake pop into it, holding the pop at a diagonal angle. Before the red candy coating sets, place miniature white confetti sprinkles randomly on the top. You can also attach after the coating dries by using a toothpick to dot on coating and then attaching the sprinkles.

7. Let dry completely in the Styrofoam block.

8. To finish the bandannas, use a toothpick to dab a little red candy coating to one side of the pop, and attach a red M&Ms mini. Hold it in place until the candy coating sets like glue. Use the same technique to attach a jumbo heart sprinkle, with the pointed end toward the cake pop, for the final touch, and let dry.

9. For the faces, use a black edible ink pen to draw on eyes, patches, and mouths. Let dry completely. (I tried to use the edible ink pen, but it was a fine tip and would not write on the candy coating, so I had to use melted chocolate chips and draw each face on using a toothpick.)

And that’s life in a nutshell … or perhaps a cake pop this time.

MommaNut

I’m Sick: 10 Tips for Your Caregiver

4 Nov

So, I’m terribly sick with bronchitis, and I’m lucky enough to have the best caregiver in the world: My hubby! He is literally waiting on me hand and foot, and I thought I would share a few tricks of how to take care of a sick person … from the sick person that I am right now!

1. Gifts: This one worked really well when I was a little girl. Whenever I was sick, my parents would drop me off at home while they ran to the pharmacy to pick up my medicine. When they came home, they always brought me a book or a magazine to help me past the time. My favorite was when they would bring me paper-doll books like this one. It is a fond memory I still hold dear to my heart. Try it out for yourself!

2. Lies: While it is not good to tell lies, a sick person wants to hear all kinds of lies. They want to hear, “Yeah, you really do sound like you are getting better” and “You still look so beautiful, honey.” Now, we both know I look like death, but the lie somehow makes me feel better about not showering in two days and not brushing my hair for even longer. So, bring on all the good lies. I’ll forgive you!

3. Force: Yes, excessive force might be needed to make me stay in bed at all times. I’m a usually a really busy woman and it is hard for me to sit back and rest, even though I know my body needs that. I really appreciate my hubby for this one, because he has literally made me sit down and rest. And I need that!

4. Food: Us sick people need food, but we hardly have the strength to make it. I wanted to make sloppy joe’s for PoppaNut last night to show him how grateful I am for everything he has done, but after a seven-hour nap from my medicine coma, I just didn’t have the strength. Luckily, he brought me home Publix subs instead. And this morning, he is bringing me a bagel. He also made me the most amazing hot tea. Keep the food right on coming …

5. Entertainment: So while I’m quite entertaining all drugged up on medicine, I’m not the entertainment I’m referring to. We need entertainment we like to keep our eyes open for the precious few minutes in between naps. And for me, that lots of girl shows! In between rests, I have been catching up on my “Real Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes just to name a few. It really does help.

6. Affection: And even when I’m coughing up a lung, I’m craving affection like no other. I have turned into this very needy sick person, just wanting to be close to PoppaNut every second. It’s not that he can physically do anything to help me get better, but having him hold my hand while I doze off on the couch seems to make all the difference.

7. Phone Calls: I love the phone calls and texts I have received from everyone who loves me so much. I’m in this sick sphere where getting better is the only thing that matters, but I love hearing from people outside the sphere too! My sister gave me a nice call all the other day, and PoppaNut texts me throughout the day too. My mom called during my seven-hour nap and I’m sure I scared her to death with my groggy nonsense. But I do appreciate it!

Now, I know I promised you ten tips, but my medicine has kicked back in and I need to lay down. So, you are on your own to get creative with the rest.

And that’s life in a nutshell … being sick lets you see just how much you have to live for thanks to the loved ones around you. PoppaNut, you have been amazing and I am forever grateful! I love you so much.

MommaNut

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