Category Archives: food

DIY Patio Railing Planters Part 2 – Herb Pots

Greetings, dear readers!  I hope this blog post finds you well and happy.  Today I’m sharing the next installation in our DIY patio garden efforts.  In case you missed part one, this is what the patio looked like with the one row of larger planters (below).


Once we’d gotten the main, large planters in (shared in this post here) hubby figured out a way to add another row of pots for me – smaller ones that I could put herbs in.  Woo hoo!  Again, the constraints were that nothing could be permanently attached to the building, he had to use simple tools on the patio, and couldn’t make much noise.


One 2″ x 4″ x 8″ board
Fourteen 6″ diameter plastic pots
Galvanized bolts, washers, and nuts (1 bolt, two washers, and one nut per pot)
Two L brackets
Electric drill


Our patio is laid out in such a way that there was enough room to lay the new wooden board for the herbs inside the railing and have it supported on the sides by the building/patio walls.  (See far right of the photo above, and the photo below)  Hubby simply laid the board across and made the setup more secure by attaching L brackets to each end of the 2 x 4 – on the inside of the patio.  We wanted to make sure nothing would fall down since the bunnies spend time out on the patio during the day – weather permitting.


Next, he drilled holes in the wooden board – one hole for each of the fourteen plastic pots that would fit across the board.  You can measure for exact spacing if you’d like, but I believe he chose the “lay the pots out on the board and then trace around them with a pencil” method.


Next hubby drilled a hole in the bottom center of each plastic pot and attached the hardware that would help attach them to the board.  He put the bolt in from the center of the pot going down out of the bottom, so the bolt would stick out of the bottom and slide into the pre-drilled holes.  This allows the pots to be rearranged, which is super helpful.  The hardware was layered this way: bolt, washer, plastic pot, washer, nut.  Once all the hardware was attached to the pots they were inserted into the board – ready to be filled with soil and plants, and easy to rearrange.



So, now we have three larger rectangle planters, two pots on either side of those planters (barley visible in the photo below), and fourteen small pots in front.  I hung my often-used tools within arms reach.  My trowel and misting water bottle hang on either end of the row of herbs.  I just used some metal hooks that screwed right into the wood.


I also added some decorative elements – fun!  I found some galvanized disk ornaments at Michaels and added flowers and a butterfly that I cut out with my Sizzix Big Shot and steel rule dies.  The die cut shapes can be changed out quickly and easily if I decide I want to change the look and feel.  I may change them seasonally – will have to see.


And though I know what all I have in my little garden, and where everything is located, I made some simple garden markers from bamboo skewers and washi tape.  I may opt for something hardier and more elaborate in the coming weeks and months, but this super simple version is working well for now.

My plants are in varying stages right now.  Some plants were mini plants that were purchased on little flats at the nursery, and some were started from seed.  Some things I’m growing do better when started earlier or later (to avoid the heat), so this is all just experimental at this point.  I’m thrilled anything is alive given the heat we’ve had lately – it’s been in the high 80s or 90s since we got the garden going in early July.  I’ve been watering frequently, and am pleased that the residents of the garden are hanging in there.

The cilantro plants bolted soon after we got them, and sent up flowers.  Many gardeners would get rid of the plants and start new cilantro plants at this point, but since it’s my first time growing cilantro I opted to let them flower so they can go to seed.  Cilantro plants produce coriander seeds, which can be used as an herb in cooking.  It’s pretty cool that the one plant can be used in two different culinary ways. :]


Flowering cilantro against an overcast August sky…

These nasturtium plants were started from seed.  I love nasturtium plants and flowers, and though they’re pretty they’re also edible!  I’ll likely add some young leaves and flowers to our plates as the plants continue to grow and fill in.  I’ll feed some to the bunnies as well.  I’m happy that thus far our wee little garden is both pleasing to the eye and completely edible.


Please leave a comment if you’d like to recommend any veggies or herbs that might do well in our little patio planters.  I’m probably going to replace our cilantro and parsley with lettuce plants as soon as the lettuce seedlings I’m growing are a bit bigger, and am open to a few other tweaks here and there.

I hope you have a wonderful week, dear readers.  Until next time…

Warm regards,

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Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe


Holy moly, these are good!  I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and had to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did.  Not only are these bars totally scrumptious, they’re quick and easy to make as well.  I love that combination in recipes.  :]

So far I’ve only made them with pecans, as called for in the recipe, but I’ll be making them with almonds next time.  And hmm, I wonder how they’d taste with some coconut in the mix – yummy, I’m sure!

Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe


  • Graham crackers (24 squares)
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • optional 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I forgot to put this in – will have to try it next time)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then lay down the graham crackers so they cover the entire cookie sheet. I used a 16″ x 12″ baking sheet and was able to fit four graham cracker squares across on each row.
  3. Melt butter using medium high heat. Add the brown sugar.
  4. Stir brown sugar into butter until melted. Bring to slight rolling boil.
  5. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the chopped pecans.
  6. Pour mixture over graham crackers.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Cut while still warm.


This is what the pan of bars looked like when they were pulled from the oven – nice and bubbly.

If you give this recipe a try I hope you find it as easy and delicious as I did. Happy Baking!

Warm regards,

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Recipe: Ree’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

It’s been a while since I posted my last recipe, so I thought I’d do a little baking and share the photos of what I made. I’d never made a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake before, and decided to give Ree Drummond’s recipe a try. Ree, also known as the Pioneer Woman, is a whiz in the kitchen.  I was sure her version of this cake would be yummy and it was!  This is the first cake I’ve ever made in a cast iron skillet, and was glad to be able to put my Lodge 12″ skillet to work.


Ree Drummond’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 20-ounce can sliced pineapple,
2 tablespoons juice reserved
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
Maraschino cherries, stemmed (optional)

(Melody’s note: I used 1/4 stick more butter in place of the 1/4 cup shortening)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the cake batter: Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, 1/2 stick butter, the shortening, milk, eggs, vanilla and 2 tablespoons pineapple juice in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until well combined. (There will still be a few small lumps in the batter.) Set aside.

Melt the remaining 1/2 stick butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; swirl to thoroughly coat the skillet. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter, making sure it’s evenly distributed-you want the entire surface of the butter to be covered in brown sugar. Do not stir. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat and layer the pineapple slices over the top. If desired, place maraschino cherries in the centers of the pineapple slices.

Pour the batter evenly over the pineapple slices and gently spread to even out the top. Bake the cake 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake, then put a plate upside down on top of the skillet. Carefully invert the skillet so the cake is turned onto the plate. It should come out pretty easily; if bits of cake stick to the skillet, use a small knife to patch it together. Let cool slightly before cutting into wedges. It’s best served warm.



I hope you enjoy making and eating this yummy cake as much as I did. Happy Baking!

Warm regards,

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Scrumptious Salads

Summer is nearly here, and that means “salad season” for some of us.  Salad is often seen as a healthy food, but depending on what is IN and ON your salad, that may not be the case.  For example, a salad of iceberg lettuce covered with pre-made dressing can be virtually worthless nutritionally.  Not only is iceberg low on the “nutrient Richter scale”, many dressings are loaded with bad fats and sugar.  Another pitfall?  Not getting full enough from a salad – particularly if you’re eating it as an entree.  And finally, there’s the humdrum factor.  Another salad?  Bor-ring.
I’ve been eating a number of salads lately (as part of my Rebuilding – From the Inside Out) and have been pretty pleased with how nutritious, filling, and varied they’ve been.  I thought I’d share some salad tips, along with a few lunchtime snapshots – in case you’re interested in adding more salads to your diet or need to get out of a salad rut.*

Tips for Snappier Salads

1. Include a variety of veggies.  I often start with packaged mixed greens, and then add to it.  I often use radishes, carrots, celery, cucumber, and green onions in my salads.
(Ingredients: mixed greens, carrots, radishes, celery, hardboiled egg, fresh cooked salmon, cucumber, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
2. Forgo pre-made salad dressings and use oil and/or citrus juice for a healthier option.  I like using avocado oil or an olive oil/lemon juice dressing.  I also use orange juice to dress salads with fruit in them, and plain lemon or lime juice works well on a variety of salads. It takes a bit of getting used to, if you’re used to bottled dressing, but isn’t a big deal once you commit.
3. Add some protein to your salad – this will help keep you full longer.  You can include nuts, fish (canned, wild-caught salmon is a great option), hardboiled eggs, cheese, and more!
(Ingredients: mixed greens, radishes, canned salmon, grated parmesan, avocado oil dressing, pepper)

4. Don’t be afraid to mix veggies and fruit in a salad.  For example, blueberries, strawberries, and clementine sections are great in salads.

(Ingredients: mixed greens, strawberries, white cheddar, walnuts, orange juice dressing)

5. Try new things!  
Changing things up will keep you from falling into a rut, and that is always a good thing.  I plan on working some almonds into salads soon, and will look for things that are in season at the farmers market for some added oomph. :]

Do you have favorite ingredients you like to use in your salads?  Do you make your own dressings?  Please share!  I’m interested in trying new things, and I’ll bet others here at my blog are, too.  Thanks!
Warm regards,
*Ingredients in salad at the very top: mixed greens, cucumber, celery, radishes, carrot, nitrate-free bacon, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
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Rebuilding – From the Inside Out


This is a noteworthy year for me in many ways.  Not only will I be entering my fourth decade soon, I’ve recently published a book.  And, after having been laid off earlier this year, I’m looking for my next employment opportunity.  Suffice to say that much of my life has been turned on its head in one way or another.  And since I’m already upside down, so to speak, why not use this time to make some real, positive, and lasting change?

I’d been wanting to focus intently on improving my overall health for some time, and decided there was no time like the present.  So, to that end, I’m working on overhauling my health, nutrition, and exercise, and have made some headway.  I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to, in case you find it helpful.

A Lifelong Battle

I’ve been fighting my weight for most of my life.  But before I go on, please know this is more about overall health than it is about weight and weight loss.  Yes, I’m heavier than the medical community says is healthy.  Yes, I’d like to trim down and be a bit less “squishy”.  However, what I’m most concerned with is fueling my body well.  With being strong, fit, and healthy.  I want to live an active life without limitations, and that includes good food and some treats.  If I can do all that at a size 14/16, so be it.  I know from years past that I’ll never be smaller than a size 10 anyway – that’s where I start looking too thin.  :]

Getting back to fighting my weight, it’s been peaks and valleys.  Gain weight, lose weight, gain weight, lose weight.  And though there might be years in between each gain and loss, it’s been ongoing since high school.  I’ve probably gained and lost a significant amount of weight at least six or seven times over the years, which is not only annoying – it’s not healthy.  Repeated weight gains and losses take a toll on one’s body.

Trying Something New

Mark Twain said, “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”  Amen, Mr. Twain!  I’ve been using that quote as a bit of a guide, and have been trying to do things a bit different lately.  Rather than participating in a diet program, or guiding myself through a diet that focuses on low-fat and fewer calories, I’m starting at the very beginning: with nutrition.

I’ve been doing some reading, and it’s both confusing and eye-opening.  Confusing because there are hundreds of books on diet and nutrition, and many of them contradict each other.  Eye-opening because so much of what we’ve been told about nutrition is wrong.  For example, for decades folks were told that margarine was healthier than butter.  That liquid vegetable oils like corn oil are healthier than the animal fats people used to cook with.  It’s now coming to light that the opposite is true.  Certain oils are good (olive, avocado, coconut), but a lot of the oils used today are truly bad for us.  Much of the “food” in the grocery stores is manufactured by the food industry with the goal of making something that will last longer on the shelf and bring the manufacturer more money, rather than promote good health.  How do we know what to eat?  Who do we trust?


Doing Research & Taking Action

Thus far I’ve read five different books on nutrition, whole food, and our agricultural system, and am going with areas of consensus amongst the authors, with my personal observations, and with my gut instinct.  First and foremost, I’m focusing on eating whole foods and eliminating processed foods as much as possible.

I’m also:

  • Eating more fruits and veggies
  • Eating a wider variety of vegetables – like spaghetti squash, a new squash for me
  • Shopping at the Farmers Market when I can
  • Avoiding the bad oils (vegetable, corn, safflower, etc)

(I’m only using butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil for meals at home)

  • Adding more meat, shellfish, and eggs to my diet
  • Cooking more meals at home
  • Reducing my refined sugar intake
  • Vastly reducing processed grains like wheat, corn, oats, etc. for toxicity reasons
  • Greatly reducing the amount of soda I drink (both regular & diet are bad for us)
  • Brewing batches of iced green tea sweetened with stevia to drink instead of soda
  • Reading the ingredients on any packaged food I buy
  • Taking supplements like Green Tea Extract and Vitamin D
  • Working with my doctor to get my thyroid regulated and my TSH number down
  • Exercising 4-5 times a week
  • Exercising before breakfast whenever I can, since this encourages fat burning

Here are some of the books I’ve been reading, in case you’d like to do some research of your own:

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo
The Perfect Health Diet by Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet & Paul Jaminet
The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen
Why Women Need Fat by Lassek & Gaulin

No Calorie Counting

Something I read in one (or two) of the books really resonated with me: it’s very possible to be both overfed and undernourished.  I was a good example of that.  I was eating too much of the wrong things and wasn’t providing my body the vitamins, minerals, and fuel it needed.  The healthy foundation wasn’t there, so my body kept asking for more food in search of what it really needed.

So, at this point I’m not counting calories. I’m simply focusing on eating healthy foods (with the occasional deviation) in reasonable portions.  I figure it’s most important to be eating the right kinds of foods since a typical Western diet – and dieting – haven’t worked for me.


Investing in Good Health

Eating healthfully can be more expensive and more time consuming, but what costs you time and money now will likely save you time and money in the long run.  Nowadays we spend a smaller portion of our incomes on food than in decades and centuries past, but our healthcare costs are also higher because we’re sicker – so there’s not much of a savings.  Many of the illnesses that run rampant today are directly related to our broken food system, and that’s a shame.  I’ve embarked on this adventure to see if I can’t turn that tide in my life.

We’ll See What Happens…

I don’t have all the answers, and still have plenty of questions.  I’m not exactly sure where this road will lead, but I know in my heart and in my head that eating mostly whole foods makes the most sense, so here I go.  I know I’m making better choices and am fueling my body better – whether or not that will be reflected on a scale remains to be seen. And though I’m dedicated to this new way of doing things, I’ll still indulge in some things that aren’t good for me from time to time.  Just not all of the time. :]

Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.  I’d be glad to hear from you and to respond…

Warm regards,

*Please note: I am not affiliated with or advertising any products listed in this post, am just sharing what I’ve been reading/using/eating.

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Applesauce Spice Cake Recipe


Are you familiar with Mavis at the One Hundred Dollars a Month blog? She is the Queen of Gardening and I seriously envy her yard and garden.  She featured this recipe on her blog in December, and I decided to give it a try.  Verdict?  Yummy!  The fact that it’s delicious and easy to make makes it a winner in my book.

Though Mavis dusted the top of hers with powdered sugar, I left mine plain. You know what would be yummy though?  Topping this cake with some cream cheese frosting.  You can find a recipe for the frosting here, on my Pumpkin Bars Recipe page.  You’d probably want to cut the frosting recipe in half though.


Applesauce Spice Cake Recipe


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup of buttermilk ( I was a rebel and used regular milk)
1 cup sugar


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Butter and flour an 8-in square baking pan and set aside.  You’ll want to do this even if you use a non-stick pan.  Trust me.
  • In a medium bowl combined the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl beat together the eggs, butter, vanilla and sugar until nice and smooth.  Mix in the applesauce and buttermilk, then add in the dry ingredients and mix again until everything is incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into your 8-inch prepared pan and bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Happy Baking, y’all!

Warm regards,

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Biscuit Recipe

Have I ever mentioned that I love biscuits?  Well, I do.  I really really do.  And, oddly enough, until very recently I’d never made them from scratch.  For someone that loves to bake and loves to eat biscuits it seems unlikely, but there you have it.

Now that I have made biscuits, and know how easy it is to have fresh biscuits on hand, there could be a problem.  But it’s a good problem to have, so I wouldn’t dream of complaining. Somehow I’ll muddle through.  ;]

As for what one puts on the biscuits, I haven’t gotten into the gravy thing.  Maybe that will come later. Thus far in my life I’ve enjoyed them plain, with butter, with honey, and with jam.  Yum-yum-yum-yum! Here’s the recipe I used to initiate myself as a biscuit baker.  I hope you enjoy it!

Biscuit Recipe


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP white sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead 15 to 20 times. Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used. Brush off the excess flour, and place biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges begin to brown.

Helpful Hints

  • Refrigerate the dough for about an hour before rolling it out.  This will make it easier to roll out and cut.
  • Make sure your rolling surface is adequately floured or you’ll end up with a sticky mess.
  • For easy cleanup, flour the inside surface of a full-size, rimmed cookie sheet and roll your dough out there.  The rim of the cookie sheet will help keep the flour contained and will make cleanup easier.
  • To make roughly six large biscuits, use a 3″ biscuit cutter.  A 2 1/2″ inch cutter will yield approximately 10 biscuits.

How do you eat your biscuits, dear readers?  Savory?  Sweet?  Do tell.

Warm regards,

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Black-Eyed Pea Salad (aka Wilcox Caviar)

I’m posting this recipe now, in late December, for those of you who ring in the New Year by eating Black-Eyed Peas.  A Southern thing, I know this practice extends to other regions, too.  Though I think of this as kind of a summery salad because there’s no cooking involved, and the ingredients are light and fresh, this side dish – which can also be eaten as a dip, on baked potatoes, or on salad greens – is a yummy addition to the menu no matter the season.  Big thanks to my friend, Barb L., for sharing this recipe with me!

FYI: I cut this recipe in half, since it’s just me and hubby, so the photos below include the half-size portions of ingredients and a single serving of salad.  :]  However, the ingredients list includes the amounts for a full-size batch.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad (aka Wilcox Salad)


4 cans white shoe peg corn, drained (or use a mixture of white and yellow corn, like I did)
2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
3 avocados, diced
1-2 bunches small green onions, diced
leaves from one bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup light olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I used white)


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well.  Chill overnight.  If you prefer, you can omit the avocado when making the salad, and can add it to the bowl when you give the salad a final stir before serving. That’s what I opted to do when making the batch I photographed…

Do you eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day?  Or do you eat other goodies to celebrate?  Please post a comment and share.

I’m wishing you all the best in 2013, dear readers!

Warm regards,

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Washi Tape & Cork Place Card Holders


I was recently given a big bag of corks (Thanks, Megan!), and have started the fun process of coming up with things to create with them.  My first DIY with these corks is this set of place card holders.  These little beauties are fast and easy to make, and require few materials.  What’s not to love?


Getting back to my bag ‘o corks, some of the corks are “natural” and some of them are made from foam and plastic.  Today’s project is made with the latter – the synthetic corks.  I found them to be more symmetrical, and therefore easier to wrap with the washi tape.  Washi tape is easy to work with, since it’s easy to peel up and straighten, and the color, pattern, and mix-n-match possibilities are endless!




Synthetic corks
Washi tape
Xacto Blade


  1. Wrap Washi tape around the cork.  The corks I used allowed for three “rows” of tape to be laid out next to each other, with a wee bit of overlap. You can use all one color, as I did on most of my corks, or mix and match, like I did on my black, white, and silver cork.
  2. Cut across the top middle of your cork with  your Xacto blade.  The cut should go all the way across the top, as shown, and should extend downward into the cork so the placecard can be slid down into the cork about 1/4 of an inch.
  3. Prepare the cards you’ll be displaying and carefully inset them into the cut foam slit. Make sure they’re centered so they don’t tip over.
Not only are these super fast and easy holders perfect for place cards, they’re also great for labeling food and dessert platters.  You might also consider using them to hold cherished photos.
Questions?  Comments?  I’d love to hear from you, dear readers.  Happy washi taping!
Warm regards,
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Holiday Favorites – My December “To Do” List!


There are certain things that I enjoying doing each year when December rolls around.  They’re things that I must do or experience in order for the Christmas season to be its best – at least for me.  I know everyone celebrates different things and/or in different ways, and I really love that celebrating is unique to each individual or family.  Tradition, culture and personalities play such a big part, don’t you think?

Here are some of My Holiday Favorites – things that I love to partake in each year, if I can:

  • Watching the movie “Elf” starring Will Ferrell.  Buddy the Elf is so innocent, gleeful, and funny.  I love it!
  • Decorating for the holidays
  • Making – and eating – Magic Cookie Bars!  I could literally eat a whole pan myself, they’re SO good. :]
  • Listening to the Soundtrack from The Nutcracker
  • Eating Dryer’s Peppermint Ice Cream.  Yum!
  • Doing something to help those in need, like donating food to a food bank
  • Listening to the song “Feliz Navidad”, performed by José Feliciano.  I listen to it several times during the month – it fills me with joy!
  • Baking sugar cookies.  When I was little my family used to make the kind of sugar cookies that you have to roll out and cut with cookie cutters, which was fun, but these days I go with a sugar cookie recipe that’s easier to make and is simply scrumptious.

What’s on your holiday “Must Do” list?  Please comment and share…

Warm regards,

p.s. Yep, that little girl in the blue dress in the photo up top was me – over 35 year ago. It was my one and only picture with Santa as a child. :]

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