Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nice & Naughty: Chocolate Edition

Have I mentioned before that I LOVE making gift baskets?  I love coordinating gifts in a theme and putting them all in a fact years ago I had this dream of opening my own shop.  I was going to call it "The Basket Loft" and I would sell all of my favorite things...candles, chocolates, baskets, baking and dip mixes, coffees and mugs, and all kinds of coordinating things that could be given as theme gifts.  I had a vision of it being a rustic little store with a real loft filled with baskets and benches, wooden shelves and signs with cute sayings on them.  I would custom design gift baskets for people with coordinating cloth and ribbons.  Who knows, maybe someday...

For my "nice" list today my theme is "all things chocolate".  If you know me at all you know that I can be quite fanatical about chocolate, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite chocoholic fixes...along with a gift basket theme idea, you know since it's Christmas and all and maybe you have some last minute shopping to do yet (not that I'd know anything about that).  

~ The Nice List ~

Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips - these are simply the best chocolate chips, bar none.  Once you have had these, you'll never go back to wax chips - er, I mean other brands of chocolate chips (which all taste like wax compared to these.  Sorry, Nestle, but they do).  Gift idea:  Put a bag of these chips in a Christmasy mixing bowl lined with a coordinating dish towel and wooden spoon set. 

Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa Mix - Yummy and awesome as hot chocolate, but this mix also makes the best brownies ever.  The recipe is on the can.  Gift idea:  you could do the same thing as the chocolate chip idea above, or instead of the mixing bowl you could get one of those lazy people brownie pans (have you seen those with the metal grid that you bake inside the pan so you don't have to go to all the laborous effort of cutting your own brownies).  If the person is really special, you could even include a bag of chocolate chips in with the gift.  But make sure the person IS really special because they will be in all kinds of love with you after making these brownies and if you don't want them to be it could be a little awkward. 

Tiramisu Wind & Willow Cheeseball Mix - it's the bomb!  Except with all their dip mixes, I think they taste better mixed with 12 oz. cream cheese instead of just 8 oz. that the box calls for.  Serve it with animal crackers, or graham cracker sticks.  And if you are looking for a great gift idea, get one of these mixes and a cute spreader for under $10...or if you can spend a little more you can get a coordinating dip bowl too! 

Nutella.  It's simply amazing...on bagels, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, and even bananas.  Add a layer of peanut butter and you'll think your mouth died and went to taste bud heaven.  And once the jar is opened, you'll have to hide it from your kids or it will be gone.  Not that I would know anything about that.  As far as a gift idea...I'm not sure you could get away with giving it as a gift.  But if you really wanted to you could put it in a basket with a jar of my nutty butter.  Yummo.

One more for now...

This is awesome.  Just microwave it (after first sampling some of the chips to make sure they are good, of course).  Tastes awesome with mini-marshmallows, bananas, strawberries, chunks of angelfood cake, and whatever else you like to dip in chocolate which for me is pretty much anything.  Good alternative if you don't have time to set up the big chocolate fountain. don't have a chocolate fountain?  Well, you should.  I picked up a brand new one at a garage sale for $20 (someone's unused wedding gift, no doubt) and it's become a holiday tradition at our house.

~ The Naughty List ~

Carob.  It's supposed to taste like chocolate, but contains no cocoa powder. 


It does not taste like chocolate anymore than margarine tastes like real butter.  The only reason I know this is because my parents thought I was allergic to chocolate growing up, but alas I was not.  I won't revisit that story...suffice to say that my parents would buy me carob bars as a substitute for the real thing (which I really did appreciate because they did it out of love and sympathy and this was the only option available except for tootsie rolls which don't contain any chocolate either, but you can only eat so many tootsie rolls).  Yes, it's true, I was deprived of chocolate as a child, but don't feel too sorry for me as I am more than making up for it as an adult! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Nice List

You know how Oprah has her "O" list of things she thinks are "just great"?  Well, even though I am no longer an Oprah fan because I think it is very possible that she is the anti-christ, when I used to get her magazine her "O" list was the first thing I'd flip to.  Nevermind the fact that most of the things on her list are insanely expensive (I will never in my life spend $128 on a bracelet, or $168 on a pitcher with a rooster on it), I did find it intriguing.  And since I am a "listy" kind of gal, I thought I'd create my own list of things I think are "just great".  Just because I can't keep these awesome secrets all to myself (and I need something to babble about) here we go...

~ The Nice List ~

Ok, What really made me want to do this list was my recent discovery of these....quite possibly the most tastey little cracker I've ever had.  I'm in love with them now, and the fact that they are really healthy makes them all the more irresistable to me (or at least it removes the guilt that I am indulging in a high carb snack). 

Hello.  That's all I am going to say about this, my favorite yummy lotion smell from Bath & Body. 

Ok, I rarely ever drink pop anymore, but I bought a case of Cherry Dr. Pepper tonight for the kids (Nick caught me at a weak "I wanna be the cool mom" moment and I caved).  So I tried some over ice, and may I just say oh. my. word.  My new favorite bad-for-you beverage.   

I am currently out of this candle....the yummiest most awesomest candle smell on the planet (hinting really loud to Santa).  I buy it at Pieces of the Past, one of my favorite stores in Winona, but you can also get it online (in case Santa asks). 

And what's a "Nice List" without it's antithesis...

"The Naughty List"

Topping the naughty list recently would have to be the city snow plow guy, who barrelled down our street and literally burried my husband and his snowblower while clearing the driveway - not once but twice
It was like something you would see in a movie. 

I feel like kind of a traitor putting this on my naughty list, but they disappointed me. They are called "WallFlowers" and are plug in oil fragrances from Bath and Body. I of course bought Warm Vanilla Sugar and also Vanilla Caramel - I got three of them actually, for our bedroom, kitchen and living rooms. Both scents smell awesome in the bottle, and for the first week or two that I had them, but they quickly lost their power and I really can't smell them much at all anymore. I don't think they heat up enough anymore to emit the fragrance. I used to get a nice burst of aroma when I walked into the house each day, but now I pretty much have to put my nose right up next to it to actually smell anything - which is neither convenient nor attractive. So, once I have used up the last of my oil refills, I don't think I will be keeping them. Nice try, Bath and Body, but you make me sad.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We wanted a white Christmas, but this is a bit ridiculous!

We are burried in snow here in Minnesota.  Literally...reports are that we got 24-26 inches this weekend! The drifts were much higher.  It was blizzard conditions yesterday, and we were snowed in.  It would have been alot more fun if all our boys were home, but Nick and Kyle were at their dad's, and Vinny and Trevor were at their friends' both Friday and Saturday nights, so it was pretty quiet around here. 

We made the most of our little "snow-cation" though...Vince was busy making almond bark dipped cookies and homemade caramels (of which I took exactly no pictures....gah!)  We got lots of laundry done, I got in a few naps, watched Elf a couple times, and this evening we got the rest of the Christmas decorations put out.  I even mopped my kitchen floor - with a real mop and bucket this time, not just a damp paper towel to clean up the dirty spots, which is my normal m.o. 

Mr. Wonderful snowblowed the driveway twice...but first he had to get the snowblower out of the garage!

When the boys came home this afternoon, they were pretty impressed with the 4 foot drifts of snow on our deck...and when I *jokingly* told Kyle his job for the day was shoveling off the deck, he lit up like a Christmas tree and said "Really?  Awesome!"  and headed out the door to get a shovel.  Hope quickly followed behind and they had a blast.  Here he is, standing on top of and scooping snow off of our patio table...

Who needs toys for Christmas??  I think we'll just get them their own shovels instead.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Things that were said in our house on Thanksgiving that I wrote down and decided to blog about because they were funny

"I wish I was a cow and had seven stomachs." - Nick

"I don't want a hairy butt!" - Donna

"I suppose I should be smart and stop, but I'm going to be foolish and stupid." - Dave

"I'm gonna kiss you 'till you're mad." - Trevor

"I like this communal living, I could do this if I had to." - Mua

"I feel all Christmasy!" - Hope

"Ewwwww...rotten eggs taste worse than centepedes!" - and several similar phrases said by people playing "Beanboozled" which is a game where you have to eat gross flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans and figure out what they taste like.  I wouldn't know because I refused to play politely declined.  Call me a wimp, but I just have this thing about not eating things that 1. taste gross, and 2. I don't know what it is.  Not only did they come up with some of the grossest flavors imaginable (including vomit and skunk), but I can't get over wondering how they made those flavors taste like that.  I really do not, EVER IN MY LIFE, want to play this game, or meet the person whose brain child this game was.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

In which I talk about all the fun we've been having

We have snow!!  It started late yesterday afternoon - the beautiful kind of snow where it was slowly falling straight down and looked so pretty on our deck in the moonlight.  We probably got about 8 inches or so, I know this not because I listen to the news (if you know me at all you are well aware that I don't watch the news and subsequently have no idea what is going on most of the time), but because we have this pretty, perfectly white cube of snow atop our square patio table out on our deck.  I'll post a pic of it as soon as I take one....oh the suspense. 

Our house has been hustling and bustling the past two days...last night Nick, Vinny and Hope each had a friend stay over, so there was lots of running, laughing, and generally loud silliness going on.  At 10:30pm the four older boys all emerged from downstairs wanting to bake a cake.  Vince was ready to put the kibosh on that, but after I accused him of being a scrooge and a fun-sucker, he conceded to letting them mess up the kitchen bake their very first cake from scratch.  I must say it was hilarious to watch.  I loved every minute of it.  I knew this would be one of those moments that they would remember as being so fun and crazy and special...and so would I.  They were still talking about it today.  I will remember it forever.

After all that craziness, and eating the cake (which actually turned out pretty good!) the kids were off to bed, where Vince and I should have gone but instead we stayed up until 2am playing "jukebox" on my iTunes playlist.  This is where I play a song, and he has to guess the artist and title of the song...and we then procede to sing it together at the top of our lungs with all the kids in the house asleep.  We play it alot in the car too, especially when we go on road trips.  But the kids aren't usually asleep then.  They are usually rolling their eyes and having seizures whilst being subjected to lots of 70's and 80's music.  Oh the horrors.  How ever will they survive being our children??

Today the kids went sledding with their friends, who ended up spending the entire day here...which incidently I love.  Vince took Vinny shopping to get new boots and some groceries, and came home to surprise me with a new Jim Brickman cd and Starbucks ornament :)  That's one of the many reasons I call him Mr. Wonderful (that and the fact that he is rubbing lotion on my feet at this very moment).  Mr. W made some awesome chili for supper, then all the kids grabbed their pillows, blankets, and santa hats and we snuggled up and watched the "Rollie Pollie Ollie Christmas" video, which is my boys' favorite Christmas movie.  It was an awesome Saturday...I got a nap, played my piano, got exactly no laundry, housecleaning or decorating done today, and I wouldn't change a bit of it.