Archive | July 2012

Surprise Bread Pudding- Doughnut Style!

My dear sweet husband came home yesterday carrying a bag full of goodies.  He mentioned he brought home some bread for me. Bread one of our biggest weaknesses right after a good Margarita and Nutella. Mmmm Nutella Margarita’s, have to work on a recipe for that.  Opps sorry lost my train of thought.  When I opened the bag I saw a bunch of stale doughnuts and I inquired why he brought them home, knowing that I am trying to lose weight and eat better. He said he couldn’t bare to throw them out and new I could make something delicious with them.  Hmmm, my mind began to churn with the challenge of revamping these stale doughnuts and behold, I have before you a wonderful confectionery concoction-  Almond Doughnut Bread Pudding.    You must forgive me I am reading Bram Stokers Dracula and have gotten caught up in the wonderful language used in the tail. If you read the above with an English accent it sounds better.

So off to to lab I went to see what ingredients I had on hand to transform the hard dry lump of sweet gluten into something fit for the gods. OK I am getting a bit full of myself but it did turn out might tasty. I received good reviews from my co-monkeys who served as guinea pigs.

Those who know my cooking, know I don’t measure but just eyeball things so all measurements are approximate.

Almond Bread Pudding

  • 7 doughnuts (or 10 cups of stale bread)
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Almond Milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt (1/4 tsp)
  • Sliced Almonds

Cut doughnuts into 1 inch pieces and placed in a greased baking dish.  Mix cream, milk, eggs, and spices in a bowel until well blended. Pour over bread.  Let sit in the refrigerator overnight or at least 1 hour.  Top with slivered almonds. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes.  Serve with maple syrup, caramel syrup, or a glaze.

Yes it was that easy!   Now hear are some alterations. My baking dish says it holds 12 1/2 cups so the 10 cups of bread is an estimate. you can see in the picture the size/types of doughnuts I used. Yes I even threw in the chocolate frosted one!  If you use stale bread you should add about 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar.  You don’t have to use cream or almond milk. I used these because it was what I had on hand. This would have been great with some chopped apples or raisins.   There is so much more you could do, bread pudding is such a versatile dessert, use your imagination.  I didn’t have any syrup on hand and didn’t feel like making a glaze so I served mine with caramel sauce. It was delicious!

One of my co-monkeys mentioned she wished she had time to bake then I told her the whole process only took about 5 minutes. The hardest part was cutting the doughnuts and cracking the eggs. It really is just a dump and pour recipe.

Now where is that margarita someone was talking about?….


Side note – The dish I used is a large covered baker from Pampered Chef. Cost is $85 this is such a versatile dish it is well worth the investment. I use it for so many things and the stoneware helps to keep the dish warm.


Battle of the Beauty Boxes – Beauty Army

So last month I signed up for two beauty box subscriptions, Birch Box and Beauty Army. For a subscription fee I receive a box in the mail each month filled with designer beauty products. This is a great way to try out new products with minimal investment.

Yesterday I reviewed the box I received from Birch Box. I was happy with my subscription and feel I really got my money’s worth. Today I will review the box I received from Beauty Army. Here is the original post. 

Beauty Army

Subscription:  $12 per month (no extra fees for shipping and handling)

Something that is nice about Beauty Army is that each month you are given the opportunity to pick what samples you would like to receive, you are shown 9 products and are allowed to choose the 6 that you want.  My first month I don’t feel I was given much of a selection. I don’t remember all of my choices  but I remember being disappointed. I figured this was my first month and perhaps the choices will get better. (Sorry for the bad pictures, I am still learning how to use my camera)

When I received the box I was very excited. It is a very nice black box lined with pink camouflage paper.  The box itself is a nice decorator item. I opened it up peeled back a layer of black tissue paper then a layer of pink. Everything was packaged so nicely, I couldn’t wait to see inside. Boy was I disappointed. That’s it? They samples were really just small samples, something I could get for free if I went to a department store make up counter.  I hadn’t remembered what I had selected but I was surprised that I selected 2 perfumes.  Below are the products I received and my reviews.

Young Blood Mineral Primer  – Youngblood’s Mineral Primer is the perfect all-over primer for flawless make-up application and skin rejuvenation. The light-weight, silky formula is packed with vitamins and minerals that smooth the appearance of fine lines and pores creating an even surface for foundation. This colourless base helps enhance the performance of makeup through the day while providing intense skin protection.  1 oz $41.00

This was actually the  best thing in the entire box the sample size was o.1 oz which is a little over a teaspoon. It doesn’t sound like much but you need so little of the product That it will probably last about 30 days or more. I like using a primer as it helps to control oil and helps your foundation go on smoothly. I like the added bonus of helping with fine lines and wrinkles. A girl needs all the help she can get.  I am enjoying this product and would probably purchase it again.

Control Corrective Anti-Wrinkle Face & Neck. For all skin types showing advanced signs of aging.  This advanced cocktail  of high performance ingredients helps stimulate collagen synthesis – thereby easing the look of fine lines, deeper wrinkles and textural irregularity – while promoting smooth, even pigment and tone. $96 for 2 oz

Good face creams can be very expensive, the sample size only has about 3 applications which is not enough to determine if it works or not. I find that it has a strange smell it is not strong, sort of medicated. The cream doesn’t feel heavy or greasy, it actually feels nice on my skin but for For $96 it should include a mini face lift.  Personally I will stick with my Oil of Olay.

Aquolina Pink Sugar EDT Natural Spray – Two drops of perfume and the world is tinted pink. Pink is the color of femininity, sweetness and passion. Pink is the color of emotions, of sensuality and indulgent innocence. Pink Sugar is a cloud of sweetness that lasts long on the skin.A unique olfactory experience interlacing fantasy and reality. The encounter of femininity and inner childhood. The earliest memories in life are also the most addictive. Nostalgia of cotton candy tinted with gourmand raspberry, tickled by the greenness of fig leaf, and lifted by the citrus notes of bergamot and Sicilian orange. $45 for 1.7 oz.

Not a bad perfume if you want to smell like a confection. The description was spot on when compared it to cotton candy. It smells good but I found myself craving dessert. Use this and you will smell good enough to eat.

Yuko Bella Shampoo and Conditioner– A gental shampoo that utilizes a blend of natural plant extracts to gently cleanse the hair and scalp while restoring moisture to the hair for a smoother and healthier shine.  Not listed on web site.

I find it strange that I am sent a sample but then cannot find the product on the web site. I did try this shampoo and it was shampoo. It washed my hair. I didn’t notice any great difference. I actually prefer my Dove conditioner and think I get better results.

Lucy B – Wild Jasmine eau de parfume – Top notes of pineapple and white ginger play with middle notes of wild jasmine. Bottom notes of water lily and magnolia. Infused with natural flower essences.  $48 for 3.34 oz.

I received a typical sample vial of this perfume. Jasmine is one of my favorite scents and I was excited to try this. I found it to be a nice light scent. I could smell the water lily more than the jasmine. I found it very pleasing, reminding me of a cool summer day.

Fiafini – Divine Hydration Moisturizer – A hydrating and healing moisturizer that firms, minimizes wrinkles, and restores elasticity.  $38.50

Like the lotion above it is really hard to judge a lotion on such a small sample. There are about 3 applications in the sample. This was a little heavier than the Control Corrective and I must say the price is much more appealing. It also had an interesting scent. Not bad but not appealing either.

I mentioned I was disappointed in the sample sizes, when I made my selection for July I noticed that a description of the sample size I would receive was listed an pictured so I should have paid more attention. I decided to give Beauty Army another month in the hopes that some of my choices get better. I really would like to see more make- up and variations in my choices. So far it is mostly skin care and perfume. While I love sampling skin care products, I don’t wear perfume so would prefer something else.

Beauty Army does have a referral and review system where you can receive discounts on future products. There are also discounts for your subscription anniversary, the longer you are with them the higher the discount. Their web site is a bit plain and they don’t offer the tips, and videos that I find on Birch Box. There is also the difference in price. It isn’t much but with Birch Box I feel I got more than the price of my subscription. With Beauty Army I don’t feel I got my money’s worth. As mentioned the sample sizes I received I can get something equivalent from any beauty counter at a department store. If I were to choose only 1 company between Beauty Army and Birch Box it would be hand down Birch Box at this point.

If you are interested in trying out either Beauty Army

or Birch Box

for yourself please use these links so I can receive credit for referring someone. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming soon! July’s Beauty Boxes.

Battle of the Beauty Boxes – Birch Box

A few weeks ago I was bored and flipping through youtube video’s. Isn’t that how most great stories begin? Last time that happened he had a Mentos version of Coke vs. Pepsi war in our back yard. That was a lot of fun and a big mess but boy was my grass green that summer. I digress, while surfing videos and trying to stay out of trouble I came across this video by All That Glitters 21 about beauty boxes.  I am very much a girly girl and I love playing with make up and experimenting with new products and ideas, sadly most are just experiments and don’t make it out of the bathroom.

I was intrigued by the idea of a monthly make up subscription and started to investigate.  My original fear that they would be like those old Columbia House CD Deals. Get 10 CD’s for a penny then get succeed into a contract that ends up costing you an arm and a leg. I was happily surprised to find this was not true and there was no catch. You sign up, pay your monthly fee and get a present in the mail each month. You can cancel at any time, no strings.

There are a few companies that have a beauty box subscription. You can sign up for one box, a monlthy subscription, or a year. The longer you sign up for the more you save.   Each month you get a small box in the mail with about 5 sample beauty products, some are the one time sample sizes and some are full retail sizes. The boxes range in price but average about $10 a month. From the video it looked like you get about $10 or more with of product each month.  I thought how fun. I love getting packages in the mail and love trying new cosmetics. So I decided to sign up with 2 different companies. I figured I probably spend that much trying things out with Walmart why not sign up and be able to sample higher end cosmetics.

Not all of the beauty box companies are available to ship in the US, just yet but keep checking back. Some also have a waiting list. I decided to try Birch Box and Beauty Army. Mainly because they shipped to the US. Both had a waiting list but I was accepted within 2 weeks so I didn’t wait too long.  Below is my review of the box I received in June  from Birch Box with a list of the products and my opinions.

Birch Box

Subscription Cost : $10/month or $110/year shipping is included

I found Birch Box very easy to sign up for you create a profile and are asked basic questions about your beauty preferences. The whole process took less than 5 minutes.  When I received the box I was a little disappointed, I thought it would be bigger. When I opened the box It was kind of fun pulling back the tissue paper. and finding another cute package wrapped up inside. I felt like it was my birthday.   With Birchbox you don’t select the products so you are never sure what you are going to get. The box is actually a nice study box that could be very useful, In fact I am already thinking of a craft project I could use it for.

Inside I found:

Designer Band Aids by Cynthia Rowley Klutzy fashionistas, we feel your pain and so does designer Cynthia Rowley. The fashion visionary teamed up with BAND-AID® Brand to create these haute band aids, which cover up life’s little boo boos and look good doing it. $11.00

What the heck? Band Aids, ok they are cute and different but I don’t really use band aids but you never know. It was a full box of 20 band Aids, I would probably pay $5 at the store so ok, I am getting half my money’s worth so far.  You get 2 boxes 40 band aids for $11. A bit pricey for me but once in awhile they are fun.

Melvita Eau Florale de Rose These refreshing sprays combine lightweight hydrating properties with deliciously addictive scents. Powered by organic ingredients like rose petals and lavender (plus always-beneficial H20), each spray soothes, firms, and heals delicate skin. And, with light, fresh fragrances, they can also be used as a hair and home scent. $22 for 6.75 oz

Translation- fancy rose scented water. My bottle was 0.95 oz, not bad, so far I am happy with the sample sizes but this just smells like rose water. The rose scent is strong and personally I think rose scent smells like old ladies. It isn’t bad, just not my thing. I am not a big scent perfume person so don’t let my review put me off. If you like roses try it.

Joya Âmes Sœurs Parfum – Scent of Soulmates This new perfume has a storied pedigree. After reading The Book Of Lost Fragrances, a thriller that details the quest to locate a scent created in the days of Cleopatra, fragrance designer Frederick Bouchardy was inspired to bring the novel’s star scent to life. Even if thrillers aren’t your favorite literary genre, you’re sure to love the spellbinding blend of orange blossom, myrrh, and other exotic notes $28 for 0.34 oz

This isn’t a bad perfume, and it is a nice little sample size that I will be able to get several uses out of it. I think it has a nice clean scent with a hint of musky sensuality. 

Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45+ We’re always skeptical when products promise the sun and the moon, but Dr. Jart’s Premium Beauty Balm truly delivers. A four-in-one primer, moisturizer, sunscreen, and treatment serum, the formula helps you cut down on the beauty cabinet clutter. Plus, it has advanced brightening properties and anti-aging benefits. Even Martha Stewart can’t boast multitasking skills quite like this. $39 for 1.5 oz

Now this is worth the $10 subscription price. I recently bought the BB Cream from Smash Box and I have to say I like this product better. It works better as a primer and covers up miner flaws better. It is not ment to be used as a foundation but provides light coverage if you just want a little something. It also has a higher spf the Smash box. I am sold on this product and am planning on purchasing it again when the sample runs out.  The sample size is 0.33 oz and you use so little it is going to last awhile.

theBalm® cosmetics Stainiac You wouldn’t know it from the state of our makeup drawer, but we’re actually beauty minimalists. Our motto: Why use two products when you can get the same effect with one? This two-in-one lip and cheek stain gives us a natural, understated flush and helps us get out the door faster. The gel formula looks dark in the tube but delivers a sheer tint. $17 for 0.3 oz

I love the idea of one product that does multiple things like the BB cream above.  I was excited about this product since it was called a stain, I thought it would be good to give a bit of color on my non make up days. Something light that would last.  It went on very easily with no streaks or problems and dried quickly. I then used some chapstick to give my lips some moisture.  The color was great and I was very happy. I was disappointed that the color didn’t last that long. In about 2 hours it was gone. I thought being a stain it would last longer.  I was happy to find that I received the full size and not a sample in my box.  It wasn’t bad but not worth $17 to me, if it had truly stained my lips and lasted longer than I would have been happier.

Oribe Shampoo and Conditioner for Beautiful Color Oribe, hair stylist to the fabulous, knows that you have to give color-treated hair special attention. He’s designed an ultra-gentle shampoo that effectively cleanses without stripping away any of that gorgeous color — while also delivering repairing ingredients that help tresses stay healthy. Shampoo $36 for 8 oz, Conditioner $39 for 6.8 ounces,

Wow, that must be some good shampoo and conditioner for that price. I received a single use sample size and decided to save it for when I took my next trip since the samples are easier to pack then small bottles that may leak in your luggage. So Honestly I can’t tell you anything about it.

My overall thoughts on Birch Box are that I love it. I think I certainly got my $10 worth. Even though I didn’t care for all of the products the ones I like were worth the money and it was nice to be able to try out the new products.

Some perks that I like about Birch Box, there are several videos and great information that show and explain how to use the products plus some great beauty tips.  There is even a Mens subscription box.

They also have a point rewards system. You can earn points towards discounts and free products by referring friends, purchasing products, and  for reviewing products you received.I got  60 points just for writing reviews.  There are also several deals and ways to earn double bonus points. Free shipping for orders over $50.  At 100 points you get $10 credit to spend on any of their products! Cool Beans to that!

Birchbox is a great way to discover new grooming, beauty and lifestyle products. Sample top products from high-end brands, get expert advice, buy new favorites and earn points with every purchase. So if you like trying out new products and getting cool surprises in the mail I encourage you to sign up. I chose the monthly subscription for $10 which includes shipping so there are no strange hidden fees. If you sign up for a year you end up saving $10.  If you are interested please use the link below, I won’t lie if you sign up with this link I will receive 50 Birch Box Points.

There is a cool perfume called Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume, sounds like something made just for me.  It would make a cool birthday present. Hint Hint!  

Tea Party Recipes Part 3- Your Just Desserts!

Mmm,Mmm – Saved the best for last! The Desserts.

To read more about my tea party and the delicious easy recipes click on the link. Would you like a spot of tea?

You can’t have a party without the delicious desserts. This is always the best part!

Apple Cinnamon Scones 

This is a good basic scone recipe that you can easily add any fruit or spice too, you could even just leave them plain. These were so good, I wish I had doubled the recipe. Chris said they were the best I had ever made.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tble baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or spice of your choice)
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces (1 stick)
  • 1 cup finely chopped, peeled apple, about  1 medium apple (or fruit of your choice)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup whipping cream (or heavy cream)

This is so easy to mix up I just do it by hand.

Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Use a whisk to combine ingredients.  Use a pastry blender, fork, or two knives to cut in the butter. Cut in till it resembles crumbs. Add chopped apples.

In a small bowl, combine cream and egg, mix well. Add to dry ingredients until just moistened, don’t over mix.   Dump onto a floured surface and gently kneed. Place on a greased cookie sheet and pat into a circle about 8 inches 1 inch thick. Cut into 8 edges, slightly separate.

This is to much work, I just scooped some out of the bowl, kneaded it slightly and shaped it into a small heart with my hands and placed on the cookie sheet. I ended up with 4 large heart shaped scones. (I forgot to take pictures the first time so I made a second batch just for you, my lovely readers)

I topped my with sparkling sugar you can get in the baking section of Micheals or JoAnns. 

bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

If you don’t have sparkling sugar just use plain granulated sugar, or a simple glace made with ½ cup powdered sugar and about 1 tble of either milk, cream, water, or lemon juice. Add 1 tsp at a time until you get a nice consistency. Drizzle over the scones.

This recipe is also featured on  It’s a Keeper Thursday: Recipe & Project Blog Hop

Mock Clotted Cream 

At first this doesn’t sound appealing, but if you have ever had clotted cream you will love this. Clotted cream is not easy to find in the US but this is a good substitute.

  • 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and sour cream. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat until smooth. Add cream and vanilla extract, beating until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until needed. Original recipe is from Tea Time Magazine. Be sure to take a look for some amazing recipes for your tea party.

Caramel Brownie Bites 

  • Brownies cut into 1 inch circles
  • Chocolate frosting
  • Caramel Sauce
  • chopped nuts

These couldn’t be easier.  I found some Pillsbury Brownie Bites at the store, cut them in half to resemble a layered cake. Put a dab of frosting in between the layers, spooned on some caramel sauce, then topped with chopped pecans and a raspberry. They looked so elegant but were so easy.

If you can’t find the brownie bites just bake you favorite brownies, allow to cool. Cut into 1 inch circles or squares. Depending on the thickness you might want to stack two of them or cut them in half like I did.

These can easily be changed up by using pound cake, mini cupcakes, and different flavors of filling such as strawberry cream cheese. MMMM

Next time your in town, drop by for a spot of tea

and I will mix up a batch of fresh scones! 

Tea Party Recipes Part 2 – The Finger Sandwiches

To find out more about my Tea Party and find other delicious simple recipes read “How about a spot of tea?”

Cucumber Mint Tea Sandwich

I first made these at a dinner party as a quick hors d’oeuvre, they were such a hit I made them for a Mothers Day lunch I hosted. Chris has been asking me to make them for a while.  He even try to create a quicker lighter version of his own, posted below.   The original recipe is from Whats Cooking America


  • 1/2 seedless cucumber,  very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves,  chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 16 slices best-quality white bread
  • Salt to taste


Place cucumber slices between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture, let sit overnight in the fridge or at least 1 hour. Don’t skip this step, unless you like soggy sandwiches. 

Note-  If you use a regular cucumber I suggest you peal it and remove the seeds. The seedless or English variety has a thinner skin and very tiny seeds.Use a mandolin to help slice the cucumber paper thin.

In a small bowl, combine mint, butter, and cream cheese; spread on one side of each slice of bread. Lay cucumber slices onto the buttered side of 8 slices of bread. Sprinkle with salt. Top with the remaining slices of bread, buttered side down. Note– I only use about 1 ½ tsp on each slice of bread as the spread is very rich.

Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a sharp knife. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then cut in half again.

Yields 8 whole sandwiches or 16 halves or 32 fourths.

Notes from Jule: I double the ingredients for the cream cheese mixture since we always want more later. This also makes a great stuffed cucumber, or spread for crackers. It never lasts more than a day in my house.  For a variation instead of mint try fresh dill.

Want to be even fancier? Dip the edges in finely chopped onion, radish, dill, or curry.

Chris’s Quick and Light Cucumber Sandwiches

Use Rondele light  Garlic and Herb  spread instead f the cream cheese mixture, sprinkle with lemon pepper.

Egg Salad Sandwiches 

  • 3 boiled eggs Peeled and chopped
  • 2 tble mayonnaise
  • 1 tble dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

These couldn’t be easier.  The measurements are just estimates; I would suggest adding only half the mayo and mustard, taste and add more if you like.  An alternative is to use yellow mustard and 1 tsp of dill. Add 1 tsp of curry powder to make curry egg salad. To make the sandwiches look fancy cut into triangles and dip the edges in chopped dill, radishes, curry, or green onions.

I use an Egg Slicer,  to quickly chop my eggs, slice width wise, turn and slice length wise. Such a cool gadget, supposedly it does mushrooms also. Viola!  Diced eggs.

Hints on boiling an egg – I have seen several tips on Pinterest to make the perfect boiled egg that peals easily. I have tried several of them and haven’t had much success, the odds of getting a easy pealing egg were about 50/50 but with my method I have had much greater success. The secret you ask??? Use old eggs. I buy eggs in bulk after they have been in my fridge for 1-2 weeks I then boil up whatever remains.

Boiling is a great way to preserve eggs. My family loves pickled eggs so I often have a jar of these on the counter. They also make a great quick and easy snack in the morning or after work.   The average egg is 100 calories, don’t eat the yolk and it is only 20 calories!

How I boil an egg– Place eggs in a large pot with water, you want them to have some room so they don’t knock together and crack each other.  Once the water starts to boil turn off the heat and place a lid on the pot. Let sit for at least 15 minutes. I wait until the water is cool.  Place in cold (ice) water if you need to peal immediately. If you can wait just place them in a bowl in the fridge.  To peal, really crack that egg! Break its moma’s back, Crack that egg.  Smack it against the sink several times, not to hard though just enough to crack the shell, then roll it between your hands to loosen up the shell.  This method works about 80% the time and there have been several times I was able to pull the shell off in one long ribbon.

Pickle Sandwiches 

My mother used to make the grand kids pickle sandwiches. I think those were a pickle spear wrapped with a piece of lunch meet and held together with a fancy toothpick. These are not quite the same thing  but I thought they would be kid friendly and turned out quite good.

  • 4 slices of bread
  • 2-3 slices kraft cheese (Singles)
  • 6 sandwich sliced pickles (Also called stackers)
  • mayonnaise
  • Honey mustard (or mustard of your choice)

Put a very thin layer of mayo on 2 slices of bread and a thin layer of mustard on the other two. Place 1 slice of cheese on the mayo bread, depending on the slice of the bread you may need 1/2 a slice of cheese to cover the remainder. Cover cheese with 1 layer of sliced pickles top with a slice of mustard bread.  Cut off crusts and cut into triangles.  Optional – add a thin slice of lunch meat to the sandwich.

Tea Party Recipes Part 1 The Liquid Refreshments

Last weekend we decided to host a tea party please see the post “Would you like a spot of tea?’ for the full story and other recipes.

Sassy Water 

This recipe is straight off of Pinterest. Supposedly the water is something prescribed by Dr. Oz and is supposed to help burn off belly fat. I don’t know about that but I do know that water is delicious and refreshing especially on a hot day. I assume it burns off belly fat because you drink this instead of other sweet drinks. The water fills you up and the flavor works as an appetite suppressant. Some of the best water you will ever taste and there are no calories or artificial anything! (In the picture the pitcher isn’t dirty, it is frosty from the fridge)

  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 1/2 a cucumber sliced
  • 3-5 sprigs of mint
  • 1 tsp fresh ground ginger

Place ingredients in a pitcher fill with water and enjoy.  I find the water is better if it has sat overnight. I add more water when the pitcher gets half full and continue to do this for about a week.  I use fresh grated ginger which floats in the water and looks to some like it is dirty. If this turns you off then just put in thin slices of fresh ginger.

Use the other half of the cucumber to make a salad or cucumber sandwiches.


About 3 years ago I decided to give up soda’s but to help feed my nicotine habit I took up tea.  I am a very picky tea drinker and prefer black teas. I find that most grocery store teas get bitter if the steep for very long so I tend to drink my tea week.  I was at a tea shop called Tea Time  in Palo Alto and was talking to the clerk about this, she told me that most inexpensive teas are made from the dregs of the barrel and not of high quality. High quality teas won’t turn as bitter so quickly.  I have to say after sampling her teas I was sold.  When brewing teas it is also best to let them have breathing room and for them to swim around in the water. If you use a tea egg, only fill it about ¼ full to allow for expansion. Better yet just put it in the pot and use a strainer or a French press.

My favorite tea is Harney & Sons Fine Teas Hot Cinnamon Spice Loose Tea Tin – 4 oz
from Harney & Sons. It smells like Christmas and is naturally sweet.  The longer it steeps the sweater it gets.  Chris’s favorite is Earl Grey also from Harney & Sons.

Simone chose the Organic Huckleberry Red Herbal tea from Revolution. We picked this up at some specialty shop, I can’t remember where. It is caffeine free and comes in interesting pyramid shaped bags that allow for better flow through.  We all found the tea delicious; I especially liked mine with a bit of cream and sugar. It was like drinking dessert.  Sadly I couldn’t find the Huckleberry tea on their website but they did have other interesting flavors.

Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation for stores or products listed above at the time of this posting. However, I wouldn’t mind if they sent me a few free samples in the future. 🙂

Would you like a spot of tea?

My friend Gregg has an adorable daughter named Simone decided to come spend the weekend with us.  Chris just adores Simone so Gregg and I like to get them together for play dates. I suggested to Chris that we have a tea party and he became very excited.  We spent two days planning the menu, changing our minds and deciding what to do. Since the weather is so hot I decided to do as little baking as possible. Except for scones, you just have to have scones.

Here is the menu:

The tea party was a hit and the food turned out great. The sandwiches can easily be made ahead of time but try to bake the scones fresh, they were so good fresh out of the oven. Over the next week I will share and link to the recipes outlined above.

First tip- When planning your menu keep in mind who your guests are, Greg and Simone are vegetarians but they will eat cheese and eggs occasionally, Simone is also only 7 years old so I didn’t want to make anything with complex flavors or too unusual. I thought the pickle sandwiches would be her favorite but she couldn’t get enough of the cucumber ones and of course the brownie bites. I had water and apple juice in case she didn’t like tea but she loved the Huckleberry.

Planning the Menu – Well before the party outline your menu, and make a list of recipes. I often find that I have way to many desserts or sweet treats that I plan on making. By outlining my menu I am able to limit myself and see how all the foods fit together.  Don’t try too many new, complicated, or unusual recipes. Keep it simple, my specialty is desserts and I always have 2-3 choices but have learned to make only 1/2 a recipe or single serving sizes so I don’t have as many left overs.  After the menu is set, I print out each recipe and make the shopping list.

Prepping for the party – Go shopping a day or two before the party. It never fails when I go shopping I come up with several new ideas such as the brownie bites above (Originally I was going to make a strawberry trifle).  Lay out your printed recipes and set the ingredients next to the recipe. Prep as much as you can the day before.  If I am baking I will measure the dry ingredients and put them in containers so it is one less thing to do the day off. Chop vegetables and mix what you can. Wash the dishes so every thing is clean and ready the day of.  When possible I like to make up as much of the food as I can the day ahead. The cucumber spread, egg salad, and Brownie bites can easily be made the night before. You do want to allow enough time for them to at least chill in the fridge.

Setting the table – When choosing what dishes I use I think about how much time I will probably spend in the kitchen doing the dishes. I save old butter and yogurt containers through out the year and use those in my prep so the day of I can just throw them out. They are also nice if guests want to take home left overs.  I have no problem using paper plates, just buy the nice ones so they hold up better.  Since there were only 4 of us I brought out my best china, silver, and depression glass.

The china is a set my Father bought for my Grandmother when he was in Vietnam. I remember seeing the set in my Grandmothers china cabinet but I never remember her using it.  When she died much of it was still in the original boxes, wrapped in what looked to be the original paper.  I thought it was sad that such a beautiful set was never used and possibly enjoyed. It reminded me of an episode of Little House on the Prairie. The mother got a set of china and packed it away for a special occasion. At the end she served dinner to the family on the china and said special dishes are for special people.  I loved that idea and am always looking for excuses to pull out my special dishes. Over the years some have broken, chipped, and become scratched but the memories I have of the special people will always be there.  They have helped me create memories instead of collecting dust. So I encourage you to surprise your loved ones by pulling out those special dishes and make a simple dinner or lunch an event.