Browsing Category: My Interests

Italy Trip: Day 1 – Rome

Buongiorno! We arrived in Roma at 8:30 AM local time. My full amount of sleep on the plane was approximately 1 hour – ha!

The drive from the airport to our hotel was in Josh’s words “probably the scariest ride of my life.” I definitely expected crazy driving so I mostly laughed about it. Until we slammed on the brakes to keep from hitting pedestrians.

As our rooms were not ready at check in we left our bags with concierge and set out to find a bar for espresso and pastries. (Many thanks to Riccardo for his patience with us at check in and for knowing how to spell our last name!!! Yay! We are in Italia! I don’t have to spell out our name. That lasted all of 5 minutes when we got to concierge where the guy tried to put an “a” where the “o” should be ūüėŹ)

On our walk to find food we happened upon a church at the Quattro Fontane (4 fountains – one on each corner of the small intersection) We stepped inside the small church and enjoyed the beauty of our first Roman sight. I picked up a few small cards as free souvenirs – pretty little artistic things – and the search for espresso and pastries continued.


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Sweet Shoppe 1st Birthday

We are entering the season of dinners and parties and dinner parties :) and I can’t help but get excited. I want to plan all sorts of special evenings and yet it is the hardest time of the year¬†to do so with all the commitments everyone has, not to mention it’s wedding season in Florida so my work schedule picks up as well. I’m a planner at heart, and I love events. I love the planning, the decorating, the cooking and baking. It’s a serious passion. I’m already thinking ahead to my kids birthdays and trying to rein myself in at the same time.

For G’s 1st birthday we did a “Sweet Shoppe” theme, and I thought I’d share the details¬†here.

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Banana Nut Muffins – No White Flour

Let me start by saying my expectations for banana¬†nut¬†muffins are very high. I have always said my mom makes THE best banana muffins in the world. The. World. They are so moist they practically melt in your mouth, and she always makes them into mini muffins which makes them even more delectable. Yum. There aren’t any pieces of nuts. I guess she grinds them pretty¬†¬†fine¬†so you still get the flavor of the nuts, but with the capability of warm melty-ness in your mouth. So you get the picture. I’m in love with them. For that reason, I’ve never attempted banana nut muffins. If perfection has already been attained, why try to top it? Well, I don’t know her ingredients, but I’m guessing she uses white flour. That calls for an attempt at “healthier” banana nut muffins on my part.

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Best Ever Pumpkin Muffins

And they are healthy! Boom! How did that happen? I have no idea. I have tried to make pumpkin muffins and bread so many times before and they were never pumpkin-y enough. or moist enough. Or they just lacked flavor and Oomph, ya know? I had resigned myself to paying for a Starbucks Pumpkin loaf because nothing else that I made ever hit the spot.

Enter the Spelt Pumpkin Muffin.IMG_7743


It is the best pumpkin muffin I’ve ever made. So soft and moist. Perfect flavor. and light. (If you want dense, go for the Starbucks loaf).

So here’s how it happened. I stumbled upon the 100daysofrealfood blog. Check it out. Good stuff. All about cutting out processed food. I’ve made the whole wheat muffins twice. And they’re good, but whole wheat is a strong flavor. My kid eats them and loves them though, so I’ll keep experimenting. A healthy snack is a healthy snack. Plus, with an iced coffee, it works. But when I saw the pumpkin muffin recipe that calls for Whole Spelt flour I was intrigued. Milder flavor, she says? Oh yeah! These muffins taste better than any pumpkin recipe I’ve tried using all purpose flour. And instead of sugar – honey!

I’m eating deliciousness, and it’s not bad for me!!!


Here’s the thing: I added my own extra little topping. It’s like the icing on the cake. The muffin would be incomplete without it. (Personally, I think all muffins should have a topping. Don’t you?)


This little beauty is topped with Trader Joe’s honey roasted sliced almonds and a tiny bit of cinnamon sugar. Not healthy? Whatever. I’m all for eating sugar in moderation. If this isn’t moderation, I don’t know what is!

So you probably have a few questions, like what is spelt? Basically it’s an ancient whole grain. Been around forever. It’s a type of wheat.

Why is it good for me? Because it’s not processed and refined like a white flour so you’re body actually gets nutrients from it.

And THAT is the purpose of food. To give our body nutrients. When food is delicious, AND my body is actually benefitting from it, I am a very happy girl :)



yields 12 muffins

  • 1¬Ĺ cups whole spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon¬†pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¬ľ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¬Ĺ cup honey
  • ‚Öď cup melted butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 -2 tsp cinnamon sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds (honey roasted or plain)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with liners and set aside.
  2. Using a whisk or fork mix together the flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and drop in the eggs, honey, and melted butter. Incorporate the flour mixture into the wet ingredients a little at a time using a spatula (or spoonula). Mix together until well combined. Fold in the pumpkin puree. Do not overmix.
  4. Scoop the batter into the muffin pan so it’s evenly distributed. (
  5. Top with sliced almonds and cinnamon sugar. You may want to use 2 tsp of cinnamon sugar if using plain almonds.
  6. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 18 ‚Äď 20 minutes.
  7. Enjoy with an iced coffee! Store at room temperature or freeze for later.


Flip Flop Themed Pool Party

12 Year old birthday parties… oh the awkward middle school years. Actually, I think my awkward years lasted through high school. Wait. This thought JUST came to me: What if I’m still in my awkward years and no one has told me!?!

I’ll examine that later.

So this here is a short little inspiration post for an after school party.


My sister is 12. Yeah I know – big age gap. She started Kindergarten the same year I started college.


Anyway, for her birthday she had a bunch of girls come home with her one Friday after school. My mom owns a Ford Excursion so check off transportation for small army of screaming tweens. We had individual servings of snacks and drinks waiting for them when they arrived.

IMG_3299 IMG_3298


Layered Chip Bag: 4 different snacks layered in one bag. Kettle corn is on top, but hiding underneath were pretzels, Doritos, and maybe some Sun Chips or Lays. Totally your choice. Make it good. We trimmed brown paper bags with some fancy scissors and mom found the flip flops at a party store. Enter double-sided tape. Done.

Veggie Cup: This was a big hit. NOT. We tried to be healthy, but with no parents there to make them eat their veggies, they of course did not. A little bit of ranch in the bottom. Sliced cucumbers, carrots, and cauliflower. And they totally coordinated with the flip flops on our snack bags!


Limonada: (Spanish for Lemonade) Kidding. There was nothing Spanish about it. Unless you count the straws. They look like they could be from some touristy destination in Cancun or somewhere. Want to add instant fun to your lemonade? Add some syrup options. We had raspberry, but blackberry is my all time favorite in Lemonade. Ah-mazing! You can pick these up for under $5 at Sam’s Club or order them online.



Most of the activities were outside. It IS a pool party after all! They played volley ball and basketball until they got sweaty enough to jump in the pool. However, there was one activity my mother and I slaved over.

Fabric Flip Flop Craft:

Step 1) Buy a bunch of cheap flip flops in different colors and sizes and an assortment of fabrics. We tried to pick a mix of solid and patterned that would all mostly coordinate.

Step 2) Painstakingly cut fabric into strips approximately 1″ by 5″

Step 3) Return flip flops and hope to find another use for fabric strips when girls are too busy playing outside all night to ever do the craft!

Lesson learned: Planning lots of crafts and activities for kids (or even ourselves) is great and fun, but sometimes we underestimate the value of “just playing outside” or “just being with friends”.



How to Keep your Freshly Painted Nails Lookin’ Pretty

Why have I never thought of this before? I am always messing up my nails after I paint them. Never again though! I’ve discovered a brilliant solution… without trying to. Effortless brilliance – has a nice ring to it, does it not?

Here is my effortlessly brilliant solution: PAINT ONE HAND AT A TIME. Yep that’s it. Paint one hand. Let it dry. Paint second hand. Let it dry. While one hand dries, just use the other.

I think this idea deserves two thumbs up – but only one at a time ;)

Seriously… I feel like it’s so simple surely someone else must have already though of it. Have you? Is that how you keep your manicure lookin good? Or is there some other trick I don’t know about?


Unexpected Spring Blossoms

My tulips are blooming!

Josh bought me the tulip bulbs a week or 2 ago and we’ve been watching them grow, patiently waiting for flowers to appear. We were so busy all weekend, I didn’t pay them much attention. Yesterday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to see them blooming!

Healthy Fruit & Nut Couscous

I just have to share this recipe. It’s about as healthy as you can get and it is SO good. No added sugars, whole wheat couscous, plus dried fruit and nuts. It makes a great breakfast, but you can eat it anytime and probably even use it as a side dish in a meal. I enjoy it because it’s kind of like an alternative to oatmeal, but BETTER! (mostly because the cous cous is like chewy little pasta balls :) Yum!


  • Whole wheat couscous
  • Dried apricots (unsulfured)
  • Almonds (or any nuts you prefer)

Prepare the couscous according to the package directions. I make 1 cup which equals 2 to 2.5 cups when cooked and can be used for a couple days.

Toast the almonds. You can do this in a dry skillet on the stove, but I do it in a toaster oven for about 7 minutes. You’ll know they’re toasted when you can smell them. (I also toast a bunch at one time and store them in a container)

Chop the dried apricots and almonds and mix into the couscous.

For one serving of couscous I use 2-3 apricots and 4-6 almonds. I just keep the prepared couscous in the fridge so I don’t have to make it on the stove each morning. Then I mix in the fruit and nuts each morning so I can change it daily! You can eat this at any temperature, but I like it best when it’s hot.


Other variations to try:
dried cranberries and walnuts
cashews and dried strawberries
fresh fruit
try incorporating 2 or 3 kinds of fruit with 2 or 3 kinds of nuts