Welcome to My Venture!

Although my approach may be a bit unconventional, it is my greatest desire for this online journal to be a unique place where we can share life lessons learned from the many wonderful people–past and present– who profoundly touch our lives!

I sincerely hope you will feel inclined to comment and pay tribute to these great mentors by sharing your thoughts with me and this community.  It’s my goal for all who visit here to benefit as we participate and read one another’s insights.

I’ve learned that everyone has something to teach and something to learn!

The Cookbook Challenge! A Toast To Toast!

The Cookbook Challenge!  A Toast To Toast!

My husband has always considered toast a nice side kick to his breakfast plate…so imagine his surprise when he became aware that “fancy” toast, as he calls it, has become a new craze that’s sweeping the nation.  Thickly sliced artisan toast, slathered with unusual spreads and layered with any assortment of unique toppings, is definitely having its moment, so to speak, and it’s a scrumptious trend I’m all too happy to embrace.

“Part of the secret to success in life is to eat what you like!” Mark Twain

The Art Of Toasting Up Bread!

While fun egg toast has long been one of our family breakfast traditions, open up any magazine or cookbook dedicated to amping up the taste and enjoyment of everyday foods…and you’ll find that nowadays there is indeed an art to toasting and topping bread!

My kid’s favorite part of egg toast was the little circle cut-out of bread they used to dip in the egg cooked in the middle of the toast.

Avocado Toast  Cooking Light

I’ve had a subscription to Cooking Light magazine for years, and as far as a basic avocado toast recipe goes…I like theirs the best! 

1/2 small avocado

1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/8 tsp. kosher salt

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

1 slice whole grain artisan bread

1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

In small bowl, combine avocado, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Gently mash with the back of a fork.  Top toasted bread with mixture.  Add any other desired toppings and drizzle with a little olive oil.  So good! 

I like my avocado toast with sliced tomatoes and a little balsamic vinaigrette. 

(via Cooking Light magazine)

Your creativity will help you explore an assortment of toppings that will make this toast a genius breakfast or healthy snack!!

If a sweet toast recipe is more to your liking when getting your day off to a good start, this fun twist on traditional French toast by Ree Drummond, of Pioneer Woman fame, is breakfast perfection!

Crunchy French Toast Sticks  The Pioneer Woman Cooks

My husband and I are big fans of the Pioneer Woman cooking show and her no fluff approach to deliscious, down home cooking!

12 slices Texas toast

(Thick slices of French bread are good too.)

6 eggs whisked lightly

1/2 cup half and half

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups panko crumbs

1 1/2 cups crushed Cap’n Crunch cereal

(I like to use Honey Bunches of Oats cereal.)

2 tbsp. melted butter or margarine

Warm maple syrup for serving

Cut the slices of Texas toast into three strips.  Add half and half, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon to whisked eggs.  In a shallow dish (I use a glass pie plate) stir together panko crumbs, crushed cereal and remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. 

Use a fork to stir in the melted butter so that the crumbs are slightly moist.  One by one quickly dunk bread strips in the egg mixture, then lay them in the cereal crumbs, sprinkling and pressing as needed to get good coverage.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes (until golden brown) in a 425 degree oven.  You can freeze these for later use too.  Serve with warm syrup.  

At the end of the recipe, Ms. Drummond states that because these Crunchy French Toast Sticks bring out the kid at heart in all of us…..you will feel happy about life when you are eating these.  I have to agree with her!

Whether spread with simple ingredients or amped up to gourmet level–no doubt about it, warm bread is the ultimate comfort food!

“I grew up kissing books and bread!”  Salman Rushdie

Have you tried Avocado toast?  What are some of your favorite toast condiments?

–Happy eating, friends!  ♥ Mary

Creating Your Home Sweet Home! A House Refresh!

Creating Your Home Sweet Home!  Give Your House A Little Refresh! 

When we draw the curtains and open the windows to let the light and fresh air of spring flood our homes, we’re often greeted by layers of dust that have been hiding under blankets piled high…and since taking down our Christmas trees, we also realize that nothing green is really thriving!  One way I like to celebrate the energetic mood of the spring season is with a little house refresh!

“Home should be a refuge, a happy place in which to dwell, a place where we are loved and where we can love!”  Marvin J. Ashton

5 Fun Ideas For A House Refresh:

 

Make a good first impression!

There’s nothing that welcomes visitors and says “come on in” more than a pretty entryway.  Putting in a little elbow grease and cleaning away winter’s grime from your front porch and adding some pretty flower pots are easy ways to give your house a fresh, spring curb appeal.  I love the front door challenge page that is a regular feature in HGTV magazine where they share easy, inexpensive ideas to help give your home’s entry a fun, happy look!

I find that just adding a few fresh flower pots to my front porch is a great way to give it a fun punch of color and immediately lift your spirits from the winter blues at the same time!  (Get great tips for planting pretty flower pots here.)

Portulaca are hardy, vibrant flowering plants that withstand a variety of weather conditions and need minimal watering.

 

Pile on the pillows!

Anyone who knows me, knows that one way I like to give my home a seasonal refresh is to add some novelty pillows to my existing decor.  After vacuuming or cleaning your upholstery as needed, it’s amazing how just placing a few decorative pillows around the room will give it such a fun and colorful vibe.

My daughter’s cute, colorful pillows from World Market give the perfect touch of spring to her home come this time of year!  


Pottery Barn’s spring pillows are a fun addition to everyday décor. 

 

Spiff up with some spring accessories!

Bookshelves and tables are a must-have multipurpose mainstay in our homes.  Put them to work by organizing spring necessities and your favorite accessories!

(via Better Homes and Garden)

Spring is the perfect time for layering all the color!  

(I love the idea of painting the back wall of a bookcase a bright color.) 

(via Lush Home)

Organizing a functional yet colorful play space can be a great spring activity, and good therapy for winter weary kids and parents!  

 

Soothe the senses!

Spring is not only a colorful season, but a fragrant one too!  Scents also have a profound effect on our mood…that’s why come spring we can’t wait to open up the windows and let the fresh air in!  Infusing spring scents into our décor with fresh flowers, diffusers and candles is a simple way to change the overall feeling of our homes this time of year!

Trader Joe’s always has pretty spring flowers at such a great price! 

Pier 1 carries spring scented diffusers!  My favorite is Citrus Cilantro! 

 

Add a little whimsy!

Springtime seems to call for a little whimsy to brighten up our everyday lives.  A happy bowl of cereal to start the morning or a bright spring blanket to take on an afternoon picnic makes my favorite season that much better!

I saw these darling cereal bowls at TJ Maxx, of all places.  They had some cute flower pots with springtime greetings on them too.

I’m so tempted to commission the Etsy shop EnaHarmony to make me this crocheted blanket!  I love the colors and the pom-pom detail! 

Along with giving my home a little refresh, I’m also excited to refresh my soul as I welcome spring!

“No matter how long the winter–spring is sure to follow!”  Proverbs

What’s one way you give your house a fun spring refresh?

Happy spring, everyone!  ♥ Mary

Bring On Spring!

Bring On Spring!

While I usually love living where I’m lucky enough to experience all four seasons…after what has seemed like an exceptionally long, cold, dreary winter–I’m more than ready to have Mother Nature…

I love the special excitement and the fresh perspective that a new season brings to my little corner of the world–so go ahead spring and…

Bring on all things floral…

It might still be a little too cool to plant flowers in our yards where I live, but we can certainly bring on spring and all things florals in so many other ways.

A vase of colorful, fresh flowers is always a good way to bring a happy spring mood inside—even if it is still cold and snowy outside!

Even if there’s still a little nip in the air, by March I’m ready to pull out a few floral tops.  I found this cute Lucky Brand top at Dillard’s!

Pretty floral pillows set the mood for spring and these flowers don’t mind the chilly spring evenings.  I love this one from Pottery Barn.

Help ease your friends out of winter hibernation by sending a fun, floral note, or better yet—you could host a “Bring on Spring” luncheon!

Bring on spring cleaning… 

No word seems more synonymous with spring than cleaning!  And while you may not want to tackle the whole Marie Kondo way of “tidying up”

…I think we can all agree that there’s nothing better than opening up the windows, letting in some fresh air and getting rid of some of the winter grime and clutter!

There are always new lists of spring cleaning shortcuts that debut in the housekeeping magazines each year…but here’s a few tried and true tips that my grandma and mom taught me that I love:

Distilled vinegar, borax or baking soda, alcohol and ammonia were the mainstays of my mom’s cleaning arsenal.  By being resourceful, you can save a lot of money by making your own inexpensive “natural” cleaning supplies.

Homemade Window Cleaner: 2 cups warm water, 2 cups rubbing alcohol and 1/2 cup ammonia mixed in a 32 oz. spray bottle.  Clean with a lint-free microfiber towel.

Distilled vinegar is a mild, natural acid and my personal go-to for cleaning just about everything from toilets and tub soap scum to rust stains and wax build-up.  I also like to pour in a cup or two in my washing machine and run it through a rinse cycle to freshen it up–this works for your dishwasher too.  

Baking soda is a soft abrasive and great for scouring tough stains…and it’s a natural deodorizer too.  My grandma and mom use to cut lemon or orange slices and then sprinkle them with baking soda to scrub anything from sinks and tubs to counter tops.  The citrus and baking soda work together for a sparkling shine everywhere.  The good thing about doing this is you just throw the slices away after using, so no wet sponges left to sit and get musty with your other cleaning supplies. 

Bring on the great outdoors…  

There’s just something about getting outside after a long, cold winter that strengthens both body and soul!  Getting out to do yard work or taking a brisk evening walk after work are probably two of the things I look forward to the most come springtime!

 

It’s nice to be able to put away the heavy parka’s worn during the winter months and throw on a light-weight, spring jacket as you head outside.

I recently discovered the Barbour line of outdoor wear–their jackets are well-made and come in so many great spring colors!  

I’m a huge advocate of the saying, “Since all great journeys start with a single step…you should probably wear a cute pair of shoes.”  What is it about putting on a bright pair of workout/walking shoes that makes you feel a little giddy!

I am such a fan of Asics athletic shoes…and their new neon line takes me back to the good times of my glory days in high school!

Check here for spring gardening tips to help you get a head start on your spring plant and lawn care.

Bring on the fresh eats…

After enjoying all the warm casseroles and comfort foods we love during the winter months, it’s nice to finally have a better variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from come spring!  In an attempt to make healthy eating a little more fun, my husband and I purchased a vegetable spiralizer tool to jazz up our salads.  Here’s an easy recipe we put together the other night that was really good!

Parmesan Zucchini Carrot Salad

Spiralize a medium zucchini and carrot

Add 1/2 cup chopped purple cabbage

Stir in 1 shredded baked chicken breast

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and slivered almonds

Toss above ingredients w/ Newman’s Own Honey Mustard Dressing

Top with coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

(You can buy pre-made spiral veggies too.) 

And how about this fun spring/Easter twist on chocolate dipped strawberries!  You just add a drop or two of orange food coloring to melted white chocolate to make them look like carrots.  Love this so much!

I have seen where they put these dipped strawberries in a cup of crushed Oreo’s to represent carrots growing in dirt.  So creative!

More fresh eats and healthy snack suggestions here.

As I write this, another snow storm is in the forecast…making me more ready than ever to bring on all things spring!!

My husband told me that we might see the dawning of a new season this year… “Sprinter” -winter in spring!  Let’s pray he’s wrong!

What do you look forward to most when spring finally decides to make its debut?

All the best spring wishes to you!  ♥ Mary