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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!

Home Sweet Home! Love At Home!

Home Sweet Home!  Love At Home!

We’ve probably all got a few Valentine decorations adorning our homes for the month of February…..but I think it’s fun to have a few love and heart themed design elements in our homes that we can leave up all year-long!

Home Sweet Home! Love At Home!

In this crazy world we live in, it seems like a good idea to have some little reminders around our homes to help us remember that love will always be the stabilizing factor that helps us through the ups and downs of everyday life!

Live Laugh Love art!

A canvas sign like this sat on a hall table of my parent’s home for many years, and served as a timeless reminder for me to embrace all that life has to offer! 

Love deeply quote.

I like the updated version of this message via Zazzle, hung in such a clever way.

Home Décor With Heart!

As I’ve mentioned before, my oldest daughter, Malia, is an interior designer, so it comes as no surprise that she has a flair for including unique love and heart design elements in her home that make it warm and welcoming…..I can attest to the fact that it feels like you’re getting a big hug as you enter her cute house!

Home Sweet Home! Hi, I love you sign.

This sweet greeting is the focal point of a collage Malia hung on a loft wall by her girl’s bedrooms where they play and do homework.  Her daughter, Makena, told her she loved reading it when she ran up the stairs to her bedroom after school.

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The double-sided glass of the white frames makes it easy to change-out photos.

Mother Teresa quote.

I have a neat friend, Hayley, who has been remodeling her home over the past year, and she has one of my favorite love quotes hanging in her cute kitchen.

Love At Home! Pictures of love quotes.

(via Hobby Lobby)

These are a few other heartfelt signs that I love!  No matter your home décor style, there seems to be a unique framed love quote that will fit in perfectly!

Decorative pillows are an easy and fairly inexpensive way to spread a little love around your home. 

Love At Home decor.

While it’s definitely fun for getting into the Valentine spirit, Malia likes to leave this pillow out all the time…..a subtle reminder to always have love at home! 

Love At Home! Flour sack pillows!

(via etsy)

I like to decorate with pillows too.  I especially love these fun flour sack pillows!

Oftentimes, it’s the little accessories or sentimental items from loved ones we place around our houses that have the biggest impact on giving it a special, personalized feeling of warmth and love!

Home Sweet Home! Love At Home!

My sweet hubby gave me this wood love plaque several years ago when we first moved into our house.  While I may add some Valentine’s decorations during the month of February, it sits on our living room table all year to help us remember that first and foremost, we want to create an atmosphere of love in our home!! 

Home Sweet Home! Love At Home!

Again, my friend, Hayley, shared this special flower heart that is on her 13 year old daughter’s dresser to remind her every day that she is loved.  Next to it sits a bunch of pink peonies, her grandma’s favorite, who had over a dozen bushes in her yard.  Whenever it’s possible, Hayley likes to have fresh ones in her home.

While I’m not one to invest too much on home design trends that seem a bit fleeting, there are a few out there that are fun additions to any love at home décor!

Love At Home decor trends.

(via Pinterest)

I love the trend of blending design styles that is so popular now…..like the look of this vintage chair with the more modern, geometric pillow.  Such fun love décor.

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Cutting boards in different shapes and sizes stacked on your kitchen counter are definitely on trend now, so why not add a heart one to the mix like this one from Sundance catalog.  Also, how fun are the variety of letter boards available these days where you can change the quotes depending on the holiday or your mood.

Valentine's Day decor.

Even when gold isn’t as trendy as it is now…..I will always love it in my home!

(After Valentine’s Day, you could swap out the heart card for another fun photo.)

Share Love!

There are so many décor options available to showcase love in our homes, but let’s never forget that the best part of love is to sincerely share our it with others!

Love quotes.

“It’s beautiful to express love…..but it is even more beautiful to genuinely feel it!”  Dejon Stojanovic

I hope you always find ways to surround yourself with love!

What special décor do you have in your home that inspires you to love better?  Comment about them below and you’ll get a chance to have one of the gold love clips sent to you!  

–Love, Mary

My Funny Valentine!

My Funny Valentine!

I think we’ve all had those moments when we get lost in a romantic best seller or a sweet love story that unfolds in the latest “chic flick” …you know, the ones, where responsibilities are thrown to the wind, and spontaneous adventures, beautiful flowers and whispered sweet nothings abound!  Then all too quickly, reality comes back into focus and we return to our daily routines where nothing it seems, is ever very glamorous and the sometimes quirky, less amorous ways that our partners show they love us don’t quite measure up to our romantic expectations.  That being said…I’ve decided that the month dedicated to celebrating love seemed like a good time for being more appreciative of the “real” romance and often unconventional ways of my loving husband…my fun and funny Valentine!

My Funny Valentine!

“Real love is when reality is better than your dreams!”  Tribute Journal 

The Fun Love Of My Funny Valentine!

♥ My funny Valentine does housework! 

Forget rose petals scattered all over our bed or a love note written on a steamy mirror…more often than not, one of the ways my husband shows me he loves me is by cranking up his favorite country music and helping me make our house a clean and comfortable home…and as an added bonus, he makes it all so darn much fun.  In my opinion, there’s nothing quite so wonderful (and sexy) as a man who shares the household chores!  It’s the kind and helpful gestures of our partners that truly shows their sincere devotion and appreciation of the relationships we share with them!

My Funny Valentine!

“The key to a happy marriage…is to work hard to make it happen!”  Kelly Hoppen

♥ My funny Valentine is my biggest cheerleader!  (Minus the pom poms.)

My husband believes in me!  He is my biggest cheerleader, not in a rah-rah, showy fashion where he lavishes me with all the desires of my heart, but in the ways of a man who can put his ego in check and selflessly offer quiet support that tells me he has my back and believes that I can accomplish anything I set my mind on doing.  When I’m busy fulfilling an obligation or working on a project, he’s happy to help out by working his magic with his power tools, running errands or simply bringing me a cold diet coke or a quick bite to eat.  During those times when I overcommit and spread myself a bit to thin, so to speak, this dear man has learned to lovingly offer pep talks and humor to rally my spirits and help me set realistic boundaries for my time and energy.  That, my friends, is true love!

My Funny Valentine!

“Motivate and support your partner.  You are both a work in progress…so grow and build together.”   LiveLifeHappy.com

♥ My funny Valentine doesn’t text!

Yes, my husband has a cell phone with all the bells and whistles, and believe me he couldn’t live without it!  With a career as a financial consultant, he is constantly getting updates on the stock market and the state of the economy so he can be informed and call his clients when necessary…but if I need to get in touch with him, my texts usually just go the way of any other data debris sent out into the universe!  My “old-school” sweetheart recently told me that texting seemed like such a sad alternative to actually hearing my voice and having a real conversation.  (Awww!)  I have to admit, you can cover a lot more ground in a short phone call–and a few sweet nothings can be shared, as well!  Our high-tech habits may not always be the best choice when it comes to building our relationships!

My Funny Valentine!“One of the most important things about communication in marriage…is hearing what isn’t being said!”  Peter Drucker

♥ My funny Valentine wears rose-colored glasses!

It’s easy to become disenchanted with our partners as the evolution of marriage takes place…what once seemed like effortless passion is replaced with the reality of jobs, bills and kids.  Some things your spouse does that once seemed so charming can become an irritating annoyance…am I right?  Well, lucky for me, my husband dedicated himself long ago to this wild and wonderful journey we embarked on, by always seeing the positive aspects of being together and embracing the changes that have taken place over time in our marriage.  I think we’ve both learned through the years, that love is a special gift that grows only when we give it to one another unconditionally!  It’s wonderful to have someone by our sides who looks at us and truly believes that we have gotten better as time goes on!  John Lubbock quote.In all likelihood, I probably won’t be sitting down to a romantic, candlelit dinner with soft music playing in the background come Valentine’s Day, but it’s sure to be a fun and festive celebration with my funny Valentine, all the same!

My Funny Valentine!

“My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine, you make me smile with all my heart…!”  from the lyrics to My Funny Valentine by Lorenz Hart

Also…since we’ll be celebrating another year of “wedded bliss” next week, I just wanted to give a shout out to this guy and thank him for the lovely, crazy life we have together!

The New York City Marathon! www.mytributejournal.com

“It’s not necessarily being in love that makes me so darn happy, it is the neat person that I’m in love with that does!”  Tribute Journal

(You can read more about our life together in a “real” marriage here.)

What are some fun and creative things you do to celebrate those you love?

–Much love, Mary

The Cookbook Challenge! Comfort Food!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Comfort Food!

The winter months always seem to have us yearning for all the yummy comfort foods that help make us feel warm and cozy as we come in from the cold, snowy weather…unfortunately, those same recipes don’t often abide with healthy eating goals we set for the new year!

The Cookbook Challenge!

This newest cookbook challenge comes from a beautifully illustrated cookbook published by Williams-Sonoma, titled Comfort Food, written in collaboration with the award-winning cookbook author, Rick Rodgers.  (We discovered it one night while browsing our local Williams-Sonoma store in search of some gifts for my husband’s secretaries.)  While some of the mouth-watering recipes featured in this cookbook are indeed made with calorie-rich ingredients, for that occasional splurge or fancy dinner party, there are plenty of fresh and light options that are sure to cure your homemade, comfort food cravings!

"Comfort Food" cookbook.

Mr. Rodgers tells some entertaining personal stories throughout the cookbook and offers helpful tips for making seasonal variations to many of the recipes shared; and just like the introduction page promises, we’ve found this cookbook to be a favorite “go-to” for making tasty, comfort food any time of the year!

Ramen noodle food trucks and restaurants have become a big trend lately.  My husband and I find that it’s a great way to get a quick bite to eat that’s fairly healthy, as well as flavorful and satisfying, on a chilly evening after work.  Recently, we made a version of this popular dish from a recipe in the Comfort Food cookbook.

Beef and Broccoli Ramen Chow (Serves 4)

Slice a 12 oz. flank steak into 1/4 inch thick pieces and about 2 inches long.

In a large bowl, whisk together: 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine, 2 tsp. cornstarch, 1 tsp. dark sesame oil and 2 tsp. brown sugar.

Add flank steak to mixture and toss well.  Let stand for about 15 minutes.

Soak an 8 oz. pkg. of dried brown rice noodles in hot tap water for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are almost tender.  Then drain and rinse them with cold water and toss them gently with 1 tsp. dark sesame oil.

Rice noodles.

(I used this brand of noodles that I found at Target.)

For the sauce: in a small bowl mix: 2 tbsp. oyster sauce, 1 tbsp. black bean sauce, 1 tbsp. water, and 1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine.

Beef and broccoli ramen.

Heat wok over medium heat, then add 1 tbsp. peanut oil, swirl to coat bottom and sides of wok.  Add marinated steak mixture and cook until meat is slightly browned–about one minute.  Add 2 cloves minced garlic (or to your taste preference) and 2 tsp. fresh minced ginger.  Stir with steak and cook for another minute until steak isn’t pink.  You don’t want to over-cook meat. 

Transfer the meat mixture to a platter.  Add another 1 tbsp. peanut oil to your wok to brown 1 small chopped yellow onion.  Add 1 cup small broccoli  florets (I added more) and stir fry until it’s tender but crisp-about a minute.  Add rice noodles and steak mixture and keep stirring until noodles are hot.  Continue stirring as you add sauce mixture and coat all ingredients well.

The Cookbook Challenge! Comfort Food!

 Serve hot in a deep bowl for a fun, easy meal!

My beef and broccoli ramen chow doesn’t look as posh and fancy as the one pictured in the Comfort Food cookbook, but it’s sure yummy!  One of the things I really like about this cookbook is that the ingredients are listed in a separate column which makes it easy for writing your grocery list!  There’s also instructions for recipe variations, such as adding shrimp instead of beef, or making a vegetarian adaptation.

What are some comfort foods you’re enjoying during the cold months of winter?

–Happy eating!  Mary