Monday, May 23, 2016

Best Day of My Life -- Daily Devotional

Below is a blog post from June 2013 I wanted to share with you as a tribute to my mother, Earnestine, who celebrated her third anniversary in Heaven today.  It is a bittersweet day because I remember how sudden it seemed that one minute she was with me and the next minute gone. While I miss her so much, I am not sad, but thankful.

I have grieved the loss of a child (ironically on Thanksgiving Day 1998), the loss of my daddy and brother within six weeks of each other, and my mother less than two years later.  So, I am no stranger to the searing pain that grief brings with the loss of someone you love dearly.  Through it all I have remained thankful to a God that has carried me on days I didn't think I could walk, held me when I didn't think I could stand, and filled me with hope when I was empty.  I've walked through darkness and I know I will do it again someday.  For to have the capacity to love, also means you will grieve.

When I have someone like my mother Earnie, who was the best example of everything I could hope to be in a wife, mother and friend, I am thankful for each day I have to love as fully as I can.  Mother was a faithful servant of the Lord.  She welcome each new day in prayer, meditation and reading the Bible.  Everyday, she would recite the same devotional.  I know it would make her happy if you shared it today with someone you love.  Do me a favor, please share this post as it could arrive in someone's inbox just at the exact moment they need it.

   Best Day of my Life

Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life, ever! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I’m going to celebrate!

Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far; the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger. I will go through this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts: The morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds.

Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.

Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I will make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.

Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special he or she is. I’ll tell someone I love just how deeply I care for them and how much they mean to me.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me. I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and His Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine.

And tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures. As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because I know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life ever!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pucker Up, Look Smart and Be Bold -- Wear Red Lipstick!

I read an article recently from the New York Post "Will Red Lipstick Kill or Kick-Start Your Career?"  Then, I read another one from Allure Magazine.  While neither of these are scientific, it was fun, and reaffirming, reading the interesting opinions on red lipstick.

Aliza Licht, author of "Leave Your Mark", a career guide, is consistently asked by women if she thinks a red lip sends the right message.  So, Aliza took to social media asking nearly 15,000 online followers to get answers.  Her findings are in the New York Post article, but I thought I would sum up her results:

Q.  Do you think that red lipstick is appropriate to wear in the workplace?

A.  91.2% of women said "Yes, people should look and dress as they see fit."

Q.  What does red lipstick say about the wearer?

A.  78.8% said  She's confident!

Q.  Do you think red lipstick is appropriate to wear to an interview?

A.  46.6% said yes (so, I'm guessing 54% say no?).

Q.  Do you think people are judged for wearing red lipstick?

A.  14.7% said negatively

The other article I read was from Allure magazine which listed "Four Scientifically Proven Reasons You Should Wear Red Lipstick All the Time."

1.  People will think you're younger.  This is the #1 reason I like to wear red lipstick!  As you age, facial features, like eyebrows and lips, get noticeably paler as you age because your skin gets darker. When I was younger I didn't like to wear lipstick because I didn't need to.  But, seriously, ladies in their 50's need color on their face.  However, you also have to not go wild all over your face with makeup. My favorite way to wear red lips is with a paler eye color.  That creates balance.

2.  One study showed if you are a waitress, you'll get more tips if you wear red lips.

3.  A 2011 Proctor and Gamble study with Harvard found that red lips could make you look more competent at work.  Men and women were asked to look at 25 photos of women of all races and ages with different degrees of makeup on.  The photos of women with dark eyes and lip makeup were viewed as more competent than one who were bare faced.

4.  You'll take more selfies.  Studies have shown if you wear red lipstick you are likely to post twice as many selfies in a week as those who go with natural lip color.

Here is my favorite lipstick to wear...Bobbi Brown Harlow Red Art Stick.  It's a cherry red.

I'll close with a sweet post I wrote about Earnie and her lip color.  This gentile, southern lady was a firecracker in the lipstick department.  It's no wonder I have inherited her love of kissable lips!

So, pucker up, look smart and be bold. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Truffled Mac and Cheese

Hello, it's Mac and Cheese.  I love you and I don't care if it makes me fat.  I had to get that out before I finish this post.

Mr. Bee and I had a fab dinner at Eddie V's on NYE with our neighbors.  That's not an evening to just order a vegetable plate.  I had their Truffled Mac and Cheese.  Oh, my stars.  Literally, I saw stars.  It was so good.  A week later as I was cleaning out my pantry, I found a bottle of truffle oil -- which is used to impart the flavor and aroma of truffles to a dish.  Whomever gave this to me, thank you.

I got on Pinterest and found a recipe from one of my favorite places Williams-Sonoma.

This recipe replaces my old Jane Justin stand-by for Mac and Cheese. It's made with Gruyere and White Cheddar Cheese yielding a flavor that is rich and intense.  And, the added touch of the truffle oil, well that sealed the deal.

If you are preparing a Valentine's Day meal this week for your sweety -- I promise if you make this you will see stars, for sure!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

In the Kitchen: My picks for awesome cookbooks

I spent the month of January cleaning out pretty much every closet, including the attic, and since many of my little used cookbooks were donated to the Friends of the Library, I chose these new books for my cookbook library...

You Have it Made by Ellie Krieger.  I saw her on Hallmark Channel's Home and Family preparing mini meatloaves.  The concept behind her book are recipes that can be made ahead and put into the freezer for easy weeknight dinners.  The mini meatloaves made 12 individual servings and she talked about how "even the babysitter" can prepare a healthy, delicious meal for your family when you aren't home.  I thought that was a perfect idea for the working mom.

Tonight, I made her recipe for Sunday Beef Stew.  It's a tiny bit labor intensive -- hence the name "Sunday" stew.  But, it was well worth it.  Rich, robust and wintry.

I served it on a bed of homemade mashed potatoes.  It was heavenly.  It made a ton so we will easily have enough leftovers for the freezer for another night.

The next cookbook to share is not new, but it's new to me...

Skinny Taste by Gina Homolka.  Her concept is taking traditional recipes, preparing them with fewer calories, yet keeping the focus on big flavor.  All her recipes include the nutritional information along with Weight Watcher points.

I have to be honest that I have been feeling in the dumper lately on my far as Miss Bee is concerned.  She has become so particular.  This is new territory to me.  We are talking about a child that, from the time she could eat table food, would eat ANYTHING.  I never had any struggles with her being picky or refusing to eat.  Until the eve of her 16th year of birth!  Why do I care, I tell myself when she scrapes perfectly good food into the trash?  So, this week I made it my mission to prepare at least two meals she would eat.

We have a winner on this one folks -- Baked Chicken Parmesan!!!!!

Instead of chicken, I used turkey tenderloins I already had on-hand.  You set up a dredging station using a little butter, Parmesan cheese, whole wheat Panko bread crumbs (didn't know they came in whole wheat and I loved them. Best part, Miss Bee was none-the-wiser).

You bake the chicken/turkey at 450 for 20 minutes.  Turn, then bake 5 more minutes.

Then, you spread a little marinara sauce (I use Mezzetta because it has no added sugar), and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Bake for another 5 minutes.

It makes these incredible crispy pieces when the cheese melds with the bread crumbs.  I served the chicken with a side of whole wheat pasta and warmed marinara sauce.  Plus, a hunk of fresh baked Italian bread with a garden salad.  The chicken comes in under 275 calories per serving.

 Miss Bee had two servings.  Mission: Possible.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Valentine's Day Cookie Decorating Party

As a professional event planner, I get to be apart of some very fun parties.  Today, I had the chance to work with Karen Wade from the Velvet Crumb Bakery.  She baked all the cookies, using her special recipe, assembled bags of icing and shared her techniques for decorating beautiful cookies just in time for Valentine's Day - which next to Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

Our supply closet at work is full of handy props to use for many occasions.  I pulled out the 5-section acrylic tote from The Container Store.

We put the undecorated cookies on the larger side and bags of royal icing in the smaller compartments.  We weren't using sprinkles, but you could easily fit small jars of sprinkles in the smaller spaces as well.

When I stopped into The Container Store for inspiration for Miss Bee's upcoming grown-up birthday lunch, I saw these adorable chalkboard placemats and knew they would be a perfect touch for the cookie party.
We used them as the base for each person's place with their own tote and supplies.  I used a chalkboard pen, but because it's not really chalkboard media and more like paper, I think a white paint pen would be better suited for the lettering.  It's also permanent, and not erasable, so be sure to practice what you want to write first.

We served simple refreshments including this recipe for a Breakfast Cookie from my Pinterest cookies board.  They are perfect for a simple coffee with friends, hold up well for transport to parties, and make a great cookie to take to someone who needs funeral food.  Any good Southern gal always has an arsenal of "bereavement" recipes on hand and this is a good one. I may have to write another story on this subject...

You use 10 pieces of yummy, crispy bacon.

 Chopped up like this...

They also have cornflakes, for a nice crunch, and raisins for added sweetness.  This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of raisins and I am not a raisin fan, so I substitute with either cranberries or cherries.  The contrast of salty and sweet is just right.  It has the other usual suspects in a cookie, butter, flour, sugar, etc...

One batch makes two dozen so I made two batches of these for the ladies today and there were none left, letting you know the recipe was a hit.

Here are some fun photos of the finished cookies.  It was like looking at little two were alike and the ladies were so proud of their work!

The smiles and laughter today were the best Valentine's Day gift!  I hope you share something you love to do this week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Creative Uses for an Armoire

My friends at Chairish asked me if I would come up with ideas for creative ways to use an Armoire. That was a challenge I happily accepted!  I love re-purposing furniture and coming up with new ways to take something traditional and put a modern twist on it.

Let's back up a little...what is an Armoire?

By definition, an armoire is a tall free-standing cabinet typically used for clothing and storage.  It's very popular in European countries to have an armoire instead of a closet.  In the 90's, we saw a resurgence of using armoires for the television and media storage, before wireless brought the wall mounted television. makes it fun and easy for design lovers to buy and sell vintage furniture and decor to one another. Their shop exclusively features curator-approved treasures in a full-service and trustworthy environment.  I had fun looking through all their armoire choices and I narrowed it down to three I really like.  I can't decide so I am making this a three-part series...

Armoire Pool Side....

It occurred to me that often times in the summer months, we stash things in those plastic pool benches, or have to lug everything from inside outside, then inside again.   Wouldn't it be fun to organize all your outdoor entertaining needs in a stylish, pretty armoire?  Obviously, you need to make sure you have a covered space so this gorgeous piece will be protected from the weather.  This is just a concept to embrace.  A coat of marine varnish on an armoire could protect it from the elements.

  • Roll up your beach towels and either stack them on the shelves or stuff them in this fun Rugby-Striped Bin from The Container Store.  The beach towel is from Lands' End.  
  • Store noodles upright in the umbrella stand from The Container Store.
  • Pottery Barn is having a great outdoor entertaining sale.  Melamine is perfect for dining al fresco.  A jug of fruited water placed on the shelf inside the armoire means you won't have to make trips inside for beverages for the kids.  Your friends can sip this recipe for a Pear-Basil Sipper.
  • Porch Parties is a charming book full of recipes and inspiration for outdoor entertaining.
  • Always make sure you have a generous supply of sunscreen available for guests.  You can easily store extra bottles and a first-aid kit in the armoire drawers, along with pool toys.
  • Lastly, I thought a chalk board would be fun hanging from the door knob letting guests know the pool is open!
Check back soon for Part-Two to see what armoire I choose next...Thank you Chairish for the fun homework!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dress it Up -- Using Amy Howard Chalk Paint

This is the before photo of a nice looking dresser I purchased a few years ago from Pier 1.  It had a minty green paint with red stripes and brass, ordinary knobs. Over the years, I have transitioned from my love of red to calmer hues of blue, grey and cream with pops of orange and turquoise.  I decided the dresser needed a makeover.

I love painting with chalk paint. Two brands I have worked with are Annie Sloan and Amy Howard.  I have more experience with Annie Sloan and have painted several pieces of furniture, my pantry door and even a fireplace mantel for my designer friend's client.  I wanted to try Amy Howard's line she sells through Ace Hardware.

She carries a wide variety of colors and even has a line of lacquer spray paint. The fun and unique aspect of Amy Howard's paint (like Annie Sloan) is the product is a water-based paint that adheres to any surface with no need to sand or prime.  The results net a flea-market piece that looks fresh and updated.

Chalk paint is very forgiving and is super easy to use.  It rubs off in the places you don't want it and stays where you do. My local Ace offers classes for application techniques, so be sure to follow them on social media for updates.

I selected Amy Howard One-Step paint in black.  The pigment is very rich so a little goes a long way. I have enough black paint left for another project.

I taped off everything I didn't want painted black and removed the knobs.  I only painted the minty green and left the cream that was already on the dresser.  I had plans for the stripes using a different line of paint.

Using a paint brush, I applied two coats of black paint, making sure to give ample time between coats to adequately dry.

After I was finished painting, I waited 24 hours then applied two thin coats of Amy Howard light antique wax.

The wax helps to protect your paint and also gives a nice, satin finish.

I replaced the hardware with some sparkly knobs from Hobby Lobby and decided to go with mis-matched whimsy using two different knobs from the rest.

The stripes are now gold.  I used a Sherwin-Williams paint and applied it with a steady hand and a small watercolor brush.

Here's the after...

I am really happy with how it turned out.  It's not perfect and looks like a vintage piece which is what I was going for. The dresser is in our dining area and houses all our place mats and linen napkins.Can you imagine it would also make a cute coffee station with your Keurig on top and mugs tucked in an open drawer?

So, for about $50 and a weekend, I gave an already great piece of furniture a new life.  I'm sure you have a piece of furniture you're not feeling the love for.  After a weekend with Amy Howard, you might just change your mind.