Friday, December 31, 2010

Vitamin Water PSA

I'm a fan of Vitamin Water Zero...not regular Vitamin Water. A regular bottle of Vitamin Water has 50 calories per a serving and around 13g of sugar...there's 2.5 servings in one bottle. You do the's not really a wise choice calorie or sugar wise. But, then came Vitamin Water Zero. It's also 2.5 servings per a bottle but has 0 calories, less than 1 g of sugar and has no artificial ingredients. So, in an effort to wean my lovely husband off of soda, we now drink plain water and our other occasional beverage, when I can get him to put the gin and Maker's Mark down, is Vitamin Water...I kid...Mr. Allan is by no means a boozehound but does enjoy his occasional martinis and after dinner drinks.

Just remember to grab the Zero and save yourself some calories!

 So now for my little PSA or Public Service Announcement. This week at Target, Vitamin Water (including the zero is 10 for $10 or $1 each. If you buy 10 bottles, you get a six pack of Smart Water 1 liter bottles for free. The Smart Water retails at $8.69. Like the dorks we are, we've made our rounds to two different Target stores to get this deal.
So, if you've got some new year's resolutions that include dropping a couple pounds and you're one who hates to gag down plain water, hit your local Target for a good deal and stock up!

December 31 prompt

I (think) this is the last prompt of the reverb project! To catch up on what it is ...check out

December 31 Prompt
What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

I feel like I'm going to sound cheesy with this one..but here it goes. My central story is that I'm a 30 something year old newly married professional trying to live life to the fullest. I (try) to be a good person, because I'll say..I can sometimes be a bit gossipy, too quick to judge...I also try to be a good daughter, sister, sister in law, daughter in law, friend...and wife. So, while it might not be much of a story, it's mine. It's one I'll continue to tell throughout 2011 and for many more years and I'm sure the story will change, have good parts and bad, exciting parts and boring ones, but I'm a story teller at heart and will share it with anyone who listens..even if they looked glazed over 2 minutes in!

New Year's Resolutions

If you talk to people, some make them, others think they're silly or stupid and why bother? Those are the people that probably never keep them anyway.

Personally, I like New Year's Resolutions. I love this time of year. We're embarking on a whole new year, it's a fresh start to begin or try something new or put something behind you and start afresh.

So, as we wait for 2011 tonight, what exactly are my New Year's Resolutions...I've been hard at work, well, not really, thinking of what I want to change, accomplish, alter or make better for 2011

1) Eat more Fish

I consider myself an above average healthy person. I sometimes struggle with my diet and staying on track, but for the most part, I feel like I make some solid food choices and decisions. One thing that I think people are surprised about ...I don't eat fish. I will eat scallops, but cod, salmon, tilapia, you name it, I struggle. It kills me in a way, because I don't think I necessarily don't like it, I have a psychological block against it. My sisters don't really eat it either. I think my older sister will eat one or two things, but you'll never see one of us dipping a shrimp in cocktail sauce or cracking open a lobster claw. We all associate our hatred for fish with my mom's salmon pie. My oldest sister wouldn't eat it for dinner one night. I remember she had to sit at the table until bedtime with her salmon pie infront of her. My other sister and I chugged down enough to be excused from the table. When Heather woke up the next morning, the salmon pie was still waiting for her. My mom is probably cringing as she reads this story and saying to herself Why oh Why is Holly telling this story. My mom is certainly no Mommie Dearest...we were allowed to have wire hangers...but her tactics worked because the three of us were great..probably too eating when we were little and we've carried that up right into our adult years as well! 2011 I will try more fish and hopefully grow to like it since it's so good for you!

2. Become Credit Card Debt Free

I know, I sound like a broken record about this. I got my first credit card when I was a freshman at the University of Massachusetts. I think I got it to get a free t-shirt..nice, huh? Little did I know that I was opening Pandora's Box. I remember the first time I used it. I bought a pair of flare jeans and a short sleeved polo at the Gap. I think it came to around $76 (yes, I have a very weird memory for very useless facts in my life). I remember when the bill came, and low and behold, I couldn't pay it off completely. I felt so guilty, but my salary that I was earning at the Franklin Dining Hall, where I bussed food trays and worked in the dishwasher line, just didn't allow me to pay it off like I told myself I would when I charged those precious jeans and polo. One thing led to another and before I knew it, the bill was a couple hundred dollars. The trend lasted throughout undergrad and I got in over my head once law school hit. I financed lawschool by myself. I had a small scholarship that barely covered a stupid class. I maxxed out on loans and could barely afford books let alone meals, gas etc. When I pay off my credit cards, I will post what my total debt was and how we did it. I certainly couldn't attain this goal without my husband. He's really taught me some financial sense since we've been married. I've cried over some bills, known better about some, and finally educated myself about how the whole process works. We made a considerable dent in 2010 and the finish line with being free of this stupid debt is finally within my sight.

3. Get Organized
 Ok, my closet is never going to look like that...but I need to get organized in all areas of my life...from my closet to my office at work, to my car and to my schedule. I am one efficient bitch when I'm organized. I can't worry that people with think I'm a Type A anal retentive warden. Because...when I'm organized I get stuff done. One example of this was this year's Thanksgiving. I had my stupid little WB Mason notepad with lists upon lists of what needed to be cleaned, perishable and non perishable grocery lists and the meal broken down by course. But, with the exception of my incident with the herb butter, I kept my cool, threw no tantrums,  and pulled it off. It's sad to say, but when things gets derailed a tiny bit, I sometimes lose it. Mr. Allan is probably reading this and saying to himself...sometimes??? But, when I have a plan, its well organized and mapped out, I can go with the flow. I also realize that after writing this I must seem like the most non fun person in the world..oh well!
4. Reconnect with Old Friends
Sometimes I get really sick of hearing how busy everyone is. I'm so sorry I couldn't get back to you, life's been so chaotic, I'm so busy at work, with the kids etc. Get over it. I think this is such a cop out. I hate to hear how busy someone else is. Like I'm sitting here 24/7 with my thumb up my butt...guess what I'm busy too! We're all sooooo busy that no one can make time for each other. Sometimes I feel like some of my friendships have taken a back seat to people's facade that they're so busy. So, is it that we're really not as good as friends as we thought we were because we simply can't carve out time to meet? Or is it that we chose not to prioritize that friendship anymore and just use the blanket excuse of how busy we are. So, one resolution is to maybe chose to reconnect with some old friends. Hey, we were friends for some reason, and I'm sure that old friendship spark is still there. Because, let's face it, most of us can make time to keep up with the Real Housewives of Atlanta, the OC, NY, NJ, and Beverly Hills, but you can't get together with an old friend? 

5. Stop Swearing
If you know me, you know that I kind of swear like a sailor and drop the F bomb alot. I call it an occupational hazard. I don't deal with the best people in my job. They're never happy because I see them when they're in need of help dealing with a criminal problem, and well, Family Court is just an unhappy place. So, in 2011, I am trying my hardest to clean up my language.

6. See my family more
I often tell Mr. Allan that it's sad that we don't see our families more. It's especially sad because 80% of my family lives in RI, the smallest state in the union, yet we can never find the time or make it a priority to get together. Mr. Allan has an excuse, he travels a lot. But, I often complain about the problem but do little to come up with any type of solution to it. So, I will make an effort to get the family together more!

Hope everyone has a safe, happy healthy new year! It's a new year, a new day and can be a new start for you...if you want it to be!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 29 and 30 Prompts

I was doing so well with my reverb Prompts...time to play catch up yet again!

Prompt: Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.
I'd have to say a defining moment in 2010 was definitely the death of my step dad. He's been a part of my life since I was 9 or 10 years old and passed away after an almost 2 year battle with cancer this past April. This became a defining moment for me because it really brought me closer to my mom and two sisters. We've always had a tight knit relationship but it created this unspoken I've really got your back no matter what relationship between the four of us. We're an incredible female foursome!

Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?
well, I am quite excited for that Mexican vacation this winter...but I think I really took a step back on my spending this year. I'd hate to admit, I have my moments when I am completely materialistic. I feel like I need the newest knee length leather riding boots, skinny jeans, and fake fur vest, or my pocketbook I'm carrying right now is so last year, or all my shoes are completely out of style. By buckling down with finances, it's amazing how much my life really wasn't affected by what I thought I needed to get through life. I also realized just how stupid it is to buy so much "stuff" when we have other bills and debts to pay off.

But, I digress....putting material things aside, the greatest gift I received this year was to remain in good health. Both Mr. Allan and I have had people close to us afflicted with different health problems and diseases and I'm thankful that I'm healthy and able to live my life however I choose each day and not restricted by being ill or incapable of doing something because I'm not healthy.

How cool is this....

Yeah for me eating Larabars!

If you keep up with my blog they were one of my Favorite Things this year!

Thanks for featuring me in your blog Larabar!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

These are a few of my Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

I hope you sang it in your high falsetto Maria voice as well. Every year, instead of buying each other gift cards or other gifts, my sisters and I exchange our Favorite Things. It's a total knock off of Oprah, but it's become such a fun tradition and I look forward to it every Christmas. As I type this, I think it's fair to say it's become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

So how do we do it? We set a money limit, this year, the economy was tough so we set a $50 limit. We buy duplicate gifts (since there's 3 of us and we buy for the other 2) and everything is one of our favorite can be specifically from 2010 or we can do a throwback to one of our absolute favorite items.'s a little taste of the 3H club Favorite Things as I list what made my list this year!

Coochy Cream....all I can say is don't knock it til you try it. My middle sister opened it and had a weird look on her face..I'm not sure if it was because my dad was looking on or if she was disgusted by the word Coochy screaming at her from the bottle. This stuff is a life saver in the summer. I spend 50% of my time in a bathing suit in the summer. There's nothing worse than seeing a chick in a bikini with red bumps on her upper and inner thighs. Razor burn sucks, it's unsightly and it's a big buzz kill on a lovely summer day at the beach. So use your Coochy Cream and razor burn no more!

Gardner's Helper Hand Cream by Crabtree and Evelyn...I think everything else in this store smells like a floral old lady, but I love this hand cream. I got it for Mr. Allan a couple years ago. The poor guy gets dry hands so bad that his knuckles crack and sometimes bleed. This beat out Kiehls' hand cream, Neutrogena hand Cream...we tried everything Walmart and Target and even Nordstrom's had to offer and this is the best. I keep a tube in my purse and use it all the time.

My Favorite Reads of 2010.. By far, my favorite books were The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the Girl Who Played With Fire. They're the first two books in a series of 3. The first one took me a little bit to get into but once I did, I LOVED it. The second book was my absolute favorite of the three. Just watched the Swedish version of the movie and it was great as well. I'm anxiously awaiting the American version to come out.

Favorite Snacks of 2010.. I love Lara bars. why? Because they have all real ingredients in them..nothing processed and crap i can't pronounce. When I can't find a Lara bar and I'm in a pinch..I grab a luna bar! I'm also in love with Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Wedges. You can find them by the registers at Trader Joe's. They come in little wedges and 1 serving is 2 wedges. I'm a sugar junkie and could eat candy all day these are perfect to curb your sweet tooth!

La Familia Limoncello..last year, my sister and I went on a Culinary Tour of Federal Hill...the Eye-talian section of Lil Rhody. We went into fabulous restaurants, bakeries, delis, and liquor stores! One extraordinary liquor store is Gasbarro's. ( They sell this fantastic Cream Limoncello. You see tons of Limoncello's in liquor stores, but never had I seen a cream one. They sell out of it like hotcakes. I called a few weeks ago and they were out. I needed one more favorite thing and on a limb during Christmas week I called. They had just gotten a case in! My boss and I flew up there and walked out with 4 bottles or so each. You store it in the freezer and it's a delectable after dinner treat. Mr. Allan and I pour a shot glass of it and sip it...more refined people might use a cordial glass...we didn't register for those!

here's the half empty bottle we tested on Christmas! Thanks Heather for the picture!

So those were my  Favorite Things for my two sisters! So much fun compiling the list and actually nabbing the items...especially that Limoncello!

Highlights of some of my sister's favorite things....Heather got us Jim Croce's Greatest Hits...I'm actually listening to it now...Season 1 of Gossip Girl, mud masks, her favorite quick shoe polisher...and the one I was most excited about...

for the ladies with larger know racer back bras don't work...but now I can be strap perfect!

Some of Heidi's favorite organic scarf from Maggie's Organic & Fair Trade Clothing

We also got some probiotics and another supplement from Whole foods...hey I'm not going to knock it til I try it..just like Heidi should do with the Coochy Cream! We got some Italian coffee and a Bellini Mix from Italy that I'm dying to try as well as a marinara sauce...we're totally benefiting from her trip to Italy this year!

Enjoy...who knows maybe some of our favorite things might become yours...or maybe you can totally steal and knock off from our tradition..just as we did from Oprah!

Best husband ever

I'm very excited to get an email asking what Mr. Allan got me for Christmas....I'm beyond excited because we sooo need this!
Mr. Allan got me this...

and then some of this
and a little bit of this

Instead of swapping Ipads, Kindles, and Ugg slippers....we decided to forgo gifts and take a vacation. I'm BEYOND excited for this trip. It comes during the dead of winter and right before Mr. Allan's travel schedule will pick up a bit. We soooooo need this trip as the past year has been a bit of a tough one with some obstacles for us, ones I didn't think we'd have, but we're dealing with. So, there's nothing better than getting away with my husband at Secrets Resort on Maroma Beach. Wanna see more and get very jealous and demand that you need this vacation...go nuts!...

I was torn on where to go. Mr. Allan said pick a place. We've done the cruise thing and I wasn't a huge was nice but I was all set with being on a ship with that many people, fighting over chairs by the pool, some people obviously went just for that stupid midnight buffet. We like to explore, but researching fun places and planning side trips and activities became alot of work. I didn't know what was better Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Jamaica...or when to go. So, my co worker did some research to take his wife to a higher end all inclusive...I stole his research and he gave me 3 places to look at. I never thought I'd want to go to an all inclusive resort, but let me tell you, the idea of doing no work in planning this is slowly becoming one hell of a great idea on my part. it's time to get the Christmas candy out of my paws and get bikini ready in 8 weeks!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The World's Best Carrot Cake

I wish I invented the recipe, but I didn't. One pet peeve I have is when people take credit for others recipes, or when they change one tiny thing and say it's their own. I read alot of blogs and around the holidays I'm always amazed at how many people pawn the Oreo Truffle recipe off as their own. I always try and list the source of my recipe. There are some I have that are my own, but I'll fully admit and give credit where credit is due and owing.

More importantly...onto the carrot cake!

I LOVE carrot cake. I don't eat it alot because there's probably a bizillion calories in it. In all seriousness, I think one time I looked at the Cheesecake Factory's nutritional info on their website...something I suggest you don't do, because I had heart palpitations when I read that their carrot cake had something crazy like 84 grams of fat in one piece. My pants just got tighter when I typed that.

But, since the holidays were near, it's time to indulge since every Tom, Dick, and Harry will be joining me at the gym next week. I need to stake my claim in my favorite's like a dog peeing on the same telephone pole. The new people need to know that I yoga by the wall because I hate bending over in people's faces and that I turbokick near the weight rack because I sweat like a man and need water frequently.

But...back to the carrot cake. I've tried about 5 different recipes. This one is the best. I omit the raisins, because my sister, Heidi, told me raisins are the devil, and I'm a people pleaser, so no raisins this Christmas. I'm not a huge fan of the frosting that goes with this recipe, but with this cake, it works. I've made better cream cheese frostings with vanilla bean in it, but after making the cakes, putting them together, this easy frosting recipe works.

Here are my raisin-less carrot cakes fresh out of the oven...

Here's my finished product. My carrot top is a bit pathetic looking. As I went to pipe it, I asked Mr. Allan what the top of a carrot looks like. He said he didn't know but could google it. We just guessed...moments like that that make me smile!

The secret in this recipe is a can of crushed pineapple. I also don't shred my own carrots, I use the store bought matchstick carrots. I think they're a little thicker and give this carrot cake a nice hearty look and taste. I do add nuts, I realize some may have nut allergies but the walnuts make this cake for me. Raisins would be nice to, but as we know..raisins are the devil according to my sister.

This recipe came from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa. I remember seeing her make it when I was watching her show on Food Network. I was practically drooling. I have a soft spot for carrot cake even though I'm not a cream cheese person. It trumped the previous recipe I had been using and it would make an awesome cupcake recipe.

Barefoot Contessa's Carrot Pineapple Cake

For the cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 pound carrots, grated
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
For the frosting:
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

For the cake:

Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

For the frosting:
Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with diced pineapple.

Just some notes from me:
* I used pre-cut carrots from my grocery store. They were sold in 10oz pkgs, and I used about 1 1/2 pkgs
* I also used a small can of crushed pineapple. I drained it and threw the whole can in, I think it was a little more than a 1/2 cup.
* I also added in about 1/2- 3/4 tsp of fresh grated just smells so nice and I felt like it was a welcome addition
* I greased and floured my pans because I ran out of parchment worked like a charm
* Sift your powdered sugar. I loathe sifting powdered sugar, but in this frosting, the bumps really show if you're going for a great looking cake
* I also needed more than 1lb of powdered sugar. After adding 1 lb of Domino Confectioner's Sugar, the frosting was a bit soft. I knew I wanted to pipe some decorations and I added about another 1/2 cup. It turns out in the end, that I needed more. I tried to pipe around the base of the cake but the frosting was way too soft.


Panettone French Toast Casserole....

this recipe was soooooo good. My mother-in-law brought us a Panettone when the in laws came down for Thanksgiving. With the mass amounts of food I made, we never had a chance to break it open. Mr. Allan had been ogling the package on top of the fridge, but I new if he opened, he'd eat it all. He has a knack for eating everything to the bottom of its container or bag.

So....this bad boy sat atop the Allan fridge for weeks...
what is it exactly? It's an Italian fruit cake...but it's not's more like Portuguese sweet break with raisins and specks of other fruits.

Every Christmas I make a special breakfast for the two of us while the cats look on. Since we've bought a house, we've tried to make it a tradition to spend Christmas morning in our own home, even if it means missing out on some family activities. So, i cheat a bit and make as decadent of a breakfast as my healthy calorie counting mind can imagine.

I thought I could find something interesting to make with the Panettone. I hit up my favorite go to recipe site but nothing was catching my eye. I resorted to googling and came across a recipe on Whole Foods website. It did not disappoint.

I sauteed 4 granny smith apples. I put a little mixture of brown sugar and melted butter in the bottom of the pan, layered the apples, sprinkled some craisins and then cubed Panettone on top. Then, a milk and egg mixture to mimic a french toast and this is the what the casserole looked like before it went in the oven...

 the recipe from Whole Foods called for me to cut the bread in 1 inch slabs and layer them over each other. It just seemed clumsy and messy so I opted to cube the bread instead

 Fresh out of the oven

 slicing into this puppy....

This would be a phenomenal addition to a brunch. the top gets nice and crispy and on the bottom you have your apples and cranberries. I was surprised at how much we like it and hey, it was a great way to use the Panettone up!

Panettone French Toast Casserole
courtesy of Whole Foods


6 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon water
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
6 (1-inch-thick) slices panettone (about 1 pound), halved
2 cups milk
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a small bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons butter, sugar and water until well combined. Spread mixture over the bottom of a 9- x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer apples and their juices to the reserved baking dish and spread out evenly over the sugar mixture. Scatter cranberries over apples and arrange panettone over the top, overlapping the slices as needed. Set aside to let apples cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon then pour over panettone, being sure to coat all slices. Cover and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover baking dish and bake until just cooked through, puffed and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly before serving.

Just a couple notes....

I cubed the Panettone and think it works out much better, is easier to cut and serve.

I also used skim milk and didn't feel like it affected the recipe at all. We brought leftovers with us, and people who ate it, who probably don't typically drink skim milk, didn't notice the difference!

Reverb catch up....

I've tried to stay so faithful to my reverb project (what is it...check it out here)

But...with the holidays and traveling through many different states to see everyone we're related to...i fell here's my catch up post!

December 25 Prompt
December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

It's not the most flattering picture, nor is it one where I look at myself and think, wow, I look good, but this picture is in one of my favorite spots, with some of my favorite people, taken by my absolute favorite person at my favorite time of year, so it's got to be my favorite picture from 2010.

This picture was taken by Mr. Allan. Every year since we've practically met, we go to Martha's Vineyard for a week with a bunch of our friends that we met in Newport. One of my favorite spots in Martha's Vineyard is Aquinnah or more commonly known as GayHead beach. We head down there, relax, drink on the beach, and mingle with the nudists that hang out there (if you look real close you might see a bare ass in the background)...well, we just set up camp on the side of them. This year, my sisters came down for the weekend. It was great to share our vacation with them, even if it was just for the weekend that they came. I might not see who I strive to be in the picture or maybe it's not worth a thousand words, but it's my absolute favorite time of the year. One where I can truly relax, forget about work, our responsibilities etc.

December 26 – Soul Food

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

This is a hard one. I'm pretty strict with my diet. I try to be really good and deprive myself of sweets and indulgences, alot. On Mr. Allan's birthday, I was a bit stumped on where to go and what to do. It seemed like we had tried every restaurant in our area, I knew he wanted something low key and to just spend time with me. On the suggestion of a friend, I chose to go to the Matunuck Oyster Bar. It's not something that would normally peak my interest. I'm not a big fish eater. I've tried and liked a couple things thanks to Mr. Allan who could eat fish every day. He typically eats it every time we go out, since I never make it at home. On the urging of Mr. Allan, we ordered an appetizer of Pan Roasted Littlenecks with white beans and chourico. I never ate a littleneck, I checked it out for a bit and gave it a try and it was the best thing I ate the whole year long. We loved this dish and mopped up the broth with our bread and savored every bit of it. It was also my favorite meal because it was so cute to see my beaming husband, so proud of himself, that he got me to eat something that came out of the water and that I actually liked it!

December 27 – Ordinary Joy

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

I have lots of silly moments that are etched in my mind. Really ordinary stuff, or stupid stuff that someone might scratch their head at, but that I love to relive in my mind.'s one of my ordinary moments that makes me smile from the past year.

Every Friday night, Mr. Allan and I head to a local bar/restaurant down the street for dinner. It kind of makes me feel like a little old couple catching the blue light special. Our neighbor told us about this place..that the food was decent, the drinks had a good pour, and it's the place to go to get the neighborhood gossip. I'm glad she did, because from the looks of the outside, I would have probably passed judgment and never gone inside.

Lately, I've been ordering a side salad and a veggie pizza. I only eat half of the personal sized pizza and they box up the rest for me to bring home. One night, we drove the 3 minute drive home and I took out my contacts, got ready for bed and laid down. Mr. Allan came in the bedroom with a little smirk and kept giggling. He got into bed and he immediately smelled like roasted red peppers. I sat up and pointed a finger at him and said ...You totally just ate my leftovers. I'm not sure if I was more shocked that he ate a full dinner and then ate more, or that we finished, and five minutes after we leave, he's eating again.

So, now it's become a friday night joke. One week, he had a piece in his mouth before we pulled out of the parking lot, another week the garage door wasn't even shut. Might sound silly, but I can never order anything else because I'm always waiting for his new way to sneak a piece of pizza in his mouth before we're home.

December 28 – Achieve

What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

It was a goal of 2010 that wasn't achieved, so I'm setting it for become debt free. The finish line is in site and I can't imagine the weight that will be lifted off my shoulders when I have no more credit card debt to worry about. I imagine when the last bill is paid off, I will cry like a baby. I can't fathom what I'll do with the extra money left might feel like i won the lottery.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad....

and a special one for my big sister, Heidi.....Happy Birthday Baby Jesus.

things I'm looking forward to this holiday weekend....leaving work!!! I feel like I am the only one working today!

I'm looking forward to going home and making a carrot cake for Christmas festivities at my sister and brother in law's home tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to going to Christmas Eve church service with my dad and stepmother tonight.

I'm looking forward to settling in with Mr. Allan tonight and waking up Christmas morning in our home, making a nice big breakfast together and hanging out with our cats...hey, they're our kids and they need to open their gifts tomorrow

I'm looking forwards to sharing Christmas day with my husband, mother, father, step mom, sisters, brother in law and his family as well.

I'm DYING to exchange my favorite things with my sisters!!!! Instead of just buying gifts, every year we have a money limit and buy our Favorite Things of knock off of Oprah but who cares!

Then...on Monday off to PA to celebrate with the in-laws.

Have a very very Happy Holiday!

December 24 Prompt

Prompt: Everything's OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

There are so many moments where I thought the sky was falling down on me this year. I've had many Chicken Little moments. I have little to zero patience. When I first started dating Mr. Allan, I'll never forget one of my impatient first moments he witnessed. I had heard so many good things about Potstickers from Trader Joe's. I grabbed a bag, at the time there was no Trader Joe's close by and we had made a special trip on the trek home from somewhere. I went to cook the potstickers and they stuck to the pan and were this horrible mess. Mr. Allan tried to intervene and I swore at the potstickers, snatched the pan from the ghetto stove in our Newport apt that worked when it felt like it and opened the trash and threw them away. I forget if Mr. Allan looked at me in disbelief or started laughing. We have a private joke about and call these my "Snickers" moments. It's usually followed by Mr. Allan crying..."Snickers, don't jump into the lake"

I must say, this year I feel like I've gotten a handle on my level of patience. I knew everyone was waiting for me to swear like a sailor over something at Thanksgiving...but alas, I held my tongue and probably counted to ten in my head.

I think in general, I have Mr. Allan to fall back on. When I was hysterically crying over something a few weeks ago, he enters the picture and calms my crazy as we say. I think just knowing I have my best friend by my side for the rest of my life makes everything, no matter how big or how small, seem like it's going to be okay.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cookie Questions...

So, after I posted about my Day O Baking...

Day O Baking Post

I got a couple emails and questions about my reviews of the different cookies and what was a hit and what was a miss.

So, here are some more details and reactions to the cookies I blogged about, baked, and ate.

Rolo Cookies- these cookies are always a hit. People want to know how you got the caramel in there. When you tell them it's a Rolo candy, they usually ask if you smooshed it in there or cut it in half. These cookies are a hit with me because they have a little wow, how did you do that reaction and are super easy to make on the baking scale of difficult. They also last for a good amount of time. So they're a great cookie swap choice.

Espresso Thumbprints- These also get alot of wow, those are good, what's in the middle? One thing I add to this recipe is a tablespoon of Starbucks liquor. I'm an espresso martini and coffee lover, so I love these. They're not too difficult to make. The recipe may seem a bit involved, but it's do-able.

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies- this recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cookie cookbook. I like this recipe for a number of reasons. It's a nice twist on a chocolate chip cookie. Most chocolate chip cookies are flat, thinner cookies. This cookie, with the oats and whole wheat flour, is a very cakey cookie. It doesn't flatten out like your average chocolate chip cookie. The banana keeps the batter nice and moist. I always add the nuts, along with the banana and chocolate, it makes the cookie.

Gingerbread Blondies- I loved these. I love the smell of this cookie. When I think of gingerbread, I think of a hard gingersnap or a gingerbread man cookie which is typically a really hard cookie. These blondies were the opposite, cakelike and buttery. I almost think this recipe was a little too heavy handed on the butter, next time I might cut it down a bit. These aren't an impressive looking cookie/bar. They're the least prettiest of the cookies and typically were the last ones left in the tins. I'm basing it on their looks alone, since I thought the taste was awesome!

PB Kisses- these are okay cookies. I think it's the novelty of the cookie that keeps me making it every year. It's not overly decadent or delicious, it just reminds me of school Christmas parties when I was little in the 2nd grade and reminds me of childhood. I think most generally enjoy the cookies and eat them.

Cranberry Orange Cookies- I wanted to try something new. I'm always heavy handed on the chocolate ones, so I tried to find something else. I've made the White Chocolate Craisin cookies before (the recipe on the back of the Craisin package). They're okay, but I wanted something a little fancier. I found this recipe on It looked pretty involved, but when you get down to it, it's basically a dough with some orange juice and zest. The icing was easy to make with juice and powdered sugar and I think they added a different taste to the cookie tins.

Enjoy..any questions, shoot me an email at

December 23 Prompt

Prompt: New name. Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

Hi, my name is Gretchen Woodhaven.
C'mon..don't you remember when you were a kid that your porn star name was your middle name and the name of the street you grew up? That's mine.
I feel a little sad that when i got married i opted to put my maiden name as my middle name and I dropped Gretchen. I did it mostly for professional reasons. I had been a lawyer for 7 years known by my maiden name and since my family is all girls, I felt strongly about keeping my maiden name. So, Gretchen Woodhaven is it!

December 22 Prompt

Prompt: Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

I didn't travel much in 2010. 2009 was a big year, we paid for a wedding and took a fabulous 2 week honeymoon to Hawaii where we pulled out all the stops with fabulous adventures and 5 star hotels. 2010 was a recovery year and travel was one thing that didn't happen.

I did not get on an airplane at all in 2010. The only travel I did was locally. In July, Mr. Allan and I went on our annual trip to Martha's Vineyard. We rented a house with friends for a week. I love and treasure this trip as it's something that Mr. Allan introduced me to and something we've done every year since we've known each other with the exception of one summer, when I had to take the RI and MA bar exams. This year, my two sisters joined us for a weekend. I'm glad I got to share this trip with them and hope to see them again this summer.

The only other small trips we took this year were to CT for our anniversary. We were only away a night but it was a fantastic night!

In 2011 we are going to Mexico (Merry Christmas Mr. Allan!!!). I CAN NOT wait. Usually we like to take trips where we explore, look for things off the beaten path etc. This trip is the exact opposite. It's a high end all inclusive resort where we don't need to plan a thing. The trip is coming a week before Mr. Allan leaves for a long business trip, so it'll be bittersweet to have  fantastic tropical vacation before he goes away!

December 21 Prompt

so I'm a couple days behind...but still keeping up!!!!

Prompt: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

If it was 2015, I'd give my 2010 self this advice

be patient
be thankful for what you have and do not focus on what you think you want or you make yourself believe you need
enjoy your youth
slow down and enjoy the moment every once in a while
you may think you know everything and have all the answers but you really don't
you'll do things you regret, that you're embarrassed of, that you'll kick yourself for, don't beat yourself up over these decisions or choices, instead learn from them and move on.
you have one body, treat it well, nourish it and exercise it.
cherish your time with family and friends

I'm 32 years old now, what would I tell my 22 year old self in 2000?

Dear 22 yr old Holly,

You're finishing up your first semester of law school. You're broke, tired and wondering if it's really worth it. Spend your money wisely. Although student loans are thrown at you to live and survive, you have no understanding of exactly how much lawschool is going to cost you and burden you for years to come! Get a job, borrow as little as you can and live on as little as you can. Your 22 year old mind has no idea that lawschool loans will be a second mortgage in your life until you're 55 years old.

You just met an amazing guy. It seems like the timing is off for the two of you to meet and it is. You'll explore your relationship and eventually take time off. Have faith. If the timing isn't right, don't push it. It's meant to be, things will fall back into place and flourish into the most important relationship of your entire life. Be patient, look out for yourself, and keep the faith.

You're miserable in your body right now. You're sick of hearing you're a pretty girl, but the part people leave out is that you're overweight. Take control now. Eat right, ease up on the late nights of drinking and Classic Pizza stops at 1am. If you can get this under control now, you'll wonder why you spent the majority of your life fat, embarrassed of what your body looks like and damaging your health with all the gross, fast food, and processed foods you eat on a daily basis. Once you buckle down and get healthy you'll realize that you CAN do it, you'll also wonder why it took you 22 years to get your weight problem under control.

You're 22, you may think you're invincible, smart and have all the answers, but you don't. Learn from your mistakes, they'll be many of them!

your fabulous 32 year old self.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Children of the 80's...

will understand my excitement over this

and even more excited that the Sweet Valley High twins are back in March 11

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20 Prompt

Prompt: Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

I should have told people how much I appreciate them and love them more, spent more time with family, spent more time doing things I enjoy and take more time for myself.

I didn't do these things as much as I'd like, well, because life just gets in the, gym, grocery shopping, cleaning the house etc...all become my convenient excuses.

December 19 Prompt

Prompt: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

This is a toughie...I'm not sure how I was healed this past year. I can think of things I've learned and ways I've moved on. I can think of people I butt heads with and hold grudges and how I've let go and decided it wasn't worth the effort to be mad at someone for something and to let it pass on.

A Day O Baking...

besides dragging Mr. Allan all over creation looking for the perfect tree and chopping it Day O Baking is my second favorite little tradition. In past years, I'd take a day off of work, wake up, pour my coffee, throw on an apron, pump up the Christmas tunes and bakes from dawn til dark.

This year I didn't quite have the luxury of the day off, and since a trip to Mexico is in my not so distant future, and when I bake Mr. Allan can't keep his mitts off the cookies, I was going to forgo the cookie baking extravaganza. But, we went to a Christmas party this past weekend. There was a towering plate of homemade Christmas cookies. They looked so nice..but they were terribly overbaked and really didn't taste well. I thought....they obviously baked these bad boys too long and they were hard crunchy messes...then I thought, I'm not even baking this year, who am I to insult someone else's cookies...then I thought, I could do better, why aren't I baking and sharing treats with everyone..and thus, the Day O Baking came back.

Here are some shots from the Day O Baking in the Allan household.....

who can't love a cookie with peanut butter and some kisses...

 then add a bit o butter

 I always have some frozen bananas on hand...I have a thing with bananas with spots on them..I just can't eat I throw them in the freezer, defrost them, and they're perfect for baking

Martha's Cookie cookbook in my recipe holder ready to go with my notes in the margin

cookie sheets loaded and ready for the oven

some finished favorite cookie I remember as a kiddo

Every spare inch of counter had a cookie sheet, potholder or cookbook out

 More cookies waiting in line for the oven

My kitchen island was cookie prep land

One of my favorite cookies, an espresso thumbprint, cool and wait to be filled with espresso goodness

The finished product...

Here's a shot of the brownie covered oreos...they're a hefty treat, fun to make, but decadent and requires a mandatory glass of milk

Here's the final product in my office this morning waiting for our workplace potluck...from the top, starting with the espresso thumbprints and going clockwise we have Espresso Thumbprints, Cranberry Orange Cookies with an orange icing, Gingerbread Blondies, Rolo Cookies, Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and PB Kisses

I gained weight just writing this post. Here are recipes for all the cookies shown!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brownie Covered Oreos..

So I've seen this recipe on two different blogs and quite a few message boards this year. It seems to be this year's recipe that people are talking about...kind of like oreo truffles a couple years ago and cake balls last year. So, I decided to give it a whirl as part of my cooking baking day today. If you're thinking of trying it, then read the rest of this post. There was some DEFINITE trial and error to get the final product.

This was  a pretty easy recipe...grab a bag of oreos and any brownie mix. Make the brownie batter according to the package. Also, don't let your husband get to the oreos, you'll use about 95% of the you can let him sneak one

You then dip the oreos in the batter. You hands get super messy. I dunked, lifted the cookie, gave it a shake back and forth then into the muffin tin. Here's my lesson of the day. I followed the advice of this website Picky Palate. I disagree with her on one major you prep the muffin tin. The site suggested spraying your pan quite generously with non stick cooking spray..most of us use PAM. Oh, I sprayed and I sprayed. As soon as they popped out of the oven, I ran a plastic knife around the edges to loosen the brownie up. I melted two knives in the process and these suckers stuck to the bottom of the pan like there was no tomorrow. Let's just say, Mr. Allan had plenty defect reject cookies to snack on this afternoon.

Here they are fresh out of the oven. Since plastic knives melted, I took a steak knife and slowly slid it around the edges. Be careful, one slip and you can hack a chunk out. If you're relying on these for a party or event, I'd be sure to have extra ingredients on hand just in case.

So this is what my brownie covered oreos out of the muffin tin that was sprayed with PAM looked like...the bottoms were a hot mess. Once one came out all dumb, I tried everything on the others. I think I had one come out okay. So, here's what I did different. Instead of the non stick cooking spray, the next batch I went all old school. I greased the pan with crisco, lightly floured it, shook off the excess and gave it a try

Here are the ones out of the crisco greased pan...I can't tell you how much easier they came restored my faith in the brownie covered oreo craze

here's what a half eaten one looked like. These are good, but they're not oh my god so good please give me this recipe right away knock your socks off for me. You need a big ass glass of milk with these. This recipe would be great to make with some kiddos. They're off to a work potluck tomorrow. I drizzled some white chocolate over the tops to give it a finished look. I looked hard and long for the holiday oreos, but I guess southern RI isn't festive when it comes to junk food!

Brownie Covered Oreos

1 pkg oreos
1 brownie mix
white chocolate chips to melt for drizzle

Preheat oven to 350.

Make brownie batter according to directions on the pkg. Grease a muffin tin with Crisco or another vegetable shortening. Lightly flour and shake off excess. Dip oreo in batter, give it a shake back and forth and then place in the bottom of muffin tin. Repeat and fill all holes in the muffin tin. Bake for 12 minutes. As soon as you take the muffin tin out of the oven, take a steak knife and slightly run it around the edge of each brownie. Let cool for 10 minutes and carefully remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack.

take 1/4 of white chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then microwave for an additional 30 seconds. Add 1 tsp of crisco and mix until smooth. With a spoon, drizzle over the tops of the cooled brownies.