Favorite Things 2017

For those of you who have been hanging around for a year, you may remember last year’s Favorite Things party.  If you are new, let me fill you in!

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Does anyone remember Oprah’s Favorite Things show where she would give away one of her favorite things to each audience member?  The idea is the same for the party.  All through the year, we think about what our absolute favorite thing is, and then we buy one for each of the other six friends who come to the party.  There are a few rules: the guest list does not change.  Everyone makes the party a number one priority on their calendar for the year.  And finally, there’s no dollar limit imposed.

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How much is that doggy in the window?

As the creators of Christmas magic in our families, we felt a smidge overlooked when several of us said we were even buying stuff for our OWN stockings.  In an effort to bring a little bit of magic to the season for ourselves, we started this gathering, and now it has been 12 years.  Some of us only see each other the one time a year, others, much more often.  But one thing that has been unchanging is our dedication to the event and each other.

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So welcome to the 12th annual Favorite Things at Sherry’s house!  I’ll give you an inside peek into the party.

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Every year, the table looks amazing!  My mom does such a great job with this part.  All the little finishing touches are just right.  There’s usually a small gift at the table for each person, and this year, there were two- the placecard picture frame and a custom made wooden hanger on the back of each chair.

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My mom’s house is always so beautiful.  I took several pictures.  Here are a few to enjoy!

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I love the “stay awhile” frame and the pine cone print in the entry way.

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Beautiful fall mantel decorations

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She has such a green thumb!  I wish I had inherited that!

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It was a gorgeous fall day, so even the outside was decorated!

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I couldn’t resist photographing my gift and my mom’s gift before everyone came over.

When everyone arrived, we put the presents on my mom’s bed and gathered for drinks and appetizers.

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Did I mention the other unspoken rule?  Everyone wraps their gifts beautifully!

We played a few fun games (no toilet plunger this year, darn it) and had a blast.  Then it was time for dinner.  I wish I had taken a picture of the entire spread, but it was amazing!

Here’s a snapshot from Instagram of the main course, though:

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Creamy Chicken Alfredo

So what was in those pretty packages?  Here’s a peek at some of the gifts:

 

 

 

Simple Roasted Broccoli

It’s Thanksgiving week, people! I think Thanksgiving might be my most favorite holiday. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. But, my favorite season is fall because the weather is changing, the leaves are changing, and the anticipation of the extended holiday season is coming. Sometimes the anticipation is better than the real thing, am I right?

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But I also love Thanksgiving because of the meaning behind it. The history of the first Thanksgiving, not so much. But spirit of it, that’s what I can get behind. To me, it is all about gratitude and perseverance and thankfulness for what life has to offer. And even though life can tear your heart out, it can also be breathtakingly beautiful.

And in in the end, Thanksgiving is about family. The people you turn to, the people that have your back no matter what. So my wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you can hug the ones you love this season, and think warmly of the ones who have passed.

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And I am thankful for YOU, all the readers of my ramblings.  So this simple broccoli recipe is for you this week.  If you are deep the in the preparations, frantic house cleaning, shopping and prepping for the big day, or if you are packing up the car and closing down the house and preparing for travel, it’s important to take care of yourself.  Because as wonderful as holidays are, they can be stressful, right?!

So take care of yourself this week in small ways.   And eating something healthy and delicious can be one of those small ways.  So chop up some greens, fire up the oven, take 20 minutes to invest in your health today.

My favorite go-to meal when I’m busy but want something healthy and filling is to scramble some eggs with roasted broccoli and cheddar cheese.  Yum!

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Love and warmth be with you this week!


Simple Roasted Broccoli

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Simple, healthy, and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 T. olive oil

Directions

  1. Wash and chop broccoli.
  2. Place in a large plastic bag, sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and drizzle in the olive oil.
  3. Seal the bag and give it a good massage and toss to coat all the broccoli with the seasonings.
  4. Lay out the broccoli flat on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Recipe: Homemade Broth

Today on the blog I want to show you how I turn my kitchen vegetable scraps into yummy homemade broth!  It is ridiculously simple. I use my instant pot, but if you don’t have one, use your crock pot or even a big soup pot on the stove.

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I keep a baggie in my freezer specifically for scraps.  So when I chop an onion for dinner, the peels and ends go into the bag.  Or when I cut up celery for Tim to take to work, I put the leafy bits and the bottom in the bag.  Carrot ends and peels also work really great for broth.  Most any veggie will work, but the flavor and color will change depending on the veggies you use.

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So when the bag is filled up, I take out my instant pot, dump the veggie ends in the pot and cover with water.  I’ll add a bay leaf if I have one for some extra flavor.  I don’t generally add any salt, but you could if you would like.  I just usually add the salt when I am making my finished product.

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Put on the soup setting for 30 minutes, or cook for 8 hrs on low in the crock pot.  Seriously.  That’s it!

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Here’s the finished product, and it smells amazing!

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Strain the big chunks out with a colander and what’s left is golden amazing homemade broth that didn’t cost you anything!  It’s low sodium, since you are controlling the salt.  And there’s no preservatives or funky stuff in there, either.

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I let it cool, then pour it into old yogurt or cottage cheese or sour cream containers.  I like using a variety of sizes, so if a recipe only calls for a cup of broth, I can pull out one of the smaller containers.  When it’s soup time, I pull out one or two of the large containers.  It really is soooo easy, and it’s easy to fit into my busy schedule, too.  The only extra thing I’m really doing is taking the time to wash the instant pot and colander, and freeze the broth into containers.  I’d say 5 minutes is a good trade off for quality, homemade, free broth.  I love free stuff!

Adventure: Austin, Texas!

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Get comfortable, because today we are headed into downtown Austin, Texas!  Austin is the best city in the state, and not just for the usual reasons.  You know, live music capitol of the world, great weather, lake and trails for fun outdoor activities… need I go on?

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But even though it is so amazing, it takes something extra special to lure me away from home.  I’m a homebody, in case you didn’t know.  I LOVE being home.  But when I heard that the new Austin Public Library Central branch was complete, I decided that it was just the nerd kind of fun that we all needed.

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And, I figured it would make a great excuse to visit one of my old favorite restaurants that I haven’t been to in years- Maudie’s, Too.  In fact, it’s been so long that even Tim has never been and he’s been here for 6 years.

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Everything is so built up along south Lamar, I didn’t recognize where I was until we were just upon the restaurant!  If you are visiting town, Maudie’s is a great place for good ole’ Tex-Mex comfort food.  This is the kind of deliciousness that Texans dream about when they are out of state.

Side note:  One time when I was living in New Jersey, I asked a new friend of mine where to get Mexican food in the area.  She thought really hard and…. wait for it…. she said, “Chili’s is in town.”  I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.  Yeah.  All my fellow Texans are shivering in horror, right?!?

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Nothing green on this plate!

I decided to have migas, which is a breakfast plate that has scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, tomatoes, broken bits of tortilla chips, and QUESO.  Yep, queso.  So delicious!  And what’s a breakfast-for-lunch meal without a few beers, too, right?

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If you go, you have to sit out on the patio.  You can chill and watch the traffic go by on South Lamar.  And because it’s November in Texas, it was perfect patio weather for us at a balmy 80 degrees.  You’ll have an audience of pigeons, which actually adds to the charm.  Or maybe it was charming because of the beer.  Either way, it’s a magical place that you can settle in and absorb some good Austin culture.  Every now and then an acorn falls off the tree above the tin roofed patio and gives a satisfying clang and everything feels right with the world.

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Who are those crazy people in the reflection?

After filling up, we headed to the library.  Their parking garage was at capacity, so we parked at one down a few blocks and walked some pretty landscaped paths.  I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of the boys, of course.

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We rounded a corner, and there it was!  The new library looking gorgeous and modern and inviting.  Tim said that the Seattle Public Library is better.  And I suppose to a mechanical engineer, it might be!  But this one looks perfect for Austin.

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The ground floor level will eventually have a cafe, and since it faces the lake, I’m sure it will be very popular.  The library is also home to an art gallery space and it opened featuring the work of Lance Letscher, a local collage artist who works on old books!  Here’s a few of my favorites on display:

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We enjoyed tromping around all 6 floors of the library and found some really neat work spaces, gardens, patios, and places to explore.  If you go, look up when you are in the atrium to the door on the 6th floor.  You’ll know which one I’m talking about!

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Gorgeous main atrium

This hands on art is in the children’s patio.  I showed Will, and his eyes lit up.  He looked at me and I looked at him and in that one glance we both knew without saying anything that that would have been his favorite place in the entire library when he was little.  So of course, it’s got a special place in my heart already.

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After all of the exploring, we were ready for our last treat of the day.  I’ve been hearing about Gordough’s food truck for a long time.  It’s practically legend, and I can see why.  It’s one of those unique Austin experiences, for sure.  It’s casual and unassuming like most of Austin and not to be missed.

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Who’s in that reflection again?

They have crazy, gluttonous donut concoctions, like the Elvis and even one called the Flying Pig with a nest of bacon on top and drizzled in maple syrup!  These are not regular donuts, so come hungry and ready to indulge. I told the boys we had to stop here “for the blog” ha!  I hope you guys enjoy my sacrifice.  I’m such a team player.

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We got ours to go, but couldn’t resist sitting down at the picnic tables and tasting a few bites before we headed home.  They were warm and gooey and delicious.  Every bit as amazing as everyone says!

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Mama’s Cake.  This donut actually has a hole, but you can’t tell because it’s filled with warm chocolate and cake batter drizzle.  This is the one I had and it was amazing.

 

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The ODB.  This was Tim’s choice, of course, ha!  Donut holes smothered in frosting and rolled in coconut.

 

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The Big E-Z.  This one was right up Will’s alley, with sugar and more sugar.  It came with literally mounds of powdered sugar and honey to drizzle.

I hope you enjoyed our peek into a classic Austin day!  What are your favorite local Austin hot spots?  I’d love to hear, and maybe I’ll head that way next!  And click follow on the right if you want more Austin features.