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July 28, 2009

What are you contributing?

The world is full of old adages, musings and cliches that I invariably mull over in my head for days on end. Today I'm stuck on the expression, "You get out of life what you put into it."

I know I have heard this expression all of my life, though it may have taken a slightly different form. Maybe, "You are what you eat," or "What comes around goes around," but the essence of the saying always stayed the same. It was probably about 15 years ago, though, when I was listening to an audio tape series called "Lead The Field" by Earl Nightingale, that the reality of this statement started weighing heavily on my mind.

Nightingale told the story of a woman who was lonely after moving to a new part of the country. The woman complained that the people in this area were cold and unfriendly, and she hadn't made any friends with whom she really connected. The woman's husband was puzzled; he couldn't understand why she described the town that way, when he had found it to be quite the opposite. What they found, after examining their very divergent perspectives on the area, was that he was out talking to people and feeding the community with his upbeat spirit, while she had essentially closed herself off from the world.

Over the years I've thought about this story many times. I've thought about how when I am philanthropic, good things seem to flow back to me. And how after inviting guests into our home, we are often flooded with invitations to join others (sometimes to the point that you think of the old Morton Salt commercial...."when it rains it pours!"). Or after spending one-on-one time with one of my children, they'll come and plunk themselves down in my office just to say hello.

After years of witnessing the truth behind the adage, "You get out of life what you put into it," I am sitting here scratching my head and wondering how I ever get caught up in a spiral of selfishness -- but inevitably I do. And I know I am not alone in that because I see it every day -- people who think first about themselves, then about others.

So, after all this rambling that's really not leading up to any big revelation -- let me ask you --

Do you agree that "You get out of life what you put into it?"

What contributions to this life are you most proud of?

What are the non-negotiables when it comes to contributing (i.e. I may not be big on opening my house for a party, but you can always count on me to welcome a new family to the neighborhood.)

I would love it if you would post your thoughts in the comments section of my blog so that we could create some lively discussion around the idea. How about some good conversation...'Round the Kitchen Table?

Side Note: If you have never read or listened to anything by Earl Nightingale, I strongly recommend that you do. My aunt introduced my husband and I to him many years ago (through the audio tapes), and I have never regretted the time spent listening -- in fact, 'til this day, I'm truly grateful for it. Whether you are trying to be more successful in business, your relationships, or just life in general -- he has some wonderful lessons to share.

July 21, 2009

Ah Ha Moment? Well...Maybe Not

The skies in the Lehigh Valley may be a little gray today, but that didn't stop the lightbulb from going off over my head. Yes, I had another "Ah Ha Moment" which may really be more of a "Well Duh Moment." Not sure why I didn't think of this sooner.

Since I consistently have people thanking me for the latest savings code from -- and new codes and deals come out every week to ten days, I thought it might make sense for me to dedicate a space on my blog for the latest deal and code, so you always know how to find the best savings when you need it!

I've gotten some great feedback from people who are using the certificates to save on their dining adventures. I know I was really impressed to see how the list of Lehigh Valley restaurants had grown (Pickles, Gregory's, Italiano Delight -- even Shula's Steakhouse!!).
Anyhow, that's my "Ah Ha Moment" for the day...really not very enlightening...but hopefully it will save you a couple bucks down the road!
Oh -- while we're on the subject, here's the latest deal.

July 20, 2009

Double Chocolate Mocha Delight

It's been graduation party season lately, so I dug out one of my all-time favorite dessert recipes. It was such a huge hit at the first party (the bowl was practically licked clean), that I made it again for another party so that the people who missed it the first time around could enjoy it as well! This is a classic from my days with Pampered Chef...and no matter what, I never tire of it!

It's called Double Chocolate Mocha Trifle and it's a crowd pleaser. One word of advice -- it's not the prettiest dessert, so I wouldn't recommend making it in a glass bowl. I've adapted the original recipe ever so slightly. Hope you like it.

You'll Need
  • 1 package brownie mix (prepared as directed for cake-like brownies)
  • 1 3/4 cups cold milk
  • 2 packages (3.4 ounces each) white chocolate instant pudding mix (if you can't find white chocolate, substitute either butterscotch or vanilla)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/3 package Heath Bar crunch bits


  1. Prepare brownies as directed for cake-like brownies
  2. Cool completely and cut into 1-inch cubes
  3. Dissolve coffee granules in warm water
  4. Whisk pudding mix and milk until pudding starts to thicken
  5. Add coffee to pudding mixture and mix well
  6. Fold in whipped topping
  7. Layer 1/3 brownies cubes on bottom of medium sized bowl
  8. Top with 1/3 pudding mixture, spread evenly
  9. Sprinkle with toffee bits
  10. Repeat layers ending with toffee
  11. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving

NOTE: If you want to pretty this up, buy a second container of whipped topping, thaw it, and put a skim coat of whipped topping over the top. Use a cake decorator to put small rosettes of whipped topping around the edge of the bowl, and large rosette in the center. Garnish with chocolate shavings and/or toffee bits.

Sorry I don't have a picture of this one...but trust me, it is DELICIOUS!!

July 14, 2009

Save Save Save at

Just wanted to share another great deal with you.

From now through July 20 -- Pay just $4 per $25 certificate -- a 60% savings -- PLUS get a FREE $10 certificate with every $25 purchase!

Click here and use code KITCHEN - only at

July 10, 2009

Just Ask

I know I tell you a lot of stories about my dogs and the lessons I learn from them, and today I had another "Ah ha moment." Yes, another life lesson learned from my pet -- except this time it wasn't a dog, but my cat who was the teacher.

My cat, Tina, is a terrific cat. Don't be upset with me, but after years of trying to keep her as an indoor cat, we stopped fighting her each time she raced to an open door -- and we let her go outside.

We live in an area that's perfect for us (and our pets). We're close to shopping centers and all the conveniences of a well-developed suburb and there are many neighborhoods being built on old farmland -- but our home is on a more rural country road with very few neighbors. Across the street we have a beautiful walking park, and behind our house a cornfield. Needless to say, with a cornfield behind us and so much local development displacing the country mice, the first time Tina experienced the great outdoors, she got a taste of life as a hunter, and she refuses to give it up. She's getting up there in years and slowing down a little, but she still loves to pounce and play -- but more than anything Tina LOVES to snuggle.

So here's the story -- this morning I was sitting at my desk reading my emails, when I heard Tina's meow coming from outside my window. I quickly got up and let her in, then headed back to my office. She's a "talkative" girl, and when I opened the door she greeted me with a "mew," then scurried towards the stairs, presumably to get her breakfast. (Years ago we put her self-feeder upstairs on top of our dryer so that her food would be out of reach of the dogs, and she could eat in peace.)

Anyhow, on occasion Tina won't jump up onto the dryer unless someone is there with her. I'm really not sure why exactly, but when she doesn't want to make the jump alone, she will stand at the top of the stairs and cry until someone comes to be with her. She only wants someone there with her while she jumps up, then she happily goes right to her food, and the "escort" can go back to whatever they were doing. Well this morning when Tina went upstairs, I assumed she needed an escort, because she cried the entire way up the stairs, and I heard her crying as she pattered around upstairs looking for someone to join her at the food bowl. Eventually she returned to the top of the stairs and sat there crying until I headed up.

When I got to the top of the steps, she turned and headed in the direction of the food, but then kept moving past the laundry area and into my bedroom. She stopped at the foot of my bed, sat down, then looked up at me and meowed.

"What do you want?" I asked, fully expecting her to answer me.

Tina looked back at the bed, stood up, walked around my legs then sat back down and meowed again.

"Do you want me to go back to bed?" I asked, tempted by the thought.


'You've got to be kidding me,' I thought.

"Meow," she repeated.

Puzzled by her cry, I laid down on the bed to see how she'd react. Sure enough, Tina jumped right up and walked up to my face and started purring and rubbing her face against mine. She walked back and forth rubbing her nose against mine for about two minutes, then she curled up next to me as if to go to sleep.

'Well I'll be,' I thought. She just wanted some love.

I laid there for a few minutes and pet her, and thought about this very special little furball. She knew what she wanted, she asked for it -- and she got it. there's a lesson.

How often do we want something, but for whatever reason, we don't ask. Maybe we are afraid, maybe we're too proud, maybe we don't want to appear selfish -- whatever the reason, we sit there quietly, wanting or needing something, and we don't say it.

I've been doing a lot of self-reflection lately, and this is one of the biggest lessons I need to learn. I need to learn to ask for help instead of hoping that someone can read my mind.

I know this is going to sound a little silly -- but I could tell you many stories about times when I have absolutely no doubt that God was speaking to me through my cat. In time, those stories will come -- but just for today, I'm enjoying Tina's version of Matthew 7:7 --

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Just so you know...I stayed there with Tina for a few minutes this morning, then headed back downstairs to work. Before I did, I opened the door to the boys' bedroom, and sure enough I heard her jump down from my bed then patter down the hall to their room. I'm sure if I went looking for her now she'd be snuggled up with one of them. I guess she just likes to be close to the ones she loves.

July 3, 2009

Celebrating the Red, White & Blue!

It's another weekend for patriotic celebration so I thought I would share two great "red, white and blue" recipes to move your picnic fare from ordinary to a real celebration.

Want to try something a little different? How about trying a "Red, White and Bleu Burger?"

You'll Need:
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1 container crumbled bleu cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Step By Step
  1. Break up ground beef (or turkey) into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Cut up uncooked bacon into small bite-sized pieces and add to bowl
  3. Add full container of bleu cheese crumbles
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste

  5. Mix all ingredients and hand-form burgers

6. Grill immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
7. Serve on a crusty kaiser or potato roll
NOTE: You will want to grill these over a lower flame to ensure the bacon cooks through, but the burger doesn't char. Cooking to a temperature of 150 degrees makes for a nice medium rare burger and the bacon will be cooked (though not crispy).

A perfect side to really compliment the flavors is a Red, White and Bleu Spinach Salad

Borrowing this image from because I haven't made the salad yet this weekend....but I will!!
You'll Need

  • fresh spinach (cleaned and torn)
  • strawberries (sliced)
  • blueberries (whole)
  • crumbled bleu cheese
  • chopped red onion (optional)
  • walnuts or pecans (chopped)
  • Poppyseed dressing (I've included a recipe if you like to make your own, but I've found Brianna's poppyseed dressing to be every bit as good as homemade).
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup salad or olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
Mix ingredients in a jar, cover, shake well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

  1. Add all salad ingredients (except dressing) in a large bowl.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Just before serving toss salad in dressing.
If you still have room for more, don't forget the perfect ending to your Red, White and Blue Celebration
-- a festive fruit pizza!

Of course, if you're on strawberry and blueberry overload there's always the great all-American favorite -- apple pie and ice cream!

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!


July 1, 2009

Santa Claus, Where Are You?

If you're looking for a posting about phenomenal shopping deals, or starting Christmas shopping in July, you've come to the wrong place. The truth is, if I wrote about Christmas shopping in July it would be a rant -- and I really try to keep my rants to a minimum. No, this post really doesn't have much to do with Christmas. It's actually just another one of those realizations I've had -- an "ah ha moment" -- and now seems the perfect day to share.

Every year I sit back on December 26 and wonder how I managed to get it all done in those few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not just me though, the whole world seems to go into overdrive at the holidays – buzzing here, buzzing there. We shop, decorate, wrap, cook, send greeting cards, visit family, visit Santa, get our nails done, bake cookies, attend parties, throw parties, volunteer for those less fortunate, attend our kids’ choral concerts….the list goes on and on.

The month of December is truly amazing – and personally, I always give the credit to Santa Claus. I mean, it isn’t humanly possible otherwise, so it must be Santa, right?

But here’s my question, where, exactly, does Santa go from January through November? Why couldn’t he maybe help out a little during the year, instead of leaving me to spin my wheels all day and get nothing done? What’s different about the month of December?

I thought about this question a lot in January, and I realized that for starters, in December I know exactly what I'm working towards and precisely what I need to do to get it done.

Ah ha...goals.

Of course. It makes sense that when we know where we're going, we can figure out how to get there.

Armed with that nugget of wisdom, in January I laid out a master plan for 2009. This was to be a year of personal growth for me. A year when I would find time for my passions. I'd plow through the stacks of books that have piled up on my bookshelf. I'd do more knitting and scrapbooking, I'd really "dig into" my gardening. I'd take time to explore different things that I've been interested in but have never really taken the time to learn. 2009 was to be "my year."

So here it is -- July 1st -- a great day to check in and revisit those personal goals, right?

Well, the good news is that I was able to locate my list. The bad news is, apparently even with a plan, Santa Claus doesn't like to help out (at least not from January to July).

In all seriousness, initially I was kind of disappointed when I reviewed my progress towards my goals. There was very little that I could check off as even "in progress," let alone "complete." But in asking myself the question, "Why haven't I completed more?" I realized that there are so many things that I have accomplished that I never even considered when I wrote my goals.

Nowhere on the list had I considered flexing my creative writing muscles and starting a blog -- yet I'm faithfully maintaining two! Nowhere had I considered working on my photography, or learning new software programs, or making new friends. Yet these are all things that I have done already this year. I am very happy for those accomplishments.

But still I maintain that Santa Claus has been checked out so far this year. I haven't done anything as amazing as what I can do at Christmastime. So once again, I find myself asking the question, what's different about December? And in asking that question, today I had yet another "ah ha moment."

Santa isn't just about goals - he's also about discipline. He's about planning the work, and working the plan. Call it consistency, sticktoitiveness or productivity, call on Nike's "Just do it" campaign. Santa Claus knows what needs to get done, and he makes it happen.

Later today I'll be updating my goals for this year, because truthfully some of the things that seemed so important to me in January, are a little less important to me now. Sure, I love to knit, and I'd like to try to knit something different than the one and only thing I know how to make (a Prayer Shawl), but I also love to write. I love to read the books on my shelf, but I take equal pleasure in reading the incredible blogs written by so many talented friends I've made in the past few months.

Yes, I'll be doing a mid-year adjustment to my goals, and that's a good thing -- after all, that's part of finding my way. But rest assured, before the week is done, I will have nailed down some core disciplines that I want and need to be a part of my life if I want to accomplish my goals.

Oh yes Santa, I will see you before Thanksgiving. How much rest do you need anyway?