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August 21, 2009

More Restaurant.com Savings

I know I always have the codes posted on my blog, but I wanted to share the latest from Restaurants.com. From now until August 24th you can save 70% on your certificate purchases. Just use code PALATE to purchase $25 gift certificates for just $3.

These certificates are great to use for local dining -- but we've also used them to save big and take the guesswork out of our vacation dining.

In addition to savings for your own benefit, have you looked at the Dinner of the Month Club? I just checked it out this morning and am thinking about giving them as going away presents for some college-bound students.

When you give Dinner of the Month Club as a gift, your recipient will automatically receive a $25 Restaurant.com gift certificate each month via email. The certificates are easily redeemable online for an available restaurant-specific gift certificate from one of thousands of restaurants nationwide.

There are 3, 6 & 12 month club packages for $30, $60 and $120 respectively. Plus, you can use the savings codes for additional savings! Use code PALATE, through August 24, 2009 to save and additional 70%. Definitely can't beat the savings!


That's all for now -- Happy Eating! Happy Savings!

August 18, 2009

Difference Makers - Part I

A couple weeks ago I posed the question, "What are you contributing?" I want to thank the handful of people who shared their thoughts and reflections about that post. As silly as it may sound, that post made me stop and think about all the people I've met (and are still meeting) who are making a difference in this world.

There are people like my mom -- the kind of people who make a difference and probably never even stop to consider it. They just live their lives, and their actions and attitudes make other people smile.

There are volunteers and philanthropists who support causes with gifts of time, talent and treasure. Having spent several years working in fundraising for a college, I never ceased to be humbled by donors who supported the college's mission. Every donor, whether their gift was big or small, made a difference -- and these generous people inspired me to really think differently about my own charitable giving. Though I'm not by any means what would be considered a "major donor," I give what I can to the organizations that are nearest and dearest to my heart -- and when I give, I always try to "reach." You see, even when the amounts aren't huge, every time someone "reaches" someone (or maybe more) is impacted by their generosity.

I offer this as an example. Supposing 2000 people committed to giving a college $25 to go towards financial aid. Basic math -- that's $50,000.

As the mother of a college-bound freshman, I can tell you -- for sure -- that even a fraction of that amount would be a burden lifted. For some families, it could be the difference between being able to attend college or not.

Now stop for a moment, and think with me.

What if just half of those 2000 people decided that, above and beyond the $25 gift, they would sacrifice one latte a month for the cause. At $3.50 per month, that would be an additional $42 per person per year per person.

[$25 x 2000 = $50,000] + [$42 X 1000 = $42,000]

= $92,000 for financial aid


WOW -- talk about making a difference....and all because 1000 people sacrificed a latte a month for a year.

But let me take this one step further. No, I'm not going to suggest that 3,000 people made this effort, or that people sacrificed two lattes -- that's just basic math and you could figure it out yourself.

Instead I want to talk about the ripple effect of good deeds. The people you know, and those you may never know, who will be inspired to act because of your actions.

Maybe your good deeds will inspire volunteerism or philanthropy -- or maybe they'll inspire more good deeds...or a positive attitude...or self-love. With all those good deeds going 'round, the good that you put out there couldn't help but come back to you.

Before I wrap up, I want to introduce you to someone who I've gotten to know, who I consider a real difference maker. I've never actually met this woman, I've merely read her words, and listened to her podcasts. With every post Tabitha inspires me to be more present in my life. To give. To share. To laugh. To appreciate. To choose a life of bliss.

Tabitha has a great story of overcoming many challenges in her life -- and turning obstacles into opportunities. Her life is all about doing right by others, and her kindness is positively contagious. She doesn't know it (yet) but she inspired me to sign up with an organization called Spirit Jump. I'll write more about Spirit Jump in Difference Makers - Part II -- but for now, suffice it to say, that Tabitha's inspiration is a great example of the ripple effect of good deeds.

I hope you'll take a moment to visit Tabitha's blog -- and if you have a few minutes, listen to her most recent podcast (there are a total of five podcasts that you can find on her blog, but this one she released today really hit home for me). Not only does Tabitha have a voice that's smooth as silk, but with each podcast she provides food for thought -- and nourishment for the soul.

So how about you -- who or what has inspired you in your lifetime?

Feel free to share links to the organizations that you believe in. You just never know -- your comment may just be the pebble in the pond to start a ripple effect of its own!


August 15, 2009

Graduation Party Recap

Wow -- I can hardly believe that this time last week I was scurrying around with all the last minute details for Amy's graduation party. It was a great day -- tons of fun, lots of food, even more laughs and a great celebration with family and friends!

In all of the preparations I rediscovered my love of party planning -- and cooking! I'm not a crazy gourmet cook but I think we pulled together a pretty good shindig, if I do say so myself! I really struggled with figuring out what to make -- so I hope you don't mind, I'm going to dedicate this post to a party recap, just on the outside chance that you're looking for some party inspiration!

The menu for the day included:

A 6-foot sub from Three Men & a Bagel in Trexlertown. It was 1/2 Italian and 1/2 Turkey and I have to say -- it was fabulous. I didn't make a lot of dips and appetizers for the party, so the sub was perfect -- and what a presentation! We had it out right from the beginning so people took whole and half pieces to hold them over while the hot food was being warmed up. Each slice was loaded with cold cuts...and they sent along all the fixings on the side (mayo, oil & vinegar, pickles, onions...plus a huge container of potato salad!).


If you're a Lehigh Valley local and you're not familiar with Three Men, you have to check them out. Absolutely the best bagel sandwiches going. Boar's Head meats, homemade bagels, everything made fresh for you! YUMMY. (Sorry about that diversion, but my mouth is watering just thinking about it).


Like I said, we kept snack foods pretty simple. I used a couple Wildtree seasoning mixes to make some dips (Absolutely Onion, Dill, and Roasted Red Pepper) -- served with fresh veggies (celery, carrots, and fresh peppers from the garden) pretzels and potato chips. Friends filled in with Spinach Dip as well as a hot Tex-Mex Queso. Yum.

One of the great tips I picked up with all the party-hopping this summer was to use a small inflatable kiddie pool as an ice bath for the dips and "cold" foods. That worked like a charm. I also heard of someone using one of those under-the-bed plastic storage bins to do the same. People are so creative~ I was just happy to be able to borrow the idea (and the kiddie pool....thanks Lisa!!).


The main dishes were pretty simple. The hardest thing for me when I'm planning a party is to figure out how much food to make, so I'm including reference to how much I made, as well as how much was leftover. Hopefully this gauge will help someone down the road -- and if anyone has advice for portion planning, please share in the comments below. I figured on about 75 people (adults & kids) -- and I think that is about how many people were there through the course of the day.

We had:
  • Italian Meatballs in sauce (15 lbs of beef yielded 240 meatballs, we ate about half)

  • Roasted Turkey BBQ (like a pulled turkey in gravy) (I had about 20 lbs of turkey breast only, so very little waste vs. a whole turkey. There were about 5 servings left)

  • Stuffed Shells (4 boxes of shells made -- only a half a pan leftover)

  • Gram's Baked Macaroni & Cheese (5 lbs...only 1 pan leftover)

  • Caesar Salad (one huge bag of romaine lettuce -- zero leftover)

...and lots and lots of rolls. I went WAY overboard on the rolls (10 dozen), thinking that everyone would have at least one, maybe two. Needless to say, we did a lot of creative things with sandwich rolls this week (stay tuned for "100 ways to use a brat roll." Just kidding).

For dessert we had the cake to top all cakes. It was, truly, the largest cake I had ever seen at a home party-- and positively delicious! It was 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 vanilla (with a slight almond flavor)...double layer with icing that was was light as air.

I wish I could direct my Lehigh Valley readers to the bakery that made it -- but the truth is it was made by a local teacher who does cakes as an occasional side business. Feel free to email me if you're in need of a cake, and I'll be happy to see if she can accommodate. I promise you won't be disappointed.



Friends and family rounded out the "dessert table" with a fresh fruit salad, brownies, heavenly chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, ...and a huge bowl of M&Ms.

For drinks we kept it simple -- beer, wine, Mike's Hard Lemonade, soda...and LOTS of water to combat the summer heat.

As for the highlights of the day --Amy's photo boards capturing 13 years of school and fun were AWESOME. She did a great job (especially considering my photos are in such disarray!). There were horseshoes going all day, as well as wiffle ball, kickball -- and the graduation party favorite -- ladder ball.



You can see one of the two photoboards in the background. Amy found photos of her with almost everyone who was coming. Hopefully two who didn't "make the boards" will be happy to know they "made the blog!!"




Thanks to all the family and friends who made the celebration so special!


Do you have entertaining tips you'd like to share? Post them here in the comments, or submit your best ideas at bhappy100.rtkt@blogger.com and you may just find your ideas in a future post on 'Round the Kitchen Table!

Debbie's Turkey BBQ

This is a definite crowd-pleaser. Melt-in-your mouth turkey that everyone loves -- even the kids!! I wish I could take credit for coming up with this recipe, but this is the specialty of my wonderful friend Debbie. (Thanks for sharing!!)

You'll Need
  • One whole turkey (about 18 lbs)
  • 2 chicken boullion cubes + water
  • 1 can Cambells Cream of Celery Soup
  • 1 jar Heinz Oven Roasted Turkey Gravy
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Step by Step

  1. Roast turkey and let rest.
  2. Save turkey drippings overnight in refrigerator (or if you're pinched for time put in a sealed container in the freezer).
  3. Shred turkey and set aside.
  4. When you're ready to prepare turkey, skim the fat off the drippings. Warm drippings in sauce pan, add remaining ingredients, and then stir in turkey.
  5. Slow cook in crock pot.

NOTE: Catsup & vinegar can be added for more BBQ flavor. Add water/boullion if turkey gets too dry.

Great alone or serve on a crusty rolls for sandwiches.

August 6, 2009

Feeling Guilty

OK --I'm feeling so guilty because I've been neglecting this blog, and my loyal readers. I am really hoping that I'll be able to get back into a better blogging routine next week because -- I MISS YOU!

The long and short of it, is that the past month has been extremely hectic. I've been busy developing a new service line for the consulting firm I work with. It's a whole new vertical for us -- and something very near and dear to my heart, so I'm really excited and busy with that. When I'm not in the office (which practically never happens between work and blogging), I've been enjoying this beautiful summer, working in the garden, and preparing for Amy's graduation party this weekend.






The fruits of our labor. Young plants -- hopefully will be more abundant next year.

I'm very excited (seriously) to spend all day in the kitchen tomorrow, cooking and baking. Not quite as excited about the cleaning that still needs to be done...but hopefully we'll have a good day on Saturday and we can be outside (and away from the dust bunnies). Right now the weather looks a little iffy -- so if you could, please say a prayer that it's a sunny and beautiful!

I'll have lots to share when I get back into my blogging routine -- so stay tuned for posts about:
  • NINETEEN new Wildtree products
  • Podcasts and my new friends at The Morning Call
  • Part II of :What are you Contributing? (where you're going to be introduced to some incredible people who are doing awesome things in life and the blogosphere).
  • Jeff's 50th Birthday Celebration -- aka "The Amazing Race Birthday Adventure!"

....and I almost forgot -- "The Night My House Got Paintballed" (yes, I'm serious...NOT cool).

Definitely lots to share coming soon. Thanks for your patience with me -- and I look forward to sitting down 'Round the Kitchen Table and catching up very soon! Until then ---here's a question for you.

If I gave you $100,000 and asked you to donate it to the non-profit organization of your choice, what charity or cause would you choose, and why?

August 4, 2009

Lessons from Mom

I've learned so much from my mother over the years.
I've learned about smiling through difficult times.
Creating a home that overflows with love.
Giving without expecting anything in return.
Unconditional and unfailling love.

I could go on and on with the list -- or you could read more stories about my Mom if you'd like. The point is -- she is one special lady -- and she has taught me some of the most valuable lessons of life. The one I want to share with you today is about keeping house.

Now before I say another word, I want you to know that my Mom keeps a very orderly house. She's not neurotic about cleaning-- but she is conscientious and she takes very good care of her home. I honestly don't remember a time when I walked into her home and thought it looked out of order.

That said, I also don't remember my mother ever missing out on anything because she needed to stay home and do housework. In fact, growing up there was a magnet on our refrigerator that said, "A clean house is a sign of a life misspent."

That's the lesson my Mom taught me.

My Mom taught me that there were no household chores that were more important than enjoying family and friends -- and life. From Mom I learned that Saturday mornings didn't necessarily have to be spent doing housework -- that could be done at any hour of the day. When it came to Saturday morning cartoons, dance lessons, and high school football games -- we either put down the broom or missed it.
Needless to say, when I received the following verse in an email this morning, I realized how very lucky I am that my Mom taught me this very important lesson before I missed out on too much living!

Dusting...

Author unknown

Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.

'A house becomes a home when you can write 'I love you' on the furniture ...'

I used to spend at least 8 hours every weekend making sure things were just perfect -- just in case someone came over

Finally I realized one day that no one came over; they were all out living life and having fun!

Now, when people visit, I don't have to explain the 'condition' of my home. They are more interested in hearing about the things I've been doing while I was away living life and having fun.

If you haven't figured this out yet, please heed this advice. Life is short. Enjoy it!

Dust if you must
but wouldn't it be better
to paint a picture or write a letter,
bake cookies or a cake
and lick the spoon
or plant a seed,
ponder the difference between want and need?!

Dust if you must, but there's not much time . . . .
with wine to drink, rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
music to hear and books to read,
friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must,
but the world's out there with the sun in your eyes,
the wind in your hair, a flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come around, again.

Dust if you must,
but bear in mind, old age will come and it's not kind. . .
And when you go -
and go you must - you, yourself will make more dust!

Mom, I am forever grateful that you taught me this life lesson. I've come to appreciate the dust bunnies (some of them even have names)....and when I see cobwebs strung from the curtains and ceiling I smile and see them as "streamers" that are celebrating LIFE!
As always, thanks for being wonderful YOU.
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