Tag: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you’re enjoying your family, friends, loved ones and pets today.

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Yup, that’s me many Thanksgivings ago. I feel so blessed the word thankful doesn’t feel like enough. As someone in the later half of my 20s I’m amazed by how much I learn and grow year over year. It becomes easier to understand what makes my family tick, why I am the way I am and why the people in my life (both near and far) are so important to me.

In the age of “busy” it’s not easy to stop and take a minute to tune out the digital distractions and tune into you and your family. Among all the holiday chaos today I hope you have the chance to enjoy whatever it is you’re thankful for.

Cheers to the good food, warm hugs and funny stories you’ll share today. I hope you’re able to relax and take it all in.

Thankful

I had one of the nicest Thanksgiving holidays this year that I’ve had in a while. Mike and I have been together for five years now and we’ve been splitting holidays between our families ever since. I’m an only child (and an only grandchild on my dad’s side) so it’s tough to juggle holiday time among all the special people in our lives, so this year we decided we’d spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania with my family and Christmas at home in Jersey. Our agenda for Thanksgiving this year involved lunch at my Mommom and Poppop’s house with my Dad and dinner at my Nana’s house with my Mom. It was such a nice day!

Thanksgiving Table
Nana’s Thanksgiving Table

We started the day with lunch at my Mommom and Poppop’s house. Mommom knew Mike and I would be having a big turkey dinner later in the day, so she decided to make an untraditional PA dutch favorite – chicken pot pie. It was topped with my Great Grandmother Mary’s (her mother) pie crust and packed full of chicken, veggies and gravy. After lunch I helped her decorate the house for Christmas so she wouldn’t have to do it on her own. We’re a great team and we got the whole house (inside and outside) decorated in about two hours. We had a ball!

At around 5 PM we called my Uncle Brian who lives in South Korea to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving from America. It was already Friday morning there and he was getting ready to go to work since Korea doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. He’s coming home for Christmas, so we’re all really excited to see him and his wife Mee for a few days. They’re even staying with Mike and I for a night!

After we said goodbye to him we headed down the road to my Nana’s house. She and my mom are lucky to live right next door to each other, so Nana has been hosting holidays at her house for a while and they both pitch in to prepare the meal. You know dinner is almost ready when we start carrying things over from Mom’s oven to Nana’s table! How amazing does their turkey look? Mom brined it for a little more than a day and it turned out juicy and flavorful. Uncle Brad did an awesome job carving this baby up so we could dig in.

Turkey

Dinner included mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, cornbread, cole slaw, applesauce, and more. It was amazing! After we indulged in dinner it was time for dessert. That’s where my baking skills came into play. I was in charge of dessert this year, and I didn’t mess around.

French silk pie and pumpkin dream cake. Yes, that happened. And it was delicious. I used a recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make the pie and another from Lemon Sugar to make the cake (same recipe I used to make my pumpkin cake pops last month). Yum!

French Silk Pie

Pumpkin Dream Cake

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving if you celebrate it, and if not – thanks for sharing mine with me. I’m so thankful that you stopped by. Get an even closer look at our Thanksgiving celebration in our vlog below. Happy Thanksgiving!

Last Minute Ways to Make Thanksgiving Special

Holy moley – can you believe it? Thanksgiving is TOMORROW! How did it creep up so quickly? If you’re like me, you thrive on pulling last minute details together to make a holiday celebration extra special. I’ve seen so many cute ideas drifting around the internet that I’ve been ohhh-ing and ahhh-ing over for the past few weeks. We’re traveling all day on Thanksgiving to my home town in Pennsylvania where my Mommom is hosting us for lunch and my Mom and Nana are pulling out all the stops for dinner, so I wasn’t able to put any of these cute ideas to use since we’re not hosting. But, I figured I’d round up my favorite easy-to-execute Thanksgiving ideas just in case they could be of use to you! Meanwhile, I’ll be baking my butt off since I’m in charge of bringing dessert this year. Pumpkin Dream Cake and French Silk Pie, anyone? Yum. But anyway, here are some of the last minute details that I think you could quickly pull together to give your dinner an extra special touch.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Heaping piles of leftovers are the best party of any great Thanksgiving dinner, and your guests will probably be clambering for every last slice of succulent turkey and whipped mashed potatoes to enjoy the next day. This suite of Thanksgiving leftover printables from Courtney over at Pizzazzerie is by far my favorite extra special touch for a memorable Thanksgiving feast. I mean how stinkin’ cute are these? You could easily print them out at home and slap them on plain paper lunchbags using a glue stick for a custom look and your guests will be toting home leftovers in style.

Thanksgiving leftover printables from Pizzazzerie
Thanksgiving leftover printables from Pizzazzerie

Gold-n-Pumpkin Place Cards 

If Laura’s birthday was any clue, you know I love dressing up a table to make an occasion feel extra special. I used a variety of small pumpkins and gourds to decorate our house for fall and they’ve been around for weeks now. When I came across this gilded pumpkin place card idea from The Nest I loved the way it dressed up a simple gourd to feel luxe and personalized. In my case, I’d take a few of the gourds that I already have laying around and  give them a quick coat of paint at some point today before tying a handwritten place card (possibly made from a gift tag?) on the stem. How easy is that? And it’d be super cute!

Gilded Place Cards from The Nest
Gilded Place Cards from The Nest

Notes of Thankfulness

Mike’s family has a tradition of going around the table to say what we’re each thankful as a way to show gratitude for our blessings and reflect on the past year before diving in for dinner. It’s really sweet to hear what each member of the family is thankful for – especially when his little cousins poignantly exclaim, “I’m thankful for Jesus!” or “I’m thankful for school!” When I came across this free Notes of Thankfulness printable from Hello Bee I thought they’d be a cute way to go a step further and write down your thoughts of gratitude. You could even save your family’s notes of thankfulness and revisit them when you’re having a rough day and need a heartfelt pick-me-up. With some printer paper or card stock and a pair of scissors you could quickly prep a note card for each person who will be joining you for dinner in no time. Note, click here for the printable file.

Notes of Thankfulness by Hello Bee
Notes of Thankfulness by Hello Bee

I certainly have so much to be thankful for this year, and I’ll be counting my many blessings when we sit down to dinner tomorrow. I’m wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours! Make it extra special and soak every moment in!

I’m Thankful for a Warm Home

It’s been very chilly around here this week. And I’m not just talking about the 30 degree temperatures outside. I’m talking about getting home early on Tuesday night (which if you know anything about my daily commute, you know that’s a miracle) and finding out that our gas had been turned off. Night = ruined. No bueno.

Let me back up. As I explained in my post yesterday, Mike and I bought our house as a short sale back in March. Short sales are a great investment, but they’re also a lot of work. After we made an offer we had to RUSH to get our inspections done quickly. But there was one huge hurdle in our way – the utilities were turned off. Yes, we toured the cold, dark house with no electricity or gas.

This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone's flash.
This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone’s flash.

In order to protect our investment and ensure we weren’t buying a total money pit the utilities had to be reinstated for a proper inspection. I must be addicted to being crazy busy all the time, because we had a vacation to Florida planned for the exact same week we were doing inspections and finalizing the contract. I totally remember calling the utility companies from the airport making arrangements to get them turned back on. Talk about hectic.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. When I walked up to my door and saw the note from South Jersey Gas stuffed in it, my heart dropped. I immediately knew I had made a huge mistake. In that moment I realized we never received a gas bill – since March. Mike takes care of most of our bills, so I had always assumed he had it on auto pay like all the others. He thought I was taking care of it. Panic ensued, and it was cold in my house. The temperature had already dropped to 60. Crap.

I immediately dialed the number on the letter to right the situation. I figured I could just call, explain the mistake, and they could flip a switch and the gas would be flowing again. Oh, the naiveness of a new homeowner.

The gas company didn’t answer the phone. Yes, you read that right. No answer. Even more panic ensued. How could they not answer? How could their automated customer service line just hang up? I kept calling back and each time a robot woman said, “We apologize but we’re experiencing higher than average call volumes. Press 1 if you’d like us to call you back. Otherwise, try again later. Goodbye.”

I called back, pressed 1, and robot woman said, “To schedule a call back this evening, press 1.”

I pressed 1.

Robot woman said, “A call back this evening isn’t an option. To schedule a call back on Friday, November 15, press 1.”

FRIDAY?! It was Tuesday. “I can’t go without heat or hot water until FRIDAY,” I thought.

I kept calling.

You can image the level of panic in my house at this point. If you know my husband, you know he’s got a flair for the dramatic in a tense situation. The guy who has the air conditioning on when it’s 75 degrees was suddenly shivering in our 60 degree house. I was digging out my Uggs from the back of the closet and furiously robo-dialing the gas company. Chopping onions to make my veggie quiche all the while with my bluetooth in my ear. I wasn’t going to let my dinner get screwed up, too.

I finally got through to a customer service representative who told me it’d be two days until we got our gas back on. I didn’t believe her. The Taurus in me started coming out. I’m usually pretty good with these customer service reps. My PR job helps me be firm yet nice on the road to getting my way. I worked as a telemarketer in college so I always feel bad for people in customer service. It’s not their fault. But after making 10 calls and waiting on hold for more than 20 minutes before getting a live person on the phone, my patience was wearing very thin.

“It looks like someone else’s name is linked to your property’s account and they’ve been getting your bills,” she said. “You need to fax us your settlement sheet and photo ID. Then we can set you up with a new account and you can pay your past due balance in cash. And then we can turn your service back on.”

Fine. I was ready and willing to pay the balance and get this over with. But I knew it’d be a chilly night because it was already 7:30 and their customer service department closed at 8, and I don’t have a fax machine. Double crap.

Wednesday morning I rushed to FedEx Kinkos before work and faxed the proof of residence. The woman assured me if I faxed the documents first thing I’d be able to get my service restored in the same day, I just had to call back and let them know I had sent the fax. Easy as pie.

I knew I shouldn’t have trusted her. 12 calls. I’m not exaggerating here. 12 calls and a 20 minute wait later and I finally had someone live to tell them about my fax. She had this bitchy, “It’s not my fault you’re the idiot that didn’t realize you weren’t getting a gas bill” attitude that made me feel 2 inches tall. I knew it was going to be a shitty day. If only I could just get the gas back on, it’d be worth it. I left the house with the dog wearing his winter coat. It was 58 when I left. Poor Cody.

We went through the usual rigamarole and I held on five more times before she told me I’d have to go to one of their payment centers in person by 2 PM to pay the past due balance in cash for any chance of having my service restored that day. I felt like I was a part of some sort of extortion ring. Thank god Mike’s office is only 10 minutes away from the nearest payment center. We could comply to their crazy demands – 30+ calls later.

So many calls.
So many calls.

The paperwork was faxed. The bill was paid. Heat had to be just around the corner, right? We were thinking of ‘Plan B’ just in case. Mike would shower at the gym and I would go old school and heat up water on the stove to pour in my bath tub to take a bath. Yeah, great ideas. But I was still holding out hope that we’d get the heat back on. Time to make another round of calls to the gas company. I finally got through, and got the news I was hoping not to hear. No one would be coming out to turn on the gas until Thursday. Nooooo…

At this point I was so down trodden that I just accepted it. Plan B it was. “How many pots of hot water would I need to fill the tub,” I thought. I shuddered just thinking about it. But Mike wasn’t taking no for an answer. He took to the company’s Facebook with a lengthy complaint about his shivering pup Cody and his worry that our pipes were going to freeze if we had to go another night without heat (I told you – flair for the dramatic). I was sure a company that couldn’t get their automated answering service right would ignore a complaint on Facebook, but it worked! Within a few minutes Mike got a call saying our house was put on the list to have service restored today. HUZZAH! He did it! I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have to make a pit stop for space heaters on the way home.

9 o’clock rolled around and there was no sign of the gas company worker. We thought we had been punked. That it was all a big joke and the gas company was going to call us and say, “SIKE, SUCKAS! NO HEAT FOR YOU!” I decided to make one last call to the gas company to check in. It was after hours so I assumed no one would answer, but someone did – and he said, “Actually, I think our guy is outside right now.” It couldn’t be! There he was in our driveway. VICTORY! Within a few minutes our gas was back on and the heat was flowing. What a sweet sound – the unusually-loud buzzing from our old heater coming from the utility closet. WE MADE IT THROUGH.

...and that doggy in the window
…and that doggy in the window

Needless to say, we’re having our 20+ year old heater serviced to make sure it will get us through the winter. In the end, I think this was a very important lesson for us both to learn. Both for our marriage and our life in general. We learned how much better life is when we work as a team, and we learned how easy it is to take something as simple as heat for granted. Mike and I live a pretty blessed life, and it’s important for us to remember that always. This year when we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving table I know we’ll both be thanking our lucky stars for this beautiful life we’ve built together. I’m thankful that we have a home to heat, and I’m thankful that I have a husband who cares for our household so well that I assumed he was taking care of the bill without being asked. Sometimes life throws us these curveballs to say, “Hey, WAKE UP and appreciate what you have!” I’m listening, life, and I hear you loud and clear.

Pumpkin Cake Pops

Fall is upon us, and that means an overabundance of pumpkin-flavored fare. I look forward to seasonal ‘pumpkin spice’ flavors all year, and I also grumble a bit when pumpkin gives way to peppermint after Thanksgiving. So, while the calendar still says November, bring on the gourd-y goodness!

Pumpkin Cake Pops

If you follow our vlogs, you’ll know that I made Pumpkin Cake Pops for my friends annual Oktoberfest party this year, and you’ll also be keenly aware of the mental battle I’ve fought each and every time I’ve tried to make these puppies. I’ll be the first to tell you these aren’t easy if you make them the right way. And by that, I mean individually rolling each delicious-yet-devious cake ball – not cheating by using one of those newfangled cake pop pans. But my third time making cake pops truly was the charm. I had two rounds of cake pop making under my belt, and I knew what pitfalls to avoid going into this arduous delicious undertaking.

In the past I’ve made red velvet and chocolate flavored cake pops, but this time I wanted to stay true to the changing seasons and go right for that first punch of pumpkin. After a quick search, I found this recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake with maple cinnamon cream cheese icing and I was sold (um, hello – with a name like that it didn’t take much convincing). Here’s a quick breakdown of the ingredients you’ll need:

Ingredients

I whipped together the cake and the icing by using the ingredients and measurements from the original recipe from Lemon Sugar. I knew I’d just be crumbling the baked cake into a mixture of cake crumbs and icing to form the cake balls, so I threw the entire amount of cake batter into one 9×13 baking pan rather than dividing it among three 8 inch round baking pans that the recipe calls for.

Once the cake is baked, let it cool completely before you dig in with your hands. Then follow the following steps to assemble your pops:

  1. When it’s fully cooled, crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl in uniform crumbs.
  2. Add a small amount of the frosting (about 1/2 cup) to the cake crumbs and combine with the paddle attachment of your mixer until you get a smooth texture and all the icing is combined. Cake Crumbs
  3. Roll the cake and icing mixture into uniform cake balls roughly one inch in diameter. I recommend lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper and placing the cake balls in rows as you form them. This step will take you a while as the recipe yields about 90 cake balls.
  4. When your cake balls are complete it’s time to let them chill before securing the lollipop sticks into them with melted chocolate. Some tutorials I’ve read have suggested refrigerating or even freezing the cake balls at this step to harden them a bit. I recommend sticking them in the fridge for no more than 10-15 minutes.
  5. Melt your chocolate candy melts in the microwave ON THE DEFROST SETTING! I can’t stress this enough. It may sound silly, but getting the candy melts to melt without overheating, or worse, burning, is one of the hardest steps for me every. Single. Time. When making this batch of pumpkin cake pops I finally got this step down to a science (god, I hope). I popped the candy melts in the microwave on defrost for about 15-30 seconds before giving them a stir. About 15 seconds more and they were melted. These little buggers are tricky because they don’t seem to be melted at first, but overheating them causes the melts to harden into one big chocolate-ty glob. #fail. Be sure to give them a good stir and they should melt into the perfect texture after 30-45 seconds on the defrost setting in the microwave.
  6. Melted chocolate in hand, take a lollipop stick and dip the end in about 1/2 inch. Then carefully insert the lollipop stick into the cake ball. It’s important to be gentle with this step to avoid cracking. If your cake balls got too cold in the refrigerator they’ll crack very easily, so if you start out and you have one after another cracking, give them a few minutes to warm up before proceeding.
  7. When all the lollipop sticks are securely in place, it’s time to dip the entire cake pop into the melted chocolate to achieve that glorious hard candy shell. I sometimes use a spoon to make sure the candy covers the entire cake pop all the way down to the lollipop stick – just to make sure it’s extra secure. Hold the cake pop over the bowl for a few seconds to let it harden before moving on to the next.
  8. Repeat the dipping step for all of your cake pops, and then let them dry until the candy shell is completely hardened.

There’s several ways to display cake pops, but leaving them upside down with the stick pointing up has proven to be the easiest way to let them dry and transport them to a party. If you’re cake pops are staying put at home you can experiment with ways to invert them vertically by using a cake pop holder, floral foam or even a pumpkin. Hey, I’ve done it!

As I said before, this recipe yielded 90 cake pops, so you better believe my neighbors were the lucky recipients of a few Pumpkin Cake Pops that weekend, too. Here’s how I wrapped them in small batches as a gift:

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I also made the Pumpkin Dream Cake recipe as cupcakes with the leftover maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting about a week later – and they were DIVINE! My husband even said they were quite possibly the best cupcakes he’d ever had. Though he was probably just trying to butter me up, I’m going with it! Best cupcakes ever, for the win!

Here’s the full recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake that you can pair with my instructions above to make Pumpkin Cake Pops for your next get together this fall. You can also see me tackle my batch of cake pops step-by-step in this vlog. Enjoy!