Mangia Mondays:: A Patriotic Fruit Tart

Happy Memorial Day to all my United States of America compatriots!

I feel so grateful to live in this country, and appreciate so very much all the men and women who serve the U.S. and protect our rights with their lives.  If you serve the United States in some way,

What a happy coincidence that Memorial Day takes place on Mangia Monday, a weekly blog hop I co-host with the delightful Kristin of Delightfully Dowling!
Are you heading to a Memorial Day BBQ today, perhaps?  If you're on dessert duty and need a quick idea, try this little number that doesn't require a lot of ingredients, is quick to make and shows your USA patriotism!
Did I mention it is oh-so-good?!?

Sour Cream Fruit Tart

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (or 8 whole graham crackers, finely ground)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla extract
Fruit of your choice:  strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and kiwi all work well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Combine graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and melted butter.  Press mix firmly onto bottom and sides of 9" tart pan or pie plate.  Bake 8 minutes.  Cool.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla.  Spread in cooled crust. 

Arrange fruit on top and chill 4 hours if possible.  Serve and enjoy!

**To create star design, I used a knife to draw a star in the filling,
and then used blueberries to outline the star.
{I found that to make a good star, it was best to follow the line of each side, leaving out the middle, instead of outlining each tip.  My first version of a star looked really wacky and I had to take them off and start over!}

After outlining, I filled in the star with more blueberries and cut up strawberries.
 I have made and decorated this tart many times but today I googled "Memorial Day tarts" for holiday decorating ideas and came across oodles of lovely inspirations.  How simple it is to turn a dish into something special with just a little extra effort!

And um...did I mention this was super yummy???  Oh I did?  Okay then!  Onto the Mangia Mondays bloghop!

The scoop on Mangia Mondays:
• Add a link to your recipe or food post {not your blog homepage} & visit some others who have linked up before you!

• We appreciate you not linking to giveaways, other link parties or items you are selling.
• Link back by putting the Mangia Mondays button in your post or anywhere on your blog to let others know you've joined the party.
• Help spread the word about Mangia Mondays with others by sharing this post!
**You can add the Mangia Mondays blog hop to your own blog if you would like, simply clicking the link at the bottom that says "What is a blog hop? Get the code here..." and pasting the html into the bottom of your own post.


Tinkerbelle Lilacs and Garden Discoveries

Since moving into this house last August I have been so excited to see what was in our new garden.  Many plants were already past bloom when we moved in, and some I couldn't identify, I decided to wait a full year before adding or deleting anything. 

How overjoyed I was this week to discover that bushes that grew along our driveway are a dwarf variety of lilac! 

In all the houses we've lived in we never had a lilac bush and I desperately wanted one for this house.  I had no idea these bushes that bloomed a couple weeks after traditional lilacs in the area were indeed lilacs too until I smelled their heady scent. With the wonders of the internet I discovered these beauties are Tinkerbelle Lilacs that have deep pink buds that bloom to light pink flowers.

Excuse the painful photography.
My daughter's little HP camera does not do them any justice, so just to show you how lovely they actually are here is a photo from Weston Nurseries:

I wish I could send you all a bouquet, they smell so pretty and make my kitchen counter so cheerful!

I also have peonies, rhodies, rose bushes, rose of sharon bushes, hydrageas, creeping hydranges, lace hydrangeas......oh so many delights!!  Amidst these are oft-overlooked pretties:


growing wild in the back yard and riddled with poison ivy, so unfortunately not here for long

Flowering Weeds(?)
also on their way out, but cheered me this spring

that have run amuck, but are welcome ground cover with their pretty tiny white flowers

I must tell you how much I took for granted and miss my Digital Rebel that took some of these photos above. My husband gave it to me when I was pregnant with that yummy baby that just turned nine, and although I knew it was a fairly expensive camera, I have come to discover that to replace just the body of the camera (not lense) with a comparable Canon product today would be around $1,500. Yikes!  And sadly, not in the budget after the extensive work we've done to our house this year.

Until I can replace it (and since I wanted one to throw in my bag anyway!) I'm looking for a compact point-and-shoot, preferably Canon or Nikon, under $200 - do you have any recommendations for me?  Please advise if so!

And also tell me what's growing in your garden these days?


Mangia Mondays:: Individual Chocolate Molten Cakes

Hi friends and welcome to chapter 11 of Mangia Mondays!  The magnificent chef Kristin of Delightfully Dowling and I are having so much fun checking out recipes every week and I hope you are too! 

If any of you have a recipe for some kind of magical potion that will freeze my kids at the ages they are right now, I would really appreciate you linking it up to this blog hop, because yesterday this yummy baby boy --

turned NINE!
This sweet potato pie is kind, oh so funny, a wee bit stubborn, smiley and affectionate.
Happy Birthday Seanie Mark! 
You light up our life every day!!

I love the crazy things my family requests for their birthday dinners.  Seanie asked for surf & turf followed by chocolate molten cakes - you know I was more than happy to oblige with that sweet request! 

I wrote about how easy these cakes are to make when I guest posted a while back at Savory & Sweet, and thought all you Mangia Mondays partakers might enjoy this one!

Individual Chocolate Molten Cakes
{Print Recipe}
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 whole eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and sugar 12 (4 oz.) ramekins.

Slice butter, combine with chocolate chips and microwave on 30 second intervals until butter is melted.
Set aside until chocolate has melted and stir to combine.

Whip together eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until light, fluffy and triple in volume. If you don’t have a mixer you can do this by hand with a whisk and get a great upper-body workout at the same time!
Add flour and fold in gently by hand or with mixer on slow, then fold in chocolate mixture.
Fill prepared ramekins 3/4 full. (May be prepared in advanced and chilled until ready to use.)

Place ramekins on baking sheet and set in center of oven.
Bake 15 minutes or until set on top. Do not over bake or the result will be a brownie-like cake instead of a pudding center.
Let cool slightly. Run a knife along the sides of the ramekins to loosen the cakes. Use a dishtowel to handle. Place individual serving plate on top of ramekin and invert.

Garnish with fresh berries and powdered sugar, or add a dollop of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Serve warm and enjoy! 

Now onto
Mangia Mondays:
• Add a link to your recipe or food post {not your blog homepage} & visit some others who have linked up before you!

• We appreciate you not linking to giveaways, other link parties or items you are selling.
• Link back by putting the Mangia Mondays button in your post or anywhere on your blog to let others know you've joined the party.
• Help spread the word about Mangia Mondays with others by sharing this post!

**You can add the Mangia Mondays blog hop to your own blog if you would like, simply clicking the link at the bottom that says "What is a blog hop? Get the code here..." and pasting the html into the bottom of your own post.


Inspired By....

Happy Saturday lovelies!

Well, my camera did indeed bite the dust.  
It met it's demise at the worst possible time....when I was asked to take photos for the First Communion at our church.  My 9 year old camera that I loved started making a funky sound and not autofocusing 
while I was taking pictures of the children.

PS: I was the only person in the church allowed to take photos.

The church usually gives these photos to the families as a gift.  Things don't always go as planned and it's not the end of the world but seriously??  Only me. :)

On to fun finds!
I need to start sharing blog crushes on a more frequent basis 'round here.....
there are so many creative, talented and interesting people out there in the blogosphere!
I must be living under a rock because I just happened upon Copy Cat Chic this week and am loving this blog, dedicated to finding the look for less.

Reichel, the author of this blog of goodies, has an eye for style and shares where you can find less expensive versions of items from Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, and so on.

Right up my alley!
Remember my kitchen light?  It's a bit less expensive than the Pottery Barn version and I like it better.
{Reichel actually has the perfect match to the PB light on her blog!)

And my living room curtain rods - the Restoration Hardware version would have cost me $329 more!

Settle into a comfy spot because you could be over there for a while! 
Enjoy and have a great weekend,


Cake Bunting and Camera Woes

Hi friends!
Thanks so much for your sweet comments and emails about our anniversary!  I'm all sorts of warm and fuzzy after reading them all!

Does anyone else have a time of year in which a bunch of special occasions fall?  For my friend Betsy it's December - two kids' birthdays, her birthday, Christmas and New Years, all rolled into one crazy month.  For us it's this time between Mother's and Father's Days that include our anniversary and the birthdays of my husband, son, daughter, brother, mother-in-law and me, and that's just family.  Whoa nelly!  It's a big love-fest around here.  After Father's Day we go back to our regularly scheduled programming of crankiness and bad attitudes :)

My husband turned 28 the day after we were married - I'll let you do the math - let's just say that in our kids' minds he's now as old as the hills, and they were sure to let him know that yesterday!
Loungewear is a requirement for American Idol viewing.

His birthday cake request was his mom's recipe from his childhood - a homemade chocolate cake kept moist with a cup of coffee, and slathered with buttercream frosting.  Oh it's good!  For fun I used scraps of pretty paper to bust out a cute little birthday banner for the cake that can be reused. 
After making this tiny banner, known as a cake bunting, I discovered we had run out of wooden skewers and improvised with straws that weren't quite tall enough, which meant the bunting was touching the cake, but I still think it looked pretty darn cute and fun.  The birthday boy is not a fan of sprinkles so I kept them on the down-low but for a kid's cake I might go all out with colorful sprinkles to hide my haphazard frosting job.  I will give you a quick tutorial on the bunting (oh so easy!) when I am back in business with my camera. 

Speaking of which, what do you think about the awesome, crispy quality of the above photos?  Yeah, not so much. They were taken with my daughter's extremely cheap point and shoot camera.   My good camera is busted in a big way and is causing some serious emotional distress to this blogger/crazy-picture-taking mama! I'm waiting to hear the verdict on whether or not the 9 year old digital Rebel EOS (so old-school it requires you to look through the viewfinder, but takes a decent picture) will survive. Keep your fingers crossed for me because the budget is not exactly allowing for a brand-spankin' new one!

In the meantime, let me introduce you to some of the many adorable cake bunting ideas out there! 

This lil' number is sold on etsy by boobahblue and is made from fabric.

Vintage Green Limited on Etsy....again made out of fabric and oh so fun.

Here's one from The Wedding Bee - how lovely is that?

Martha Stewart cake bunting....love the string!

Jaime Mancilla on Etsy....don't the bows on the end add a sweet touch?

Because my sewing skills are lacking, I opt for the paper vs. fabric, but either is great for using up pretty scraps.  Remember these "Round of Golf" cupcakes I made for last year's Father's Day? 
The kids and I quickly made those little flags out of scrapbook paper and toothpicks, and we have a ton of extras that I keep in my pantry.  They are great for identifiying foods at a party such as cheeses or dips. 

In other awesome and wonderful news, my knee has decided to take a hiatus from functioning.  Is this because I took a good year off from any strenuous exercise and then decided to jump back into it full force this spring?  Um yes, yes it is.  Let's go drown my sorrows about my bum knee in a piece of birthday cake right  now, what do you say?

Hope you have a great day, rain or shine! 


A Blessed Life

Once upon a time, these kooky munchkins of ours were just little things.

Our family of 4 became 5 in 2002 with the addition of a tiny, fuzzy redheaded boy.
{Bubba, how did we ever live without you?  You made our family complete!}
Before Seanie, our baby girl arrived in 2000 and made our family of 3, 4.
{Oh sweet baby girl with the quiet temperment!  What a joy you were and still are!
Except you're not so quiet anymore!}

And before Hannah, a baby boy made us parents in 1998.

{Peter James, your arrival changed our world!!  As new parents, we adored and obsessed over every minute of your babyhood.  You just happened to be the smartest, cutest and funniest baby ever. 
At least according to us.}

Fifteen months before we became parents, fourteen years ago today, Mark & I vowed to spend the rest of our lives together.  On that off-and-on rainy day our whole life lay ahead of us.
The day that started it all.....our family.

How blessed I have been to share this journey with you my funny, loud, loving, kind, crazy husband!  

It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies.
Marriage and raising kids are hard work.
With the dawn of parenthood so soon into our marriage, I estimate I've been cranky, overwhelmed, impatient and unshowered for roughly half of our married life.

At the same time, I've been verklempt for 97% of it all, so grateful for each day of this imperfect life we share and wish for it to not go by so fast.

Even though the reality of marriage and parenthood is oft complicated and sticky and unpleasant, a thousand times over and all at the same time our life is also joyful and funny and beautiful and heart-bursting. 

A diaper changer - a chef - a launderer - a funnyman - a loyal friend - a generous spirit - a hard worker - a hottie - a fun dad -
and my mother adores you - 
I did a pretty good job picking a mate if I do say so myself!
Father of my children, love of my life,
I treasure you.
I thank God for you.
And I thank you for these three lights of our lives,
and for the life you have made with me!
{But p.s., you hit the lottery!}

Happy anniversary my honey!

"Grow old with me, the best is yet to be."
-Robert Browning