Mangia Mondays:: Raspberry Fruit Dip

Hola friends, and welcome to another edition of Mangia Mondays, the weekly foodie blog hop I co-host with my buddy Kristin of Delightfully Dowling fame!

Although I usually feature your amazing link-ups on the last Monday of the month (I know - can you believe April is almost over?  That crazy flying time....) I want to finish up a little brunch series before Mother's Day.  I'll carry April's features over into May, pinky promise.

I love Ina Garten's approach to making simple, delicious food for entertaining, and always try to make a big fresh salad of some sort.  For a brunch is there anything easier or more beautiful than a fruit salad or big platter of fresh fruit?

My kids love to dip.  Chicken into barbecue sauce, fries into ketchup - they're big dippers.  For the dippers in your crowd, a little fruit dip makes a beautiful plate of fruit even more appetizing.  You may know this dip from baby and bridal showers, where it often makes an appearance.  You can make it your own by changing up the preserves that you use - strawberry works great too!

1 cup sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves

Mix together; serve with fruit, delight your dippers :)

Please join the Mangia Mondays party!  Kristin and I would love to see what recipes are tried and true for you, or a restaurant you've enjoyed in your area - even a kitchen tip that works for you!  

Coming up this week - the Color My World Challenge Reveal that you are invited to link up to is tomorrow, May 1st, and later in the week I'm excited to kick off a Mother's Day series:

I hope you'll join me for these fun bloggy events!  

Happy week ahead my dears!


April After Party!

Welcome to the AFTER part of of the Before & After parties over here!  On the first Friday of every month you are invited to link up any project that you need motivation to get started on, from home improvements to starting a business to losing weight.  Whatever it is, if you need a way to commit to it once and for all, share your idea here and then come back on the last Friday of the month to report back on your progress!

But wait!! Even if you didn't link up a "before", feel free to share something you've accomplished this month.  It's not a party without you!

I have issues with spinning too many plates at any given time, so these before & after parties have really motivated me to focus on and finish some projects large and small.  In January I gave my daughter's open closet a makeover:

February's commitment was to give my master bedroom some attention, but I ended up going in a totally different direction and refinished my kitchen table instead.

March was all about cleaning out and fixing up the lower level of my mom's house so she can get it on the market this spring.  That one was a lot of work and came out great (particularly since the new carpet was installed!) but the best part of this project was working and chatting with my mom, and uncovering oodles of treasures!
This month I was ready for a smaller and more manageable project since my kids had school vacation and we had the family wedding to prepare for.  At long last I finished building Ballard-inspired shelves that I started over a year ago for my master bathroom, and I'm happy to report they're installed and functioning at this very moment!  Yee haw.

This is what our master bathroom looked like when we bought the house in August 2010.  It's a bit smallish and awkward, but we are happy to live with it until we hit the lottery, at which time we'll combine it with our closet and make a dreamy bathroom with a dreamy tub that I'll retreat to at the end of the day with a glass of wine and a good book.
Wait, where am I?  Oh sorry, I drifted away into my dreamy spa-like fantasy bathroom for a moment......anywho.....this is what I've done with the bathroom so far.

The shower, toilet and vanity are all in the almond family (in my humble opinion there is NO other color option for such things other than white.  White white white white white.  White.  Do you agree/disagree???)  To make them livable for now, I pretended their color was an intentional part of the design and striped the walls with white and off-white.  The off-white stripes have a pearly finish to them for a little *pizzazz* (insert jazz hands here).  I also changed out the ugly mirror for the shell mirror I made, and hung my jewelry board in here as a working piece of art.
All in all a functional space - except for the lack of storage space for towels and bathroom sundries.  Enter the shelf idea.  For some reason the toilet is a bit off-centered in this space, which meant that I had a little extra room on one side for storage.

The wacky plumber who installed the shower clearly did not use a level when he placed this access panel on the wall, and since things like this make me crazy, I am happy to hide it.

These shelves were a snap to build, even with my very amateur carpentry skills.  They're not perfect but I'm pretty fired up to have built them myself and I love the storage space they offer for my small bathroom.  

I'll share a few details of how I made them soon - now I want to hear about what you've been up to!!  

Link up a blog post about any kind of project you've accomplished this month and be sure to check out and be inspired by others!
  • By linking up your blog post, you give me your permission to share your project, pictures and blog link on Before and After Feature Fridays (the Fridays in between the first and last Fridays of the month.)  I love featuring your amazing projects!!
  • Please copy the Before and After button off my sidebar or link back to Shine Your Light somewhere in your post.  This is required to be featured.  Spread the love!
  • Please link to your specific Before and After post url, not the general url to your blog.


Family Wedding Fun

My brother-in-law tied the knot this past weekend and we had such a great time celebrating with him, his new bride and her family.
We stayed at the hotel where the wedding was at and enjoyed two of the most perfect sunshiney April days on Lake Winnipesaukee!

Some favorite shots from the weekend.....
A family photo from the rehearsal....
 I love how close the cousins are in our family.
Mark was the best man and all of our kids had roles in the wedding - in fact there were ten children total in the wedding party.  Getting ready.....
I'm pretty much speechless right here!
Our little nephew Mark is going to be a heartbreaker one day!  
This guy - speechless again!  Wasn't he born, like, a year ago?
Could the flower girls get any cuter?
The happy couple.
My baby girl had her first pair of teeny tiny heels on for the occasion.  I'm verklempt.
The bride has two boys who are quite possibly the sweetest and most polite children on the planet.  
Sean is so excited to have new cousins his age!
How many framed pictures can I possibly have in my house??
It doesn't get much better than seeing your family mucking it up on the dance floor!
Thankfully Sean saved a couple dances for his mom.
I even got one out of Peter!

The perfect end to a wonderful weekend...

We laughed so much that my face seriously ached on Sunday!  If this weekend is a sign of what's to come, I'd say the newly married couple will have a very happy life together!

11. witnessing the joyful hope of a new life together
12.  an opportunity to celebrate with family
13.  Mark's dancing abilities
14.  a face that aches from laughter
15.  coming home to a yard in full bloom
16.  crossing things off the house to-do list


Color My World Challenge:: Week Four

The challenge this week is to use fabric to incorporate our chosen colors into our homes.  I'm amazed at how sometimes the simplest changes can make a difference.

Last week when I monogrammed my big square pillow with a freezer paper stencil, I also added a couple of pale aqua blue pillow cases to the bed.  {Excuse those wrinkly pillows - my time is too precious to ever iron a pillow case!}
They are part of a beautiful Egyptian cotton sheet set I bought a couple years ago for our last house and never use, because after I washed them once, the fitted sheet never quite fit right again.  Any wrong move in the middle of the night and those corners would just pop right off - ugh!  Don't you hate that???  Darned super-comfy-extra-thick mattress that we can't live without!!!  After I monogrammed the pillow with paint I had on hand, I realized the color was the exact shade of those sheets and pulled them out of the linen closet.

Shopping the house again - bonus!!

And since we're on the topic of fabric....this challenge has motivated me to get some other projects finished in our bedroom - primarily putting the duvet back on our down comforter and finally hanging curtains.  I bought white cotton panels at Ikea months ago, and scored very simple rods at Big Lots for next to nothing.  The curtain rods are actually cafe rods because I really wanted to get away from the big chunky rods I had used in my last house and use something thin and barely-there.
I really, really, really love how curtains can completely change the feel of a room!!

The project I had planned to do for fabric week is still in the works and involves this very contrary and annoying part of our bed::::::

Thanks to my good old friend, Pinny Von Pinterest, I have a solution that involves my Color My World Challenge Color - a shade of aqua blue - and I'll be sure to show you by next week!  

Next Tuesday, May 1, is the big Color My World Finale - and you're invited to link up to a blog hop or email photos of how you incorporate a new color into your space!  I would love for you to join in the fun, so challenge yourself to color your world and come to the party next week!

Visit the other Color My World Challenge participants to see how all these creative ladies incorporated color into their homes via fabric!  I am ever so humbled to be amongst them.
Carmel of Our Fifth House
Kristy of Hyphen Interiors
Shaunna of Perfectly Imperfect
Shelley of Crazy Wonderful
Suzy of Saved By Suzy
Tiffany of Living Savvy
Tiffany of Worthwhile Domicile
Vashti & Jamie of Like Me Some...

And don't forget the April Before & After Party here this Friday!  Link up any project you've completed this month - home improvement or any kind of personal goal!


Mangia Mondays:: Egg Stratas

Welcome back to another addition of Mangia Mondays, the food blog hop I co-host with Kristin of Delightfully Dowling.  Join us for recipe sharing, restaurant sharing, kitchen tip sharing - anything food-related goes!

We had a wonderful weekend away for the wedding.  I'm still trying to edit all my pictures and get my kiddos off to school a bit late after all the craziness and late nights!  I'll share some of the highlights later but for today I want to continue with the brunch theme for any of you that might be hosting Mother's Day or a bridal or baby shower in the near future!  Check out the recipes for Blueberry Lemon Cake and White Sangria if you missed them.

For our Easter brunch, I made two egg stratas.  A strata is basically a casserole with sliced bread saturated with an egg mixture, then baked.  Stratas are perfect for a brunch because you can make them up to 24 hours in advance, and they are hearty and compliment a lot of other brunch foods like ham and fruit salad.  {Please use your imagination for "after" photos - apparently I was a bit busy on Easter Sunday and forgot to take them!}

A side note:  keep these casseroles in mind for next Easter because they require a lot of eggs, so you can buy white eggs and dye the shells.  We used our dyed shells as little flower vases at each place setting, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is to gently crack the top of the egg with a knife and pour out the contents for cooking.  I saved the shells from three dozen eggs in the weeks leading up to Easter and the cousins had so much fun decorating them on Easter Saturday.  So much easier than blowing out eggs (but that is good fun too!)

First up for stratas:

8 strips of bacon
12 slices white bread (I used "Texas Toast" style bread that has wide slices)
1 bunch (2 cups) asparagus
9 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese

*Spray 9x13" casserole dish with cooking spray.
*Cook bacon until crispy; drain and crumble.  Cube bread into 1" pieces.  Trim the woody ends of asparagus and cut into 1" pieces, then blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water; drain.
*Layer bread, bacon and asparagus in casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cheese.
*Whisk together eggs, milk and half and half; add dry mustard, salt and pepper.  Pour egg mixture over bread evenly.
*Cover with plastic wrap and gently press down on top of strata so all bread cubes are in egg mixture.
*Cover and chill for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
*Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.  Slice into squares to serve.

After I made the Bacon, Asparagus and Cheddar Strata, the phone rang and I started chatting with my friend while preparing the French Toast Strata.  Oooops!.....I started cubing the bread without thinking.  This strata looks pretty and is served easily if you keep the slices of French bread intact, so don't cube them like I did for the first strata.  This simple French Toast Strata is a big hit with the kids - I omit the Praline Topping because I'm pretty sure my kids get enough sugar from the maple syrup they douse it in!   (adapted from foodnetwork.com)
Ingredients - Strata:
1 loaf French bread (13-16 oz.)
8 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
dash of salt
Praline Topping if desired
maple syrup for serving

*Slice Frech bread into 1" slices.  
*Butter 9x13" casserole dish.  Arrange bread slices in dish, overlapping slightly.  
* Whisk together eggs, half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
*Pour egg mixture over bread slices evenly.
*Cover with plastic wrap and press down on bread gently to tops with egg mixture.
*Cover and chill 2-24 hours.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Top strata with Praline Topping, if using, and bake for 40 minutes or until puffed and lightly golden.  Cut between the rows and across the slices to serve.  

Ingredients - Praline Topping:
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine ingredients and blend well.  

I hope you enjoy these brunch recipes as much as we do!

What have you been cooking up lately?  Join the party and share your goodies, and have a happy week ahead!