Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Welcome Fall: Bring on the Pumpkin!

One of my favorite things about fall is PUMPKIN! As soon as I start seeing Pumpkin Latte on the menu at Starbucks, I know autumn is in the air. Although, I must admit (listen up, Starbucks!) I absolutely, positively, without hesitation, will NOT drink a pumpkin latte in August! It is a treat reserved for fall and that is how it will stay!

Sheesh - glad I got that out of the way. Now that fall is officially upon us, I'm all about pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin flavored chocolate malt balls. I'll be loving the pumpkin puree now through Thanksgiving. And with that, here are a few of my latest favorite pumpkin finds.

Nutella Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, from Saving with Shellie. Three of my favorite things - need I say more???

Autumn Squash Soup, from Spoonful of Flavor. This soup has all the right mix of flavors, spicy and sweet. Great for a cool fall night with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Pumpkin Enchiladas, from Steph's Bite by Bite. I order pumpkin enchiladas at least once every year from our favorite Mexican restaurant. I confess I've never made them myself, but this recipe sounds very doable. Hhmm, might have to give it a try!

Sparkling Pumpkin Cider Beertail, from And I thought simply drinking pumpkin beer was festive; this sounds outrageous! Can't wait to try it!

And lastly, in the area of design with pumpkins, I give you one elegant and one goofy - for all your party needs!


Have a happy day!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Favorite Recipe: Pasta with Sausage, Olives, Sun dried Tomatoes, and Cream

I discovered this recipe a few years ago (wow, 6 to be exact) in a Fine Cooking publication, specifically on dinner party menus. It quickly became a favorite and I have made it for several occasions since, both casual and a little more formal. It's a great pasta dish with a wonderful mix of flavors. Serve it with a salad, some good Italian bread and a lighter red wine.

Pasta with Sausage, Olives, Sun dried Tomatoes, and Cream

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-1/4 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I use mild sausage, just a personal preference)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (about 6 oz.) oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 lb. farfalle pasta
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into bite-size pieces with a spoon, until just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon off the fat if it's excessive. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, until most of the wine is evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the olives and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the cream, increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream thickens slightly, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs. of the parsley and 2 Tbs. of the Parmigiano. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to its pot, add the sauce and the reserved cooking water, and set the pot over high heat. Gently toss the pasta for 30 to 60 seconds and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among warm bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbs. Parmigiano and 2 Tbs. parsley.
Have a happy day!

Photo taken from

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thoughtful Presence Giveaway: Baby Girl Gift Set

Do you know someone with a baby on the way?
Are you in the midst of planning for a baby shower?
Any little ones you know having a 1st birthday soon?

Well, September is Baby Month at Thoughtful Presence and we're celebrating with a great sale and baby girl gift set giveaway! All month long we're offering 20% savings on all baby gift baskets, and you can enter to win this adorable Baby Girl Gift Set.

We love baby occasions and baby gifts are some of our favorites to select. So whether you're in need of a gift now or anytime in the next 9 months, you'll want to check out our collection of baby gift baskets and see what all the fuss is about!

Oh, and while you're here,

 Baby Girl Gift Set Giveaway

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

5 Homemade Gifts for Grandparents

Sunday, September 7th is National Grandparents' Day. Grandparents create the most special memories, unlike any other parent or family member. They love unconditionally, teach with patience and wisdom, laugh at all of your jokes, and make you feel like no one on earth is more special than you. To honor them this Grandparents' Day, here a some creative ideas for homemade gifts from you and your kids. You know grandparents like homemade gifts the best, hands down!

Basket of Love from Stephanie at Somewhat Simple. This is a gift that can be created by one or all for grandma, grandpa, or both.

Photo taken from Somewhat Simple.

Handprint Apron from Simply Kierste. Love the handprints on this black and white design. You can keep the apron simple, or embellish it a bit like Kierste did.

Photo taken from Simply Kierste.

Handmade Cards - Making your own greeting cards is timeless. We've all made them and received them. They can be as simple or elaborate as your creative mind takes you. Mostly they just need to be filled with love. These are some super cute ideas from

Photo taken from G is for Gift

Vacation Memories Map - If you've taken a vacation with your grandparents, create this map collage from with a special memory of the trip written by you or your child.

Photo taken from

Grandma or Grandpa picture - A personalized tribute to grandma or grandpa is inexpensive but will hold lifetime value. This is easy to create from 1825.
Photo taken from

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Favorite Garden Recipe: Tomato Cucumber Salad with Balsamic Dressing

With vegetable gardens overflowing this time of year, we have an overstock in our refrigerator. Some from a friend's garden and some from our local market. With that, I'm all about salads this week. Tonight's is one of our favorites!

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Balsamic Dressing


  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled 
  • 1/2 cup Vidalia onion, chopped (Vidalia are my favorite for their sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

    1. Mix together tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and olives in serving bowl.
    2. In separate small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and oil until well mixed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. I tend to go very light on the amount of dressing because the vegetables are filled with their own delicious juices. I like a small amount of dressing just to add flavor.
    3. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss. 
    4. Sprinkle with feta cheese.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    5 Healthy Summer Recipes

    I've recently decided I need to increase my intake of green leafy vegetables, so this week I bought a bag of spinach. Although I've been a big eater of veggies and salads, I haven't been a big fan of spinach. I'm not sure why really. I've always liked spinach-strawberry salads and creamed spinach. Well, I guess creamed spinach doesn't really qualify as healthy!

    Anyway, I'm looking for new ways to eat more spinach. So I've been looking for recipes and decided to share a couple of them here with you, along with a few other healthy recipes. After all the summer BBQs and vacation eating, I need to wind down the month of August with some lighter fare. Anybody with me?

    Spinach Artichoke Pasta - This dish is from The Pioneer Woman, and it looks and sounds fantastic. Okay, admittedly, it's a little rich, so not under the "lite" category, but I'll take it for the spinach and diet another day!

     Spinach artichoke pasta
    Photo taken from The Pioneer Woman

    Vegetable and Goat Cheese Phyllo Pie - As some of you may know, every year we support the American Heart Association and their Go Red for Women campaign against heart disease. Their website has some awesome healthy recipes. this delicious veggie pie is a must!

     Vegetable and Goat Cheese Phyllo Pie
    Photo taken from

    Strawberry, quinoa, spinach & cashew salad - Thank you to Julia's Album for this delicious and nutrition-packed salad!

     Strawberry quinoa spinach cashew salad
    Photo taken from Julia's Album

    Sweet Spiced Salmon - This is another delicious recipe from the American Heart Association. A very flavorful salmon that you can either bake or grill.

     Sweet Spiced Salmon
    Photo taken from

    Almond Snack Mix - I always crave crunchies around 4:00 and this is a healthy way to satisfy that craving! Thanks to the American Heart Association for another great recipe.

     Almond Snack Mix
    Photo taken from

    Enjoy some healthy treats and have a happy day!

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    Favorite Recipe: Mediterranean Pasta Salad

    I found this tasty dish on Food Network, and it's perfect for your late summer BBQs.  As complex as the flavors, colors, and textures may be, it is quite simple to prepare and great for any occasion. I've added a few of my own personal tips along the way :)

    Mediterranean Pasta Salad

    • Kosher salt
    • 1 lb. tricolor pasta, such as bow tie or fusilli
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 2-3 teaspoons dijon mustard
    • Freshly ground pepper
    • 2/3 - 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/3 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned
    • 1/3 cup diced onion
    • 2 large pickled pepperoncini pepper, diced
    • 3 tablespoons halved black olives (I use kalamata)
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
    • 1-1/2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
    • 1-1/2 tablespoons grated romano cheese


    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, then rinse with cold water to cool.
    2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in enough of the oil to make a smooth dressing; season with salt and pepper.
    3. Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, onion, pepperoncini, olives and oregano in a bowl. 
    4. Add the cooked pasta, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the vinaigrette and both cheeses and toss.
    5. Chill until ready to serve.