Friday, May 31, 2013

Top 5 BBQ Gifts for Dad

Father's Day will be here in no time! Whether you’re looking for a small, simple gift or a full blown griller's toolkit, you’ll want to include these essential BBQ tools for a summer full of delectable BBQs:

1.      Grill basket – A stainless steel grill basket or grill wok is a must for grilling the best veggies, shrimp or other fragile fish.  Keeps foods intact while letting the smokiness permeate through the basket for that great BBQ flavor. 

2.       Meat and fish spice rub – A seasoning rub should be kept on hand at all times for easy preparation of meats and fish. There are many good rubs on the market or you can make your own by mixing together equal amounts of salt, sugar, pepper, and other spices such as cumin, red pepper, all depends on your individual taste.  Explore!

3.       BBQ sauce – Another must to have on hand at all times.  Choose a favorite BBQ flavor – spicy, hickory, or sweet.  As an alternative to the rub, a sauce is great for adding during cooking and dipping during your meal. When it comes to sauce and rubs, we're partial to Uncle Bob's from Texas!   

4.       A good flipping tool – Whether it's burgers, fish, or steaks, he'll need a good spatula for flipping. 

5.       Griller’s Cookbook – With a good sauce and rub, you won’t always need recipes, but a good griller’s cookbook will enlighten you (and Dad) to some new and interesting foods to grill, like various fruits for salads and dessert! Grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream is one of my personal favorites!

As an added bonus for the chef, throw in a drink chiller.  He'll appreciate it on those hot summer days...or any day I'm sure!
These are two of our BBQ gift baskets, which include most of the items above!  So if you want to go full gamut, consider one of our stylish BBQ gift baskets!


Have a happy day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 Great Gift Basket Ideas For Women

Gift baskets are not just about food and wine.  Okay, I love food and wine as much as the next gal, but when it comes to gift-giving, I prefer something more personal and lasting. That's why I put together a unique collection of gift basket ideas for women

Especially for Her - This one is my absolute favorite.  It's fun, colorful, and girly (just like me!).  Instead of a traditional basket, I found this great woven tote bag that really is a tote bag!  I stuffed it with a few of things to satisfy her most basic girly needs - French body lotion, handmade jewelry, an elegant sticky note pad, a reusable shopping bag, and a handmade soy candle. And it's wrapped with lots of colorful frilly ribbon and tissue!

Indulge and Inspire - This is another favorite for its relaxation theme.  It's not just a spa gift.  It's personal and luxurious all mixed together! Inside this slightly more traditional (but very well-made) basket is a collection of handmade organic bath products, a relaxing spa style CD, a journal, an inspiring quote in all wood frame, and a handmade soy candle.  To add to the soothing nature of this gift, it's wrapped in serene ivy and green ribbon and decorated with little crafty birds.

Color Her Happy - This one is named for its color and sentiment!  You'll want to give this gift to your favorite woman who is colorful, spirited, inspirational, and spiritual.  Packed inside a colorful planter/container are a few inspiring gift items from Hope Springs, whose whimsical and modern take on spirituality is included on each gift.  The ceramic beaded jewelry is from Jennifer Jangles, who always designs in color and spirit!

Simple Pleasures - For the woman who loves elegance in the everyday, Simple Pleasures is a unique gift for home or office.  I love Mudlark for their beautiful and elegant designs, so I've chosen their Aubrey collection of soap, candle, note cards, and notepad for this gift.  Packaged in a painted container with raised metal daisies, it also comes wrapped with an elegant bow and silk daisies to match!

Garden of Joy - If you have a nature lover or avid gardener on your gift list, you must check this out!  It's a unique collection of nature inspired practical and fun gifts.  The basket is a planter and includes a doodle bird ceramic mug, a colorful floral picture frame, a couple of crazy painted wooden bugs to hang on planters,  Trowel and Error, a must-have book for the gardener, and to satisfy that need for food in your gift basket, a couple of fruit and veggie dip mixes from the ever popular Country Home Creations!  Enjoy!

So think outside the basket for your next birthday gift for mom, best friend, sister, or wife!  They'll be delightfully surprised at your originality :)

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread - In Honor of National Chocolate Chip Day

I have been making this recipe for so long that I don't remember when I first discovered it.  I think my most vivid memory of this decadent bread/dessert is the first time I made it for my husband.  It was around our third date, and we were going to a concert at Ravinia, an outdoor theater in Highland Park, IL.  That also happens to be the place we met :)

Anyway, this being only our third date, I was still in "impress him" mode, and I knew this recipe would do the trick.  I was always a big fan of banana bread, and the thought of adding chocolate chips made it irresistible!

Here you go. Enjoy!

  • 1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (this is key to the moistness)
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Hershey's and throw in a few extra)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in the mayonnaise and bananas. Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture; stir just enough to evenly combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 to 75 minutes.
Have a happy day!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Special Teachers Have Special Gifts

With this being Teacher Appreciation Week, I am remembering a special third grade teacher named Mrs. Triggs.  I believe it was Mrs. Margaret Triggs although my memory fails a bit, so I'm not sure if that was her first name. I went to school at St. Michael's in Old Town, in Chicago.  The school is no longer there but the church remains one of Chicago's finest.

My most vivid picture of Mrs. Triggs is her standing at the head of the classroom.  She was tall as I remember, and I don't recall her sitting much.  She was always up and walking among us, bending her tall frame down to meet our little third grade desks.  I remember her short gray, wavy hair, somewhat wrinkled skin, and always kind, gentle eyes and smile.  And most fondly I remember her wearing a gray jumper dress made from colored patches of fabric that I and my class drew and colored for her to sew together! 

Yes, Mrs. Triggs made herself a dress of fabrics that she had her students draw and color.  She wore that dress to school, and we were all so proud and thrilled that she so loved our handiwork!

That is my most vivid memory of Mrs. Triggs, but I also remember her being a most kind and dedicated teacher who loved and honored all of her students year after year.  There was a newspaper article in the Chicago Tribune, I believe, about the dress, which my mom had kept for years.  I've searched in all of my old boxes but cannot find it.  If anyone out there can help track an old article from the 70's, please let me know!

Have a happy day and thank a teacher today!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

5 Reasons to Celebrate May

Spring is a season for gift-giving - Birthdays, First Communions, Graduations, Bridal showers, Mother's Day!  Whatever occasions you're celebrating this spring, make them memorable!

And here are 5 more notable reasons to celebrate this May:

A garden full of tulips

The innocence of second graders on First Communion Day

Bachelorette parties in anticipation of the big day

The first backyard dog bath

The first warm walk in the woods

What are you celebrating this spring?