Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Favorite Recipe: Creamy Baked Cheesecake

Well, I missed it!  Yesterday was National Cheesecake Day and I fully intended to send out my favorite cheesecake recipe.  But the day got away, and here I sit, a day late and a dollar short (as they say)!

Well, enough of that!  In my book, everyday could be cheesecake day!  So here it is.  It's not one of the simplest recipes for cheesecake, but it is one of the best:

Creamy Baked Cheesecake

  • 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted 
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 eggs                   
  • 1/8-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice                   
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream, room
  • Fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, if desired for topping
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In mixer, combine crumbs, sugar and butter; press firmly on bottom of 9 inch spring form pan. 

2. In large mixer bowl, beat cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and lemon juice. Mix well.

3. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50-55 minutes or until center is set. Top with sour cream. Cool. Chill. If desired, top with strawberries.

Enjoy and have a happy day!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Paying it Forward through the Bank of Happiness

Have you heard of the Bank of Happiness?  
  • Candace offers to light a candle and say a prayer for you
  • Ralu offers a free tour of Bucharest and a warm tea
  • Christine offers graphic design work, specifically logo creation
  • Courtney offers a handwritten letter.
  • Liza offers to send you a friendly email
  • Alex offers help learning to cook
These are just 6 of the 500+ listings you will find at the Bank of Happiness.  This bank does not transact in currency, only in good deeds. Established in Estonia as a means of spreading good will in difficult times, the Bank of Happiness is open to users around the world. Those who participate do it for their own reasons.  Some are out of work and volunteer their service to keep up their skills.  Some are full-time professionals, looking to pay it forward. Some simply recognize the needs in others and want to reach out.  The premise of the bank is that everyone has something to give, no matter how big or small. 

You can volunteer a service or ask for help if you are in need.  It's a wonderful way to reach out and worth a look:

Have a happy day!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

To Market To Market - In Search of the Best Gifts

Tomorrow starts the Chicago Gift Market, where we traipse twice a year (winter and summer) scouring the Merchandise Mart for the best new gifts to add to our gift basket collection.  I do love July and January for this reason:  I get to shop, shop, shop!

Every show I have 3 objectives: Plan, Browse, and Buy. 

Before the show (Plan), I make a list of what I need to replace, what I need to reinforce, and what I need to revise. 

At the show (Browse), I get to see what's new and trendy, discover new themes, and taste, test, and try.

After the show (Buy), and this is the hardest part since I always find so many wonderful products, I narrow down the list from Plan and Browse and place my orders for all of your wonderful new gift basket options!

Year round seasonal products for all of our holiday gift baskets:

Two of our favorite candle makers, Gabriel John and Green Daffodil, are always a joy to see!


And there is so much more, so follow us on Facebook or subscribe here to our blog and see what's coming! 

Have a happy day!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another Great Summer Recipe: Curried Shrimp Salad

It's mid week, the temps are in the 90's, you've had a long workday, and a hot commute home.  It's dinner time, and a warm comfort meal is the last thing you want! Something cool, light, and refreshing is in order.

I'm a big fan of the South Beach diet, not so much for its weight loss factor, although it does work.  But I really like their recipes, diet or not.  Simple to make, few ingredients, and really very tasty!  I've made their Shrimp and Celery Salad which quickly became one of my husband's favorite light dishes.  Now I typically do not follow a recipe exactly.  I like to change things up and try different variations.  This recipe for Curried Shrimp Salad came from a combination of the South Beach recipe and another I found on Eating Well. 

So here's to your health and a light summer meal:

Curried Shrimp Salad - 4 servings
Photo taken from

  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferable light mayo)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds peeled, deveined, and cooked medium fresh or frozen shrimp (thawed if frozen)
  • 4 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes


1. Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out juice and seeds.

2. Whisk together sour cream, mayo, lime juice, curry powder, and salt in large bowl.

3. Add shrimp, celery, and cucumber. Toss gently to coat.

4. Fill each tomato half with shrimp salad mixture and serve. (Extra salad can be spread on plate outside of tomato as it is delicious on its own)

Enjoy and have a happy day!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Best Summer Recipes: Fresh Corn Salad

For our 4th of July BBQ this year, we decided to do ribs with potato salad, and I've been craving a good corn salad all summer! So I went on the internet hunt for a good corn salad recipe.  Although there were several I considered from favorite sites like Epicurious and Food Network, I chose this one from, which was simply fantastic.  It was the perfect flavor mix with the BBQ ribs and potato salad.  And, by the way, the potato salad was provided by my good friend Sylvia, who so happened to find purple carrots at the Farmers' Market.  They were a great addition to her potato salad!

Now on to the best Fresh Corn Salad I've ever had:

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup sugar (I prefer less sweet, so I adjusted to 1/8-1/4)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 ears fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (cut to same size as the clusters of corn kernels), soaked in ice water for 20 minutes and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, seeded, not peeled if unwaxed, then diced to same size of onions
  • 1/2 cup red or orange sweet pepper, diced to same size as onions
  • 1/2 cup cherry or pear tomatoes, halved or quartered
    • (I did heaping 1/2 cups of all three of these vegetables, so be generous)
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, finely torn
  • 1 tablespoon basil leaves or buds, pulled apart
  • 1 tablespoon fresh jalapeno, seeds and veins removed, very finely diced* (I skipped the jalapeno as my husband is not a fan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 - 2 cups small arugula leaves
  • (While skipping the jalapeno for Ken, he would have me add cilantro, which works well in this salad, so feel free if you're a fan of cilantro)

1. For dressing, in a glass bowl whisk together vinegar, sugar, the 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper until sugar is dissolved. Let dressing stand while preparing salad.

2. For salad, cut corn kernels from cobs. In a large bowl toss corn and remaining ingredients except sea salt and arugula leaves.

3. To serve, transfer salad to large serving bowl. Season with the 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Add the dressing; gently thread in arugula leaves. Serve immediately. (Cucumbers and tomatoes will begin to break down.) Makes 8 servings

This salad should be repeated throughout the summer! 

Photo taken from

Enjoy and have a happy day!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Simple Summer Idea: Making Flowery Flip-Flops

Whether you're looking for an easy kids' craft idea, an inexpensive gift idea, or a quick way to splurge (or not!) on yourself, making a new pair of floral flip flops is simple and inexpensive with this DIY idea from my favorite summer book, Summer: A User's Guide by Suzanne Brown. 

(Several posts ago, I featured this book as a highlight of our Summer Fun Gift Basket.  If you missed it, check it out.)

Brightly colored silk flowers add color and whimsy to everyday flip-flops. 

Things you'll need:

        Wire cutters
        Silk flowers 
        Strong adhesive glue

What to do:

1. With wire cutters, clip a flower from its stem (some silk flowers simply pop off). If some of the petals loosen, simply glue them back together.

2. Squeeze a bit of glue onto the back of your flower, press it firmly onto the top of your flip-flop, and hold it in place until the glue has hardened.

3. Repeat this process for the other flip-flop.

You can find silk flowers at your nearest craft store or dollar store.  Choose a big silk daisy in the color of your choice or something equally round and flat.  This shape will sit better on the flip flop.

Enjoy and have a happy day! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Best of Get Well Gift Baskets

They say laughter is the best medicine, and with that in mind, we discovered this hilarious book, The Best of Stuntology, and thought it perfect for a get well gift basket! Filled with over 300 pranks, tricks, and challenges, all illustrated comic style, this book will certainly bring a smile if not gut wrenching laughter to those feeling under the weather!

Here is an example from the "Amazements & Betcha Can'ts" chapter:

Door Stunt:

1. Go up to the edge of an open door.
2. Put your chin and your belt buckle against the edge and your feet on either side, touching the door.
3. Then stand on your tiptoes and count to ten.
4. Ha! You can't, can you? No one can, actually, except for people with prehensile chins.

The author, Sam Bartlett, is a professional musician who was looking for ways to stay amused on the road.  The result is this book and other published works on the art of stuntology.  Sam has demonstrated the art of Stuntology all over the United States, and has self-published 32 issues of a Stuntology 'zine, as well as two books.

We think it's a great way to spend a recovery - especially with lots of visitors to try out some of their new found prankster knowledge!

If you like this get well idea, you'll love this get well soon gift.

Have a happy day!