Friday, September 27, 2013

Favorite Fall Recipe: Curried Pumpkin Soup

With just the right touch of curry, this delicious pumpkin soup, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds is perfect for a fall dinner starter.  Or serve it with a loaf of rustic bread and butter for a festive weekend lunch!

Curried Pumpkin Soup - 8 servings

  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour 
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 29 ounces canned pumpkin 
  • 1-1/2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar                   
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Toast pumpkin seeds in single layer on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, until just browned.
2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in flour and curry powder until smooth.

3. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to bubble. Gradually whisk in broth, and cook until thickened.
4. Stir in pumpkin and half-and-half. Season with soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat.
5. Serve in individual bowls, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Photo courtesy of

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Decorating Ideas and More

Everywhere I turn, I see fall inspiration.  It's in the magazines that come in the mail and on my favorite blogs. It's in storefronts, on websites, and Pinterest, of course!  Inspiration is everywhere, and I'm ready to tackle my new round of fall projects.  If you're feeling the same inspiration but not sure where to begin, I've gathered a few sources for your autumn inspiration! 

I've always loved filling a room with fall fragrance, whether it be candles or something awesome cooking in the kitchen.  Here are some wonderful ideas for creating your own natural fragrance.

Natural room fragrance for fall

Photo courtesy of

If you're looking for creative ways to wrap your fall occasion gifts, try using a natural colored paper with a few sprigs of fall leaves, or ribbon and tie made out of fall patterned fabric.  This source also includes a delicious recipe for a fall gift bread.

Photo courtesy of

As the cool weather rolls in, and you start pulling out your favorite sweaters, you tend to start craving soups, hearty pastas and other warm, comforting dishes.  Kick off the season with this inspiring cheesy mac.

Photo courtesy of
 Whether it's your dinner table, side table or foyer, adding a fall centerpiece keeps the season festive and inspirational.  Use your favorite vase, candle tray, or glass bowl, and fill with fall colored decor.

If you're looking for unique fall gift ideas, consider a custom gift basket with an autumn theme! Ours shown here include a mix of tasty fall treats and home décor items they're sure to love!

Have a happy day!

Friday, September 20, 2013

5 Ways to Celebrate World Gratitude Day

Saturday is World Gratitude Day, and although it is not a traditional gift-giving holiday, I love the idea of taking a day to be grateful and showing your gratitude to those around you.  Whether you do it through words or actions, don't let the day go by without giving thanks. Here are 5 simple ways to show gratitude on this special day:
  • Bring treats to work - For those you work with who provide endless support and an ear when you need it, bring in some cupcakes, cookies, or other office favorites and let them know you appreciate them.
  • Have a conversation - In this day of texting and social media posting, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member to let them know you appreciate them.
  • Fresh cut flowers - It can be a single flower or a bouquet, but choose a favorite flower for a friend or relative and surprise them with a big thank you!
  • Send an e-card - Free e-cards are easy to find online.  Send a "thank you" or "thinking of you" card to a special someone in your life.
  • Be spontaneous - Invite a friend or loved one out for lunch or dinner last minute and insist on buying.  Let them know you just want to say thanks for being you!
Post your own ideas here and have a happy day!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Inspiring Gifts of Gratitude

This time of year brings many occasions to give thanks and show appreciation:

World Gratitude Day
World Teacher Day
Bosses Day
Sweetest Day
Veterans Day
With all of these inspiring occasions to say thanks to those who make life brighter, happier, and even a bit easier, we put together some favorite gift baskets that are a perfect way to show your gratitude.

This colorful gift collection includes a large ceramic mug, daily planner, and mini wallet, all with inspiring, whimsical quotes for the modern woman!

This taupe ceramic planter, which can also be used as decorative storage, contains our favorite shortbread cookies from Too Good Gourmet, Highland Select tea, and a trendy ceramic owl tea light holder in inspiring autumn colors.
I love this "Laugh" ceramic container, for home décor, with its collection of Highland Select tea, an elegant portfolio of useful stickable notes, crystal owl paperweight, and all natural liquid hand soap from European Soaps.  This gift is perfect for World Teacher Day or Bosses Day!
Perfect for the hostess or housewarming gift, this fall colored metal container includes "Home" wooden votive candle holder, bamboo wood salad servers, pumpkin chocolate malted milk balls, delectable potato soup mix from Country Home Creations, and Highland Select tea. 
A perfect fall gift!

Have a happy and inspiring day!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You?

Today is the day. You see it on Facebook. You hear it in conversation. At the park. On the street. At the office.  Where were you when the planes hit?

Over the last 12 years, we talk about it every year on September 11th.  Where were you?  We don't ask, "Do you remember?"  We just ask, "Where were you?"

I didn't know my husband at the time, but he was in the hospital, waking up from surgery, when he looked at the TV to see the second plane hit.  His mom was at the hospital with him and told him what was happening.  He was in a daze, from the meds and from reality.

I was at my home office, troubleshooting an issue that occurred that morning with an airline fare sale.  At that time I worked for a technology company that powered United Airlines website.  I handled the loading of the weekly fare specials.  It was a Tuesday morning, and it was my weekly responsibility to ensure the fares went in correctly.  That morning, they didn't, and due to the criticality of getting them corrected, I stayed home to work and did not turn on radio or TV.

The phone rang.  It was my boss. The first thing he said was, "Are you watching the news?" My response was, "No, we have an issue with the fares". He said, "Put the TV on."

I saw the second plane hit.

From that moment, my stomach went hollow and tears came, as they still do while writing this. The next thing I remember was driving to my office at United Airlines, where I was scheduled for meetings and such.  On that drive, I would pass through O'Hare airport on my way to the office.  There was a deafening silence that morning as planes had been grounded.  I was so used to watching the planes coming in and taking off while driving by the airport.  That morning there were none.

I arrived at the office.  All meetings were cancelled.  All promotions were cancelled. All ads were taken down from the website.  We were in mourning.  My stomach was still hollow.

After a half day of putting things in order for an airline in mourning, I was sent home.

I remember speaking on the phone with my brother that afternoon.  We both felt the same feeling. An emptiness and numbness we had only known one other time, when our own mom passed away. It is a sadness that never goes away, no matter how many years pass.

Where were you?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Favorite Fall Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Bread

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, I start thinking about fall holidays and the ever-versatile and festive pumpkin!  I just heard today that Starbucks has started serving my favorite pumpkin spice latte, and is decorating with pumpkins! I think the pumpkin is definitely at the top of my list of favorite things about fall.

So I'm all ready to bake my first favorite pumpkin bread of the season.  And it will definitely be repeated over the next couple of months. 

Pumpkin Spice Bread

  • 1-1/2  cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (makes for a very moist bread)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 8 ounces canned pumpkin (much easier and just as tasty as fresh)
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt                   
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup water
(All these spices add wonderful flavor.  Don't skip!)

1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, and eggs.
2. Add pumpkin and mix well.

3. Combine dry ingredients.  Add to the pumpkin mixture alternately with water.

4. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 60-65 minutes.

Enjoy and have a happy day!