Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution Time

Happy New Year's Eve!  The dark, snowy weather and the close of the year offer a perfect time to reflect.  As Baby J naps, I am sitting by the fire and thinking about all the amazing events of 2009, and what I want for the year to come.  To me, resolutions are worthless unless they are realistic and I have some level of accountability for them.   So I'm sharing my goals here today, in the hopes that seeing them in print will help me stay true to them in the days and months to come.

Sunrise... a new beginning... a sweet New Year to come!
Resolutions 2010
I have 20 pounds of baby weight to lose; there, I said it.  The first 25 came right off, but with a packed and stressful fall with not enough time to exercise, these last 15-20 have just stuck around.  I miss my clothes and don't feel healthy with these extra pounds on... they must go!  I'd love to be back to my normal weight by the little guy's first birthday in the beginning of April.  That is my big goal for the start of this year.  

To that end, I want to go to yoga once a week.  In my ideal world, I'd go more than that, but once a week seems like a realistic goal to set for now.  The local Bikram studio has several evening classes, and with a little extra effort and an assist from the hub, I could make it once a week.  I think if I keep up my beloved runs with my work chicks and hit up some Bikram, I'll be well back on my way to fighting weight here soon.

Speaking of runs, as soon as the temperatures rise again (probably April-ish), I want to make a family run part of the weekly schedule.  It is too frigid now, but I love our BOB stroller and miss running with the husband.  I also want to get back out on the trails here in Vermont.  There are so many hikes here the husband and I adore; I want to spend more time on Mount Mansfield, and go up Camel's Hump to earn myself a Hefeweisen at The Alchemist.  We are so lucky to live in these mountains, and I want to get out and enjoy them more.  I think we need one of these for this project... I am squirreling away already.

That about covers my body, but I also want to work a bit more on my mind.  I don't read anymore, and I miss it.  It is so easy to zone out to the tube when exhaustion takes over, but I want to make more of a habit of curling up in bed or by the fire with a book.  I also want to stay more abreast of current events.  I am a Sunday New York Times junkie, but often don't get much beyond my favorite Travel and Style sections.  I want to read the Week in Review section every week, to really be in touch with the major changes happening across the globe right now and be a better informed citizen.  The husband's job revolves around new environmental policies, and I'd love to be able to discuss these with him like a grown up, instead of just reporting back who got married this week as we sit and read the paper.

Body, check.  Mind, check.  Spirit?  She deserves some attention as well.  To feed my soul, I resolve to go out on at least one legit date a month with the husband.   We do a pretty good job of making special evenings in for ourselves, but it is good for us to get out too.  I also want to take time each day to just sit quietly and reflect with gratitude on all our blessings.  Sounds corny, maybe, but it is so easy to get sucked into the chaos of the everyday and forget just how good we have it, even among all of life's challenges.  Purposeful daily gratitude combats the tendency to take these things for granted. Also on the spiritual front, I'd love to make Shabbat dinner more of a habit; preferably a potluck one with plenty of friends and wine.  Shabbat is such a lovely way to close a week, and a great tradition to start for Baby J.  L'chaim!

Finally, there are some green resolutions I'd like to make for my home.  I want to completely finish making the switch to all-natural, non-toxic cleaning products.  We're almost there, but have a few hold outs left where I haven't found a natural substitute that is as effective as it's chemical counterpart.  I just need to test more brands until I find things that work; it is better for the planet and better for Baby J, and what could be more worthwhile?  I am also embarrassed that we don't compost.  We have so much waste going out in the trash that doesn't need to sit in a landfill.  The husband has long wanted to start composting, but I was traumatized by the highly disgusting and odiferous compost experiments of an old college roommate and have resisted.  No more!  We'll come up with a non-smelly, efficient system and get on it.

And that, my friends, is what I call a resolution list.  Stay tuned and we'll see how I do tackling this baby.  I resolve to report back on all the great products, adventures and misadventures this list is sure to bring to the coming year.
What are your resolutions for 2010?
Thank you for reading and making my 2009 so much sweeter with your interest and your comments.  Wishing you a lovely evening tonight and a happy, healthy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This week by the numbers

10 - Number of days all three of us have been sick with this cough and cold.  I have truly had it and am preparing to basically dip our entire house in bleach and have us subsist on nothing but Jewish penicillin, wheatgrass and OJ until this passes.  Enough is enough.
9 - New Year's resolutions I have come up with so far.  Stay tuned...

8 - Inches of snow that have recently fallen.  Okay, not sure that is totally accurate, but it feels like that much.  The husband is hardcore and snowblows even when stricken with a chest cold.  You are my hero, B!
7 - Days of family staying in our home; it was so much fun to have a full house, lots of loving on Baby J, tons of great food, and long overdue quality time with both sides of the fam.  I love them all for shlepping to sub-zero Vermont to spend time with us this holiday.  Thank you!
6- More days until I have to go back to office!  Ahhh!  LOVING this vacation.  Even if it is a blur of cold medicine and hot toddies.
5- Number of nights in a row Baby J has gone without waking up in the middle of the night.  I hardly know what to do with myself, and hesitate to even say this out loud for fear of jinxing it, but knock wood, this is a sleeping pattern I can really live with.  What a difference!  I LOVE SLEEP. 

4 - Parts to this fabulous dinner we had on Monday night.  Roast chicken, homemade mac and cheese, homemade baked Rancho Gordo beans (need to get the recipe from my mom and post... these were out of this world), and chopped rainbow chard sauteed with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and a splash of maple syrup.  SO. GOOD.
3 - Boxes of cold medicine the husband and have gone through in the last week.  Ridiculous.  Enough, I said!

2 -  Glasses of incredible Hayfork Wine I savored this week.  We've been saving our bottle for a special occasion and decided that the holiday week was a perfect time to enjoy this 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon made by our dear friends.  This is a truly special wine that is currently sold out, but I suggest getting on the list for their next release.   Delicious doesn't even begin to cover it.

1 - Hour we had to wait for a table at The Alchemist last night.  Baby J was an angel, and the whole thing was a Christmas miracle (what baby waits patiently for an hour for a table and then chills out through an entire adult dinner?).  I love The Alchemist, but didn't realize it was such an apres ski hot spot this time of year.  Note to self: claim table early at awesome microbrew pub next time around.  The Framboise I had in the photo above made the wait a little easier; delish!

0 - Number of adults who can put together Baby J's sweet new toy train to make it look the way it did when it came out of the box.  This is the Rubix Cube of baby toys.  He absolutely loves it.  And how awesome is his recycling truck?  Aunts and uncles are the best...
I hope your holidays were replenishing and beautiful! 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Highlights

We had a peaceful, sleepy, lovely Christmas day.  Some of the best parts?
Baby J attacking a pile of presents before dawn

Ina Garten's Panzanella Salad (so delish... highly recommend this recipe)

A standing rib roast beautifully prepared by the husband

Delicious special Christmas bubbly

And a totally inappropriate yet totally hilarious family movie night

Enjoyed with brownie sundaes. Perfection.
Hope you had a wonderful day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To Do

Today has included bouts of lying on the couch feeling lousy combined with pushing through to get all my work done before my office closes for a lovely TEN day break!  As this snowy afternoon winds down, I'm just about done with my work, totally done with wrapping, and about ready to embark on my next to do list, which goes a little something like this:
1) Rest, sleep, eat citrus, drink wheatgrass, stay hopped up on Tylenol Cold Multi-Sympton Severe and get rid of this bug, preferably before Christmas.  I'd love it if Baby J could stop producing enough green nose slime for 10 babies by then as well.  Just sayin'.  A Christmas miracle in this house would be all 3 of us feeling fabulous simultaneously.  It has been awhile.  Which leads me to my next item...

2) Concoct some sort of powerful new holiday cocktail to dull my irritation at being sick again, and "kill the germs".  Not sure what my recipe will be, but I'm thinking it will involve vodka, pomegranate juice, and lemon.  Very medicinal.  Stay tuned.  Once I have enjoyed this delicious concoction I'd like to...

3) Snuggle with these guys (and their dad):

4) And then welcome our family to our new home!  Time for a chili feast and some R&R with the boys this evening (I get my female reinforcements tomorrow).
5) Finally, we can all kick back and enjoy a toasty fire and this beautiful, glowing tree!  Ahhh...

If you're traveling tonight, be safe, and if you are home, stay cozy and warm!
Stay tuned for Christmas cooking and cocktails...


Happy Wednesday!
I used the True Random Number Generator at to pick a wheatgrass winner.
Andrea will be receiving an Amazing Grass care package!
It's snowing, my cold has blossomed into full-blown coughing and sneezing, and I myself am going to drink some wheatgrass and go back to bed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chili for the Fam

We've got a lot of family coming to visit in the next week, including multiple males over 6 feet tall who can really grub down.  In preparation for feeding all these folks, I'm doing some cooking ahead of time.  This is a great time of year for a simple chili, and the one below is healthy, delicious and a snap to prepare (there is a lot of chopping, but not much else, and I always find chopping to be therapeutic).  This recipe comes from my friend Brian, and is prepared in just four easy steps once you get the veggies chopped.  I made a double batch last night: the husband and I had it for dinner, and we'll serve it for dinner again as people begin to arrive tomorrow night, and freeze some for the next round of family who arrives next week.  This chili only improves by the day, and freezes beautifully. Buy a great cornbread mix, set out some fun garnishes (sour cream, shredded sharp cheddar, chopped scallion, avocado, etc.) and voila! Dinner (and lunch, and dinner again!) is served. 

Simple Chili
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, turkey cutlet or steak, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 large and 1 small can crushed tomatoes
2 cans black beans
1 bag frozen corn
4 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
1) Brown meat in olive oil.
2) Add all veggies (with a splash more oil if needed) and cook until onions are just clear.

3) Add tomatoes and simmer for 1.5 hours.
4) Add the beans (with liquid if the chili is looking too thick for your liking), corn, and cilantro.  Add the spices and season to taste.

I must add that this is how I started my day today:

And I continue to be sold on the power of Amazing Grass. What you see here is the Chocolate Green SuperFood blended quickly with about 6 oz. of vanilla soy milk and a couple of ice cubes.  I drank it at 6:30am while getting us all ready to leave for the day (while Baby J enjoyed some toast).  Keep in mind that I had been up from 4:30-5:30, have a bit of a cold and sore throat, and have some other physical things going on that combined to make me feel horrid upon rising today.  I put back this shockingly tasty beverage, and really felt instantly energized and well.  I didn't touch my coffee until I was almost an hour down the highway at around 8:30 (shocking), and was full until lunch at noon.  I am officially hooked.
Want to experience the magic?  Leave a comment on yesterday's post!
I'm spreading the green love tomorrow morning.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Amazing Grass

It's that time of year... stress is high, energy is low, and nutrition sometimes falls to the bottom of the priority list.   Around here, we have some additional health-stress factors we're dealing with, namely: Baby J is going through a teething phase which involves waking up and wanting to hang out between 3:30 and 4:30am, and we have a daycare-cold which keeps bouncing back and forth between mom, dad and the little guy.  Bottom line: I just can't seem to get my energy back, and boy, do I need it.  Going from that 4:30am put-down to the 6:30am wake-up call and then needing to wake up and work and function all day is a challenge which calls for special reinforcements.  I speak often of my abiding love of espresso, but sometimes that is a jarring transition from asleep to awake, and it also makes for an inevitable crash later on.  I've been looking for something that will give me lasting energy and complete nutrition, which isn't loaded with caffeine or sugar, and which is a legal substance... no small task.  However, I think I have found it; ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my new best friend, Amazing Grass.

I read a lot of health and wellness blogs, and Amazing Grass has a cult following in that world.  There is a trendy breakfast drink called a Green Monster, which involves blending up some of this magic powder with greens and ice, and you can also take it straight up with some water or milk of your choice (soy, almond, hemp, etc.).   So what exactly is this stuff, you ask?  Well, there are several variations: according to their website, Amazing Meal is a powerful and satisfying blend of Green SuperFoods, plant based protein, phytonutrient rich fruits & vegetables, digestive enzymes and probiotics; Green SuperFood is a perfect blend of alkalizing greens, antioxidant rich whole food fruits and vegetables, immune boosting support herbs, and friendly pre & probiotics (it comes in chocolate and acai/berry flavors); and they also make several kinds of whole food energy bars, as well as straight up wheatgrass powder, and a kid's blend!

I've long wondered why these products are all the rage in the health blogosphere, but not among the mamas.  Who else is more exhausted and in need of healthy energy and easy whole food meals than we are?  Also, added bonus:  I've been thinking that I need to get serious about taking off this baby weight in the new year, and an Amazing Grass smoothie is beyond nutritionally complete and keeps me full for an entire (extremely) active morning, at about 150 calories.  This could be the key to finally making a dent in this extra poundage.  And I know what you are thinking, all this grassy, green goodness must taste like sucking on a lawnmower bag.  I am happy to report that is most definitely not the case.  Every variety I have tried thus far has a really pleasant flavor and easy-to-swallow texture.  In fact, this stuff is quite delicious.

Mamas everywhere, this is our elixir!  And non-mamas, I think this product is brilliant for anyone who wants to add healthy energy to their day.  And really, who doesn't?

The people at Amazing Grass were kind enough to send me a great variety of these products to sample, and I want to share the love! If you are interested in getting a care package of Amazing Grass samples, leave a comment below.  I'll pick one lucky Grass recipient on Wednesday morning, and stick a package in the mail in time for you to be rescued from your post-Christmas malaise! Nothing says holiday like green superfoods, my friends.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Watched Pot

Dear readers, you've probably noticed a dearth of recipes on this blog lately, and I apologize.  Between last weekend's ER adventures and the upcoming holiday and our severe lack of preparation for it, the husband and I once again find ourselves with a very limited amount of time to spend in the kitchen.  I know we'll more than make up for it cheffing up Christmas dinner and other treats next week, but in the meantime, we've got to eat, and we're avoiding take-out (and dining out?  What is that? So not a part of our current reality); so, we've resorted to our old speedy supper stand-bys like Beans and Greens, Quickie Indian, and Homemade Pizza.  Not too shabby.

Then, of course, there are the quick dinners that don't even merit a recipe.  They're more ideas than recipes anyway, and they are what carry us through these busy times without spending a ton of money or empty calories on Thai take-out.  I thought they'd be worth sharing in this busy time of year when we're all hustling from work to stores to home to late night-bleary-eyed internet shopping sessions with wine in hand (or is that just me?).   Some of our faves:

 Annie's Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
Quorn Patties (these are AWESOME and will get their own post one day, but until then, trust me and go buy a box.  You can thank me later.) and Baked Beans
Quorn Patty Parmesan (melt mozzarella cheese on a QP, top with marinara, serve on pasta)

 Rising Moon Raviolis are a fantastic organic product.  They are affordable and come in so many varieties, and even some dairy-free options.  Our favorites are the Feta-Hazelnut with Butternut Squash and Wild Chanterelle Mushroom.  Serve these tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan, with your favorite marinara, or sauteed quickly with some veggies for a complete meal.

Applegate Farms Organic Frozen Turkey Burgers with Alexia Sweet Potato Fries take pub grub home in a quick, easy, and quasi-healthy way.

Make extra rice on a Sunday, and you can put together a quick homemade fried rice dish with an egg, a few veggies, and a simple protein like tofu or chicken sausage.  Take it up a notch with a yummy sauce like Soy Vay Island Teriyaki or Stonewall Kitchens Pomegranate Grille Sauce.
Since half of these "recipes" start with a pot of boiling water, I had to share this recent "Cooking with Dexter" piece from the New York Times Magazine.  Pete Wells writes about cooking with and for his 5 and 2 -year-old sons, and I can totally relate to the voice of the harried parent who still wants to adhere to his foodie ways.  In this essay, he writes about the simple act of putting on a pot of water to boil as the start of any number of simple, home-cooked dinners.  You must, he says, walk straight in the door, and before you even take off your coat, go to the kitchen and put a pot of water on the stove. With that, you've committed to time in your kitchen and creating some element of home-cooking for your family, and what better way is there to prepare for the holidays than that?
Happy Friday!
What about the giveaway, you ask?  Stay tuned this weekend!  
Clue: it involves wheatgrass.  Start getting stoked for some green love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Things to be Happy about Today

Sun on Snow

Beautiful Hanukkah Candles

(Handmade if you are feeling hardcore: Martha can tell you how to make these yourself!)

Sweet Potato Latkes

Holiday-themed espresso beverages

Eggnog and gingerbread lattes?  Yes, please.

My lunchtime run with my work chicks

No, this isn't us, although we are this focused and awesome!  
 These are Nike models, helping the Nike Webmistress share some tips for running outside throughout the winter...  
What made you happy today?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cookie Love

I have a big old holiday cookie swap tomorrow, and normally would be all about cranking up the holiday tunes and busting out several homemade batches this evening, but since my weekend involved a trip to the emergency room and subsequent patient care and incapacitation (we are all fine, but word to the wise, be very careful when walking the dog on the ice!),  I am not so much in a leisurely baking place this particular work week. Vermont Cookie Love frozen dough to the rescue (tell me you aren't stoked, cookie swapping friends)!  However, for those of you with time to bake for your holiday party or cookie exchange this week, this recipe (adapted from the Smitten Kitchen) is a great one for my all time favorite cookie, the Black and White.

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
3 ounces very unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper.
2. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix by machine or hand until fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and lemon extracts, and mix until smooth.
3. In medium bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until mixed. Add dry mixture to the wet in batches, stirring well after each addition. Using a soup spoon, place heaping spoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.
4. Boil a cup or so of water in a small pot. Place confectioners’ sugar in large, heat-safe mixing bowl. Gradually stir in enough boiling water to the sugar to make a thick, spreadable mixture. Err on the side of caution because a too-thin frosting is hard to undo. Leave remaing boiling water on the stove.
5. Spread frosting on half of the flat side of each cookie. Once all cookie halves have been frosted, place the bowl of the remaining frosting over the hot water and bring it back to a simmer (creating a double-boiler). Stir in the bitter or unsweetened chocolate until melted, as well as the light corn syrup.
6. Ice the other half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.

PS - Remember Damestar Baby, the fun children's clothing line that I mentioned in last Friday's post?  They are having a Holiday Sale!  Woo hoo!  Go check it out for the wee ones on your list, and they can be just as stylin' as this little gal.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gift Guide: Recession Edition

Decadence week was fun and all, but let's come back down to earth now, shall we?  Fact is, most of us will not be swaddling our loved ones in cashmere this holiday, as much as we might like to; so today I offer you 10 lovely gift ideas, and none of them costs more than $40. Call this a recessionary gift from me to you...
Williams-Sonoma 10-piece Glass Bowl Set $38

One of the best kitchen purchases of all time, everyone needs this bowl set in their culinary arsenal.  They are utilitarian enough to use with electric beaters as mixing bowls, but pretty enough to be a salad bowl for company.  The smaller sizes are ideal as dishes for dips and dipping sauces for parties, as well as prep bowls.  And because they all stack neatly like Russian dolls, they take up a minimum of space.  Brilliant. 

Oster Immersion Blender from Target $39.99
You've heard me sing the praises of the immersion blender, and this has to be the most affordable one I've come across.  I always say you get what you pay for, and our great one from Williams-Sonoma has really stood the test of time, but I think this could be a good runner-up for the soup maker on your list.  I promise, if you like things blended, owning one of these babies is game-changer.  Oh, Target, is there any way in which you aren't awesome?

 Fat Toad Farm Goat's Milk Caramel Gift Box $22
From one of my favorite local farmers here in Vermont, this caramel is criminally good.  Use it drizzled over ice cream or frozen yogurt, or to decorate a pie plate for restaurant level fancy-shmancy-ness.  Stir it into a cup of coffee to take your morning to 11, or dip apples in it and call it health food.  I am not going to tell you how quickly the husband and I recently made one of these jars disappear.  And I love the wooden box, which could be re-used as a tea box, or thing for babies to put things in and out of or open and close again and again and again... 

Anthropologie Slate Coaster and Chalk Set $14.95
Who doesn't need coasters?  And I love this cool set from "the mothership", Anthropologie.  Slate has such a clean, modern, natural look to it, and with the chalk, this set would be very versatile.  You could use the coasters to label dishes on a buffet or cheeses for a cheese tasting.  You could write peoples' names or initials on them to keep bevvies straight at a party, or deliver your honey his game-time beer with a message ("Go Pats!" or  "I love you!" or "When is football season over again?").  The price cannot be beat!

Anthropologie Earrings
More from the mothership.  Anthro has the best selection of affordable earrings anywhere.  I impulse bought a great pair at checkout for $20 about 10 years ago and they are still my go-to daily earrings.  I am constantly complimented on them and asked if they are vintage and/or real diamonds.  HA!  They no longer make that particular pair, but they have literally dozens of other beautiful ones, many for under $25.  Why not order up a mess of these for your sisters and girlfriends?  Here are two of my faves:

Pave Posts $24 (left)
For the office or a dinner out, these are classy, fun and sparkly.

For a night on the town, these would add a pop of color and a bit of interest to your favorite little black dress.

A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart $21.95
I love this book, the product of one of my favorite blogs. The concept?  Two friends, living in Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine (3191 miles apart from one another, and two of my favorite cities in the whole country, I might add), take photos first thing in the morning, and post them on the same blog without comparing notes.  The similarities and differences, the change of the seasons, and the amazing shots of each separate, gorgeous city are all striking.  This would be a great coffee table book for your favorite morning person.

Patagonia Micro D-Luxe Scarf $30

I love this scarf from Patagonia.  It is SO incredibly soft, and it is over-sized, so that you can really wrap your neck and head and protect them from the elements.  Best of all, it is machine washable, so you can wear it hiking or running, get all sweaty, and have it fresh and new again the next day (if, like me, you do at least one and usually two loads of laundry per day - such is life with a baby).

Personalized Stationery $11.50
What is classier and more fun to have on hand than your own monogrammed stationery?  Make your own at the fun website Zazzle: they have great designs to choose from, and this one is on recycled paper to boot!  A fun stocking stuffer for anyone!

The original Barefoot Contessa Cookbook $20.47 on Amazon

Yes, I realize I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Ina Garten.  I am okay with that.  Every home cook, beginner to advanced, needs a copy of this cookbook in their kitchen.  Ina likes to make everyday comfort food "with the volume turned up" and this book delivers recipe after recipe of just that.  If I was only allowed to own one cookbook, this would be it.  Amazing recipes include her incredible guacamole, signature coconut cake, and "Perfect Roast Chicken" which caused the husband to claim one evening, "I would have married you just for this chicken."  Enough said.

What is your favorite affordable gift this season?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Fun

To cap off a deliciously decadent week in the world of Sweet Mama Jane, I have many fun and random things to share with you this fabulous Friday.  The first is another gift suggestion, for those of you with small children on your list.  I love the line of clothes made by hand from Damestar Baby in Calistoga, CA.  This is the small business of two crafty stay-at-home moms (gotta love that), and each piece if unique and has a vintage-y handmade feel.  Check out their blog for tales of their friendship and life as wine country mamas, and their Etsy shop to purchase one of their creations.
Also on the gift-guide front, here's a brilliant find: convertible fingerless cashmere mittens.  These are perfect for those of us who live in chilly climates, but need use of all of our digits when out in the snow: for putting on little mittens and hats, clipping and unclipping dog leashes, or compulsively texting, depending on your personal situation.  I got a pair as a shower gift (thanks, Mom!) and they have already made my winter.  I feel elegant with the softness of the cashmere, but can still tie down the ear flaps on Baby J's hat without having to take off and drop a mitten in the snow.  Good stuff.  Any mama or texter would adore.
On the food front, here's a fun and affordable appetizer idea for your upcoming holiday party or potluck from a great food blog called What's for Lunch Dot?: Colorful Potato Cups.  They look simple to make and absolutely delectable.  We have no upcoming party to speak of, but I may have to make a tray of these just for the husband and me to sit and polish off over his next Patriots game.  And I love her idea to embellish them with caviar ($$$) or bacon ($) if you are feeling fancy.  Brilliant.

Finally, what's more fun than pizza night?  We're currently way into the homemade stuff, which is much cheaper and more fun than dialing up our favorite place downtown.  Don't be afraid of making your own dough!  Kneading and punching is a fabulous way to let out the pent up aggressions of your work week, and the result is so satisfying.  My favorite dough recipe is from the Joy of Cooking.  I use 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1.5 cups of whole wheat, and it yields a chewy, wholesome crust we love. Get creative with your toppings!  Veggies galore, a white pizza with fresh basil and multiple amazing cheeses, a barbequed chicken pizza with shredded rotiserrie chicken and bbq sauce instead of marinara, and just a classic pepperoni are each household favorites.  We'll be celebrating a Friday night in with one of these babies and a roaring fire this evening.

Finally, I used this nifty online Random Integer Generator to determine the winner of the
Lunaroma giveaway.
The lucky and soon to be deeply moisturized winner is Moss Acupuncture!!
Thanks to everyone for playing.  Stay tuned for another fun giveaway next week.
Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Blog Giveaway!

Happy Thursday, everybody!  I am so excited!  Thanks to my lovely friends at Lunaroma, today I offer you my very first blog giveaway, just in time for the holiday season!  I've written about Lunaroma before (here, here and here), and I know I will again and again; this is one of my favorite stores in the world.  Lunaroma is an "aromatic apothecary" based in Burlington, Vermont (they also just opened a store on Maui, where I would very, very much like to work).  They make handcrafted beauty products from pure essential oils, as well as perfumes and products for the home.  This beautiful, purple store is so special; anyone I have ever brought there, a) accidentally spends way more money than they had planned to, so irresistable is just about everything on the shelves, and b) comments on the quality of the things they buy, the uniqueness of the products, and how soon they want to go back.  A box of Lunaroma products would be an amazing gift for anyone on your list.  Order online, and they ship their products beautifully wrapped and ready to be opened and adored. 
Today is your chance to try my all time favorite Lunaroma product yourself! 
Lunaroma is giving one lucky Sweet Mama Jane reader a jar of their
Cucumber Rosewater Facial Cream!

This cream is deeply moisturizing, hydrating and soothing for delicate sensitive skin. It smells amazing and smoothes on lightly, absorbing quickly to leave your face feeling you just got a very fancy facial.  A jar of this cream would be a special treat for your winter-ravaged skin, or a great gift for someone on your list!

To enter to win, visit Lunaroma's website and then leave a comment below and tell me why you'd like to try this product this holiday season.  You have until 5pm EST tomorrow to leave your comment.  I'll pick a winner at random after work during happy hour!
Good luck!

Baby J says, "I love the Cucumber Rosewater Facial Cream. It's the next best thing to a sweet potato facial!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SMJ's Decadent Holiday Gift Guide

It is snowing, I am cozy inside with a fire, a hot chocolate, holiday music on Pandora and one cuddly babe, and it seems like a just about perfect time, this being our week of decadence, to do a little shopping across the interwebs for my most favorite frivolous, delicious, delectable and ridiculous products.  Please keep in mind that this is decadent, fantasy shopping, which is not unlike fantasy football, in that it is highly unrealistic, but fun to think about and pretend. Do go get yourself a hot chocolate or a glass of red, sit back, and enjoy! 

Lunaroma True Love Facial Cream with Rose Otto  Lunaroma strikes again. Have you ever put a product on your face that actually makes people stop in their tracks and say, "WOW!  What an incredible smell!  What is that?"  That would be this very special cream.  Hand-crafted of organic, steam-distilled essential oil of Bulgarian Rosa Damascena, this thick, rich, healing cream is about the best thing you have ever smelled in your life.  Rose is fantastic for all skin types, and I highly recommend this product for anyone on your list.  It is a fave of anyone I know who as ever smelled or used it.

Trentadue Chocolate Amore Port My parents, the husband and I tried this incredible after-dinner drink while visiting Napa for a wedding.  We were out to dinner at The Rutherford Grill (amazing) and couldn't resist ordering a glass to share when we read the description: a merlot-based, chocolate-flavored dessert wine.  I hate super-sweet drinks, and this was anything but.  We passed the glass around and marveled at the flavor; it was A.MAZING.  Years later I ordered bottles for Christmas gifts, and it was just as incredible as we remembered; delicious to sip, or served over vanilla ice cream.  For your favorite vino-loving chocoholic, done and done.

Patagonia Cashmere Tunic What's more decadent than cashmere?  Nothing.  Patagonia is the best of the best, and with their lifetime guarantee, environmental mission and amazing quality, I feel like even their big ticket items are as much investments as they are splurges.  This sweater looks like one of those uniform pieces that most mamas I know would wear to shreds: with great black pants to the office, with favorite jeans and a pretty necklace on a date night, or after a day on the mountain with yoga pants in front of the fire.  It comes in four gorgeous colors to boot. 

Manduka Yoga Mat  Do you "need" a $70 yoga mat?  Certainly not.  Is a thick, cushy mat that is sticky, easy on your joints, and sustainably made the kind of decadence any yogini could get down with?  Why, yes.

Truffle Salt  I've mentioned it before, I'll mention it again.  Truffle salt is a gift from the gods; it makes everything from macaroni and cheese to scrambled eggs taste like it was cooked for you by Tom Colicchio himself in a 5-star restaurant somewhere.  For salt, it is pricey, but as a gift, it is fabulous, and a little goes a long, long way.  This is a very special find indeed.

Gorgeous scented candles are one of my favorite gifts for the home.  Fresh makes the most intoxicatingly pure scents, and their candles are a splurge but beautiful and fragrant in a non-cloying way.  At a more reasonable price-point, Mrs. Meyers candles are incredible as well; they come in a charming little mason jar, are soy-based, last forever, also have a non-cloying scent, and at the price ($10) absolutely cannot be beat.

For the new mama (or papa), visual artist or hobby photographer on your list, why not help them take it to the next level with an awesome new camera (I said, decadent, did I not?)?  I fully realize that this is not likely a realistic gift to give or request this recessionary holiday season, but I've been doing my homework on digital SLR cameras and had to share.  This baby seems to have it all, just in case you or a loved one happens to be in the market for a new toy.  This Canon reviews as exceptionally user-friendly, yielding crisp images for those of us who are snapping photos all day long.

There you have it! Happy internet-equivalent of window shopping!
What special and not altogether practical item are you craving this season?
Coming later this week: my very first blog giveaway!  I am so excited!  Stay tuned!