Monday, January 13, 2014

Quick and Easy Turtle Brownie Bars


Tried these the other day for a closing and they got rave reviews from my clients. Fast and easy!


Ingredients

1 box of chocolate cake mix
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup each of white chips, semi-sweet chips, milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips or chunks
* Optional 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup butter
32 unwrapped caramels
1 (14oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch pan
  3. Combine cake mix, oil and eggs. Blend well and stir in all of the chips and chopped nuts. This mixture will be very thick.
  4. Pour half of the mixture into bottom of pan into a very thin layer. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from oven.
  5. While this is baking, in a medium saucepan, combine butter, caramels and condensed milk and stir constantly, while cooking over low to medium heat. Do this until it is all melted and smooth. Spread caramel over partially baked cake mixture.
  6. Top with remaining cake and chip mixture . It will not completely cover, but you can press the mixture flat with your fingers and lay it in small sections over the caramel.
  7. Bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 20 minutes.
  8. Run knife around edges. Cool completely before cutting
NOTE:  When it says to stir constantly - you really do need to or it will burn (don't ask me how I know!)  :)  I used the Peter's caramel bar and just weighed the caramel to get the right amount-about 9 ounces.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Thing We Never Talk About-W.O.R.K. In Marriage



David and I just celebrated 33 years of marriage.  Over the years we have had lots of people comment about how we are the "perfect couple" and "so lucky".  While I will admit A.) we are not perfect and B.) we have been very "lucky" and incredibly blessed, the one thing we never seem to talk about is how making a marriage last can be summed up in one word - W.O.R.K.  We all grew up on Disney movies where you get married and drive off into the sunset where you live happily ever after.  When we first got married, we both came into the marriage with lots of preconceived ideas of how things should work - from traditions, to how to run a household, to how to effectively communicate, to who should be responsible for what, etc, etc, etc.  It was WORK to figure out how to get on the same page!  

My husband likes to tell the story of a time when we were talking with other newly marrieds and one of them commented that they always heard the first year of marriage was the hardest.  I replied, "Our first year has been a piece of cake!" (and I meant it).  My husband later commented that that was because HE had done all the changing!  :)  I always say that is because he NEEDED to change, but the truth is at that point in our relationship HE was the one WILLING to change to make things work for both of us!  I have come a long way and like to think that I compromise now as much as he does, but then things are rarely ever 50/50, right?!  Let's just say I am WILLING to compromise to keep him happy - something I am quite sure I did NOT understand when we got married.  

It is rather alarming to me to watch our kids and their friends and the frequency with which so many are jumping ship!  When I was younger and a marriage fell apart it was usually due to a husband cheating on his wife.  Today, in EVERY case, except one, it has been the wife who has walked out the door.  Marriage wasn't all it was cracked up to be and they want out!  They want to pursue their own dreams.  NO ONE is telling them what to do!

Marriage is about putting someone else's needs above your own.  Doing so does NOT mean I cannot pursue my own dreams and live the life I want to - it just means I remember my commitment to my partner and make him a part of my dream!  It is amazing to me how much happiness comes from being unselfish.

My mother was remarking to my husband the other day that she wanted to know my "secret" for getting so much done.  I mean, how does Shelly keep a clean house, work full-time, bake, garden, do "crafty things" and still find time to sleep?  She claimed he would not tell her.  I said, "That is because HE is my secret!"  David is literally the wind beneath my wings.  He helps me in every aspect of my life - personal and business.  I simply could NOT do it without him.  If I want to accomplish something I only need to tell him what I want to do and he helps me figure out a way to make it happen.  NEVER ONCE has he told me he did not think I could do something!  He is my SECRET!  

Marriage has always been, and always will be, about compromise and sacrifice.  Sometimes I have sacrificed to allow David to accomplish his goals, more often, he has sacrificed for me.  It is never about what I want, but rather what WE want.  We work together.  

For example, any time I suggest that I would like to do something for someone, he is immediately on-board.  The other day, I was concerned about a co-worker who son was in the hospital.  I called and inquired about how he was doing and asked if I could do anything to help out.  He returned my call the next day and told me his son was coming home that evening and that the biggest help would be dinner.  He was busy cleaning house and prepping for their (his wife and sons) return and had not been grocery shopping since before his son had been hospitalized (over a week ago).  I told my husband we would be fixing a meal to take in and he was immediately getting meat out to thaw and worked side-by-side with me in the kitchen and then drove me to their home to deliver dinner.  There was not a moment's hesitation.  He is ALWAYS like that - always on my team - always helping in any way he can.

I know that many people feel that making that kind of commitment is restrictive.  That it does not allow them to do the things that they want to - I just want to go on record in stating that two people working together for the same cause will ALWAYS accomplish more than an individual working alone.  

I also love so much that I can be myself.  I am never putting on a front to my husband.  After 33 years there are no secrets - he knows the good, the bad, and the downright ugly and loves me anyway.  We can ride for hours in the car and say nothing at all - and it is perfectly comfortable.  We can also drive to Arizona and never stop talking!  I love that when I get heavy (and I have struggled our entire marriage with my weight), that he just tells me not to worry - there is just more of me to love.  He really means that.  It never helps me to be comfortable with my over-weight-state, but he never judges me - and THAT my friends is awesome!

We were given "advice" when we got married - like many of you probably were - and the one thing that really stuck with us was "It is not WHO is right, but WHAT is right that matters."  That means, that sometimes I am N.O.T. right - shocking, I know, but true.  Sometimes David says things to me that I do not want to hear.  The truth is that when I take a step back and think about the those things - he is always right.  Don't tell him that though!  :)  His insight into ME is the most constructive criticism I can get and helps me know where to improve.  He doesn't criticize often, but IF he does, it is because I need a "course correction".  It is always done gently and with love.

I realize not everyone has found themselves in a relationship worth working on - sometimes we make lousy choices, sometimes our partner exercises their agency in a way that is detrimental to the relationship - and thus it cannot be saved.  Please don't take offense at this post - it is simply meant to be a gentle reminder that marriage CAN be wonderful.  That it is worth the sacrifice/compromise on your part when you are in a committed relationship.  Look, there have been days I have not liked my husband at all!  I always love him, but sometimes I just plain don't like him.  Usually a good night's rest and some time to reflect change that perspective rather quickly.  The trick is to remind yourself what made you fall in love in the first place.  

Don't forget to tell your kids how much work it is to create a happy, successful relationship.  It is worth every effort!  But it is W.O.R.K. and anyone that tells you otherwise is lying.  When I look back over the past 33 years it is pretty amazing how difficult some of those years have been.  It is the hardest years that created the best foundation for our happiness.  I have learned that even when life is chaos around you - you can feel peace and be sure of your love for each other.  Hard times are the defining times and I am hopeful that this generation coming up will come to understand that is it worth fighting for each other.  I feel like our "kids" think they should get married and have what we have - immediately!  We started out with nothing but each other and a puke green velvet sofa missing the front legs and supported by bricks.  I know this - ALL of my kids have started out with more than that!  It is the struggle and working hard together to accomplish your dreams that really matters.  Things are not important, but people are.  Your parents have what they have after years of sacrificing to get there.  Their relationship has come through sacrifice and struggle.  I can't "gift" the strength of my relationship any more than I can "gift" my testimony of Jesus Christ to someone else.  You have to get your own - and that my friend, is W.O.R.K.  

A huge shout out to my partner in crime for all the years of love and support - here's to the next 33 - may we live that long - and to all the happiness that will come with it!  It really does just get better and better and better.  Love you babe!



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chocolate Layered Dessert

Another great recipe I have been making for over 30 years.  Sorry I forgot to post this sooner.  Super easy and so, so good!

Crust:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Blend and press into a 9X13" pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool at least 10 minutes.

Cream Cheese Layer:

1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 large Cool Whip
Beat all together and spread on cooled crust.

Pudding layer:

1 large box instant chocolate pudding
Mix with 2 3/4 cup milk.  Beat for 5 minutes and spread over cream cheese layer. 

Top with remaining Cool Whip and spread with chopped pecans or grated chocolate.

Best if made the day before.