Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it. - Danny Kaye

Monday, January 31, 2011

R.A.B. (Remember Alex Brown)

Last night David and I watched ABC’s “Extreme Makeover – Home Edition” and both got sucked in. The story tonight was about a family from Texas (The Brown Family) who lost their teenage daughter due to a texting-while-driving accident…single car crash, no seat belt on, one text message and the end of a life…wow, powerful and so sad. In memoriam of their daughter Alex Marie, the Brown family decided to travel around the state of Texas to high schools in order to spread the word of NOT TEXTING WHILE DRIVING…something we all should follow. They still travel to schools to speak to teenagers, telling them of the dangers of texting while driving and showing them the effects it can have on that decision (the vehicle their daughter was driving when she wrecked and was killed while texting and driving…in the same state as the vehicle was found). And at the end of their speech they ask each participant to sign a pledge to no longer text and drive (the R.A.B. pledge). It was such a powerful story that even though it’s exciting to watch the rest of the show to see how their new home turns out, I think I was most drawn to how the producers and designers (specifically Ty Pennington) decided to help the Brown family expand their cause to across state lines and to reach out to the rest of the country’s teens and beyond. Not only were they given a gorgeous new home to move forward with their lives including sentiments of their beautiful daughter tied into the décor, but they were also given a new and improved start to their cause “R.A.B. (Remember Alex Brown)”. They were given state-of-the-art technology to search for high schools around the country where they could reach out to tell their story (Alex’s story). And they were also given a simulator which was like a video game where you attempt to drive with a steering wheel and text message at the same time…it was interesting to see how distracted the “drivers” would become even though they thought they were (like the rest of us) ‘good at texting while driving’. Nonetheless, this story made an impression on me and after just having had a conversation with my family yesterday about how technology can ‘take over us’ I decided to sign the pledge that the Brown family started in an effort to not only make my driving safer for me and those in my car and those on the road around me, but also to help spread the word of Alex’s story and the cause to stop texting while driving. Luckily I haven’t had a direct negative effect of texting while driving, but I do know people who have and it’s a very scary thing. So, with that being said, I’m posting a link to the R.A.B. (Remember Alex Brown) website where you too can sign the pledge to no longer text while driving. I hope this message reaches lots of people and will continue to spread…and I hope the Browns can touch thousands and maybe even millions of lives with their cause.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A New Addition(s)…and one old favorite

Ok, ok…it’s not what you think. Haha…I’m only newly (six months) married, so there’s no rush for “that” just yet. But I do have a few new addition(s) that I’d like to share with you…a few items added to mi casa over the past few months. As an attempt to (slowly but surely) decorate my home with “accent pieces” after four years of homeownership, I’ve decided to photograph them and say a few words. So with no further ado, here they are!

Our new candle holder, which we found accidentally, turned out to be the perfect (large) piece to put atop our armoire in the living room…it was quite bare and sad up there before, but with the new addition it helps move the eye through the room with ease. The candles are more so an ‘extra’ to add to the holder rather than getting used, but we’ll see how that goes.

This other piece as you’re probably wondering either (a) what is it? or (b) what is it going to be used for? is actually a bird cage! Well to be honest I have been thinking about getting a bird cage to put in our guest bedroom which is one of the last rooms my husband and I are re-doing together, so this was the choice…and cheap, too! It hasn’t really found a ‘home’ just yet, but that is soon to come…decorating (as I’ve learned) takes time and comes in baby steps (no pun intended). But one day I’ll be able to share with you the final placement and I look forward to seeing the end result, too.

This third piece I’m sharing is a vanity that we found at an antique mall…one Saturday when I said to David, “I want to go antiquing!”…I think he was cautious at first, but he loves The History Channel and National Geographic (shows about museums, the infamous “Pawn Stars” and antiques dealers) , so I knew he’d enjoy tagging along. We enjoyed viewing all the old furniture, dishes and collectibles throughout the mall and stumbled across this little ‘beaut’ (courtesy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)! We had tried looking for a vanity that I could use in our bedroom for makeup but were unsuccessful and this one was WAY cheaper…and an antique! Well, it’s not in our room, but it’s perfect along the entry wall of our guest bedroom…this room still to be redone in due time. I just loved the imperfections in it and how feminine it was…I decided this guest bedroom would be my girly room…no TV and nothing work-related, just a relaxing ‘space’ (courtesy of House Hunters on HGTV) for family and friends to stay.

And lastly, one of my oldest and most favorite items that I could never give up…my bust that I purchased off a department store floor when it was closing for business almost four years ago…something I just had to have!! I had always admired these mannequins as sort-of an art piece, if you will, but nonetheless she has gotten lots of good use and a few compliments along the way. I actually plan to redo the material on it but again, since this will go in my girly room, I’ll have to figure out the rest first.

So those are a few of my new addition(s) and an old favorite…

What are some of your new addition(s) or favorite old pieces?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Real Housewives of York County

Hello, Family Jewell Readers!  Guess what... I'm not Meredith! 

My name is Elizabeth Bridges and I am Meredith's wiser older sister!  I write a blog called "Confessions of a Former Couch Potato."  But Meredith and I decided to change things up and swap blogs for a day.  So here I am!

Are you a fan of the Housewives series on Bravo?  Because I definitely am.  Really, if it's trashy reality TV, then I probably watch it.  Jersey Shore?  Yep, I watch it.  Teen Mom?  Yep, that one, too.  And the Housewives series is one of my favorites.  I think the thing I like about those shows is... those women all have way more money than me (well... in some cases...) but sometimes watching those shows makes me feel way better about myself.  I mean, they've got all the money in the world, but their lives are all a mess! 

But this week... I've been feeling like a housewife.  We got about 6 inches of snow on Monday, and then a good amount of ice on top of all of that. 

Yes... those are Christmas wreaths still hanging up... maybe we need to get those down...
So we've been snowed in for several days.  (Actually, the problem the past 2 days has really been the ice!)

Check out the shiny surface!

Dangerous... but really pretty!
Normally, I'd be at work during the week.  But this week I have been off the WHOLE week!  In fact, I don't return to work until Tuesday!  So I've gotten a nice taste of "Housewife Life."  (In fact, I will admit to all of you... my child has worn pajamas for 3 days and I only put on "real clothes" once yesterday to go to the gym.)  One of the best things has been having time to try new recipes!

This morning, I baked something I'd like to share with all of you: Oatmeal-Raisin Mini Bites.  Now, I should tell you that I'm a member of Weight Watchers and this is a new Weight Watchers Recipe.  However, these little tiny cookies are so delicious, you wouldn't know the recipe came from Weight Watchers.  They are perfect for when you just need a bite of something sweet.  They are only 1 point each, if you are following the new Points Plus plan.  Three of these with a hot cup of coffee or tea would be great afternoon (or morning) snack!

Here's the recipe... so you can make your own!  (And a little photo tutorial, too!)

Makes 40-60 mini cookies (Depends on how small you make yours-- if you make 60, they are only 1 point each.  If you make 40, they are 2 points each.)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup raisins, chopped

Preheat oven to 375.  In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Then, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars until well mixed.  Add egg and vanilla; mix thoroughly.  Add oat mixture and mix until just combined.  Then fold in the raisins. 

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter onto 2 ungreased cookie sheets (I lined mine with parchment paper).  Bake for 9-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-12 minutes for crispy cookies.  Remove from oven.  Let cookies rest for 1-2 minutes, and then allow to cool on a wire rack. 

butter and sugars

dry ingredients

mix it all together

add the raisins

place on baking sheets (these are slightly larger than marbles)

bake until the bottoms are just lightly browned

yummmmm.... the finished product...

crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside...

add coffee for the perfect snack...


Thanks for reading!  Feel free to stop by my blog and visit anytime! 

A Weeknight Dinner...

Check out my guest post on my sister's blog "Confessions of a Former Couch Potato".  It was fun to be a guest blogger on someone else's site...have you ever done that before?  I can't wait for her to guest post on mine soon, too! 

Enjoy the meal!  (A Weeknight Dinner...)

Zesty Italian chicken, red potatoes with herbs, green beans and sauteed apples...Delicious & Easy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Comfort of Snow

There are really no words to describe how or why a snow day can make you feel so warm and fuzzy on the inside (especially if you still have heat in your home), but pictures tell it all…
"Where's Zoe?"
I have noticed that she's a little bit 'off-white' when I don't use the flash...
this picture reminds me of a scene from 'A Christmas Story' (near where Ralphie gets into a fight)
our casa
a bird house / feeder and plant hidden by several inches of snow
she's white again (with the flash this time) ;)
Happy Snow Day Everyone!!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Etiquette and ‘The Facebook Effect’

I haven’t seen “The Social Network” yet but plan to as soon as possible (or before the Oscars if not the Golden Globes). With that being said, I did watch CNBC’s special tonight on “The Facebook Obsession” and how this launch from a Harvard sophomore back in 2004 has become the most crazed, sought after and fascinating global phenomenon in our century and arguably in our world. With over six billion people on our planet and with one out of every 12 people in the world on Facebook, that’s a lot of folks that are joined together through the most entertaining and frustrating social media network.

Mark Zuckerberg is one heck of a talented person but even he didn’t always show the most intelligent, well thought-out or even modest comments along the way. And as I’ve noticed recently neither do others. It’s always interesting to sign on to Facebook, scroll down my home page for updates on family and friends, view pictures posted or maybe even link to a blog post that someone has written, but the status updates are either what really get me thinking or really wish I could tell the posting person ‘TO THINK’.

If you were lucky enough to catch this CNBC special tonight you’ll know (or maybe you’ll personally know) that Facebook has helped people in positive ways and has also ended peoples’ careers. You can choose to use this social network whichever way you choose, but there’s something to be said for the unpretentious users out there versus the overconfident “updaters”. Sometimes I do care about your opinion on politics and the president, but then again I really could use less updates on your favorite football team and how much you love/hate/love/hate/love/hate them. It’s fun to see pictures of families, friends and vacations or trips taken, but to experience almost the entire feeding of a newborn with her mother (the natural way), that may just be a bit too invasive. Nonetheless, again, Facebook is for each member to use or do with as they please…to each his own, I guess.

But before you decide to degrade people, shout out expletives or tell of your “horrible” situation at work, home or in life, consider those around you and those you don’t know. Some people in the world are losing family members, some are losing pets, some are losing jobs and some are losing their life. I saw a painting today that made me stop and try to appreciate the moment I was in…”Life is Beautiful”. I think we all need to see statements like that from time to time to remind us to put ourselves and our thoughts into perspective. I have a lot to be thankful for and as I begin this year into 2011 I will try to remind myself of that phrase and go positively on my way. And if there’s no interesting news that I can post to my Facebook status or to update my “friends” on, I guess I can quote the painting I saw…


Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The OLD and the NEW

My husband and I just returned from a place that is very dear to our hearts. This year we decided to spend a low-key New Year’s and return to the place where we got engaged just over a year ago…Old Edwards Inn up in Highlands, North Carolina. We decided it’d be nice to just lay low this New Year’s and relax after a busy fall of going and going and going…and boy was it…R.E.L.A.X.I.N.G.! We had a nice dinner scheduled at Madison’s Restaurant at Old Edwards Inn (the true spot where we got engaged a year ago) which was included in our reservation and just pretty much took in the sights and shops around Main Street during the course of the weekend. I’ve included some photos to show where we stayed and our accommodations, but will describe some of the tasty food we were able to enjoy and how we rang in the New Year at midnight…a little different than years past.
the front of Madison's Restaurant (where we got engaged on December 4th, 2009)

downtown Highlands, North Carolina
Now back to the food…our four course New Year’s Eve special…which started with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres then moved to the following:
one of the hors d'oeuvres

Appetizer: Foie Gras and Cornbread Stuffed Quail on top Jerusalem Artichoke Salad, Local Bacon, Bourbon Maple Syrup (…delicious! Quite possibly our favorite dish of the night…well, almost for me.)

Second Course: Lemon Grass Poached Maine Lobster with Parsnip-Vanilla Ravioli, Celery Hearts, Blood Orange Foam

Entrée: Duo of Black Angus Beef Tenderloin and Roulade of Dover Sole on top Lentil Variation, Sauce Perigord, Petit Carrots, White Truffle Foam

Dessert: (OK, maybe my fav…) Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake with Ginger-Compressed Mango, Dried Raspberry and Passion Fruit Fire
dessert (yum!)

So, were you expecting all that? Not us! But we felt like it was the fanciest meal we’ve ever had…or will have going forward into 2011…so why not endulge!?!?!
before dinner...

totally full after dinner

And just before midnight we joined other fellow vacationers in the Hummingbird Lounge for cocktails, champagne and the tradition of “The Twelve Grapes at Midnight”. This was a new way of ‘ringing in the new year’ for me as in the past I’ve normally just yelled out “Happy New Year” or even “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” (something my mom taught us to say once the clock struck midnight…it was for good luck). But this year we partook in a tradition unknown to me and my husband. “Las Doce Uvas De La Suerta” (the twelve grapes of luck) a Spanish tradition of eating a grape with each bell strike at midnight December 31st. So, although we had just finished a very hefty four course meal, I still forced myself to try this “something new” for the start of a new year. If anything, I took away the fact that hopefully I’ll (or we’ll) have some good luck this year…maybe we’ll succeed in paying off debts, or saving money or just having a strong and happy marriage…but either way it was a fun way to start 2011.
a grape was in every glass of champagne

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, driving around Highlands and the surrounding mountains, enjoying the scenery, melting snow, frozen ponds and eating & drinking.
Happy New Year!!!

frozen pond

enjoying another round of Champagne

If you haven’t been to Old Edwards Inn or even just to Highlands, I definitely recommend it. It’s become a special place for David and me and we hope to return again in the future…but for now, back to the grind I guess!