The Blackberry – Up Close and Personal

Close Up Blackberry

Bursting with flavor,
Rich in antioxidants, omega-3, protein, fiber, vitamins C and K
The Blackberry.

Does anything pack more punch…
more value…
more beauty…
more taste per ounce than you?

Oh how I love thee…
Oh how I wish I could be…
More like the value of a simple Blackberry!

Cheers & Hugs,

This photo is my submission for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Close-Up

And for my favorite fresh, old-fashioned homemade blackberry pie recipe, click here.

Beer Chicken in the Crockpot

beer chicken 2

Are you looking for a super simple chicken dinner you can throw in the crockpot in the morning, forget about, and arrive home at dinner time to a taste-like-you-slaved-all-day meal?

I adore cooking and baking, but many (really most) days don’t allow me the luxury to spend the time I’d like in the kitchen, so this recipe is just the ticket.  It is full of flavor, tender, and moist.

Beer Chicken in Crockpot 2

And it’s EASY!  Besides the chicken, there are only FOUR ingredients:  a bottle of your favorite beer, a tablespoon or two of seasoning (I used Montreal Steak Seasoning – yep STEAK seasoning), 2 Tablespoons of fresh herbs (I used rosemary), and 2 large cloves of garlic.

Beer Chicken in Crockpot

You can use a whole chicken or chicken parts, or boneless chicken breasts like I did.  Put it all in the crockpot on low for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

beer chicken

The sauce can be made into a beautiful gravy, and I served it with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.


The chicken tastes almost like those moist, tender rotisseries chickens you get at Costco or your local grocery, but even better!

Add this to your collection of winner winner chicken dinners!  You won’t be sorry!

Beer Chicken in the Crockpot


  • 4 chicken breasts or a whole chicken or your favorite chicken pieces
  • 1 bottle of your favorite beer
  • 2 Tbsp Montreal steak seasoning (or your favorite blend)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Rosemary (or your favorite herb)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced


  • Place all in crockpot and cook for on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8 hours.

Cheers & Hugs,


Watercolor from the Beach

sea turtle watercolor card

It was fun to do a little dabbling in watercolor painting while at the beach last week.  And it was hard to think of anything besides the beach to paint while there!

One of the highlights of our little trip, however, was seeing a nest of endangered sea turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean.  72 hatched from the nest of over 100 eggs, and only about 1 percent will make it to maturation.  There was a group of volunteers that guarded the nest and helped them make it to the ocean safely without being scooped up by the birds waiting nearby.  Chances are many will not make it in the sea as so many predators await, but those that do make it to maturity can live up to 80 years.  It is quite fascinating actually, and you can learn more about sea turtles here and here.

So one of my paintings is of a sea turtle making its way into the ocean.

sea gull watercolor card

Another is a very abstract sand, sea, air  painting with a sea gull silhouette flying.

ocean sail boat watercolor card

And the other is just a simple seascape and sky with a sailboat.

I made these three little paintings into note cards to send to my three chicas to thank them for a great GFC week.

Hope you have a great day wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Cheers & Hugs,


Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart 6

I had a wonderful vacation!

But I have to admit…. Once home, I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen and bake.

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart

So Sunday morning, after a quick trip to the grocery store, I took some time to leisurely make this beautiful, amazingly delicious Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart.

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart 4

Oh the wonderful smell while it baked…

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart Apricots and Honey

The juicy, ripe apricots drizzled with honey made my heart happy.

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart 3

And watching Hubby enjoy it….

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart Apricots and Creme

even better.

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart 5

I found a recipe for an Apricot Pistachio Tart that I used as a baseline to create this recipe I think is well worth saving!

I summoned enough willpower to enjoy only a bite, but oh that bite…

This is such a special treat.  I hope you will try it and enjoy it or share with someone you know that loves fresh apricots.

Apricots are one of Hubby’s faves, so I enjoyed making it for him after enjoying a week away at GFC. A little “thank you” of sorts.

After baking this, I whipped up some cookie dough and made a fresh caprese pasta salad.

Kitchen fix complete.
Life is good.
Home sweet home.

Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart

  • Servings: approximately 8
  • Print
Crust:Fresh Apricot Almond Creme Tart
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup raw, unsalted, sliced almonds, crushed
1 stick butter, cut into small chunks
1 tsp almond extract Apricot Creme Filling: 
10-12 small ripe fresh apricots
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg yolk 
3 Tbsp honey

Preheat to 350º.
In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar, salt and flour to combine. Add the crushed almonds (I simply placed in a ziploc bag and rolled over them with a marble rolling pin), the chunks of butter, and the almond extract.  Blend with a pastry blender until the mixture just begins to clump together. Dump the crumbs into an 8 or 9-inch tart pan and press evenly.  Freeze the crust until firm for about 15 minutes.
Prick the crust about 10 – 12 times with a fork, and then place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet for easy maneuvering.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes until lightly browned.Halve the apricots and remove the pits. Arrange them, cut side up, in the warm tart shell in circles starting with the outer layer and moving inward.In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg yolk, and 3 tablespoons of honey. Pour the custard evenly over the apricots. 
Sprinkle with some additional sliced almonds.Bake the tart until the custard is set when you shake the pan, approximately 45 minutes.   Let the tart cool completely, and then refrigerate to fully set.Just before serving, drizzle some additional honey over the top.
Cheers & Hugs,

Girlfriend Camp 2015

gfcoib15 group shot beach

L-R: Pam (aka Bubby), Renee, Jodi, Joan

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a luxurious, relaxing, fun-filled week at the beach with some girlfriends.

We call it GFC…
Girl Friend Camp…
And this year, we got to take it to the beach – Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.

We set out with a fully-packed car… smiles….. and plenty of road trip snacks!  (after all – a 12-hour drive requires snacks!)

gfcoib15 roadtripIt was fun taking turns driving, playing silly road trip games, and singing to 70s tunes we haven’t listened to in years – everything from Led Zeplin, Queen, and The Eagles to Bobby Sherman, The Village People, Cher, and Barry Manilow!

Once there, this is how we spent most of our afternoons…

our feet in the warm sand in the bright sunshine with the cool ocean breeze – books and Kindles in tow, deep (and not so deep) conversations, frozen drinks, and lots and lots of sunscreen.

gfcoib15 beach bumsWhen we weren’t sitting at the beach, we were walking the beach – Fitbits on our wrists.

It was a two-mile walk to the pier and back, so we did that at least once a day….

because peanut M&Ms, pretzels, and cocktails were awaiting us back at the condo – and none came back home with us!

pier 1We collected sea shells some days – discussing why some of us pick up perfectly shaped ones… and others (ok – just me) like the imperfect ones…

I say they have more character.

shells on deck GFCOIB15We cooked in…

Bubby loves cooking breakfast, and I just love cooking…..

I made my famous guacamole one late afternoon.  Bubby said she did not like guacamole, but she would try it…

She is now a guacamole LOVER!  🙂  We even shared it with our neighbors.

I also made my Copy Cat Chick Fil A Chicken one evening for my chicas.  It was a hit!

gfcoib15 kitchen

L-R: Bubby, Renee, Joan

We ate out too.  I had a fabulous local fish called Cobia at The Ocean Isle Fish Company.  Our awesome waiter, Morgan, recommended it, and he did not steer me wrong.  It was served with a tropical mango salsa, rice pilaf and steamed broccoli.  YUM!

Of course we had a few margaritas too.

GFCOIB15 dinner and drinks out

We played games.

I always lost…

I’m lucky in love – not in games…  but I still love to play.

And there were always cocktails involved.

gfcoib15 drunk dominoe

We even got tattoos…
Ok… so they are a bit temporary… written with Sharpie markers.   #GFCOIB15

(Are we 50 or 15?)  🙂

gfcoib15 tattoo feet

And we wore our GFC Jammies from last year…

Gfc0ib15 jammiesand toasted and missed our GFC buddies that couldn’t join us this year – Buzzed, Loaded, and Toasted.

gfc 2014 girlsWe even allowed for some alone and down time, where we each enjoyed doing what we love doing best alone.
I brought my traveling water color paint kit and did some plein air painting.

Some of the neighbors called me “the artist…”   How funny and cool is that?!?!  🙂

plein air painting

We couldn’t have asked for a better week…
weather…. food… drinks… conversations (that cannot be shared here)… laughs…
an amazing celebration of friendship.

Everyone needs to do this if you can – celebrate, reflect, discover, embrace, enjoy….

GFCOIB15 last morning Joan walking

It was so great to go…

gfcoib15 in the sand

but it was also great to come home.

You know… there really is no place like home.

A handsome hubby picked me up…
A delicious dinner awaited…
A glass of wine, a warm shower, and a king-sized bed.

My message to you is as always…

Cherish the moments…
at life in between.

Cheers & Hugs,

Oh Happy Day with Sprinkled Donuts

PP255 Starburst Sayings and Cherry on Top DSP

Could you go for a donut with sprinkles on top right about now?

Wouldn’t that make for A Happy Day!?

It’s Sunday, so time for me to share a design inspiration for this week’s Paper Players Challenge:  PP255.  This week is a sketch challenge, so we get to use anything we want to create something that resembles this sketch.


I think this Stampin’Up Cherry On Top Designer Series Paper featuring the sprinkled donuts is so cute and cheerful, and I love the “Oh Happy Day Stamp, so I made this card, adding a little gold bling by making the “tag” from punchinella.  Punchinella is the sheet that is left over after making sequins.  Did you know that?  How clever is that for someone to market and SELL!?!?  And isn’t it just that extra little pop that makes this card?

PP255 Starburst Sayings and Cherry on Top DSP 2

I used some foam tape to make the Oh Happy Day Starburst Sentiment pop up off the card a bit for even more dimension, and used scissors on the bakers twine to make it curl a bit.

PP255 Starburst Sayings and Cherry on Top DSP 3

Here is what I used to make the card.

Card Ingredients:

Hope you have an “Oh Happy Day!”

Cheers & Hugs,


Cinnamon Creme Crumb Cake

cinnamon creme crumb cake 3

Do you love a good crumb cake or coffee cake or pound cake as much as I do?

I made this recipe the day before I went away for vacation, so there would be something sweet for the guys while I was gone, and so I wouldn’t eat too much of it myself!

cinnamon creme crumb cake 1

And oh is it GOOD!

When searching for a recipe to try, I found one through Pinterest that lead me to BarbaraBakes’ blog.  I’m totally a new fan of Barbara now!

I tweaked up her recipe slightly, and had to do a little “subbing” on ingredients…again.

cinnamon creme crumb cake 4

I only had 1 cup of sour cream in the refrigerator, and the recipe called for 2 cups.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so I immediately “Googled” sour cream substitutes.

Some say yogurt.  I had one container of blackberry-on-the-bottom Chobani Greek yogurt, so in that went with the sour cream (sans the blackberries, which I ate), but that was only 5 additional ounces.  So I looked for another substitute and found mixing milk with lemon juice and soft butter.  Mixed enough of that up to make 2 full cups of “sour cream,” and off I went to town mixing and baking.

cinnamon creme crumb cake 2

I love how it turned out!  This is a heck of a cake that is great for decadent breakfast or brunch or a snack with coffee or served as dessert.  It is a rich, golden cake with a layer of cinnamon right in the middle and crumbly cinnamon streusel and powdered sugar on top that is good to the last crumb!

empty crumb cake plate

Here’s the recipe.  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Creme Crumb Cake

  • Servings: approximately 12
  • Print

Topping & Filling Ingredients:cinnamon creme crumb cake 4

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 sticks cold salted butter, cut into small chunks
Cake Ingredients:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sour cream


  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan.
  • Topping:
    • Combine first five topping ingredients in a large bowl, add chunks of cold butter and blend with a pastry blender to form crumbly mixture.
  • Cake:
    • Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium size bowl, and set aside.
    • With electric mixer, cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla and almond extracts.   Add the dry cake ingredients alternating with the sour cream.
    • Spoon half of the cake batter into the prepared pan.
    • Sprinkle half of the crumbly topping mixture over the batter.
    • Layer the remaining cake batter carefully on top of that so as not to disrupt the filling layer.
    • Then top with remaining crumbly topping.
    • Press the final topping layer into the cake layer very gently to make sure it sticks.
  • Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in comes out clean.
  • Cool in pan for 30 minutes.
  • Loosen sides of cake with knife and invert onto a wire rack. Then immediately invert again onto a serving plate.
  • Sprinkle with powder sugar to finish.


Cheers & Hugs,


Queen Anne’s Lace

queen anns lace
Queen Anne’s Lace
in a vase
on the patio by the door.

Sweet memories of summers past
and a Grandma I did so adore.

She could make bouquets from weeds,
bring life to seeds,
make soup from bones,
and homemade ice cream cones.

We played Old Maid
while we drank lemonade
or sipped on root beer
or cream soda floats.

We would sing and laugh on the side porch swing
making up words to our favorite songs.
She would tell me sweet stories of her life and her past
while we dreamed of the future and who would be part of the cast.

We’d watch the morning glories close
while the moon flowers arose.
They were perfectly entwined
in an ornate grate
which bordered the slope
and the colorful splendor
of the portulaca flower bed
I will always remember.

Oh how I hope
that I can someday be
the kind of grandma
she was to me.

Cheers & Hugs,

Don’t play with your vegetables

vegetable card radishes

Remember being told to not play with your vegetables as a child at the dinner table?

I’m still playing with my veggies – watercolor painting these days – just for kicks.

Aren’t the radishes radishing?!

Certainly not some of my finest art work, but fun nonetheless.

vegetable card green onions

I had some scraps of paper and the urge to continue after recently painting my Lazuli Bunting, but was obviously getting a bit tired and punchy by the time I got to the green onions and carrots.

vegetable card carrots

Maybe I should stick to cooking and eating my veggies.

Cheers & Hugs,



sunrise gfcoib15

I am thankful for…
nights that turned into mornings,
friends that turned into family,
and dreams that turned into reality.*

As I spend time this week with some bestie friends that have become like family…
and got to experience this sunrise yesterday morning on the beach…
I thought it apropos to share this quote I found that resonates so deeply with me.

Wishing all of this and more for you as well.

Cheers & Hugs,