Right Before Dawn

Right before dawn from my back window. Mars, PA March, 2019

Right Before Dawn.

The trees stretch their branches
and wiggle their trunks
and spread their roots
right before dawn
as if to say,
“Wake up!
It’s a wonderful new day!”

I sip my coffee
and stretch my arms
and wiggle my toes
and gaze outside
wondering how I earned
this undeserved privilege
to be right here right now.

Cheers & Hugs,

Crockpot Honey Balsamic Pork Roast


Crockpot Honey Balsamic Pork Roast.

Oh my dear programmable crockpot – how do I love thee?
Let me count the ways….

All kidding aside, I do love cooking in the crockpot, and I love this new one I got that is programmable and then keeps dinner warm once its done cooking.  They have come such a long way since the first one I got oh so many years ago as a newlywed.  I use it at least once a week – especially in the colder weather months.

This past Sunday was a bit of a cold, lazy day, so this Honey Balsamic Pork Roast was just the ticket for dinner.  That hubby of mine is going to make a pork lover out of me yet!


A tender white meat pork loin with a full flavored simple sauce that turns into a rich, easy gravy warmed up and filled our tummies – especially with a dollop of mashed potatoes and healthy serving of steamed broccoli.

Just look at that yumminess!  I am beginning to think pork is the “other white meat” Hubby keeps trying to convince chicken-lover me into believing.


Here is the simple, yet hearty and flavorful recipe I slightly adapted from SixSisterStuff.   Hope you’ll give it a try.

Crockpot Honey Balsamic Pork Roast


  • 2-3 lb. pork loin roast
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup beef broth (I made using 1 cup water and 1 beef bouillon cube)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (I realized I was out, so used Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing – I am the queen of improvising!)
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour


Place pork roast in crockpot and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Drizzle honey over top of roast.  Add rest of ingredients except for the last two (butter and flour).  Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6 hours.

When ready to serve, remove roast to cutting board to rest.  In a small saucepan, melt butter, then whisk in flour to create a roux.  When thickened, pour juice from crockpot into roux, and stir to incorporate and thicken into gravy.  Slice roast and serve with gravy.


Cheers & Hugs,

Crockpot Cuban Shredded Beef


It was so cold this past Sunday and hunkering in was the order of the day.  While watching football playoffs (our Pittsburgh Steelers won!), I wanted a no fuss, but warm and comforting dinner to eat afterwards.

Beef chuck roasts are so versatile and cook so tender and juicy in the crockpot.  I make them a variety of ways, but wanted to try something new and different, and this Cuban Shredded Beef was just the ticket!  So yummy over a bed of rice with beans!  We’ll surely be eating them wrapped in tortillas this week too.

A tiny bit of a spicy kick and tons and tons of flavor make this easy recipe a new winner in my book.  And if you can’t get warmed up on the outside, this one will warm you up from the inside out!

I adapted this recipe slightly from Little Spice Jar.

Crockpot Cuban Shredded Beef


  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 1/2 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced sweet bell peppers
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 4-oz. cans chopped green chilies
  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 2  Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime


Make 3 deep “x” cuts into the chuck roast. Insert 3 whole garlic cloves into the cuts. Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the chuck roast and fry on each side for 5 minutes to sear.  Don’t cover the pan as the meat will end up steaming rather than searing.

Chop the remaining 3 cloves of garlic, and add to crockpot along with all the remaining ingredients except for the lime. Cover and let cook on the low setting for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. When the beef falls apart easily when pulled with two forks, it’s done. Shred the beef with the forks and stir.

Serve over a bed of rice with beans on the side topped with additional cilantro and a few lime wedges. You can also use the shredded beef for burritos, quesadillas or tacos.


Cheers & Hugs,




Warm, crackling fire,
Soft blanket,
Brand-new fuzzy socks,
A favorite sweatshirt inside-out.

Broken-in space on the couch,
Smooshed pillows,
A furry four-legged friend,
A long-time love.

Dark red wine,
Creamy Godiva chocolate truffles,
Football playoffs,
Tender beef simmering in the crock pot.

Cold January Sundays
can be so cozy.
Cold January Sundays
can be the best.

Cheers & Hugs,

Pappardelle with Beef Ragu


We had our first snow of the season here in Mars yesterday.

Not only did it snow, but it snowed ALL day!

After a 73 degree F day on Friday, it was quite a shock, but also such a glorious treat for a lazy Sunday to build a fire in the morning and burn it all day long while cooking and watching football and reading and resting.

After a very busy and exciting week, it was nice.  It was also the first day I didn’t see my new granddaughter since she was born, so I am thankful for text messages and IM pictures and so proud of her Mom and Dad for the amazing job they are doing.  They are naturals, and my heart is so very full.


My belly is full too….. after making and feasting on this amazing recipe I tweaked a bit from Jamie Oliver’s recipe.

What a perfect dish to cook for hours on a cold day teasing our noses with the amazing aroma and warming the house with the oven on for hours.  Jamie Oliver does his in a pressure cooker.  You could also do this in the crockpot.  But we were home all day, and I was perfectly content to have the oven on.


I swear I am a “wannabe” Italian!  I adore Italian food.  In Italian cuisine, ragu is a meat-based sauce that is commonly served with pasta.  Pappardelle are large, broad, flat pasta noodles that originate from the Tuscany region and are similar to wide fettuccine. The name derives from the verb “pappare,” which means to gobble up.

Isn’t Papparedelle so much more fun to say than wide noodles?  And doesn’t it sound so much more delicious?!


Hubby said I could definitely make this for company!  It is so full of flavor!  I could just lick the sauce from a spoon!  And then…… when you top it with a tiny bit of finely grated orange zest and rosemary…. the flavors just BURST with freshness too.  The balance between tender slow cooking with deep, layered flavors and fresh, bright citrus – even though just a tiny bit – is simply amazing!

Here is the recipe as I slightly tweaked from Jamie Oliver’s recipe shared in The New York Times.  Hope you will give it a try.

Pappardelle with Beef Ragu


  • 2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus 1 Tbsp finely chopped leaves for garnish
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced sweet red and yellow peppers (optional)
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound pappardelle
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in dutch oven on stove top over medium-high heat.  Add beef cubes, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until beef is well browned on all sides, about 5 mins.  Add rosemary and sage sprigs, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and sweet peppers. Continue cooking until vegetables are softened, about 5 more mins.

Add wine and continue to simmer until liquid has reduced by approximately half, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes.  Secure lid and place in oven for 3 1/2 hours.

Cook pappardelle in boiling salted water for 6-7 minutes until al dente.   Drain and rinse in cold water.  Return pasta to pot.  Add butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.   Mix gently, cover with lid, and let butter melt.

Remove beef ragu from oven.  Discard herb stems and coarsely shred beef with two forks.

To serve, place pappardelle in shallow bowl, top with beef ragu, sprinkle with orange zest, finely minced rosemary and some more freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.


Cheers & Hugs,

Rainy Sundays

purple rhododendrum bud after the rain

Rainy Spring Sunday Rhododendron Blossom – 5/22/16

Rainy days

cancelled plans
messy beds
messier hair
muddy paws
dampened feathers
thunder cracking

steaming coffee
comfy jammies
old movies
new books
paint splashing
afternoon naps

nourishing the plants
feeding the streams
brightening the green
slowing us down
refueling our engines
washing the world clean


Cheers & Hugs,




Apricot Chocolate Chip Scones

apricot chocolate chip scones

I love waking up early on weekend mornings.
After all, it means extra hours in my weekend!

This past Sunday, I got up before anyone else was awake and basked in the moments of pre-dawn with freshly-brewed coffee and Italian Sweet Cream, the opportunity to paint, and the chance to bake something yummy for breakfast before anyone was awake, so they could rise to the smells and tastes of fresh baked scones.

Awwhh!  This is my happy place….

apricot chocolate chip scones 2jpg

Scones are quick and easy and so delish!
They throw together quickly and bake in 15 minutes.

These Apricot Chocolate Chip Scones were well  received by the sleepy eyes waking up at our house.

Slather them with a little butter or dunk them in your coffee or tea, and you may have found nirvana….  just sayin’.

Here’s the recipe.  Enjoy!

Apricot Chocolate Chip Scones

Ingredients:apricot chocolate chip scones

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 3 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • coarse raw sugar for topping (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  cut in butter with pastry blender until crumbly.
  • Stir in apricots and chocolate chips.
  • Add eggs, half and half and vanilla, and mix until soft dough forms.
  • Turn dough onto floured surface and knead lightly.
  • For dough into rectangle approximately 15 inches wide by 4 inches high.  Cut in half, then each half in half, and each half in half again until you have 8 equal sections.  Cut each section in diagonal until you have 16 triangular sections.
  • Placed on baking stones or greased baking sheets.
  • Brush top of each with a little more half and half and sprinkle with coarse raw sugar if desired.
  • Bake approximately 15 minutes.


PS  You might also like my “almost famous” Cinnamon Chip Scones.  Click here for the recipe.  They are an all-time fave!

Cheers & Hugs,


BLT with Fresh Basil Mayonnaise – A Simple Sunday Supper


We had such a wonderful weekend – starting with The Best Book Club Ever Friday evening followed by a fun Saturday with family and friends eating, shopping, brewery touring and tasting, and lake cruisin’ at #ConneautLake.

After a busy weekend away, a simple Sunday supper was in order:  Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato (BLT) Sammies with fresh corn on the cob.

basil mayo

The fresh basil mayo is what REALLY puts this sandwich over the top (thanks Joyce for teaching me this yummy twist!).   Simply mix some chopped fresh basil and a sprinkle of sea salt to mayonnaise.  You WILL NOT REGRET it!

Mediterranean Sourdough

I picked up a loaf of Mediterranean Sourdough bread at the local farm market  (#Soergels) where I also got the Yellow Heirloom Tomatoes and Corn on the Cob.

All you need do is:  Toast the bread, then generously spread with some fresh basil mayo.  Top that with lettuce of your choice, fresh sliced tomato and a couple slices of crisp smoky bacon.  Smoosh it together and ENJOY!

blt cut

Add a side of corn on the cob with a sprinkle of Old Bay Seasoning (thanks Rob for this idea, because now I don’t even want or need butter on it!) – and that completes a yummy, but simple Sunday supper.

corn on cob with old bay

I’m just guessing, but I think this dinner would also taste good ANY night of the week :).

Cheers & Hugs,