Birthday Pancakes and Icing Recipe


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birthday pancakesI’m not going to deceive you, I did not make fresh pancakes for his Monday birthday. I pulled some from the freezer from the last time I made them on a weekend and warmed them up in the toaster oven. I did make the icing from scratch though, added sprinkles and a candle, and woke him up early.

birthday in bedIcing Recipe

You should also be aware that most of my cooking is done by adding a little of this, adding a little more of that. I am absolutely estimating measurements here. Briskly mix together with a fork or whisk until well blended, approximately:

  • 1 TBS shortening
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 c milk (coconut, almond, dairy, etc.)
  • 1/2-1.5 c powdered sugar

Add powdered sugar or milk until you get the consistency you like. I made this smaller, more ‘dripping’ version from one of Heather’s recipes which gives you enough for a whole cake:

  • 3/4 c shortening
  • 1 tsp buttravan
  • 3 TBS water
  • 1 pound powdered sugar



Easy Irish Crock Pot Corned Beef & Roasted Cabbage


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I’m an Irish Girl. I love St. Patrick’s Day and especially because it generally signals the first time we really enjoy being outside for the year. I’m a little too excited about my new manicure courtesy of my college roommate who is a Jamberry consultant.

St. Patrick's Day nails


Now that the gala and the kiddo’s birthday party are done, I can fully focus on all things Irish. I may not make any Irish Cream this year, but we will definitely have corned beef and cabbage – and a bit of a family party because the corned beef easily available at the grocery is always so large!

crock pot corned beef & cabbage

(I  hope to update the pictures, but I wanted to get the recipe out there for those of you wondering what to do with corned beef).

Easy Crock Pot Corned Beef

Chop 1 onion, 1-2 carrots, 2-4 potatoes (you can also include celery or turnips – whatever veggies suit your fancy) and place in your crock pot.

Irish Veggies

Add your corned beef brisket and the seasoning packet on top of the vegetables then add 1 cup broth/stock (beef, veggie, or chicken). Some people also add Guinness at this step.

crock pot corned beef

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

roasted cabbage

Roasted Cabbage

Slice a head of cabbage and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle it with melted coconut oil and sprinkle with Celtic sea salt and red pepper flakes. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn and continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes.

I also really love the cabbage recipe I used on New Years, but this one feels just a little fancier. 

What are your favorite Irish recipes?


Havana Nights Black Tie Gala


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I was honored to be asked to be a chair for a major school fundraiser this year and head up the decorations and theme implementation. This black tie optional event raised over $73,000, approximately $10,000 more than last year! It’s such a fun event and one of the fanciest I attend, so the pressure was on. The committee voted for a Havana Nights theme, so I set out to create a night in old Havana for us.

Havana Nights bunting

The simplest thing I did was create a welcome bunting for the check-in table. Bienvenidos a Havana (Welcome to Havana!).

cuban travel posters

I also got some vintage Cuban travel posters, and mounted them on foam board to add to the ambience. You can also see some of the palms (with coffee bean bags covering the pots) in this picture.


A bongo player was also waiting in the lobby to set the mood.

cuban bar

More palms in coffee bags and vases of lemons and limes decorated the corners of the bar, with palm fronds in any empty spaces. There were palm fronds on all of the tables as well.

edible cigars

The edible cigar appetizer was the caterer’s design, but I LOVE it! Wrapped in a collard green with pepper “ash” the inside was something red and scrumptious!

cuban cigars

There were also plenty of chocolate cigars to go around.

cuban salad

If you’ve never had a roasted romaine salad, you should try it. This one had black bean and corn relish, lime tequila dressing and a flour tortilla crisp. There was a fabulous beef and chicken entree but I didn’t waste time taking photos.

Havana Night Ceterpieces

My favorite part of this was probably the centerpieces. We filled 33 cigar boxes with coffee beans and 2-3 votives per box, set them on top of palm fronds and burlap runners on white linens. It couldn’t have been more Cuban unless each seat had a mojito.

HPG feeling fancy

Things might have gotten a bit silly at some point, but it was a fabulous evening and my fiancé made me feel like a million bucks.

Pi Day Pie Fight for a Cause


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Pi Day Pie

Image from Buzzfeed – original source no longer available

Pie on Pi Day (March 14th as in ∏ = 3.14…) is nothing new. My family loves pie and obscure jokes like math jokes. Having a pie fight on Pi Day sounds like a fun new twist. A local group that has raised money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society each year through the East Central Indiana Walk MS is upping the ante this year to make a bigger donation. Their goal is to raise $1000 before participating in this year’s walk. They are raising this money by putting on a big messy pie fight.

You can donate here to help fund MS research. If you are in central Indiana, you can join in the pie fight on Pi Day at Central Christian Church in Anderson (923 Jackson Street 46016). There will be a raffle for the right to Throw the First Pie. After the pie fight, you will want to have some cash to get your chance to throw pies at the seated team members. You can find out more on Facebook or on the booster page. Be sure to use the hashtag #MandisPiDay to help them build some social momentum.

Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological disease that is important to me personally. It is an unpredictable disease that can be devastating for all even if the symptoms are different for every person. Research is needed to better understand this disorder and develop new treatments.

Mandi's Pi Day

Pi Day Pie Fight for a Cause

We still have plenty of blueberries left, so I will probably make a blueberry pie on Pi Day. I can only hope that it looks as lovely as the one pictured. What kind of pie will you serve on Pi Day?

Gluten Free Dairy Free Vasilopita: Greek New Years Cake


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I am blogging this not because I have the perfect recipe, but because I want to perfect the recipe. I only make this once a year and in 364 days I won’t recall what tweaks I want to make. (I started from this recipe, but made some variations due to my food allergies.) Vasilopita is a Greek New Year’s tradition. gluten free vasilopita HPG

• 3/4 cup of butter or dairy-free sub (room temperature)
• 1 1/2 cups of coconut palm sugar (coconut palm sugar gives a slight-carmel flavor to foods)
• 6 large eggs
• 1/2 cup of brandy or rum
• zest of 2-4 oranges (can sub some lemon zest)
• juice of 2-4 oranges
• 3-4 cups of Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Artisan Flour Blend (I used Pamela’s Products Baking and Pancake Mix, but it is not entirely dairy-free and I think the Artisan blend will give a nicer texture)
• 3/4 cup of canned coconut milk
• 1 coin wrapped in foil
• confectioner’s sugar (optional)
• grated coconut (optional)
• marmalade (optional sub lemon curd)

Pre-heat oven to 390F. Butter and flour two 9″ round cake pans.

This is one of those recipes where you are very thankful for your Kitchenaid. Cream the butter substitute, then slowly add the sugar, eggs, brandy or rum, zest, juice, milk, then flour. (I might consider adding a bit of cinnamon next time)

Divide batter between two cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes then carefully insert foil-wrapped coin parallel to where you might slice the cake. Bake for another 20 minutes. Allow cakes to fully cook (up to four hours).

Layer cakes with marmalade between the layers and on top of the cake. Decorate with powdered sugar and grated coconut. Get creative! I have also seen versions with a thick brandy icing poured over the top of the Vasilopita.

Just after midnight (or in the morning if you have little ones), the head of the household cuts the Vasilopita, wishing good fortune in the new year to all who are present. Pieces are handed out from eldest to youngest. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of Vasilopita is said to have an extra measure of good fortune in the new year.

coin in new years cake HPG

What Are You Doing New Years – New Years Eve?


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I have always loved that song and New Years Eve has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps it is the new start, the fresh page on the calendar. Over the past several years, I have integrated more and more traditions from various cultures to start off the New Year on the right foot. I think it all started when I learned about the Italian tradition of breaking dishes at midnight. I am generally limited to how many of these traditions I can integrate because I’m traveling or attending some party, so in 2014 I decided to throw a dinner party and include as many as I could.

NYE tablescape

Decorating was easy with a couple of gold fringe curtains, pre-made New Years Eve banner, gold, silver, and black glitter noisemakers, and some party hats, I picked up on at a chain party store. I kept to the color scheme of gold, silver, black, and white. I used gold pipe cleaners to make napkin rings (and a cake topper), and I set each plate with a menu and educational materials.

NYE place setting and menuThe menu included:

  • Black Eyed Pea Hummus (recipe here)
  • Red Lentil Soup – a crowd-pleasing, easy, large-batch recipe (here)
  • Rosemary Pork Chops braised in Sweet Apple Cabbage (recipe here) – While we enjoyed this recipe, my preferred pork chop recipe is below.
  • Cabbage (recipe below)
  • German Chocolate Fudge Balls (recipe here)
  • Vasilopita – Greek New Years cake (recipe here)
  • Champagne (of course)
  • Wassail

NYE menu and traditionsYou can get a word copy of the menu and education materials here: NYE lucky traditions. This year may be more low key, but I will still shop for new underwear, I will still make pork and cabbage and black eyed peas and vassilopita, I will toast at midnight, and I will break a plate or a mug.

Savory Prosperity Pork Chops

Season both sides of pork chops (preferably about an inch thick) with:

  • Sea Salt
  • Paprika
  • Allspice
  • Thyme
  • Optional Sage
  • Optional Garlic

I don’t measure things, but season well without adding too much salt. All the chops to rest while you melt bacon lard on high in a cast iron skillet (butter will also work).

Cook chops on both sides for 1-3 minutes then turn heat to medium or medium low and cover the pan. They will cook for 5-15 minutes depending on how thick your chops are and how done you like them.

You can also chop up some onion and apple and allow it to cook with the chops while they are on medium heat. You can do this simply in the juice of the meat or you can add up to a quarter cup of apple cider.

Lucky Cabbage

  1. Use a serrated knife to shred a head of green cabbage
  2. Place in collander with 1t salt to “sweat” the cabbage for 30 minutes
  3. Squeeze excess water from the cabbage with paper towels
  4. Melt 1T bacon lard in a large pan on medium heat
  5. Add 1 small onion chopped
  6. Add cabbage and cook to desired consistency
  7. Optional add red pepper flakes 1/2t

A Football Fan Giveaway from XFINITY


My love for football is well established. Sundays, I am often camped out in our family room with the big screen tuned to the Colts game and the smaller screen tuned to the Bears game. My family doesn’t mind as long as I fold the laundry while I watch. XFINITY also loves football and football fans. They sent me their ultimate game watching supplies and an extra fan pack to giveaway to one of my readers!

  • Football Fan GiveawayFootball Stress Ball because being a Bears fan hasn’t been very exciting this season. As a bonus, it is small and soft enough to throw at the tv when the refs make a bad call for those of you who might be so tempted. I haven’t tried it myself, no really, I haven’t!
  • Team Color Snacks I loved the local Just Pop In Colts Blue popcorn and you will too. XFINITY suggests keeping snacks on hand, so you never miss an important play.
  • Koozie to keep your favorite beverage cold – if you like beverages that come in bottles – because games are long
  • Remote What would you do without being able to back to see that touch down again or switch channels to check out the other games on commercials? XFINITY is giving away remotes branded with your favorite Hoosier teams: Colts, IU, and Purdue. To get one you just have to sign up for SurePrice Double Play or higher. Or just enter the contest below. You can also enter at Chaos Is Bliss.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Crockpot Applesauce Recipe


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Happy Fall Y’all! While I love Autumn, I never hurry the end of Summer with it’s sunshine and warm days. I relish football and boots and sweaters and hot drinks and leaves and especially Halloween, but I don’t look forward to the cold and snow of Winter. Decorating for Halloween started to get me in the spirit, but last weekend I really got into the spirit of the season.

picking apples

After visiting The Children’s Museum Guild’s annual haunted house, we braved the misty weather to visit Tuttle Orchard and pick some apples.  Actually, we picked a lot of apples – filling two wagons. I made an apple pie and some apple chips, and EW has been eating apples like they are going out of style, but most of the apples will be turned into applesauce which we will stock our freezer with for the year. I already have lots of blueberries in the freezer; this weekend, I also loaded it with a quarter hog and six large jars of butternut squash soup (my two squashes were so large I had to add a lot of broth and milk). I guess part of Fall is preparing for hibernation.

Crockpot Applesauce

Makes 5-6 jars which can be frozen

  1. Peel as many apples as you need to fill your crockpot (or less if you don’t want to make so much)
  2. Sprinkle in cinnamon and nutmeg – approximately 1T cinnamon and 1t nutmeg
  3. Cook on low for 10-12 hours, depending on how chunky you might want it
  4. Enjoy your applesauce warm or jar and freeze. Defrost frozen applesauce in the refrigerator.

Haunted House Decoration Ideas from The Children’s Museum


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creepy carnival sign

Of course, decorating for Christmas is always special and full of magic and memories, but decorating for Halloween is probably my second favorite. Not everyone wants a skeleton hanging from their chandelier, but I love it! I was pretty excited to find some easy crafts that anyone could use to decorate their own home or a haunted house when previewing The Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st Annual Haunted House: Creepy Carnival. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis does such a great job decorating for holidays, but many of their fabulous decorations would be difficult to reproduce.

spooky light table clothes

I may have to borrow the idea of hanging a spooky table cloth over lights for my family room. I really like the look of this one, but I like the rough edges on the ones the Museum Guild Witches used. pool noodle haunted house maze

What can’t you do with pool noodles? Hang several from the ceiling and you have a disorienting maze to push through.

Creepy Carnival

“Creepy Carnival is the perfect combination of creepy and colorful. We are excited about staying true to an ‘old time’ authentic carnival and offering a thrilling and chilling experience for children of all ages,” said Haunted House Head Witch Kristin Crisp. There are three ways to enjoy the Creep Carnival:

  1. IPL’s LIghts-On Hours for children who scare easily
  2. Defender Direct’s Frightening Hours with the lights off for children who dare to be scared
  3. William’s Comfort Air’s Xtreme Scream late nights for teens, adult, and brave tweens.

creepy carnival photo booth

Get times and ticket information here. Don’t forget to check out Bat Encounter when visiting the museum. You might want to sign up for the Black Hat Bash or Black Hat Dash too. The Children’s Museum is offering so many ways to get your kids in on the fun and frights of Halloween.


My family and I were invited to a free preview of The Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st Annual Haunted House.

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Red, White, and Blueberry Recipes


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I love blueberries. Every year, we visit Driving Wind Blueberry Farm and pick enough blueberries to fill our freezer for the year.

blueberry farm

The ability to sneak a few in their mouth rather than the bucket helps keep the kiddos from getting distracted.

boy picking blueberries

Since July is peak blueberry season, the Fourth of July is often a great day for picking.

toddler picking blueberries

We had to Driving Wind first thing in the morning and pick berries until we are hot, sweaty, and we have filled several buckets. While I freeze a lot of berries, I also like to use a lot of them fresh. It is tradition to make Red, White, and Blue Burgers. The recipe was originally inspired by this one at Diets In Review, but I have made some slight alterations.


Red White and Blueberry burgers on lettuce

Red, White, and Blue Burgers

  • Cut the top off a couple of red peppers, remove the seeds, and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees.
  • While that is cooking, make burgers in a cast iron skillet. Use whatever spice mixture you prefer. I like garlic, onion powder, cumin, and a pinch of ginger.
  • Simmer blueberries in a sauce pan over medium heat until they start to pop and juices bubble. You can have plain blueberry sauce without adding anything else, thicken it with corn starch, add a bit of sugar or honey, or make the blueberry balsamic reduction sauce. The blueberry balsamic reduction sauce is wonderful, but I tried it without the vinegar when detoxing from potential allergens. Rather than the truvia suggested at Diets In Review, we use either honey or organic coconut palm sugar. For six ounces of blueberries, add up to a Tablespoon of sweetener, and 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar.
  • When the red peppers are roasted, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool until you can cut them into slices large enough for the burger to fit inside.

red pepper and knife

  • Rather than feta, I use goat cheese, which doesn’t bother my dairy allergy. One way to control the crumbles is to put them in a red pepper slice and put the burger on top.
  • I wrap mine in lettuce, but toast or buns will also work well.
  • When it is all constructed, drizzle the blueberry sauce on top and enjoy!

It is a bit labor intensive for burgers, but they are scrumptious and such a great patriotic dish. I serve it with home made fries and whatever other vegetable we happen to have on hand.

HPG Blueberry Salsa

Later in the day, we might snack on blueberry salsa and tortilla chips or white bean Beanitos (my personal favorite). Blueberry salsa is made with chopped blueberries, red pepper, onion, poblano pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, and sea salt.


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