…’twas the night before Christmas 

Is not what my family reads on Christmas Eve..  grab a beverage, curl up in your favorite chair and indulge my inner storyteller as I share my story with you.

The year was 1995. I was 25 years old, working full-time and had 3 young children.  My oldest,Jason was 7, Ryan was 3 and Ali was 1.
As most you you know, I was a cosmetologist.  I worked for 20 years at the same salon.  It changed ownership 3 times, but like the toilet, I was a fixture there.  As a result, I developed a lot of great friendships with my clients.  I’m still friends with many even today. 

A lot of my clients were older and gave me some excellent advice over the years.  I honestly learned so much from these ladies.  I’ve shared This story before, and today I have another. 

Jason was at the age where he was starting to question Santa.  It was breaking my heart.  I had missed the Christmas before because I had complications with my pregnancy with ali and spent Christmas in the hospital..
I desperately wanted just 1 Christmas where all 3 of my kids believed in all of the magic of Christmas. 
I was telling my client, Eileen about my delemina.  She took my hands and said, ‘Michelle, listen to me.. you need to go buy the book The Polar Express’
Eileen never had kids of her own, but had nephews that she treated like her own. She had given them this book the year prior and said it worked magic. 
I called around to find a bookstore that had it, and there was one that was 20 miles away. It was Christmas Eve day and time and money were tight.  She made me promise that I would find a way to go get it. 

And she told me a few other things too…
I bought the book, wrapped it and put it under the tree and told the kids they could open that one goat on Christmas Eve. 

( I feel the need to add that this was years before the movie came out, which honestly, I can’t stand) 
I snuggled with all 3 of them and read them this beautiful story and put them to bed. 
Christmas morning, Jason came running down the stairs screaming..”santa was here!!!  He left his bell on my pillow!!”
I was so happy that I remember tearing up.  It was all that I wanted for Christmas, and I got it. 

A few years later,  a good friend gave my the polar express whistle. Every Christmas Eve, I read the story, my youngest niece blows the whistle at the right moments trhoiout the book. And every year, santa comes!

Moving across country has been hard, especially around the holidays.  Today is the day that my family is celebrating Christmas 1,834.3 miles away.  Through the wonders of modern technology, I will still be reading this to my family. My neices have the book and later tonight, we will all snuggle in our pajamas and FaceTime while I read this story to them 
We also throw reindeer dust. Each and every year 

Here I am sharing a glass of wine with my mom and sister!
Merry Christmas, my friends..  

May you always believe

….spicy tomato-ginger jam 

I forget where I first tasted tomato jam, but I can tell you that I instantly fell in love with it!
I’ve been searching for a recipe for a few years, and the few times I attempted to make it, it did not come out well🙁
I’ve been doing a lot of research ove the last few weeks, giving that I have SO many tomatoes! (You can see just how tall my tomatoes a in my previous post) 

I played around with a recipe yesterday and I have a winner!  I based it on This recipe, but made a few changes.
 I didn’t take too many photos because honestly, I wasn’t too optimistic after my previous failed attempts. 
It’s not a quick recipe.. but it is super easy.  
And the flavors..



spicy tomato-ginger jam 

4 pounds tomatoes, cored and peeled ( for details on how to do this see This post)

3 cups sugar 

1/2 cup lemon juice 

1 jalapeño, halved and seeded

3 pieces of crystallized ginger 

2 cloves

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 

1 tsp cinnamon 

Sea salt

Ground pepper 

Place all ingredients in food processor of high-speed blender and pulse until chopped up to the point just before puréed 

Add mixture to heavy non-reactive pan.  Bring to a boil and the reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. 

It’s starts out pretty soupy, but slowly thickens. It took my batch close to 5 hours! 

As it gets close to the end, it will start getting glossy looking and thick.  You have to stir more often as it gets close to being done.  Essentially, you’ve condensed the sugars and don’t want it to burn. 

You can store it in a jar in the fridge, or you can process it, like I did 

It’s amazeballs on crackers with cream cheese… ( these are my favorite crackers, btw… they are amped right here in Denver, they are super thin, tasty and figure-friendly!) 

It would be incredible on bruschetta with a thin later of ricotta.. and maybe some prosciutto on top.. 

And it’s a good thing that I don’t have bread right now, because this would make a most excellent grilled cheese with white cheddar cheese 😍
Maybe I’ll treat myself later this week…
The jam has what I’d call a ‘sweet heat’. Think jalapeño pepper jelly ( which I made and processed last week) 
It’s elegant enough to have on a special occasion/ holiday.
I’m going to make another batch and process from holiday gifts.  I think it’s that good! 
On another note… I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but I’d like to introduce you to our newest family member 

Meet my Jersey Girl 🐾😍❤️️

roasted tomato dip 


It’s that time of year! There’s an abundance of produce locally grown just begging to be presrved for the long winter ahead. My Grandparents always grew tomatoes.. and to carry on their legacy, I grow them every year now look how tall they are!!! I’ve been making sauce with them, canning them, and having unlimited caprese […]

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lentil & white bean stuffed delicata squash 


oh my goodness… I don’t think I could fully express just how much I love fall!   Everything is just so beautiful.  We started our day at our local farmers’ market yesterday  Just look at that color!  I scored a great deal on tomatoes So that means it’s canning time! I love the process of […]

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one-pot creamy pasta


Happy Friday, friends.  The recipe I’m sharing today is not my own.  It was in Martha Stewart’s magazine a few years back.  It was one of those pull-out recipe cards.  I must admit, I didn’t think much of it when I saw the recipe, but a snowy afternoon with limited ingredients in the house led […]

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caramel-apple sangria


as I mentioned in my last post, my oldest son and  Daughter-in-law Amanda were in town for 3 weeks. ( click Here for more info on why such a long visit ) Last fall she was telling me about a sangria recipe that she stumbled upon somewhere that required caramel apple vodka.  My son drove all around […]

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family time~corn maze style


howdy friends!  My oldest son Jason and daughter in law, Amanda Sue been visiting us from Florida for the last 3 weeks.  (you can read more about why they are here for so long in her blog as I know it)  Yesterday we decided to go to a local corn maze..  We’ve done this in the Past, but it’s […]

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vacation recap


  hello, friends!   If you are friends with me on Facebook   Or Instagram  then you know that I’ve travelled more than normal this summer.  We recently went on a cruise that was planned rather last minute. Scott and Ali planned it and I honestly knew none of the details. Which was kind of cool!   […]

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how to poach an egg 


today I tried something a little bit different..  I attempted to make a video tutorial. It  came out pretty shaky, so if you are sensitive to motion, skip the video and just look at the pretty pictures ☺️ Today is ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ at my daughter’s summer camp […]

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starbucks’ mango black tea lemonade copycat


howdy friends! Every summer I tend to find one beverage that I just cannot get enough of.  2016 is the summer of Michelle sucking down mango black tea lemonade from Starbucks. But damn.. Those drinks add up! I’ve spent the last 5 weeks driving my son back and forth to Boulder everyday for a class, […]

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