Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baked Stuffed Shrimp

Upon joining the Dustin family several years ago, I became privy to the famous family recipe for Baked Stuffed Shrimp.  My father-in-law, Mark, is the man in charge during the holidays.  The whole process of making the shrimp takes several days, but it is SO worth it.  Everyone looks forward to enjoying them during Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Here are a few pictures to document the process.  Joe helped out with shelling and de-veining the JUMBO shrimp this year.  They are seriously huge.

Shrimp ears??

Like father, like son....These two couldn't be more alike. 

All done with step 1.

The shrimp shells go into the pot to simmer for hours with madeira wine, garlic, bay leaves,and lots of other yummy super secret stuff!  After hours of simmering, the mixture is strained.  Then, the liquid is stirred with a Ritz cracker mixture to complete the filling.   

Eacb shrimp is individually piped with the filling.  Then, they are placed "stuffing side down" on a baking sheet.  They can be refrigerated until they are ready to be baked. 

Yum!  As always...they were absolutely perfect.  Can't wait until the next holiday to enjoy them again!   Thanks, Mark, for all of your hard work.  I appreciate every bite!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 Cookie Extravaganza

      Yum, yum, yum....I am really glad my daily attire is yoga pants or leggings, because I'm pretty sure my jeans would be tight if I had to wear them.  On Sunday, I had a fun group of ladies over for my very first Christmas Cookie Exchange.  There were no boys allowed, and JB will tell you that I sequestered him to his office for the duration of the party.   It's more fun that way! 
      Everyone brought 6 dozen cookies or bars to swap and one dozen to sample at the party.  They are all delish, and I can't won't stop eating them.  So, let's take a look at some of the fabulous cookies and other yummy desserts everyone made.  (I apologize.  I didn't get a picture of every kind of cookie.  There was also peppermint bark, Frosted Brownies with PB Crispies, and Kiffles.)

Double Chocolate Espresso

Cream Cheese Almond
Turtle Tassies

Soft Molasses
Peppermint Kiss

Raspberry Jam Slices
Melting Snowmen

     There was lots of mingling and catching up with friends and family I don't get to see often.   In all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it was really nice to just sit and catch up with everyone. 

Here is a picture of my college girlfriends and sorority sisters, Ang and Shelly. 
Man, were we trouble in college together.  Ahhh...the stories I could tell!
These towels tell it all.  Thanks, Ang!

Chatting in the family room
Sisters!  Oh, they're both going to kill me for this picture!
Quality Control Testing...of course!
Everyone went home with a party favor and a recipe book full of all of the delicious goodies.

       Thank you everyone for coming!  So, I've had several friends ask me about the cookie exchange and what my favorite cookie was.  I just can't decide.  So, here's my question:  What is your all-time favorite Christmas cookie?  Leave your answer in the comment section!

     I put most of my cookies in the freezer, and I plan on bringing them up to Boston next week for Christmas to share.  SO, those of you in Boston...get your stretchy pants ready! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Heart

     What a busy and eventful weekend!  For those of you who attended my first annual (yup, I'll do it again!) Christmas Cookie Exchange yesterday, I hope that you've all survived your sugar comas. I had a cookie for breakfast this morning.  Anyone else??  Check back tomorrow for pictures and details about our fun, sugar-filled afternoon!

      As for me, I've been lounging around on the couch this morning feeling so thankful and happy about my life right now.  It was difficult to leave my friends, co-workers, students, and godbabies back in Raleigh when we moved back here.  But, as I sit here this morning,  I am 100% positive that it was the right choice for us.  Although it's great to be here for life's big "events" (holidays, birthdays, etc), I love being able to share in the little things.  Here are just a few of those "moments" from the past few weeks that make me smile:
  • Dropping in to have dinner with my parents for "no reason"
  • An impromptu trip into NYC to meet old friends for dinner
  • Baking Christmas cookies in my beautiful kitchen with Michael Buble's Christmas album blasting in the background
  • Spending a Saturday morning hiking with my hubby and then having a yummy breakfast at a real New Jersey diner  (I know you're jealous of that last part, M.B.)
  • Getting to be "present" for really exciting and wonderful life-changing news from a special friend
  • Spending the morning grocery shopping and chatting with my sista...I know this doesn't sound all that exciting, but it's much more fun to do with her!  By the way, look how pretty she is:

          Lots to be thankful and happy about this holiday season!

         In other news, for those of you who haven't heard....Tomorrow, I will be approved as a long-term Maternity Leave substitute for a 2nd grade teacher.  I start on January 16th and will teach for the remainder of the school year.  I'm so excited to get back in the classroom and have teaching be a part of my daily life again.
        So, I'm anyone actually reading this blog??  I've only gotten one comment, and it's from a girl I know only through the "blog world".  I'm so glad that you commented, Chelsea, but where are my friends and family??  Leave a comment at the bottom of the post so that I know you were here.  Make sure you become a follower too, by clicking Follow at the top of the screen.  Have a merry Monday!

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Christmas Card....FAIL.

    I have been seeing all of these cute examples of Christmas photo cards on different websites.  So, we tried to be kind of creative when taking our Christmas picture this year.  Unfortunately, our sign was too small and the wind was brutal and unforgiving.  This is only one bad example of how the photoshoot went.  We actually tried it many, many, many more times.  And each time was worse than the last, so we gave up.
     Quick, set the timer and run...and try not to trip over the rocks!'s all tangled up!
     Just pretend to smile and be happy.
     Grrr...this was a stupid idea.
     It's flying away!
    Merry Christmas!

    To all of our friends and family, you will not be receiving this lovely sequence in the mail this year.  We will have to come up with a plan B.  It may not arrive until after Christmas.  In the meantime, enjoy these outtakes.

    Monday, December 5, 2011


    Does anyone else have a Pinterest problem??  Since I have all of this free time on my hands, I've been doing lots of crafting and cooking projects I've found on Pinterest.  Why did it take so long for someone to invent this?  It's genius!

    Luckily, I have some friends who are equally as obsessed...or more so than me.  This makes for fun Friday craft afternoons.  This week, I started a holiday wreath I had pinned earlier.  I thought I might give it as a gift, but now that it's hanging on our front door I think I'll keep it for myself.  It was pretty easy to create, but as with most of my projects, it was pretty time consuming and tedious.  Here is what it looked like about 1/2 way through.  It was at this point that I decided I would probably not give it as a gift!

    But, after a little haircut and some sparkly things, I think it looks much better.  It is HUGE, and definitely fills up the whole door.

    What holiday crafts have you created from Pinterest?  Tomorrow, you'll see my next project!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011


    Hello friends!  As many of you know, JoeBoston and I made the big move back to New Jersey in June.  We loved living in Raleigh, North Carolina for the past 5 years but were feeling the "pull" to be closer to family and friends back home.  When we got to NJ in June, we settled into the "Hotel Pahuta" where the accomodations were fabulous---lots of pooltime and catching up with family.  We spent several months in a grueling house-hunting frenzy.  With the help of my parents, two realtors, and close to 100 showings, we finally settled on our dream home on August 8th, 2011. 

    I can't believe that we have been in the house for almost 5 months already.  Many friends from Raleigh (and other places in the world) have been asking for pictures of our new home.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get a teaching job yet, and I'm looking for a creative outlet.  After contemplating starting a blog, I'm taking the leap!  I hope you'll follow along on our journey as we continue to make our house a home and hopefully expand our family in the future.