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Give Cookies in a Jar!

belladecemberCookies are a great gift for acquaintances and coworkers. However, during the holidays, it is easy to be overwhelmed by cookies. Give them the gift of Cookies in a Jar! They can save your cookies for later and make them with their families. Here are a few of our favorite combinations from www.followinginmyshoes.com

Buttered Toffee Oatmeal Cookies
1 Box White or Vanilla Cake Mix
⅔ Cup Toffee Bits
1 Cup Rolled Oats

Empty cake mix into a clean, wide-mouth canning jar, lightly packing the mix down.
Add the toffee bits in an even layer on top of the cake mix.
Next, carefully add the rolled oats.
Seal with the lid.

Recipe Card:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Using a stand mixer, combine the cake mix, 2 eggs and ½ cup very soft butter.
Gently mix in the toffee bits.
Add the oats and stir slowly (the dough will be quite thick).
Using two small spoons, measure out and shape each cookie into a ball.
Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 8-9 minutes or until bottom edges are golden brown.
Remove and cool cookies on a wire rack.
Store in an air-tight container.

Hot Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

1 Box Devil’s Food Cake Mix
½ Cup Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Mini Marshmallows

Pour the cake mix into a clean and dry wide-mouth canning jar, gently packing the mix down.
Next, add the mini chocolate chips in an even layer on top of the cake mix.
Pack the mini marshmallows into a snack-sized ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing the bag.
Fold the bag and add it to the jar.
Seal with the lid.

Recipe Card:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Empty the cake mix into a mixing bowl and add 2 eggs and 1/3 cup oil.
Stir (or mix with a mixer) until blended.
Add the mini chocolate chips.
Using two small spoons, measure out and shape each cookie into a small ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Add three mini marshmallows to the top of each cookie, pushing them lightly into the raw dough.
Bake for 8-9 minutes. Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Store in an air-tight container; separate cookie layers with wax paper to avoid sticking.


Fudge Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

1 box Devil’s Food Cake Mix
1 Cup Crushed Peppermint or Candy Canes 

Pour the cake mix into a clean and dry wide-mouth canning jar, very lightly packing the mix down.
Add the crushed peppermint in an even layer on top of the cake mix.
Seal with the lid.

Recipe Card:
Mix the cake mix, 2 eggs, and 1/3 cup oil.
Add the crushed peppermint and blend until well mixed.
Using two small spoons, measure and shape each cookie into a ball.
Drop the cookie into bowl of powdered sugar (1-2 cups) and lightly toss or roll to coat.
Remove and place each cookie on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until wide cracks/ridges form on the top of each cookie.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing the cookies to a wire rack.
Store in an air-tight container.

Visit www.followinginmyshoes.com for more recipes and free printable recipe cards!

masonjarIf putting the cookie mix together is too much work, try one of many delicious cookie mixes from the Mason Jar Cookie Company! You can even personalize it by creating your own recipe—choose the base mix, the add-ons, and give it a name! They also offer brownie, pancake and granola mixes. Go to www.masonjarcookiecompany.com to purchase your favorites!

Ten Steps for Holiday Happiness

Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday season is in full swing! Don’t panic! Dr. Jude Miller Burke has some words of wisdom for the busiest time of the year. The following tips are from over 100 business owners, executives and mothers to help you reduce stress and increase well-being during the holiday season:

  1. Decide with your partner/spouse what your family values are for holiday celebrations. Create a detailed, but flexible, schedule including who is driving children to their different events — and don’t let others’ expectations determine what you do. 
  2. Be aware of others’ expectations for you at work, home, or in the community. Make an active decision to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and have a ‘stop doing’ list. It is not your job alone to ensure the employees are recognized or the family has the best holiday ever. 
  3. Self-made businesswomen organize and delegate. Gift shopping, wrapping, cooking, entertaining all require extra time. Consider buying one item in different colors for employees or the same top in various sizes for sisters. Buy the most difficult presents now and start early to avoid the holiday rush. Check items off a master list and have one of your children help wrap gifts.
  4. Revisit the schedule with the whole family to ensure everyone knows what the expectations are. Often forgotten tasks include haircuts, party clothing, holiday cards, flowers, hostess gifts, school concerts, and meal planning. Creatively use help from kids, neighbors, and others to accomplish all of your holiday tasks.
  5. Find small ways to do what YOU enjoy every day. Successful women are assertive, and in spite of guilt, set limits to preserve their energy. If you have three small children at home, it may not be the best year to plan the holiday work gathering. It may be better for you to keep going to your dance class to keep your energy level high. 
  6. Practice mindfulness – be 100 percent wherever you are, work or home, with no interruptions. The holiday season will come and nothing is going to stop it. Worrying about holiday home tasks while at work or vice versa only increases your stress. Breathe deeply and be present wherever you are and this will decrease your stress. And, remember sometimes an “I’m sorry, Johnny is ill and we can’t make it” is all you can do. Take control of what you choose to be stressed about.
  7. Keep small problems from becoming bigger ones. Problems will inevitably arise and complicate things even further. Communicate well at work with your supervisor and your employees. Irritability and conflict seem to be inherent during these busy months, so try to accept this and using humor to diffuse tension. At home give each child time alone before bedtime to check in on their emotions; this will ward off problems later.
  8. Reduce stress by creating a holiday budget to live by. Spending money on items you can’t afford significantly increases your stress. You may not be able to save money during the holidays, but you can live beneath your means.
  9. bellaweb1Have your own holiday support system. Agree with a couple of friends to meet for coffee and discuss how you want to handle holiday expectations. And, then meet to discuss your progress.
  10. Highly successful women are kind and generous with themselves. Of course, the holidays are never perfect, but give yourself credit for accomplishing a great deal. If possible, schedule a quiet evening in or out with your spouse or the whole family to catch up with one another when this season ends. And have takeout for dinner!

Pick up our December issue of Bella Magazine for more Holiday Survival Tips!

Holiday Gifts: The Perfect Book

Giving the gift of literature this holiday season? Good for you! Here are some of our favorites for the book lover in your life:

Helen86_Final Cover.inddHelen on 86th Street and Other Stories by Wendi Kaufman: This compilation of short stories is perfect for women of all ages. The trials faced by each character will make you laugh on one page and cry on the next. Although some of the circumstances are very dark, they are very relatable in the sense that we have all faced challenges with family, relationships, and friendships. Kaufman writes intimately of daughters, mothers, and lovers, of first loves and difficult truths. This is a wonderful gift for your adult daughter, mother, or friend.

Chasing the Sun by Natalia Sylvester is set against the backdrop of political turmoil in 1992. Fans of Gone Girl will be on the edge of their seats with this suspenseful novel about a man whose wife is kidnapped just as their marriage is falling apart. This is a great gift for the mystery lover in your life and would also be an excellent choice for your book club!

The Vines is the most recent horror thirller by best-selling author, Christopher Rice. It focuses on the dark history of Spring House, a restored plantation mansion on the outskirts of New Orleans. The past is unearthed when the current owner attempts suicide in the gazebo and awakens forces in the ground below. Perfect for the reader whose bookshelf is filled with vampires, ghosts, and other monsters!

textsTexts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg is full of hilariously imagined text conversations from classic and modern literary figures such as Scarlett O’Hara and Jessica Wakefield. Glimpse into re-imagined conversations between Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre, and texts from Daisy Buchanan! This is a unique gift for the classic literature fan on your list– a great coffee table book that is sure to spark conversations each time it is opened.    

Biscuit for Your Thoughts presents an aphorism every dog owner (past or present) will understand, paired with a lovable and outrageously funny pet portrait by NYC photographer, Andrew Darlow. Buy this book for your own home, and take in the wisdom that dogs have “cultivated over thousands of years” to help humans relax and live the good life!  


Merry and Bright Holidays!

It’s time to bring a dash of Christmas cheer to every nook and cranny in the house. This season take on a new look with the unexpected hot pink, lime green and brilliant blue.   This color scheme is bound to create a stir and light up the joy of the season with family and friends. Here are the supplies needed and instructions for canvas. For Garland instructions go to www.lizbushong.com

supplies 1Canvas Supplies: 
1-16 x 20 inch primed canvas
1-16 x 9 inch wooden cut-out tree
1-package 35 mini clear lights
1- Star ornament for tree top     
18- Mini Styrofoam-glitter ornaments cut in half for wooden tree
1-tube E-6000
3 yards lime green small pom-pom garland and rickrack
Acrylic paint- Folk Art- Wicker White, Light Peony, Metallic Blue Pearl, Yellow Citron
step 3Martha Stewart Crafts- Glitter in Tourmaline, Sour Apple, and Blue Raspberry
Paint brushes- medium and small with fine point for lettering
Number 2pencil
Stencils- lettering for Merry and Bright
3 x 2 inch small wooden block with flat picture hanger
White electrical tape-optional
Scissors, Awl, Staple Gun

step 4Paint canvas with Light Peony, let dry.
Paint wooden tree cutout- Folk Art Wicker White, let dry.
Lightly trace wood tree cutout on center front of canvas with pencil.        
Trace or freehand lettering -Merry and Bright as shown with pencil.
With small tip paint -brush, paint every other letter with colors as shown.
Paint one letter color at a time, while paint is wet, sprinkle with same color of glitter, then shake off. Repeat with all paint colors. Allow to dry.
garland finish 3Position wooden tree cutout on traced front of canvas. Using the awl, poke opening holes through the canvas in the body of the wooden tree cutout openings. With E-6000 adhesive, glue tree to canvas.
Turn canvas over and using staple gun, staple tree from the backside of canvas.
108Cut a small opening in the canvas front above the tree point for a single light to shine through.
On the back of the canvas, starting at the top of the tree, poke mini lights into the canvas tree openings. To keep lights in position, tape wires with white electrical tape to hold on the backside of the canvas if desired. I only taped the top light with the tape, and then carefully stapled the lights to the tree from the backside of the canvas being sure not to catch the wire in the staple. End of lights should be at bottom of canvas. This will plug into an extension cord and hidden by the mantel garland.
On front of canvas, using E-6000 attach star ornament to top of tree, rick rack around edges of white tree, and pom-pom garland around perimeter of canvas.
Attach wooden block with picture hanger to the upper back of canvas with nails.
Cut Styrofoam mini glitter ornaments in half and glue to front of tree as desired, attach the ornament top onto the ornaments to complete the look.


A couple of stockings that aspire to hang on this cute mantel will complete the look. This Christmas make a statement, make it sassy and make it yours.   May your Christmas be Merry and Bright!



The Perfect Holiday Cookie


Thanksgiving is (almost) over! For those of us relaxing while our family sleeps off their turkey-coma, it is hard not to start thinking about the holidays. Many of our fondest childhood memories consist of spending time with friends and family, baking delicious holiday cookies and eyeing the beautifully wrapped presents under the tree.

Embrace nostalgia and create the perfect holiday cookie that tastes delicious and is easy to decorate. Instead of displaying a gingerbread house, cut sugar cookies using some snowman, tree and star cookie cutters to set up a festive and tasty holiday scene. Scatter some coconut shavings or crinkled strips of paper for snow and place holiday candies behind the cookies, so they stand up all night long.

When making holiday cookies, remember to:
* Cream the butter and vanilla together. Doing this beforehand will encapsulate the vanilla and prevent flavor loss.
* Chill the dough in the fridge before shaping it. This will make for a softer, moister cookie that is less likely to spread when baking.
* Remove cookies from the oven a few minutes early, as they will continue to cook on the sheet.
* Let the cookies cool completely before you begin to ice them.

Try this recipe to make three dozen perfect holiday cookies, using vanilla and peppermint extracts to provide a completely unique flavor your entire family will enjoy. 

Classic Holiday Sugar Cookies                                                                                            

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar (purchase at store or process granulated sugar for about 20 seconds in a food processor)
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (for dusting work surface)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for dusting work surface)

Position oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line two large, heavy light-colored baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt until blended; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, cream, vanilla and peppermint extracts; beat with a handheld mixer on medium speed until fluffy, which should take about two minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients one half at a time.
Divide dough into two even pieces, then press each piece into a disk shape. Wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Dough should be cool and firm but easy to work with.  
In a small bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar and flour until blended; set aside. Working with one piece of dough at a time, place on a clean, dusted surface. Roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and transfer with a thin offset metal spatula to prepared cookie sheets. For even baking, do not overcrowd cookies. Gather remaining dough, cover with plastic and chill. Continue with second chilled dough.
For best results, bake one sheet pan at a time until done, which should take about 10 minutes; remove and place cookies on wire racks to cool. Decorate and store in an airtight container.

Peppermint Glaze and Peppermint Piping Icing

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon meringue powder
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Peppermint Extract (may substitute with Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract)
Variety gel food colors

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and meringue powder. Add water and peppermint extract, stir until smooth. Glaze cookies in desired colors and set aside to dry before piping. For the piping icing, remake the glaze recipe and add additional confectioners’ sugar, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Divide icing into small bowls; add desired gel colors. Select pastry tips, prepare pastry bags and creatively pipe icing onto glazed cookies.

Macarons: The Trendy Dessert

Silpat_Macaron Kit open copyMacarons are French-based, delightful confections that add personality to any party. They come in a variety of flavors. The most common include raspberry, vanilla, lemon, coconut, and chocolate. However, recipes exist to create hundreds of combinations.

Consisting of two meringue-based layers stuffed with a jam, cream, or ganache, these desserts are in high demand. In their original form, macarons are gluten-free. For those of us not gifted in the kitchen, many bakeries and boutiques sell them year-round. They are also becoming easier to find in the freezer aisles of grocery stores.

With a little food coloring, you can make these dainty creations complement your decor. They also make an excellent gift (whether you buy them or spend time making them yourself). Replace messy cupcakes with macarons this year. Your guests will appreciate how easy they are to consume without leaving crumbs everywhere and you will love the tasteful contribution they make to the appearance of your party.
If you are feeling adventurous, try this recipe, from Chef Francois Payard, for a vanilla macaron shell with vanilla ganache:

Vanilla Shells:
2000 grams sugar
600 grams water
650 grams egg whites
2250 grams confectioners sugar
2000 grams almond powder
800 grams egg whites

Combine confectioners sugar, almond powder, egg whites and mix with a paddle attachment.
In a separate bowl, begin to whip egg whites on the 2nd speed. After, bring sugar and water to boil until mixture reaches 121C. Increase the speed on the egg whites to the 4th speed for 1-2 minutes.
Pour sugar water mixture over the egg whites and continue to mix on the 4th speed for 6 minutes (50-60C after mixing).
Once the second mixture has reached 50C, add the first mixture to it. Fully combine mixture by hand for semi firm/fluffy texture.
Pipe out macarons and let them sit out so skin forms on top.
Preheat oven to 180C, put macarons in the oven to bake and drop the temperature to 148C for 12 minutes.
Remove and let cool.


Vanilla Ganache
9 ounces white chocolate, chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, scraped

Place the white chocolate in a metal bowl.
Bring the heavy cream and vanilla to a boil
Pour hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth
Let ganache cool for at least two hours or overnight


To finish macarons:
Pipe ganache onto the flat side of one of she shells.
Place a second shell, flat side down, on top like a sandwich.


Visit www.mrmacaron.com for more recipes and stay tuned to our Facebook page for your chance to win a Silpat Macaron Kit!

The Breast Choice

bellaweb1Any cancer sucks. Breast cancer doesn’t cause any more heart ache, pain, or agony than lung, bone, skin or any other cancer. Breast cancer just happens to cause a change in the two things that as women we value a lot. A whole lot. Our boobs and our hair.

As I’ve traveled this breast cancer journey there are two questions that have been asked more than any other. “Are you getting reconstruction?” and “What are you going to do with your hair?” For the past year the only reply I had that made sense was, “I have no idea”. At the time it worked for both questions; now I have a little more experience and can, hopefully, provide a little advice for anyone just starting out on this road. Just remember – these are YOUR decisions and the only opinion that matters is yours and your doctor’s.

I’ll start with the hair. Not everyone going through breast cancer needs chemotherapy so not everyone loses their hair. Everyone diagnosed with cancer, however, thinks about their hair from the beginning. For those of us who did have chemotherapy we view our hair differently. “It’s only hair” or “it’ll grow back” are comments that makes me want to wash a mouth out with soap and possibly stab someone with an ice pick. I also now have less patience for anyone having a bad hair day. It’s a hair day so it’s all good. In the grand scheme of life versus death, yes it’s only hair but as women most of us aren’t excited about going bald. When you’re already sick, having a good hair day means a lot.

If I had a dollar for every person who asked me what I was going “to do about my hair” I’d be rich or at least be able to pay for a really great haircut and a really good bottle of wine. I’ve always been tempted to answer back with, “I don’t know, what are you going to do about your hair?” Until hair actually grows back no one knows what they will do with it so please don’t ask. Just pile on the compliments and leave it at that. No matter what a bald head looks like tell her it’s beautiful.

The question of reconstruction is a little touchier. I didn’t want to lose my breasts and I still miss them. They weren’t perfect but they were mine and I liked them. I knew that I wanted some type of reconstruction so I researched my options, talked to friends who had already went through it, met with more than one plastic surgeon and finally made a decision that worked for me. I’m very lucky that the people around me gave me the space to explore options and make my own decision. I’m also thankful that my perfect plastic surgeon, Dr. Kurtis Moyer (aka Dr. Gorgeous) has been upfront with me every step of the way and gave me tough love when I was whining and kept me focused on the big picture. Albeit not big boobs, but boobs I can live with.

Having reconstruction is not like having augmentation so take the time to make the right decision for you. Not for your husband, partner, family or doctor. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it or at least put it off until you are sure. I know that putting it off isn’t easy. If you’re like me you want to get through and get to the other side. This is a decision you’ll live with forever (you don’t want to go through this more than once). We’re lucky that right here in Roanoke we have a wide range of options such as implants, TRAM/DIEP (gut fat), latissimus dorsi (back fat), gluteal free (butt fat) or TUG (thigh fat) flaps. Just remember that regardless of the type of reconstruction, your breasts will never be the same. Ever.

I wanted so badly to get everything done as soon as possible so I know that waiting is no fun. But sometimes it’s better to wait. You may need to wait until you’ve finished with chemo or radiation, until pathology reports are back or until a time when your mind and body starts to recover from the trauma of diagnosis and surgery. Your boobs – your decision – make your best breast decision for you.

Tara Nepper is a one-year cancer survivor, wife, mother of four, nana to three and happy to be an advocate for self-examinations, enjoys raising funds for research and is getting used to life after cancer.

Hope and Hot Chocolate

gshThe holidays are an exciting time for many of us. However, if you are living with the grief of losing a loved one, it can be very difficult to actively participate in the festivities.

Good Samaritan Hospice provides many programs to help people experiencing loss year round. Their upcoming program, Hope and Hot Chocolate, emphasizes ways to identify and meet your own emotional needs while enjoying the meaning and spirit of the holiday season. Participants will work with grief/loss professionals and discuss topics like “normal” grief, strategies for balancing their needs with the demands of others, and ways to honor loved ones during the holidays. 

It is important to remember that you are not alone. These programs will remind you that you have permission to avoid mailing holiday cards to everyone this year. You have every right to miss events or leave early. In fact, contrary to what you may be told by friends and family, taking time to understand and experience your grief may be better for you in the long run.

Everett Collins, has participated in several of the programs offered by Good Samaritan Hospice since his wife passed away. Information they provide, like the Mourner’s Bill of Rights, has been imperative to helping him understand his grief— and it has helped him obtain the support he needs from those closest to him.

“I made a copy of the Mourner’s Bill of Rights for my friends and family. People think you should be like you were before and when you aren’t, it makes you feel crazy,” he explains. “This information helps them understand what you are going through.”

He adds that the purpose of these meetings is not to give people closure. It is to give them a better understanding of why they feel the way that they do.

The Hope and Hot Chocolate program will take place on Monday, December 1 at 6 p.m. at the Good Samaritan Hospice Office. The program is free, but pre-registration is required because seating is limited.

There are many additional groups, organized by Good Samaritan Hospice, that meet year-round to offer a safe and compassionate environment in which bereaved adults can talk to others dealing with loss and work towards a better understanding of their grief. For more information and to register, please contact Sandra Phillips at 540-776-0198, or visit www.goodsamhospice.org.