Wednesday, December 30, 2009



Azario’s Institute of Beauty

Yours truly having a microcurrent facial

It’s time to renew our bodies, minds and spirits after a long holiday season. My bingeing season usually extends from Halloween to New Years Day. I just know I’m not alone in my extravagances. There are parties, meetings, special recipes to try, and a whole host of reasons why I should put off my diet till the new year. I never feel guilty at this time of year either, since I know the new year is always just around the corner. It’s those other months when I binge, like June or July, that bring on the real guilt.

Here are a few ways to get a fresh start on the new year. My first suggestion would be to visit a beauty school. Prices are usually a lot cheaper than going to an actual salon, and most of the time you have the advantage of having the student as well as the person training her at your disposal. Most towns have at least one beauty school. You may want to check with friends to see which one they recommend.

I chose to visit Azario Institute of Beauty, an esthetic and cosmetology school on Starkey Road.

Zena Azar, Owner/Educator

I became acquainted with Azario when my friend, Michelle Anderson, told me she was attending the school to become an esthetician.


Since then, I have sampled some very unusual yet gratifying treatments such as microcurrent facial and microdermabrasion.

Antonia getting microdermabrasion equipment ready

The entire staff at Azario are pleasant and it is a treat to try their treatments without paying an arm and a leg to do it.

Cindy always greets me with a smile

I know I’ll be coming here for several months or at least until Azario restores me to my pre-Halloween look; or maybe I’ll go a few months (or decades) longer and see if I can return to looking like a 20-year-old!

On my next post, I’ll take you to another interesting place which is guaranteed to get you on the right track for the new year. We will go to Carter Athletic Pool where you will enjoy a lovely aquatic workout!

Azario Institute of Beauty is located at 4720 Starkey Road. Hours of operation are: Monday and Wednesday 10 AM to 10 PM and Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 10 PM.

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Monday, December 28, 2009



Pretzel cookies

Have you ever tried making pretzel cookies? There are only three ingredients. Snap pretzels, hug chocolate kisses and m@m’s. I couldn’t find the hug chocolates so used the plain chocolate and also some caramel 5chocolate kisses.

You just assemble the snaps on a cookie sheet, place the kisses on top and put in the oven until the chocolate melts. Just takes a few minutes at 350. When the chocolate is only slightly melted, take from oven and push an m@ m into the chocolate.

Simple ingredients

I love the taste of salt and chocolate together. I made several batches of these cookies to give as gifts to friends. I missed cookie making and some other holiday traditions the week before Christmas because of the huge snowfall we had here in Roanoke so I ‘m making up for it now.

On my next posting, I will fill you in on some wonderful ways to help get rid of the guilt you are probably feeling if you are making cookies like these.

Newly created doll (click picture of doll to view at Etsy shop)

Oh, and how do you like the new doll I created ? Can anyone think of a good name for her? I’ll be giving a doll and sculpture class this summer if I ever get my Tuscany Suite remodeled. More on that in a future post.

Closeup of unnamed doll

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Monday, December 21, 2009



Our blue-eyed snowman built by Zack Printz and Marcy Conner

In times past, our Christmas tree base and the bar area where it is placed was overloaded with literally dozens of gifts for each and every member of our family. It took a very long time for all of us to open the gifts. Mostly, everyone seemed to like what they got but after awhile, we decided that we were all being too extravagant and that in reality, our family Christmas should be mainly for the children. We continue to buy for them but as for the adults…well, we now are having a lot more fun with Christmas than ever before and saving money as well. To be honest, it is not so much the saving of money involved. Our family is now to the point that if we want something, we buy it for ourselves during the year. Nevertheless, For the last ten years we have played a game called, “Naughty Santa.”

Here are the rules. l. We choose a theme for the year. This year it is gourmet kitchen or gourmet food items. Other years we have chosen to give games, sport or health items. 2. Then we set a price. Usually it is around $40. We shop for our gift and bring it to Woodloft, my home, on Christmas Eve. It is wrapped and placed near the Christmas tree. 3. The sales slip must be included in case a return is needed. 4. You must spend the entire agreed upon amount. If the gift costs less, you must include cash or a smaller gift to add up to the price.

Naughty Santa gifts with numbers

We then place a number on the package. The numbers are kept in a beaded Santa box.

Beaded Santa box

We take turns drawing for numbers. Each person starting with number 1, selects the package correlating to their number. The first person must open that gift. When the person with the number 2 is up, he may go straight to the package numbered 2 or steal the gift number 1 has already opened. Next it is number 3’s turn. He may choose to open package number 3 or steal gifts 1 or 2. This goes on until all the gifts have been opened. The person with the last number now has the choice of taking anything he wants from the entire array of opened gifts or choose the number 12 gift. We then go back to number 1, since number 1 only had 1 choice, and allow number 1 to choose anything. So, if you draw number 1, you have it made. Then, at the end, we ask if anyone would like to trade gifts. Those raising their hands may or may not choose to trade. Your family may choose to set the price for gifts higher. I think it would become much more competitive if the price were, let’s say $100 or more.

Gift with number

This looks like a lot of rules, but really it is quite simple. We have had some very funny Naughty Santa nights. One year, everyone seemed to be arriving with the same size package. The theme that year was for a health product. Well, there were 5 back massagers opened that evening. Every time someone would open another one, we would burst out laughing. New rule after that was that we were not allowed to buy from the center aisles of Walmart!

Year of the Naughty Santa Massage Mats

Golf organizer Darrell brought and received as his gift.

Sometimes people end up with the gift they brought so it is very important to like what you purchase.

We play Naughty Santa after dinner and after the children have already opened their gifts, that way they have something to do while the adults play their game.

The tree at Woodloft is decorated with hand made and bought items. The most precious to me are the ones the children have made either at home or school for me.

Kelli’s ornament

I wonder if the teacher who helped Kelli create this ornament realizes how much it has meant to me through the years?

Alli’s picture ornament

Some items I cannot bear to throw away, like the Mrs. Claus cookie bell which is broken. She doesn’t ring anymore but she still invokes a memory of cookie parties past as she hangs on the tree

Mrs. Claus cookie ornament-one time cookie bell

Then there is the star that sat on top of the trees my parents had in my childhood home. This star is ragged from the many years of wear but I treasure it more than any other Christmas item. I keep it boxed with the date on it…for posterity, of course.

Old family tree top star

The table is set and each year we change the theme a bit. One year Miss Christmas, that’s my oldest granddaughter, Marcy, created napkins with bodies and a spoon face. She placed a picture of each member of the family and we used them as place settings.

Christmas Eve table

Place setting using spoon and napkin with each person's face

Kirsten and Alli added green and red candy to the Evian bottle I gave them and placed a red tissue inside with a Christmas ornament attached to the front with my name on it. I have decided to make more of these so everyone has one. This is just another use for those delicate Evian bottles. Whew..I am really a workaholic aren’t I?

Evian water bottle with a new use

Dinner is usually very elaborate. It would have to be, I’m the resident chef and I love to cook. This year will be a real challenge. It seems that the plows have not yet arrived after our big snow in Roanoke for some reason. I realize that they were very busy getting the interstate cleared but it has now day 5 and still no plows. Maybe the road crew is tired and needs to get some rest after spending so many days working non stop. I am hoping to be awakened in the middle of the night tonight to the sound of those road scraping vehicles and I will joyfully applaud and then roll over and go back to sleep. If this happens, I will be able to do my grocery shopping in time for our Christmas Eve feast.

This is my menu this year.


Nina’s Eggnog.

Nina with famous eggnog

Vanishing 7 day shrimp. Already made and will be ready on time for Christmas Eve. Click here for the recipe for this dish.

Vanishing Seven Day Shrimp

Cheese served on Salt block: The salt imbues a wonderful flavor to the cheese. I highly recommend one of these Himalayan salt blocks.

Cheese served on Himalyan salt block

Live lobsters that we will all cook together in the kitchen. The trucks may not be able to make the Wednesday delivery because of the snow. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Wayne’s Lasagna. This is the most delectable dish I have ever eaten. Honestly. I was at a party where my chef friend, Wayne, was serving his lasagna. The question arose about what meal you would choose as your last if you were on death row. It was unanimous. Wayne’s lasagna! I have made it three times and everyone rolls their eyes and tilts their heads back in awe. Unfortunately, it takes several days to make. The sauce must be allowed to rest in the refrigerator for days and the homemade ricotta cheese is simple enough to make but messy and time consuming. The homemade spinach lasagna also takes a lot of time. It will be worth it but I will be working round the clock till Christmas Eve now because of our beautiful snowfall.

Wayne's Lasagna

Wild rice and pecans. This is always a good choice as a side for a seafood item.

Cream of Green Bean Soup. I love this soup. I am wondering if our grocery stores will have fresh beautiful green beans available.

Refrigerator yeast rolls. Easy and wonderful.

Pasta, Caesar Salad. My recipe for this dish is posted on my June 7th archive. I make it because Miss Christmas, Marcy, is very persnickety about food. Being the Italian girl that she is (my daughter married an Italian) it is no surprise that she loves pasta.

Caesar Pasta Salad


Tiramisu. My version absolutely melts in your mouth. It does take a long time to prepare. The custard must be strained.

Pumpkin Pies. I found a delicious recipe that uses maple syrup. I also found the most amazing, pungent cinnamon yet. I bought it from King Arthur Flour. It says on the label that it is from Vietnam. I will use it in the pumpkin and the apple pies.

After that feast, we all waddle into the great room and Christmas bar for gifts and Naughty Santa.

On Christmas day, I will serve a huge turkey with gravy and homemade noodles.
We’ll have Waldorf Salad, mashed potatoes and a ham with a bourbon sauce.

It is supposed to snow again on Thursday. I am hoping this time for a light snow but a white Christmas is definitely in store for us at Woodloft in Roanoke this year. It will be beautiful!

Christmas tree at Woodloft


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Saturday, December 19, 2009



Old World Santa

Little did I know that a glorious snow would be the start of my Magical Christmas week. I don’t think there is anything as delightful as watching the first flakes appear and then accumulate on the trees. With the many hundreds of trees here at Woodloft, in a very short time, it looks like a wonderland.

Woodloft trees

There was excitement in the air at the Roanoke Farmer’s Market today. Newscasters predicted a huge snowstorm starting in the early afternoon. After setting my booth up, I decided to browse in some of my favorite stores.

My first stop was Twist and Turns. They carry fabulous metal furniture as well as an eclectic blend of household accessories. At Christmastime the store is brimming full of gorgeous displays.

Twist and Turns president, Cynthia Gardner

Peacock feathered tree


One of many mantle displays

I then headed back to my booth. I passed Peggy, our market manager and full time baker. She was all ready for the predicted snow.

Market manager, Peggy

There were farmers selling wreaths everywhere!

Woods Farms

The Star Line, our new shuttle, was ready to bring visitors to the market. The shuttle service started only about a year ago. My friend, Christine, who is a lover of bus transportation would have appreciated riding this shuttle. She moved from the area a few years ago.

Star Line shuttle in front of historic City Market Building

Dana was at the market with her beautiful stained glass.


My friend Sue and her son Randy, stopped by to say hello.

Randy and Sue

Brian Seckinger with his photographs

When the snow started falling at about 2:00, I immediately headed home. Weather channels predicted a huge snowfall and they were absolutely right. So far Roanoke has accumulated about 16 inches. I live in a higher elevation and haven't been able to gauge exactly how deep Woodloft's snow actually is but it looks to be at least the predicted amount.

My car, B-Dazle, is almost all covered!

View from where I am posting

It is still snowing so I decided to use this quiet time to finish decorating Woodloft. I opened the Angel Treasure Box once again.

The stockings I hung are ones that I made for my children in the early 70’s. They show a little wear by this time but are still treasured. I made them from colored felt.

Children's Christmas stockings

There are so many fanciful stockings available now that I bought, instead of made, stockings for the grandchildren.

Beth's stocking

Marcy's stocking

Zack's stocking

Alli's stocking

This morning I miss not being able to sell on the market but the time will be well spent in finishing my decorating and getting ready for Christmas Eve. I’ll be back again tomorrow for a posting of some beautiful bottle decorations. The snowflake bottles present recycling at it's very best.

Evian snowflake bottle

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