There’s Something Special about SusieCakes

Every time I post stories like Holley’s on her Aunt Pat or meet people like Susan Sarich, I am reminded of the reason I started my blog — to share the legacy of family.   Thanks to Tanglewood Moms for posting information on their instagram, I had the chance to meet Susie and her staff at the pre-grand opening cake decorating class they offered at their new location of SusieCakes in Fort Worth.

From Susie’s website:  “Every day Susie would come home from school to enjoy her grandmothers’ company over a glass of milk and a fresh baked treat. This daily baking ritual and special time together in the kitchen left a lasting impression. When Susie grew up to become Susan and moved to the West Coast, she brought along her grandmothers’ carefully recorded recipes on handwritten 4×6 cards. The pure and simple connection those recipes fostered helped Susan form SusieCakes bakeries to share her experience with others.

Through SusieCakes, Susan honors Mildred and Madeline: both in her dedication to their baking traditions, and her commitment to providing women with progressive careers in the food & hospitality industry.

“You most likely recall a cake as part of your life’s milestone celebrations. Cake has the unique ability to connect us with the people and events of our past. However, cake should not be reserved only for these special occasions. A delicious slice of cake can immediately bring a bit of celebration to an ordinary day. I hope you enjoy SusieCakes on your special occasions, as well as all the days in between.”

The store is bright white and beautiful with cases of bakery goods shining as the stars in the show.  When I checked in we were greeted with bubbly and then Susie stepped from the behind the counter!  It was a lovely surprise.  She is lovely, effervescent just like my Champagne and radiates happiness.  I mean, how can you not when you are surrounded by buttercream frosting and homemade cake!

And her staff exudes the same warmth and genuine love for what they do, too. Before class began, Susie shared how her company came to be. Launched in 2006, she now has 20 stores in the U.S.  Their signature color “Susie Blue” was inspired by her grandma’s blue Pyrex mixing bowl. Then it was time to put our aprons on and get to work.  They set up stations in the kitchen- one learning the crumb coating technique and icing; station two worked on decorating the cake with sprinkles and tubes of colored icing. The angels sang when I snapped a picture of my two favorite things in the world — bubbly and a giant bowl of frosting!

I doubt any of the staff realized how they were making my dreams come true by being behind the counter of the bakery.  It’s like my dream job. Sprinkles are my spirit animal!

When the class was over they sent us home with our boxed up creations and a goodie bag.  Before I left I snapped some pics of their confections in the cases. How fun would it be to receive a Happy Birthday cupcake on your special day!

SusieCakes has other sweet treats besides cake including pies, puddings, cheesecakes, cookies and lemon bars.  Check out their menu here.  Word on the street is that their pumpkin bread pudding is to die for! So remember that for your Thanksgiving entertaining.

If you are local to Fort Worth, be sure to check out their Grand Opening this Saturday.  They will have free samples, activities for the kids and a drawing for free cake for a year!  There are all sorts of specials they are running the following week, too.  You can check out the complete listing and location information here.

Welcome to Fort Worth Susie.  I know we are going to be sweet friends!

North Richland Hills Library — A Community Jewel

I stumbled across the North Richland Hills Public Library recently on-line as I was following Gretchen Rubin on social media.  Gretchen’s newest book The Four Tendencies releases today and she will be talking about her publication at the NRH library this Friday – free to the general public from 1-2 p.m.  Easy to get to from Fort Worth, the library is a beautiful building in the middle of Home Town community and retail space.

As I was looking through the library’s webpage, I stumbled across their “Behind the Book” series and couldn’t believe some of the well-known authors they have scheduled in their series. After I registered to attend the ticketed reception with Gretchen Rubin (which is now sold out), I also registered to meet Tess Gerritsen known for her crime novels which inspired the Rizzoli and Isles series on the TNT network.

The $35 ticketed reception includes entrance to an exclusive author meet-and-greet, a personalized signed copy of the author’s book, time to socialize with other book lovers, delicious refreshments prepared around the theme of the book and reserved seating at the author’s speaking engagement open to the general public.

The library staff did an outstanding job with all the touches throughout the event from the personal greeting in the lobby when you arrived to the food and decor.  The light luncheon was beautifully presented and their clever touches of recipes like “Boston Cream Pies” – – Gerritsen’s characters work in Boston — and the crime scene markers to identify the food on the buffet was inspired!  I took away some clever ideas to use for my Mrs. Twist Reads This book club.

After lunch we ventured upstairs to the general reception to find more props like evidence collection bags, crime scene tape and scene markers inspired by the characters of the series.

Actresses Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander star in the Rizzoli and Isles TNT series
Dr. Maura Isles and Detective Jane Rizzoli

We found our reserved seating and from 1-2 p.m. heard from Tess Gerritsen and the inspiration she finds for writing her books which have sold over 30 million copies.  Gerritsen shared that she scours three newspapers every morning for inspiration to delve into human relations. She went on to share some examples of how real life crime stories have been re-imagined onto the pages of her books.  She also shared some new projects she is working on which includes a limited series for Sasha Alexander who played Dr. Maura Isles in the TNT series.  Sasha shared with Gerritsen that she wasn’t ready to give up her character despite the ending of the TNT series.   She concluded the hour by taking questions from the audience.  It was a fascinating time learning about the publishing and television industry.

After the event I signed up to be a member of their Friends of the Library program which affords its members discounts and notifications of upcoming events. Most libraries offer a program similar to this so be sure to inquire at your local library.  Plus, it goes toward improving literacy for all ages.  There are two more “Behind the Book” events in October.  Check them out here for more information and to sign up.

I had a great time and I look forward to returning this Friday to hear from and meet Gretchen Rubin!

How I Start My Day: Podcasts

With Mr. Bee’s retirement came a change in my morning routine.  Since he doesn’t have to get up to a 9-5 job anymore, he’s become a nightowl. This means that when I get up early every morning, he’s still sleeping so I can’t watch my usual morning show.  I have solved that with something I actually like better:  Podcasts!  I have them downloaded to my Google Home and my phone through the apps — Player FM and Podcast Addict. Note:  Most all of these podcasts are available through Apple, but I am team Android/Google.  I have to use Podcast Addict for the shows not featured on Player FM.

Here are my favorite ones that I rotate through…

Young House Love by Sherry and John Petersik.  They are a fun couple who began chronicling their home improvement adventures in 2007 on the blog of the same name.  You can tune in weekly with episodes filled with casual decorating advice, DIY stories, along with what’s new around the house and interviews with designers, bloggers, TV personalities and more.  They have authored two best-selling books and have product lines at Target and Home Depot.  I had the chance to meet them last summer at Haven Conference and they are just as fun in person as they are on social media.

The Foodist podcast by Darya Rose, PhD., introduces you to real people on the journey of becoming foodists, learning how to get healthy and lose weight without dieting.  A foodist is someone who uses Real Food to optimize their life for health and happiness.  She is also the creator of Summer Tomato, one of Time’s 50 Best Websites.  Each week she talks with a guest at all stages of their journey in finding foods, habits and activities they love and that work for them.

What Should I Read Next by Anne Bogel is the show for every reader who has ever finished a book and faced with the problem of not knowing what to read next.  Each week Anne, of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, interviews a reader about the books they love, the books they hate, and the books they’re reading now.  Then, she makes recommendations about what to read next.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  The #1 bestselling author of the Happiness Project (a great read I might add) and Better Than Before gets more personal than ever as she brings her practical, manageable advice about happiness and good habits to this lively, thought-provoking podcast. Gretchen’s co-host is her sister, Elizabeth Craft, a TV writer and producer who lovingly refers to Gretchen as her “happiness bully.”  Gretchen will be at the North Richland Hills library in September signing her latest book The Four Tendencies.

And the newest Podcast is For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.  People. Home. Stories. Shoes. Family. Jesus.  Community. TV. Travel. Food. Culture.  The hilarious best-selling author and star of HGTV’s “My Big Family Renovation” invites you to drop by and catch up with her friends as they laugh and chat about all the things we love.

I listen to the podcasts while I sip my coffee, put on my makeup and dress for the day.  Most are about 30 minutes long so it’s the perfect pick-me-up before work where I learn something new and it’s always a positive message — which, to be honest, the morning news these days is not so positive.

Give these a try and be sure to let me know what podcasts you listen to and share in the comments.

Serving Up “The Dish” on Finds at the Grocery Store

Serving up four things I am loving right now from the grocery store…

Quaker Overnight Oats.  They were running a promotion on these at my grocer — one totally for free.  So, I picked up the toasted coconut and almond crunch variety.  You fill the container to the measure line with milk, replace the lid and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, take the lid off, stir and enjoy.  If cold oatmeal is not your thing — it’s kinda like muesli — they give you a heating option.  I loved it cold.  It was flavorful and filling.  So filling that I totally forgot to eat lunch.  It’s that seriously good!  330 calories, plus your milk choice (I use almond milk).  Check out their website for recipes making overnight oats from scratch in a mason jar.  You know I love glass jars in the fridge!

Next, La Croix Peach and Pear sparkling water.  I love the flavor combination.  It’s fresh and different.  Add a sprig of lime and it would make a lovely non-alcoholic beverage when you are enjoying a summer’s day by the pool.  For me, this is a good switch for iced tea.

 

And, speaking of cute glass jars.  I stopped dead in my tracks perusing the yogurt aisle and found Oui artisanal French-style yogurt by Yoplait.  Just released in July, Oui is made with simple, non-GMO ingredients – like whole milk, pure cane sugar, real fruit and yogurt cultures.  It contains no artificial preservatives, no artificial flavors and no colors from artificial sources.  You can read a fun story here on how the creation of this yogurt came from an innovation product designer for General Mills who grew up in France watching his mother create “pot-set” yogurt.  When you try it the first time you will know what that means.

It’s a 5-oz glass jar with a sealed foil lid in the prettiest little pattern.  The fruit is on the bottom and it has a smooth, yummy flavor.  The best part — the label peels right off.  I put the jars in the dishwasher and can re-use them for making pudding, or trifles, or my own yogurt parfait, or heck use as small juice glasses.  I can totally see these nesting on each person’s place setting as the starter for brunch with a warm croissant and butter. They were $1.69 a jar, but my grocer was running a special buy three for $4.  So, they are little more than the average yogurt price, but the fact that I can re-use the glass jars is a win for me.

Last, from the creators of Eating Well magazine,  has a new line of frozen entrees. These are a brand new item in the grocer right now and my store didn’t have all the varieties, but I picked up a few to keep on-hand at work.  Add a big salad, a piece of fruit and you can have a good for you lunch.

The thing I like about the meals is the presentation.  The food is vacuum sealed so you actually get to see what the food looks like for real — not just the stylized photo on the box.  Whole vegetables and pieces of meat.  That appeals to me.

Let me know if you try any of these new-to-me foods!  And, let me know if there is something new I need to try!

Trader Joe’s: What’s Buzzworthy?

The day the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer arrives in my mailbox, it’s like when I was little and the postman delivered the Sears catalog! The flyer is packed with all the great stuff Trader Joe’s is offering for the season.  I go through each page putting a circle around things I am interested in trying.

Mrs. Twist’s Tip:  Trader Joe’s can be overwhelming if you are not a frequent shopper.  The first few times I visited TJ’s when they opened, I always found a Crew Member to help me by asking for their input and recommendations.  Everything in TJs is taste-tasted by employees so they know if it’s good.  I still ask for help when I am looking for new features in the flyers.  It saves me time because they are familiar with where items are in the store.  And, it’s not uncommon for me to drop in and say, “what should I make for dinner?”  I’ve never been disappointed.

New to me:  Mexican-Style Roasted Corn with Cojita Cheese.  OMG!  This tastes like street corn.  It’s smokey and perfectly seasoned.  You cook it in the microwave for about 3 minutes then sprinkle with the enclosed cheese packet.

Chicken Enchiladas Rojo.  I served the corn as a side to this delish dish. You take the enchiladas out of the plastic packaging and bake them in your own pan.  Yes, this is how homemade and delicious the dish looked before I baked it!  Topped with tons of cilantro and cheese. Miss Bee ate 2 1/2 enchiladas. This is big news, folks.

Sunscreen SPF50 Spray which contains aloe, vitamin E and coconut oil.  It has a new technology using BOV pressure — sort of like a turbo charged sunscreen.  And it’s only $5.99 a bottle!

Refresh Citrus Body Wash.  I loved the label and it’s citrus-y smell — formulated with orange, grapefruit, tangerine and lemon.  Only $2.99 a bottle.

Carrot Spirals.  I have been stalking these curls of carotene for some time because they were being sold in some parts of the country and finally made it to my Fort Worth location.  From frozen you can cook them in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt and use them as a substitute for pasta.

Always in my Cart:  Miss Bee loves their Mac & Cheese.  She pops a package in the microwave and within minutes has comfort food at its finest.  They also have a chili-hatch variety that’s just as good.

Almond Croissants.  They are individually packaged.  You take them out the night before you want them to proof (also known as “rise”) and bake in the morning.  Crispy on the outside with gooey almond filling on the inside, sprinkled with powdered sugar, they are a perfect pastry with morning coffee.

A few final suggestions:  The ready-made salads are perfect for Miss Bee’s school lunches.  The chicken salad is first class and makes the best sandwich.  The flowers are always fresh and affordable, and Charles Shaw wines — lovingly referred to as “Two-Buck Chuck” by wine drinkers.

Bon Appetite!

My March Easy Three

Home With a Twist

The last time I did a “My Easy Three” series, I got a lot of great feedback that these tips were easily achievable and you would like to see more ideas.  So, here is simple inspiration for March.

Add a punch of color

First — Make an Entrance!  It’s time for spring cleaning.  But, if cleaning the entire house top to bottom is overwhelming, then start with your front porch. Here’s a post I did in 2012 with a step-by-step list on tasks to accomplish this goal.  If you want more spring cleaning tips, here is a cleaning check list from Joanna Gaines.

Second — Replace watch batteries.  I have some fun, costume jewelry watches and none of them seem to have working batteries.  There is a battery store near me and for about $6 each I can take all my watches in for fresh batteries getting them running again for the year and have some like-new accessories for my spring wardrobe.

Pioneer Woman Sloppy Joes

Third, March is Sloppy Joe month.  Fun fact for conversation at your next cocktail party (because I always try to educate my HWT readers…) Marilyn Brown, Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at H.J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, says their research at the Carnegie Library suggests that the sloppy Joe began in a Sioux City, Iowa cafe as a “loose meat” sandwich” in 1930, the creation of a cook named Joe.

Here’s an awesome recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  I have made it for my family and it is devoured every time. I substitute mine with ground turkey because Miss Bee doesn’t eat beef.  Most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.  Make this for Friday night dinner and your kids will thank you and think you are so cool because you know who invented the sandwich!

Nothing Little About this Lie — HBO’s Big Little Lies is Fab!

Last Thursday, Bestie and I had the chance to see the premiere of HBO’s Big Little Lies before the series aired last night.  Reese Witherspoon’s delightful company Draper James hosted the evening at the Highland Park Village Theatre.  We began the evening with bubbly and shopping at the Dallas Draper James location.

Then headed over to the theatre where a representative from HBO welcomed the group and introduced the series “Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly?  What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?  HBO treated guests to popcorn, movie candy and drinks and we viewed the first two episodes of the series.  It was really fun!

Big Little Lies is based on the book written by Liane Moriarty.  It’s full of strong women, smooth wine, sass and sex.  Oh, and it opens with a murder.  The 7-episode series leads us through the days leading up to the murder.  You won’t know who finished their last glass of Merlot until the end.   I won’t give anything away other than to say it is perfectly cast — Reese Witherspoon — I die!  She’s my new best friend.  Let’s just say these women are “Museum School moms gone Cray-Cray”  You know, the schools every town has that while you are waiting in the hall for your child to finish school the moms size each other up…kinda like being in the zoo — the hot head, the sad stay at home mom, the “are you new to Monterey?” mom, the rich mom, and the “serves on every board and fundraiser committee in town who you don’t make eye contact with because you are afraid she will ask you to volunteer” mom.

Alexander Skarsgard

Did I mention there S.E.X. in this?  So, if that’s not for you, it might be that reading the book is a better option.  But, if you love Monterey California, crave a good glass of wine, want a good laugh, want to see (look left ⇐) this specimen of heaven, or love a good “who done it” mystery, then watch it.  Something fun I found on Facebook was this Big Little Lies drinking game (you could substitute it with sparkling Italian soda).

Here’s just a few fun questions…

Cheers!  A mom gazes into the ocean from her patio (take a small sip, this happens alot).

Cheers!  The ladies gather for a coffee date at that gorgeous Pacific Ocean–adjacent cafe. Finish your drink and wish you had a cute waiter on hand to give you a refill.

Fun Fact:  This is the Paluca Trattoria, the actual coffee shop the moms commiserate after kid drop off…

Cheers!  Wait, these first-graders listen to David Bowie, Alabama Shakes, and Leon Bridges? Take a sip when the music begins.  The soundtrack is amazing!

So, there.  It’s Buzzworthy.  FOR SURE!  If you don’t have HBO, find a gal pal, score a good bottle of Pinot, put on your yoga pants and get your Sunday fix.  No lie!

Friday’s Find: A Bakery and a Brownie

Warning:  This is a high calorie blog post today.  You might want to take a spin on your treadmill before reading…

One thing this blog will never be lacking is photos of bakeries.  My bliss is to walk into a bakery, especially one that is aesthetically pleasing.  My go-to spot when I am in Dallas is Bird Bakery. If you are ever in the Highland Park neighborhood, you must stop in for a delight for the eyes.

Bird bakes all the usual suspects – cupcakes, brownies, lemon bars, cookies and mini pies, merchandised beautifully on teared plates, cake pedestals and parchment lined trays.  They also have a delicious sandwich, soup and salad menu.

I usually order their Bird cupcake — a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting in the loveliest shade of robin’s egg blue.

Your cupcakes are packaged up in the cutest egg cartons.  Can you imagine receiving a gift of beautiful cupcakes presented in such a whimsical way?

My second favorite is their Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownie.

You can taste the subtle Mexican vanilla.  Dense and very chocolately. It really is like a cup of cocoa!

I am sharing a brownie recipe today that Mr. Bee’s sister-in-law shared with me years ago.  They are from a bakery in upstate New York.  She once told me that even if the snow was 10-feet tall, she would still put on her snow boots and make her way to the bakery for these brownies.  I make them as a special treat.  They are super rich calling for 6 cups of chocolate chips, so they are not for the faint of heart.  But boy, are they worth it.

Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Preheat oven to 325.  Butter a 9×13 pan.

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water (I use coffee)

2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup of butter

4 eggs, beaten

5 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped walnuts (I am not nutty, so I omit them)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place sugar, water (or coffee), vanilla and butter in a saucepan.  Heat over medium heat to melt butter.  When melted, remove from heat and add chips and eggs (be sure to temper the eggs by adding a little of the warm chocolate liquid first to increase the temperature of the eggs before adding the entire pan of chocolate), stirring often until chips melt.

In a large mixing bowl, blend remaining ingredients — flour, baking powder, salt, nuts and the remaining cup of chocolate chips.  Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.

Pour into pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting.  To get a clean cut for the brownies, chill first in the refrigerator.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

These are the perfect sweet to take to a potluck, your next girls night out, or when you are delivering a meal to an ailing friend.  Enjoy!

Ga Ga over La La: Swoon-worthy wardrobe in La La Land

Have you seen the movie La La Land?  My sister-in-law treated me and Miss Bee recently and I loved it!  This “modern musical” is really sweet and the music was fun.  I swooned over Emma Stone’s wardrobe — colorful and very “swirl” worthy for the dance scenes.  If you haven’t seen the movie I won’t give anything away, only highlight the clothes “Mia” wore in a few scenes.

Girls Night Out Blue Dress

I loved how each of her girlfriends wore a different “candy” colored dress.

Never mellow yellow when dancing with Ryan Gosling

Her figure is perfect for these dresses.  I loved that everything she wore was age appropriate, vintage inspired and ladylike.

Coral Crush

Who says redheads can’t wear coral?  I loved this cotton halter dress with pockets for a date night.

Cute little pique tennis dress in blue with a yellow cross body purse and ballet flats.  Perfect for a day of sightseeing.

Mia shined brighter than the planetarium stars in her emerald green dress and pendant.

I’ve always wanted to swing from a cable car while kissing my love interest.  If I did, I would wear her a-line cotton skirt, with a sleeveless button down tied at the waist.

And, I would end the night walking down the street in a black, raw silk dress with sling back heels.  Red lipstick would be in my black clutch purse.

Here’s a fun story behind Emma Stone’s wardrobe for the movie (click the link for the entire story, or you can read my summary).   The film’s costume designer, Mary Zophres, has since revealed the inspiration and thinking behind Mia’s retro-inspired outfits.  It was important to Mary that the audience walk out of the movie wishing they could get their hands on the clothes, at places like H&M or a department store like Bloomingdale’s.  In fact, Stone did wear a $5 shirt from the H&M retailer, because the costume designer wanted to ensure her character “dressed in her normal life” too.

The first fitting for this white confection, “Emma started spinning around in this dress. She loved it. I loved it.”

“Going to real stores and mixing it with things that we bought or that we could have conceivably bought but we made instead was how I tried to infuse it with a modern sensibility… bringing in things that were really from Los Angeles in 2016.”

If you watched closely, you might have also noticed Mia’s dresses became gradually more voluminous as the film progressed. As you’ve probably guessed, this was no accident.

“When she was spinning or dancing, you got a more effect of like a period film, but I tried to balance reality,” Zophres says.

“I also didn’t want to overdesign it, and [Stone] actually looks better in things that are simple.”

You could literally watch this movie 20 years from now and have no idea when it was filmed because there is such a timeless, yet vintage feel to it.

And, the soundtrack.  Well, I plan to start cleaning my house with this blasting on the Bose.  My dread of dusting and vacuuming will disappear for sure.  And, if I could do chores in the yellow dress, I’d be set.  Be sure to check out La Land before the Oscars on Sunday, February 26.  Enter the official 2017 Oscars Challenge here for your chance to predict the winners for prizes!

Trader Joe’s Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Trader Joe’s Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Sunday night Miss Bee and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s to do our meal planning for this week.  I saw this chicken in the meat department and thought it sounded good and would be perfect with the bag of fingerling sweet potatoes I picked up in produce.  It’s $4.49 a pound, so this chicken was $12.99.

Oh. My. Goodness.  Do yourself a favor and visit TJ’s this week and get this Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary chicken.  Here’s why:

  1. It’s super easy to cook.  You open the package, place the chicken in a pan and bake for about 75 minutes.  That’s it.
  2. It will make your house smell like you have been cooking in the kitchen all day.  Literally, your family will walk in and love you.
  3. It’s delicious.  I have a problem with rotisserie chickens, and the like, because they are so darn saltly.  The ingredients in this chicken are simple:

    Whole Split Chicken with Bone and Skin, Mojo Brine (Water, Orange Juice, Brown Sugar, Salt, Lime Juice), Marinade (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic, Buffered Vinegar, Rosemary, Parsley, Rosemary Extract), Lemon Slices.

    I placed diced sweet potatoes in the pan with the chicken and roasted them all together.  The juices from the chicken were yummy and coated the potatoes perfectly.  I served it with a side of TJ’s fresh green beans.

    If you are wondering what “Spatchcocked” means — it’s just a term used to describe the technique in which the meat has been prepared for roasting or grilling.

    So, you’ve learned something new and you’ll eat a tasty meal this week.  Enjoy!