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Diane Sparks is a 30-something professional in Chicago. More >>


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Welcome to paradise! Glad you found it. This is a place to talk about guilt-free indulgences – and things that make life just a little bit sweeter. To join the discussion or ask a question, just click the "Comments" link on the bottom of each pleasure-filled post.

December 01, 2006

Freebie Friday!

I'm pretty excited about today's sample, because it's not one I've come across before, and it's a very versatile sample!  What could it be?   Well, it's a brown rice sample.  And since I've been making an effort to eat better and cook from scratch, it's well timed.  Hope you enjoy! (and if you're in a geography like I am that got hit with/is going to get hit with major snow--stay safe and warm!)

November 30, 2006

Go Make Something!

This evening I had the pleasure of attending a reading by Chicago author Audrey Niffenegger, best known for her book The Time Traveller's Wife. At one point (I'm totally going to screw this up by paraphrasing) she was talking about how it's such a shame that as we grow older, we are taught to specialize more and more.  So instead of being a bug collector/dancer/painter/rock climber/scientist like when we were young, we become A Banker or A Nurse or A Computer Programmer.  She summed up by saying we'd all be a little happier if we nurtured that childhood tendency to just DO stuff, and she challenged the audience to go home and make something.  As she put it, it didn't matter if we made cookies or a sweater or a watercolor, just as long as it was something we made from the heart.
I really loved this sentiment.  Now, I didn't indulge in any craftiness this evening because I am usually pretty good at just making something on a regular basis, but I am cooking up a batch of soup this weekend so I think that qualifies.  J

November 29, 2006

Why Didn't I Think of This?

While surfing the web to gather some ideas for today's post, I came across Indulgence, TheHomeSpa.  As stated on their website, they offer, "Complete mobile spa services."  No matter where you are, they can come to you to provide a manicure, pedicure, massage, haircuts/styling, makeup application, or any combination of the above--be it in a hotel room, at your house, or, as one testimonial states, even on your boat (if you happen to have a boat).  The best part is that while they are based in Santa Barbara and primarily serve that area, they CAN make accomodations to anywhere in the United States!  California resident or not, if you try this special treat, please be sure to tell us all about it! I could easily become addicted to someone coming by my house to style my hair every morning...

November 28, 2006


Lately, I've been spending some time reading The Everything Vegetarian Cookbook--one of my favorites.  And yes, I did say reading.  As my friends can attest, when I actually have the time I love to read cookbooks.  I've even read them in the bath!
Anyway, there's a great quote where the author, Jay Weinstein, says about stuffed foods,"The little child in all of us loves stuffed things.  Maybe it's the sense of something hidden, mysterious.  Or maybe it's just the sneaky feeling that we're getting two things instead of just one."
I would agree with that!  So today I'm wondering...what is your favorite "stuffed" food?
It's hard to narrow down, but I think I've got to go with stuffed mushrooms, especilally if they are stuffed with crab.  Though a martini sporting a stuffed olive, paritucularly if it's stuffed with blue cheese, is another favorite of mine!

November 27, 2006

Oh My, Pie!

Over the weekend, I caught the All American Pie Championship (a couple recipes there!) on The Food Network.  What’s really funny is that I told a friend of mine “I saw the best thing on the Food Network over the weekend!” and she guessed it immediately—because she had watched the same thing!  Pie is one of my favorite desserts, and there’s something very comforting to it in my opinion.  The contest was noticeably dominated by grandmotherly bakers which just heightened the comfort factor even more for me!

If I have to sit and choose my favorite pie…well, I have to break it down my category much like the contest!  In the fruit category—definitely apple.  In the cream/custard catgory—coconut cream, followed closely by lemon meringue.  And then there’s pumpkin, and pecan…two more of my favorites!  I’ve never been a big fan of French silk pie, and I’ve lost interest in blueberry, so I guess there are actually a couple pies I’m not crazy about.  What about you?

November 25, 2006

In Praise of Long Weekends

It’s amazing how a three day weekend can leave one feeling so refreshed.  So a FOUR day weekend is about twice the refreshment, wouldn’t you say?

I’ve never supported the argument that if we had a three day weekend all the time we’d complain that we needed a four day weekend, and so forth.  I think that the joy of the extended weekend is that either Friday arrives that much quicker, or Thursday becomes Friday!

So imagine we switched over to a four day work week.  How would you savor that extra day off?  I think I’d then be able to devote one whole day to working around the house, instead of squeezing it among all the other things I do over the weekend.  Of course, I say that now, but there’s just as likely a chance that I would spend those extra hours socializing as much as I do now!

November 24, 2006

Black Friday Freebie!

Whether or not you broke the bank on this busy shopping day, you'll appreciate that this week's freebie includes a coupon!
It's a free shower caddy, which also holds Scrubbing Bubbles shower cleaner.  (that's what the $5.00 coupon is for)  This time of year can be hectic for a lot of folks, so anything that makes cleaning/organizing easier is okay by me!

November 22, 2006

Non-Traditional Treats

I have a couple friends who are celebrating Thanksgiving in very non-traditional ways.  One is having her mom come to visit, and they are doing a spa day together.  Another has just finished her current quarter in a Master's program and is looking forward to just resting and having some time to be in her house.  Yet another is thrilled to be baking pies to take to the homeless shelter, where she'll be volunteering as well.
The common thread  is that all of these people chose a path that didn't involve getting wrapped up in the holiday stresses, the madness of trying to pull off a multicourse dinner, and the chaos of travelling.  Now, I say this as I sit in O'Hare airport which was surprisingly a breeze to get through.  But, I just wanted to give a shout out to a couple folks who took care of themselves this holiday, and no matter how you choose to celebrate, may it be restful and pleasant, and may you take a little time to indulge yourself!

November 21, 2006

Dig In To Thanksgiving Dinner!


I've received more than my fair share of e-mails, cartoons, and links recenltly reminding me that this is the season of...er, indulgence.  To put a more positive spin on things, I wanted to share this article with you about all the goodness that's in your typical Thanksgiving dinner.  So load up on the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce, help yourself to some bites of turkey if that's your thing, and don't feel the least bit guilty about that piece of pumpkin pie!

November 20, 2006

My Best Recipe

I've actually made time to cook a bit again, though mostly simple stuff right now.  Over the weekend I had a chance to cook my favorite dish--chili!  Every time I make chili it comes out just a bit different and I love coming up with different blends.  This batch was two types of beans, Boca crumbles, loads of onions, jalapenos, and poblano peppers I roasted myself--along with the standard cumin, chili powde, and salt.  The whole thing simmered all day long, filling my house with a tasty, spicy scent!  Unfortunately, I held off on having a bowl, having had a bit of an unstable stomach over the weekend.  I tasted it, though, and it's one of my best batches yet!  I froze the majority of it so that I can thaw it out (and sprinkle with a bit of chedar cheese!) whenever I need a warm up.
What's your favorite recipe to tuck away for a rainy day?

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