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Not Quite a Million Dollar Recipe

Pecan-Sweet Potato Appetizers

So what would you buy with a million bucks if it suddenly was all yours?

That’s the wonderful question I pondered pretty much the whole way from Seattle to Orlando a few years ago on my way to the Pillsbury Bake-Off. One hundred of us had been selected (from 50,000 entries!) to compete that weekend in Florida and the winner would take home a million bucks. Oh to dream on such things. (The top item on my list was “always fly business class.” Bye Bye coach! :))

A year earlier I had finally – FINALLY – after thinking about it for too many years, entered a recipe in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. I had made my entry just once, had never written a recipe and got it in on the last day. And then I completely forgot about it since it was more to complete the goal of entering the contest at last rather then being selected. Until the day months later when Pillsbury called and told me I was in!!!

Oh my goodness, you could have heard the cheering from anywhere! I couldn’t believe it. My family and friends couldn’t believe it. Heck, if you had known me then, you wouldn’t have believed it but it was so. This little ole author somehow came up with a recipe worth a shot at a million dollars.

Well you probably already figured out it wasn’t my day to win a million (it went to a dessert entry that looked marvelous!) but it was my day to make friends for life and meet incredibly talented women and men from all over the country. My kitchen neighbor, Betsy Chan, bakes us all up something special for every book to match what is happening in the book. That is a wonderful “takeaway” prize all by itself wouldn’t you say?

Anyways, today, because it is the weekend before Thanksgiving and we’ll all be out shopping, I wanted to share with you my Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe because it really is a wonderful appetizer to serve this time of year! My nephews request it every year and I present it proudly to you all to consider too. (Oh and there are loads of ways to change this recipe up with different cheese, different nuts – heck, by the sweet and spicy pecans from Trader Joes and you can streamline the recipe quick. Make it your own!) Enjoy!

Pecan-Sweet Potato Appetizers


1 small sweet potato (5 to 6 oz)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon Crisco® 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 3 oz)
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated garlic butter crescent dinner rolls (8 rolls)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 oz)
  • 1 Heat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Pierce potato with fork; place on microwavable paper towel in center of microwave. Microwave 3 to 4 minutes, turning once, until tender. Cover; let stand 10 minutes. Peel potato and cut crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch) slices. (Refrigerate any remaining potato for another use.)
  • 2 Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, heat sugar, water and red pepper to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat; gently stir in pecans until coated. Spread pecans on cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet; cool completely.
  • 3 Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, heat oil, onion and preserves over medium heat 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender. Remove from heat.
  • 4 Unroll crescent dough; separate into 4 rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. Cut each rectangle in half crosswise; press each piece into 4-inch square.
  • 5 On each dough square, place 1 potato slice, 1 rounded teaspoon onion mixture, 2 teaspoons cheese and 1 tablespoon pecans. Bring up 4 corners of dough over filling to center and twist at top. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  • 6 Bake 12 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack; cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.


A South Pole Santa line of Home Decor :)


Gosh I suddenly realized that I seem to be developing my own decorating line! For Christmas this year, I have some fabulous new South Pole Santa touches accenting my living room for this very special holiday season.

First, you’ve seen the red Oh Oh Oh! pillow as one of the giveaways for our October Jolly Jingle giveaway (you are on the Nice List by now right? I mean it only takes putting your email in the box above and watching for the confirmation email to be well on your way to fun talk every month and a great chance to win something spectacular in the monthly giveaway! Get on up there and get signed up!) Look at the pillow sitting next to the red one above - Choose Kindness! The theme of the South Pole Santa series! As you can see they are cat approved. :)


Then, thanks to the magic of Costco, I have two new throw blankets to go with my pillows. They are so big I could  barely get a picture of them and okay, yes, the photo quality on them is not the greatest ever but they are still really wonderful. The first one is the same “Welcome” photo you see on the home page of this site and the second is a blanket of the “Joy to the World” map my book coach, Brieanna, made for me recently.


Super fun huh?! You can do this too! (Not necessarily with South Pole Santa photos though I welcome that of course. :) ) Pick out some of your most spectacular photos, pop over to the site and order blankets and other personalized items for all sorts of people on your holiday list! I love fun gifts that make sense and are super easy to make.

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Adorable – and easy – turkey cookies!


My husband plays guitar and harmonica in a local band which adds a whole bunch of fun to our lives. Well, last night the band took the dollars they’ve made this year and we put it all toward a really fabulous “Friendsgiving 2014″ dinner.

So. Much. Fun!



Delightfully, one of the couples brought this “bouquet” of handmade turkey cookies that I just knew you all would want to see and duplicate for your own parties! Aren’t they just 100% clever? 

Now never fear for those of us who might be a little less inclined toward pulling together a craft project hostess gift at this busy time of the year. I am here for you as well (probably because I most often am one of you! :) ) Check out this really wonderful mini herb garden another generous friend brought to us last night. It is loaded with sage, rosemary and thyme — all herbs perfect for a using in a Thanksgiving dinner making it a perfect gift for that hard-working hostess nice enough to ask us all over. (Right after the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade of course. I mean I don’t want to miss a single bite of anything but it all must take its turn! :) )




Book Signing! Book Signing!


Yes, it’s true! I’ve got me a book signing! If you live in the Seattle area, please put Saturday, December 6, 10 am to 1 pm on your calendar and come on out to the wonderful Sweet Indulgence sweets shop in Monroe for her holiday gala and my first book signing! Jennifer Poole the exceptionally kind owner of the exceptionally sweet and super popular candy store has nicely invited me to be part of the fun and I would love, love, love for my friends, family and fans of Sandra’s to come out and show some love to Sweet Indulgence. I think this is a marvelous place for a book signing and am so thankful the elves are sooooo busy this time of year. Can you even imagine how they would be in a candy store?!? Oh Oh Oh it just wouldn’t be good! There would be no controlling them! :) So, you’ll get just me but I’ll be there with a big smile and some jingle bells on and would love to see you too.

Thanks for all the love!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Jolly Jingle Giveaway!


Check out this month’s Jolly Jingle gift for the drawing that one lucky subscriber to the Nice List will win! I am so excited about this. 

Have I shared with you that I had the super duper incredibly good fortune to be a finalist in the 44th Pillsbury BakeOff? I still can’t believe it myself. I didn’t pull out the million dollar recipe (doggone it!) but I did pull out a bonanza of incredibly talented friends from it. Linda Bibbo of LB Bear Ornaments turned out to not just be an incredibly talented baker she’s also an incredibly talented artist! (And a promising author as well. She already has me hooked on the early chapters I read. :) ) Her ornaments are sought after every year and have attracted collectors around the country and we got ourselves one for our giveaway!


That’s right, I turned to Linda about doing one of her ornaments for our Jolly Jingle drawing and she came up with this extra special double elf delight! It is even more magnificent in person then in the photo. So, c’mon now, don’t miss out on the chance to own this lovely work of art for your tree. Pop up to the top of the page and get your name on the Nice List. That’s it! Then be sure to confirm your subscription when the email comes and watch for the Jolly Jingle every month on the 24th. I can say with certainty, it’s the merriest thing you’ll get that whole day. :)

Oh Oh Oh! – Jingle

So Many Good Things!


A shout out to Chanel Jones the winner winner Christmas dinner of the October Jolly Jingle drawing! Oh yeah, just like that she has a super fun gift winging her way just for kindly signing up for the Jolly Jingle. Shazam! Good things happen when you get yourself on the Nice List! :) 

Good things have actually been happening left and right around here. First of all, I have spotted a dozen houses now with Christmas lights up! A dozen already. Loving it! Love the holiday spirit brightening up these early dark days.


Then, a lovely friend down the street left me this super kind gift of Christmas wine and a lego Santa on my back porch just because. I love just because surprises! So super nice! Thank you again Cindy! Look at what my hubster – who certainly is courting the naughty list with this kind of behavior — did with my new Santa and his shark flashlight. Sooo bad! :)


And then — I got a bunch of great new reviews! A “bunch” means four but they did come in all around the same time so they seemed like a bunch to me. :) And . . .  they were all five stars! How nice is that? Put joy in this author’s heart for sure. These were all for The Search for South Pole Santa. Thank you to everyone who has been so kind to add your review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Super nice of you. (And if any of you have read Sandra Claus… or The Santanapping and liked them I could use some feedback on those as well. I love chances to make participate in special deals by some of the free book companies but need more reviews to enter either of those books.)


Best news last of all, you can enter for a chance to win one of ten copies of The Santanapping this month on Goodreads! Are you a member? No problem if you’re not since its so easy to sign up and if you love to read, you really should. I’ve recently registered as an author there and got to join in on this book giveaway. I’d love for some of you South Pole Santa lovers to be winners so swing by there and enter! And enter some of the other book giveaways while you’re over there as well. There are a ton of good books to try for and your chances of winning are good. 

Loving all the goodness of this season and this month of Yesvember! Hope you are too!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle


Tips for doing Universal Orlando Right





We are back home in rainy Washington State after a lovely week away in Florida where the skies were sunny and the temps were hot! This trip we decided to spend our two free days not at Disney World like we used to do but at the two lands of Universal Studios and most especially Harry Potter World!

We were not disappointed.

Universal is fun! I remember the California version as being fun but a bit forgettable but, in fairness, its been years since I’ve been there. In either case, Universal Orlando gives Disney some true competition – especially now that they’ve added on the two Harry Potter worlds. But its not just the nod to Hogwarts that make these parks fun. In fact, Glen and I felt like every ride we went on was pretty awesome. Top of our list after everything Potter, was: 

  • Spiderman
  • Men in Black
  • Despicable Me 
  • Shrek 4D
  • The Simpsons

Besides the rides though, like with Disney, the magic is really in the details and every land was full of wonder and fun. Such creativity! Here’s some other observations/tips:

  • Stay at a Universal owned hotel! This is an important tip, First you are super close to the parks. We had a lovely walk over each morning and then boated back. But even better, every room comes with an early hour in at Harry Potter worlds and a fast pass for every other ride besides the Potter rides! That is normally $90 each all by itself and saved us over and over. Big fans of the free fast pass.
  • Be careful when you go. If you love the magic of JK Rowling then you must go but if going means in the summer when the heat is awful and the crowds are high then you must not go. Seriously. What are people thinking of? We went on days listed as slow on the calendar and they were plenty busy – crowded at the peak of each day. Our fast passes saved the day but we still waited an hour for one of the Harry Potter rides. (Totally worth it!)
  • IMG_4230
  • Do you see that there purple swirl item on my wrist? That’s a wrist wallet and its a wonderful thing in an amusement park with rides where you can’t have any loose items. I strapped that on, put my tix and money in there on one side and phone in on the other. Good, To. Go. We put Glen in cargo shorts with a bunch of zip up pockets and there was no stopping us. This is a big tip: leave your purses, backpacks and bags back at the hotel. 
  • Everywhere we went the staff and workers were pleasant and friendly. My favorite little Universal touch that I think tops Disney? When you get back from a particularly wild ride, the ride unloaders are there clapping for you. Young and old appreciated it. Score one for Universal.
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  • Food like Disney, is fair but not awful. We ate at the highly rated Mythos and the lowly rated Leaky Cauldron and thought they both were about the same. Food at the hotel was also okay not amazeballs although we did get some good sushi in the lounge our first night.
  • Lastly, where Universal did let this holiday loving girl down was around Halloween. I get that Zombie Nights are their thing but they could still have a nod to Halloween around the parks during the days. We didn’t see so much as a pumpkin anywhere. Between that and the sunshine, it totally did not feel like the end of October. 

All in all, we give Universal a nice big A as a place to go for a whole bunch of fun! The only thing that could really add some zip to it and put it over the top of Disney would be a South Pole Santa world! :)

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle


Happy Halloween!


It’s one of the most fun times of the year and we have just got to make these! How have I never thought of this simple and super easy but super cute idea before? I mean now that you see them they just make sense for any kind of Halloween get together. These were found on the Hidden Valley seasonings site. Make some and send me the pics!

Meanwhile, here at Universal Studios it is zombie central! Halloween here is not the nice, sweet Halloween of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” type. Oh nooooo. Halloween here is of the Walking Dead zombies meet outer space predators and scare the livin daylights out of you type! Holy horror movies Chuckie! There is noooo way we are leavin our hotel tonight! If you love creeps and things that creep in the night, get on down here next year!

Next Stop: Harry Potter World!


Hello Hello Hello everyone! I haven’t run away from posting – I’ve just run away to Disneyland! Ooops, not Disney this time. I’ve run away to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida! Lucky me!

Truly, this is like a dream come true to for me. J.K. Rowlings is the author I idolize most. The one I ponder what her life must be like. The one I think on if she has any end to her marvelous creativity and talent. The one that if I could be any other author she is who I would pick to be!


I can’t imagine how incredibly gleeful she must have been watching her books come to life in the two Harry Potter Worlds at Universal Studios. Universal outdid themselves bringing her work to life. They gave Disney a complete run for its money with all the detail and wonder they have brought to all things Hogwarts related.

We started out at Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. First we had to find it where, just like in the books, its hidden from normal view with no markers telling you of the magical Diagon Alley behind the plain wall. Loved it! We made our way through the shops without shopping (tomorrow!) and went straight to the ride. The line was longer than I like at about 45 minutes but we came across country for this so a bit of waiting was in order plus the rooms they take you through waiting makes it entertaining anyways.


Then you make it to the ride where you dawn 3d glasses and climb in a “vehicle” to head down to the safes of Gringotts. Of course there is adventure galore and the glasses make it tons of fun with things flying at you! When we got off we made our way over to the Hogwarts Express which was its own fabulousness. We thought we were just catching an easy ride over to the other park but instead you got to step through the wall at 9 & 3/4 platform and experience a really special, magical train ride unlike any other. We’re totally going to do that again!

Off on the other side, we headed right to the other Harry Potter ride called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Its located in the charming village of Hogsmead which also has shops galore I plan to linger in later. For now, it was straight to the magical ride — where we waled right on!! How lucky am I living?


It too was so much fun! I think I might like it best but its hard to say. In this one you go flying all over with Harry and his friends while we all play a game of quidditch while dementors and dragons chase us! So clever. So creative. So. dang. fun.

Afterwards, we found ourselves a stand and tipped back a butterbeer drink to celebrate. Brainfreeze! But tasty.

If you love JK Rowling and her magical world of Harry Potter you simply must plan to come. This is a place of dreams come true. When she started her modest first book, she couldn’t possibly have seen it becoming all that it is. So spectacular. She’s my hero and lets me dream of the day when you get off the Harry Potter rides and can’t wait to get over to South Pole Santa world where kindness is celebrated everyday all year long! :) Dream big baby! Book a trip here soon.

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle


Free Book Day!

Woo-Hoo! Starting today and going through Saturday, October 25 you can get The Search for South Pole Santa FREE! Pick one up for yourself and help me spread the word. It’s everyday price is a bargain but FREE is best of all! :) Just hop on over by following the link below. (Its downloadable for Kindle and the Kindle app if you don’t happen to have a Kindle.) Thanks for being wonderful!


Oh Oh Oh! – jingle