January 14: Menu Plan Monday

We did so well last week, and generally stuck to our meal plan!  (Although we changed the days up a bit, and had so many leftovers that we didn’t need to cook for two days instead of one– that’s not really a bad thing!)  I skipped one of our stews, so I’ll be doing that this week, and I will review all of our new recipes tomorrow.  Here is our meal plan for this week:

Monday: Hamburgers and Edamame
Tuesday: Your on your own!
Wednesday: “Boat” Chicken  (Boneless, skinless chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing)  with Green Peas
Thursday: Crockpot Beef Mushroom Stew with Egg Noodles (Recipe to follow this week!)
Friday: Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan with angel hair pasta (Trying something new) and baked zucchini with onions
Saturday: Pork Loin with mashed potatoes and green peas
Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner with Bacon, Eggs and fresh fruit!

mpm-1Linking this up to Menu Plan Monday at Organization Junkie!

 

 

Pause: My Word of 2013 {Printable}

Take a moment.
Reflect.
Consider.
Pause.

I hadn’t considered my word for 2013. I wasn’t even planning on having a word. I had other things on my mind. You see, I’ve been busy. Busy juggling. Juggling the LB and the holidays, travel to visit family out of state, and BB’s extracurricular activities… and so on and so forth.  And then a week ago, I had to prepare to go back to work.  Technically, I returned from maternity leave at the start of December, but then had several weeks off for the holidays, so a week ago on Friday was my first real day back.  I was nervous.  In fact, that’s a gross underestimate.  I was terrified.  MM and I talked and talked, and I had come to the conclusion that I needed to re-evaluate my work-family balance.  Working full-time after the arrival of LB had become an untenable position.

Much to my own embarrassment, I haven’t known how to handle both.  My job involves so much travel and effort that it was exhausting during my pregnancy.  Now being away from LB for 12 hours is physically and emotionally painful.  I’ve been petrified about making it work.  How I could make everything fit into place?  Sometimes, I think there are times when there just too many pieces for the puzzle of your life, and this was one of those times.  So I met with my boss and mentor, and came up with a compromise.  I’m starting to work part time, and LB gets to stay at home with me, rather than going to daycare.  (As a complete aside, what is wrong with this country– why is it so hard to find good quality, affordable infant child care?!  Why should I have to be on a waiting list that rivals the heart transplant list to get LB into a good place?)

I left that meeting with a huge sense of relief.  It was all going to work out.  Sure, I was going to have to give up some aspects of my job.  We also set a high benchmark to demonstrate that working from home, part time was beneficial for everyone involved.  However, I felt confident that this would work for me, LB and my job.  I was going to get all of those pieces to fit into place!

Then there was the drive home.  It’s a bit of a commute, and the entire time, I was mulling things over in my head.  Initially I was elated.  I was going to get to stay home with LB AND work!  I could be more involved with my children and further my career.  It felt really good.  However, as the miles went by, the doubt and anxiety began to creep in.  I’ve always worked or been in school.  I didn’t take a day off after graduating from college and starting work.  I only took 3 days off between leaving work and starting graduate school, and that was to move across country.  I only took two weeks completely off when BB was born.  I’ve worked HARD for my career.  I’ve earned a terminal degree in a field that I love.  It felt so odd to give up even a piece of that world.

The next day, I was driving BB to his swim practice, and this quote was up on a church billboard as I drove past:

printable never place a period where god has placed a comma

I don’t normally pay much attention to the signage, but for some reason, this quote struck me to the core.  Perhaps, I wasn’t ending my career.  Maybe this was just a pause, a healthy pause, one that I need very much.  Perhaps, if I take this pause, and trust that even though I can’t see how the puzzle is going to turn out, that God has a plan in mind.  So I’ve decided that I’m going to take a deep breath and enjoy my time sitting at this comma.

With that resolution in mind, I have created my first printable with my quote of the year. You can download the printable for yourself here.

Sharing this printable here:

January 7: Menu Plan Monday!

MM and I like to try our best to have an idea of what’s on the menu for the week.  Unfortunately, LB’s arrival this fall has made me more disorganized this fall.  With it being a new year, and this week I’m home for the first full week since traveling for the holidays, it’s a good time to start, so without further ado…

mpm-1

Monday:  Chicken Stir-Fry with Rice (MM is cooking, and there isn’t a recipe!)
Tuesday: Crockpot Pot Roast, cooked with Celery and Carrots and accompanied by Mashed Potatoes
Wednesday: Eat on your own/ Eat Leftovers
Thursday: Crockpot Mongolian Beef (Trying something new)
Friday: Crockpot Beef Mushroom Stew (Recipe Post to Follow!) with Egg Noodles
Saturday:  Eating Indian Out! YUM
Sunday: Greek Yogurt Chicken (Trying something new)

Weekly Sweet Treats!:

(My new deal with myself is that we aren’t buying sweets from the store.  If we I want to eat them, they need to be homemade.  This way I have to really want them in order to eat them!  It may backfire with me eating too many sweets, but that’s my current plan.)

I’m sharing my meal plan at I’m An Organizing Junkie’s Meal Plan Monday

Lemon Garlic Crockpot Chicken

MM has made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and is trying his hand at the Atkins diet.  It worked pretty well before our wedding, and I believe he lost between 15 and 20 pounds.  He’s done quite well over the past two weeks, but it can be challenging to merge a low carb diet with my tween athlete’s caloric needs.  Over the weekend, MM and I were talking about this week’s dinner plans, and I suggested that we make one of our newer family favorites: “That chicken dish with oregano and lemon.”  I don’t really know the official name of the dish.  I originally got the recipe from allrecipes.com, but have subsequently altered and played with the recipe a bit.  It’s very tasty, so I thought others might want to try it out.

Lemon Garlic Crockpot Chicken

As with most of my recipes, I generally flavor and add ingredients based on the way things look.  I’ve found this to be a fairly forgiving recipe, and at the end of the directions, I’ll mention some variations of this recipe that I’ve tried.  However, here are the basic ingredients.

Oregano, Chicken, Lelmon, Garlic

  • 3-4 Large Chicken Breasts, halved **Not little tenderloin strips, the big hearty-sized breasts**
  • 1/4 tsp Salt, per Chicken Breast
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper, per Chicken Breast
  • 1/2  to 1 tsp Oregano, per Chicken Breast **Flavor to personal taste**
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 tsp Minced Garlic
  • 3/4 cup Chicken stock
  • 3-4 Tbsp butter

Take a plastic ziplock bag, and using the “shake-n-bake” method, put in chicken and salt, pepper and oregano.  To get the best coverage, I add 2 pieces of chicken, so 1 chicken breast, and the corresponding salt, pepper, and oregano.  I shake the chicken around in the bag to coat the chicken, and repeat this process for each chicken breast.

Lemon Garlic Crockpot Chicken

After the chicken breast are covered, I put the chicken in a skillet with 1 tbsp of butter per breast, and brown the chicken.  Then put the chicken into your slow-cooker/crockpot.

Cooking Chicken in Skillet before adding to crockpot

Add the chicken stock, juice of one lemon and minced garlic to the skillet that is coated with butter and all those tasty chicken drippings.  Stir the ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil.  Once it is boiling, turn the heat off and pour it into the crockpot.

Lemon Garlic crockpot chicken

Cook in the crockpot on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  We generally serve the chicken on top of rice.  However, if you are on the Atkins diet, hold the rice!  (BB and I had rice with ours!)

Lemon Garlic Crockpot Chicken

We’ve tried a number of variations to the recipe, and most of them seem to work.  You could try: Adding chopped fresh parsley during the last 30 minutes of cooking; adding in mushrooms with the chicken; adding lemon zest to the juice; adding a 1/4 cup of white cooking wine to the crockpot.

Enjoy!

I’m sharing this recipe at:

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated {Stepfamily Situations}

Several months ago, I was at a Cub Scout den meeting, talking to another mother and her 9-year-old son.  We were discussing requirements for the next Cub Scout rank, and the mother explained that her son needed to complete the “Family Fun Night Requirement.”  Her son looked at me, and said, “Well, I guess I won’t get my Bear Badge, I don’t have a family.”  I’ve known this family for 5 years, and watched the parents struggle with their marriage, and their subsequent divorce.  Overall, the parents did a great job working as a coparenting team, and I was impressed at how successful they were at working towards the best interests of their son.   The dad moved into a house that was only 5 houses down the street from the mom, and the son seemed to be handling everything as well as could be hoped. Of course, it can be challenging to keep the delicate two-household equilibrium for a long period of time.  About eighteen months ago, this child’s father was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months.  Upon returning to the US, he was stationed another state, and is now about 7 hours away from his son.  When I asked this child what he meant about not having a family, he said, “It’s just me and mom.  Dad lives so far away now.  I don’t have a real family.”

Around that time, BB was thinking a lot about what makes up a family too.  In a school essay, he wrote, “My family includes my mom, my dad, my stepdad, two dogs, and four cats.  I am going to be a big brother soon.”  Needless to say, we don’t all live together!  (I only have 2 dogs and 2 cats in my house.)  I was pleased that my son was able to see all of us as part of his family, even if we aren’t all part of his household.  I think that historically society has seen “household” and “family” as being synonymous.

Stepfamily Situation: Brothers

There are some advantages to having a broad definition of family.  Usually, BB has more “fans” at school and sporting events than most children: his dad, stepdad, me and his grandparents.   However, the birth of LB has challenged my son’s definition of family the most.  BB asked if he was going to be a “brother” or a “half-brother,” and if that would change how he felt about LB.    Could he love a half-brother as much as he would love a brother?  BB also asked if his dad would be a part of his little brother’s family, and what LB would call his dad.  BB’s stepdad buys Christmas presents for him, and they go bowling together, so would my son’s dad get to hang out with the LB?  Is his dad a “stepdad” to the baby, or did we use some other word.  I told him that we’d have to figure things out, but we would all still be his family, and unfortunately we don’t have words to capture all of these new relationships.

Given that more than half of all children will spend some portion of their time in a single-parent home, and most children will experience several familial transitions in their life, it is important to remind ourselves (and our children) that when we think of what a family is, we don’t simply think about the people living in our homes, or that the people in a child’s family include only their siblings and biological parents.  A family member might even include a person for whom we haven’t even come up with a traditional label to describe!  A mentor of mine living in a stepfamily had her youngest daughter coin the term “Sib-Dad” to refer to her eldest daughter’s father.

After a moment of pause at the Cub Scout meeting, I told my son’s friend what I believe about the meaning of the word “family,” and what I’m teaching BB.  A family is not a certain number of people living in one house, a family is any number of people who love and care about each other, spend time together, celebrate together and support each other.   Then I asked him if he used my definition what could he do to fulfill his “Family Fun Night Requirement.”   He picked a special activity that he and his mother would do on a Saturday night, just the two of them.

Traditional New Year’s Day Menu: Cooking Greens and Black Eyed Peas {Family Favorite}

This year, LB, my parents and I celebrated New Year’s Day with my in-laws in Florida.  (MM had to work, and BB was away with his dad’s family.)  Before arriving my mother-in-law and I talked about having New Year’s Day dinner.  Her family is from above the Mason-Dixon line, and her New Year’s Day menu is somewhat different from that I grew up with.  She grew up with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.   I grew up with black-eyed peas, collards and rice.  We both always have pork on New Year’s.  We divided the menu up, and she cooked her traditional favorites and the pork, and I cooked the greens and peas.  Greens and peas are required for wealth and good luck in the New Year, so I was determined to have them!

Roast Pork, Collard Greens, Black-Eyed Peas, Potatoes

My mother-in-law is an experienced cook, but didn’t grow up cooking Southern style, so she asked me about cooking greens and peas.  For these foods, I don’t really cook with a recipe, but go by feel, the way my grandmother taught me!  However, I showed her how to cook them, and took photos along the way.  I figured there might be a few non-Southerners who might want to try their hand at greens and peas, so here’s what my grandmother taught me:

Greens (Turnip, Collards, Kale, etc.)

Sometimes you might be tempted to buy your greens in a bag.  Around here, they sell bags of “Glory Greens.”  The time you save isn’t worth the quality of the product.  Those bags include lots of stems.  Stems are tough and don’t taste good (at least that’s what my grandma taught me!)   We generally cook collards at my house, but sometimes we could kale.  For New Year’s Day, I cook a bunch of collards.  I bought a lot, but they are like spinach– they cook down to nothing.

Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, Kale, New Year's Dinner

Large Bunch of Greens that is not pre-bagged

When I was younger, I used to carefully trim and cut the collards with scissors, but I’ve learned that ripping them is faster and the end product is just as good.  I rip them into good sized pieces and work around the stem. Throw the stems away. Collards are a lot of celery– there are itty bitty little leaves in the center of the bunch.  When they start getting pale green, and are smaller than my hand, I don’t include them.

Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, New Year's Day

Rip around the tough stem in collard greens.

After I’ve torn off all of the leafy parts, without the stem, into chunks, I soak it for a bit in cold water.  This wilts everything just a bit so that it fits better in the pot, and also helps rinse the dirt off the leaves.

Collard Greens, Kale, Turnip Greens, New Year's Dinner

Then I cut up my fat back or hog jowls.  My grandmother always cooked with hog jowls on New Year’s, but sometimes I just use salt pork.  My mother-in-law asked if she could use bacon.  I don’t see why not.  When it’s not New Year’s, I usually just pick up a bag of salt pork for seasoning in the meat section of the grocery store.  I cut it into smaller slivers.   My father, grandfather, and aunt all like to eat the hog jowls– they are supposed to bring you extra luck in the New Year!  (Personally, I think they are kind of gross, but add a wonderful flavor.)

Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, New Years

I use only Chicken Broth and/or Chicken stock when cooking greens.  (See “About Me.”)  If I am trying to make the dish lower fat, and using less of the fat back, I’ve used Better Than Bullion Ham Flavoring.  I fill the pot until the entire collection of greens is covered by chicken broth.  I toss in the hog jowls/fat back and turn the stove onto low-medium.  It looks like this when you start cooking it:

Collard greens, Kale, Turnip Greens, New Year's Day

Before

My father teases me about how long I cook collards, but it generally takes 2-3 hours for them to taste just right.  I don’t think you can overcook them.  Based on my grandmother’s recommendations, I toss a heaping teaspoon (or two I’m cooking a big pot of greens) of sugar into the pot and stir about 20 to 30 minutes before I take it off the stove.  I recommend tasting the greens before adding the sugar to make sure they are flavorful and tender.

Collard Greens, Kale, Turnip Greens, New Year's Day

After

Black-Eyed Peas

These are prepared much the same way as the greens, at least in my house.  I’ve read that some people bring the fat back and broth to a rolling boil before putting in dried peas.  I’ve never used dried peas.  This New Year’s Day, my mother-in-law had frozen peas, and that tends to be what I serve unless they are fresh in the summertime.  If you are buying dried peas, you might want to use the rolling boil trick.  Otherwise, the peas look a lot like this when you start cooking them:

Black Eyed Peas, Southern Cooking, New Year's Day

Before

I don’t generally cover the peas, unless the broth is almost gone. The broth does cook down to almost nothing. I get the peas cooking on high until they soften up for 15-20 minutes, and then I cook them for about another 30-45 minutes.

Black-Eyed Peas, Collard Greens, Southern Cooking, New Year's Day

After

By the way, if you want to make Hoppin’ John, which is a Southern delicacy that includes mixing black-eyed peas and white rice.  It is supposed to bring sure luck for your New Year’s.  We didn’t serve rice this year, as we had potatoes, but it is delicious when mixed with your black-eyed peas.

Sharing this Recipe at:

New Year’s Cocktail with Pomegranate and Champagne

On Christmas day, my mother’s friend shared that she was going to bring a special cocktail with her to dinner.  She didn’t tell us much, other than it had champagne in it.  Everyone really liked the drink, so when visiting with family, we decided to serve it for New Year’s Eve.  It is a quick, colorful beverage that is both a little bit sweet and tart.

To make the drink, one needs only a bottle of Champagne, Pomegranate Liqueur (such as PAMA), and fresh pomegranate.

pomegranate seeds for cocktail

You start by peeling the pomegranate and letting the seeds sit in the refrigerator to be chilled while you are chilling the Champagne.  I would also encourage you to have chilled glasses, but that’s not necessary.  When picking out a pomegranate, look for one that is a bit softer, so the seeds will be juicier and more ripe.  The one we had produced a ton of extremely juicy seeds, and there were plenty for us to snack on after ringing in the new year.

pomegranate liquer and champagne

One you have chilled seeds, champagne and glasses, pour about 1/2 to 1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur into the chilled glass.  Add in 1 dozen or so chilled pomegranate seeds.  Fill the rest of the glass with champagne, and enjoy.  The seeds fill up with champagne and become extremely yummy!

pomegranate champagne cocktail

Non-Alcoholic Version

I know that there are a number of folks out there that may not want to try the alcoholic version of this drink, but I wanted to mention that you can also make a non-alcoholic, “soft” version of the drink by substituting sparkling apple cider or sparkling grape juice for champagne and POM juice for the liqueur.  I’d still use the seeds as they were the particularly tasty part of the drink.

Pomegranates are a great way to start off the New Year.  In Judaic history, they are served during the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashana.  I looked up the  history and symbolism of the pomegranate for the Jewish New Year, and learned that they were a symbol of fruitfulness and prosperity.

Sharing this idea at:

Garden Lights at Atlanta Botanical Gardens

We usually go see a holiday lights exhibit each year.  Until this year, for the previous 5 years, we’d all load up in a car and head to Callaway Gardens to see their Fantasy in Lights show.  That show peaked in excitement for us about 3 years ago, and BB asked if we could see something new.  Around the Atlanta area, there are a number of great holiday light exhibits, including our next door neighbors, but last year we went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to see the Garden Lights exhibit, and we had heard that the display was supposed to be even better this year.

Initially I was looking forward to an exhibit that included staying cozy in my car, so I was pushing to go to Lake Lanier Islands, but MM pointed out that LB wouldn’t be able to see much from his rear-facing carseat.   I really wanted LB to be able to enjoy his holiday light show! At 3-months-old, LB isn’t one who is going to get into everything, but the one thing he does like is lights.  He was infatuated with our Christmas tree.  He would sit and study it for long periods of time.  When we went to stores and restaurants that had strings of lights up for the holidays, he gazes at the lights with great admiration.

The other big selling point of the Botanical Gardens for our family is the opportunity for photography.  When we go to the drive through light exhibits, it’s a challenge to get good shots.  You don’t want to take too long and hold up traffic behind you.   MM and I enjoy taking photographs, and BB has been getting more and more into taking photos.  I wanted to test out some of the Bokeh techniques that I had been collecting on my photography Pinterest board.  I generally use the Program setting of my Nikon D70, but these photography articles have made me want to test out the manual or apperture-priority settings.  So a few days before Christmas, we headed over to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

When we arrived, we found a sizable crowd at the event.  (We got to the Botanical Gardens less than 30 minutes after it opened.)  I was extremely grateful that we had left our SUV-stroller at home.  (SUV-strollers are those strollers that are so large that they only fit is a super-sized vehicle, like a big SUV or minivan.)  Trust me, we do have one, and it is used, but one of my pet peeves in life is going some place crowded with gigantic strollers adding to the cramped chaos and claustrophobia. I was traveling with LB in the Bjorn, which generally is my favorite way to travel with him.  I think that leaving the stroller behind also improved our mobility quite a bit, so that we were able to get to some great shots and not be weighed down.   The biggest downside to my babywearing was the fact that I can’t easily take pictures when I have a baby strapped to my chest.  I would have clocked LB in the head if I tried to take any pictures.  (MM and I did switch off towards the end of our trip so I could try out the Bokeh techniques.)

BB brought his iPod Touch, and I’d like to share that it has a fabulous camera, far better than my smart phone.  It rivals the average point and shoot digital, just with fewer features.   He also listened to our hint when we arrived: Turn off your flash when you take pictures of Christmas lights!  I’m sure most people know this, but I was still shocked by how many people were snapping pictures of the light displays with a bright flash ruining all of lights’ beauty and glow.

Faux Tree

Faux Tree

The Gardens had put into place these “trees” that were completely fake and covered with lit blooms in diferent colors.  We saw white, yellow, pink and purple.  They were extremely pretty.  BB took several photos of them, including the one above that shows the structure of the tree.  (Isn’t his Touch camera impressive?!)

BB Garden Lights 7

BB Garden Lights 6

After you walk past the artificial trees, the forest is filled with red and white snowflakes hanging amongst the branches.  We also walked through the forest canopy and found a forest of lit trees below us.  There were also carolers singing to us as we walked through the exhibits.

BB Garden Lights 2

BB Garden Lights 5

The brightest and prettiest section is an area of the garden with small, pruned trees.  (I think they may be crape myrtles, but it is hard to tell in the dark.)  It is quite breath taking.  There was a docent instructing us to keep moving, but BB snuck around to the side of the light display to snap a quick picture.  He also got a picture of the lit-up Chihuly fountain because he knows that I love Chihuly.  (BB explained to me that if he didn’t use the flash for this picture that we wouldn’t be able to clearly see the sculpture or water.)

BB Garden Lights 3

The section of the Garden Lights show that catches the children’s attention is the lawn with a light display that is synchronized to music.  Something about the changing lights that move and flash to the music make little ones want to wiggle. (Unfortunately, LB didn’t seem to make the connection between the lights and music because the lights were a bit too far away for him.)  BB took a video of the lights and music for us to keep as a memento.

DSC_0600

We walked through the indoor light exhibits in the greenhouse areas, and once we returned outside, we all had hot cocoa and cider.  BB let me try to get a good shot of him with the lights as a backdrop.  It took several to get one that I finally liked…

DSC_0619

BB reported that the trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens was awesome, and has been showing his photos to everyone who would pay attention since we got home.  All of the photos here, except the ones with the kiddos were taken by BB.  The pictures of BB and LB were taken by me (pics of BB) and LB (pics by MM)… but wait, you say, there weren’t any pictures of LB.  Did he even enjoy the light display?  Well, you tell me:

mesmerized

MM titled the picture mesmerized, and I agree!

Cinnamon Bread {A Family Favorite}

Cinnamon Bread was one of my grandmother’s holiday baking staples.  She would bake it along with Zucchini Bread, and then deliver two small loaves to each one of her neighbors during the holiday season.  I can remember being a small girl and helping her make the bread and then watching her package the two small loaves in colorful Christmas wrapping before walking around the block to drop off her treats.  She lived in a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, and all of the children played and grew together.  One of those old-fashioned suburban neighborhoods that seems to be rapidly disappearing in our current digital age.  (I suppose this is rather ironic for me to to say, as we live in my grandmother’s house!)

When I was a little girl, the neatest thing about my grandmother’s  Cinnamon Bread was the way that it swirled with cinnamon sugar when you cut a slice of the bread to eat.  So pretty and so yummy!

Cinnamon Bread 2 Here is the Recipe:

2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Butter (1 Stick; slightly softened or close to room temperature)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Cup Sour Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1&1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1&1/2 Tbsp Sugar (In addition to the 1 cup of sugar above)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan. (**Makes 1 LARGE loaf. I tend to make 2 medium sized loaves.**) Sift Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and salt together into a bowl and set aside. Cream Butter with Sugar. Once butter and sugar is creamed, add Eggs, Sour Cream and Vanilla Extract to mixture. Slowly add Flour mixture to other ingredients until batter is thoroughly mixed. Mix together one and a half tablespoons of cinnamon and one and a half tablespoons of white sugar, and set aside in separate ramekin. Pour 1/3 of batter into greased pan(s), coat batter with 1/3 of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Pour another 1/3 of batter into greased pan(s), coat batter with another 1/3 of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Pour remaining 1/3 of batter into pans. Cover batter with remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture, and pat sugar mixture into batter with back side of a wooden spoon. (This will keep the cinnamon-sugar from falling off top of loaf during baking, as loaf rises a fair amount.) Bake between 45-60 minutes depending on loaf pan. (I generally start checking the small loaves after 30 minutes, with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.)

My grandmother notes that this bread “freezes beautifully.” This is true, so you can tell your family/friends this when presenting them with a loaf. I also knew that my grandmother would keep a few loaves in her freezer to bring out for special treats.

The bread is great by itself without any embellishments, but is especially yummy when it is lightly toasted and served with butter.  We prefer to serve it at breakfast time, and I made a batch on Christmas Eve, so we’d have some fresh for this Christmas morning.

I’m sharing this recipe at:

A First Christmas: Visiting Santa and Christmas Card Photos

I love Christmas.  I mean really, I *LOVE* Christmas.  I love Christmas Carols.  I love the smell of Frasier Firs and Balsam.  I love Gingerbread and Pumpkin Pie.  I love reading Holiday Newsletters.  I love seeing light displays around our neighborhood.  I love finding the perfect gifts for the people I love.  I love spending the day with my family.  I have been so very excited about this season since this Christmas is LB’s first.  I’ve wanted to make sure that he looked the part to commemorate all of those special firsts.

I remember that when BB was born, I was so excited about finally being able to send out a Christmas card with a cute baby picture.  Maybe it’s just me, but the only cards that I enjoy are the photo cards.  I don’t care if the children are 2-weeks or 15 years old, I like seeing how a family is growing and changing.  Generic Christmas cards don’t interest me to much.  Since this was the first year that we had two beautiful children, Christmas cards were a big deal for our family this year, with everyone getting into making a great card.  MM was anxious about us getting the perfect pictures to share on our Christmas cards, and wouldn’t let me procrastinate too much!  I forgot how much work it can be to get posed and perfect photos of a baby with props and lighting and cooperating brothers.  Luckily, I think the pictures ended up being darling.

DSC_0418

DSC_0483

I even got BB to pose happily with his little brother, smiling and wearing a matching stocking cap!  (Unfortunately, LB was cranky and tired in these pictures, so he didn’t want to cooperate.)  These days getting BB to agree to go along with any scheme of mine is quite challenging.  However, both boys ended up looking adorable in their matching hats.  In case you were interested in getting one for yourself some time, I purchases them in an Etsy store, and they were just as cute as the pictures.  (Did I mention that Etsy is a fabulous source for stocking caps?!)

I took BB to get his picture taken with Santa when he was 8 weeks old.  He slept through the entire experience.  I love the picture of him with Santa– he’s yawning!  I have an ornament on our tree of BB and Santa in a frame that I found that year at Pottery Barn Kids.  I have had visions of having two ornaments with baby boys and held by Santa on our tree.  A few days after LB was born, I tried to make a reservation with Atlanta’s “premier” Santa.  However, I learned that all slots for the holiday season (that started November 1st) were filled in early August!!  I wasn’t to be dissuaded, and I found another Santa that is wonderful, but for some reason, not as coveted as the “premier” one.

I tried my darnedest to get BB to agree to go see Santa with LB.  I wanted a picture of both of them on Santa’s lap and then a separate one of just LB.  BB flat out refused.  I think the matching stocking caps were his limit! I begged and pleaded asked BB to go with us for days.  It got to the point that BB got angry if we started mentioning Santa around him.  It’s probably just as well, as I was able to take LB to visit Santa mid-morning on a school day.  There was no line.  It was a simple, positive experience.  I had LB wear his long stocking cap, that I purchased in another Etsy store.  Unlike BB who was sound asleep, LB was alert and curious.  I tried hard to get him to smile, but it wasn’t happening! I still like the picture, and I even found a Pottery Barn Kids ornament for it to go in!

LB and Santa

Now we’re down to just two days before Christmas.  I’m busy checking my own list off to make sure that everything is ready for the big day.  I think it is.   I know that MM will have a camera ready to snap all of our special family moments and record LB’s first Christmas.  I’m a little sad that all of the festivities, carols and lights will be ending. On the upside, I can start daydreaming about next Christmas, where LB will be excited about boxes and wrapping paper, and will care very little about the presents inside them!

DSC_0481

MERRY CHRISTMAS!