“i don like-a smack, mom”

it’s already january 8th?!

i feel like it’s been only a few days since i rang in the new year with the mister, the bean & the little one…

yes, can you believe it – against my better judgement both babies were up to witness the new year’s arrival. i think it took like 3 of these last 8 days for them to get somewhat back to normal in regards to bedtime…

we stayed much later than anticipated (by me only apparently) at our friends’ new year’s party…

hubs was happy chattin’ it up with his buddies…isla was just happy…and avey met a boy…and was quite content chasing him around the kitchen & assisting him in rearranging the appetizers…haha

mommy was sick to her stomach, as usual these days, & enjoyed the festivities the best she could while silently cursing the spread of yumminess that was mocking her all night…

anyway, the plan was to be home by 10pm, put the babes to bed & then enjoy the final moments of 2012 with a champagne (pronounced cham-pag-nay) toast & a new year’s smooch. lovely.

the real deal…rolled in at 11:45, decided to welcome 2012 as a fam, complete with the toast (for mom & dad), a glass of maraschino cherry water for avey & some random dancing.

this is where the smacking comes in…

dad decided to engage in the good ole tradition of pot banging with aves…well…

“i don like-a smack, mom! i don like it!”

awww, sweet baby…she didn’t like-a smack this year…maybe next year if we can better prepare her for it. i should probably allow more pot banging on a regular basis…hmmm…

don’t worry, she recovered quickly – she’s a lot like her mom. five more maraschino cherries later & a few more over-the-top dance numbers & she was back to her happy self…just in time for bed!

plans changed, but it was the perfect night.

i think that should be the trend of this year for our family…not exactly what we planned, but rather, the perfect plan for us.

after all…”many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (proverbs 19:21)

not our will, but YOUR’S this year, Lord.

thank you in advance for new mercies every morning & the opportunity to make this year better than the last…

the perfect holiday breakfast

eggnog french toast casserole

yep. it’s absolutely the perfect holiday breakfast.

it also happens to be the perfect saturday morning breakfast, tuesday morning breakfast, thursday morning breakfast…catch my drift? it’s sooo good! i’m eating it again right now!

i love christmas & i also love the foods & beverages that embody the flavors of the season…like hot chocolate, peppermint everything, turkey, eggnog. so yummy.

we often have french toast for breakfast on saturday mornings, so i got the idea (i know i’m not the first) to use eggnog rather than milk. why not? it’s sweet, creamy, flavorful…

so, i did some searching & adapted {this recipe} found at two peas and their pod.

i preferred to use less egg, sugar & vanilla. we have some really real & potent vanilla in our pantry. didn’t want to overdo it…plus i made an important addition – flour. it really helps create a batter-like coating & fluffs up the dish in a lovely way.

i prepared the dish on christmas eve b/c my in-laws were joining us on christmas morning for breakfast. i served it up along with sausage links & fresh orange slices. it was the perfect holiday meal & everyone loved it!

here is my adapted version:

nearly an entire loaf of wheat bread (about 16-18 slices) cubed
5 large eggs
2 cups eggnog
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

* grease/butter a 9×13 glass baking dish
* cube & layer the chunks of bread evenly
* whisk together flour & eggnog first. please don’t try to add your flour last – it will remain clumpy & that’s bad…
* whisk in your vanilla, sugar, nutmeg & eggs
* pour mixture evenly over the bread, cover & place in the refrigerator overnight

* prepare your streusel topping. this is the original & it’s perfection. (i also did this the night before & just stored it in a separate container in the refrigerator.)

streusel topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

* pre-heat oven to 350
* cover entire dish with streusel topping
* bake for 50-55 minutes

seriously – this is so good. you will love it. your kids will love it. everyone will love it.

for a mini version, remember the number 2…

2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 c. egg nog (that’s all i had left. i’m sure 3/4 to 1 c. would be good)
dash of vanilla & nutmeg

for topping:
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cold butter, diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg & salt

this little dish (6×6 casserole dish) fed us breakfast for the past two mornings…

i think i may be addicted & will miss it tomorrow…

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diy christmas stockings

i wanted desperately to find or make a matching set of stockings for our little family this year. our first christmas together, the mister & i had regular, traditional stockings – you know, red with fuzzy white trim, names written in messy glitter glue. then, avey came along & her first stocking was the one she came home from the hospital with…i wanted her to be a december baby, so she could come home in that giant stocking & she made it! but, realistically, she couldn’t exactly leave the hospital in a stocking. so it hung next to the rest & was ginormous. it was kind of funny.

last year, i was pregnant with isla rae, so ava inevitably received a traditional one, complete with puffy, glitter glue…

i had every intention of ordering a full set from pottery barn for this christmas – all matchy with names embroidered…but i couldn’t bring myself to, b/c i kept thinking about more children & having to spend a ridiculous amount of money on another set in the case that pb no longer sold the same kind i ordered. i know, i know…the dilemmas in life, right?

giving up on that plan, i thought about making them. i haven’t learned to crochet yet though & i’ve only knitted scarves & dishrags…then i spotted these!

they were 60% off on black friday & immediately when i saw them the wheels started turning. between two kohl’s, i was able to find five – one for each family member, plus an extra if we ever enlarge our family again.

initially, i imagined them with a ribbon-trimmed, rectangular chalkboard name plate attached with velcro so that i could remove them for easy washing…

well, i went to the craft store & when i asked for help, the lady behind the counter looked at me like i was a little crazy. on my solo hunt, i found these oval-ish wooden name plates. plan adapted…i searched for just the right ribbon & found these little red pom poms strung on wire & i just loved it.

simply spray each name plate with chalkboard paint. wait for them to dry… attach the pieces with the teeniest little bit of hot glue & that’s it! done.

this year, mama wrote everyone’s name, but in years to come, i hope each one of us will write our own names. that way, when we look back in pictures, we can see how our handwriting has changed. that first christmas when avey baby can write her own name…i know i’ll cry! making sweet memories & living in these moments…that’s what it’s all about.

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cabinet christmas card display

so, this year, i decided to get a little creative in my thinking – much like everyone else – thanks to pinterest! gotta love everyone generously sharing their ideas. it really sparks the imagination & motivates me most days…

a while ago i saw someone using command strips for easy wreath hanging on kitchen cabinet doors. i loved that idea! how simple too! i did buy some foam tubing with every intention of “whipping up a few wreaths.” um yeah, next year maybe… sometimes the mental ambitions don’t quite align with realistic timeframes…

christmas cards began to arrive immediately following thanksgiving. i usually tape them to the perimeter of this large mirror we have in our dining room, but that felt blah & i don’t like putting tape on the mirror anyway. it’s a cheap mirror that i found at a yard sale for $4 & repainted & it’s pretty temperamental. it doesn’t like to look clean… at certain angles, it’s like a funhouse mirror.

so anyway…i remembered the wreath idea & i had already purchased all of the ribbon, so there you go!

this is just one section. i have a total of six cabinets covered. it’s two days past christmas & the cards are still coming (i have a few yet to send myself! couldn’t track down addresses quickly enough…yikes!), but i’m out of command strips, so they’ll have to sit tight ’til the next project involving them comes along. (it’s coming btw…)

this was simple…

just place your hooks dead-center, hook facing in. that way, your ribbons won’t slip off.

to make sure the knot is snug, take hold of the end & wind it around & give it a good tug…

like so…

i chose to use this fabric ribbon, b/c it’s stretchy & i could pull it pretty firmly while doing this in order to get a taut fit. you don’t want droopy cards that flap in the wind, right?

ok – my husband made fun of this one…”why on earth did you take a picture of scotch tape?” i had a perfectly logical answer…b/c i chose this particular kind of tape for a very particular reason & you’ll see why in just a moment. so, you’ll need some packaging tape…

stick it behind the ribbon sticky side facing you first – it’s much simpler this way. trust me. don’t try to stick it to the card first.

now, i told you i had a good answer for him regarding the tape, so here it is…the packaging tape is first of all wide & reliable. it will stick to your card better than regular tape & secondly, b/c it’s so wide & b/c the ribbon is fabric, the tape will only adhere firmly to the card. this is great, b/c it will allow you to slide the card up & down the ribbon if you need to move things around a bit. just hold firmly to the card on either side of the ribbon & slowly slide it to your desired spot. easy peasy & pretty!

i love having the cards here on the cabinets. i probably spend at least half of my day in the kitchen & the faces of my friends & loved ones are so warm & inviting. it really added something special this christmas. i’ll definitely keep this practice up.

clean up will be a cinch too. i’ll just leave the command hooks in place & remove the ribbons. i’ll simply cut the tape & keep the cards handy for my next project…

a little behind…

oh the holidays!

i love ’em, but boy am i behind!

i just spent an hour and a half uploading & editing a month’s worth of photos!

that cruelly reminded me that i have like six blog posts that i meant to write, but good intentions halted at good intentions…

so here’s a visual preview if i can get this booty in gear…

avey baby’s 2nd birthday & the diy chalkboard tea/art table

my “budget-friendly meal #2”
chicken parm casserole…yummo

a fabulous calzone…
complete with made-from-scratch, easy, delicious pizza dough

this year’s effective & fun way to display our christmas cards

a glimpse at isla’s “first christmas come early” @nana & pap-pap’s

look at these little nuggets! aren’t they so cute?!
this is cousin “e” (aka “moose”).
they’re just 7 weeks apart. can you guess who’s the elder?

some everyday randomness about my amazing girls & hunk of a hubby

oh the stories i have to tell…

yep…this is one of many adventures we’ve had in the last 30 days…
mommy no longer leaves her make-up on the kitchen counter.
boy she’s getting taller by the hour!

stay tuned…and say a prayer that i learn to think & type faster…

all that plus visiting “a ho ho” – that’s santa claus, people & he promised ava a kitchen, so it looks like daddy’s gonna be a busy elf tonight…baking & burning nearly all of my christmas cookies thus far…creating salt dough ornaments with da babies – went very well actually, but my kitchen is still covered in flour (but smells of peppermint oil, so i’ll live)…oh & apparently, a pill box. yep – i’ll probably tell you about my pill box. hubs is buying me “one of those pill box thingys that [his] mom uses.” thanks, babe.

oh…and in my defense (b/c i’ll surely be scolded for staying up late), little miss isla rae just decided to have a bottle. this 2nd child thing is quite different than the 1st go-round…she has no schedule & i think she likes it that way. i, on the other hand, am exhausted!

good night & honey, i will clean up the kitchen in five to six hours…promise. xo

empty pillowcase?

ok – so i caught a few minutes of “the talk” yesterday afternoon (it’s like “the view” minus the arguing & overly-domineering personalities…i wish elisabeth hasselbeck would move to “the talk,” so she’d actually get to talk more often…) anywho…yes, i meant who. i had a friend back in middle school that would say that all of the time & i like it. i think it’s quirky…

anywho – jeremy sisto – you may remember him as the “jerk” from clueless, but apparently, he’s a really nice guy, who loves his wifey & little girl very much! i like hollywood ppl like that…that’s why i’m using this picture:

it’s an old article btw, so he does in fact call his little girl “charlie ballerina.” cute.

so, he told a story about how on christmas eve while he was growing up, his parents would ask the kids to name a kind deed they had done that year for another. they would be holding an empty pillowcase… well, on christmas morning, the pillowcase would be full of presents.

i was just thinking about that story again last night & i was wondering if there are any deeds i’ve done for others lately, or if i deserved an empty pillowcase. seriously. i haven’t got a long list here ppl. not that things should be done out of obligation, but i should be able to recognize some kind things i’ve done over the past 365 days…

i was reminded of this yet again just now. i was baking in the kitchen. finally baking christmas cookies, which aren’t turning out btw, & i heard a little tap tap tap on my front door. i thought i was imagining it at first, but sure enough i heard it again. i headed to the door, dishtowel in hand (looking like a disheveled mess) & there stood my sweet friend, jill!

i hope you don’t mind me mentioning your name, jill, but you are sweet & i’m telling everyone just how kind you are!

she had stopped just to bring me a starbuck’s salted caramel mocha! yum!!!

i’m not sick…it’s not my birthday…we didn’t have a play date…she is just so kind! little did she know, a generous & thoughtful gesture was just what this disheveled mess of a girl needed today!

so, thank you again very, very much, jill! you inspire me to be more thoughtful too & i hope you have the best christmas with your little lovies. they have such a beautiful & loving mother!

i fixed the cookies btw – i apologize i gave you a dud of a batch. turns out my nonstick pans didn’t like the parchment/foil paper stuff – so i ditched it, cut the cookie size in half along with the baking time & voila! better cookies! see?

so i OWE you! hope you don’t chip a tooth!

thank you again, sweet friend! you deserve an over-flowing pillowcase for sure!

creating christmas traditions…

one of the most amazing things about forming your own family is the ability to birth your own family traditions…

i think a “family tradition” that my girls will hopefully look forward to fulfilling for many, many years to come was born last night.

every year since mister & i have been an item, we’ve gone to a local resort to view the “festival of lights.”
the whole town embraces the title & even the “gardens” are made up of lights in flower-form…light displays are everywhere.

we took ava last year at just one year of age & she loved it! she was bouncing up & down in the car (it’s a driving tour through a small resort at a mere 10 mph, so she sits safely on my lap).

this year, we knew she again would love it, so we eagerly anticipated the trip…

love it she did…

once again, she was perched quietly at attention on my lap, in awe of the scenes…nibbling her christmas cookies & asking for sips of mommy’s coffee (access denied of course – she had water).

that’s where the new tradition comes in – festival of lights, toasty car, christmas tunes on the radio, tin of homemade christmas cookies & as soon as she’s old enough (maybe next year), a yummy cup of hot chocolate (coffee for mom & dad)

it was so much fun. we loved watching her get excited over the different characters & it cracked us up to hear her call santa “a ho-ho” every time she spotted him.

i have a feeling i’m gonna like this holiday treat for many years to come…

a few of the displays we enjoyed were…


the gardens…ava & i had to walk through them to find the potty & i let her touch them.
she thought it was hilarious…

we also enjoyed the life-like nativity in the gardens & ava is still talking about her baby Jesus…i love it.

next year, i’ll have to take pictures.

maybe isla rae will join in on the fun – this year she peacefully snoozed through every “ooh” & “ahh.”

we may need a bigger vehicle with a larger front seat…

merry christmas!

turkey feta chowder

ok y’all – gotta get this recipe out of my head before you run out of the leftover turkey in the house. this is delicious (& half of the reason why thanksgiving made me extra excited this year). lame? no – it’s good. trust me.


this is one of those one-pot-wonder soups & your food processor or blender will do most of the work for you.

* start out by melting 2 tbs of butter in your stock pot (don’t burn it, just melt)

* add to that, 2 tbs flour – stir consistently, creating a rue

* once combined, slowly add in your 32 oz carton of turkey stock (i’m sure chicken stock would be fine). turkey’s just usually on sale post-thanksgiving…

* this is when i break out the whisk…your whisk is your friend…tilt your stock pot towards you, creating a deeper “pool” of the liquid & whisk the liquid into the rue until it’s a consistent, milky texture

* now let that stew for a few mins on low while you give your food processor a little attention

* add a few roughly chopped peeled carrots…

* now half of a med onion…

* last, throw in about 1/3 to 1/2 a jar of roasted red peppers. i like these, b/c they are in a jar of garlic-infused olive oil, so it’s a win-win. you get all of those flavors & oil at no extra cost! pour in about half of the oil (just enough to leave the remaining peppers still covered

* it’ll look a little something like this…i went ahead & threw in some salt & pepper as well (about a tsp of salt & 14 cranks of my pepper mill). don’t toss the processor bowl into the sink – you’ll need it again in a sec

* pour the lovely liquid into the pot & whisk again…

* stir in a generous cup of heavy cream…

* now – throw your left over turkey, about 6 to 8 white, button mushrooms & 1/2 a container of feta cheese into the food processor bowl – chop it up

* add that yummy combo into the pot & stir one last time – voila!

* couple with a salad – you can even make use of the extra ingredients from the soup – sliced carrots, chopped onion, fresh mushrooms, diced roasted red peppers, a little of that fantastic oil, some balsamic vinegar, a dash of salt, pepper & a sprinkle of feta…

the only thing missing from that scene is a toasty, buttered slice of baguette…enjoy!

this is so good, i bet you’ll buy a turkey breast just to make it again!

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lip biopsy today, peeps.

it hurts somethin’ terrible.

and it was gross.

i’m exhausted from a VERY late night/early morning first.time.EVER.black.friday.nearly.twenty.four.hour.shopping.extravaganza

my abnormally larger bottom lip is throbbing at me…

hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your family/friends.

i have more to say about my rookie shopping spree & this centimeter-squared hole in my pout, but right now, it’s time to sleep!

pumpkin chai “pullcakes”

yes. that’s what i said…pumpkin chai pullcakes.

ask ava if she wants a cupcake & she’ll reply 90% of the time “pullcake, ok.”
the other 10%, she’ll simply say, “yes.”
i love her “yes” btw…so matter-of-fact in her sweet little voice. “yes.”

you’re still stuck on the “pullcakes,” aren’t you?

well, i have to say it’s officially the first word she’s made up all by herself.
i’m guessing it’s b/c you have to pull the paper from the cake to eat it???
i’m not sure really, but it’s adorable & it works for us, so we’ll most-likely never refer to them by any other name.

seriously, she’ll be 20 & we’ll still be buying her “pullcakes” for her birthday.

well, anyway, i told you i was going to tell you about these awesome cupcakes pullcakes we made the other morning…

here they are:

aren’t they purdy?

pumpkin chai cupcakes pullcakes topped with a dreamy cinnamon chai cream cheese frosting. yum.

my muse…elizabeth of simon & simon’s pumpkin cake.

Grandma Lova’s Pumpkin Cake Recipe
1 yellow cake mix {see I told you it was easy}
1/2 cup of water
1 egg
2 cups of canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mix all of the ingredients with your mixer until smooth. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 -30 minutes….until a toothpick comes out clean.

this cake is probably, without a doubt, perfection the way it is, but like i’ve told you before & i’ll tell you again…

1 – i don’t like following recipes to the letter (which is why i am way more passionate about cooking…i’m all into the throwing random things together, tasting it as you go kind of thing)

2- i don’t like water.

well…i love water really…it’s God’s miracle liquid…
but in recipes, i feel it’s an opportunity lost in regards to adding extra flavors…
so i try my best not to use it when i can…

that’s where & why the chai comes in.

my hubby loves chai. he loves it.
he will grab chai from anywhere & critique it. he likes his chai.

thus…we had some chai k-cups hanging out in the pantry.

i don’t like chai. weird. i know. how can you not, right???
it’s like autumn in a steaming little cup of coziness!
but in the words of miss ava…”i don like it, mom.”

it was perfect in this recipe though.

so i brewed 10 oz of chai & added 1/2 c to my mixture after it had cooled.
i reserved the remainder for my frosting.

i also added a teaspoon of vanilla to the cake mixture. who doesn’t love vanilla extract? yum.

are you smelling this??? it’s awesome.

then, i followed elizabeth’s frosting directions as well…

1 can vanilla frosting
1 oz brick of cream cheese softened
Mix frosting, and frost cooled cake {if you can wait that long}. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

but i also added a teaspoon of vanilla & 1-2 tablespoons of chai.

just blend as you add the chai & stop when you hit a desirable consistency.
oooh! you know what else would be yummy??? pumpkin flavored coffee! yes!

while the cupcakes were baking, i let the frosting hang out in the refrigerator…

after the cupcakes cooled, i placed a heap of frosting in a small plastic baggie…
snipped the corner & went to town.
believe me, you’ll have more than enough of this heavenly stuff, so don’t be shy.
your mister will thank you.

of course ava & i had to sample one straight from the oven. that’s why it looks all warm & decadent…

i will say, if you try to eat them warm…they will fight you coming out of the liner…
but if wait it out, the liners will peel off much easier.
if you’re making this into a cake…well, then…no worries…dig in!

i finished them off with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon & a bit of sugar.
if i had mad skills…i’d add a sweet little caramelized sugar decoration.
like that…

wouldn’t that be divine?

finally, using a genius idea from pinterest…
we perfectly packaged a few for the moms & dads coming by that afternoon to pick up their lovies…

make ’em. refrigerate them. eat them. you’ll love ’em.

we promise.


happy thanksgiving.