Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve!

We're just going to have a cozy night at home tonight.

Fondue for dinner. And dessert.
Crackling fire in the fireplace.
Legos. Lots of Legos.
The Chronicles of Narnia. (Brent's reading them to Hadleigh and Nathanael.)
Julie and Julia. (to help us stay awake)
Kir Royale to ring in 2010.

Hard to believe that this was exactly one year ago:

Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve!
And tell me what your plans are!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Leftover EggNog???

When we were newlyweds, Brent introduced me to Eggnog. And I loved it. Back then, it didn't last too long in our fridge. Brent would pick some up on his way home from work. I would get another carton while grocery shopping. It was a holiday staple in our kitchen.

And then at some point (probably after babies) I took stock of the Nutrition label.

Such a bad idea.

So now, I enjoy a glass or two during the Christmas season...usually in front of the fire or while decorating the tree and house at the beginning of December.

But then the carton sits.

So this year, I was on the search for ways to use what was leftover. (Because for some reason, making a recipe with eggnog seems to put its calorie content to better use than just as a beverage. Right?) I found two great recipes.

I was pleased to find that Martha featured these in the December issue of Living:

(picture from Martha Stewart)

I made them for a Christmas Eve dinner at a friend's home...and they were delicious. A little more messy to cut than their picture...but delicious just the same. I cut mine into squares instead of bars to stretch the serving size from 18 to 36. Also, I substituted rum for the brandy because the other recipe called for rum, we prefer rum in our eggnog, and I didn't want to buy both.

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars

12 graham crackers, finely ground (1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup eggnog
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Stir together graham crackers, 3 tablespoons sugar, and the melted butter. Press into bottom of pan. Bake until crust is just brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the eggs, yolk, eggnog, flour, brandy, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt; beat until smooth. Pour filling over crust. Set pan in a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of baking pan. Bake until just set, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove baking pan from water bath, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Cut into 1 1/2-by-3-inch bars. Lightly dust tops of bars with freshly grated nutmeg just before serving.

And then for Christmas breakfast, I served these:

Eggnog French Toast. Very simple. Very decadent. Very festive. (sorry the picture didn't have a very creative food stylist! I'm just glad I remembered a picture!)

Eggnog French Toast

8 eggs
1 1/2 cups eggnog
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. dark rum
1 loaf Italian bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices
powdered sugar and nutmeg for dusting
maple syrup

1. Beat the eggs, eggnog, nutmeg, cinnamon, and rum in a large bowl. Dip the bread slices into the egg mixture, allowing the bread to become saturated.
2. Cook the French toast on a medium-hot griddle until golden brown, turning once.
3. Place on plates and dust with sugar and nutmeg. Serve with maple syrup.

I think we might make this again. You know, because we still have some eggnog in the fridge. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My favorite Christmas picture

I was so excited when I saw this picture Brent captured.

It was taken during our advent devotions on Christmas night.

I love that it shows all of us (except for Daddy), with the light of the candles illuminating us. It's a little tough to see Nathanael in the picture on your monitor...but if you look above the white "Christ candle", you can just barely see him.

When I look at the picture, I am reminded how Christ came to Earth to be the Light. John 12:46: "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." His Light shines in the darkness. And His Light is reflected in us.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's not too late

to make this yummy dessert. It would be perfect for New Year's Eve. Or New Year's Day.

Or any day, really.

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake. It's pretty easy to put together...just make it with enough time ahead to chill for several hours.

A few hints from me:
1) If you have three 8-inch cake pans, do step 5 earlier, so that freezer times line up.
2) If you can't find peppermint extract during Christmastime at your grocery store (because everyone else has beat you to it), your hobby store (Michael's/Hobby Lobby, etc.) should have Peppermint Oil in the candymaking section. It is more use less than suggested.
3) To make lining pans with wax paper easier, trace the bottom of the pan onto wax paper and then cut out. It should fit well.

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup boiling water
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups peppermint ice cream, softened
3 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/8 tsp. peppermint extract
8 peppermint candies, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 (8 inch) round cake pans. Line bottom of each pan with wax paper.
2. Combine cocoa, water, and butter in a bowl until blended. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Combine sugars in a large bowl, stirring until blended. Add egg substitute. Beat 2 minutes until light and creamy. Add cocoa mixture, and beat one minute. Combine flour, powder, soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to bowl and beat one minute until blended. Stir in vanilla.
4. Pour batter equally into pans and bake for 28 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans (and wax paper from cake bottom) and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 2 hours.
5. Spread ice cream in a cake pan lined with plastic wrap. Cover and freeze for four hours.
6. Assemble cake by placing ice cream layer in between the two cake layers on a cake pedastal.
7. Combine whipping cream and peppermint extract. Stir until blended. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint. Freeze until ready to serve. Let cake stand at room temperature 10 minutes before slicing.

All that's left to do?


Sunday, December 27, 2009

the week before Christmas

We drove to Breckenridge, Colorado to spend time with my family. Eleven of us. All together. These are special times. They are few and far-between. So I treasure them.

This was the view we enjoyed from the house. Breathtaking. The weather was gorgeous. We got a bit of snowfall as we drove into town and on the first night, but after that, nothing but beautiful clear blue skies and a bright warm sun.

The kids love being outside. You know that. The snow is NO exception. I think this is probably the most snow they've seen all together, as they've grown up in Texas and Oklahoma so far...and whenever we're in Asheville during the winter, we seem to bring warmer weather with us. Sigh.

But it's hard to miss snow in Colorado in the winter. :)

Nathanael was my snow explorer. He was soaked in snow and couldn't be happier. Snow up to his chest? No worries!

And I just love this grin. We had a nice little hill (courtesy of the driveway for our house) that we put to good use!
Adorable. What a little snowbunny.
In this picture she was pointing out that Jesus is in heaven now. (Just before she had said that Baby Jesus was in the snow. They've been acting out our nativity scenes for a few weeks now. Madeleine likes to be Mary. Just a sweet memory.)
She could have stayed out there all. day. long.
Totally in her element. And you should see the pics of her with her uncles. She adores them. It melts my heart.We also spent time skiing...decorating cookies...building a snowman...eating yummy food...putting together puzzles with missing pieces! more pictures to come (hint, hint, Katy Beth.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

From our family to yours...
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

a little flock of birds

I found these little ceramic birds at Target recently in the Christmas decoration section. For a steal.
Aren't they adorable?
I could have bought them all. But I refrained. I only bought ten. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My girls...

I just love this picture Brent took of the two of them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My version...

of the Starbucks Christmas wreath. Last year, when I saw this wreath in Starbucks...I was a little disappointed that I couldn't buy one. But a few google searches (and a year later), I had all I needed to make my own.

I love the traditional red with a mix of slightly untraditional greens. I used white styrofoam balls of several sizes and wrapped them with yarn in different shades of green.

It was a pretty easy project, although a little time-consuming. After spacing the main balls of yarn (and ornaments) around the wire wreath frame, I continued to add balls around the wreath (using hot glue) until I was pleased with the fullness of the wreath.

And Ta-Da:
The completed wreath!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookie Exchange

I think cookie exchanges should be a monthly activity, don't you? Today we had a cookie exchange hosted by my Bible Study group. There was a great assortment of cookies...
I think my favorites were the lace cookies and some really great peanut butter fudge. I made the chocolate-drizzled shortbread you can kind of see in the middle of the plate. Yum.

The great thing about shortbread is that you almost always have all the ingredients you need at home to make them. Which is helpful when you've forgotten to think about what kind of cookie you want to cook before going to the grocery store. Not that I know anything about that.

Shortbread Cookies

2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups lightly packed light brown sugar (Iused regular sugar)
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 275°. Beat all ingredients at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer just until combined.
2. Place dough on a lightly floured surface, and roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with a 4 3/4-inch Christmas tree-shape cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
3. Bake, in batches, at 275° for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks, and cool completely (about 5 minutes).

Saturday, December 05, 2009

it's looking like Christmas around here...

We've been super busy...making magnetic advent calendars:

It takes alot of concentration ;)
Here's a close-up...I still need to take a picture of the finished calendars...they each picked out their own papers for the calendars.
I ALWAYS love the day that our Christmas wreath from the North Carolina mountains arrives...compliments of my Mom and Dad. It is so fragrant and beautiful!
Mom and Dad also sent this adorable magnetic nativity for the kiddos...they've had lots of fun playing with it!

I have a list a mile long of all the things we want to do this month...our calendar is full for sure!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cozy 2 Bedroom available...

Our kitchen was home to this well-loved and much played in cardboard mansion for about three weeks.
Reinforced flooring throughout...fireplace...front and rear entrances.
Secret courtyard accessible by rear door.
And you can't see them, but I cut the cutest little four paned windows in the back of the house. Periscope is optional, though visible in the pictures if you look closely.
Decorated with crayon and stickers and rhinestones and many works of art.

The kids and I had a ton of fun building the house...lots of fun playing with it...but as all good things do, it must come to an end.

So, the house was demolished today, by a wrecking crew of four. :) A very happy wrecking crew!

It's safe to say that tearing down a cardboard house might just be more fun than playing in it!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Day for Mazes

Two weeks ago, the five of us went to a local farm maze. We all loved it. There was a petting farm (which we admired from a distance, as you who know our kiddos can imagine!)

We began with a hay bale maze that was short enough for all but Madeleine to see their way through. See that blur that is Hadleigh? That was typical all day long. She loved the challenge of the maze and loved that it was outside!
Here are my three, climbing to the top of "Ft. Apache" to see their next challenge. These bales were tall enough that only Brent and I could see our way around.
About half of what they saw. (and you can see the corn maze in the distance.)
All together at the top. Hadleigh was really good at finding her way and leading us through the maze.
Every so often, there would be a bench of straw which the kids thought was fun. Hadleigh wanted to take pictures at each stop. :)
Here we are at the entrance to the corn maze. Brent had a map...but let the kids try different paths to see where we ended up.
At one point, he sent Hadleigh in one direction and Nathanael in the opposite, and we could hear them giggling as they met halfway around the circle!
It was such a gorgeous day...the wind in the cornstalks and the warm sun shining through made me long for a blanket and an outdoor nap!
Hadleigh stayed in the lead most of the time...but she was very cautious about losing anyone in the maze. If any of us got out of her sight, she'd run to find us.
There was a great playground for playing after we conquered the maze, complete with a haybale pyramid to climb!
And a much picked-over pumpkin patch...but the countryside was beautiful. All in all, a gorgeous day to be in a fun place! Can't wait to do it again next year!

Friday, November 13, 2009

lollipop, lollipop, oh lolly...

A weekend away from the family warrants treats, no?
Last weekend, I went to Dallas with some girlfriends to celebrate a birthday and had a blast...good food, great fellowship, fabulous shopping, refreshing and solid worship...
but it's always wonderful to come home to family and voices screaming gleefully "Mommy!!!!"
...especially when you have treats to give.

And especially when those treats make for tons of cute pictures...and sticky faces. Did you see Madeleine's face? Oh my...she is for sure our messy one!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Craving sweaters...

It's cold outside. And I'm so excited that sweater time is fast approaching. I have on a light sweater today and it just makes me happy.

My close friends are reading this and remembering how I used to wear a sweater in September in Waco during college, despite the insanely hot temperatures, because "you're supposed to start wearing sweaters in September." :)

Here are a few that have caught my eye lately...
love the feminine ruffles...

I really really really want this one. It just says to me, take a walk outside in the leaves, and then cuddle up with a good book and a cup of tea. And it's blue. I've missed blue lately.

Can't decide if I like the brown or green of this better. Green might be my new favorite color...but brown is such a nice steady color.
Cozy mornings teaching Hadleigh to read. Can't you see it? (All the above are from Anthropologie.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009!!!

Quicker than quick. Faster than fast. Kerchow!

If you don't know what that means, then you evidently have not seen the Cars movie enough :)

And Cars was the name of the game for Nathanael's fourth birthday party.

We had Lightning McQueen and Mater gliders...complete with rubber band launchers.
A pinata that Nathanael loved...but wouldn't break apart. (Apparently the string pinata they design for young children are better constructed!)

A cake full of Nathanael's favorite Cars characters...

and the happy birthday boy about to attempt to blow out his candles. (Another child blew out two candles while Nathanael was waiting for me to take a picture! But he got the other two out and didn't seem to mind at all! Phew.)

It was a fun party with a few of his favorite friends!

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