Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Recap

Christmas kicked off for us on Christmas Eve with a candle light service at the church - and finally an opportunity for the kids to wear the outfits I made them. As you can see by the following pictures the kiddos are just a little bit excited. It really was fun seeing how wild they were for the upcoming day.

Of course cookies were left out for Santa and he was kind enough to leave a note thanking the kids for their goodies.

Charlotte got her Ariel doll.

And Douglass Charles was more into opening presents than his big sister (trying to open both mine and Doug's gifts as well)

And the favorite toy for both the kiddos - this great little playdough tool that kept them occupied for hours.

That night we carried on a family tradition (and one of my favorites) that my family did growing up. Because we didn't have family close by my parents would always invite friends over for a Christmas potluck. We decided to do the same and invited our friends the Zenus family and the Martens family over. It was one of the highlights of the holiday.
Angela, me, and Marlene

Stephen and Michael tending the babies

four of the eight kids

Doug and me

The food, lots and lots of wonderful food.

Both of the families who celebrated with us have three kids so the joke the whole evening between the guys and Doug was where was his baby. :)

Then it was off to Birmingham to spend a few days with Doug's family. Did I mention we got 3 1/2 inches of snow on Christmas day. It was beautiful, but not great for traveling in the South, so after our little party we packed in 45 minutes (yes, record time for me) and hopped in the car praying that we would make it soundly - arriving at my in-laws safe and sound before midnight (and before the freezing temps set in). This picture was of the kids "riding the pony" with their Pa. I believe they managed to do this with every uncle who made himself available.

Charlotte also loved holding her cousin, Kiersten. Here she is with her Aunt Meg and Kiersten.

Christmas wound up being fun filled and very busy. The kids also received colds for Christmas - which I think is a right of passage at their age, but we have thoroughly enjoyed Doug's time off and getting to spend time with family and friends.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cherished Christmas Memory

The room was warm, dimly lit with just the fire crackling, the twinkling of the Christmas tree, and Polar Express alive on the t.v. screen. Both of my children were wrapped up in my arms. Doug was roasting marshmellows in the fireplace. The wonderful smell of graham cracker and toasted marshmellow filled the air. Charlotte kept me entertained with her incessant questions and Douglass Charles with his up and down, not content to stay still long. In those sweet moments I realized I needed to remember this scene. My children small, all a smile with Christmas on their mind, Doug and I passing smiles between us, chuckling at the faces, the words, the silliness that our children displayed.

I hear these moments pass so fast and that one day I will awake to my children being grown, gone, and with them, the magic that is so alive during the holidays. I also know, that these are the moments I dreamed of - when I married Doug, when I found out I was pregnant, when each of my precious children were born. That moment, that space in time, I want to cherish always. The joy, the togetherness, the innocense and excitment of my children, are a gift, my gift this Christmas. A gift more valuable than anything I could ever receive - my family.

Wishing you and yours a cherished and joyful Christmas either with or remembering those who mean the very most to you!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Baking and Crafting

Christmas would not be complete at our house without sugar cookies made for santa and a little crafting as well. We baked Christmas cookies earlier this week and are saving some to leave for Santa with a glass of milk of course. I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed doing this with Charlotte this year. She loved rolling out the dough, cutting out the shapes, and decorating them. I was a little bit better prepared this year for this project after a frustrating attempt last year. I started right after breakfast, we stayed in night clothes - because I knew flour would get EVERYWHERE - and I decided on a late lunch with a bath directly after icing cookies. It worked out perfectly! And besides a little sugar buzz, the kiddos had a blast making their cookies for Santa.

We also made the cute Santa ornaments you see here. Charlotte made hers and I made Douglass Charles'. He literally was along for the ride for these projects - mostly running through the house, getting into drawers, things of that nature while Charlotte and I reveled in our project. It was really fun, but I do look forward to him being just a little bit bigger, so he can enjoy more of the fun as well.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fave Holiday Recipes: Sweet Potato Casserole

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light.

I must confess, I chose this photo because is was beautiful - at least to me. My favorite casserole of this nature does not have marshmellows, but don't these look divine. If you prefer marshmellows you can find the recipe of the one above by clicking here.

But... before you go hopping over there, know that I do believe my sweet potato casserole recipe may just rival anything you have ever tasted. I have never served this recipe where someone didn't start making it for their own families for holiday meals. It truly is delicious.

This recipe has a special place in my heart. It is my Mommy's (my dad's mother) recipe and I serve it on most important holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. It has this delicious candy topping that will make you forget about those marshmellows and for me it will always bear memories of holiday gatherings with my grandmother. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Mommy's Sweet Potato Casserole
3 large sweet potatoes (mashed) - scroll down if you want a tip for cooking and mashing them.
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 sticks butter/oleo (1 stick)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 eggs

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup nuts crushed (I use pecans, but you can skip them if you like)
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 stick butter/oleo (melted)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix first five ingredients in a large bowl. Place mixture in a 9x13 pan. In another bowl mix the topping ingredients together without the butter. Then sprinkle mixture over the top of the sweet potato mixture. It should generously cover it. Melt the butter and drizzle over top of the mixture (once you have put the butter on the topping you may want to tilt your pan to draw the butter to the corners - covering the flour mixture. It pools very easily - leaving the raw flour visible if you don't do this). Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour and then it is ready to serve.

Tip: Sweet potatoes are pretty hard to cut and peel so my mother always placed the whole potato in a large pot of boiling water with skins on. Cook them until you can pierce them easily with a knife or fork. Let them cool and then you can litteraly take the skins off with our fingers. Throw them in a bowl and mash then. It is quite easy!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Perfect Gift...

is this precious baby girl - and my new little niece, Molly Joanne Brownfield. My sister, Lauren, delivered her Sunday, December 19th, at 8:45 p.m. She was a week late and kept us all on our toes wondering when she would make her debut. But what could be a more wonderful gift at Christmas? Isn't she beautiful? Congratulations Lauren and Matt on your sweet baby girl.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Handmade Holiday

Between the homemade gifts and the handcrafted Christmas outfits, my fingers have been hard at work. The great little flower pins are for all the little girls in my life - shhh! Don't tell. And of course the outfits are for the kiddos. I just hate that Christmas Eve will be the first time they get to wear them. I am also sorry that this is the last garment I get to smock my little guy - as he is nearing the age of 2 (and the cut off for smocked clothing for boys in our house. SAD!).

I got the idea for the pins from a tutorial on one of my favorite blog reads at the moment - Jones Design Company. I love her classic style and she has so many WONDERFUL tutorials she shares over there - including the one for the pin you can find here.

The outfits for the kids were really a "creation" of my own. Obviously the patterns weren't, but I found something in Castles & Crowns catalog that I loved that determined the colors for the garments. The smocking pattern I adapted to match for both a boy and girl (Doug felt that Christmas trees alone would be a bit too feminine for Douglass Charles). I was pleased with the turnout and even more thrilled with my first bishop (Charlotte's dress. I had never done/pleated/smocked this pattern before). It is my favorite style for girls and I was thrilled to learn just how easy it was.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Favorite Holiday Traditions: Christmas Lights

There was nothing more fun to me as a little girl than seeing all the beautiful Christmas lights displayed outside. We lived in a small town, so we would venture out to see lights here and there, but it was never really a tradition.

Doug's family is from Birmingham, so they had tons and tons of lights to see every year. They made a point each year to pile up in the car/van and venture out to see all the beautiful creations in their neighborhood and neighborhoods around. Even as adults - when we go to his parents' for Christmas - his family will still get out to see the lights.

Doug wanted to carry on that tradition this year with our kids. We headed out last night to see what we could find. With the kids strapped in - marshmellows and chocolate milk in hand, a movie playing (we knew they wouldn't be able to hold out the whole time), we picked up some starbucks for us and we went a looking. It was fun to just be together and look at all those beautiful, twinkling lights.

I also got a few snapshots of our little light display. Not quite the Griswolds, but fun nonetheless.

I hope in years to come we can carry on this simple, yet fun tradition as we anticipate the coming of Christmas day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Trim

Here are just a few photos of our holiday trim throughout the house. I have two trees this year - the family tree and my tree (that I get to dress up in the dining room). This was our solution several years ago as Doug and I have some differing styles when it comes to holiday decor. He is all about the kids and I want Southern Living. Southern Living is not condusive to children and I agree that as a family we want the holidays right now to be all about our little ones. I still get my dressy tree, though :).

It is funny to think how our decor has changed over the years. I used to have lots of bows and I was in love with real greenery, and holly on the mantle - at times I also used Magnolia branches, candles - I think every room had something festive in it. Sadly, with the kids and dogs I have forgone some of our live elements. It is just easier, but boy was it pretty. I am still pleased with our little ensemble. I feel like it represents where we are right now as a family and it serves its festive purpose.

I still have yet to get pictures of the outdoors. The weather has just been too darn cold - snow, ice and rain. Hopefully I will snap a couple of shots before the big day arrives.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fave Holiday Recipes: Hot Cocoa

Photo courtesy of Teton Cocoa Company.

Who doesn't love a delicious cup of hot chocolate on a cold night sitting fireside. We certainly do at our house, and this recipe is the best EVER. I learned this recipe from a blog friend, Erica. She is quite the talented photographer and I love reading her musings over on Erica's Blogity Blog. She and I "met" through Etsy - she ordered an apron from me, asked to feature me on her blog and we have been "friends" ever since. Isn't this world-wide web thing kind of funny. Regardless, this cup of cocoa will not disappoint. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Erica's Hot Chocolate
14 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
6 /12 cups hot water (I use about four cups milk and 1-2 cups water). Start with 5 and add according to taste.

Start by mixing the sweetened condensed milk and cocoa in a large sauce pan - mixing until combined. Then add milk (or water - whichever you choose). Lastly, add the vanilla and pinch of salt. Serve with whip cream or marshmellows on top.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Little Miss Dorothy

Much to Doug's utter dismay, Douglass Charles has fallen in love with Charlotte's red, sparkly shoes. Please do tell me, what is a boy supposed to do when everything that is cool is wrapped up in the being of his older sister. Douglass Charles truly immulates everything Charlotte does and thinks she hangs the moon, and so obviously he loves her favorite pair of shoes.

Thankfully, I am not too concerned about his masculinity and I assure Doug that he has nothing to worry about. The kid is pretty fast, already has a decent arm, loves any type of ball game - playing or watching, adores trucks, and is loud and rough like most boys. He just may be a little more into fashion than the average guy. But hey, if my little brother can grow up smack dab in the middle of five girls and not be too worse for the wear, there is hope for Douglass Charles. Not to mention these are going to make great embarassing photos when the girls start coming around. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Seeing Santa for the 1st Time

Charlotte is three and this is the first year we have taken her to visit Santa Claus. Thankfully he visits our neighborhood every year and we got to forgo the long line and price at the ole mall. She was SO excited about seeing him this year. Talked about it to the point I thought Doug and I were going to scream, so Sunday, snow and all, we headed to our clubhouse to see the big man in red.

She did it, but all a little relunctantly. You can tell she is pretty tentative in these photos. As for her little brother, it was an absolute no go! He didn't like him one little bit. He actually was running from him later on - but also waving even later from all the way across the room.

It was fun to do this with neighborhood friends. In the last two photos you see two of our new neighborhood friends, Kendall and McKenna. Kendall is five and Charlotte LOVES her - how could you not with that adorable curly blonde hair and her sweet blue eyes. Kendall is quite sweet to her and plays with her all the time. McKenna is her younger sister. Douglass Charles loves the "baby" as he calls her and I do too. I am constantly holding her - getting my baby fix much to Doug's delight. They also have a brother, Griffin, who is Charlotte's age and we are just thankful that their family and ours have become friends - crazy that we have lived down the road from eather other for about seven years now and just met for the first time this summer at the pool.

I am hoping that next year's visit with Santa goes a little more smoothly. Wouldn't it be nice to get a photo of both the kids on Santa's lap? :)