Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Aftermath: Christmas 2014

Well, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning, and I’m sitting in my parents’ living room with the Christmas lights on, sipping coffee out of my new [Merry Christmas Y’all] mug, watching a Hallmark movie, and reminiscing on the aftermath. There’s really just no place like home for the holidays. 

My favorite room during the holidays

We’ve had quite the busy few days. The rest of the siblings (and my precious niece!) rolled in on Christmas Eve afternoon, and there hasn’t really been a dull moment since. In fact, here is my brother Allen on that afternoon – trying to hide from the chaos…with an oversized teddy bear.

We all hung out and then my dad and I got dressed for the candlelight service at church. The candlelight service is one of my favorite services of the year (my top is probably Easter). There’s something about turning off all the lights and singing “Silent Night” to nothing but candle light. Gorgeous sight. 

We came home, ate a nice steak dinner with the fam, and then went to sleep – Santa was coming! 

Christmas morning came, and we actually were pretty early risers this year! As we’ve all gotten older, “Christmas” tends to happen later and later, with Allen being the last one to rise. I’ve actually been known to do stomp routines in his room to wake him up. Waking up the big brother is no small task for the little sister. BUT since we had a two year old in the house this year, things happened a little earlier.

The act of opening the gifts from Santa was basically just as fun as the gift! 

We watched Brookie open her gifts, then passed out the rest of ours. Okay. Passing out gifts is my favorite part of Christmas. Always has been. Something about sorting and organizing … I don’t know. As we opened the room slowly turned into a hot mess. Love love love it!

There’s also no such holiday without monkey bread. Nothing like coffee and a sugar rush mid-presents!

Recipe coming soon!

Following presents came a lot of lazy. We’ve never been the ‘get dressed up…or at all’ family on Christmas. We snuggle, watch movies, play with gifts, and prep Christmas dinner. OH – and this year we got to listen to Brooklyn try out her new percussion pack – courtesies of Aunt Katy and Uncle Allen. We made it our life mission to find the most loud and obnoxious toys each year. She’s not tall enough for an actual drum set, so a mini percussion pack had to do! …..and it did. 

My mom outdid herself again with a wonderful Christmas dinner (and enough food for an army!), so we ate, laughed, and just enjoyed being with each other. We don’t get enough family dinners like this. I just love them so much.

Yes I'm holding play-doh. It's what happens as an aunt.

The day after Christmas we hit up some sales, and then started a new tradition of baking with Brooklyn! Yes, we are aware that one should bake cookies on Christmas Eve FOR Santa, but hey, we’re new at this. And she doesn’t know. We’ll do better next year. Lesson learned. 

All good bakers have icing on the leg...

So as I sit here reminiscing, and choking back tears from this dang Hallmark movie, I can’t help but be so thankful for my full heart. Full of family, full of friends, and full of a Savior who was sent to this earth so that I could be part of the ultimate family. HE is the true reason for the season. The rest is fluff. So count your blessings – both fluff and faith – and be grateful and serving of the One who paid it all. 

Merry Christmas, Y’all!

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ice Cream Parlor Parfaits

Blue Bell is a staple in my life. We're compatible, we're always there for each other - it just works for us. 

On my Chaotic Christmas Checklist, I had planned to do a Blue Bell Holiday Flavor taste test. Y'all. I was so excited. I planned to do it last night (my first night home for the holidays), and was literally counting down the days. So dad got home from work, I went to the store...and there was no holiday ice cream

You would have thought I was hit with a stun gun. My mouth dropped open, and I kept starting at the large freezer thinking one would just appear. But alas, it did not. I called my parents, and we sent out a search party. If there's one thing we're serious about - it's Blue Bell. We went to SIX different grocery stores to find holiday Blue Bell. And we only found one flavor. You can't really do a comparison taste test with one flavor. 

So, I moped for about half an hour and then decided I was instead going to make one of my favorite childhood desserts....that still involved Blue Bell.

This, my friends, is my mom's Ice Cream Parlor Parfait.

Side note: speaking of ice cream parlor, my parents' house came with a built-in bar, and since they don't drink, my mom turned it into a Blue Bell bar. See? It's a family inherited passion. 

Once we surrendered the search party, we watched White Christmas (annual tradition!), and I made us some parfaits. 

LOOK at the excitement! I tell you what, it really doesn't get much better than this man right here. Love my dad.

Parfaits are really the easiest dessert to make. 
Things you'll need:

Parfait Glasses
[Blue Bell] Ice Cream - we used vanilla above
Frozen Strawberries (sliced and sweetened - in a carton at Kroger)
Hershey's Chocolate syrup (optional for some; required for me)

Once you let the strawberries thaw some, you simply layer the fruit/chocolate syrup/ice cream until you fill the glass. Cover with saran. Refreeze. Indulge. 

SO simple. But so yummy and so festive! You can add blueberries for the 4th of July, add nuts, add sprinkles, experiment with the hundreds of Blue Bell flavors -- I mean the possibilities are endless.

My one warning - don't break the glass. I can't tell you how many parfait glasses my friends and I have shattered over the years. You attack the frozen dessert with enough...eager anticipation...and that glass is a goner. 

Until next time,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

Baking is my therapy. My life can be pretty hectic/stressful at times, and doing something that lets me focus on something else for 15 minutes and results in a yummy finished product makes me feel like I accomplished something. Because let’s face it, some days you start 15 things and finish nothing.

Okay fine. I also bake just because I like to lick the bowl.

I baked a lot with my mom when I was little (probably also attributable to bowl-licking) and it’s been something I’ve loved since. Cooking? Eh. Too many variables. I’d rather bake. Plus cooking usually comes with several side dishes and a lot more effort.

Wednesday night I needed a breather between when I got home from work (and booted back up), so I decided to bake a cake for my team. Plus we were having “Dress for your Day” at work on Thursday, so I thought a festive baked good was in order! (PS “dress for your day” is the PC way to say “dress in Christmas colors.”)

I am an avid reader of Mix and Match Mama’s foodie blog and love her bundt cake recipes. They’re SO delicious and almost always easy, so her Red Velvet Bundt cake was my choice for the evening.

First things first, put on a Christmas movie.

Mmmmm. Jonathan Taylor Thomas. He was so yummy. I recorded countless episodes of Home Improvement on the VCR. Yes, the VCR. What ever happened to that kid? Didn’t he go to school or something? Good for you, JTT.

Funny story – I pushed play and the movie started playing in Spanish. And I couldn’t figure out how to change it. While JTT is sexy, he loses appeal in a foreign language. I shortly switched to a Lifetime movie. 

Speaking of good looks, presentation makes a difference. My mom taught me that. So I brought out my new plate from Canton Trade Days the other weekend. Isn't it cute? Again - sucker for all things "Merry Christmas Y'all."

Back to the cake – courtesies of Mix and Match Mama – find the recipe here. I mean, the cake has chocolate chips inside. HELLO.

And if you need reviews, I brought the cake to work yesterday, put it out around 9 a.m., and it was gone before 11 a.m. They LOVED IT and couldn’t believe it was homemade. Oh – and yes my team eats cake for breakfast.

Bake one over the next couple of weeks. You won’t regret it. Promise!!

Until next time,