Friday, December 2, 2011

My 3-Year-Old-Baby

She's very silly, and loves to make everyone around her laugh. ...and she's still my little Baby

Her stubborn temper is well-known to everyone who knows her. ...and she's still my little Baby

That sweet smile can turn a million expressions in a second. ...and she's still my little Baby.

Every waking moment is filled with vibrant chatter and vivacious songs and stories. ...and she's still my little Baby.

She holds her own in the world, standing up for herself and never allowing herself to be pushed around by the bigger ones in her life. ...and she's still my little Baby.

Fiercely independent, she potty-trained herself more than a year ago, gets herself dressed, puts away her own clothes, and can help empty the dishwasher without asking. ...and she's still my little Baby.

She falls asleep smiling and wakes up ready to snuggle, and sometimes even still sleeps on my shoulder. ...and she's still my little Baby.

Happy to be a big sister and have her "bwudder" around, she is quick to help make him happy, sing to him, and play ball with him. ...and she's still my little Baby.

She genuflects beside the pew, makes a beautiful Sign of the Cross, prays her prayers well, and sometimes shouts angrily at her sister in the middle. ...and she's still my little Baby.

Her whole little self is growing up so quickly, her personality will take on the world as she sees fit, and she is never one to fade into the shadows, but when I look into those beautiful brown eyes and cherubic face, and I hear her sweet little voice with her mis-pronunciations, then I know that she is still... My Little Baby.

It was her birthday and we celebrated with lots of cake and singing. ...and she's still my little Baby.

Happy Third Birthday, my Anastasia Kathryn!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"After Monday and Tuesday, even the calendar says
W. T. F. !!!"

HT: FB friend

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't Ask Mom, She Has No Idea

Reading Simcha's latest post from the mind of a very pregnant lady is yet another insight into my life right now. And I'm only on number 4! God help me, as apparently I have very low brain function starting out.

Having 14 months of not being pregnant left me with the deception that I was, indeed, a semi-intelligent functioning human being. I had energy my body has not seen the likes of in many years! My expectations had fallen so low that I was starting to exceed them, and it felt great! (Oh don't be too jealous; The Little Prince is still not sleeping through the night and has been quite *ahem* demanding. ) I was really settling into the idea that I could, in fact, cook dinner and put away laundry in the same day, and I think the rest of the family was enjoying it as well.

And then that little line made an appearance. Of all the things over which the female population wish to take Eve to task, my personal gripe is the unpleasantness of the First Trimester. My children, the sweet young things that they are, are unsure what to make of this crazy lady sprawled out in the middle of the floor yelling incoherently at them. I start to get frustrated that nobody is obeying a simple command, only for the 2 year old to ask "Mama what you talkin' 'bout?" Oh, I guess you can't really make up your own words to substitute for something you can't think of. Darn. ("hey, you very not good to yell, stop pesting your, uh, brother, uh, let joey crawl." and "thank you for the, uh, sipper, uh, drink thing, yes please pick the thing, other thing, round, uh ball, good job rollingish with Joey YESyoucangoplayoutsidewhatagreatidea!")

In light of this harsh reality, I would like a list of statements I can post somewhere... low so I can read them from the floor, of course. With a quick glance I can reference an intelligent, easy to understand statement to communicate a command or affirmation to my kids and avoid at least some of the confusion. "Ah, yes, please go get Joey's milk" can replace "Why is boy, Joey uh, noisecryingsad, can someone find no I don't know whereish it is his milk maybe upstairs were you playing in your room with his cup again?" I might get better results with "Please apologize to your sister" rather than "Stop fighting you're supposed to be loving and use NICE WORDS PUT YOUR HAND DOWN NOW I am talking to you and thank you for handing thing to can you please just say you are sorryer to her." Actually, as I type these out I am realizing that it might just be about minimizing the number words to which my children have to listen. Perhaps everyone could appreciate that.

Next topic: the list of reminders, such as "NEVER give the 15 month old chicken nuggets while feeling nauseous."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Anniversary

Never Forgotten.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sweet Husband

Why I love my husband:

I'm sure there are other reasons, too, but at this moment this is the one particular example I'd like to share.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Freezer Meals

Well Sarah the Heavenly, expecting a Boy Bundle soon, asked for ideas for freezer meals. I realize that while I absolutely stink at most things menu-planning, I do in fact have a faithful arsenal of freezer meal options. Instead of just posting tons of comments over there, I figured I would share some of our favorites right here in case any others are interested.

I will say that there are no allergy considerations in these, and that most of these are similar and VERY easy.

Banana Cottage Cheese pancakes - (note: these have an odd texture, so I did not like them right after giving birth or in early preg. However, that's just me so I thought I'd share cuz they're a protein breakfast package.)

3 eggs, separated
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 C flour
1/2 C shredded all-bran cereal
2-3 sliced bananas
butter for cooking

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and set aside. In another bowl with same beater, beat cottage cheese and egg yolks until nearly smooth Or maybe a little smoother than that. Or maybe in a blender for the very smoothest texture. Gradually beat in flour and cereal. Stir in sliced bananas. Fold in egg whites. Melt butter in skillet and cook a few minutes on each side. Check middle for doneness. (very good served with warm maple syrup!)

Green Noodle Casserole -

1 lb ground beef (either start with extra lean, or pre-brown it and drain fat)
2 potatoes, diced
1 onion diced
2 - 15oz cans tomato sauce
1 tsp basil
1 package spinach fettuccine (hence the green)
1 cup jack/mozzarella cheese
1 lrg package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C milk

brown beef and potatoes, add garlic and onion. Add tomato sauce and basil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook noodles and drain. Spoon meat into casserole dish, top wth noodles (sprinkle with cheese.) WHIP the cream cheese, sour cream, and milk until smooth. (a blender works pretty well for this.) Pour over noodles. Cover and freeze until ready to cook. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. (if still frozen it will take longer, obviously. uncover for last few minutes for nice browning on top.)

Mock Ravioli - frozen spinach is one of the best bargains in the grocery - great nutrition for CHEAP. I'm not a huge spinach fan, so mixing it in like this is great!

2 - 10oz packages frozen chopped spinach
8 oz large pasta shells, cooked and drained
1 sm garlic clove
1/4 C parsley
1/2 C bread crumbs
1/4 tsp sage
1/3 C parmesan ( I use MORE)
Ricotta cheese to taste/texture
1/4 C oil
2 eggs beaten
3 cups red meat sauce (or meatless if you want to make it a meatless dish)
(grated mozzarella cheese)

thaw spinach and drain well. Combine garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, sage, parmesan, and oil. Add in spinach and mix well. Stuff each shell with mixture, place in greased dish, cover with sauce (and cheese.) freeze. Bake at 350 for ~ 40 minutes. (longer if frozen...)

Crescent Italian Bake - red sauce and meat with crescent rolls on top. What's not to love?!?!

1 lb ground beef (again, either lean or pre-cooked and drained.)
2 lg potatoes, sliced/diced
black pepper
1 jar marinara sauce (or if you batch-cooked your own)
1 C shredded Mozzarella (or jack or cheddar)
1 can black olives (I never add these, hubby hates them)
2 cans crescent rolls
1 C sour cream (or cream cheese, or ranch dressing)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil

Brown ground beef, potatoes, and drain. Add pepper and marinara, simmer ~10 minutes. (if going to bake same night, then prepare the crescent rolls here. Otherwise, just eyeball the simmer.) combine sour cream with herbs, spread mixture on open crescent roll dough and roll crescent normally. Put beef into casserole dish. (will fill 9x13) sprinkle with cheese and arrange rolled dough on top. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until gold brown and undersides of rolls are done. IF GOING TO FREEZE: do NOT add the crescent rolls until defrosted, then bake as normal. The dough gets funky otherwise and doesn't cook right.

Imperial Baked Chicken - straight from Southern Living cookbook of our mom's generation, this is one of my faves. LOVE it. Easy to prepare whenever, and goes with any veggie or side you want.

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 C parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 C milk
1/2 C butter, melted
1 clove minced/crushed garlic
juice of 1 lemon (or equivalent)

Combine parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper. Set aside. Dredge chicken in milk, then in cheese mixture, place in greased baking dish. Combine butter, garlic, lemon juice and drizzle on top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

Muffins - take whatever favorite bread or muffin recipe you have. I like banana nut, cinnamon-zucchini, and cranberry walnut in particular, and make them muffins. Thanks to my MIL I now add some whole wheat flour, ground flaxseed, applesauce instead of some of the eggs to make them super-duper-dense-powerful-jump-up-and-clean-something-with-a-smile good for you! Bake the whole batch (might as well double it!) and then freeze in freezer bags in packs of 4-6. Take them out every couple of days, or whenever you feel like you might want a few more. Once thawed normally in the fridge they taste as good as fresh, and are a nice treat for breakfast that isn't cereal.


Each of these dishes is a favorite for different reasons, but I find that they all freeze well and appeal to me even after a few months sitting there. Even after having a baby. They are all paired well with WINE, which is especially important after having a baby.

None of them reflect any amazing culinary talent, which is also why I like them. There are plenty of wonderful fresh-ingredient pastas and everyone has a favorite recipe for lasagna, but when it comes to my go-to list for stocking my freezer, these always have a place.

Anyone else have great ideas? Comment or link to your own post; I'm always interested in trying new ideas!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quotable Quotes

From the cutest little Anastasia ever!

For Bella's Birthday fairy wands my sister-in-law Angela and I prepped the night before, cutting out cardboard stars and spray painting them gold. (wouldn't Martha Stewart be proud?!)

We stuck the in the ground for ease of painting, and left them to dry overnight.

This sight greeted us in the morning.

Anastasia walked outside and immediately, with great delight, proclaimed,
*gasp* "We pwanted STAW fyowers! I yike deese staw fyowers!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Very Fairy Birthday

Happy 4th Birthday to My Beautiful Bella!

Her choice of party theme perfectly reflects her current obsession with all things girly, fanciful, and fairy!

Our party project was making fairy wands, complete with sparkle stickers, glitter glue, and ribbons. What's not to love?

Fairy Wings and Star Wands magically transformed these precious little girls into happily dancing fairies!

And the Pièce de résistance was certainly the cake!

That is one happy Birthday Fairy Girl!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Letter to a Year

Dear Age Three,

First, I would like to start by saying I have never wished any stage of childhood away. I have enjoyed each stage of growth and development for each unique joys and gifts they bring to my life.

Remember when She was colicky? Oh, that was a rough time; I may have had to remind myself daily that it would pass. However, in that time her darling Daddy picked up the task of walking with her nightly up and down the street praying a Rosary until she finally fell asleep. And so it went with each new development, each new challenge. There were learning curves and new challenges, and each one brought on moments of Grace and bigger pictures of gleaming Joy!

But Age Three, you were different. You were able to sneak in under my radar thanks to life circumstances; stealthily and subtly you took up residence in my Sweet, Independent, Silly 2-year-old. Suddenly this unsuspecting Mama was confronted with your presence, as Sweet caved to Sassy, Independent gave way to Attitude, and Silly surrendered to Cranky.

Perhaps the worst part of the invasion was that She did not like it any more than I did. I'm certain of that. She cuddled in my lap, her beautiful innocent eyes filled with confusion as she told me "Mama, I feel so out of control." The break in the screaming was just long enough to realize that of all the people tired of your ridiculous behavior Age Three, she was the prime sufferer.

Age Three, you will not be missed. As the weather turned warmer I saw your iron-clad grasp start to give way; your control was waning, indeed. Certainly I knew you were there, but an older Girl was emerging, and was beginning ever so slowly to shine some sunshine through the dark cloud that is you. You have left your mark, Age Three, but you are no longer dominant.

Dear Age Three, Good Bye!

... well, at least for a few months...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quick Takes

The "Brief Notes about our trip to California" edition:


Flying with 3 kids ages 3 and under is insane. The greater the number of young children, the greater the chance that someone will
a) have to "go potty!" while the seatbelt light is on,
b) fall asleep right after saying that and pee on the seat,
c) freak out while looking out the window immediately followed by demanding to stay there
d) giggle at the people around you through the cracks in the seat
e) all of the above.


Time zone changes proved more challenging with the kids this time. I'm not sure if it's simply because they are older, or if it reflects their ability to read my subconscious assumption I will be sleeping some on vacation.


It does not really matter how the kids behave on the plane - there will be someone who congratulates you on how well-behaved they are and how beautiful/sweet/smart/charming those 3 perfect angels are. There will also be someone who gives you a condescending look or makes an easy-to-overhear snide comment about why they don't have kids. The truth is, you will walk off the plane and never see any of those people again. Be thankful for that and move on with life.


Kids are very accepting and they love you anyways. People or situations are only awkward if you make them. We had the pleasure of going to the park with an old friend who is deaf with Alzheimer's and a German accent. We could have tried telling them that Gram's friend talks different, or that she can't hear them talk, or that she'll ask the same questions often. With older kids these preparations might be very helpful, but too much information for little ones can be intimidating, and we would run the risk of putting our own concerns on them. Instead, Anastasia took our dear friend's hand and chatted away. Both of them glowed with smiles of pure joy in the moment.


I miss good Mexican food. really.


There are so many people who shower us with love. The continent is very large when it separates us from our Cali family, and twice a year is not a lot of time to spend with people you love. Each time we visit, though, we are surrounded by amazing people who love us so much and don't hold the distance against us. This might seem like a silly thought, but the truth is that each time I am overwhelmed by the warmth our family and friends exude. This was the first time all of them (except for Gram) got to meet Joey, and it was a particularly exciting party. I am blessed to have 2 places to call home.


California has perfect weather. We played outside every single day. I could get used to that.

A big thanks to Jen @ Conversion Diary for her wonderful, funny, insightful blog, and for hosting Quick Takes!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

She's Got The Look

"The Look" last year Easter

"The Look" this year EasterPerhaps my daughter is a bit possessive of her chocolate? I can't imagine where she gets that!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In Your Easter Bonnet

... you'll be the grandest ladies at the Easter Parade!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Signs of Spring

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Bedtime Epic

The clock ticks mercilessly despite the desperate pleas for 5 more minutes. And then there's the kids' pleas, too! The denial is quickly followed by the bargaining, and they are some tough negotiators. Once they have accepted that their negotiations have failed, they stealthily employ the Delay Tactics. "Will you read 3 stories tonight, Daddy?" "I want Mama to brush teeth and sing tonight." Ah, this the the Bedtime Quicksand. Mama and Daddy fall for it almost every night, and the girls think they have won the victory. Little do they realize that this small battle was easily surrendered, as Mama and Daddy love losing this particular battle. More hugs, one more song, one more little chance to hear a girly giggle.

Victory remains in question, as the Opponents are losing steam quickly; both sides fight overwhelming fatigue. The ever-persistent chatter belies the sleepiness, but the Eyelid Flutter and the Looming Shadow of Sleep are creeping in for the take-over. Behind the closed doors two sisters sing and read for a few more minutes, Music to a Mama's ears despite my own exhaustion. Then, At last, VICTORY is MINE!

Oh wait, and then the baby wakes up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oh Blessed Silence

aaaahhh, the Sound of Silence. When was the last time you were really silent? No, I mean without the radio in the background, without the computer in front of you, without half-listening to the feet pounding the floor upstairs. Silent.

Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart. ~Mother Teresa

I never used to think of myself as a lover of quiet. In college when my friends were going on weekend silent retreats I was heading, well, probably to the bar. Or in moments of better judgment I might have even been studying or playing frisbee. I liked walks in quiet, but a whole weekend of silence? Why? In the later years of college and ever since I have become drawn into the beauty of silence. I relish moments of deep conversation with God with no worldly distractions. To step away from the noise is to step into better listening, clearer hearing. Listening leads to better understanding. Silence is the needed refreshment to the soul.

Last weekend my wonderful husband sent me on a much needed retreat to Holy Cross Abbey, a Trappist Monastery for a weekend of blissful silence. The retreat house has many beautiful rooms that all cater to the need for quiet reflection. The individual bedrooms are small, simple, sparse, and perfect for a mama who's tired of the mess around my feet. Nestled at the feet of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the panorama of beauty is breathtaking. I was partial to the sun room, with a wall of windows facing the Blue Ridge, with simple chairs and a ledge for my feet and coffee. The expanse of land that they own (rented out to cattle farmers) provides a definition of separation from the bustling roads and city lights. Of course, no matter where my feet led me wandering around the scenic grounds, I always found my way back to the Chapel for some face-time with God in the Tabernacle.

The hospitality is almost overwhelming. From the informal "check-in" and the Guest Master to answer your questions, to the food available, you are made to feel welcome and at home... just without the toys to trip over or the laundry to attend. The kitchen is stocked with snacks and coffee/tea, there for you anytime. The simple clean-up after meals is a calm and rewarding service. Their only rule is punctuality to meals and that silence is observed.

I was surprised at how self-conscious I did NOT feel at all. Although friendly smiles are exchanged between guests, the lack of the expectation for interaction left me feeling very free from judgment. I did not give the other guests much thought, and it did not occur to me they would feel any different. Have you ever experienced eating in silence? The incidental noise is loud, but unobtrusive to your quiet demeanor.

Perhaps the best way to explain is that the silence around you becomes an inner silence, a peace and stillness of mind and soul. Walking outside, I was shocked to hear a squirrel chewing on a nut. With the backdrop of the wind, I was acutely aware of the distinct chirps of the different birds, and other than the occasional "moo" from a cow, that was the only constant sound. Several times a day the silence is broken with the bells from the monastery, calling the monks to prayer. We joined them in their chapel for the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass.

Joining these holy monks in prayer in truly a grace-filled experience. They pronounce each word of the prayer deliberately and reflectively. St. Teresa of Avila writes that our vocal prayer should be said with such attentiveness that it becomes also mental prayer; that you cannot truly pray without paying complete attention and awareness of the One to Whom we are speaking. These monks exemplify that and draw you into deeper prayer with their voices. Since there was no time-line for my day, I was free to sit back and experience this in a way that cannot happen in day-to-day life. Try telling the toddlers that we're going to spend 10 minutes praying the Our Father.

I was blessed to take advantage of the Sacrament of Confession with a very old, very holy priest. Having been surrounded by silence, and to know that is how he lives his every day made me very aware of my own words. It was even more humbling that usual to pronounce the sounds of each sin, and very cleansing. The prayer of absolution gets me every time, and the uninhibited joy that fills me after!

I returned to my wonderful family rested and refreshed, and filled. Filled with Peace and Grace and ready to better show Love.

The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace. ~Mother Teresa

Friday, February 4, 2011

Teach It and They Will Learn

I am a busy Mama. Even my 3 year old says so. There is a lot to be done to make this house run smoothly. Each day I try to tackle the tasks out of love, but a lot of the time they just take on the appearance of a to-do list. But right behind me are four little eyes watching my every move. Four little hands just twitch with excitement. Will Mama let them help sweep? Will Mama let them carry their own cups to the sink? Can they join in the fun?

Yes! Of course!

The beautiful thing about encouraging toddlers to help is that the hard part is done - no motivation required. They want to help! They are excited to help! Harness that enthusiasm and give them a job. A wise mother of 8 once said to me that an 18-month-old can throw things away and put toys in a basket. Bella started with that, and has now graduated to other tasks, making room for Anastasia to pick up the simpler things. They feel important having a job that they can do. Choosing jobs that each can learn to complete well also builds proper self-esteem and confidence. That stubborn "I do it myself" attitude turns into "YES! You can do it yourself, and I will let you practice."

It is exhausting and time-consuming to let toddlers help. The job will certainly take at least twice as long and make for extra work for me afterward. Plates get spilled, dirt is flung, and someone is fighting over the sponge again. But we keep trying and finding new ways to adapt the chore for clumsy little hands (for the kids, too!) and one day there is a difference! One day you notice that the Big Girl is helping the Little Girl clear her own dish. She knows where the forks go and how to put her cup in the dishwasher. One day you hand her the towel and she wipes up her own mess and puts the towel with the dirty clothes. And you forgot to show her.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Two-Year-Old,

Thank you for helping me finally decide to throw away those old cassette tapes that have been in a bag in my closet. Regardless of how much I enjoyed them 10 years ago, I have no desire to try to rewind all the tape back into them.

Dear Darling Husband,

Thank you for the "new" bedroom TV. Despite all my protests you found a good deal and surprised me with a beautiful viewing option in the comfort of our bedroom. I will love the fact you put the girls to bed even more come baseball season!

Dear Baby Boy,

You now weigh MORE than either of your sisters did at a year old! That means that by the time they were your size they were walking. Please don't misunderstand, I really like your immobility; it's just that my arms are really tired.

Dear Biggest Sister,

You are so helpful and I really appreciate it. I love to hear you teach your younger siblings all about the world. Sometimes it is hard to be patient with your pupils, but please remember that she likes to try things by herself . Maybe next time you shouldn't try to help her brush her teeth.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Days

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Quotable Quotes

... from Anastasia!

Anastasia: "Monter!"
Bella: "That's not a monster, Anastasia. That's your brother!"
Anastasia: "Brodder Monter!"

lost in pronunciation - (*crying)

Anastasia: "Hey Joey, no dying!"

~Yeah, I couldn't agree more.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Quick Takes


Patrick will be gone ALL WEEKEND. All. Weekend. Once a year (or so) a group of men we have known since college go away for a much needed guys' weekend. These men have all grown up to be solid, Catholic Dads and one solid Catholic Priest. I could not ask for a better group of men with whom my husband to be friends and spend a long weekend. However, for me who is used to having a LOT of help with the kids, the emphasis is on long.


I hope to go into survival mode. Plaster a big smile on my face and sing for 10 hours a day. Alert the funny farm, I'll be filling my spot Tuesday. In reality, I'm not sure how it's going to go. I really am used to him helping a lot, and I haven't regained my confidence with the 3 kids yet.


For the first time ever, I am actually ready to resume Ordinary Time. The Church has given us a beautiful rhythm to our lives ordered with the Liturgical calendar. Before kids I never really gave it much thought; it was there, it was good, but it had very little to do with how I live my day. Now that I am in a constant struggle to bring order and rhythm to my days I really appreciate the beauty it offers for our lives. We knew when to start preparing for Christmas, because there is a whole season of Advent. Now we know when to start settling down from the wonderful happy upheaval that is Christmas and ease ourselves into a normal routine.


Joey has another head cold. Yuck. The poor little guy is a Snuffly Sniffly Mess who isn't sleeping well. The worst part of it all is that he has his MRI scheduled for next week! Last time they couldn't do it because he was so congested (he has to be sedated under general anesthesia, so he can't have upper respiratory problems). Please pray for my Joey, that he gets over this very quickly and that a silly head cold does not interfere with procedures again.


Speaking of my Amazing Joey he is growing like a champ! At 18lbs 14 ozs he's HUGE for a cardiac kid, and he is a super-smiler. He's progressing and developing so nicely, and I really need to write a real post updating asap.


Patrick and I actually had a date-night this week! My parents stayed with the kids, and the girls even went to a puppet show! They were almost as thrilled as we were to have us out of the house! We went to dinner at our favorite steakhouse, thanks to a gift card from a thoughtful friend. We way overate and it was wonderful down to the last lick of BBQ sauce and sweet potato. After a leisurely dinner we went to see Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the theater! We really loved having an evening out!


Did I mention I'm nervous about the next 4 days? I am offering up a lot of my anxiety and the suffering of the weekend for the women who's husbands are deployed. I am such a wimp.

Many thanks to Jen @ Conversion Diary for hosting!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas Eats

In Brasil, as with many cultures, the Big Christmas Feast is on Christmas Eve. My sister-in-law carried on that tradition and we were very happy to be included!

Everything was absolutely delicious. One thing that she reminded us was that the weather is hot and humid in Brazil; Christmas is in summer. So we ate a tropical meal with the beauty of a gentle snowfall outside the window.

The side dishes were unlike anything I had ever eaten before, and I am now addicted. I am torn between wanting the recipe and being afraid to ruin it! We had Turkey served with fruit, rice mixed with veggies, this grain/starch dish that is impossible to describe other than delicious, and Brazilian potato salad (it has apples in it!).

She also prepared our Christmas Day lunch, which is "bread cake" to be eaten with leftover turkey. Layers of white bread, with a different filling between each. Creamy spinach, carrot puree, chicken salad, cream cheese, and raspberry or strawberry jam. It was also delicious, both to the eyes and mouth!

I do not know how I've lived life without the knowledge of how to make Dulce de Leche with a pressure-cooker and a can of condensed milk. Armed with that knowledge, I could conquer the world! Or at least make this delicious cake.

Although I don't remember exactly when, I know I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful cherry pie, courtesy of my mother-in-law.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Merry Christmas!

In the spirit of celebrating all 12 days of Christmas... or perhaps just because I am so far behind that this is the first chance I have to write... here I am wishing yall a Merry Christmas!

We had a truly wonderful and blessed Christmas. With our families on 2 different coasts, Patrick and I are used to alternating holidays; however, this year we were blessed with circumstances that allowed us to share the celebration! Patrick's brother and sister-in-law moved to Morgantown, WV - just 2.5 hours away! Well, maybe a little more when you are pulling an "empty box" over the mountains on your inaugural snowy drive in the minivan. But it wasn't too bad, the kids did sleep for at least 30 minutes or so.

We spent 2 days there, enjoying their hospitality immensely. Patrick's mom was there, also, which meant baking cookies and reading books with Gram. Life was perfect for my very happy little girls. My sister-in-law is Brazilian, and a wonderful cook. We ate well, we laughed a lot, we had a marvelous time.

Santa surprised us by bringing our presents there on Christmas morning! Good thing we had that extra empty box. *cough* Lesson learned: if the box says "screwdriver needed" then one should not wait until after the kids go to bed to get started. Santa was very tired, but very happy on Christmas morning!

When naptime arrived we departed, stealing Gram away with us. We drove the 3 hours straight to my parents' house, where we continued the celebration with another big family dinner.

Merry Christmas, Yall! Wishing you Christ's Peace and Joy!