Photo Friday: Sweet Holiday Memories with Sugar Cookies

A couple of weekends back, the kids helped me to make Christmas cookies. We had such a good time, even if my kitchen became a disaster zone and the control freak, perfectionist side of me struggled to let them decorate them however they wanted.

Garen caught a few good photos of us in action. Yes, I was brave enough to let Clara and Kate “help.” Sprinkles. Everywhere.

My Mom and my Grammy would always let us kids help decorate sugar cookies. Besides it being a great memory and fun (yet messy) activity, they actually taste really good. Here’s the recipe that my family uses. This is my Mom’s handwriting. I think. My Grammy wrote almost exactly like it. And it must be genetic because I write almost like it too!

This year I used a new icing recipe thanks to Pinterest. The recipe from In Katrina’s Kitchen was wonderful. It was tasty and hardened up for beautiful cookies just like her blog says it will. I’m not big on Crisco BUT it was good in this recipe. If you don’t use it and substitute with butter, you’ll get a similar effect but it won’t harden as well. If you’re not stacking cookies, that may not be an issue.

I hope each of you will take time to make some sweet memories of your own this holiday season! Tis’ the season to be busy with everything (which is why I’ve not blogged much) but I’m really making an effort to do things with our little (big) family that will create memories that they’ll cherish as well.

Happy Photo Friday before Christmas!

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Mommy Review Monday: CuisinartICE-30R Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt Sorbet & Ice Cream Maker

Anna asked for an ice cream maker for Christmas. She saw one in the toy section at Target one day but I knew my patience would not allow for us to make ice cream “Easy Bake” style (although she did get an Easy Bake oven for Christmas).

So, I decided to go with a “real” ice cream maker so we could all enjoy it. My mom had this one: Cuisinart ICE-30R Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt Sorbet & Ice Cream Maker. She liked it and it got good reviews so we ordered it from Amazon.

After our first batch, here’s my review:

What I like about it:

  • It looks nice. I like red appliances, so that’s the color we got….not that it’s sitting out a ton.
  • It’s super fast. 20-25 minutes and you’ve got ice cream.
  • 2 quarts is a perfect amount for us.
  • No more cranking…although I do have very fond memories of cranking my Grammy’s ice cream maker when the motor was struggling just before it was ready.
  • No more salt…unless I figured out how to make salted caramel mocha ice cream…
  • It stores nicely.
  • It’s easy to clean and wash.
  • It came with some tasty recipes in the manual…although I probably will refer to family recipes and good ol’ Pintrest going forward.  And maybe a little bit of trial and error with the kids and Garen as guinea pigs.

What I don’t like about it:

  • ….

I can’t really think of anything at the moment.  I guess maybe I wish I had two so I could make two flavors at the same time!

Yes, folks, it really is that good.  They didn’t give it the name “Pure Indulgence” for nothing….

The only thing that beats homemade vanilla ice cream are the smiling faces you see when they taste it… and maybe how easy this machine makes it!

Happy Mommy Review Monday to you!

 For the record:  I am in no way paid for this review.  The opinions above are my own and I purchased this machine for our own use based on our needs and my own research and feedback received.

Photo Friday: Home for (After) Christmas 

We celebrated Christmas after Christmas with the Odom family when everyone could get together. We actually remembered to get some family photos.

I think they turned out cute…even if Kate didn’t want to look at the camera and was not happy by the time we got to our immediate family photo!

These are a few other favorites Garen got last week.

Isn’t he a handsome little guy?!?Kate loves music. And her Uncle Al and Aunt Kelsey!

Happy Photo Friday everyone!

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

This is a recipe that I traditionally make for our Christmas breakfast at home because I can make it the night or day before and also because it’s super easy. It leaves me free to enjoy some coffee before the kids get up while it’s baking. As if that’s not enough, it’s also very versatile. You could use other fruit or even no fruit to suit your family’s tastes (or what you’ve got on hand)

Ingredients for French Toast 

  • 16 slices of day old French bread* cubed (usually about a loaf and a half for me, depending on size)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup 
  • 1 tbsp vanilla 
  • 2- 8 oz packages cream cheese cubed
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (but thawed)

Ingredients for Blueberry Sauce 

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1 cup blueberries 

Instructions for French Toast the night before:

  • Grease a large casserole dish
  • Cut French bread into cubes, about 1 to 1.5 inches. Put them in the bottom of the dish. 
  • Cube the 1 package of cream cheese into .5 to 1 inch pieces. Layer the pieces on top of the bread cubes, dispersing it evenly. 
  • Sprinkle 1 cup of blueberries on top of the bread and cream cheese. 
  • Repeat layering one time. 
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs. 
  • Add milk, vanilla and syrup to the eggs. Mix thoroughly. 
  • Pour egg mixture evenly over the French toast. 
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. 

Instructions for French Toast the next morning:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Remove French toast from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. 
  • Bake covered for 30 minutes. 
  • Uncover and continue baking an additional 30-45 minutes or until baked all the way through. 
  • Remove and top with Blueberry Sauce. See instructions below. 
  • Serve hot. 

Instructions for the Blueberry Sauce:

  • Bring water, sugar, and cornstarch to a boil, stirring constantly. 
  • Add blueberries and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes or until blueberries burst. 
  • Pour the syrup evenly over the baked French toast. 
  • This can be made the night before too. You just need to reheat it before pouring it on the baked French toast. 


*Whenever I’m at the grocery store, I will buy the day old bread and keep it in the freezer for French toast and dressing recipes. You can use almost any type of bread you’ve got on hand. I’ve even used leftover cinnamon rolls to make overnight French toast before. 

This is a family favorite and makes a lot, so it’s great for a crowd or if you want leftovers. It freezes fairly well. I paired it with Cheesy Bacon Quiche but also sometimes do other egg related casseroles to provide some protein and even the sweetness out. 

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do! Oh, and Happy New Years Eve!!!

Photo Friday: Christmas Eve and Day with the Graves Family 

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Garen’s family. Clara and Kate love their Mama!They look like they just got busted. And they probably did get busted for pulling Mama’s pretty ornaments off the tree!Garen took some cute pictures of everyone. It was a fun time with the family, even if the big kids were with their Joe Daddy. He even caught a good one of me (complete with fixed hair and some makeup)…even if I do say so myself. I think he’s pretty talented….and handsome, as you can see from the family photo!

Adventures with Four: Enjoying a Blended Family Christmas

Will and Anna are fortunate enough to have two immediate families and four sets of extended families to celebrate with each holiday season. That’s a lot of Christmas fun for kids…and for us parents to orchestrate. 

Part of the coordination is out of our hands. Joe Daddy and I share the holiday break. One parent gets the kids from the last day of school until the 26th and then the other has them from the 26th until the end of the break per our agreement. It works fairly well but it also means that every other year, we don’t have Will and Anna with us for actual Christmas Eve and Day. 

We make the most of it and it’s a very merry holiday for everyone. 

Here’s how it works for us:

  • Plan in advance what dates the kids are going to be where. This allows us to plan our extended family gatherings as soon as we can. We did Christmas for the kids with Grandad and the Odoms and then with Garen’s family the second week of December. And we are at Garen’s mom’s with the little girls for Christmas. We will be going to my parents’ on the night of the 28th and celebrate New Years Eve there. That’s a lot to plan for and takes multiples rounds of packing and travel for a family of six!
  • Do as many family traditions as you can before the school holiday starts. We’ve started a family tradition of going to Holiday in the Park and to Santa’s Adventure. We also make a “thing” out of decorating the tree, complete with homemade chicken and dumplings. There are other traditions but that’s not the point of this post. The point here is to make sure you do them.  And to do them, they have to be planned if you share weekends with the kids’ other families. The few weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas fly by before you know it!
  • It’s important to be encouraging and inclusive of the kids’ other family traditions. When you have multiple families celebrating, there are always going to be different ways of doing things and that’s a good thing. Your kids will be well-rounded and open to new ideas as they grow. 
  • Use technology to your advantage. Skype and FaceTime allow you to still see the kids when they are with their other families. It is also special to do this with grandparents to keep them involved. 
  • We coordinate what is being given to the kids with various family members in an attempt to not get multiples of the same thing. Sometimes this works better than others. In the case that the kids get multiples, they can leave one at the other family’s house or maybe a grandparent’s house. It’s really not a big deal. 
  • Santa comes on Christmas morning, no matter where the kids are or who they’re with. This is less confusing for everyone. Again, coordinating this with the other parent is important for a good co-parenting relationship. 
  • We open the kids’ other presents on a day that we can be at home the majority of the day. This gives us plenty of time to play with any new toys and have a big, special Christmas breakfast, which was a big deal in my family growing up. 
  • Help the kids to pick out or make Christmas presents for their other family, especially their siblings. This year the kids picked out a fun toy purse with keys and phone for Madalyn and made yarn ornaments for the rest of the family. 
  • If your kids are away at their other family’s house for the holiday and you’re sad, remember that they are very fortunate to have more than one set of people to love them. More love. What’s better than that? With that said, it’s ok to miss them and be bummed a bit…especially if this is your first round. Stay busy with other family and/or friends or volunteer somewhere to keep yourself occupied. It doesn’t necessarily get easier but you do learn to adjust over the years. 
  • Remember that Christmas is really  a season and not just one day. And it’s not just about the gifts. It’s about celebrating your beliefs, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying traditions- old or new. It should be celebrated whenever you and your family can be together. This could be before or after Christmas and still be just as special if you let it be. 

I hope these tips from our experiences can be helpful. It can be hard to share, even as adults who know it’s best for the kids but this is how we make our holidays special for everyone in our family. It takes planning and coordination but it is well worth it! 

Photo Friday- Tis’ the Season

Oh what fun we had at Anna’s class Christmas party! Our class was in charge of the snacks. Due to lots of allergies, everything at our school has to be individually wrapped and cleared by Nurse Gina, who does a great job keeping our kids safe and healthy. Enter traditional white Little Debbie Christmas Trees. I won’t lie…I LOVE these little packages of sweetness. They remind me of my childhood! 

The kids had a GREAT time with all of the games but my favorite to watch was the “wrap the teacher” game. So fun!


Meanwhile, back at the homefront…Will had to stay home on Christmas party day because he came from home sick on Wednesday and Nurse Gina said he couldn’t come back until today. We tried to make the best of it by watching a movie, making yarn Christmas ornaments, and getting haircuts. Check out the before and after of my handsome little man!


We ended the night with Garen’s company Christmas party at Mi Cocina. We actually had a miscommunication and I didn’t know I was supposed to join him until yesterday morning so it was a miracle that our two wonderful babysitters swooped in to stay with all of the kiddos so we could enjoy the night out. We clean up pretty well, huh?

Tis’ the Season to be busy, busy! It’s been a fast and furious week between work, school, and Christmas fun but it’s still been pretty great. Today is the last day of school before Christmas break and the big kids go to Joe Daddy’s in Hot Springs tomorrow until the 27th, so we are trying to make the most of every last minute with them. 

Next up: Holiday in the Park at Six Flags tonight!