Egg Hunting

I feel so lucky my kids’ school is my own place of work.



I’ve been able to stop by for a birthday celebration, reading to a class, or within seconds if someone is sick.  Never for a second do I take this set-up for granted.  It has made this year a pretty easy transition, all things considered.



Yesterday was their annual Easter Egg Hunt, and it was such a treat to watch.  Georgia weather has been weirdly cold this week, but the sun showed up for Wednesday afternoon. (Plus I got to dress Norah in a hand-knit!)






This weekend is busy with another egg hunt and spring block party in the neighborhood and two family celebrations. So much happening this time of year.  We seem to race from one event to another – reunions, Easter, end of the school year, Norah’s birthday.  All with summer around the bend.

Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole

Christmas morning is pretty sacred around here.  We feel lucky to have both sides of family living close to us, and the holidays can be busy with lots of time with extended family.  So we stay put on Christmas morning until about 3:00 in the afternoon when we head over to my in-laws.  I want to make the most of that time and play with the kids rather than staying in the kitchen the whole time.

For the past few years, my Christmas breakfast menu has been these cranberry-orange scones I bake a day or two before, my favorite breakfast casserole, and mimosas.  It’s a meal that is simple, but it feels special despite the fact that I prepare all of it the day before.

This breakfast casserole is my absolute favorite.  The bread gives it some structure and crunch, so it doesn’t feel like eating a plate of scrambled eggs.  It’s from an old church cookbook my grandmother gave me.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Casserole

6 slices of toast, cubed

1 lb of sausage (I’ve used pork and chicken), browned and drained

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups milk

4 eggs

crushed cornflakes (optional)

Brown sausage and drain well.  Layer sausage, bread cubes, and grated cheese until it is all used.  (I manage 2 layers in a 8×11 pan.) Beat eggs with milk and some salt and pepper.  Pour over other ingredients, cover, and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, bake it for 45 minutes at 350.  When you’ve got about 15 minutes left, feel free to add a few crushed cornflakes (or extra cheese!) on the top if you have them.

It’s delicious and super easy.  A holiday tradition around here.


I hope to be back in a few days to collect my thoughts on 2013.  Happy end of the year to you and yours!

Merry Christmas!

I ended the day yesterday with a few quiet moments as Norah slept and Jude and Scott were somehow still building with Legos.  (At 10:26 pm!)  I had time to take a look at photos from the camera while deliberately ignoring the heaps of toys and mess all over the house. There were very few still and quiet moments this year with two kids at these ages.  I find myself wanting to record a few details about this Christmas before I forget and life speeds to another season.

Christmas Eve had us at my grandparents’ home.  I have spent every single Christmas Eve of my life there, not even missing one.  The same house, the same faces and voices – rooms full of loud cousins and noisy siblings.  Norah and Jude fed off the excitement the same way I did as a child, and watching them brought back so many of my own memories.

Try as we might to get children to understand the meaning of the season, it is PRESENTS PRESENTS PRESENTS at these ages, and I am totally okay with it. What better way to learn to understand love and generosity than to first understand what a joy it is to receive and give? They were so enthused about each and every package this year.




I watched them with their cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Family ties feel so much stronger during the holidays somehow, don’t they?


By the time we got home Christmas Eve, it was something like 9:30. Add getting the kids in bed and the car unloaded, and I felt depleted. But the second you start getting ready to play Santa, you get a burst of energy because really and truly, there are not many things about parenthood that are as fun as Christmas morning. That unadulterated joy and genuine excitement when two pajama-clad kids walk down the stairs? Priceless.




I found an awesome play teepee on Land of Nod, and Norah’s toys were mostly baby dolls this year with a stroller and a cradle, while Jude got Lego sets and Transformers which have only allowed him to come downstairs for a moment to grab lunch. He LOVES building sets and such. It astounds me. For a moment, I think I got a glimpse of what Christmas morning will feel like in another five years when they rip into presents and stay busy all day while I crack open a book for some leisure time (what is that!?) This year had me burping and feeding baby dolls until Norah’s nap time though. I’m okay with the attention she needs seeing how fast Jude has grown and how independent he has become this year.


After naptime, we headed over to my in-laws for round three. Lots of craziness with four under five, but they loved it.



It’s such an intense season of parenting we’re in right now. But I know for certain that God sees it best to reward your extra efforts with such big doses of magic. Am I sleep-deprived and exhausted and rarely organized? Yes. But these years of believing in magic without question and being so impressed with even the tiniest toys and gifts? I know they are short, and while my holidays will be far more relaxed one day soon enough, I get to see Christmas through the eyes of these two right now, and it really is a pretty magical sight.

Happy Christmas to you and yours, and I wish you the best in the last days of 2013. The end of the year always has me a little reflective and, honestly, a little sad. Life is sweet, and each year is precious. Make the most of this one. Happy Holidays, friends! Praying for peace on Earth and in the hearts of all of us.

officially holiday’ing!

On Friday, I graded my last exam as I  hurriedly inhaled a sandwich at my desk.  As I began my position in August, it felt like SO MUCH  desk time and many office hours compared to my previous teaching days in a high school setting.  I thought I’d always be caught-up and that grading would never feel like a push.  It hasn’t turned out that way entirely though.  Between Writing Center tasks and other odds and ends that come up, it still feels like a push to get all the grading done at the end of the semester.  And when that last one was finished?  Such a feeling of relief.  I am staring at four full weeks of a break, and I’m excited to slow down and do a little bit of nothing and keep whatever pace we feel up to.  As always, I can’t help but keep a list of goals in my head and consider all the things that need attention right now – specifically house projects that never happened after the move.  But really, they are not essential and whatever gets done will be.  Whatever doesn’t, doesn’t.  I’m just ready to relax and enjoy the last bit of the year with my little family.

We had a great Thanksgiving, and Jude helped – truly helped – with a few kitchen tasks as I prepared a ton of food for family.  He has always loved helping in the kitchen, but recently it really is a true help unlike the “help” a toddler can give.  I’ll give him a bowl and a spoon and he can stir something while I move on to another dish.  Or the other night we made muffins for his teachers, and he actually portioned out all the muffin liners and the batter on his own.  It’s so fun to watch, and he is ridiculously proud when he makes something.  I love his interest in food and his genuine desire to help.


We also saw a great production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with some friends at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta last weekend. It was awesome, and I definitely suggest it to anyone with kids in Atlanta.  Norah was squirmy as expected, but Jude loved it.  I know next year she’ll follow it more closely, and I’d love to make it an annual tradition.  We got to follow the production with a workshop making puppets.  This snow monster has been played with constantly since, and Jude even wrote “puppets” on his Santa list earlier this week.



Other than that, the last week has been mostly full of Elf on a Shelf shenanigans (so fun this year!) and time spent at home.


I’m looking forward to more of that in the days and weeks to come. Cookie baking, present wrapping, Santa planning, and reflecting on the year that’s passed. There’s so much to enjoy in the Advent season – especially with kids these ages. Magic is so real to them, and it’s a joy to watch.

October Recap

I can’t believe we’ve turned the page to November.  Work has been incredibly busy for me since midterm, and our semester ends with final exams the first week of December.  I’m looking forward to a full month (!!) off for Christmas, and I am ready to finish the planning and grading I have ahead of me for the next three weeks.  All in all, the first semester here is going really well.

October is always a busy month for us, and it’s all fun stuff that we genuinely want to do, not just obligations on the calendar.  Jude’s party was followed by his day at the fair with my mom and a whole slew of family, including cousins he adores and admires. (And my brother’s girlfriend went along with her camera and photography skills, so I got to see it, too!)  He was beyond excited to eat tons of fun food and ride everything he was tall enough for, even the scary stuff.  This kid is fearless.

Jude fair 2

Jude fair 1

A week later, we ventured to a small pumpkin patch near home to pick out a few pumpkins. The weather was a tiny bit chilly and perfectly fall.




Then Halloween came and went with a ridiculous amount of excitement at our house. We had Buzz Lightyear and a ballerina this year. The Child Development Center here led a parade of trick or treaters around campus, and I was able to join them which was so fun. At one point, Jude shouted “This is the best day ever!”

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2013

We also had a ton of people over on Halloween night because our new neighborhood is perfect for trick or treating. Sidewalks and tiny kids everywhere! It was a great chance to meet more neighbors, and it felt like everyone had kids no older than ten. It makes me look forward to my kids growing up here – so many little friends their age!

October is such fun as it begins what I think is the best part of the year. But November seems almost better. Looking ahead at Thanksgiving in a few weeks and seeing the leaves turn red and gold in Georgia, I think we all slow down a bit and become more verbal about our gratitude in a way we forget to during the rest of the year. Bowls of soup for dinner, bread baking in the kitchen, movie nights and chilly mornings, sweater wearing (finally), and holiday plans looming soon. Gratitude is felt so much more fully this time of year. And I’m so grateful for my little family, now more than ever.

Our Pirate Party

Jude has been nothing short of obsessed with “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” for the better part of the past year or so.  Truth be told, I don’t mind it that much.  It’s Disney and it’s cute and there could be much worse things to watch.  So when he wanted a pirate party this year, I jumped on board.

We invited only family and a couple of close friends this time.  I know everyone has her own ideas of how to do birthdays, and that’s fine.  Whatever works for your family.  But for us, it feels like the first couple of years are all about the parents in a way.  I mean it’s obviously about the baby or toddler, but at the end of the day, parents and loved ones are the ones celebrating the milestone.  The one or two-year-old has no clue what’s going on.  But as kids grow older, it seems best to ask what they want and how they want to celebrate.  Jude wanted a pirate party with a few friends, so that’s what we did.  It was fairly low key and laid back, and with my being back at full-time work, that was a good thing anyway.


We had party sandwiches (these simple ones) with pirate flags I found on Amazon. I added fruit and cheese, chicken tortilla soup from the slow cooker, cupcakes, and the apple cake I’ve blogged before, plus I threw some chocolate coins on the table as well. And of course, I copied Pinterest with some pirate bananas.


The weather was perfect for soup, and it really feels like fall finally arrived here in Georgia. Actual sock weather and a real need for a jacket!  Jude had a blast and was really excited about every little thing with the party. He really understands birthdays in a way he didn’t get last year, I think.


The cupcakes (with toppers I found on Etsy) were the same chocolate cake with buttercream that I do for every single birthday party since the dawn of time, but he loved them… and had way too many of them.


On the whole, it was a great time, and a perfect party for our little pirate.

Ballerina Birthday Bash {Norah turns ONE!}

I used to always write party posts with all kinds of details, but I’ve slipped up in the past year or so. I hosted a Mickey Mouse birthday party for Jude last fall, and I’m pretty sure I never shared photos at all.  I also hosted a black-and-white wedding shower for my cousin, and I love the way the tablescape turned out, but again, I am not even sure I took a photo at all!  My party posts are by far my most viewed and most frequently pinned entries, but I don’t make it a priority much these days.

I couldn’t let this one go by without sharing a few though.  It was so much fun to put together!


A little background on all of this…. I used to dance and spent something like four nights a week in a ballet studio until I graduated high school.  I have dabbled a bit in college dance classes and even adult ballet classes in recent years.  I LOVE ballet, and while I hope that Norah will share that feeling, who really knows if she will.  I figured I’d throw a ballet party before she was old enough to object.  Ha!  I also had her pictures taken a few months ago with my old tutu as a prop for the same reason.

So there was really no question for me when I began thinking of a theme for her first birthday.  The weather was atrocious on Sunday afternoon, and I was so grateful for our guests making the trip in spite of buckets of rain all night and day.  The details turned out beautifully!


I served fruit salad in disposable champagne flutes I found at Hobby Lobby.


And we served caprese bites on party picks.  I ran across some fluffy ones while browsing at Target one day and decided they were perfect.  I just used marinated fresh mozzarella and small tomatoes.  I used this handy free printable I found on Pinterest to label all the food, and I bought a few yards of nylon netting (super cheap!) and gave each dish a tutu.


I thought chocolate-covered strawberries were a perfect choice since strawberries are in season now.  In addition to that, we had finger sandwiches you can see a bit in the background – sunbutter and jelly for the kids, chicken salad, and cucumber.  I forgot to take photos of the drink station, but along with the sodas and water, I made some of this pretty pink punch, and it was a hit.


I adored these cupcake toppers I found on Etsy, and I stuck them on both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.  (This Ina Garten recipe, by the way, is my absolute favorite for chocolate cupcakes.)


I glued a bit of pink ribbon around my cupcake tower, and we were good to go.  Norah loved it!


On the table in our foyer, I placed treat bags filled with cookies from a yummy local bakery and tags that said “Thanks for twirling with me” with a photo of Norah.  I also bought Tallulah’s Tutu for guests to sign.  I love that this book is all about how ballet is hard work and not just pretty costumes and stage time.  The illustrations are adorable, too.  It made for a nice sentimental souvenir for little Norah to cherish one day, and we got some sweet messages from our guests.


About two days before the party, Scott got an idea to put together a cd as a favor.  We heard so many nice things when we did this a few years ago for Jude’s train party, and dance songs are everywhere.   So he took this on as his project, and there are so many fun songs on there – from the Beatles to Whitney Houston to the Rolling Stones.

I fell in love with this idea on Pinterest, but when I attached my matted monthly photos, they were too heavy.  Of course this was ten minutes before the party, and I was frustrated, so Scott took over and gave our guests this little way to look at photos.  I wanted to display the monthly quilt pictures I’ve taken, and this worked out well.


Lastly, we strung some paper doilies and added a ton of pink and white roses (Thank you, Costco!) and it was complete.


The Birthday Girl had fun, and unlike her photo shoot a few weeks ago, she actually ate the cake!


Her birthday outfit – which she also wore in her one-year photos – was created by this Etsy shop, and I love it so much.  I intend for her to wear it out this summer.

All in all, it was a fun party with a ton of pink and a lot of family and friends with us to celebrate!

ballerina birthday party

Norah and I have been busy making plans lately.  We hit the craft store last week to get miles of pink and white tulle.

Birthday Party Supply Shopping!!

I used to spend most evenings in ballet class and grew up a dancer.  I know Norah might not follow the same pattern, and I just hope she goes on to find something she loves, regardless of what that is!  But before that happens, I decided I might as well get to plan a ballerina birthday bash as long as I have  say.  Ha!

So as usual, my Pinterest board is giving me tons of ideas.  We always do a larger than usual party for the first birthday since it’s kind of a big deal, so there will be a lot of people around soon to celebrate little Norah!  I’ll be sure to post pictures after the party in a couple of weeks.  It’s pink, pink, and more pink!


I don’t know why spring has taken so long to show her face in Atlanta, but she has.  It has been COLD for much of the past few weeks.  But this weekend, she started to show up a bit and the forecast shows some sunny skies this week.  It feels like I’m coming out from under a heavy rock.  We’ve missed the sun around here.

So Easter was perfectly timed with the fresh weather.  I haven’t downloaded from the real camera yet, but I got a few with my phone, too.  It was Norah’s first Easter!


And Jude is the perfect age for finding so much joy in these traditions. The Easter Bunny brought him a new book that is perfect for his recent fascination with the word underpants. It cracks him up!


All in all, I am feeling lucky to have these two and looking forward to a new season with my little family.


Happy Easter and happy spring to you, too!

Merry Little Christmas

Our holiday was great, and we are still in Christmas mode around here.  Cake in the cake plate, pajamas at [almost] noon.  I love this week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Lots of relaxation coupled with some time to reflect on the past year and think about goals for the next one.  Happy holidays from our family to yours.