Waiting for Santa Claus

Twas the night before Christmas
When a family took pause

To lay out cookies and milk
For dear old Santa Claus

Then a sweet little boy
Wore his new pajamas to bed

While visions of Christmas decorations
Danced in his head ...

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Black Bottom Pumpkin Pie

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without pumpkin pie, so when I was assigned to make a dessert for this year's Thanksgiving feast at Conservative Mom and Dad's house in Georgia, a pumpkin pie seemed like a no-brainer.

But I resisted the idea of making a traditional pumpkin pie because I also firmly believe that no dinner is complete without chocolate. Or any meal, for that matter. Even, some days, breakfast.

So when I came across Southern Living's Black Bottom Pumpkin Pie recipe in the November 2012 issue, it seemed like the ideal solution. Pumpkin? Check. Chocolate? Check. Plus toffee and pecans thrown in for good measure. What's not to like about that?

Making the pie turned out to be quite a process. First I burned a batch of pecans so had to redo them. Then nearly every step required some cooling or chilling time in between. Fortunately, we didn't have a big agenda over Thanksgiving week, so we ended up finishing it with a few minutes to spare. (Though we almost had a disaster and ran out of whipped cream at the end, hence the rather decorative effect and lack of full coverage atop the pie.)

The interesting thing about this particular pie is that the pumpkin layer isn't your traditional pumpkin texture or flavor. It ends up being more of a creamy custard layer with just a hint of pumpkin. For those in the crowd that aren't hard-core pumpkin lovers, it was a nice, subtle nod to a Thanksgiving staple. But I think if I made it again I'd either increase the amount of pumpkin or replace that layer with a more traditional pumpkin pie filling.

The other interesting thing we discovered is that this pie actually tasted better straight from the fridge the next day. I'm not sure why, but I certainly didn't complain about that!


A Little Tree

This year, I skipped putting up the full-size fake tree I've dutifully assembled every Christmas since I graduated college. The lights, the ornaments, and the branches wouldn't stand a chance against a certain curious, on-the-go elf.

So instead I bought a tiny tabletop fir tree, which now sits perched atop our wine rack. It allowed me to fill the house with Christmas spirit (and the beautiful smell of a fresh fir), while keeping our most precious ornaments and the twinkling lights well out of Little Man's reach.

And I didn't even have to bother with buying a tree skirt—three festive napkins worked just fine. I do, however, need to find a star for the top of our tree, because the big golden bow I use atop the full-size tree would've looked awfully funny on this little one.


Her Friends' Recipes

Way back in October, I turned the big 3-0. And, lucky me, it just so happened that my birthday fell on a girls' weekend, when a group of my best college friends were all gathering in the Milwaukee area for a baby shower for one of my dear pals.

In their typical fashion, my friends sprung a lovely little party on me (and two other fellow October birthday lovers), complete with a beautiful cheesecake, a variety of 30-themed treasures and, best of all, a cookbook!

But we're not just talking a run-of-the-mill cookbook. We're talking a special cookbook made just for me and filled with some of my friends' favorite recipes.

You can check it out yourself and download a free copy, if you wish.

(The cool thing is, 47 other people people have downloaded it, though we haven't promoted it at all. I hope they are enjoying the recipes as much as I am!)


One Year with Little Man

I still can't believe that Little Man turned one on Nov. 19. It seems like just yesterday he was a tiny bundle in the hospital, looking up at us with as much confusion as we looked down at him with.

I'm in awe of how much babies change and learn and move and become their own little people in the span of a year. There's no other point in life that is so filled growth and development. It's simply amazing.

Of course, Little Man has run the show from the very beginning, when our little breech baby decided he wasn't going to wait for our 6 a.m. appointment with the doctor to try to turn him on Nov. 19. Instead he got the show going himself just after 2 a.m. and arrived shortly after 4 a.m.

It's been the same ever since, from the first few days home when he decided he would fight his hardest to get out of his swaddling to the 8 1/2 months he refused to sleep through the night. Not that I counted or anything.

 By 3 months, he was standing on our laps, the better to get a good look at the world around him. At 4 months, he insisted he was going to take his first bite of food, and when he did it he was going to hold his own spoon, darnit. By 5 months, he was rolling and wiggling all over the place. When his teeth started coming in at 7 months, he wasn't happy to welcome them one at a time. Instead, they came in droves. (Right now, we're dealing with three molars at once.) At 7 months, he started employing a rather unorthodox crawling style that got him around well until he was ready to zoom on nearly all fours. By 11 months, he wasn't just walking—he was practically running.

Now he's more in charge than ever—running around the house terrorizing Butter (or "petting" him, if you can call it that), shooting baskets nonstop in the little hoop his dad bought him for his birthday, carrying objects that are way too big for him around the house just because he can, letting us know exactly when he wants to read books and when he could care less about them, saying "hi" to everything and everyone he sees (but most especially his reflection or pictures of himself).

As long as his teeth aren't driving him nuts or he isn't hungry (yep, got that from me), he's a smiling, giggling, playful little imp who goes 100 miles per hour from the moment he gets out of bed until he falls back into it at night.

Someone told me once that when your children are young you'll think every stage of your child's life is the best one yet, that it can't get any better. I see now exactly what she means. It seems like our Little Man can't possibly be more fun than he is right now, but then again I know next month he'll be doing something new and different and keeping us on our toes even more.

I can't wait to see what adventures the next year brings!

(The photos, you may have noticed, are from Little Man's first birthday party at the Lake. It was a terrific shindig at My Parents' house. Little Man, of course, loved being the center of attention and played with his toys until he literally laid down on the rug in the middle of everyone and almost fell asleep!)


5 Little Penguins

Five little penguins sat in a garden bed.

The first one said, "There's a hat on my head."

The second one said, "There are snowflakes in the air."

The third one said, "But we don't care."

 The fourth one said, "Let's slip and slide and skate."

 The fifth one said, "But we can't be late."

 Jingle went the bells and on came the lights ... 

 And the five little penguins lit up the night.

(I created this silly little story for Little Man while we stood at the front window today looking down at the five little penguins in our planter box. It's adapted from "Five Little Pumpkins," one of Little Man's current board books of choice.)