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This summer has been endless fun in the sun summer.  As I’m writing this we just got home a few hours ago after a weekend in Palm Desert in 110 weather with roughly 12 families most of whom we already know but some new ones who are awesome!! It was a wonderful time and it came together great!!!

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About four weeks ago Oliver and I left California and headed to good ole’ New Jersey.  We have been doing this trip for the last three years.  We spend a week at the beach in Ocean City, NJ with my family and another week in my hometown.  Jonathan met us a few days after we arrived so he could be with us at the beach and some time after as well.

The beach was great, weather was near perfect.  Water temperature cold but not that cold. Sometimes we would go down to the beach in the morning and other times we would head down later in the day around 3 and stay til dinner.  Other times we would head to the beach after dinner and let the kids run in the water while we watched and enjoyed some wine. We went to the boardwalk a few times, which Oliver could not get enough of, mostly because he was able to ride rides without us and ride with his cousin who is four. Super cute and sweet to watch them!!

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This trip landed around the 4th of July.  Wenonah, my hometown has a small town celebration that consist of a parade, games in the park for kids, fire truck rides for kids, a beer garden for the adults, and so many open house parties in the neighborhood it is hard to keep count on where to go to next.  All in all it is a little slice of Americana.  In fact the 4th of July parade was named one of the top 10 small town parades in America by travel magazines.  One thing I love, every 4th of July in Wenonah before the parade starts the fire hall sets off it’s siren alarm to wake the town for the parade. Although it is 15 minutes before the parade, it is a great tradition to get everyone excited and ready to celebrate.  Kids and adults love it all the same.  The kids love it for the parade (free candy gets thrown all throughout the parade), games in the park such a the peanut scramble which is geared towards toddlers,  picking up peanuts and putting them in their bags, and of course fire truck rides.  This year Oliver was having no part of the firetruck ride as they will not let adults on anymore (not sure why) so needless to say he was basically like no way am I getting on this firetruck with out my mom or dad.  The adults all gather later in the beer garden and catch up with old friends and neighbors.  I saw friends from high school that I have not seen in 20 years.  Pretty remarkable to pick up after 20 years!!

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Lots of wonderful memories and a lot of great dinners shared together.  Our last night in NJ we made so much food.  Two things I made I want to share with you all.  Popsicles are a must in the summer, I made some with blueberries and some with cherries with coconut milk as the base.  And a nice crostini with smashed peas and mint with feta cheese spread below the smashed peas.

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There are so many photos that I want to share from this trip so instead of flooding this post with pictures I made a video montage of our time in NJ.

 

Coconut Popsicle Ingredients:

2 cans whole coconut milk (you can find it in ethnic foods isle)

1/4 cup sugar

1-1 1/2 cup blueberries (or any other kind of fruit that is in season)

 

Directions for pops:

Place your berries in a saucepan and cook on low for about 10 minutes.  Or until kind of mashed, naturally.  At the same time heat your coconut milk in a saucepan with sugar.  Bring it to a boil and then take off of heat.  Fill popsicle holders with with milk and berries.  Freeze until firm.

 

Crostini smashed peas Ingredients:

1 cup shelled peas

10 leaves of mint

3-4 large squares of feta

1 lemon

1 baguette

Olive oil for spreading on bread

 

Directions for Crostini:

Heat oven to 350.  Brush sliced bread with olive oil.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until they become somewhat toasted.  Try not to over toast them as you want to keep the bread inside soft.  While bread is baking steam your peas. and chop your mint.  Once your bread is done, your peas should be done about the same time.  Pore peas in a bowl and smash. Once the peas are smashed add a splash of lemon juice, olive oil, mint, salt and pepper for flavor.  Take your feta and spread it onto the bread and top with smashed peas. Enjoy.

 

 

 

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It has been established that I may, or may not have a chocolate addiction. I am not the biggest fan of milk chocolate, although I will eat it, I prefer dark chocolate. The week before Oliver’s birthday party I bought a large bag of mixed mini chocolate bars to go into the pinata.  Well it did not take much time for the bag to be opened, ummmmm it literally took seconds.  Twix, Snickers, Milkway, among others were staring me down begging me to eat them. So I did. And then I had to hide them from myself.  I’m sure you have done the same thing as well.  Yeah that worked.  It reminds me of the a scene from Sex In The City, when Miranda throws out half a chocolate cake she baked because she can not stop eating it, which works out well til she starts to eat it out the trash.  Chocolate is a sneaky bitch.

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Needless to say the chocolate did not go into the pinata, Jonathan felt the parents would be upset that we were pumping their kids up with chocolate.  So we compromised, I put one piece of chocolate into the gift bags.  We put small toys like play dinosaurs, stamps, and other trinkets into the pinata.  The kids loved it all the same and the parents did thank us about not putting chocolate into the pinata…..hahahhaha.

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Since Oliver’s birthday party I have been craving a chocolate bar.  I want chocolate that will savor my sweet tooth but healthy at the same time.  I normally eat plain dark chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth but I want something with chew and crunch. I want something I can also share with Oliver and not feel guilty about it.

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Well….. I’m happy to report my dreams have come true.  A blog that I frequent has a nice healthy version of a candy bar, so I figured I would give it a go.  I knew after I made the cookie part they were going to be amazing.  They are certainly different but in wonderful way.  They taste amazing, you can taste all the different layers, and they taste healthy. Well healthy for a candy bar.  One thing I did as well, I only coated half of the bars in chocolate and left the other half as the bar.  They are great both ways.  Especially if you are feeling like you do not want chocolate or wanting to give chocolate to your child.  I should say the cookie part is more like a soft chewy cookie, almost like a nougat. These do take some time as they are made in stages but totally worth it.  Go for it over the weekend if you have time.  Is there such a thing as a healthy candy bar, you be the judge?  Enjoy!!

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Adapted from My New Roots

Ingredients:

cookie part:
1 ½ cups coconut flour
¼ tsp sea salt
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup (more if needed)

Date and nut center
12 oz. pitted soft dates
1/2 cup almond butter  (or any other nut butter you prefer)
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
½ tsp sea salt

Roasted nuts
¾ cup almonds (or any other nut you prefer)

Chocolate coating
9-12 oz dark chocolate

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.  In a food processor grind your flax seeds.  Once they are somewhat ground add your salt, applesauce, coconut flour, coconut oil, and maple syrup.  Pulse about 30 seconds or until smooth.  Line a brownie pan, 9×9 pan with parchment paper.  Poor dough in pan, pat down make sure all edges are even.  Bake for 15 minutes or until edges become golden brown.  Once it is cooked let it cool down.  At this time you can roast your nuts for about 20 minutes at 300. Or til they are nice golden brown. Once they are cooked let them cool and then chop and put aside.  For the third step you will need your food processor again.  Pit your dates, place them in the food processor and pulse til they are creamy.  Next add your nut butter, vanilla bean, and salt. When the date mixture is incorporated smooth out over cookie part.  Place in the freezer for four hours.  After they feel solid, take them out of the freezer and cut into squares.  I got about 24 bars.  Once they are cut place back in the freezer.  For the last step you will melt your chocolate using a double broiler or microwave.  Coat the bars with chocolate, and let them cool on a cooling rack.  I topped mine with left over nuts and flaked sea salt.  Keep them in the freezer in an air tight container.  Enjoy!!!

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Oliver turned three on Sunday May 29th.  I wonder if most parents do this, I assume they do, take a walk down memory lane and look at all of the photos and videos from the past.  In my case, photos from the last three years.  It is funny when I look at photos of my pregnancy or photos of Oliver, I can place myself back in the moment and remember it all.  For the most part they are happy memories but there are some that I look at and remember I was upset about something, I’m sure trivial and dumb.  Which brings me to my point of trying to be the best mom/person I know how.

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As a person, not just a parent, we question most things that we do.  Did I say the right thing to him? Did I raise my voice too much?  Did I take him away from something he was enjoying too soon?  Do I feed him the right foods?  The list can go on and on.  And not to mention am I being the wife I should while being the mother I should?  It is endless when you think of the pressure to please all of those around you.

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But one thing I have realized while doing this parenting thing.  We are going to make mistakes, say the wrong things at times, and at some point my child will probably tell me he hates me.  At the end of the day I am being the mom I know how to be, not the mom I saw myself being.  We all have this image of what life is going to be like when we have kids or not have kids.  And for the most part things do not turn out that way and believe me I am glad they are not the way I saw them because I would never ever sleep!!  Things change and you go with it.  My house may not be the cleanest and we may have eggs (or cereal) for dinner sometimes but life is full and happy.

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Okay now to talk about the birthday boy. I’m not bragging here, but Oliver is well rounded and really enjoys being with and meeting new people, which has helped me being that I have introverted tendencies. Having a child who is extroverted has really forced me to talk to other parents at the park or wherever, where the old me would not have introduced myself. I would have just smiled and that would be that.  He loves drawing, painting, gluing, making collages, baking, acting like a butterfly or a princess, singing, dancing, running, climbing, jumping, throwing a ball, kicking a ball, forward rolls, eating chocolate.  I am to blame for his chocolate addiction because I have a piece of dark chocolate every night and now so does he (but not every night).  He does this thing now where he pretends he is on the phone with my parents or Jonathan’s and says “hi so and so I’d like a piece of chocolate”  and he does this in a low voice so I can not hear him like he’s trying to hide it.  HAHA…. it really makes me laugh.

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I was going to order food for his party but decided to make it because my parents would be here so they could help with Oliver while I made food.  It all worked out great.  Oliver requested pink cupcakes so I made him strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream frosting.  So good.  For the cake I made this delicious roasted almond cake that has a rhubarb filling.  I knew I wanted to make this cake the second I laid eyes on it.  It was heavenly.  I followed her directions to a tee and it turned out perfect!!! For food, I made a caprese sandwiches with a pesto spread and the other sandwich was prosciutto, brie arugula, and butter…..ummmm yeah to die for!!! For salads I went with a classic watermelon, feta, mint and balsamic, and the other salad was pesto pasta with peas and arugula.  Simple for a spring birthday outside, not too heavy but enough to fill people for lunch.

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It was great party.  The bubbles were a hit, and so was the bubble pinata that Jonathan was still working on at 11 the night before.  It is so much fun to see these little babes grow into little people.  I love having conversations with all of them.  They all make me laugh……little humans such heart breakers!!!

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Recipe for the toasted almond cake with rhubarb can be found here.  You can use a different fruit that is in season since rhubarb season is coming to a close, or if rhubarb is not your thing.

 

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Sorry for the radio silence.  I know I said I would post more after the new year and then again after the school year ended but life happens, and thus this is my first post since the new year.  School is over and while it is hard and challenging I am really enjoying it.  It is interesting being in a classroom full of older teens and twenty somethings who really take college for granted as I myself did when I was in college after finishing high school.  It’s interesting in the way that I am learning so much more about myself through this process that I did not know before.  More so that I am way more of a perfectionist than I ever thought I was.  Or maybe it is that I am taking this career move seriously because this is something I feel passionate about: helping other people find their way with who they are and who they want to be. Either way, I am loving school and hope you will enjoy following me on this journey, hopefully for the next five years, but who’s counting….yikes!!!.

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A lot has happened since I last wrote. Oliver is currently in school two days a week.  It is a pre-school based around art, which he loves. This has been a treasure to watch him grow emotionally and mentally.  The best part of my day is when I pick him up from school and he tells what he did that that day.  Oliver is speech delayed and has been in speech therapy for a year now, so for him to speak full sentences now and tell me about his day makes my heart explode!!

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We have had lots of visitors.  My mom came out after Christmas and we made a webisode of us making my favorite cake that I grew up eating,  Jewish Apple Cake.  Well that never made it to the blog because we talked the whole time, so we will do a re-make of that because that cake is the best and to die for!!

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My in-laws came for a visit which was not the visit we had intended.  Oliver was getting over a stomach bug and Jonathan and I thought we were both in the clear because we did not get anything, until BAM, it hit me on our drive back from a beautiful day in Santa Barbara.  Stomach viruses are something that are gnarly and something I wish someone warned me about when we were pregnant.  Anyway we will be doing a round two of that trip to SB this coming August which will be a great summer closer before both Oliver and I head back to school.

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My brother and his amazing girlfriend came for a visit and we also took a little trip up to Santa Barbara.  I love Funk Town in Santa Barbara for the wine or beer tasting and no the no need to drive.  Needless to say we had a blast, so much of a blast that Jen, Oliver and I passed out at 7PM at our adorable hotel only to sleep through the night til the next morning at sunrise.

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And of course we did Santa Barbara one more time when Jonathan, Oliver and I took a long weekend trip up to there.  It was my spring break….Whoa let’s party!!!! But really it was relaxing, sun shinning, afternoon wine drinking, fish tacos, pizza kinda trip.  Heavenly and just what we all needed. Memories that we will always treasure.

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One thing that has been great since I have been done school is getting back in the kitchen and not eating cold lentils and feta salads all the time to re-charge but making real dinners and deserts to boot.

Our friend Becky who is part owner of Hollyflora threw an amazing surprise party for Holly who is the other owner of Hollyflora.  To contribute to the party I made some pies.  One being a chocolate cream pie with a gingersnap crust, and the other a peach and apricot pie.  For the peach apricot pie I used red velvet apricots.  I had never heard of them before and let me tell you they were totally worth the buy.  They tasted similar to a peach not as tart as a normal apricot.  These pies are both perfect for anytime and and occasion.  Enjoy!!

 

Recipe for Peach/Apricot Pie

Ingredients for crust:

2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

2 sticks unsalted butter (cold)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup 1/2 cup ice cold water

Ingredients for filling:

3-4 peaches (I prefer ones that are not ripe)

4-6 apricots

1/2 cup sugar

Ingredients for topping:

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1-2 tablespoons raw sugar

Directions for pie:

For the crust pulse flour,salt,sugar, and butter (cut into cubes) in a Cuisinart. Once the butter looks to be the size of peas, start adding your water.  Pulse just a few times, and then toss it out onto plastic wrap, wrap up and place in the frig for an hour.  While the dough is cooling start cutting your fruit. You can leave your skins on which I do.  Toss sugar over fruit and let them sit at room temp.  Once dough is cool roll it out into pie pan and place fruit on top, then roll the second half of dough and place onto.  Tucking the top layer under the bottom layer.  Pinch sides and place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.  At this time preheat your oven to 350.  Once the pie firm take out of freezer and brush with whipping cream and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Or until the top is very golden brown.

Recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie: Chocolate cream filling from Martha Stewart

Ingredients for crust:

12 oz. ginger snaps

6 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for filling:

2 1/2 cups dark chocolate

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch or 1/8 cup corn flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for topping:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar

chocolate shavings (optional)

Directions for Chocolate Cream Pie:

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt butter in a saucepan and put aside.  Blend gingersnaps in Cuisinart and add butter. Push down in pie pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Put aside when done and let pie crust cool.  For the filling:

  • Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Heat milk and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate melts.

  • Whisk 1 cup hot milk mixture into sugar mixture until smooth. Whisk milk-sugar mixture into the remaining milk mixture in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, 4 to 5 minutes total (about 2 minutes after it comes to a boil).

  • Whisk yolks in a medium bowl until combined. Pour in milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until completely incorporated. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it just begins to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes.

  • Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Let custard cool in saucepan on a wire rack, whisking occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

    Pour filling over crust and let it cool in the frig for about an hour.  Once it feels firm take out of frig and start whipping your cream and sugar.  Do not over whip your cream you want your cream smooth and like a soft icing.  Top on pie and decorate as you desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I hope you all had a great New Year.  We kept it mellow after flying home from our Christmas holiday in Texas.  Like every year since Oliver came along, it went by in a blur.   But a lot of amazing things did happen.  Oliver’s speech has blown up. It’s amazing to have a somewhat of a conversation with him.

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Oliver is fully potty-trained, no diapers at all!!! Not even at night. I should pat myself on the back for this, but really Oliver did this all on his own!!!

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Meme came out to celebrate Easter with us.

 

I took my first girls trip since Oliver was born to celebrate all our 40th birthdays.  We had such a great time that we may make this an annual trip.

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Love all these ladies something special.

Oliver turned two and I can’t believe as I’m writing this he is two and half.  We had a small brunch for him in the park.  The plan for his third birthday is a trip to Hawaii for us three, lets hope this will happen.

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Oliver learning how to echo in the toilet.

 

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Pops and Oliver building.

 

We had many visitors. Always both sets of grandparents come every year, but we also had visits from my brother Justin and his girlfriend Jen.  We went on a few brewery tours here in LA and in Santa Barbara, since Justin is about to open a brewery with this two good buddies in New Jersey.

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Jonathan’s brother David also came for a visit along with his wife Lo, daughters Leá, and Cloé.  We went the beach, Disney and a Halloween party, and my niece Leá looked at a UCLA and Cal Tech.  I met Leá when she was about 6, it’s crazy to think that she will be embarking off to college in a year and half.

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Jonathan’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  They threw a huge party.  We all pitched in and made lots of fun and memorable things to surprise them with at the party.

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Then in August we went to New Jersey to spend a week at the beach with my whole family at the beach.  Even though I’m not that big of a beach person we always have a great time because Oliver really loves it.  Oliver went berry and nectarine picking with his cousin Audrey for the first time, and this he loved especially after because he got a pure fruit slushy after picking.

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Oliver and his cousin Audrey running around like monkeys our first night at the beach.

 

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Summertime buddies in NJ, Bella and Alex.

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I started school in September to receive a degree in psychology and if all goes the way we want to eventually get a masters in psychology to be a licensed family therapist.  This will take a lot of time but I’m excited for it all and I’m looking forward to reaching my goals.

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Oliver and his buddy Emerson playing in the water at Grand Park

In October we went to Albuquerque for the balloon fest.  This was like nothing I’ve ever seen before and lucky for Jonathan he was invited for a balloon ride from the french team with his dad. Truly memorable.

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Thanksgiving was spent with one of our favorite families, the Allison/Marrin crew.  We had such a great evening and even spent the night.

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Ho ho ho Santa with Audrey, Ian was there too, but clung to his mama as he knew what was waiting for him around the corner.

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My mom retired in December so Oliver and I went home to New Jersey to celebrate with her. Oliver also experienced his first time ice skating and I have to say I think he did really well for a two year old.

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The ladies at my mom’s retirement party….my sister Jocey, my mom, me, and Jen, my brother’s girlfriend (seester).

 

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We spent Christmas in Houston with my in-laws and siblings and others.  I think this was really the first year that Oliver understood Christmas and Santa.  We had a great time. It was 80 degrees most days. I’m not complaining.  Jonathan’s grandfather aka Pops moved from Katy, Texas to Fredericksburg, Texas, about three and half hours outside of Houston.  We spent a night up there so we could really spend sometime with him and the rest of the family.  Jonathan’s aunt Diane and uncle Paul live there, along with Jonathan’s cousin Monica her husband Jim and two of their three children. They all live on a big piece of property with three separate houses.  It’s great that Pops is surrounded by so much love!!!  Oliver really loved the fact that they had chickens, big dogs, and a golf cart to ride around in.

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radish and ricotta sandwiches on pumpernickel for our holiday party.

 

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Jonathan and I at our holiday party.

 

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Camille hosted a gingerbread house decorating party.

We ended our trip in Austin with our friends Billie and her husband Jonathan.  They have two kids Elliot and Oliver, and our Oliver is in between them both age wise, this was nice and they could play and watch movies together while the parents kicked back talked and enjoyed some wine.

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Enjoying some one on one with my love in Texas.

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Oliver enjoying his first hot chocolate.

And for the New Year we spent it eating pizza and drinking champagne in bed watching Tangled with Oliver.  We were invited to parties but had little to no energy once we got off the plane.

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Once we got home we settled back in to our habits and life continued the way it always did before.  I normally have a Sunday ritually of making pancakes, but since it was new years weekend I decided to make my moms famous french toast.  Actually it was requested.  We started the new year with warm heavenly french toast in our bellies and Oliver went on his first bike ride on his own bike.  I have a good feeling 2016 will filled with wonderful memories and new experiences for us all.

 

Baguette French Toast ingredients:

1 baguette sliced up on an angle

2 cups whole milk ( you can substitute whatever milk replacement you’d like)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla, or 1 vanilla bean scraped

1/3 cup sugar (this optional, but it helps caramelize the outside of the bread)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Directions for toast:

Slice up the bread on an angle and place in 9×11 baking sheet.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the bread.  Make sure the bread is coated on both sides. Cover and place in the frig overnight. In the morning heat up your griddle or pan, place a tab of butter in the pan and fry up your toast.  It is heavenly, crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.  Enjoy!!!

Sorry for the lack of posts these last few weeks, between school, holiday shopping and throwing our annual holiday party I had very little time on my hands.  We had an amazing care free holiday,  just what the doctor ordered.  And like every year we made a video of our trip.  Hope you all enjoy our family video.