Make Your Sacrifice and Eat It, Too

Kneeling in Prayer

Here we are in the last week of Lent. It’s time to reflect on the past nearly forty days and examine how we did, not as an exercise of beating up oneself for our failures but in recognizing how far we have come. Have we grown spiritually? Have we gotten better at prayer? Have we grown closer to God? What sacrifices did we make, and how did they improve us?

Sacrifices come in many different forms. I’ve often wondered about those who forego chicken on Fridays but dine on lobster instead. I’m not judging. Perhaps they would rather be having chicken! Besides, in our house, Friday dinners during Lent consist of homemade crab cakes, but it’s not the crab cakes that I see as the sacrifice.

It’s everything that goes with them. Here’s what I mean…

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Better than Chuck E. Cheese

Rebecca as an award winning actress

There was a beautiful, tear-jerking scene toward the end of last week’s This is Us (I know, right?) in which Kate calls her mother to thank her for giving the three “triplets” a childhood in which they never knew they didn’t have money. She told her mother that their homemade Halloween costumes and big, backyard birthday parties with homemade cakes “were better than at Chuck E. Cheese.”

Boy, can I relate to that, and I think my girls can, too, if not now, then when they have kids of their own.

Until my girls were in high school, I made every Halloween costume they wore. They were simple and inexpensive and were often made of materials we had around the house or purchased from the Dollar Tree. Despite all that, the girls loved them, and some even brought home trophies, winning accolades over the most expensive store-bought costumes or the hours-long, detail-oriented ones of Pinterest fame. Even thrift shop dresses and grandma’s old stole can turn an ordinary girl into an Academy Award Winning Actress (who traded her Oscar for a Prettiest Costume trophy).

My mother taught me to a make what you can, buy what you must, and use more imagination than money, but the key ingredient was always love. Mom loved us, and she loved showing us how much she loved us, not by breaking the bank, but by putting her heart into whatever she did (and still does).

And something else Mom taught me is something that I can’t help but wonder if so many moms have forgotten in the past several years: The more you spend on something…

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Not Your Grandmother’s Egg Nog

We’re in he midst of the holidays, and most people are still stuck at home. It seems that most home improvement jobs have been completed, the exercise equipment gathers dust, and Netflix binges are becoming stale. However, it looks like many are still cooking and baking and trying to come up with new recipes. We’ve been baking cookies, cakes, and pies and making hot chocolate bombs. Today, I’m going to experiment with pumpkin spice bread pudding. I can’t wait to taste it!

One thing that is always the hit of the party in our family is our homemade ice cream cake. At the end of Island of Promise, it’s what Kayla makes for Todd for his birthday, and subscribers to my newsletter received the recipe in my Island of Promise Companion Cookbook.

This year, my mother had the brilliant idea to make an egg nog ice cream cake for Christmas, and I decided to make my own version. We decided one a challenge to see what recipe seemed to be preferred. I can’t tell you that there was a clear winner because not a scrap of the cake was left over in either house. Clearly, this is one that may need to become a staple in our Christmas recipe file!

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The Secret Ingredient

One of my favorite memories as a little girl is of baking and decorating sugar cookies with my mom. Baking them for Christmas is a tradition I’ve taken over, and now my girls and I are the sugar cookie providers for our family and friends. Every Christmas, we do a huge cookie swap dinner with the mothers and daughters we are closest to. It’s something we look forward to all year long–planning, preparing, baking, cooking, decorating, and then finally enjoying. This year would have been our sixteenth cookie swap, and my girls and I are so disappointed that we won’t be able to have it under the current circumstances. However, we certainly will be baking our sugar cookies because they are more than cookies.

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Have Your Cake…

Did you know that today is National Dessert Day? Yep, it’s the day on which you can indulge in a decadent concoction with the knowledge that you are just doing your part to celebrate the happiness that can be found in a bowl of fudge ripple or a slice of blueberry lemon cake. It’s your chance to bake something sweet or order dessert or…

Take the family to the ice cream parlor. Because, while there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a perfectly torched plate of Bananas Foster, I’d like to suggest that it isn’t the dessert itself that we love and take pleasure in. It’s the people we share it with and the occasion on which we share.

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It’s Pumpkin Time!

Today is the Tuesday after Labor Day, and we all know what that means…

It’s time for everyone to begin going crazy for pumpkins! 

I will admit that I am a pumpkin loving gal. I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin decorations, pumpkin candles, cookies, cakes, and yes, pumpkin spice lattes. I just bought the most adorable pillows for my living room. And I haven’t dug them out yet, but I have even more pumpkin pillows that I like to put on our front porch swing.

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Blueberry Lemon Cake

When our family talks about my Great Aunt Sissie, someone always brings up her prize-worthy coconut cake. It’s as much a part of her as the country store she ran and the white hair on her head. Though Aunt Sissie is no longer with us, her recipe will live on through her grandchildren who still get together throughout the year to bake the cake in her memory.

2020 coconut cake
Aunt Sissie (far right) w/ her daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughter, & coconut cakes!

Great Aunt Mary Alice made the best chocolate cake ever. It was a staple at family functions and is in our family cookbook. Thanks, Mom!

There’s something about baking… Read more

Time to Make the Doughnuts

IMG_3326Do you have a favorite family tradition from when you were little?  I think that both of my brothers would agree with me that one of our all time favorite family traditions was making homemade doughnuts on the first snow day of the year.  Of course, back in the 70s, they were deep fried, like everything else was back then, but oh, they were so good!  I’m not sure how many we ate in one day, but it was a once a year tradition, so I’m guessing our Mom turned a blind eye when we snuck back for more. Read more

Giving Thanks For Baked Pineapple!

1459342_10152131697541349_1446286180_nOh, the hustle and bustle of the holidays!  Is there any sweeter sound than the melody of family gathered together to celebrate a holiday, or any occasion?  We have had the same Thanksgiving tradition for the past twenty-one years.  We head to my mother’s house (about two hours from our home) the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at whatever time the girls’ afternoon activities end.  This year, it was after Katie’s evening piano practice (Christmas recitals begin on Sunday!).  We met our oldest, Rebecca, halfway to Mom’s.  She was able to get a ride with a friend at college, about three hours from home.  As soon as we entered the house, the smells of Thanksgiving were already in the air: pumpkin bread, chocolate chip bars, Southern Maryland stuffed ham, and Mom’s famous ham and bean soup just for my husband to have for Wednesday’s lunch.  For those who have never had the pleasure, stuffed ham is like eating a little slice of Heaven on earth. Read more