Christmas Traditions

We’ll be spending our first Christmas at home this year!  It only took my giving birth to finally allow us to celebrate in our own home.  For a few years, we didn’t even bother decorating because we would spend most of the holidays on the road bouncing between extended families.  Bryce is much more aware this year, and I am really looking forward to building some holiday traditions with my little family!  Some of the things I’m excited about:

Symphony of Lights:  This is a mile and a half of christmas light displays that you can drive through.  There are some times that you can walk through as well, the Dazzle Dash run, and the Blinking Binkies stroller walk.  I took Bryce to Blinking Binkies this year, and he loved chilling in the stroller eating grapes and looking at all the lights.

Washington Christmas Revels:  Every year this group puts on a sort of Madrigal Feast, sharing holiday music, dancing, and traditions from around the world.  I’ve only attended once, but it was absolutely magical and transporting.  My master plan when Bryce is old enough is for DJ, Bryce, and myself to audition and actually perform in the production!  What a fun family experience!

Carol Singalong:  When I was a child, my mom would host a carol sing for all the neighbors on our street.  Everyone would come over, eat goodies, and then we’d sit in the living room and sing Christmas songs.  Fostering community music making is one of my passions, and this is a tradition that I am really excited to continue!  I’m hosting my first one this year, and I am in the process of creating a website with all the lyrics and piano/guitar chords so attendees can access them from their tablet or smartphone.  I don’t mess around when it comes to Christmas music.  😉

Cookies:  I don’t think I will be quite as extravagant with the amount and selection of holiday baked goods as my mom was, but I do want to make some goodies for the season!  Bryce is starting to be interested in standing on a chair at the kitchen counter to watch my food preparation activities (and to unload  and reload the silverware drawer) and it is only a matter of time before I attempt to make a yogurt cake with him!

Giving Back:  Our church offers many opportunities to help out the community during Christmas; Angel Tree, breakfast for the local homeless shelter, music and puppet ministry, and other things too.  As Bryce gets older, I really want to involve him in some service projects so that he can focus on helping others as much as the Santa Claus/gift getting part of the season.

I can already feel our family life starting to blossom.  It is so wonderful to BE where we are and ENJOY the holiday season instead of worrying about packing, traveling, and surviving the holiday season!


Thanksgiving Thoughts on Food

I am so excited to be hosting my first Thanksgiving at home! I love cooking, but I especially love putting together fancy meals and feasts like Thanksgiving dinner.  As much as I try to tell myself that food is fuel, it isn’t as simple as that.  There is definitely a Food=Love philosophy that is ingrained in my upbringing.

In addition to enjoying the food itself, there is so much sensory joy that comes from the preparation.  Feeling the textures of crinkly kale, smelling herbs and spices as you measure and chop, listening to the sizzle of oil, and planning out your preparation so that everything is done at once.

Then there is the joy that comes from cooking for others.  Much like knitting a prayer shawl, where the maker prays intentionally while knitting the fabric, cooking for friends and family makes me take extra care with my recipe as I think about the health and enjoyment that my food will bring them.   Preparing and sharing a meal with special people is one of my favorite things to do. Few things bring me more happiness than savoring a good meal while savoring the company of loved ones.

This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The focus is on the people you love, sitting and sharing a meal together.  Such a simple thing, but a such a huge blessing.  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Catchup Salmon (Don’t Worry, Not Ketchup Salmon)

I had such an amazing weekend.  I went to see my Absolute. Favorite. Band. Ever.  The Pentatonix.

If you don’t know who they are, you need to find them on youtube and watch all their videos, then download their albums, and cry because they are starting a tour in Europe and you can’t see them in concert for a long time.  It was the third time I’ve seen them live, and I will try to see them again as many times as possible.  So Worth It.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not paying.  We got home from the concert at midnight (CRAZY!) and Bryce really doesn’t care what time I go to bed.  I had grandma and grandpa to help in the morning before we drove home, but I still started the week behind in sleep, behind in chores, and behind in food prep.   Thanks to Flylady, my house was still in pretty good shape, but I was definitely playing catchup today.  Thankfully, I had the perfect recipe to make life easier today!

This is one of the best recipes I have in my arsenal, mostly because the effort-in:quality-out ratio is off the charts.   It takes maybe two minutes to prep, and less than 20 minutes to cook.  It is delicious with sweet potatoes for an entree, and I use the leftovers to top my caesar salads for lunch.  Dj will never order salmon when we go out to eat, because this recipe ruined him for all other salmon.  It’s that good.

Full disclosure, part of the greatness is definitely because we have a Wegman’s that provides reeeeallly fresh salmon.  If you can buy fresh fish, definitely do it.  Frozen isn’t nearly as good.

Best Salmon Ever

  • Fresh salmon fillet
  • Juice from 1 lemon, or balsamic vinegar also works well
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • Dry dill weed.

Put salmon fillet on a cookie sheet (do yourself a favor and line it with foil for ease of cleanup.)  Squeeze lemon juice liberally over the fish.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt, pepper, and dill weed.  Broil on high for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  That’s it.  You’re welcome. 😉

Just a Year Ago

I went jogging around the lake with Bryce when I got home from work today.  It was a gorgeous fall day with a chill in the air and a bright blue sky.


I loaded him up in the stroller with a snack cup of cheerios while he said “Yaaaay!!!”  and “Brrrrroooom Brrrroooom.”  As we ran down the path, he said “Runrunrun!  Runrunrun!”  going fast down the hills,  and “Da     Da    Da     Da”  (trip trap trip trap) as we crossed the wooden bridges.  He barked at all the dogs we saw, echoed the calls of the blue jays and crows, and greeted everyone on the path with a bright and cheery “Hi!”   I felt energized and strong as we sped down the path, and I had a sudden flashback to last year at this time:

I was exhausted from waking up to nurse 2-4 times a night.

It was painful to run because my hips were still out of whack from being pregnant.

Bryce was so small he could barely sit up in the stroller yet.

I would walk around the lake with Bryce in the Boba carrier on my chest, and he would usually fall asleep.  I would rub his back, play with his toes, and smell his soft little head as we plodded around the lake.  Every time we got to the steep hill by the dam, I would take a DEEEEEEEEP breath in, reminding myself that even though I was still carrying a baby around, at least I had my full lung capacity back!


What a difference a year makes!  My body finally remembers how great it feels to run (even with a gigantic stroller!)  My sweet, chubby, sleepy baby is now a sweet little boy who looks with wonder at the world around him (and squawks in protest as we run by the playground without stopping.)   The days are long, but the years are short…


Pumpkin Weekend

DJ, Bryce and I had our first “Family Togetherness Activity Outing” this weekend!  Columbia has loads of amazing activities for families to do year round, but we haven’t taken advantage of them yet.  Last year, when Bryce would have spent the whole time sleeping in the stroller, going to carnivals, petting zoos, or children’s shows didn’t seem worth the effort.   This year, he’s ready!

We went to Larriland Farm, about 30 minutes from our house, where they have pick-your-own-fruit orchards, hayrides, a haunted barn, a straw maze, and a pumpkin patch.  We didn’t get to do everything;  we opted for the hayride, and the pumpkin patch.   When Bryce is older, I can totally see making a day out of the activities.   He LOVED seeing a tractor in real life, riding in the wagon, and exploring all the pumpkins.  It was a really fun day, and hopefully the first in many family fun outings!


At the farm entrance.


He had a good time on the hayride, I swear!




Perfect Fall Pizza

Oh.  My.  God.  I just made the best pizza EVER.   I wasn’t planning on writing about this recipe, but as the husband and I devoured the pie while porno-moaning about how delicious it was, I had the presence of mind to snap a picture before it was completely gone.

Grilled Pizza with Butternut Parmesan Sauce, Caramelized Red Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella.


I’m not a huge fan of bacon.  You can keep your greasy strips of salty fat, I don’t care if pop culture has deified it.  BUT, in certain circumstances, I do agree that bacon can be effectively used  as a condiment.  This is one of those circumstances.

The flavor profile of this pizza is just incredible.  You have the crispy salty bacon, the mild creamy mozzarella, the sweetness of the squash and red onions, and the smokey flavor from the grilled crust.  PLUS it took less than 15 minutes to make.  Definitely a perfect Friday dinner.

Ever since I decided that Friday was pizza night, I’ve been scouring Pinterest looking for some interesting combinations to try.  This was adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe (flavor combo) and a SkinnyTaste recipe (the sauce.)  PLEASE do this on the grill!  Grilling pizza is the secret to never ordering takeout again.  When you’ve tried it, every other pizza in the world will suddenly become substandard.   We actually bought our propane grill for the sole purpose of grilling pizza after trying it at a friend’s dinner party.  Your life will never be the same, I promise!  A helpful post on how to grill pizza can be found here if you are new to the technique.

Grilled Pizza with Parmesan Butternut Parmesan Sauce, Carmelized Red Onion, Bacon, and Mozzarella.



1 12oz package of frozen butternut squash puree

2 tsp minced garlic

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


1/2 red onion, chopped

olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

4 strips bacon, cooked and chopped.

10 mini balls of Fresh mozzarella, cut in half


1 ball of fresh pizza dough, enough for a 14” pizza (I used Trader Joe’s plain dough)

Olive oil for brushing


Defrost squash in microwave, stir in garlic, parmesan, salt and pepper.  If your squash came in cubes instead of pureed, give it a whirl in the blender or mash it with a fork.

Meanwhile, sautee onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft.  Sprinkle the onion with salt right when you put it in the pan to help it soften.

While you’ve got your onion and squash going, start to heat up the grill.  Then, roll out your pizza dough, brush with olive oil, and place oil side down on the hot grill.  Close the lid and wait about 5 minutes (perfect time to finish up prepping the toppings!)  When the edges are done and it’s starting to look a little cooked on the top, flip the crust over.  Immediately spread with butternut sauce, top with onion, bacon, and fresh mozzarella.  Close the lid for about 2 minutes, then remove from grill.