It's taken me until after the New Year to put together our Christmas recap, but better late than never, right? I want to thank everyone for stopping by and supporting this blog over the years. Thank you to those who took the time to leave comments so that I know there are people out there seeing the content that I publish. Here's to a great 2017!
Before I get started, just a little disclaimer about the photos in this post. You guys know I hate posting "bad photos" on this blog, but this post is just full of 'em! We just snapped some very casual photos throughout the holidays without too much thought put into lighting or other technical things. So... bear with me, these photos are real life!
The annual Santa photo became an unintentional family portrait, since Jasper wouldn't go anywhere near Santa! My prediction is that next year we'll have two crying kiddos in the photo. When our kids are adults maybe I will compile all of their crying Santa photos into an album for them. Payback's a bish, kiddos.
Luckily, we were able to get some better photos when we did our own Christmas card shoot at home. I got lots and lots of keepers, but this is the main one that made it onto the card.
On one frigid evening, we packed up the car with some hot cocoa and blankets and drove around in search of Christmas lights. I had a guide for the best neighborhoods, but we ended up not seeing very many displays. Instead, here's a couple of photos of houses from our own neighborhood that did a great job with their lights!
This was the craziest house we saw while driving around - yowza, I'd hate to see their electric bill! Jasper was freaking out over this house and at all of the Santas and snowmen!
Jasper's pediatrician gave him a little gift bag of goodies for becoming a Big Brother, and inside were these silly plastic glasses. He's been obsessed with wearing them and putting them on me and Matt. He's a stinker.
Each Christmas Eve we pack up the car and make the 2-hour drive to my parents' house for the big family Christmas. We stay until late in the evening and then drive back so that we can have Christmas Morning here at home. Needless to say, our Christmas Eve is quite busy and exhausting. We usually start the morning quite early with an easy meal. We were already making lots of banana bread for our gift baskets this year, so I made an extra full-sized loaf to keep around for us. It made the perfect breakfast!
I planned to make a German chocolate cake trifle, my own creation, for our Christmas dinner dessert the next day. Because everyone knows trifles are best the day after you make them, I got up bright and early to assemble it and get it into the refrigerator. I had already made the individual parts of the trifle the night before so all I had to do was layer everything together.
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I didn't plan to blog this trifle so I never took any "real" photos of it, but wow, I will be making this again just so I can share it with all of you! I started easy with a German chocolate cake mix but then I layered it with a scratch-made German chocolate mousse and the typical pecan/coconut filling from the traditional layer cake. WOW! It is by far the best trifle I have ever made, and that's saying a lot because I love making trifles and love coming up with new combinations!
Both of our babies were born just before the holidays which works out great for introducing the babies to family.
Jasper adores my parents' dog, Max, and one of his favorite things to do is lead him around on a leash. He gives the poor dog quite a workout.
I brought Paula Deen's overnight French toast casserole and it was AMAZING! Seriously, go pin this recipe and make it sometime. I took some advice from the comments and only made half of the praline topping, and I dipped the bread slices into the egg and dairy mixture before placing them into the pan and pouring the rest over the top. I was afraid it would be soggy but the texture was incredible. There wasn't much left by the end of the night!
Not the greatest photo, but I love that we did this theme and I hope it's something that we repeat in the future... everything was so so yummy!
Here's everything we had available, all made from scratch:
Biscuits with ham and sausage gravy
Cheesy hashbrown casserole
Cinnamon pecan French toast casserole
Breakfast casserole with eggs, spinach, cheese, and bread
Mixed fresh fruit
Hot cocoa with marshmallows and whipped cream (the hot cocoa had sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream in it... it was dangerous, sinful stuff)
.. and of course there were lots of holiday goodies around like cookies, brownie trifle, fudge, Chex mix, lemon bars, and chocolate pound cake.
Hey, it's Christmas... ya gotta do it up right. Matt and I lead very healthy lives (with occasional indulgences, as evident by some of my recipes!) in general, so we don't feel too much guilt over our holiday indulgences. We know that as soon as the New Year hits we'll be right back to putting good things in our bodies. Don't beat yourself up for enjoying yourself during this time!
There were so many food choices that fit with Jasper's tastes, so this was the best he's ever done at a family dinner. He tried bites of most everything but his favorites were the hashbrowns, cheese grits, and biscuits 'n gravy!
The den was really dark and I didn't want to blind everyone with a flash all night, so pardon the terrible quality. I just wanted a few shots of Jasper opening his gifts from family.
He got so many fun things!
We had such a great night.
I got her entire Christmas outfit at a Target sale and paid only $6 for the onesie, pants, and dress!
My niece is a fantastic artist and she drew a portrait of my brother's fiancee's dog. Her reaction was priceless.
I got a big, completely unexpected surprise! Both sets of our parents and Matt pooled together to give me an upgrade to my Kitchenaid stand mixer. I've had my old one for about 12 years and even then it was a hand-me-down that my mom gave me when she upgraded her own mixer. I use my mixer sooooo frequently and I was completely shocked by the new one. I'm in love! The beautiful red color matches my Kitchenaid hand mixer that Matt gave me last year.
It was very late when we got back home, but we had to attempt a read through of The Night Before Christmas. Jasper was so exhausted that he was falling asleep and cranky halfway through the book. He usually loves book time with us so his behavior was very telling of how ready he was for BED!
When Jasper was born in 2014, we got him the FAO Schwarz holiday bear because it had the year embroidered on the foot. Now Shelby has the 2016 bear to match! She also got a Very Hungry Caterpillar rattle and tons and tons of beautiful clothes from our friends and family!
We fired up the coffee maker and started with stockings before breakfast. Let the wild rumpus start!
While I was happy to find this lip balm and cuticle cream Burt's Bees set in my stocking, the expression on my face is for another reason - I was *this* close to putting the exact same set into Matt's stocking, but then decided against it since he already has tubes of Carmex coming out of his ears.
We've been doing stockings for each other for years. Picking out fun little knick knacks and interesting candy are some of my favorite parts of holiday shopping.
We did a stocking for Jasper last year, but this is the first time he really got into it. I found this silly little snowman spinner toy at the Target dollar spot and he's gone nuts for it. It gets as much play time as some of his other "real" gifts.
It has blue and white LED lights and has little foam snowflakes inside. The smile he gets on his face when he spins it is priceless! Shelby, on the other hand, doesn't look amused.
Any proper stocking is stuffed full of candy, right?
Paw Patrol and Minions ("Men-yuh!") socks.
After stockings, we took a breakfast break. A couple of years ago we started eating Trader Joe's Pumpkin Rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning, and it has since become a tradition. We cook an entire Christmas dinner for ourselves later in the day, so breakfast labor is kept to a minimum!
During breakfast, Jasper told us all about Santa and where he flies. "Sansa fwy upinthe sky!"
It has taken until his third Christmas morning to finally get him to open presents! We don't know why it's taken him this long to figure out that if he rips off the paper he gets something fun inside, but once he finally made the connection he spent the rest of the morning saying, "Ope-uh pressuh!"
We gave him a realistic toy dinosaur and this is the only time he ever touched it. He's now scared to death of the "doo-suh" and will ignore his entire toy box full of toys if the dino is sitting on top. As you can see in the background, Shelby was telling us it was time for breakfast (her second or third of the morning).
Choo-choo book from Grandma!
Totally into this present thing now.
After another meal Babygirl was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, just watching the world go by.
She really was the greatest gift this Christmas.
Even with all of the sugar around this Christmas, she's still the sweetest little schnookums there is.
Perfecting his present-rippin' techniques.
New books! We've been reading to him every day since he was a baby and thankfully it has instilled a love of storytime. He's a crazy wild child for most of the day, but he never turns down the opportunity to sit quietly with one of us and read a book.
Nonchalantly tossing aside the wrapping paper.
I bought this Mr. Potato Head months ago when it was on sale for only $5 and I put it away for Christmas. I didn't expect him to like it as much as he does! It became one of his favorite gifts this year.
He likes to name all of the body parts on "puh-tay-wuh haid" and open and close the trap door on the back that stores the extra parts.
Puh-tay-wuh Haid had to watch as he opened his next gift.
It's a Fisher Price "eh-pay!" After how much he loved the Fisher Price Camper my parents got him for his birthday, I thought an airplane from the same line would be a great addition. These toys are so cool!
Dada's turn to get a surprise - an espresso machine! I got the DeLonghi EC-702 and watched the price on Lightning Drops for about a week. I got lucky and nabbed it when the price took a huge nosedive and dropped by almost 90 bucks! Matt's been dying to make homemade cappuccinos, and luckily the machine was easy to learn how to use and we've been enjoying some nice foamy drinks in the morning! Don't you love getting to take advantage of a great sale?
One of my nicer presents this year was a new Sephora hair dryer. My main one died several months ago and I'd been using a travel hair dryer in the interim, but that one was starting to either not power up at all or only blow cold air.
We were really excited for Jasper to open this one!
It's a night sky projector for his bedroom! This was an impulse buy when it showed up heavily discounted during an Amazon sale. Can you tell we did a LOT of Prime shopping this year? It's harder to get out of the house with a new baby, so online shopping saved us.
He is totally obsessed with the projector. You can choose all kinds of different colors for the stars and moon. It can spin slowly or stay stationary. Every time he goes into his room for bedtime or nap he asks for his stars. I admit, I'd totally put one of these in our bedroom, too.
Here's a video of Jasper opening up his big gift, a Kindle Fire Kids I know there are some parents out there that think that a toddler shouldn't be using tablets, but this was a decision we talked about for a long time. Jasper has learned SO much by exploring educational apps and games. One day he came up to me and counted to 10... just like that. And he's not just memorizing the numbers, he's started using that knowledge to count objects in the house. It's just a personal parenting choice that we've made and have been happy with so far. More power to those who go totally screen free!
He had been using an old clunky, heavy tablet that we had in the house, but this new Fire is so much better for him. It's extremely lightweight, fast and responsive, and the thick bumper is great for little people who don't quite understand that they must be very careful with such things. In the video you'll hear him call it a "pah" which is his nickname for tablets... no idea where he came up with that one!
We do limit "screen time" to a few sessions each day, and the rest of his time is spend running around our house like a banshee playing with his vehicles and balls.
Speaking of balls, my parents got him his first basketball goal! We officially felt like parents spending our Christmas morning assembling toys.
He has a little suction cup hoop that he plays with in the bathtub, and Matt taught him to say "he shoots, he scores!" when using it. He was excited to have a super jumbo-sized hoop to play with now.
We've been making homemade soda bread for Christmas dinner for many years. We love them and never get tired of them. I usually make them with dried cranberries and orange zest, but this year a more savory version was called for. I tried a new recipe and it was perfect. Soda bread is stupid easy to make and has the most amazing texture, you would almost think it was a yeast bread. I followed the linked recipe exactly except for throwing in a little dried parsley and rosemary.
For dinner, we made Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pot Roast. I've made this many times in the past for weekend dinners so we already knew it was delicious. We wanted something relatively low effort and this pot roast is so easy... you can't mess it up!
Yeah I know, this is a food blog and this post is just full of badly-lit unappetizing food photos... but let's just roll with it, k? We served the pot roast and veggies with a side of Boursin mashed potatoes and the soda bread. It was the perfect dinner.
Jasper wasn't too keen on having to leave his toys to sit down and eat.
You know we plowed into that German chocolate cake trifle right after dinner. Ugh, again with the unflattering food photo! When I blog this trifle for real, you guys will see how amazing it really looks, k? Just trust me.
The rest of the evening was spent playing and cuddling. It was perfect.
Again, thank you all for allowing us to share our lives with you and thank you for your support of this blog! I hope to create more and better content for you in the New Year and I would love for you to stick around with me for another year of blogging! Happy 2017!