Friday, June 20, 2014

A Handful - Plus One

Dear Benjamin,

Today you are six. SIX! That's a whole lot of fingers, as you have so graciously pointed out to me. It's a few more than I'm ready for you to be, but since I haven't figured out a way to stop time, I'm just going to have to roll with it.

This past year has been one heck of a wild ride with you! You have discovered So! Many! New! Things! and have kept us on our toes trying to keep up with you. You can read now, and can add numbers on the fly. Your vocabulary has expanded, if that's at all possible. You have become less selfish and more aware of others and their needs/wants. You can be reasoned with (sometimes) and you say "Please" and "Thank You" without me prompting you (most of the time). You got the Golden Apple award again this year, for Extraordinary Conduct  at School, and we're still in awe that YOU are the one with the good conduct. We were sure that Pre-K was just "taking it easy on you" and that your Kindergarten teachers would be less tolerant of your outbursts. BUT! They promise us that you were a joy to teach, and that you were a good listener and participant. We see this at home, too - but you are our talker, our do-er, our non-stop-energy-entertain-me-all-the-time kid. You throw temper tantrums and cry at the drop of a hat. You annoy Anthony on purpose now, not just by simply "being". And you do it so masterfully that it's hard to discipline you for it.

And at the same time, you are our lover, our sweetheart, our sensitive child. You want cuddles and hugs a million times a day. You want to be rightthereontopofme when we are sitting on the sofa together. At a restaurant, you want to be IN my lap before and after our meal is served. You can't stand to see anyone be sad; you will rush to draw them a picture, or give them a hug, or comfort them in some way.

Your passions this year: Anthony, trains (duh), trucks (duh), Sebastian the Cat, karate, swimming in the pool and showing off what an amazing swimmer you've become, Legos (duh), Play-Doh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Santa Claus...and so much more.

As annoyed as Anthony gets with you sometimes, he loves you so much. You idolize him, and I think he's not a bad person to emulate. But he is very lucky to have you for a brother, too. You help him to play make-believe, you bring out his imagination, you look up to him so that he WANTS to be a better person because of you.

And every day that I get to be your Mama is the best day on Earth.

I love you more than life itself, doodlebug.


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Ten Years with Dad's Liver

There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said. Thank God that Anthony has done so well with the left lobe of Mark's liver (said least a million times!). Thank God that Mark has not experienced any complications himself (said it!). Thank God for the wonderful doctors, nurses, aides, techs who have taken care of Anthony over the years (said it!). Thank God for our family who supported us and who keep on supporting us (said it!). Thank God for our friends who have stood  by us and walked this crazy transplant journey with us (said it!). So now I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.












Daniel, Chapter 3: 89-90
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his love is everlasting.
Bless the Lord, the God of gods, all who fear him, give praise and thanks to him, for his love is everlasting!

Monday, February 03, 2014

King Cake Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

There is a restaurant here that serves some of the BEST bread pudding. They always serve a large enough portion to share (which I don't always do!), and the whiskey sauce is just right: not too overpowering; just enough to enhance the flavors of the bread pudding. One of the things they make during Mardi Gras season is king cake bread pudding. I am not exaggerating when I say it truly is one of the best desserts on earth. And, it's one of the things that they make that I'm not too afraid to try my hand at at home. :)

The recipe I found looked pretty good. The blog Raised on a Roux has some great recipes and I knew this one wouldn't steer me wrong. But the first thing I noticed was that it called for a store-bought king cake. Now, I don't have a problem with store bought king cakes but if I can make it myself, I'm going to! I've tried a few recipes over the years, and none of them have worked out the way I wanted them to (mostly because they were really elaborate recipes, and I'm a simple kind of gal). But when I found this one over at The Catholic Foodie, I knew I had found gold.

I made the king cake on Friday, and let it sit in my oven (after the oven had cooled, of course) until Sunday afternoon. The thing about a good bread pudding is that you want the bread to be a little stale so it will soak up more of the milky goodness that makes the pudding part of bread pudding. The only change I made to the king cake recipe was to sprinkle cinnamon on the dough before rolling it all up. I didn't use a filling, and I didn't make the glaze.

I'm not going to duplicate either of the recipes (they're both long!), but I will tell you how I assembled the bread pudding. I did make some changes to the bread pudding recipe, and the whiskey sauce recipe, and I'll note those here, too.

So the king cake sat out for a couple of days. I sprayed a 9x13 glass pan with cooking spray and broke the King cake up into manageable pieces.

After that, I made the milk mix. The recipe from Raised on a Roux calls for:

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 C half-and-half
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 pinch of salt
I chose to eliminate the sweetened condensed milk (and used an extra cup of half-and-half because, well, it was there), and used half of the sugar. I probably used a LOT more cinnamon, too. Once that was all mixed together, I poured it over the king cake.

I let that sit for about an hour, until the bread had soaked up almost all of the milk and then baked it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. It came out perfectly.

Another change I made: I didn't make the traditional king cake glaze that the bread pudding recipe called for. I felt like having THAT plus the whiskey sauce was a little overkill. So I made the whiskey sauce out of powdered sugar, melted butter, milk, and vanilla. I don't have exact measurements, but I probably used 2 tablespoons of butter, twice that much milk, a couple of cups of powdered sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla. I just mixed it all together until it looked like...bread pudding sauce (thick, but able to be poured). I took out about a fourth of this (for those who don't care for whiskey in their sauce, the weirdos), and then added whiskey to the larger portion (again, no measurements, but probably a couple of shots of whiskey). I drizzled that over the warm bread pudding and then sprinkled sugar that I had colored purple, green, and gold (those are the colors of Mardi Gras after all). The end result was delicious!

The only two things I think I would do differently next time is add more cinnamon and use regular milk instead of half-and-half (just for the sake of saving some calories and fat!). And instead of putting the cinnamon in the milk mixture, I would just sprinkle it liberally over the king cake before adding the milk. Lots of it. And maybe a little nutmeg, too!

This was so good. SO good. I can't wait to make it again. BUT, the next thing I'm going to do is make the king cake again...and fill it and glaze it just like it's supposed to be made. Because when we broke up the king cake to put the bread pudding together, we munched on a few pieces and it was amazing. I'm so happy to have found a king cake recipe that is ridiculously delicious.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Double Digits

Dear Anthony,

Today you turn TEN! This past year has been pretty exciting. Watching you change into the young man you're surely becoming has been fascinating for me.

You are obsessed with anything to do with science, and want to be a Chemist when you grow up. You bring home books from the library on the different elements, have parts of the periodic table memorized, and are constantly looking for experiments you can do. You email your Parrain (who is a Chemist) to ask him questions. We are also constantly Googling things to find the answer. Last night's Google search: what makes up steel?

This year, in fourth grade, you've joined the school band. You're playing the clarinet, and the progress you've made in four short months has been huge! You've played in one pep rally, and have a Christmas concert coming up. I love sharing music with you, and am so proud of the progress you've made.

Swimming is still a big part of your life, too. You push yourself to be the best you can be, and ask your coaches what you can do on your "off" days to improve your stamina and strength. I love seeing your dedication to this. I was never so dedicated to anything at your age!

This has been a big year for you in Cub Scouts, too. You've moved into the last group of Cub Scouts, and will spend one more year in the Webelos before you move on to Boy Scouts. You love when we go camping, and when you get to just be OUTSIDE.

You got to go on your first hunting trip this year, too. And while you didn't get the deer, I know you had a blast. You came home dirty, stinky, and full of all kinds of fun things to tell me. You even bought yourself a BB gun after the trip so you can practice your shooting for NEXT TIME!

You are a great role model for Benjamin. You come home, start your homework, and then go off to play. Most of the time, you let him tag along! You let him choose the shows you'll watch on TV, even when it's something like "Doc McStuffins"...something I know you think is "baby". You make sure he gets off the bus every day, and run to him to hug him in the mornings when he wakes up. Of course y'all fight - you're brothers! But mostly you just accept Benjamin and want him with you.

I thank God every day that he chose me to be your mom. I'm so lucky!

I hope TEN is everything you've dreamed it would be.