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Thursday, December 16, 2010


   My fondest childhood memories are of Christmas. My mama always made this time of year extra special. It was packed full of traditions.
   Our tree was always cut from the back pasture and never resembled a triangle. Colored lights and silver tinsel were our theme.
   We had the green porcelain tree that had a light bulb inside that beamed through the little colored pegs on the tips of the branches. It stood in the center of the mantle above the fireplace beside the mechanical Santa and Mrs. Claus. I don't recall ever having stockings.
   My dad still has the candle lanterns we always placed in our windows. You remember, the ones with the white bulbs with orange tips? I used to love going through the house plugging those in every night.
   Mama always seemed to be in a jolly-ish kind of mood from Thanksgiving, throughout December. I'd sit and watch her meticulously wrap every present. {I now do the same thing myself}
   She baked a lot. I don't remember a lot of the details, but everyone always requested her Rum Cake for bake sales and gifts. Her chocolate pie was out of this world. That's a goal on my list next year...make the perfect chocolate pie!
   On Christmas Eve every one of my siblings were there for supper, and their children too. It was great! The cousins would bring their significant others and friends, even unannounced sometimes. That was okay with mama. She worked at a hosiery mill and always kept a few extra boxes of socks in the hall closet. If you were a girl, she'd pull out one of her Southern Living items that she had stock piled in said closet!
   There was always plenty of food. We finally got to use the fancy dishes. 
   When they would begin to arrive at our house, my sisters and brothers in law would tell us that they had seen Santa in the sky, or that they had heard on the radio that he had taken off from the North Pole and was headed our way. I was the youngest person in our family. I ate the whole thing up. It was a fun, cheerful time. Not a care in the world down there at the dead end of Reece Road.
   And then, when the all the presents had been passed out, I would duck and peek, making sure that none had been forgotten under the tree.
   Then, the second wave of people would come. Daddy's side of the family. Our house was packed! It was great! They'd come for dessert and coffee. Then we'd do the whole thing again, I saw Santa here and there they'd say. He never seemed to be going in the same direction.
   Then, when all had quietened down and all the guests had gone home, I'd lay awake in my bed for what seemed like an eternity listening for the slightest foot step of the big guy in red. I was always so worried about him getting burned by the embers in the fireplace.
   Before I knew it though, it was morning! And Santa had indeed come and I must have fallen asleep because I never heard him!
   Christmas Day was just as special, just as fun. Not only did we celebrate the fact that it was Jesus' birthday, but it was also mama's birthday!  The family was all together again that day. And MORE dessert!
   Christmas 1992 was mama's last Christmas.  I was 11 that year. It's never been the same. There's been a void ever since.  Santa never came after that. If I had known then what I know now, I would have bottled it all up and poured it all out for my little family now. {I can't listen to Faith Hill sing "Where are you Christmas" without balling my eyes out!}
   We aren't usually at our own home on the actual Christmas Eve and Day, and so for as long as we can pull it off, there will be 2 of each of those days for my kids! We usually celebrate Christmas Eve and Day with our little guys {and gal this year}, ahead of time, before we head up north.
   So, tomorrow, Friday, December 17th, is Christmas Eve and Santa comes tomorrow night! And on Saturday, it's Jesus' birthday, and we'll treat it as such- with a great breakfast and a birthday cake!
   But Jim's mom, she's got it going on! We head up to northern Illinois during the holidays, where there is almost always a promise of a White Christmas! Jim's whole family is there.
    We are there for about a week and there's always something baking, coffee brewing and Christmas music playing on the kitchen stereo.
   And on Christmas Eve...we all head over to Jim's grandma's house, just like they have Jim's entire life {he's the oldest of all the grandkids}. This year, the final tally comes to 33. From 5 months to  86 years old!!!
   And they have so many traditions, I'm still trying to figure some of them out.
   On Christmas morning, Santa even comes and hands out all 19 stockings to those of us at Jim's mom's house. Then we have a breakfast that is out of this world. Followed by the gift exchange, in order from the youngest to the oldest.
   So for now, I'll pour out all I can for my little anxious munchkins, mustering up all the great memories and creating some of our very own.
   Christmas Eve, crammed in a tiny, hot, suburban home might not be all that appealing, but my children will remember every second of it, and love every minute.
From our family to yours, 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
from the Brown's

Monday, December 13, 2010

White Chip Chocolate Cookies

   No lie, you can make these cookies with a baby on your hip.
{See Jim, this is why I need a stand mixer, then I would be able to make you more desserts!}
   They are that easy! Usually, super easy recipes don't really taste all that great. And recipes off the back of product packages aren't that great either...but I'm telling you these are the exception!!!
   It's like eating a brownie cookie with little morsels of ooey goodness!!!!
   I'm headed to the Annual Troxler Cookie Swap in just a few hours and I'm taking a few dozen of these little treats.
   If you try them, you won't be able to stop at just one. Take that from a girl that is surprisingly not a big fan of cookies...I just have a husband who is!
All you need is this:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Baking Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Premier White Morsels
   Preheat oven to 350. Set out your 2 sticks of butter and 2 large eggs and bring to room temperature. {use butter, not margarine, for cookies. The oil in the margarine can make the cookies too soggy.}

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
{I like to sift my dry ingredients together. My husband doesn't see why I would need a sifter, so I use my small metal strainer.}

By sifting it, it should turn out looking a little like this when you are done.

Cream together butter and granulated sugar.

Add in your brown sugar.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Blend in eggs, one at a time.
Then gradually pour in your dry mixture.

The batter will be thick.

Use a sturdy spoon to stir in the White Chocolate Chip Morsels! 
{White Chocolate chips make anything better!}

Now, if you don't have these next two items, a small ice cream scoop and a silicon baking pad, you should seriously ask Santa for one this year! They are a baker's best friend! 

This scoop, that I found second-hand, makes the perfect sized scoops for cookies. 

Place scoops of cookie dough about an inch and half apart on baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 9-11 minutes.

This recipe yields about 60 cookies! I've got plenty for the cookie swap and a few left over for some hungry little boys and a very hungry daddy!

Cool on pan for 2 minutes then move to wire racks to cool completely! 

I even think a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup would take this "cookie" to a whole new level!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Biggest bang for your buck and your Community!

   Two owners of local retail shops in the Tupelo area recently told Jim that their family owned and operated businesses will not make a profit this year.
   Our Sunday School prayer list has a family who had to close their family business this past week.
   A close friend told me her husband's business, which his parents own and employs many of their family members, is really struggling. She now must put her little boy in childcare and return to work.
   Maybe one little family spending a few of their hard earned dollars at a few family owned and operated retail shops won't make much of a difference during this holiday season, but a few families could make a little bit bigger impression.
   It could mean a Christmas bonus, Insurance premiums for one more year, or even your neighbor's salary.
   Sure, the ornament I bought from the local gift shop down the road cost about three more dollars than it would have at my beloved Hobby Lobby, but this business won't turn a profit this year, and maybe, just maybe, if I shop there, maybe my friends will too, and then their friends too! Get the picture...hint, hint!
   My point being, when and where you can, support your local merchants and put the money back into the pockets in your community.
   It's really easy to do. Need some ya go...
1.  If you are out at the mall, check out those locals who rent booth space down through the middle of the corridors. Sometimes there's a church or civic group selling fresh baked goods.
2.  Get out! Get away from the popular shopping malls and centers and head to the boutiques. I recently needed some boots. My first thought was to head to Charlotte Russe in the mall and grab some cute ones that a million of other girls would have, with the help of a distracted teenager who would rather be anywhere but there. But instead, in my agenda to shop local, I headed downtown to Voe's Boutique, who just happened to have all her shoes on sale 25% off, I got great customer service from a person who actually enjoyed her job, and found the cutest pair of boots and a sweater on sale too!
3.  Get Online! Ask your friends about online boutiques! My friend Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom of 2 with one on the way this week!  She sews matching mother/daughter aprons, bibs, burp clothes, dipee/wipee bags and soooo much more and sells them at Ruffled Charm, her online boutique!
4.   Give a gift card to a locally owned restaurant versus a national restaurant chain.
5.   Gena Nolan makes these incredibly detailed and personal  charmed necklaces, bracelets and other jewels. She gives half the cost you pay to St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. Give her a call or email, tell her I sent you that way!

6.  Neatest idea ever...Buy gifts that have a meaning and where your money actually goes to help a cause you are passionate about. Here's three of my favorites...
   -The Scopel family is selling this really cool t-shirt to help raise money to adopt possibly, 2, children from Uganda. 
Visit Amy's blog here and read her story, and see for yourself.
Embraced In Love

   -I've been following the Weimer family for some time now.
The love  for God and her children Heidi Weimer, the mom, has is very encouraging and inspiring as a mom. When I feel like I have a hard day with just my 3 little ones, I think of Heidi and think of the struggles she is going through. Check out her blog and their fight to "find" their Ethiopian daughter, Eden.

They have these cool "One Family" t-shirts! 

Shop local!!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

They will love this Meatloaf, I promise

   The Crown Restaurant in Indianola, Mississippi, put a new spin on meatloaf. They plopped the big ole glob of meat down into a pastry and baked it in a cocoon.  When I tried the new style about a year ago, little did I know the hit it would be in my house!
   When Taylor, the eldest son who says he doesn't like meat, saw me place the meatloaf into a pie crust and put it in the oven. He asked if it was cake...Why, yes son, it is...It is meatloaf cake!
   Tell any child that anything is cake, if they don't know much of a difference, they'll eat that stuff like it's nobody's business! Sorry, no money back guarantees.
   To make this scrumptious concoction, all you need is a meatloaf mix,  2 lbs. of  your meat of choice (mine is ground turkey), and a pie crust.
   To mimic the Crown's and Taste of Gourmet recipe, I swap out the bread crumbs for Whole Grain Oats!!! Try it, I dare you. You will comment with many thanks!
(If you want to order the Taste of Gourmet mix for yourself, here's a link to my friend Laurie, who can help you out with that! Click here)

If I have one on hand, I use one of those rolled pie crusts. I just roll it out thinner. Place it in your loaf pan, leaving the extra hanging over the edges.

Place your meat mixture inside the pie crust.

Wrap remaining pie crust over the top, sealing any open areas.

Bake according to the directions on your meatloaf recipe.
And be prepared to be amazed! 

Without a doubt, this meatloaf delivers a yummy, delicious, scrumptious...all of the! I usually pair it with a veggie topped with shredded cheese.
So now, when I tell my chillins' that we are having meatloaf cake for supper, they actually cheer. Even though, Taylor still asks for his meatloaf cake, without the meat! 
Bon Apetit!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Be one of those who learn from others' mistakes...

    It was supposed to be an uneventful lunch playdate with Taylor's best bud Tyler. But it soon, became anything but that!
   As the boys bounced out of the car, I realized Andrew didn't have any shoes. I sat my diaper bag down on the curb beside me and I placed the shoeless child in the driver's seat while I looked for any sign of them in the back seat. "Don't touch anything!"
   There they were, on the other side. I ordered Taylor and Tyler to play in the flower bed while I resolved the issue. Each time, 3 to be exact, that I made it to the other side of the car to get the shoes, Andrew had locked the doors. The third, and final time, I dug my keys out of the diaper bag and marched over there and unlocked the door myself. He's 2, it is to be expected.
   I placed the keys on the seat while I adorned Andrew with his sporty silver and red tennies. We counted to three and he hopped out onto the ground. I closed the door and grabbed the door to retrieve the third child. Locked. hmm...that little...
   I dug around for my keys in my diaper bag that was still sitting on the curb. Still keeping an eye on two 4 year olds and a 2 year old playing in the Chik-fil-A flower bed, I see that the keys are still laying on the seat where I had placed them while socking and shoe-ing Andrew.
   It's okay, Carrie Ann's only a little fussy. What in the world do I do? Jim didn't have the spare key and was headed into a meeting. Tyler's mom, Deanna,  had locked her keys in her car before and told me to call the police.
  She was right! The Tupelo police directed my call to the Fire Station and before I finished my conversation I could hear the sirens blaring from the new fire station just down the road. "Good grief ma'am, are they sending a fire truck?" To which she kindly and swiftly replied, "Yes ma'am, they will be right there!"  I was mortified. Deanna was mortified. The boys, all three of them, were excited...What's that sound?
  Visions of what was about to take place ran through my head. I leaned my head against my car and shook it. They are going to use the jaws of life to get this little angel out of my car. Who, by the way, had no idea she was in there all by her lonesome. I should have taken her sweater off of her, it's probably hot in there.
   They arrived alright, bright and loud. Lights and sirens. The boys loved it!
   I was so embarrassed. My car was a mess. I felt like the worst mother ever. Standing there, blaming it all on my middle child!
   Naturally, I'm a drama queen, but I was oddly calm. I kept wondering when the "freaking out" moment would come. When the tears would pour. Or maybe, I'm just getting good at catastrophes by now!
   While these guys shimmied and pryed their way into my passenger side door...{of course I took pictures!}
This guy entertained the little guys...It didn't take much, all he had to say was, this is my truck! 
Taylor even entertained him a little...
And this little princess had no idea what all the fuss was about! 
She even slept through the alarm going off! 
Safe at last! 
Moral of the story...learn from others' mistakes and if by chance you don't, have OnStar installed in your car or call the fire department, they'll be there in a jiffy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trash to Treasure

   I have this place in my bathroom underneath my counter that needed a new purpose.
   For the last two years it has been home to one of the many bouncy seats in our house. Admittedly it makes the best place to place a napping or playful baby while a busy mommy gets a much needed shower. I just pull it out and I can see baby and he/she can see me.
   I've been begging Jim for something else to go there. When I was pregnant with Carrie Ann, I decided a little vanity stool would look great there, plus give me a place to sit while I am drying my hair or putting on my make-up. 
   A little over a week ago, I was down at my dad's house. I was looking through some of his closets and look what I found on the top shelf of the bathroom closet!!!
I know, exactly what I was thinking... It's perfect!!!
    This was my mama's little seat that she always used in front of her dresser. It reminds me of her and her perfume that she always wore. With my dad's permission, I swiped this great find and lugged it all the way back up here to Tupelo, right to my bathroom! 
   It's exactly what this little space needed! I cleaned it up and washed the cushion, which I am sure hadn't been washed in more than 20 years. So, bye-bye bouncy seat for now. Carrie Ann really didn't like you all that much anyway. I hope that this little stool brings as many sweet memories to my children as it did for me!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's Pizza Night!

  Over the last week, I have been on a mission to clean out my fridge, freezer and pantry. Jim's family will be here for Thanksgiving and I have to make room for all the goodies that we'll be making.
   Last weekend I cleaned out our fridge, ridding it of leftovers and everything that I had successfully grown. I checked expiration dates and scurried to put some things in the freezer. My pantry was full of tied off bags of ends of loaves bread pieces and about 3 boxes of lasagna noodles. Who needs 3 boxes of lasagna noodles?
   I like to keep odds and ends when it comes to food. If I am in the mood for oatmeal cookies, cornbread, or pecan crusted chicken, it feels good to be able to go to my pantry and pull out those ingredients.
   My supplier on the other hand, i.e. Jim, doesn't agree. He likes to see the bare shelves. Clean, clutter free pantry and find things on a moment's notice. NOT ME! {I think if he was really honest with himself, he'd be really glad I had two different types of flour and 2 extra bags of chocolate morsels when he got a sweet tooth and was itching for a dessert!}
   I find a sense of security and peace from knowing I have plenty of food. I'm pretty sure this has counseling session stamped all over it. But I'm serious. I'm trying to overcome it and I think this week I have come a long way! Our security only comes from one place and it shouldn't be food!
   When I went grocery shopping this week, I got the necessities and perishables...milk, bananas, lettuce, cereal, yogurt and butter. I figured I could make do for a week with all I had stock piled!
   So over the last week I've treated my family to tuna and goldfish, goulash, spaghetti O's and apples, oatmeal with whatever frozen fruit I could find in the freezer, a fresh bag of dried cranberries, muffins and some funky seasoned potato wedges that no one liked. Today for lunch there was mini-corndogs, mixed veggies with cheese and yogurt.
   Yesterday, I managed to scrounge up some chicken stuffed with spinach, feta and pine nuts (yes, I just had those things lying around), Decaf sweet tea, Sister Schubert's whole wheat rolls, whole cranberry sauce and stir-fry vegetables that I steamed. Sounded so good we invited the neighbor over who brought some Kraft Homestyle Macaroni!
   So now, the day before grocery shopping day, and my fridge is brighter than ever, the shelves are bare. The light shines all they way down to the apples in the bottom drawer! My pantry is looking better... I'm down to just 2 cans of corn, a box of Uncle Ben's wild rice, a few cans of vegetables and tomato sauce and still wondering how I can use all of those lasagna noodles before Thanksgiving.
   I am so glad it is Sunday and pizza night!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Growing like Weeds!

When I called my good friend Amanda of Reflections by Amanda Smith to schedule our yearly family pictures, the scenario in the above photo is exactly what I had in mind. 
I wanted to post it right over there to the right, just to show you what everyday life really does look like in the Brown household. 
I'm usually holding Carrie Ann, Taylor is always tugging me in a different direction and Andrew, he's usually being drug along, with his 'I hear you, but I'm not listening' attitude!

This little girl, who turned 9 months old yesterday, is still wearing 3-6 month old clothes and on this particular day, was all smiles and full of character!

This train track runs right through downtown Summit, Mississippi, where Amanda's studio is located. These two handsome guys could NOT wait to play on it. 
All I could do was cringe at how dirty those baby blue pants of Taylor's were getting.

If you look closely, you can see how they looked by the final pictured...UGH!!!!
Taylor's Bebbi had this stuff...
And after a few washes and one treatment with Grandma's Secret Spot Remover...those pants don't have a trace of the railroad track anywhere on them! (You can get this at Hobby Lobby or Hancock Fabrics)

Her daddy makes her smile so big! 

This little stud muffin turned 2 this past July, and wouldn't crack a smile the entire morning. We had talked about it for weeks, he is used to having his picture taken by me all the time. He was just bound and determined to not let us get a single peep at those pearly whites. 

You always wonder what went into a photo session to get some pretty amazing results. This not only epitomizes this day, but pretty much everyday.
Amanda was dying to use some new props for her time with Carrie Ann. My typed words wouldn't do these next few photographs justice...

Amanda, thanks for all your hard work. You definitely have an eye for the perfect shot and never cease to amaze me with your skill and talent! Keep up the great job!

Make Time Stand Still