Friday, February 5, 2016

Bourbon Blondies with Coconut, Chocolate, and Pecans

A momentous thing happened the other day.

After months of thought, contemplation, and deliberation, Emma has finally chosen a name for her baby doll. The process was a bit arduous. When she first received her doll, Emma asked me "What her name is?" To which I replied, "You have to give her a name! You're her Mommy." I was wrong for thinking that she would find this task delightful and fulfilling, for her quick reply was: "No thank you. You do it."

So, for months the poor plastic infant was simply referred to as "baby doll" and although Emma has proven to be a decent pretend mother, the idea of bequeathing a name to her child was still too difficult a task for her to manage. Then, one day we went to the library and checked out a book about another little girl who received a baby doll from her grandmother and spends hours and hours thinking of the perfect name before deciding on "Rose". Emma liked this story very much and demanded that I read it to her over and over. After what seemed like the 200th reading of this story, Emma quietly told me: "I need to name my baby doll. She's very special to me."

"I know you will think of the perfect name," I told her.

She pondered names for quite a while, just like the little girl in the story, until one day she announced the perfect name she had chosen.

"Her name is Roseberry!" she said proudly, holding up her baby doll.
"RoseMary?" I asked, sure that I had misheard her.
"No. RoseBERRY!" she insisted. And so it came to pass, that Emma's baby doll received the very unique name of Roseberry. Of course, she has gotten quite good at naming things and has since decided to name all her stuffed animals, among them a pooch named "Maggie" and a ballerina bunny named "Annabelle" and a cat named "Vanessa". She even tried to give Baby Lucy a new name, but I put a stop to that nonsense.

Speaking of Lucy, the poor dear is still teething and we have yet to see anything poking through her thick gum line. She continues to whine and moan and drool and gnaw on anything and everything, but mostly me. I went to an event at Matthew's school yesterday wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt that I thought was decent looking. While speaking with his Principal and holding Lucy, I suddenly realized that I had a combination of drool, spit-up, and snot smeared all over my shoulders, arms, and chest. The color black only served to enhance this grotesque addition to my ensemble. The poor dear is a slobbery mess and I'm blaming those incognito little teeth that are taking their dear sweet time to charge through to the surface.

Thankfully, Lucy found a perfect teething toy in the form of these blondies. I first made a batch of these back in December for Christmas. Basically, Christmas is my excuse to bake every cookie recipe that I have had bookmarked for months even if it's not necessarily a "holiday" cookie recipe. If anything, these blondies would be a fitting addition at a celebration for the Kentucky Derby since the combination of ingredients reminds me so much of the famed "Thoroughbred Pie" recipe - something that I also think you should try since it is so incredibly delicious. These blondies have all the flavors of that pie without the hassle of actually making pie. They are incredibly chewy with just a hint of that vanilly-bourbon flavor that I adore. Bourbon and chocolate are a match made in heaven.

After baking my first batch of these, I froze about half the blondies in an attempt to get myself to stop eating them. I was unwilling to give them away because I loved them so much, but figured that freezing them to a solid chunk of ice would deter me enough to make them last a bit longer than...say...24 hours. For the record, they taste just as awesome frozen as they do you at room temperature. Lucy agrees with me on this point. A chunk of these, fresh from the freezer, has been the perfect solution to her teething problems. That little girl will sit and gnaw on one of these frozen blondies until it begins to melt and coat her hands, mouth, shirt, legs...pretty much until a wardrobe change is required. She probably adores the feel of the cold on her swollen gumline, but I also think she legitimately loves the flavor as well. That baby has great taste, because I am pretty sure this is my new favorite cookie recipe. I just made another batch to bring with me to a Girl's Night this weekend, but I made sure to leave a couple pieces in the freezer for my baby Lucy.

Oh, and in my opinion, the only bourbon to use here is Buffalo Trace. It's good stuff.

Bourbon Blondies with Coconut, Chocolate, and Pecans
from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
¼ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch pan and line with parchment paper, allowing the ends of the paper to hang over the sides.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and sea salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until all of the butter is incorporated and there are no lumps of brown sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and bourbon and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until almost completely incorporated, then add the chocolate chips, coconut and pecans, stirring to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely before cutting into squares and serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream

For his birthday, Matthew had the honor of bringing in a treat to share with his entire Kindergarten class. Unlike the selection of his birthday cake, Matthew had no hesitation whatsoever in deciding on chocolate cupcakes for his class treat. Actually, his first choice was strawberry, but I convinced him that the strawberries just did not taste all that great right now and he switched to chocolate.

Matthew has been really into Star Wars as of late. His obsession has spurred him to spend hours teaching his sister all the correct Star Wars jargon. Emma has proven to be a worthy young padawan, patiently and quietly listening to Matthew page through his Star Wars books while pointing out each and every character, weapon, and starship, explaining their role and then requesting Emma to repeat the information back to him. I have to admit, it's pretty funny to hear Emma talk about "R2-D2" or "Chewy the Woooookie" or "the little green troll named Yo-DA!" So, I was really excited to find these cute Star Wars muffin liners and some Yoda and Darth Vader sugar decorations for the tops. They certainly made my decorating job much easier! I hid the decorations from Matthew so that he would not be able to see them until I dropped them off at school for him. He loved the decorations and was so excited to see the Star Wars theme! I asked him if he chose a "Yoda cupcake" or a "Vader cupcake" to eat and he replied: "A Darth Vader one, of course!!"

If you are looking for a great chocolate cake, this recipe is fabulous. It originally comes from Ina Garten and it can easily be made by my six-year-old. Only the bowl of the stand mixer and a few measuring spoons and cups are dirtied and the cake batter is ready in less than 10 minutes. The result is a fluffy, moist, and rich chocolate cake - and I think this is due to two essential ingredients: real buttermilk and strong coffee. This was probably my fourth time making this recipe and it has come out absolutely perfect every single time. The whipped chocolate buttercream that I paired with this cake was a new recipe that I had bookmarked for some time. For the cupcakes, I wanted something a little lighter than a typical chocolate frosting and this did the trick. It has a light and airy texture, pipes beautifully, and is not-too-cloyingly sweet. It was perfect for the cupcakes, but really would make a great frosting for any layer cake or even brownies! The only thing that would make it better would be the addition of a bit of instant espresso powder to enhance the deep, rich notes of the chocolate flavor. However, I didn't think the Kindergarten teacher would appreciate sneaking even the most remote amount of caffeine to an already rambunctious class. The sugar high from the cake was probably enough fun for her to deal with.

And what did the birthday boy think? Matthew hopped into the car at school pickup and declared: "Those Star Wars cupcakes were the best cupcakes you ever made, Mom!"

He knows how to make my day!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream
from Ina Garten and I am Baker

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed strong, hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with liners, if making cupcakes. If making a layer cake, butter and line the bottoms of two 8x2-inch round cake pans with parchment.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans

Bake for 18-20 minutes, for cupcakes, or 35-40 minutes for cake pans. The cake layers and cupcakes are done when it springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Let cupcakes cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely. Cake must be completely cool before frosting.

Whipped Chocolate Buttercream

1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch table salt

In a the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment whisk butter and sugar on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy or about five minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.

With the mixer off, add in cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. On low, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time. Once all cream has been added and mixture is mostly combined, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Now turn the mixer onto medium-high to high and whisk for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is lighter and fluffier.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Matthew Turns Six

I can't believe that my chubby, cuddly, fussy little baby boy is now a tall, gangling, inquisitive six-year-old! He has grown up so much over the past year - going to school full time, learning to read, getting his first girlfriend - and now he is talking about how he is practically an adult. When he greeted me the morning of his birthday, he announced: "Now I'm six! And then I'll keep getting bigger and then be the same as YOU, right Mom?"

Please, Matthew, slow down! Don't be in such a hurry to grow up!

This year, his birthday fell on a school day. But when you're in Kindergarten, that is NOT a bad thing. Matthew was so excited because he got to be the "line leader" all day at school. Plus, his teacher presented him with a birthday crown with his name on it that he wore all day long at school so everyone in the school could wish him "Happy Birthday". His entire class sang to him, the principal presented him with a birthday certificate, and he got to bring in cupcakes to share with his class. He had a great day at school.

After school, we went out for an early dinner as a family. Traditionally, Matthew has requested pizza on his birthday. However, this year he decided to change things up a bit and asked if we could go to the "cowboy restaurant" -  known more commonly as "Texas Roadhouse." We went to the restaurant early to avoid crowds and when we walked in we realized that Tuesdays are apparently "kids night" at the Roadhouse. This basically means that all kid dinners are two bucks and there is a balloon artist who will come to your table and make a balloon for the kids. At first when I heard this, I was dreading the fiasco balloons often cause but the birthday boy was super excited about it, so I decided to bury my ill feelings and just go with the flow.

For his birthday dinner, the birthday boy ordered....wait for it....a hot dog. Yes, we went to a steakhouse so Matthew could order a hot dog. We tried to talk him out of it, but it was truly what he wanted to eat. And eat it he did while declaring it "the most delicious hot dog ever."

When the balloon artist came to our table, he really impressed me with how wonderful he was to the kids. He was funny, he was entertaining, he did tricks, he told jokes, and the balloons he made for the kiddos were much more fancy and elaborate than any I have ever seen! Matthew laughed so hard at his jokes and the guy just ate it up.

Here is an example of the banter:

Balloon Guy: "How old are you today, Matthew?"
Matthew: "I'm six!"
"You're sick?"
"No, I'm SIX!"
"What?!? You're sick!? Is it contagious?! Good thing I got my flu shot!"
"I'm six! You know, like the number six?"
"You don't look all that sick!"

And Matthew just laughed and laughed the entire time. It was really funny He spent a good 20 minutes at our table entertaining the kids - and us too! It was really great to see the kids having such a good time. He made Emma a "princess wand" and a giant octopus for Matthew. It really made our night!

When we returned home, there were presents for our birthday boy. He received a small LEGO set, the game Trouble, a puzzle from his grandparents, two Life at the Pond CDs (he loves that radio program), and a BIG trampoline for our backyard. He loved all his gifts, but was especially pumped about the trampoline! Unfortunatey, we do have to wait a couple more months for the snow to melt before we set it up, but Matthew was so icredibly excited about having a giant trampoline to bounce on all day long. Emma was also excited. They spent a couple minute jumping around the house expressing their joy before we told them to calm down and come into the kitchen for their sugar injection...I mean, the birthday cake.

This year, Matthew was less than helpful in selecting a cake for his birthday. So, I decided to make things a bit easier on myself and make him an ice cream cake. I know how much he loves ice cream and figured that I could not lose. The first layer was a coffee and dark chocolate ice cream, followed by a layer of fudge and crushed OREO cookies, and then a layer of caramel ice cream. I then decorated the entire cake with a whipped cream frosting and some sprinkles. Very simple, but pretty. The birthday boy was pleased. We all sang to him while he smiled with glee. You see, this is the part about birthdays that he looks forward to the most. He blew out all the candles, and just like that...he is six.

I feel as if Matthew has been a part of our lives forever while, at the same time, only yesterday being that tiny newborn we lovingly strapped into an infant car seat for the first time and then loaded into the back seat of our Camry for the short ride home from the hospital. Now look at him! I can't stop him from growing up, but I will continue to relish the cuddles, the hugs, and the kisses that he is still so happy to shower upon his mother. I am excited for the young man he is becoming and know that God has something wonderful planned for his future.

We love you, dear Matthew, and are so proud of you. Happy Birthday!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dark Chocolate Almond Roca

Please excuse my absence from blogging over the last few days. This is birthday week in my house and we have been pretty busy celebrating. Matthew and Paul have back-to-back birthdays and I try my hardest to ensure that their celebrations are distinct. I think both of them had pretty good days and I'm happy to take a rest from making, decorating, and eating birthday cake until Emma celebrates her birthday in a couple months.

Matthew drew a picture of Yoda for Paul - in case you were wondering that picture was!

Paul's birthday was first and he, as usual, was not too forthcoming about how exactly he would like to be celebrated on his special day. After much prodding, he chose Pork Tinga for dinner and his favorite Whiskey Pear Tart with vanilla ice cream for dessert. He made me swear not to buy him any gifts and I stuck to that with the exception of a bottle of Cointreau so he could mix up some margaritas, his favorite mixed drink by far, to go with his dinner. However, I did make plans to send him and Matthew to a local ski hill for a day of tubing. I was a little nervous that this plan would fall through since all the snow had disappeared during the week, but thankfully Mother Nature cooperated and dumped 14 inches of snow on us the night before Paul's birthday. In fact, the amount of snow made the roads a bit treacherous and Paul actually had a bit of trouble driving to the place. Thankfully, he and Matthew made it there all in one piece and they had a blast tubing. In fact, Matthew did not want to leave! However, Paul convinced him to leave the hill by promising hot chocolate and cheese fries in the ski lodge. Matthew will do anything for a cup of cocoa.

Paul was a little bummed about turning 30, but we tried our best to get him to stop focusing on the number and instead celebrate how much he has accomplished so far in his young life. We are so grateful for him - for all that he is and everything he does. He is an amazing husband, an incredible father, a brilliant engineer, and a loyal friend. I couldn't have asked for a better person to be my soul mate. I am one lucky girl.

And I'm just glad that he got to turn 30 first. My day is coming in about 3 1/2 months. But for now, I'm a gal in her 20s married to a man in his 30s. I used to tease Paul this same way when he turned 20 before me. I used to say: "How does it feel to still be dating a teenager?" He didn't find it very amusing then, and he still isn't finding it amusing now. But in all seriousness, Paul is only getting better with age and I will love him forever!


The recipe I'm sharing with you today is in honor of Paul. One of his favorite treats in the world is Almond Roca. His godmother used to make it for him every Christmas. I still remember how she would send him a gigantic tin full of it to his dorm room in college and he would be so excited to receive it! Over the next few months, he would slowly work his way through the stash of almond roca, always willing to share but only in very small amounts. When his supply eventually depleted, it was a sad day for Paul.

Before this Christmas, I actually had never attempted to make Almond Roca even though it is a pretty simple recipe. Shame on me, considering how much Paul loves it. I remedied that this Christmas by making a gigantic batch of it, packaging it into cute little packages, and then stuffing his stocking full with them. He was certainly surprised on Christmas morning to discover his stocking overflowing with a couple pounds of his favorite candy! He should be able to make that stash last quite a while.

I'm telling you, Paul loves this stuff for a reason. It is fantastic. Sweet, salty, buttery, crunchy, chocolaty. It's pretty perfect. I could not stop sneaking pieces of it while I was packaging it up for him. It's so addicting!! I also love how ridiculously easy it is to make. I timed myself while making this recipe and it was done and cooling within 15 minutes. You really can't beat that. I think this recipe will definitely be on my regular Christmas baking schedule from now on. After all, it's a sure-fire way to make my Paul super happy!

Dark Chocolate Almond Roca
from King Arthur Flour

1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 cups chopped almonds, toasted (I used salted and roasted almonds and I loved the extra salt!)
2 2/3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a large, deep saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the salt, sugar, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready. (If you don't have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you'll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness). This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.

While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the nuts, in a fairly closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet (a half sheet pan works well here). Top with half the chocolate.

When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts.

Wait several minutes, then gently, using the back of a spatula, press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.

While the candy is still slightly warm, use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet. When cool, break it into uneven chunks.

Store cooled candy tightly wrapped; it'll stay fresh for a couple of weeks at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.

Yield: about 24 big bite-sized pieces.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Matthew and the Epiphany

Matthew was really fascinated by the Three Kings over Christmas. He was sorely disappointed that our family manger scene was missing them. I explained to him that we would collect them someday, but he couldn't wait that long and substituted some dinosaur figures of his own for the Wise Men. When we went to Midnight Mass for Christmas, he was very excited to see the baby Jesus, but was ecstatic to find all three Wise Men were clearly in view, camels and all.

Matthew was back in school before the feast of the Epiphany and his teacher discussed it in great depth with her students. I was particularly proud of Matthew when I was told that his teacher was trying to remember the names of all Three Wise Men and clearly named "Balthazar" and "Gaspar" but was completely blanking on the third. My cheeky son raised his hand and said: "It's Melchior!" She was impressed.

On the way home from school on the Feast of the Epiphany, Matthew told me that Father David had come to their classroom to do a "classroom blessing" where he wrote the names of The Three Wise Men in chalk above their door. This "house blessing" is traditional done on the feast of the Epiphany to ask God's grace on the home and all who abide and visit it. Since the classroom is Matthew's home away from home, he was particularly excited and couldn't wait to tell me about it. Well, would you guess his surprise when I informed him that we had had the same blessing done to our house nearly three years ago and the chalked initials of the Three Wise Men is still clearly visible above our front door? As soon as he got home, he ran right over to the door and started squealing with excitement when he saw the letters!

It's so awesome to see him so excited to learn!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The World's Best Coffee Cake!

If asked to name my favorite breakfast sweet, I would normally automatically say cinnamon rolls. However, after making and enjoying this really awesome coffee cake, I have to admit that I would probably take a slice of it over cinnamon rolls every single time. It's incredibly moist and has a hefty amount of buttery crumbles made up of brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped pecans. Enjoying a slice with a hot cup of coffee is one of the greatest ways to wake up on a chilly morning. As an added bonus, it is so easy to whip up. No waiting for yeast to proof and dough to rise. The cake is mixed, baked, and ready to eat in less than an hour. The only slightly difficult step is whipping egg whites - but you'll need to burn some calories during that arm workout so you can have an extra-large helping of this cake. Believe me, you'll want it (the cake, not the sore arm muscles).

I have made this cake quite a few times over the years. The family chose to make it for Christmas breakfast this year since it can be made the day before. It definitely  made for an easy, relaxing breakfast that everyone raved about. The cake originally comes from The Pioneer Woman's website where she has it labeled as "The Best Coffee Cake Ever." I can't say I disagree with her in the least. This is the only recipe you'll ever need when the craving strikes for a good, old-fashioned, coffee cake. Trust me.

World's Best Coffee Cake
from The Pioneer Woman

For the Cake:
1-1/2 stick Butter, softened
2 cups (scant) Sugar
3 cups Flour, Sifted
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1-1/4 cup Whole Milk
3 whole Egg Whites, beaten until stiff peaks form

For the Topping:
1-1/2 stick Butter, softened
3/4 cups Flour
1-1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
1-1/2 cup Pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg whites and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add flour mixture and milk alternately until combined. Don't overbeat. Fold in beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula. Spread in a well-greased 9 x 13 (or LARGER!) baking pan. A cake pan with higher sides would be best.

In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Sprinkle all over the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until no longer jiggly. Enjoy warm or allow to cool to room temperature. Either way is awesome.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas Exit Interviews

Matthew is back in school, Paul is back at work, and we'll be taking down all our Christmas decorations this weekend. Looking back over the past couple of weeks, I have to say that this has been one of the happiest Christmas seasons I have ever had. I loved sharing in the wonder of the season with my little cherubs and really enjoyed cutting back on some of the stress of preparations and focusing on just being present with my kids. Because really, that's truly the greatest gift I can give them.

On the gift side, the kids were spoiled. From "Santa" (or Mom and Dad), Matthew got a couple different LEGO sets, a slot car set, some books he wanted, and a few new games. Emma received lots of new sparkly skirts, her Hello Kitty winter hat, a stroller for her baby dolls, headbands, bracelets, and a necklace. She also received a new jewelry box with a twirling ballerina. She often winds it up, sets it on the floor, and then twirls along with the ballerina figure. It's pretty cute. Paul made out with some new winter boots, a giant 25 pound slab of Himalayan Pink Sea Salt (don't ask me...he wanted it), fleece-lined jeans, a Chick-fil-a Cow Calendar (that was the kids' idea), and this book. Oh, and he also got about 30 pounds of his favorite hard-to-find candy: Chicken Feet! My husband refuses to grow up.

Paul got me a new winter coat (which I love!), some more Polish pottery pieces, and an iPhone 6. I have now finally retired my 15-year-old flip phone and entered the world of smartphones. I sent my first text message ever the day after Christmas. I'm hooked.

To close out the Christmas season, I conducted a short interview with Matthew and Emma to collect their thoughts on our holiday together.

Christmas Eve dinner. Emma was napping on our bed and missed the seafood dinner.
She had scrambled eggs and eggnog later and was perfectly fine with that, especially since we
lit a little taper candle so she could have a "candlelit dinner" all by herself.

What was your favorite part about Christmas?

Matthew: When I came downstairs and saw that Santa ate his cookie.
Emma: I not know.

(At this point, I began to question whether this was a good idea or not...but we persevered)

What is your favorite Christmas Song?

Matthew: Santa Clause is Coming to Town
Emma: The Grinch song!

What was your favorite present?

Matthew: Legos!
Emma: My Elsa doll and my Ariel doll!

What was your favorite cookie?

Matthew: Gingerbread men!
Emma: Cedric! (her decorated sugar cookie)

What was your favorite Christmas Story?

Matthew: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Emma: Lily! (Not a Christmas book, but a current favorite)

What was the best gift that you gave to someone this Christmas?

Matthew: My little pony "Pinky Pie" that I gave to Emma. And the puff ball snowman I gave Lucy.
Emma: The LEGO watch for Matthew.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Matthew: Playing in the snow with Emma
Emma: Playing with my Hello Kitty hat! (ok....)

What was the best food you ate for Christmas time?

Matthew: Shrimp and Seafood on Christmas Eve.
Emma: Crackers.

What was your favorite part about midnight Mass? (They loved going this year)

Matthew: Seeing the Baby Jesus in the manger at the end.
Emma: The lights, the candles, and JOY TO THE WORLD!!

Cooperation for photo sitting is always indirectly proportional to age.