Friday, December 28, 2012

Amaretto Eggnog Pound Cake with Vanilla Rum Glaze

I made this pretty little baby for dessert after dinner Christmas night, but I proudly posted a picture of it on Facebook Christmas morning. My sister Jackie, who was traveling with her whole family to our house that day, announced upon her arrival at 2:30 PM that she was having cake RIGHT THAT MINUTE because she'd seen the picture at 10 AM and couldn't wait any longer.

It was Christmas, so she got her cake.

Amaretto Eggnog Pound Cake with Vanilla Rum Glaze

1 (18 1/2 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups purchased eggnog
1/4 tsp almond flavoring
4 tablespoons butter, melted


2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp Captain Morgan's or other spiced rum

Oven 350°.

Coat bottom of a tube or bundt pan with butter or cooking spray.

Stir all cake ingredients together and then mix with electric mixer on high setting for 1 minute, or until batter is very light and fluffy. Pour/spoon into baking pan. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until cake is golden on top and slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool, remove from pan.

Mix glaze ingredients together with a whisk until smooth. Shoot for a consistency somewhere between spreadable and pourable (yeah, I know, but that's what I did and it worked well). You may have to add more rum or milk to get it right. Glaze cake while it's still warm. I poured the glaze over just the top and then kinda helped it ooze over the edges with a spatula.

This cake tastes even better 24-48 hours after it's baked, so feel free to make ahead and store in an airtight cake-taker. (Although we enjoyed it quite a bit right out of the oven, too. Ahem.)

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Highlighting My Very Best Asset with Holiday Attire

Howdy ho and holly jolly and all that merry jazz, y'all.

I'm virtually giving my darling husband, who always looks fantastic but might have needed a bit of a wardrobe wake-up this season, a little mistletoe-shot in the style arm over at Together in 10 today.

10 Minute Men: Easy Holiday Looks for Your Guy.

Come see how I'm heating up Al's conservative wardrobe with a few classy pieces that pop.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012


It's Sunday evening as I write this, and Al has the kids upstairs in the bath tub, so it's quiet down in the office. Too quiet today, where last week this quiet would've been a welcomed change from the loud chaos of two kids who'd been stuck inside for nearly 48 hours straight.

This weekend, silence has actually been terrible. I noticed it the first time Friday night after Al and I climbed the stairs to bed. As we turned out the lights and lay our heads down, silence fell over our house for the first time since the moment I'd heard the news from Newtown. Immediately, the thoughts and images and sounds I'd been shoving back hard from my conscious mind came flooding in like a burning tidal wave. Medical examiners and body bags and the worst sunset of our lives outside school windows -- windows which that morning glistened innocent, honest and open, probably with apples and kites taped up on them, or maybe Christmas trees and snowflakes. Those same windows now glowing artificial white-yellow in the falling darkness as grieving, heavy shadows moved behind them in classrooms, finishing their job as mothers and fathers waited the impossible wait. I sobbed into Al's back in the silence and I know mothers everywhere sobbed with me.   This is too horrible for us to bear.


Yesterday, late in the afternoon, Al took the kids out to run a quick errand and I stayed back alone to work on a project. As the garage door closed behind them, the silence ushered in thoughts of those mothers and fathers in the waning hours of Saturday, not having slept or eaten since Thursday night, the shock wearing off perhaps and now having to face the reality of arranging funerals and memorial services, thinking of their babies lying across town, alone, without them. I couldn't even cry then. I just sat still and empty in the horror and begged God for I don't even know what. These babies had siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and babysitters and the other mothers at the bus stop, and none of them know what to beg God for either.


Again in the quiet of last night I lay awake, crying with the mothers. My children had been loud and bossy and cranky, but they smell so good and they're warm and soft and Peabody was upside down in his bed as I tucked him in on my way past his room. When I picked him up to flop him head-side-up again his arms went around my neck and he sleep-hugged me tight with his soft cheek on mine. Both kids had their teddy bears in their arms. Both kids had had good days. Safe days. Suddenly I felt stone-heavy guilty for every moment of frustration I've felt over the bickering and the way they follow me and ask me so many questions and read over my shoulder and always want my tea. My children are alive and innocent and oblivious and just children and I'm the worst mother because I don't weep for the joy of that enough to somehow make it up to twenty mothers whose beautiful, sweet-smelling babies won't read ever over their shoulders again, even though those mothers didn't even mind, probably.


Today I sat in my room alone and read an excerpt from a speech a Newtown father made Saturday night about his six-year-old daughter Emilie, who is gone. He loved her so much. She delighted him and had a heart of gold. She was smart, and beautiful and nurtured her younger sisters with deep love and compassion. That he could utter those words about her now, in his immediate and crushing grief, crying, with tears streaming, was the most courageous and beautiful act that I can even imagine. And I thought to myself as I finished reading, I hope he got to say those same words about her on Wednesday, to a group of co-workers maybe, and I hope he beamed with pride and had a smile on his face so wide that it almost split him open, and I hope he never once, even jokingly, apologized for bragging about his little girl. Oh, I hope he got to do that Wednesday. I hope he just got to brag about his little Emilie with no crying, and no tears streaming.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Might Actually Be Doing It

This week Peabody started a new preschool because the wonderful school both of the kids have attended for a combined total of just shy of five years closed its doors. I have done my share of crying over this, as any mother who'd found a place and people to whom she could joyfully hand her children over and walk away for a few hours a week would at such news. My heart broke when I read the closure email, and has broken several times over in its wake, as I've hugged teachers and helped move boxes and signed my initials on the sign-out sheet one last time, and said a final Goodbye as I walked, Peabody's hand in mine, through the warm vestibule and out into the unknown.

And suddenly this week, New School Week, we're walking into the lobby of the familiar park district building, past signs that used to point us to the mother-baby and then mother-toddler music classes and around the corner, into preschool wing, and his green-mittened hand curls into mine, then out. And he's running, and he's ready, my boy. Ready to go be Peabody in a completely new world. In my mind I'm running behind him to catch up and understand how he's making this transition just like that.

Often I look at him and see myself. Often I feel my own reservations and fears and insecurities in this boy who's ever so much just a short me with a round fuzzy head. Sometimes I feel broken by the mistakes I make against him which are also against my little self, and I think How? How do I parent him to fix what broke in me, so he flies where once I crawled, so he is chin up and grins where once I was floor-stare and sad-eyes?

And today I marvel at his easy face, his bouncy steps, his lively chatter, those confident shoulders and that gorgeous fuzzy head held high and swiveling this way, that way, bent in towards his new teacher, bent in towards just everything, and comfortable in a way I have only ever wished for myself, and I realize, by the grace of God, I might actually be doing it.

I do love a boy in a red vest. Sigh.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stylish Gifts for Him and Her: A Holiday Gift Guide

1.  True story - last month the family and I took a trip to Virginia. I spent about half a day carefully assembling awesome outfits for all of us, so we'd look put together the whole time. And then I packed it all up in a big, stained and tattered red nylon duffel bag that's so old and beaten up it's probably currently made up of more duct tape than original materials. Once in the airport, I stood as far away from that bag as I could without alerting security personnel.

 It was bad, y'all. I think this gorgeous Italian-made leather carry-on bag would make any stylish traveler look forward to schlepping luggage onto, off of and between flights.

2.  Just about any woman and most style-conscious men would appreciate the gift of a luxurious cashmere scarf or a handmade cowl in a color and style that flatters his or her features. Neckwear comes in so many fabrics and textures and all virtually every price-point, and if you're thinking the stylish person on your list has enough scarves, guess again! Accessories like these make tired wardrobes fresh again and if chosen correctly, get curated like art by true style-lovers.

3.  I think we can conclude that smart phones are here to stay and they've become part of every outfit, so investing a few bucks on a quality leather case for your stylish friend's iPhone is probably a safe bet. This one from Pottery Barn is under $20 and can be personalized.

4.  I innocently pinned a simple monogram bracelet like this one on Pinterest a month or so ago, and watched in amazement as hundreds of other pinners tacked it to their own wish-lists and style boards over the course of a few days. It makes sense the bracelet would be so popular because it's a timeless piece that can be worn with any and everything. I would remember the person who gave me such an elegant and versatile gift every time I wore this, wouldn't you?

5. The style-conscious love accessories, and we pile up a lot of them over time. A stackable jewelry box takes up little room but provides ample of storage for stylish bits and baubles, yes?

6. He might not want a pretty jewelry box, but organization with a side of technology and another side of masculine swagger? Yeah, men dig that. I gave Al an older version of this valet and charging dock a few years ago, and he was appropriately wowed.

7. Just in time for New Year's Eve, your stylish lady-friends should appreciate this sparkling, versatile sequined tank, perfect for popping on with anything from a pair of jeans and a velvet blazer for the neighborhood count-down party to a long, flowy skirt and a cashmere wrap for a gala affair downtown.  (If she doesn't, you can send it to me.)

8. I'd really love to see Al in one of these gorgeous and strikingly unique chambray tuxedo shirts on New Year's Eve. A casual fabric cut into a relaxed take on the formal classic. Impeccable style for your stylish man. I may have to do a style post on this one soon.

9.  If you've gotten this far and not found anything your fashionista doesn't already have in triplicate, how about fresh new style inspiration, delivered to his or her door monthly?  Gift her a year's subscription to InStyle magazine or another favorite like Vogue, Lucky, Elle, Marie Claire.  For men, take a look at GQ, Details, and Men's Journal. 

10.   And then there's the limitless dreamy luxury of the gift card.    I know it's not that original, but style is a very personal thing, yes?  And most of the stylish people on my list also enjoy shopping (endlessly) and would deeply appreciate extra funds to spend on pieces they love on-line or at their favorite stores.  J. Crew, White House Black Market, LOFT and Garnet Hill are among my top style stops, but you can choose a place your fashion-icon loves and order up a gift card in minutes.  If the idea of just giving a gift card seems boring or not-quite-enough for you, pick up a small accessory item like costume jewelry, a belt or scarf and wrap it up with a gift receipt and a gift card.  This gives your stylish giftee plenty of freedom and choices.


Please also peruse the following fabulous gift guides from some of the most brillant and shopping-savvy women I know, all of whom participating into today's Gift Guide Round-up.

The Blah Blah Blahger: Gifts for the Wine Lover
O My Family: Gifts for Toddlers
Kelly Sauer: Photography Gifts
Fried Okra: Stylish Gifts
Love Well: Gifts for Teens
LoveFeast Table: Gifts for Him
Joy in this Journey: Healthy Gifts 

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