Fat Tuesday

Today commemorates Fat Tuesday, a day of indulgence before the somberness of Lent sets in tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. In our den, we’ve been celebrating Fat Tuesday for the last few years. Typically Liam and I enjoy a feast of sorts that includes take out, a lavish dessert, and a sprinkling of other junk food items throughout the day like glazed donuts, waffle fries, and something carbonated and sugary to wash it all down.

This year we kicked things off a few days early with a King’s Cake.Atticus, Liam, and I savored it’s subtle sweetness and gooey cinnamon. However Liam and I were disappointed that our cake didn’t include a plastic baby Jesus tucked away between the layers of pastry and icing.

Yesterday on the eve of Fat Tuesday as we sat around the dinner table, Liam looked at me with his bright blue eyes and a mischievous grin and said, “So Mom, since tomorrow is Fat Tuesday that means I can have cake for dinner and then pick a dessert too!” His wittiness practically brought me to tears I was laughing so hard as I imagined how a dinner that started with cake might end.

Last night I suggested Domino’s delivery to start off our Fat Tuesday because Liam lives for two things in life: pepperoni pizza and dessert. I figured this would be a must on our Fat Tuesday menu. So his response actually caught me by surprise. “Mom, we have pizza all the time. It’s not special enough for Fat Tuesday.” This kid was setting the bar high, and I worried I’d disappoint him if I didn’t deliver at least on the dessert side of things.

Fast forward almost twenty-four hours later, as track practice started to wind down I realized I needed to lock down our Fat Tuesday treat. My lightbulb, “aha” moment hit as I was exiting 290 en route to pick up the boys from daycare. A frozen yogurt cake from Orange Leaf! I walked into the store on a mission as I perused the delicate cakes adorned with fluffy whipped cream. My shining star was a birthday confetti round cake with rainbow sprinkles. Mama Bear for the win!

As we walked out of daycare towards the car, I told Liam I found the perfect treat for our Fat Tuesday dinner. I watched his eyes get as big as saucers and his lips turn up in a perfectly gigantic grin as I described the frozen yogurt cake that lay carefully tucked on the floorboard on the passenger side of the car.

After a long day at work topped off with track practice, I settled on leftovers, which I hoped wouldn’t be too disappointing for Liam. Thankfully we both enjoyed the coconut curry soup I’d prepared earlier in the week. As Liam and Atticus finished their meal, I paraded the cake across the kitchen and gently set it down in front of them. Their reaction was priceless- two boys all to eager to indulge in the frozen wonder that lay before them.


Dinner ended on a high note with lots of smiles, whipped cream mustaches, and a lot of baby requests for, “more, more, more!” The littlest things in life really can be incredibly powerful ways of connecting with the people you love most in life. Liam clearly touched by the simple gesture even made me a handmade Valentine before bed. My cup runneth over!


A Tortilla Soup State of Mind

This afternoon heavy rain and strong winds blew in a cold front. On my drive home from work, I was awed by an unbelievable, beautiful double rainbow. As the sun set and the winds continued to howl, the temperature plummeted quickly. This evening prepping for my run required an extensive amount of apparel- gloves, a long sleeve tech shirt, athletic tights, a down vest, and a ski hat.


Most of the time as I run, I reflect on my day or formulate a blog post in my head; using the miles for inspiration. With the wind chill, tonight’s 43 degree temperature felt about ten degrees lower. My thoughts drifted to warm sandy beaches, extra hot chai lattes, and a boiling pot of homemade soup. Warm thoughts propelled me through the miles and windy conditions I encountered on tonight’s run.

What better way to kick off the weekend than with a pot of tortilla soup that warms the core and soothes the soul. On Christmas Eve my family shared bowls of savory soup and stories about life. A few days later, my friend Jenny hosted a soup exchange party and again a pot of homemade tortilla soup brought friends and family together. Then for New Year’s Eve, I made another batch of soup to share with our NYE guests. 2017 ended and the new year began with this simple and delicious recipe that I now share with you.




  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cartons of chicken broth; sub with vegetable broth to make it vegetarian
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, stems trimmed
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 store bought rotisserie chicken, remove the skin and roughly chop; nix the chicken if you’re a vegetarian and consider adding zucchini or yellow squash in its place
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped; remove the seeds if you want to tame down the heat
  • 2 bags of frozen corn
  • 2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground comino
  • 1 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder



  • Sliced jalapenos
  • Grated cheese; my favorite is the Mexican blend
  • Cojita cheese
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sliced avocado
  • Tortilla chips; I love Julio’s because the seasoning adds another layer of flavor to the soup


On medium high heat, sauté the garlic and onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the chicken, jalapenos, canned tomatoes, and spices and bring to a boil. Then allow the soup to simmer for several hours until you are ready to serve. About 45 minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, add the frozen corn and bunch of cilantro. Garnish with grated cheese, sliced avocado, cilantro, and tortilla chips. Serve with warm flour or corn tortillas and a side of Mexican rice.


Savor and enjoy your tortilla soup state of mind. Buen provecho!

Carrying the Christmas Spirit All Year Long

The magic of Christmas is magnified when you look at the beauty and mystery of the holiday through the eyes of a child. Their excitement, joy, and wonder is wildly infectious and can help even the grumpiest Grinch find the spirit of Christmas in their heart.

This Christmas brought unique opportunities to bond as a family and share in the merriment of the season. Beautiful weather allowed for outdoor adventures at the local zoo. Liam almost lost his head in the mouth of a sharp toothed crocodile, and he walked into an incredibly cool opportunity when a zookeeper allowed him the chance to feed a giraffe.

An afternoon relaxing in the backyard with my parents and brother brought a low key vibe to Christmas Eve. Watching Liam race across the lawn with Atticus tracking his every move further solidified the adoration our baby bear had for his big brother.

Sharing glasses of wine with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, and family friends brought the magic of Christmas to life time and time again. Creating special memories for Liam by laying out the cookies and milk for Santa  and sending his elf off with a proper goodbye stand out vividly in my mind.

Constructing and decorating gingerbread houses brought great pride for Liam and a giant mess of frosting, gum drops, and hard candy. I’d gladly clean it all up again to see his eyes light up with pride at his unique creations.

Dressing up for Christmas Eve at my grandparents, toting the boys there in their red wagon, and exchanging gifts with loved ones were just some of the memorable moments that peppered our Christmas. Simple, child-centered, and at its core all about family coming together to offer gratitude and share in fellowship.

This Saturday, January 6th marks el dia de los reyes magos. This holiday commemorates the Epiphany of our Lord when the Three Magi found the truth upon meeting Jesus. In Mexico, this holiday holds more significance than Christmas Day. This is the day they exchange gifts and celebrate with food and family. A traditional rosca, one of my favorite sweet breads, is served with a tiny plastic baby Jesus tucked somewhere inside the bread. Tradition states that the person who finds the baby in their slice of bread must host a party within the month for everyone. What better way to continue spreading the Christmas joy than with a party on February 6th!

This simple tradition offers us a unique opportunity to reconsider how we approach Christmas. It truly doesn’t have to end on the 25th. The spirit of Christmas can live in our hearts for the remainder of the year. Through charity, acts of service, and random acts of kindness we can continue to share the meaning of Christmas with those around us. For children, this magic rarely loses its luster. They carry the excitement of the holiday well into mid February when their sights change from presents, lights, and trees to hearts and Valentine’s.


Now just a few days into the new year, we have a distinct opportunity to reframe our pattern of thinking and approach this season of Advent through the rose colored glasses of our children. We are their models, their heroes, and the keepers of their hearts. Let us open our own hearts and minds to the endless possibilities carrying the season of Christmas into the new year could bring for us. What will you do to spread Christmas joy?

Standout Side Dishes

*** A quick aside before I delve into today’s post. Because life is a delicate balancing act, I’m moving towards posting three quality blog posts per week. Ideally I will post on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Sundays going forward. When I first started writing this blog, I had grandiose visions of posting daily and for awhile I was able to deliver. The quality of writing is very important to me and so sometimes creating a post truly evolves into a labor of love. To stay true to my writing and true to myself, three days a week of blog posts seems like the most ideal way to share my stories and also balance all of the other complex tasks of keeping things in my life in order.

And on that note, let’s move on to standout side dishes that truly could stand alone on your table and have everyone reaching for the serving spoon for seconds.

As long back as I can remember, cabbage and black eyed peas were a central theme of all New Year’s meals my mother prepared for us growing up. Indulging in black eyed peas guaranteed good luck in the new year, and chowing down on cabbage ensured wealth. Traditionally preparation methods usually include boiling the cabbage and seasoning with salt and pepper. Black eyed peas follow a similar method or might be thrown into a ham soup for good measure. Truth be told, both dishes have rarely wowed me until this year, but I always made sure to put a few of each on my plate for good measure.

I adapted the recipes below from several different websites and added my own flair to create two side dishes that stole the show at our New Year’s Eve dinner. We also enjoyed a low key, kid centered New Year’s Eve that included fireworks, noise makers, and bunuelos. An easy dessert made with flour tortillas, butter, and a blend of cinnamon and sugar. Enjoying bunuelos is another traditional New Year’s food I’ve enjoyed since childhood. It is also eaten to ensure good luck in the new year. Between the bunuelos and black eyed peas, I’d say we’re set for a year of absolute good fortune!




  • 1 head of cabbage, thinly cut in narrow slices
  • 6 slices of thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • salt & pepper, to taste

This dish highlights southern cooking and comfort with the savory flavor of bacon. As an aside, I used a soup pot for this dish because of the volume of cabbage. Sauté the bacon on medium heat until browned. Remove the bacon pieces and set aside. Add the diced onion and sauté in the bacon grease. Then add half of the cabbage and continue sautéing. When the cabbage starts to cook down, add the remaining cabbage and the cooked bacon. Stir frequently to evenly distribute the heat. Cook until the cabbage is softened. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm!

Recipe reference: http://www.4theloveoffoodblog.com



  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled & grated
  • 1 fire roasted red pepper (jarred), diced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp harissa spice blend (see recipe below)
  • 1 to 2 cups black eyed peas, cooked
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, stems removed & roughly chopped

This vegetarian dish is ready to enjoy in just a few simple steps. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Then add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the grated sweet potato and cook until softened. Then add the red bell pepper and spice blend and stir until the mixture is evenly coated. Finally add the black eyed peas and cilantro and cook until the peas are warmed through. And viola, enjoy!

This dish would be exceptional served atop Naan or with a side of scrambled eggs. Consider substituting the black eyed peas with black beans and stuff in flour or corn tortillas for delectable tacos.

Recipe reference: http://www.veganricha.com



After a little online research compliments of Google, I discovered that harissa is is a Maghrebi hot chili pepper paste or rub derived from a variety of peppers. Because I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand when I happened upon this recipe, I adapted the recipe and created my own version below. I stored the remaining spice blend in an air tight container and will consider integrating it into some new recipes soon. I’ll be sure to share my results in a future post.


  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, dry roasted on medium heat briefly until browned
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup of ground chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Mix all spices in a small container and blend evenly.

Recipe reference: thereapeuticcuisine.tv



The Best Laid Plans…

One of the perks of working in an educational setting are the extended holiday breaks that come at Christmas, Spring Break, and Easter. After a brunch last Friday at work with my colleagues, my principal wished us a Merry Christmas and sent us on our way. I jetted off to Trader Joe’s to start knocking out holiday shopping and closed out the afternoon with a long run soaking in the perfect outdoor conditions- sunny skies, cool temperatures, and the taste of freedom on my tongue.

As I ran, I envisioned how I would spend the first few days of my break. Liam would be in school through Thursday and Atticus would go to daycare so that I could finish Christmas shopping, wrapping, packing, and carve out a little time for me. I decided that if I could have everything complete by Wednesday morning then I could enjoy some quiet time getting a massage, a pedicure, and maybe even have time for lunch with a few girlfriends I rarely have time to see. Because quiet moments are few and far between these days, I was very much looking forward to taking a brief pause from motherhood and gifting myself with some quality time for self-reflection, relaxation, and personal growth.

Sunday morning, however, when my sweet little Atticus woke up, I realized rather quickly that “mommy time” was going to be a thing of the past. His sweet little face was bright red and he had bumps all over his face and body. A mother’s intuition and a quick Google search confirmed that he most likely had hand, foot, and mouth disease. Ahh, yes one of the many downsides of daycare- a breeding ground for all things germ related to pass freely from one child to the other. I faced the music that my pedicure, massage, and social plans were undoubtedly on the back burner at least for the next few days.

Although nothing can be done to treat hand, foot, and mouth, I knew a trip to the doctor’s office was necessary to at least confirm my rising suspicions. So after Atticus woke up from his afternoon nap on Sunday, the two of us set out for the Texas Children’s Urgent Care Clinic. I wasn’t prepared for the number of other sick children in the greater Cypress area waiting to be seen. With the patience of Job, I waited it out for 2 1/2 hours until finally by the grace of God we were seen by the doctor. “Wham, bam, thank you, m’am” she confirmed he did indeed have hand, foot, and mouth disease.

So for the next three days, Atticus and I mostly stayed home. Rather than wallow in self-pity, I took my lemons and made some damn good lemonade. When Atticus was awake, we played, read books, laughed, and enjoyed some quality time together. When nap time hit, I wrapped presents as I enjoyed Christmas movies and coffee as I worked like a little elf in Santa’s workshop. Because he still naps twice a day, I capitalized on this time to wrap all of my gifts and those from Santa for the boys, bake two batches of cookies (almond chocolate chip and gingersnaps) for Liam and Atticus’s teachers, prep for two great dinners (chicken noodle casserole and red beans and rice with sausage and cornbread), and knock out laundry list of to do’s including laundry and general house tidying.

Now granted this isn’t how I’d envisioned my first few days of my break, but oftentimes “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. After all, life cannot be scripted no matter how hard we try. Atticus is undoubtedly on the mend, which is more important to me than “me” time will ever be. My Christmas break, while different from how I imagined it would start, still is off to a beautiful beginning. I’m enjoying the merriment of hot cocoa, Hallmark Christmas movies, and quality time with the boys.

Liam will be on break starting tomorrow and the four of us will drive down to South Texas to celebrate Christmas with my extended family. I’m looking forward to all that comes in this holiday season- the parts that are planned and the ones that accidentally fall in my lap.

This will likely be my last post until after Christmas. I want to relish in every little part of it and look forward to sharing more with you after the 26th. It has been a wonderful 6 months of blogging and sharing my life with you since this idea to start a blog first originated in July. I look forward to putting pen to paper with new ideas and blog posts in 2018.

Wishing each of you a blessed Christmas, peace on earth, and joy to the world,

A Mama Bear

Grace, Giving, & Gratitude

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of holiday festivities, semester exams, Christmas decorations, cookie baking, and all of the other day-to-day to do’s. I’ve been hard pressed for time and found most of my blogging time being reallocated to hiding Liam’s elf nightly or spending my little bits of downtime with my nose buried in a book.

With Christmas less than twelve days away, I found my heart and head eager to share my sentiments with others, and so I’m finally putting pen to paper for the first blog post in almost a week.


Grace is defined as the freely given, unmerited favor, and love of God. Nothing more clearly articulates his love than the gift of his only son to save us from our sins. In the hustle and bustle that comes with preparing for the holiday season, it is easy to get wrapped up in the shopping and gift giving. While these are aspects of the holiday that allow us to connect and show our love for others, we also must find pause in our busy lives to recognize the true reason for the season.

It isn’t always easy to find opportunities to reflect on the miraculous story of Christmas  of how a humble man took a woman’s hand in marriage knowing she was carrying a son that was not his all because an angel affirmed his role in God’s plan. And at the center of this beautiful story, a baby was born on a cold, winter night underneath a blanket of stars with an incredibly full life of fellowship and faith ahead of him. In these last few days leading up to Christmas, let us open our hearts to the infinite beauty and grace of God.

In my daily life, I try to find grace in the simplicity of all God created- a breathtaking sunset, a fragrant rose, or a blanket of fresh snow. Miraculous things can happen when we least expect them to. Awestruck by its beauty, I was amazed to wake up to a backyard full of snow last Friday. To see Liam giddy with excitement about getting to frolic in the snow. Watching my high school students play with childlike abandonment as they waged war against one another in a snowball fight of epic proportions on our quad.

Grace truly is in the little things we often are too busy to notice. These simple gifts of grace and beauty show us God’s love each and every day if we allow ourselves to slow down enough to take it all in.



A tenet of Christmas is gift giving. This act of love comes in many forms. Oftentimes we equate gift giving with lavish gifts perfectly wrapped and topped with a bright, red bow.  Sometimes, however, small acts of kindness prove to be just as special and can be far more sincere and touching.

For my coworkers this Christmas, fresh baked cookies, surprise Starbucks lattes, and unexpected kolaches during semester exams brought smiles and joy to many of their faces. For my son, giving my time to hide his elf every night is a small way I’ve brought surprise, wonder, and joy to his mornings. Brightening someone’s day with a sincere smile, an extra large tip, or a genuine hello can move mountains for the people who are on the receiving end of these simple gestures of kindness. Sharing quality time with the special people in our lives is another opportunity to give to the ones we love. This week, we let Liam stay up a little later than normal, so I could push him around in the jogging stroller on one of my evening runs to take in the Christmas lights in our neighborhood. He enjoyed seeing the fun decorations, but more importantly I loved the chance to give him these little moment to relish in.



An attitude of gratitude is especially important. Taking stock of the infinite blessings we have, offering thanks, and appreciation for the gifts of family, friends, health, and prosperity.


I am truly grateful for a loving husband who makes me smile, challenges me to be my best, and makes me laugh in the most unexpected ways. I’m far from the perfect spouse or mother, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my life with my Papa Bear and Baby Bears. My sweet boys, you light up my life. I carry your smiles, the sound of your giggles, and the happiness you radiate with me wherever I go. Being a Mama Bear, brings me so much joy. Marriage and motherhood bring with it their own unique set of challenges, but the memories and milestones far outweigh the difficulties.

Christmas is a season of faith, joy, and new beginnings. It’s an opportunity for us to grow in God’s grace, give to those in need, and offer gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives. Wishing each and every one of you a blessed Christmas full of light, love, and holiday joy!

Elf on the Shelf Shenanigans

Shortly after Thanksgiving, the Elf on the Shelf shenanigans begin at our house. I don’t know if I have more fun finding unique and creative ways to showcase Willie the Elf or if Liam does scouring the house every morning in search of his elf’s most recent hiding place.

I know staging your child’s elf may not be something everyone enjoys doing, but many do it because it’s an obligatory part of their family Christmas traditions. For the Mama Bears who find it more of a chore than a joy to hide their child’s elf, I thought I’d post a few of this year’s best hiding places so you could catalog them away and implement them in your house in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.


Willie blended in nicely with one of my favorite kitchen staples, cherry tomatoes. This hiding place proved to be incredibly difficult for Liam to find. He was unable to find him in the morning before we headed out the door for school and work. Later that evening though, I asked him to help me with dinner by grabbing some tomatoes. He was so very surprised to see who was hiding inside.


Friday morning Liam woke up to fresh snow outside. As many of you know, this is truly a rarity in South Texas. He enjoyed building a snowman, having a snowball fight, and eating snow. This morning to piggyback on the merriment, Willie had his own snowball fight in the guest room with Liam’s Christmas stuffed animals.



Willie borrowed one of Atticus’s bath toys for a little fishing fun in a decorative pot in our dining room.


Baby toys have proven to be ideal props for staging Liam. For this one, I made a chain of teething rings and hung them from the drape rod.


A bag of Oreos doubles as a prop and as an easy go-to dessert. Liam loved finding his name spelled out in them and was even more surprised that Willie made the icing red just like his clothes.


During the off season, Willie moonlights as an extra for Cirque de Soleil.


Willie pulled the drapes together to make a relaxing hammock. He enjoyed a day of sunbathing while Liam was away at school.


Sometimes Willie leaves notes for Liam that talk about something special Liam did during the day. These notes are a labor of love on my part because I write them with my non-dominant hand. For not being a leftie, I think I fare pretty well.

To the other Mama Bears hiding elves this Christmas, let your inner child out and get creative. Seeing your child’s eyes light up when they discover their elf’s new hiding place makes it a labor of love well worth the effort!