Friday, November 18, 2011

Nightly Thoughts and The Best Mac & Cheese Ever!

It’s cold and gloomy tonight. I am sitting at my desk with a red scarf around my neck to take the chill out of my body. The scarf wraps me like a hug and I feel cozy all over. I love that feeling. Merry Christmas Baby is playing on the radio and I just finished ordering my holiday cards online. The kitchen smells of fresh baked gingerbread. I can hear happy snoring from two rooms in the house. Life is good.  

Before the sun went down I peeked out the window and took this photo of my front yard.  The maple leaves are at their brightest red now.  Only a few left on the trees - the rest scattered across the lawn, happily fluttering like birds past the windows. I blinked twice and smiled, happy I stopped and caught a glimpse of this wonder. It's almost over.  The kettle is whistling and I'm preparing myself for tonight.  Lot's on my mind these days.  Things to prepare for. 

Nighttime is my time. It’s the only time of day that is just for me to do with what I may. Sometimes its sleep, and sometimes its not. Last night I took everything out of my china cabinet and washed it. My mother recently handed down to me a set of cobalt blue dishes that I am over the moon for. I wanted to reorganize the cabinet and in the process make everything sparkle. I love how the flickering of candle light reflects off newly shined glass. It twinkles like kitchen magic and somehow makes me feel special. 

 For the next few weeks my nights will be spent drinking peppermint mocha hot chocolate (my new addiction) while baking, wrapping, and watching as many old movies as possible. Last night while puttering around the china cabinet I watched It Happened One Night with Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert. Something happens to me when I watch a movie like that. I feel like anything is possible. Some call it fantasy. I call it hope.  

A week from today will be Thanksgiving. I was talking to a friend of mine today and she randomly commented on how “mad” she was that the world had so quickly skipped ahead to Christmas and had forgotten her favorite holiday. Thanksgiving does seem to get lost between Halloween and Christmas, doesn’t it? There are no songs, no trees to decorate, or gifts to exchange. Oddly enough, these are some of the best reasons people love Thanksgiving so much. There is no pressure, no rush. It’s just families getting together to celebrate and give thanks for all they have been blessed with. They sit among loved ones at beautifully set tables and eat turkey and stuffing until their buttons pop. What could be better? Maybe the pumpkin pie for desert….? Of course! For me the best thing about this Thanksgiving is the card you see below.  This is what I'm thankful for.  Handmade with love.

I have to admit, as much as I love Thanksgiving I do get caught up in the Christmas mode very early. It’s hard not to. To me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all rolled up in one giant cinnamon bun – loaded with sticky, sweet icing. It’s a 2 month long celebration. During that time I try to de-stress by enjoying the little things that don’t involve a charge card. Like sitting in the living room with my favorite blanket and all the lights off except the Christmas tree. I think about the Christmas' of my childhood and pray that my son has the same fond memories one day. Or like coming home from work on a snowy evening and seeing the white twinkle lights glowing from under our snow covered railings. (Home looks so inviting when it’s outlined in twinkle lights : - ). Or best of all, the inquisitive look on my son’s face when he looks over his shoulder (after doing something naughty) because he really does believe Santa is watching – which of course he is. I never want it to end.

I try not to think about the things that make me sad, for there are many, but try and focus on all the joys ahead. This year we are hopeful that there are good things ahead for us (knock-wood and fingers crossed). The gift of faith is God's greatest power. Believe.

I just heard that there is a possibility of a dusting of snow tonight. Be still my heart. It’s what I’ve been waiting for. I love snow so much. Anyone that knows me knows I’m not a summer girl. I’m not a fan of the dog days of summer, and much prefer frosty window sills and thick, chenille socks (which I am wearing right now). There a over a million ways to get warm, but not too many to cool off. I much prefer “Baby its Cold Outside” to “Hot Child in the City”. But that’s just me J

Snow also adds to the holiday spirit don’t you think? I remember a special moment I experienced last year involving snow. It was the night before Christmas Eve. After work I stopped at our local outdoor shopping village to pick up a few last minute stocking stuffers. I was feeling the pressure with it being the day before Christmas Eve. I never shop that late. I had thought I was done, when the feeling of “do I have enough?” swept over me. I needed to get just a few more things to feel better. The parking lot was full. Shoppers were shoulder to shoulder, anxiously shuffling from store to store. Everyone was in a rush, including me. Fighting my way through the crowds I got what I needed and was heading back to the car when all of a sudden it started snowing. Not the stormy, wet-in your-eyes snow, but the soft and fluffy, gentle falling snow. It was magical. The storefronts were almost instantly frosted and the lighted trees were illumating under a blanket of snow. This was unexpected and everyone was talking about it. Angry shoppers suddenly seemed happier. The rush calmed down and I heard laughing. Without hesitating I changed directions and instead of going to car, I went to the café. I got a hot chocolate, a copy of English Homes magazine, and took a walk in the snow. I took time to admire the store window decorations and even ran into someone I knew. A lot happens when life slows down. There I was – two days before Christmas, shopping in the snow. It was my own little “magical – Walt Disney – Currier & Ives” moment. This year I decided I’m going to save my stocking stuffers for two days before Christmas. Will I have the same magical experience? I pray so. That’s the magic of snow….. Are you ready?

Before I sign off for tonight I want to share with you my favorite recipe for .....

...the best Homemade Mac & Cheese ever! This is actually my mother's recipe that she has been making since I was little.  This is what Mac & Cheese is supposed to be.  Smooth and creamy, with crunchy breadcrumbs on top. good! 

I was over the house today and she just so happened to be making it and I just so happened to have my camera, so here you go....

You will need:

1 lb elbow macaroni
8 tbs (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/2 cup flour
1 quart milk

16 oz (2 cups) shredded cheese - I used a mix of Cheddar, American, & Swiss, but use what YOU like

1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook macaroni in salted water according to directions on package - usually about 6 - 8 minutes. 
Drain well.

In a separate saucepan, heat milk (but don't boil it). 

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in another large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.  While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more - until thick and smooth.  Once thickened, remove from heat and add the cheese.

Season with nutmeg and a dash of S&P.  Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. 

Pour into a 9x13 glass baking dish. 

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle on top and bake for 30-35 minutes - until sauce is bubbly and the top is browned.

This is comfort food at it's finest. 

 I'm feeling a little stuffed tonight, but it was oh-so-worth-it. 

Tomorrow morning we leave on our overnight shopping trip so I need the carbs!
Ha-ha : )

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  I'll be back early next week with photos from the craft fair and also the beginning stages of my gingerbread house.

Thank you so much for reading ~  xo


  1. Danielle... I am so with you on watching old movies and sipping hot choc! I love the story of the magical snow falling before Christmas and everyone's mood changing.Aren't those the best times!! Have a wonderful weekend..your mac & cheese looks so good! Angie xo

  2. I know what you mean about enjoying the small things at Christmas. I always love to just sit with the tree lights on and listen to some calming christmas's so good!

    Something similar happened to me also last year. I was doing some last minute shopping and left the store to find snow. A great memory and just so magical!

    Love Gemma x