Christmas Morning Tradition: A Breakfast Casserole

Since the first year that my husband and I spent as a married couple, I have been making this breakfast casserole on Christmas morning. I recall my mom spending hours in the kitchen on Christmas morning and I vowed to find an easier way to make a memorable meal without missing all of the excitement in the living room. This is a one dish casserole that takes about 40 minutes to bake and it is exceedingly delicious.

Here’s what you need:

1 package of sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 chopped green onion
2 cups shredded cheese (we use cheddar)
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup water
1 packet country gravy mix
1 package hashbrowns

First, put the sausage and onion in the bottom of your casserole dish. Next, spread the cheese over the top. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, water and country gravy mix and pour the combined mixture over the cheese. Finally, add the hashbrowns on top.

Generally, I brown the sausage on Christmas Eve so that the entire recipe comes together in minutes. Bake this hearty casserole at 325 degrees for 40 minutes, which is usually about how long it takes to open presents and clean up the wrapping paper that is strewn all over the floor.

I suppose I could make this at other times of the year, but there’s something special about a recipe that the Irishman is awaiting as eagerly as Parker awaits Santa’s visit.

Merry Christmas and Happy Eatings!


Made In America – Grunt Style

In our house, we try to buy local as often as possible. From food to soaps to gifts, we try to support our local economy whenever we can. When we don’t buy locally, we do try to buy American made products because for us, it’s simple: buying American products supports American jobs.

gruntstyleWhen I received this shirt from the good folks at Grunt Style, I was happy to know that their products are designed and made in the good ol’ U.S.A. What’s more, the founder of Grunt Style is an Army veteran and I love the patriot and fearless theme of their clothing.

What I didn’t expect was how well the shirt was made and how well it fit. I’m 5’11” and normally, I’m showing about 3 inches of mid-rift when I wear an off-the-rack shirt. If I like the style, I don’t normally mind – I’ll just layer it with a longer undershirt – but imagine my delight when the length on the Grunt Style (size medium) was just perfect.

The shirt is crazy comfortable (it doesn’t pull weirdly) and what’s awesome is that it comes with a “Beer Guarantee.” At first, I thought this was a typo, but that’s what it said. Say what? Well, upon reading the fine print, the Beer Guarantee says that if your shirt frays, tears or if you spill beer on it and can’t wash it out, they will REPLACE it for you. Yes, you read that right. If anything at all goes wrong with your shirt, even a year later, you get a new one. I’m pretty sure that’s a pretty amazing guarantee.

In order to spread the good cheer and Made In America love, here is a 15% off coupon for use at for all of you lovely readers. Just type in gs1752 at checkout. If you hurry, you might snag some great shirts on clearance (like as low as $4.95-$12.95!). Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I’m about to go shopping for more shirts. Personally, I’m in LOVE with the “I Will Never Quit” shirt. Thanks Grunt Style for the great sentiment – I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Journey Begins…

Here we go!
Here we go!

Like most epic life changes, our journey to buy our new house wasn’t without some last minute drama. First, Lexi and I got the stinkin’ flu. Not just a cold that we thought was the flu, but the actual good-for-nothing flu. It was misery. Poor Lexi had a fever for 7 days and didn’t want to be put down for 5 of those days. I was only out of commission for about 36 hours (thanks to starting Tamiflu as soon as I had symptoms), but during that time, I couldn’t sit upright without a raging headache and dizziness. The boys didn’t get the flu, but they had a different virus that involved a nasty cough and an upset stomach.

I was lying in bed on Tuesday (with the Irishman hacking up a lung next to me) wondering how we were going to drive the 25 miles to our attorney’s office to close on the house the following day. Well, buying your dream house is quite the motivator, so I woke up the next day, dragged myself into the shower and pretended like I was on the mend.

However, just as we headed out of town to our closing, we got a call from Parker’s school. He had a fever and had to be picked up. We calculated how much time we had to spare and I quickly made a u-turn on the highway and headed back into town.

I said a prayer, drove way too fast, picked up Parker, dropped him off at the house where my in-laws had just arrived, and then we were off again. We only ended up being 4 minutes late, so we signed our closing papers, handed over a Cashier’s Check for our closing costs and we headed across the street to a diner to toast our closing with milkshakes and the first meal I had eaten in days.

And then we waited for word that the sellers (in another state) had signed the papers. And we waited. And waited. And I started to sweat. With the holidays coming next week, nothing was going to get done until the day after Christmas if they didn’t sign the paperwork by Friday and that was a problem. A BIG problem. We had the asbestos company lined up to remove pipes from the basement and right on their heels, the heating and air folks were coming to install a whole new heating and air system on both floors.

I must have checked my email and voicemail 1425 times on Friday waiting to hear from our attorney. Finally, at 4:16pm, we got the all-clear that everything was signed and the house was ours. Whew!

By 5:30pm, the heating and air guys had arrived with their trucks to drop off all of the equipment for next week’s install. As they were unloading, we got another visitor – the cops! Apparently, it looked suspicious for that much equipment to be unloaded into the basement of a vacant house on the Friday before Christmas. Naturally, he thought we were trafficking stolen goods.

Once I explained that I was the new homeowner and we were going to have a series of contractors coming in over the coming weeks, the Officer assured me that he would run extra patrols on the house and he took down my cell phone number to pass it along to dispatch so they could call me if there were any problems. I love small towns.

The next day, my mother-in-law and I drove over to the house and attempted to start cleaning. I say “attempted” because it ended up being too cold to do anything. It was 25 degrees outside and probably no more than 45 in the house – our hands were numb. So, we dumped some bleach in the toilets and resolved to come back in a couple of days when it warmed up.

The good news is that by next weekend, we’ll have central heating and air and a working fireplace downstairs, so we can really get started on the house projects – and trust me…there will be a ton!

If you enjoy watching home remodels or picking paint colors, the Daily Cynema is about to be a very lively DIY place. Stay tuned and let the painting begin!


Today was the first day that I looked at the calendar and realized that we’re in December. I did a triple take this morning and thought, “That’s not right. We still have at least a month until Christmas!” Yup, it took me 12 days to finally catch up to the right month. That’s no surprise since I seem to blink and have whole months pass by. Just last week, someone asked me how old Lexi was and I immediately replied with, “18 months.” Which she was…almost 2 months ago.

Speaking of Lexi, that child is a parrot. She can repeat every single thing that you say no matter how complicated it sounds and we have tons of fun making her say things like “Supercalafragalisticexpialidocious.” I’m sure that’s misspelled, but you get the point. Who needs television when you have a parroting toddler! I need to get it on video one of these days. I did manage to get on film Lexi’s “smile” face.

“Lexi, SMILE!”


And for comparison, here’s Lexi’s regular face.



These two are so different in personality, but they’re having so much fun together. Lexi is feisty and fearless and Parker is sweet and cuddly, but the one thing they have in common is that they adore each other. Well, I should say that Lexi adores Parker and Parker adores that Lexi adores Parker. Did that make any sense at all? Anywho, Parker loves attention and Lexi gives it to him. Everyone’s happy, end of story. Whew. Clearly I don’t need more coffee today.

In the new house, each kidlet will have their own bedroom, which is a huge step up from our current set up. While Parker has his own room now, Lexi’s crib is set up in what is technically the office thanks to 3 walls of built-in bookshelves and desks. The alternative to this office set up was to have her sleep downstairs and I didn’t feel like shlepping it up and down stairs all night for months on end. I’ll be honest, I do have a bit of guilt that we never decorated a nursery for her, but we’re about to make up for it in a big way as we go to town decorating her new bedroom.

Don’t tell Parker, but we’re giving Lexi the slightly bigger room that comes with the bigger closet. Since we anticipate that we’ll be in the new house for a long time, Lexi is bound to have more clothes and shoes than Parker down the line (I mean, she already does!), so the bigger closet will come in handy. My sweet Parker isn’t much bothered by anything, so let’s hope that this minor decision doesn’t result in accusations of favoritism or the need for extensive therapy in his adult years. Truly, there is nothing so powerful as the guilt of a parent.

Regardless, they are both going to have kick butt rooms….just as soon as I figure out how I’m going to decorate them. Parker keeps vacillating between wanting his room painted red, black or rainbow, so I think I might need to make an executive decision on the paint color and let him accessorize with his rather bold taste. As for Miss Lexi, she’s too young to be able to voice her opinion (well, about paint colors at least) so I’ll have to take into account her potentially changing tastes over the next handful of years.

As a child, the one absolute privilege I had was to pick the color of my room (starting at about the age of 10) so I’ll probably do the same thing with my kids, too. I remember feeling so empowered when I picked that bright unicorn purple and to my father’s credit, he put it up in my room without so much as a grimace. I loved that color…for 2 years at least until I switched to bright teal. On second thought, maybe I will take Parker with me to pick up paint colors. Life is rigid enough without having to follow rules about what color to paint rooms, right?


Chi-cago, Chi-cago…

So, here’s a question – how on earth did I forget to blog about my trip to Chicago a couple of weeks ago?! Some things boggle the mind. It was a work trip, but you all know how much I love exploring cities (even those I’ve been to before) especially when the weather cooperates.

I couldn’t believe our luck in having almost a whole week of sunny skies. I was in the Windy City for 5 days, but only had a chance to explore the city my last day there. And explore it I did. I’m pretty sure I walked about 10 miles in 6 hours…in boots. They were comfortable boots, but still. Ouch.

I stayed at the Palmer House Hilton, which is a historic hotel about 2 miles from the Navy Pier. The most distinguishing feature of the hotel is the beautiful fresco in the lobby.



We walked to Millennium Park, which was about a quarter mile from the hotel. Millennium Park was home to this lovely ice skating ring. Does this look like a scene from a holiday movie, or what?



Millennium Park is also home to “The Bean.” My presumption is that it’s a coffee bean (since I’m more than a little bit obsessed with my cup of joe), but I guess it could also be many other iterations of beans. I love how the buildings are reflected in the picture below. Such a lovely distortion.



And here I am, coffee in hand, taking a photo of my reflection in the Bean. Come to think of it, this is probably how most of the world sees me as I have my face buried behind my camera most of the time.



And now I’m just getting silly. This was my imitation of Atlas. Except instead of the world, I’m holding up a coffee bean. Yup, that about sums up my responsibility in this world relative to Atlas’. I love that you can see my buddy, Al, in the reflection squatting down to take the picture. The Bean is fun!



Here is the cityscape from the park looking back towards the city. I love how there are fall leaves still on the trees – my corner of North Carolina is decidedly barren already.



Here is one last look at the Bean. This may just be my favorite photo of the trip – I love the composition, the symmetry, the couple towards the bottom of the picture. Photography feeds my soul.



Okay, enough hokiness. Here is a view of the outdoor theater – it looks like it converts to a covered dome. I bet it’s a great music venue.



After a trip to the Navy Pier and an awesome Japanese lunch, my friend and I went hunting for two Chicago institutions. Since we’re criminologists, the first was the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I know what you’re thinking – that’s kind of morbid – and it is, but we’re suckers for that kind of lore, so we went looking for it. Turns out, the old garage has been demolished and it is now a lovely manicured parking lot of a nursing home. Keeping with the spirit of authenticity, Al was the stand in for one of Al Capone’s cronies. Totally macabre, right?



And the last site we visited was much more lighthearted – Wrigley Field! Truth be told, neither one of us has any interest in baseball, but we figured that visiting Chicago without seeing Wrigley Field is kind of like going to Paris and not doing a drive by of the Eiffel Tower.


After our self-guided tour of the city (I should mention that we had Chicago-style pizza on 3 separate nights), we headed on back to our hotel to fetch our luggage and head to the airport to catch our late night flight. Tired, satisfied, caffeinated.

Until next time Chicago…