Archive for December, 2014

Family Vision & Mission Statement

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

To start of the New Year, Michael and I are working to set a few goals, plan a few adventures and work on a family mission statement. I have invited my friend Meiko Seymour to share with you his steps to developing a family vision and mission statement.

I’ve always been someone who operates on an agenda, from goals, with dreams, tailored to aspirations. In fact, my life quote is “My vision determines the parameters that I live by”. What this looks like is no matter what I do, it had better line up with what I value and what I’ve determined is the end game. This has been so crucial in my life because it has kept me steady in the most tumultuous times and times where I have felt as though I was searching for answers, for directions, and getting no where. With having something to default back to, to look at and say, “Does this line up”, I have been able to steer clear of so many things.

Enter date November 9th, 2012. Simone, my wife, and I enter into happily ever after! We got married. My wife and I have completely different personalities. Where I am rigid, scheduled, goal oriented, she tends to be care free, “it’ll work out”, and non-scheduled. So now, as a husband, I wasn’t only responsible for the direction of my life; I was responsible for our new family. Scary. Exciting, but scary. This would prove to be difficult because we come from different backgrounds and we have perspectives that may be different. I may want to go one way and she may want to go another. I may want to spend less here where she would want to spend more there. She may want a baby now while I may want to wait 5 years. See, hard things. We know we are suppose to chose the hard things but the hard things are really hard! These things could really cause dissension, disunity, distrust, and so many more “disses”. 

Our solution was to come up with our yearly family vision, mission, and goals. We take time to really search deep about the things we want together and what we want separately. We take time to figure out who we want to be to each other and to our community over the next year. We take time to look at finances and dreams and the allotment of both. How? I’m glad you asked!

1. Create space and put all of the cards on the table.
Near the end of the year we take a few days to pray and to have family meetings. We take time to go to lunch and have coffee and discuss things. You must create a space or environment where family members, you and your spouse, can put everything on the table. What was good about this year? What are some things we didn’t like? What were some failures? What was achieved? Some of the answers shared may shock you but go with it. Invite everyone to be honest and open. Decide on the best ways to fix or continue what was brought up.

2. Where are you rooted?

We found it extremely helpful to figure out a scripture for our family for the year. With doing this exercise, it really helped us to determine what our mission was going to be and really helped to solidify our actionable – our decisions. This took time to hear from God. This may or may not be your thing but figure out what your family is rooted in. At the end of the day, it all comes back to what?

3. Determine your Family Vision

Your vision statement is your “dream statement”. It’s what your family believes are the ideal conditions for itself; that is, how things would look if it were perfect! Write down that statement. Your vision statement could be a few statements as long as they do not contradict each other.

4. Determine your Mission Statement

Your mission statement is the actionable part of this whole process. It is the “how” of the equation. How will you carry out roles, decisions, etc to get you to be the perfect you. How will you get to achieving that vision that you just wrote down. Remember this process belongs to you and your family. So there are no right or wrongs except for the right for and wrong for for your family. Here is a draft that you may want to use to get started:

The ___________________ Family Mission Statement

We, the _________________family, want to be a family who (insert your main mission as a family here).

We make this our reality by daily:

Living into our main priorities of: _______________________________________________
Creating a home environment to be a place full of: _________________________________
Encouraging and supporting each other by: _______________________________________
And always treating each other with love and expecting the best of each other.

5. Determine what you value

This is what takes us the longest amount of time to really figure out who we want to be in the coming year. We list ten attributes we want to be able to infuse into our family. These are also things we want folks to know us for. You can list these in any order because they are ALL EQUALLY important to the identity of your family. Here is the catch however as you make your way through your year; every decision you make and every action you take must be able to stand up against your values and fit in what you determine you value as a family. Our family approach is to make sure that our decisions fit into at least 3 of our ten values, otherwise we’ve failed this family statement. To be honest it happens. However, the more you try to live by your values, to sooner they become easier to make decisions by.

We started out with at least 30 values and through conversation ended up with what we deem as our ten most important.

Once you have completed the five excercises above, you can put it all down on paper and get your family members to agree to abide by the statement.

The great thing about this is whenever there is disagreement about decisions and plans, etc., you can always refer back to the vision…refer back to your values. If it doesn’t fit, toss it out the window. And one quick note, some things may need to be tweaked as you go through the year. Things change, seasons change, and so you have to give room for that.

Meiko Seymour

12 Days of Baking: Birthday Cake

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014


I love that my son gives me kisses, loves to cuddle and still brings me every dandelion he find in the yard.

I love that my son has already begun to develop a heart to serve others.

I love that my son finds beauty and magic in the ordinary.

With all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I am thankful for a husband and a son who truly bring joy to my life and remind me to SLOW DOWN. They are always ready to laugh, play and have adventures.  I don’t ever want our family to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas, Christ. On Christmas morning we take a moment, before the presents, to thank God for all that he has done for us. To celebrate Christ.

So each year I bake a birthday cake for Jesus. And not just any cake… I want it to be the most beautiful cake I have made all year to celebrates such a Glorious holiday.We light candles and sing Happy Birthday.

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!


And yes, I get to eat cake for breakfast on Christmas morning.IMG_9620.JPG

Apple Spice Cake

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tbs. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground clove

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

3 granny smith apples, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and eggs to wet mixture one at a time until well incorporated. Next, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Finally, pour  in the apple pieces, you may need to use a rubber spatula at this point to fold in the apples.

Bake for 60 minutes. Allow cake to cool for 15 minute before inverting onto a cake stand. Cake should release easily from pan.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar to decorate.


12 Days of Baking: Pizza & Movie Night

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Tonight, we are having a movie night. Our plan is to turn on the fireplace, jump into our most comfy PJs, make our own pizzas and watch my favorite Christmas movie, ELF.

We make pizza a lot – I am talking weekly. We love to try out all different kinds of toppings and having the options of making each of our pizzas our own.

Recently, I came across this fantastic pizza topped with potatoes, rosemary, garlic, prosciutto and arugula. Oh my!
So tonight this is what I am having as I enjoy my family, and make some fun holiday memories.

Potato & Prosciutto Pizza
1 ball of store bought pizza dough (check with your local baker or favorite pizza shop)
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 red potato, skin on and slice VERY thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
2-4 slices of prosciutto, sliced thin
1 handful of grated parmesan cheese
1 handful of arugula

Roll out pizza dough on a floured counter top or board. Move dough to a well oiled pizza pan and brush your dough with 1 tbs. olive oil. I like to add a little salt and fresh cracked pepper to the crust of my pizza for added flavor.

Next, combine potatoes, garlic, and rosemary with 2 tbs. olive oil, toss to combine. Place seasoned potatoes onto pizza dough in one single layer. Tear prosciutto and sprinkle it on top of your pizza, along with your cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Once pizza is pulled from the oven dress the top with a handful of arugula and a little drizzle of EVOO.

12 Days of Baking: Apple Galette

Sunday, December 21st, 2014



This delicious apple galette is piled high with apples, cinnamon, clove and ginger. The smell of this rustic dessert is intoxicating and my family instantly began to draw into the kitchen as it baked. The crusty is so butter and flaky that it just melts in your mouth. For an simple holiday dessert try this galette. If you apples aren’t your thing, substitute with your favorite fruit; pears, peaches, even berries. For an added touch drizzle with a little honey or top with fresh whipped cream upon serving.

Holiday Apple Galette

1 1/2 cup flour

1 stick of very cold butter

4 tbs. ice cold water

2 large Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced thin

2 tbs. brown sugar

2 tbs. white sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. clove

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. salt

Begin by combining sliced apples, 1 tbs. brown sugar and spices. Set apple mixture aside so that it can begin to macerate.


Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour, 2 tbs. white sugar, 1 tbs. brown sugar and salt until butter is blended into to about pea size pieces. Slowly drizzle in ice water until the pastry dough begins to come together. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.



Roll out dough on a floured counter top or board to form a circle or rectangle, whichever you prefer. IMG_9515.JPG



Next, layer apple mixture into the dough. Start placing apples on the outside, working your way in leaving at least a 1 inch border. Fold up all edges… no need to be perfect.


Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

Sometimes my family and I can’t wait for our treats to cool down, sometimes we can’t wait to take a picture… sometimes we just dig in.

So for now, I do not have picture of the galette from the oven. I guess I will just have to make another VERY soon.


12 Days of Baking: Cheese Straws

Saturday, December 20th, 2014


Our family loves cheese of all kinds. We could easily make a meal out of cheese, cured meats and a loaf of good crusty bread.

In fact, for Christmas Jude asked for just this:  “salami with the wrapper that peels off” (summer sausage) and cheese. He loves evenings watching movies and sharing fun snacks together as a family. I can pretty much bribe him to do just about anything with the promise of a movie night…. I know, I know, great parenting 101. I love that I have just about one of the only 4 year olds who enjoys goat cheese and brie.

To add to holiday treats this season I thought I would make a southern classic, Cheese Straws. These tasty little guys cost quite a pretty penny when purchased at the supermarket, yet only take a few minutes to whip up a big batch of your own. Before we start let’s talk our favorite cheeses-

Michael: loves Smoked Gouda
Candice: I am a sucker for any extra sharp aged cheddar or goat cheese
Jude: we keep our refrigerator stocked with string cheese & those little round cheeses in red wax wrappers for our little buddy.


Cheese Straws

8 oz. of really good finely grated cheese (I recommend sharp cheddar, asiago, or parmesan)

1 1/2 stick of butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Start by allowing cheese, butter and eggs to come to room temperature. In a mixing bowl beat together the cheese and butter until smooth. Add flour, salt and pepper to form a slightly sticky dough.

Typically cheese straws are piped out using a cookie press. However, I don’t have a cookie press. I used a large pastry bag fitted with the largest piping tip I own. Evenly pipe out 3 inch long straws onto an ungreased baking sheet or silpat mat.

( If you don’t have a cookie press or pastry bag/tip, form dough into 1 inch balls and flatten with a fork, making crispy little cheese coins.)

Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden and perfectly crisp.


12 days of baking: in the kitchen with Gabi brown

Friday, December 19th, 2014


I’ll take any reason to get in the kitchen. And at the holidays, any excuse is reasonable to be festive.

Also, I’m obsessed with granola. It’s simple, easy, and no matter what I throw in it, I call it healthy. So, after baking gingerbread cookies and having my friend’s leftover molasses sitting on the counter, I decided it was time to make gingerbread granola (Lolly, I used 2tbsp of your molasses. Hope you don’t mind).

This recipe is wonderful. I like my granola to cook into little clusters and the molasses and honey made the perfect consistency to make that happen. Every spice is perfectly noted with every handful you shove in your mouth. It’s good enough that you will end up picking up little bits that fall on the floor and secretly eating them, even after the 5 second rule.

Added bonus, your house smells like holiday magic the whole day.

Here is the recipe…

Gingerbread Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ cup of honey
2 tbsp molasses
¼ tsp allspice
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp white papper, finely ground
2 tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil
½ cup chopped pecans

First things first, preheat that oven to 300* F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Grab a big bowl and stir your oats and pecans together.
Put your brown sugar, honey, molasses, coconut oil, salt, and all your spices in a small saucepan and heat it on the stove for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon just until it starts to boil. Then, take it off the stove and pour it into your big bowl of dry ingredients until everything it well coated with your syrupy goodness. Spread it all onto your baking sheet evenly and bake it for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

I like my granola a little crispy, so when it’s been in for about 25 minutes, I bump up the temperature to 350 and don’t stir it so it clusters up and gets a little crunch. But that’s just me.
Once it’s cooled, I put mine in a giant mason jar so it looks cute. But you should totally divvy it up for your friends because you gotta spread the cheer this holiday season,

Merry Christmas and thank you Candice for letting me share this recipe!

Love, Gabi


12 Days of Baking: Gingerbread Cookies

Thursday, December 18th, 2014


Once upon a time, there was a woman who decided to make a tasty snack for her happy little family. She mixed together butter, sugar, flour, molasses and spice to make a perfectly spicy dough. She rolled out the dough and cut out the cutest little cookie men, complete with red buttons and trim. As the cookies baked in the oven her house filled with the aroma of Christmas. The little family was quite excited to share their special treat, which was sure to fill them with Christmas spirit.


The timer rang, signaling the women to open the oven. As she opened the oven, out popped the Gingerbread Man… DON’T EAT ME!

The Momma, the Poppa and the little boy each tried their best to wrangle the tricky Gingerbread Man. He opened the door and ran out as fast as his little flour legs could take him, exclaiming, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me I’m the GINGERBREAD MAN!”


As the little cookie ran into the forrest, his wonderful scent attracted animals of all kinds… a squirrel, a bear, even a moose. Each wanted to make a meal of the cookie. Again and again the little Gingerbread Man cried out, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me I’m the GINGERBREAD MAN!”


The sad tale ends when a little fox convinces the Gingerbread man to hop into his mouth to hide from The Squirrel, The Bear and The Moose. That sneaky fox made a quick, crunchy snack of the brave little cookie man.

Luckily, the woman had made plenty of gingerbread treats… And she was VERY careful not to let another get away so easily.

Gingerbread Cookies

(Original recipe by Martha Stewart)

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until until fluffy, add eggs. Next, beat in the molasses to your butter and sugar mixture. Reduce speed to low and gradually add in the flour mixture. Mix until combined. Dived dough into 2 or 3 equal portions and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously flour your counter top or large piece of parchment paper, roll dough until about  1/4 inch thick. Using your had brush off any excess flour before cutting out your beautiful shapes. I like to use metal cookie cutters for crisp edges. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes.

Once cookies cool, decorate to make them your own. I always use Martha Stewart’s Royal Icing recipe.

Here are a few cookies I made for my favorite baristas…


12 Days of Baking: Cookies for Michael

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014


My husbands isn’t the biggest “sweets” fan but two sweet treats he can never resist are homemade M&M cookies and my peanut butter cookies.

So as I fill my home with the smell of fancy baked goods I had to be sure to make something special for my wonderful husband. I decided to combine his two simple favorites; peanut butter and M&M to make a Mega Michael Cookie.

Oh how I love him so!

Peanut Butter and M&M Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
Small bowl of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer combine both sugars, peanut butter and butter until fluffy, thoroughly combine. Next, mix in the eggs and vanilla. In a seperate bowl sift dry ingredients or stir them together with a metal whisk. Combine wet and dry mixtures and you have your dough.

Now, fold the chocolaty M&Ms into the cookie dough.


Form the dough into a ball with your hands or use a mini ice cream scoop and roll each dough ball in sugar until all area is covered in sugar.


Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes


Bake for 11-13 minutes.


Sorry no Giveaway for these little guys… they are all for my Michael.

Enjoy making a batch for your sweet loved ones!

12 Days of Baking: Jude’s Dino Brownie Bites

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

IMG_9334.JPGIt’s day four and my kitchen, my son and myself are covered in flour… We are having lots of fun!

Today’s baked treats were inspired by the sweetest little 4 year old kitchen helper, JUDE!

Jude loves chocolate. So we decided to make homemade brownies. We made a rich & chocolaty brownie batter, scooped out perfect bite sized portions and stuffed them with candy just before baking.

Brownies + Rolos & Reese cups= pure happiness!

Jude’s Dino Bites
1/2 cup + 2 tbs. unsalted butter
9 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Rolos or peanut butter cups or both

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini muffin pan with butter or use a nonstick baking spray (I use Baker’s Joy.)


Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa powder into a heatproof bowl and melt using a double boiler method. Heat and stir until smooth. Let cool. (Alternately, you can microwave the chocolate and butter mixture at 30 second intervals stirring until smooth.)

Mix together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. In a stand mixer beat sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Drizzle in the melted chocolate mixture to sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add flour mixture and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.

Scoop out small teaspoonfuls of batter into your muffin pan, leaving enough room to push your candies down into the batter without an overflow.

Bake for 12 minutes.


I was thankful to have these tiny hands to open all the candy. He was excited to make a pattern, rows of similar candies.


To add to the festivities, Jude picked out these adorable little Dino toppers which sunk their big feet into the brownies as soon as they came out of the oven.

Ahhh… Rich, warm homemade brownies, so much better than boxed. Proud of my littles man’s love for spending time with me in the kitchen. He named these brownies, “Super Dino Spy Brownies!”



12 Days of Baking: Pizzelles

Monday, December 15th, 2014


Michael and I spent our first Christmas together in the mountains of Pennsylvania visiting with Michael’s grandparents. It was there that our sweet Mom Mom introduced me to Pizzelles.

Pizzelles are traditional Italian waffle cookies. These cookies are almost too beautiful to eat, as pizzelle irons stamps both sides of these thin cookies with an intricate snowflake pattern.

It was my first Christmas away from home. I will never forget the fun we had laughing, cooking and exploring the nearby Appalachians. Though I missed home, I felt so welcomed into my new family. So comfortable in fact that I just kept eating the pizzelles… I just couldn’t get enough. I don’t know how many I ate, but I am sure Mom Mom was quite taken back about the amount of cookies her new granddaughter could consume. I am not sure if it was the sweet anise or the grandma who made them that reassured me I was right where I belonged.

I eventually bought a pizzelle iron of my own and now make Mom Mom’s cookies by the dozens.

Beware, once you start eating these thin wafers there is no turning back.

Here is where the magic is made… My Pizzelle iron! I received this iron for my birthday from my sweet Gram several years ago. She always knew just the perfect gift for me. A Pizzelle iron would make the perfect gift for that aspiring baker in your life.


6 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 cup oil
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tbs. vanilla
1-3 tbsp. anise extract (or the extract of your choice)

Beat eggs and sugar until thick, 3-5 minutes. Add oil to egg mixture and once combined add in the baking powder.  Finally, add flour to the wet mixture 1/2 cup at a time.

Spoon a tablespoon of batter onto pizzelle iron and bake for 35 seconds or until golden brown.


I know owning a Pizzelle press may be an unusual thing, so you may just need to drop by and share a few cookies with me and my family – or pick up one of your own!


Flying Paper Airplanes