Big Mama's Orange Blossoms!

It's no surprise that it has taken me yet another snow day to sit down long enough to write this post!
But finally, right before your very eyes,
is the easy-to-follow tutorial to help you make
Big Mama's Orange Blossoms!
Now, I know that they might just look like some type of cornbread muffin, 
but I promise you that they are 
melt-in-you-mouth good.
We're talking delicious.
Like little orange glazed donuts or something.
So try them out and tell me what you think- I know you won't be disappointed!

 Cupcake Ingredients:
1 box Moist Supreme vanilla cake mix
1/3 cup orange juice (you can squeeze the oranges that you zest)
1 box vanilla pudding
Zest from one orange
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Glaze Ingredients:
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup orange juice 
Zest from one orange
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
 3 tablespoons water

                                                   -Preheat the oven to 350° F
                                                              -Spray miniature muffin tins with vegetable oil cooking spray
  1. -Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, orange juice, zest, and oil
  1. -Blend well with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes
  1. -Pour a small amount of batter, filling each muffin tin about 2/3 full
  1. -Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown
  1. -Make the glaze while the cakes are baking. Combine the sugar, orange juice, zest, oil, and 3 tablespoons water. Mix with a spoon until smooth

-After taking the cupcakes out of the oven, turn them out onto a wire cooling rack
  1. -Using your fingers, dip the cupcakes into the glaze while they're still warm, and coat completely
  2. -Place back on wire racks with waxed paper underneath to catch any drips
  3. **Now try one right away while they're still warm and gooey!**


1 Tradition, 2 Tradition, 3 Tradition, 10

So Christmas has come and gone, and I'm not sure how in the world it is already January 18th.
We picked out, decorated, then took down our Christmas tree,
wrapped, unwrapped, then put away our presents,
traveled, laughed and reveled in the pleasure of it,
all in the blink of an eye.
I have been meaning to 'publish' this post now for weeks, but with a new year comes a renewed need to stay in motion.
So it has taken the good fortune of an unanticipated snow day for me to finally slow down.
First on my agenda?
Recording my highlights from the most recent wonderful time of the year.

For me, the best part of Christmas is taking part in all of the wonderful family traditions.
I feel such a deep sense of comfort and history buried in each one, and we sure do have enough of them to go around...

Tradition #1: See a production of The Nutcracker with my oldest brother, Jason, and inevitably get in an argument with the annoyingly loud people behind us
Tradition #2: Enjoy a very festive holiday weekend in New York City
(and see the Rockefeller tree- a must do!)
Tradition #3: Make gingerbread houses, and attempt not to eat all of the ingredients
Tradition #4: Show off my awesome gingerbread house to my students and assist them in the creation of gingerbread houses that could never live up to mine :)
Exhibit A.
Tradition #5: Drive through the Bull Run Festival of Lights whilst singing snippets of Christmas carols in perfect harmony HA
Tradition #5: Make the world's largest bowl of banana pudding for my entire extended family, to ensure that no one loses weight throughout the holiday season
(check out the tutorial here!)
Tradition #6: Decorate our Christmas tree and exchange one special ornament.
This year's ornaments: a hand-painted leprechaun in honor of our trip to Ireland, and a hand-made ornament brought home from Taiwan
Tradition #7: Make our way to the National Christmas tree in Washington, DC while simultaneously
freezing our tails off
Tradition #8: Host the entire Robinson and Bennett families for a magical Christmas Eve celebration
Tradition #9: Christmas Day- Open presents, eat a delicious, Big Mama brunch, see an afternoon movie (this year's was The Fighter) and go out to dinner as a family
Tradition #10: Ring in the New Year in one our of favorite places on earth:
Key West, Florida
The last sunset of 2010
The first sunset of 2011
It's safe to say that I soaked in every single second of the holiday season!
So, until next year, Holidays!!


My Morning Contract

Every morning at 9 a.m. I greet each of my students by name.
It's my way of saying I've shown up-
that I'm present and notice them, and that they each belong here
And every morning at 9 a.m., I expect their greeting in return.
It's the contract we enter into: 
Both parties will be held accountable for making 
today the best.

But sometimes, by the end of the day, 
I feel totally exhausted.
Books have been read and equations solved,
and the contract is far from my mind.

Well, today I was reminded of its importance;
today it's sitting right inside my heart.
Today I remember everything it stands for, because something so cool happened just after dismissal.

People were staying after for talent show rehearsal, and 6 of my former students came down to my classroom to say hello.
Now, this wouldn't be abnormal, except that it was 
2 students from every year that I have taught thus far:
2 fourth graders, 2 fifth graders, 2 sixth graders.
It was incredible.
They sat with me and talked about all of the fun we had together.
About all of the projects they still remember and all of the laughter that we shared.
They asked each other "did you do this?" and "did she show you that?"
They compared stories about their year with me and said their year was "the best".
They told me everything they miss about the 3rd grade.
 the reasons for my contract.
It truly was food for my soul
At the end of this school year the first group of students I ever taught will head off to middle school.
The group of students I cried in front of on the last day of school.
The students I wanted to keep forever.
It is hard to believe that 75 more children have entered into my morning contract since then.

I keep a horoscope of mine that I ripped out of the paper, tucked in the pocket of my school bag:

The stars show you as very imaginative now.
Help out the uninspired.
The low-mindedness of those with nothing to do is a downward spiral.
Create objects.

Well, there you have it.
It was in the stars.


Nanner Puddin' Tutorial

 My recipe for Banana Pudding (or as we call it in our house, Nanner Puddin'
is another one of my few specialties! 
It is very easy to make (clearly, or I wouldn't be making it!), and it is absolutely delicious.
I make it for my entire family every Christmas Eve and it is always a crowd pleaser.
So come on and try it out!

(Makes about 12 Servings)
One box of Nilla wafers
About 5 very ripe bananas
1 tub Cool Whip
3 boxes vanilla Jello pudding mix
6 cups half & half (instead of milk- makes thicker pudding)
1. Prepare the pudding a few hours in advance so it has time to thicken in the fridge.
2. Slice the bananas.
3. In a large glass bowl, layer the pudding, the bananas and then the wafers.

Start on the bottom with a layer of pudding about 1- 1 1/2 in. thick. 
Follow the pudding with a layer of the sliced bananas.
4. Then add a layer of Nilla wafers.
Now, you might think this is silly, but I think that the taste of the finished product all comes down to what I do with the layers of wafers:

The first layer is whole wafers... 
(followed by a layer of pudding and a layer of bananas)
The second layer is very crushed up wafers...
(followed up by another layer of pudding and bananas)
And the last layer is broken wafers.
5. Top it off with a layer of Cool Whip, a few wafer crumbs and some bananas, and you've got yourself some melt-in-your-mouth
Banana Pudding!
I think you'll really love it!

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