Carolina Christmas Eve 2012 (& Overnight Peaches-and-Cream French Toast)

We flew in to Charlotte from MI laaaate Sunday night...

...and awoke to Overnight Peaches-and-Cream French Toast for breakfast! Holy heaven... Here's the printed recipe:

1 8-oz. loaf French bread, sliced
8 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 15-oz. cans sliced peaches packed in juice, drained
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange bread in a tight, flat layer in dish.
2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs with milk, sugar and vanilla until blended; pour over bread. Arrange peaches on top and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
3. Remove baking dish from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour cream into a small pan; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Drizzle over peaches and bake, uncovered, until casserole is lightly browned on top and just cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

BUT my mom even healthified it, Susie-style!!! :-D She used our fave milk (skim that tastes like rich 2% - Mootopia at H-E-B, Smart Balance, & Deluxe at Harris Teeter are all good ones) instead of whole milk; we didn't think the cream on top added much = easy to omit; she didn't add any sugar to the egg mixture, but did flavor it up with an extra bit of almond extract; and she sprinkled slivered almonds on top with the brown sugar & a lot more cinnamon. You could also use egg substitute or more whites than yolks, if you want less yolk fat, and you could also do whole grain bread, if you want to go all-out-healthy. This is sooo going in my standard repertoire!

After breakfast, it was time to decorate Christmas cookies with the kids' neighbor BFF, Kendall:

My favorite thing about Christmas Eve with my family is what a big role our friends play. I don't know anyone who doesn't love their friends as much as their family, and to have them included makes the celebration feel WHOLE. Anyone who cares about us is welcome!!! Come eat & stay until midnight, or just drop in for a few. My joy is full, the more people I get to share it with!

Here is the crowd who was here at about 7:30 PM ;-)
And then all of us with crazy faces!
My parents' neighbors/our precious friends, my brother, his wife & son, my brother's BFF/my virtual little brother & his brand new fiancée!, my mom's cousin/my virtual aunt, my cousin & her daughter, my brother's BFF's brother & his wife with whom I went to high school & used to sing!, etc. There are just as many friends/virtual family who didn't make these pics (Wendy & Alex, the Simons, the McPhersons, etc.) I just love this!!! A successful holiday for me = how many precious beloveds I can genuinely (re)connect with!

Here's one of my immediate fam (brother, his wife & son, Mom & Hershel, & us)

And add in some cousins ;-)

Our core four :-P

Blessed to share life, food, (and a bit of St. Germain ;-)) with these people!!!