During the holidays, I get really ambitious and have visions of making instead of buying all my Christmas presents. This almost never happens because I am told I have really good taste in gift cards.
One year, our friends participated in a gift exchange where the only rule was that every present had to be homemade. This was our bounty of homemade jams, freshly baked rolls, breads, Meyer lemon curds, bread puddings. We did this exactly one year.
From time to time though I still get inspired to make my gifts and I channel said inspiration from my grandmother’s metal mixing bowl. My mom tells me this bowl is almost as old as her which means it’s hovering around 70, or as my mother reports, 64. She and this bowl have been 64 for the past 7 years. My Christmas presents this year were Panettone Bread Pudding. Panettone is a rich, eggy, spongy Italian bread dotted with candied fruit, nuts and raisins. And because I’m using Lola’s bowl and bread puddings are super easy to make, it’s really hard to mess up.
1 pound loaf Panettone, cubed/torn in 2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Spread Panettone bread pieces in a greased 9x13x2 baking pan. Leave uncovered in the pan overnight to dry out and make it stale. The dryer the bread the better as it helps soak up the custard.
- Whisk all the wet ingredients together and pour the custard mixture over the panettone bread pieces. Press down gently to make sure all pieces are submerged.
- Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until the center is set and no longer jiggles.*
- Drizzle some melted vanilla ice cream over the panettone bread pudding for a decadent vanilla cream sauce and sprinkle some turbinado sugar to make it extra comforting.
*Water baths or bain marie are allegedly essential for bread puddings because custard likes to be heated slowly to prevent curdling. The water bath keeps it from cooking too quickly. I’ve never done this and my bread puddings have come out fine.
I heard once that money doesn’t necessarily buy you happiness but it does buy you options. My habits with money, like food, are driven by really poor impulse control and the fact that I liked having lots of options. If I had to pick between two pairs of Cole Haan shoes, I wouldn’t. I would just buy both. If I had to pick between a vacation to New York, Hawaii and Disneyland, I didn’t. We just did all three. I don’t know why I never connected the two–eating and spending–have become mindless activities that I tended to overindulge in. I never stopped to think about what I put in my mouth or what I took out of my wallet.
Last year, I got smart about my eating habits and level of exercise. It’s not completely hardwired yet as both remain works in progress that I suspect will need all my commitment and will power for the rest of my life. I am OK with this. I am a mother in my mid 40s and will just be peeking into retirement while my son is still finishing high school, so the math is not lost on me.
Health is indeed wealth, but then so is money. So this year, we are beginning to get smart about spending habits. Another epiphany for me is how emotion is so deeply connected to money. Last year, we celebrated my birthday by seeing Rent and followed it with a decadent dinner at Wayfare Tavern. That was roughly a $400 birthday celebration. Both experiences were memorable and in my mind filled me with such joy that it was well worth the cost. I have no regrets about that expense. The problem was, every memorable experience last year was more expensive than the one before it and its importance, diminished because it was one of many.
So I write this post, as I do with the rest of this blog, to share a lesson. It’s not a comfortable exercise and I am keenly aware that this particular post might be an overshare. But if I can at least see my thoughts on paper, it will serve as a touchstone for the rest of this financial planning journey that we have just started on. Remember how I said several posts ago that my new love, my favorite find of 2017 was cauliflower rice? My other new love is mint.com. I will have ID bracelets made to celebrate our union. Mint.com is a web based, free personal finance software that allows you to basically manage and watch your money. It is the kind of thing that makes my little OCD heart sing. It’s easy to use and the best thing about it is how visual and compelling the data is presented so I can make smarter choices about how I spend money.
So this year for my birthday, my husband and I spent a happy morning cooking and baking. Afterwards we grabbed some coffee and shared a pastry at the nearby Philz coffee right before we picked up our son from a sleepover to watch the Super Bowl at our friends’ house. This is now one of my favorite memories–we laughed a lot, the Eagles beat the Pats and the whole thing cost us all of 15$.