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 | By Michelle DiFranco

Practice Being More ‘Present’ to Your Family

Spend Some Quality Time Making Cinnamon Rolls Together

I recently attended a retreat for moms and the theme was centered around St. Joseph and the Holy Family. We were inspired to emulate them in our own homes, and as I listened to the talks throughout the day, the words “being present” kept coming to mind. I think God was trying to tell me something.

With everything the world throws at us today, I’m quickly learning that parenting high schoolers isn’t for the faint of heart. I realize that being present to them in every situation, whether it be listening to them or asking questions, goes a long way. But I sometimes get lost in the business of the day-to-day, and I neglect doing that. I felt God nudging me on the day of that retreat to work on being more present.

I thought back to my own childhood. My mom was a great listener and always responded meaningfully in tough situations. And my dad would be present by including us in whatever he was doing on the home front.

Some of my fondest memories are when he would devote an entire day to baking. My favorite was his homemade cinnamon rolls. They were delicious, but the time and patience that went into showing us how to make them was priceless.

After the rush of the holidays, we have plenty of opportunity to focus on the example of the most holy of all families. We cannot go back in time and observe them directly. But we know they sacrificed for each other. They rejoiced in each other. And they loved each other deeply. One wonders how they spent time with each other, just being present. Did Christ himself relish a certain meal that he would prepare with his mother? Did he build with his father? With today’s technology, let’s face it, it’s easy to get caught up in our own little worlds. Let’s renew our efforts in the upcoming New Year to be present to those in our family, with the Holy Family as our model.

Michelle DiFranco is a designer and the busy mom of three children.

Cinnamon Rolls

(inspired by Dad’s)



  • 1 cup warm whole milk (105°-110°)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter (melted/slightly cooled)
  • 2 beaten eggs (room temp)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt



  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 4-5 tablespoons butter (softened)


Cream cheese icing

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese (softened)
  • 6 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt


In bowl of stand mixer, dissolve 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon yeast in warm milk. Let it stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add the sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla to the yeast mixture. With dough hook attached, mix on low speed.

Add flour, cinnamon and salt. Increase speed to medium and continue to mix until a smooth, slightly tacky dough is formed (if it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour). Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 2-3 minutes). Form into a ball.

Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a 12”x18” rectangle (about ¼ inch thick). Brush butter over surface of dough leaving ¼ inch at end. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar and then sprinkle evenly over the butter. Roll up dough and cut into 12 pieces (roughly 1½” thick).

In a 9x13” pan lined with parchment paper, place rolls in four rows of three (or separately on a cookie sheet just like my dad’s). Preheat oven to 350°. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled (about 30-45 minutes). Remove wrap and bake for about 20-28 minutes or until light golden brown (and just baked in center).

While baking, beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Right after removing rolls from the oven, spread cream cheese icing over the top.