Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Remembering the reason for the season and Wishing your day is merry and bright!
…And best of luck lining up those perfect family pictures; when everyone is smiling and looking at your camera, because I give up.

Loving Lately 🎅🏻

There aren’t enough hours in the day to make all of the Christmas cookies on my list. Also, I don’t think I could possibly fit in the exercise to balance the caloric intake. But I really want to try (the first part). Thank you Aisha Yusaf for perfectly capturing the essence of my cookie desire in the featured image with your Jam Tarts.

How much more holiday does it get than Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies from Mom on Timeout? I think everyone in Michigan has a relative who lives in Florida who sends or brings them a bag of oranges this time of year. (Maybe I’m naive.) And why does a mom timeout sound like a vacation? I could use a vacation, with a box of shortbread cookies.

I’m kind of crazy about biscotti. I could do a whole post on biscotti alone (and probably will). This Gingerbread Biscotti from If You Give A Blonde a Kitchen, sounds like the perfect dose of Christmas medicine… along with a coffee creamed with egg nog. (Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, I just like to play one on my blog.)

Of course, there are the traditional sugar cookies (I’ll be posting a recipe soon). I have neither the patience nor the talent to make them as intricate as these. But wouldn’t they be awesome to serve? I’d be like “Oh, these little things… I just whipped them together…” I would really like to give someone the credit that is due… unfortunately, they got lost in the world of Pinterest.

Have you guys and gals checked out the blog, Once Upon A Chef? It’s really worth mentioning. My friends and I haven’t been disappointed by anything we’ve made from it. And I’m really looking forward to trying these Gingerbread Men, because I bet they are as delicious as they are adorable. Although, I know of one little boy who’s going to be very upset this year if one doesn’t run out of the oven when we sneak a peek.

My blogging friend, Marisa of Marisa’s Italian Kitchen, is wildly talented. Everything she does looks like it came out of a magazine… including these Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Cookies. Aren’t they gorgeous? She makes biscotti too, just sayin’.

It just wouldn’t be the holiday season without Pecan Balls, such as these beauties from A Healthy Life For Me. You know, they have to be passed in a tissue lined tin… or displayed like a pyramid. And if by chance you happen to take a breath before you bite into one, you will probably choke on powdered sugar. Good times… The best of times!

Merry Christmas Cookies!

Christmas Mantel Before & After

It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is almost here! It’s time to bring out all that sparkles and shines, all the red and the green, all that smells like gingerbread and pine… I can’t help it, I love this stuff. So when I was contacted by Wayfair to share the transformation of our mantel from drab to fab, plain to off-the-chain (or in reality- just everyday to holiday), I was like, “Count me in!”

I really wish I could have shown you an awesome shot of my autumn-themed mantel, (that wasn’t in existence) before our Christmas transformation. We technically did have a couple small pumpkins that sat on the mantel that I removed right before my youngest son’s birthday party. Actually, I also had to remove the “Minion” balloons to get the following picture. But it gives you an idea of what our mantel might look like on any given day.

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I’ll admit, it looks a little minimalist.

And now with a sprinkling of Christmas cheer! (Drumroll please…)

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You know those picturesque Christmas cards that feature the stockings hung by the chimney with care? Of course, I have to do that too. (Side note: I actually didn’t grow up with a fireplace in our home, and my mother always made it feel like a Christmas card.) Our mantel is a collage of new and old. It’s playful and colorful for the kids, but holds nostalgia for the adults in the house. (I could probably give a small historical account of each item.) Mostly what I love about this decorated area is the sentimental attachment, starting with the fact that my grandpa made this mantel for my grandmother with his own two hands. And I love that this fireplace is a part of all of my childhood Christmas memories and now I get to share that with my children.

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My mom used to hang this plate in our house during the Christmas season over 30 years ago. It actually was in a set of three Christmas dishes that made a regular appearance. I always thought it was so cute. Every dish told it’s own story (in not so many words), the kind of imaginative story you create in your head. There’s no reason not to keep that custom alive. If you’re looking to start one, check out the dishes found here!

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The wooden nutcrackers are part of a tradition my husband and I have started with our children. My oldest son loves to change the numbers for the Christmas countdown. Of course all of the kids love to open their mouths (pull their beards) and adjust all moveable pieces. Classic.

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I know you remember those Santa Bears from the 80’s. We had them. That’s what this bear reminds me of, except the originals were white with those red knitted hats, but every bit as cute and fluffy. This little drummer bear belonged to my husband’s family. I honestly don’t know how the bear became so intertwined with Christmas… but it’s a thing.

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My in-laws gifted us this globe last year. It was an instant favorite. Everyone needs a Christmas globe that comes to snowy life after you tip it upside-down and place it backside-right. If you don’t have one yet, click on the link to check out this must-have! (And if you look closely at the one in this picture, you can see our pool closed for the winter. Like magic… but not.)

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My great-aunt Shirley made this a few years back. She used to make quilts, and had given one to our family when I was young. When I went away to college, it was the only blanket I wanted to bring with me. I guess it just reminded me of family. So, this little handmade tree is priceless; it embodies the spirit of Christmas that just can’t be bought.

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I’ve always loved the Charlie Brown Christmas story (hence all of the stuffed characters). It’s just such a part of my Christmas heritage. (And by the way, Wayfair has a plethora of related options… I’m particularly crazy about the painting of Linus with a wreath.) My parents recorded their voices reading  A Charlie Brown Christmas a couple years ago. It’s the most wonderful/awful gift they have ever given. Of course they had in mind that it will live on after they are gone; so I cry every time we listen to it. (They are still alive and well. I’m ridiculous, I know.) I’m also scared to death that my kids are going to accidentally push a button and erase the whole thing. So on the mantel, out-of-reach, it stays.

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Thank you Wayfair for allowing me to share our Christmas mantel transformation with you! Season’s Greetings!

Loving Lately 🎁

Loving Lately: Christmas Catalogs

I know, I know, I’m a little ahead of the game. Well, for me. I do know people that shop the sales after Christmas and stash gifts away for the following year. That’s not my style. I like to procrastinate- no shopping until after Black Friday (with emphasis on after, because I am not going out in that mess). But the kids are sick (again). And I’m sick (again). And these bright cheerful catalogs keep coming to the house. There is nothing like a Pottery Barn catalog to spark inspiration for the season. I’m getting the warm fuzzies thinking about the holidays; which is just what someone with an incessant cough and runny nose needs. That and some hot tea and a box of tissues.

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Can you smell the pine tree in the air? Seriously. Look at that table runner, those reindeer plates and that serving board. The antler serving spoon- over the top. Just stop. I can’t take it any more.

Here is something else for the table…

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This soapstone tray from uncommongoods.com is oven proof and retains heat for up to 45 minutes so you can keep food warm. It’s also can be refrigerated so you can keep food cold! Thats pretty cool right? If you haven’t checked them out, you should. Uncommon Goods has a ton of unique gifts- personal, for the kitchen and the home.

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They are also responsible for this “Berry Buddy” stoneware strainer. It’s handmade in Pennsylvania. It’s pretty enough to leave out! You know what they say, you pick out gifts based on what you like. Guilty.

I also fell in love with this decanter from Crate & Barrel.

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I don’t drink scotch or cognac. But they put this set in their catalog all shiny next to a Christmas tree with complimenting gold bulbs… And just like they intended, I started thinking about how pretty is was and what a lovely display it would make… I’m such a sucker.

I also received this awesome catalog from American Spoon full of artisan foods, handcrafted preserves and condiments made in Michigan. They show pictures of these perfect berries picked on an idyllic farm transported in iconic baskets and crates to the quintessential copper pots for small batches of what I imagine to be the ultimate preserves. But I’m like, you had me at the simple brown paper label with the nostalgic font.

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I understand what it seems like, but it’s not all about the kitchen. The kids are always on my mind. I wish they liked getting clothes as gifts. Look at these ridiculously cute ensembles from Janie and Jack.

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It just goes on and on. How am I supposed to get through Thanksgiving with all of this Christmas excitement? 😳

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately: Christmas Lights

I love this time of year. The chill in the air actually captures the excitement. And I don’t know if it’s just me, or does every adult feel like a child when they see houses, trees and bushes trimmed in lights? I think I get more excited than my kids.

I ask my husband to slow down the car… I tap the window with my pointer finger… I swivel my head back-and-forth both sides of the road… I tell my kids to look at things as fast as I can shout them out…

They are just beautiful. Every house is so individual, white (yellow) lights, colored lights, newer blue LED lights, animated features, blown up characters, just a couple windows or every square inch, nativities… And a drive around the neighborhood is holiday entertainment that doesn’t cost more than the gas.

Could you ever get tired of light season?
Well yes, like by February Santa starts seeming tired… but not lights…for every year. It’s too special.

 

 *Featured and last photo courtesy of Ryan French

Christmas Caroling

Years ago my Aunt Leann and Uncle Rich started a tradition of caroling to various neighbors in our community. Part of me has always felt we should invest in long wool coats, top hats and muffs. In reality we are usually just a mismatched well-wishing group of children and adults of (let’s say) assorted levels of technical ability. Some faces of cousins and family I know well, and sometimes I meet new cheerful neighbors. It’s fantastic!

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I love bringing my children along to participate in spreading Christmas joy. My uncle uses his work pick up truck (from a local family business) pulling a long flatbed trailer lined with two rows of haystacks for all of the carolers to pile on as we travel from house to house. Our stops this time included (but were not limited to) an elderly man and his wife who suffers with MS, he held the door opened wide so she could hear us from where she was at; a sweet and spry man who boasted he had just turned 93 in November and told us to keep coming back; a family relative who’s husband needed more care than she could provide and recently had moved into a nursing home; another family relative who suffered with a stroke not too long ago and was pushed to the door in her wheelchair. For the first year we didn’t stop at my Great-aunt Shirley’s house, knowing she wasn’t there. Last year the group sang for us at our house because Noah wasn’t yet a month old and not well enough to face the cold. It’s just embodies  what every season should be like, and what this time of the year gives us reason to carry out.

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At every home we pass out a poinsettia and sing two selections from our song sheet followed by “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. When we’ve sung to every house on the list we all meet back at the warehouse to refresh ourselves with a potluck style variety of dishes and treats, hot chocolate, and Aunt Leann’s delicious Chili for a Crowd accompanied by all of the toppings. It’s the perfect time to thaw out, dry off or as the case in this year’s mild weather; catch up with old and new friends while we fill our bellies with food for heart and soul.

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Loving Lately ❤️

For those of you new to my blog, welcome! I love sharing family stories, recipes and random thoughts at large. Every Thursday I try to share something I appreciate, easy “how-tos”, food and products, etc. that I think others might enjoy too.

This week’s Loving Lately: My chalkboard

I was talking to my husband about how I wished I had one of those whimsical “Merry & Bright” signs that I’ve been seeing everywhere, when it dawned on me; I could make my own. Boy, have I gotten a lot of use out of this chalkboard! I use it to list the menu for dinner gatherings, personalize a “Happy Birthday _____” sign for a member of our family, and post inspirational sayings on any given day of the week. It was just what I wanted (in a representation kind of way), but even better because it was homemade.

…And how nice is it not to have one more thing to store? Priceless;)

Aunt Lynn’s Cheesy Egg & Sausage Casserole

A classic breakfast egg and cheese casserole dish has to be in every mom’s recipe box. Thankfully Aunt Lynny gave me hers! It’s morning comfort food. And it makes your kitchen smell like love. This dish is great for weekends and I have fond memories of it making an appearance on the Christmas buffet at Gram’s. It’s versatile, so you can substitute the sausage for cubed ham, change around the cheese, add green or red pepper… mix it up as you please.

As organic as possible:

10 eggs, beaten

8 oz shredded cheese

3-4 slices bread, cubed small

1 lb pork sausage, browned and drained

1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 X 9 baking dish and set aside. Add browned sausage to beaten eggs in a large bowl, add cheese (I used cheddar and Emmentaler), bread, and milk. Pour mixture into greased pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until center is firm.