Christmas Cookies

December Favorite Things

I’m releasing a BIG exhale as we enter into December this year. We reached month twelve! We started the year with many unknowns and have had so many prayers answered. I’m sure I’ll reflect on year end as we keep moving through the month.

For now, though, I turn my attention to things that bring me comfort and JOY. 

I’m excited to decorate the tree, wrap packages, sip eggnog and feel festive. I didn’t last year – not really.

Here are my favorite things for this month!

  1. Calligraphy by Emily Howell

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This talented calligraphy artist created a beautiful banner for me with my new tagline. She also makes custom designs and would be happy to bring your favorite phrase to life. Beautiful artwork with vision and purpose. Emily also blessed my family with a beautiful book honoring my dad after he passed. She captures family treasures and transcribes celebrations. I could continue gushing her praises – check out her work for yourself.

2. Eggnog Lattes

No – you can’t buy them on Amazon. But you can buy eggnog on Amazon and make them yourself. Who knew! I’m obsessed with the creamy version – non-alcoholic please. You can read my poem about it here.

3. Star Garlands

I found this idea on Pinterest for gift wrap and I think it’s gonna look great. These little stars making all gifts feel festive. If you don’t feel like going home-made, just click the link.

4. Love Actually

My favorite Christmas movie. Because Love is all around. And I mean Bill Nighy…. his character is too funny. If you really love Christmas – the extra syllable. Gah! Get’s me every time.

5. Christmas Nativity Set

My mom has this beautiful nativity scene. When I was growing up, my brother and I would pick out one character each year to add to her collection. One year a wiseman, another year an angel. We may have even replaced the baby Jesus once. I didn’t understand the beauty of the set until I was older. Last year, I got the base set as a gift, and I’m touched to carry on the tradition of setting out the set among my Christmas decorations each year. Maybe my kids will play with the figurines and act out the Christmas story with each other – just like I did with Sam.

Cookies – did you say? I almost forgot.

I look forward to making gingerbread snowflakes using this Snowflake Cookie Cutter with my momma. I’ll probably stick a package of Walkers Shortbread and a bottle of scotch on the mantle in honor of Dad. He sees you when your sleeping you know.

How are you making your home sparkly, festive, and fun?

Happy December!

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Choose Your Own Adventure

Confession. I have had a cookie for breakfast every day for the last thirty-one days.

If I’m being really honest with you, the streak is likely over forty days in a row.

Gingerbread, pecan bars, ginger biscotti, and shortbread have been how I have started my nutritious days for the last five delicious weeks. For someone who doesn’t normally eat breakfast, these calories first thing in the morning may be an improvement to my diet. For those trying to be aware of sugar, not so much applause.

Currently I have three gingerbread cookies left in the jar. They require gnawing on them to soften – imagine a toddler with a teething biscuit of sorts. That’s me, sucking on the last remnants of Christmas treats as I navigated my drive to work last week. Oh, yes, another bad habit; breakfast in the car. I am sad Christmas cookies are gone. We packed up the ornaments, and the mantle is now filled with ordinary candles. Our gifts are put away and our calendars for 2016 are hanging on the wall.

Despite the passing festive season, I embrace 2016 with open arms. It feels quite freeing to have a new year upon us. 2015  was a year of growth for me – upheaval that was brought upon by my own positive choices and I navigated moving, and jobs, and relationships. My hope for 2016 is to be open to new while creating new roots. I need to branch out on my own to start to make new connections, create new routines, build my own adventure.

Remember those choose your own adventure books? To fight the troll, go to pg 45. To run away from the troll, go to pg 63. Sometimes, life feels like that. I am lucky enough to have so many choices and options in how I spend my days and where I invest my life. So as the book of 2016 just gets started I feel I have been presented with these options:

  • To start a new job in a different field turn to page 5 – I started this new opportunity today.
  • To start a new hobby turn to page 25
  • To build new relationships turn to page 47
  • To go camping turn to page 87

 

The heroine of this story will continue to share what she finds.

This week’s beauty was found in the closure of previous chapters. Of saying good bye to old stomping grounds, and coworkers and coffee carts. I finished up my job at the museum, and cried in the parking lot because I feel I am leaving behind something wonderful. While my time there may have been short, I do feel I grew immensely, and loved the people I worked with. You know my fear about leaving people behind in the “You do You” process? That is what those tears were about.

Never the less, I felt such an impending OPENNESS as I watched the ball drop at midnight. This year feels brand new in a way other years haven’t previously. I want to cultivate this beautiful feeling of option, and pray the universe continues to fill it with positive light.

I spent New Year’s Day dining at my grandmother’s house. She served up a traditional holiday meal and as our gold china forks broke into perfectly pink ham I posed the question, “Do you feel you’ve found your purpose yet?” Answers varied as we ‘pop-corned’ around the table, but I was struck by my grandmother’s answer. She said, “I’ve served my purpose and then some.” Her response was sort of sad in tone, as if she felt her best years were behind her. What came from that emotion-filled retort, however, was an outpouring of stories I had never heard her share.

Stories of her own adventure:

To hear about her memories of blackouts in Chicago during WWII turn to page 150.

To hear about the boss that chased her around the desk while being frisky in a Chicago high-rise, turn to page 212.

To hear about her nice boss that bought her fabulous Christmas gifts and most likely was gay in the 1960’s, turn to page 275.

To hear about her adventures raising my mom and my aunts and uncle, turn to page 315.

I am blown away by the beauty that results from the choices we make each day, and I am thankful, oh so thankful, for the beautiful time I get to spend with my grandmother last year, this year, and beyond. Thank you for letting me be a part of your adventure.

Our purpose, perhaps, is just that. To be loved, to listen, to seek beauty, to adventure.

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Next week I will have an update with how much biscotti was made in 2015. I used a lot of nail polish, read 43 books, and reached over 13,000 pages towards my annual goal. I haven’t made resolutions for this year quite yet. I’ll keep you posted. 

Tree Time

 

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Growing up, the Friday after Thanksgiving meant searching for a Christmas tree. These were outdoor adventures that required boots, and gloves, and a saw. The group was always composed of either my immediate family, or my cousins and my uncle, and we would chant in our matching Gap turtleneck sweaters (weren’t my mom and aunt cute) that it was time to chop down a tree. Bickering for a spot in the trunk – no seat belts! – my relatives and I would anxiously await the bumpy dirt road, the snow, the chopping and the treats that would follow once the perfect tannenbaum had been selected.

I remember these trips briefly, snippets here and there, and maybe I create stories based off of pictures in my family’s photo albums. I remember the trusty silver Subaru, the swearing in the dark when the tree fell off the front of the car, and how every year, without fail, my dad would have to cut off a few feet of tree as the piece of nature stuck out our front door, on its side, until properly adjusted for the high ceilings that hosted the tree in my childhood home. Trees look smaller in the grand expanse of wilderness, dont’cha know? These adventures make for tradition, and create laughter and embarrassment, and merriment all around.

So yes, the weekend after Thanksgiving, I convinced Dylan to go looking for a tree. I was an impatient, fair weather fan, however. Our adventure consisted of driving to Home Depot and picking out a 7 ft fir, rather than a rousing ride to the wilderness. Our cheeks were still rosy from the 25 degree weather, and we bickered a little with the strapping of the monster to the top of our car. Cold fingers and toes still gave us an eventful trip and brought my (ok …. our) tree home.

I love this beautiful transition into the holiday season. We say it every year, that Christmas tends to sneak up on us. This time last year we were moving. I am beyond thankful that we do not have to do that this December. We continue to create our own traditions while creating our own little family’s history.

 

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I spent three hours stringing popcorn and cranberries as garland for the tree. The reassuring squeak of bright white kernels as they squealed along the thread, mixed with the vibrant red juice of cranberry brought me joy sitting in our new living room. There is beauty in that bright white/crimson red color combination, in the sense of purpose in a project, and the final product hanging on the now decorated boughs of our very own evergreen. I find beauty in tradition, in merriment, and in the events that ground our lives.

Beauty in the things that require adaptation too. Every year I like to make gingerbread snowflake cookies. These treats are astounding, and I love decorating them with royal icing, and I battle my mom to get her to help me stick the beautiful frosting in a pastry bag because I don’t like to get my hands so sticky. This year, we used a different cookie cutter and the beautiful arms of the flakes, well… flaked. Each time we picked up a cookie, the fragile little stinkers broke. And broke. And broke. I have never laughed so hard, as each frosted cookie seemed to shriek – ‘not this year you don’t’. So beauty in imperfection as well.

These stories and traditions weave our lives together. I’m thankful for the transition this year, and for my beautiful Christmas tree. And for snow flake gingerbread nubs, because those too, are delicious when dipped in coffee.