Joyous Holiday Traditions

Do you have any traditions you share each year with your families?

I have mentioned that every year we take the kids on a night-time light- seeing drive around town.  We did that last week.

Tonight, since it’s Christmas Eve, we will watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  This tradition started many years ago with my parents and we continue it every year.  I think we can all recite the whole dang movie.  And it still makes us laugh out loud.

We also find time every year to watch Elf, A Christmas Story (you’ll shoot your eye out, kid!) The Grinch and The Snowman.  My personal favorite from the time I was young is It’s a Wonderful Life.  But I am very particular about it – it HAS to be the black and white version.

There’s also holiday music playing nearly non – stop this time of year at our house.  I am going out on a limb admitting this, but I am very partial to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas. We also like Enya’s last two winter albums, and Sarah McLachlan’s Christmas album.  Of course I adore all of the traditional and classical stuff as well, (Nat King Cole!) and Charlie Brown Christmas has been on a constant loop in our truck for weeks now.

One very special cd seems to be rather unknown,however.  Have you heard of Teja Bell?  If I had to pick only one cd to play for Christmas, this would be it.

Tonight I am finishing up my pre-big day baking and whipping up a batch of brioche dough for our annual Pigs In A Blanket smorgasbord.  I make the dough every Christmas Eve, and every Christmas morning, Paul rolls little mini smokies up with it and we eat wonderful little piggies all morning with rum and eggnog.

This year I am also baking Chocolate Cream Pie for dessert.  In fact, I still have plenty to do to get ready for Santa, so I bid you all the loveliest and most peaceful of holidays.  See you on the other side.

Let’s Talk….Last Minute Gift Idea!

For any of you that have girls (young or not so young) and need one more extra – special something, I have your answer.

This is such a great little book that I bought one for myself!  I’ll certainly be incorporating it into homeschool use as part of our art and story – writing time.

Inside are beautiful little paper doll characters which are charmingly off – beat.  There’s clothes for them and backdrops for them.  There’s instructions for making your own paper dolls.  And the vintage – inspired artwork?  To die for.

I’ve linked the picture above to the author’s website, and from there you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Hurry, there’s still time!

Cookie Time!

Each year I go on a major cookie – baking bender.  True story.  It’s one of our yearly traditions that started when we were first married and hadn’t even begun having children.  Back then it was easier to produce mountains of cookies in a shorter time span, but I still try my best to create a smorgasbord of sugary goodness despite time constraints.

Every year there are specific types of cookies which are a must. These are: Frosted butter cookies, frosted gingerbread cookies, chocolate – dipped macaroons, Rugelach, Linzer cookies, and Florentine cookies.  In addition I try a few new types each year, and sometimes I will throw in some Hamantaschen for good measure.  Those are better suited to Purim than Christmas, however.  This year I am adding in Chocolate-Cherry Mandelbrot and Chocolate-Hazelnut Thumbprints.  I’ll let you know how they all turn out.

In the meantime, for your baking pleasure I am sharing my favorite Rugelach recipe.



8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened

2 1/2 sticks of butter, divided

2 1/4 cups flour

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup sugar

1 TBS cinnamon

Raspberry preserves

2 TBS sugar

First, beat the cream cheese with 2 sticks of softened butter.  You’ll have the best luck doing this if you have a stand mixer; a hand mixer works well, too.  If you’re doing this by hand…..please put “Stand mixer” on your Christmas wish – list.

Once these two are well blended, gradually add the flour.  Once it’s all incorporated, pat it into a nice round disk – shape and wrap it in plastic wrap.  It need to chill in the fridge for about 4 hours (overnight is best; I find 4 hours to be a good minimum).

Once your dough is chilled, remove it from the fridge and separate it into fourths (you will roll out one fourth at a time).  Rolling out can be done two different ways. More on that in a moment.

You’ll need to melt the remaining 1/2 stick of butter in a small dish and set aside.  In another bowl, combine walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tsp of the cinnamon.  In yet another small bowl, combine remaining 1 tsp cinnamon and 2 TBS sugar.  Set these aside, along with your raspberry preserves.

Rugelach can be made by cutting the dough into strips or triangles for crescents.  I find I get more cookies if I cut strips, but crescent – shaped rugelach may be a bit more traditional.  If you want to cut strips, roll out your dough into a rough rectangle shape and cut long strips into it.  Each strip should be roughly 5 – 6 inches long and  about 1 and a half to 2 inches wide.

For crescent cookies, roll your dough into a circle and cut it like a pie to make thin triangles for rolling.

Next is where it can get messy.

Brush each strip of dough with melted butter.  Sprinkle with walnut – cinnamon mixture.  At one end of each strip add a small dollop of preserves, then roll the strip up.

Brush the top of each cookie with more melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  They should be a light golden- brown.

Once you are done baking your cookies, you can plan a Cookie Exchange Party!

I invited my Book Club gals and families for one this year, and all involved had a lovely time.  We are still enjoying the many different cookies brought by all the guests.  (It’s a great way to get a large variety without baking 25 different kinds of cookies!)

Meanwhile, how about these cookies my mother made??? Hand painted Santas and Snowmen!  I think she needs to sell those mail – order, no?????



The Most Knitty-full Time of the Year

A few days ago, I taught Neve how to knit.  At least, I cast on 10 stitches and taught her the knit stitch.  It was quite a trial of patience.  There was a lot of trying and re – trying and frustrations and dropped stitches and knitting into the wrong loops, and I was ready to call the whole thing a failure.  But she kept going back to it, and now she has about 6 inches of garter stitch knitted up.  And it looks pretty darn good, too.

She might just have a scarf by Christmas.

I have also been knitting.

Paul bought me a nice LL Bean barn coat in a Navy / tan combo for, well, barn work and I have been wanting a nice warm hat to match.  It took awhile for me to find just the right yarn, but I settled on some Malabrigo Rasta in colorway “Luna Negra” .  It arrived yesterday and I got right to work, using the Yarn Harlot’s Unoriginal Hat pattern.

By last night, I had this:

It’s so ridiculously soft I can’t even believe it.

The colors match my coat perfectly.

We Miss You and It’s Been Awhile

So…… I’ve gotten some gentle nudging and suggestions that maybe, perhaps it’s been too long since my last post.

‘Tis the season for extra – busyness, and yes, that is my lame excuse.

Home schooling is still in full swing, as is decorating, cookie – baking, Christmas dinner planning, book club party planning, gift making, and more.

Not to mention all the other various and sundry mundane chores like house work and what have you.

And on top of it all, Oona’s been sick for the last several days.  Hoo-ray.

Tonight I allowed myself the night off by whipping up a batch of Peppermint Popcorn while the girls were at Girl Scouts and then surprising them with it at the end of the meeting, along with an impromptu trip around town to look at Christmas Lights while listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s been the best way I know each year to relax and re-ignite that Christmas spirit.

Tomorrow will begin the baking frenzy of cookies and sweets that will not let up until our larders are good and full of sugary trifles to get us through January and the packaging and boxing of gifts to mail away. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite sources for recipes and some last- minute gift ideas, all set to a rockin’ holiday  soundtrack.

Stay tuned.


Cat Burglar

There’s not been too much sleep happening here lately.

Not since the tree went up.

Not since “he” decided to start skulking around said tree.

His favorite spot is about halfway up.  You’ll know he’s there by the shaking and tinkling of ornaments.

When not hanging out mid – tree threatening to topple the whole works, he likes to roll around underneath, chewing on the branches and messing up the skirt.

I’m going to have to start posting the dog to keep watch.