Happy New Year!

Hello there, friends! I hope you are all well, happy & healthy on this first day of 2013! I’ve enjoyed a lovely break from work for the past week, including a little blogging break while I spent most of my free time binge-watching the first two seasons of Homeland. Great show, and I can’t believe it took me so long to check it out! Now that I am reeling from the season 2 finale, I thought I’d take a second to share with you some of my favorites moments of this past holiday week!

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Little bits of happiness from my week- from the top left photo clockwise:

a beautiful dusting of snow on Christmas morning in my parent’s backyard  // my sweet little nephew enjoying a Christmas story on Christmas eve // crate of gifts under our Christmas tree (significantly emptier than pre-Christmas, but we still have some to give!) // the glow of a candle in an aluminum lantern, surrounded by pine cones & glittery balls // sparkling wine and our wedding toasting flutes to ring in the new year // our part cozy – part college-kid-esque New Year’s eve dinner. Dining by candlelight on our coffee table with our new wedding china and paper towels for napkins. We’ve got class AND we don’t buy real napkins. Bam.

New Year Resolutions for 2013? More family, friends, crafts and books – less take-out, stress, and overflowing laundry baskets.

What about you?

It’s Who You Make Your Cookies With

Before I begin this post, I’d like to share a disclaimer: My mother, father, grandparents, brothers & I have been making Christmas cookies for decades with great success. I come from a long line of Christmas-cookie-bakers. We take a day or two every December to come together (as many of us as are around) to whip up batches of our family standards – Chocolate Chip Cookies, Butter Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Roll-Outs & Spritzes, among others. Every year we make cookies, every year they are delicious.

This year, we tried to make made cookies. It may (or may not) have gone exactly as planned. We may (or may not) have had a few disastrous trays of Butter & Chocolate Chip cookies for inexplicable reasons (It was definitely my brother’s fault). Suffice it to say, this post will not include photos of perfectly baked Christmas cookies.

recipeA well used & loved recipe for my Mommom’s Butter Cookies. Any recipe that calls for two sticks of butter is sure to be a win.

It really doesn’t matter, though. It’s not about how the cookies come out, it’s who you make your cookies with. (This explanation got me off the hook when I came home with less than the expected multiple tins-full of cookies for my hubby to snack on).

pbakingMy lovely sister-in-law carefully measuring ingredients – clearly she is innocent in this debacle.

I love going home at Christmas time and admiring/oogling over my mother’s huge collection of beautiful holiday decorations. I love the Sunday in December when we get together to bake & happily make plans for the upcoming holiday. This past Sunday, after an especially trying week and the unbelievably horrific events of Friday – I loved it even more. Even though my drive to Pennsylvania & then back to New Jersey was dreary and rainy. Even though my brother ruined the chocolate chip cookies our cookies were less-than-adequate-for-human-consumption.

bakingBaking is a group effort in our home. The culprit is the one wielding the cookie gun.

Time with family is a treasure.

momandmommomMy mother, and her mother, decorating the butter cookies.

Decorating butter cookies with your grandmother is a blessing, and must never be taken for granted.

mommomcookiesThe more sugar the better, I say.

Knowing that within the next week we will truly all be together – when our Californian contingent flies home for the holiday – is reason to celebrate.

I love Christmas. I always have. I cannot help but be extra-aware of how lucky I am this Christmas – to be surrounded by family, to be spending my first Christmas married to a man who makes me laugh & loves me for all of my quirks and flaws, and to have my very own Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer so I can make some more cookies that my brother won’t be able to ruin to share with friends & family. 🙂

P.S. After I left, my family continued baking and suddenly all the cookies came out great. Either I was the true culprit, and blaming my little brother is unfair, or they were actually just holding out on me so they could hoard all the GOOD cookies for themselves. I choose the latter option, what do you think?

DIY Party Crackers

It wouldn’t be Christmas dinner at my parent’s house without party crackers/poppers. The decorative tubes filled with treats, toys, paper crowns, and/or riddles are an old English tradition that my family loves. When I decided to set up my holiday tablescape, the place settings simply did not look complete to me without a cracker to top them off! Rather than purchasing some, I decided to make my own simplified version of party “crackers” – in quotations because my quick & easy substitutes do not actually crack or pop. (If you’re feeling super ambitious, Pottery Barn offers a tutorial for making authentic, cracking English Crackers!)

HolidayTable2Since I only needed to create my crackers to shoot photos of my tablescape, I decided to take the easy way out. We’ll call these the “lazy girl holiday crackers.” They still look cute, and they still contain a treat, so that’s two important factors still in play, here. They would still be fun to pull apart at a dinner party!

DIYCrackersHere’s what you need to create your own:

-Cardboard tubes (either TP or Paper towel tubes, depending on the size you want)

-Wrapping paper

-Small toys, pieces of candy, message strips, confetti, etc.

-Ribbon

-Double-sided tape

Cut a piece of wrapping paper big enough to cover the tube, with 2-3 inches of extra paper on each end of the tube. Place strip of double-sided tape across the cardboard tube & secure the first end of the paper in place. Roll the paper around the tube & secure the end with double-sided tape.

DIYcrackersteps

Carefully fill the wrapped-up tube with your candy/toy/etc., and complete the cracker by tying the ends with ribbon.

crackercandyThere are so many fun ways you can personalize these – you can mix up the paper, the secret treats inside, the ribbons & the size to make the perfect crackers for your dinner party!

HolidayTable7

I love this kind of quick, easy & inexpensive DIY!

A Silver and Gold Thanksgiving Table

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is nearly here! I’m looking forward to spending the holiday with my family. Since I am not faced with the task of cleaning, cooking & decorating for guests, I daydreamed today about a lovely Thanksgiving table in silver, gold & autumn hues. It’s much easier to imagine & browse my favorite home decor online stores (the 21st century version of window shopping?) than to actually pull the whole event together, I am sure!

Inspiration for a Silver & Gold Thanksgiving Table:

Clockwise, from left: 1) Metallic Diamond Printed Napkin Set – $25 for set of 4 (sale price) from West Elm. 2) Hand-stamped vintage serving spoons – $24 for two from Blithe Vintage on Etsy. 3) Pumpkin Place-Card Holders – $14.99 for set of 4 (sale price) from Williams-Sonoma. 4) Twisted Gold Tumbler – $16.00 from Anthropologie. 5) Gold Wishbone Napkin Rings – $39.50 for set of 4 from Pottery Barn.

So, what about you? Planning your own Thanksgiving feast, or letting friends or family do all the work & just enjoying the eats?
P.S. If you’ve been following my chronicles of wedding projects – just taking a little break, there is a lot more to come!