Tag Archives: Christmas

December Is Here!

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It seems crazy that December is already here. There are already a million things I need and want to do in these next few weeks before the new year arrives.

Our basement renovation has become really real… pardon that weird grammar there, but that’s exactly how I feel! Measurements have been taken, and plans are in the works. We are housing family over Christmas, so things won’t really start till January, but we’re ordering a Unit (one of those storage containers that you can have at your home instead of storing elsewhere) for the next week or so to go ahead and start packing/weeding out/moving things out of the basement. It’s happening!

We’re also gearing up for musical performances, family Christmas parties, and sweet traditions with our kids. I want to take EK to the Old Salem Candle Tea this year, because I think she’s old enough to like it now. I’ve been almost every year with at least a few of my college girlfriends, so I think it’ll be sweet to take my daughter this year. She loves sweets and Christmas music, so I’m hoping it’ll be a win! We’re going to the Tanglewood Festival of Lights on the 12th, on the hayride, just like two years ago! EK loved it then, so I bet she will really love it this year. And our cousins are going, as well as a few other friends, so it’ll be freezing but fun. It’ll be like a birthday celebration for me, since my birthday is the 13th!

I’m almost done Christmas shopping (winning SO MUCH) so that’s a load off my shoulders already… and I’ve got mixed feelings to say that I did a lot of online shopping. I did it before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and blah blah… so I can safely say that I avoided crowds in every manner possible. My Christmas cards are ordered and have arrived (make sure I have your address if you want one!) so I’m in the midst of addressing and stuffing those. All that’s left there is to go spend an obscene amount of money on stamps (blegh).

We’ve also got the Advent calendar I painted last year full of the tiny ornaments and Scriptures. I found the wooden calendar at A.C. Moore and just painted it myself. Cute, if I can give myself some credit!

 

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I went to a Salem alumnae holiday party with Lauren and Anne last night, and it was lovely to be out in high heels with the girls for a couple of hours. Yay Salem!

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This blurry picture is the only one I got, but I love my college roomies!

On Monday night, my sister-in-law Hannah hosted a cookie swap. Best idea ever, by the way, coming from me, a woman who loves cookies! I baked three batches, haha! But the spread was glorious!

 

 

 

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I’ve also started to plan J’s first birthday party! I can’t believe he’s almost one year old. It literally blows my mind that it’s true. I mean, I know he’s big, I know he’s smart, I know he’s developmentally a one year old. But it seems like just weeks ago that we were worried about him not gaining weight (hilarious to me now…) or re-babyproofing because he was starting to crawl. And now he thinks he can walk! Slow down, time!

Anyway, I just wanted to have a “welcome December” or “oh my gosh, it’s already December!” post. What are you plans for the month? Fun holiday traditions? Finishing your shopping? Cleaning and cooking and baking for the masses?

 

 

The Anticipation and Longing of Advent

Friends, the short season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a blessed season of anticipation. Advent is defined as “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event”. Advent in the sense of the Christian church is defined as “the coming of Christ”. I’d say the two are on par with each other.

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As I researched Advent a little more, I discovered that the word is from the Latin word meaning “coming”. Its definition expands to include “the four Sundays preceding Christmas” and “the liturgical season preceding Christmas, approached by some with fasting and prayer”. Other phrases included “expectant waiting”, “preparation for celebration” and the arrival of “something extremely important”. I don’t know about you, but I feel like every single one of those things describing Advent make me even more excited that this is the time of year it is.

I loved all of those, but my favorite word used to describe Advent was the word “longing”. It adds such a personal touch to a widespread idea. To feel a longing for the coming of Christ would be so personal, so intimate, so unique to you. The relationship that it implies is truly beautiful. You wouldn’t long to see someone you don’t know well. You wouldn’t long for time to spend with a person you didn’t get along with. You long to be with cherished loved ones.

It is hard to imagine carrying in your womb the Savior of the world. It’s even tougher to imagine an angel’s appearance and an immaculate conception. But it isn’t hard to think of something truly exciting to be waiting for. We’ve all looked forward to something, waited for something, a person, a moment… Perhaps a walk down the aisle to the one you love. Perhaps the birth of your first child (or your second, or your seventh!). The first day of a new job. The first day of retirement! A lunch date with an old friend. The first time you see a new niece or nephew. We all have an example of a person, event, or thing we’ve been awaiting with anticipation. This anticipation is sweet because we know that what we’re anticipating is even sweeter!

So, for the next four weeks, while we await the celebration of the coming of Jesus, the fulfillment of promises, and the ultimate manifestation of love and faithfulness, I will ponder the feelings of Mary, as she spent nine months in total wonder of the job she’d been given, awaiting the birth of her son, of the Savior of us all. I will be soaking in the excitement that must have been whirring around all who knew the prophecy would be fulfilled. I will be longing for sweet, intimate moments with Jesus, where he can do as he promised, and deliver me from brokenness and sin. What an incredible lover is our Lord, who sacrifices to make us whole! What a blessing it is to worship, adore, and celebrate the birth of a Savior, and to anticipate his coming again!

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Charles Wesley

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Musical Crafting

The other day, I called my bestie with a craft idea. I’d heard of people doing something like this project, but not recently, so I want to give myself a little credit for thinking of it. I wanted to take our favorite Christmas songs from my old hymnal, and  make them look old. Then I wanted to mat/frame them and add them to our Christmas decorations! Lauren and I both have pianos in our homes, and I thought it was a good way to decorate the piano area for the season.

So she came over, we brewed some tea, cut some songs out of the hymnal, and got to work. Here’s our process:

1. Brew the tea. Drink some. Mmm. Doesn’t matter the kind of tea. I just used a cheap black tea we had in the cupboard, and brewed it fairly strong. After some googling, we found out some people use coffee or orange juice for this project also. I like the color that the tea turned out, though.

2. Cut out the songs. We cut out a lot… some Christmas, and some not. We figured once we put the songs into frames, we could put the non-Christmas ones in for the rest of the year, so as to get our money’s worth out of the frames!

3. Put a song or two at a time on a cookie sheet (we used one with sides, to keep the tea in), and pour a little bit of tea at a time onto the corner of the sheet, not actually onto the paper. You want it to go underneath the paper and soak it up that way.

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4. Pour off the excess tea, and bake it for 5-7 minutes on 200 degrees. When the edges of the paper start to curl up, take them out. Sometimes mine were still damp in the middle, but I set them on a rack and let them dry.

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5. Admire your handy work! If you’re like me, and you always have tea and sheet music, this is a pretty much free project! Obviously, you will have to get frames if you don’t have any spares, but they can be inexpensively purchased at Michael’s or A. C. Moore.

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Side note: I found frames at Wal-Mart that I used, but I’m not 100% that I like them yet, so I didn’t post a picture… I’ll add it when I decide for sure!

Have you aged paper like this before? How did you do it?

Currently

New edition of Currently, linking up with Hannah at Joyful Life and other stupendous bloggers that I love. It’s all about sharing life and building community. Check it out and join us!

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T H I N K I N G  A B O U T || My weekend. Hubby was out of town in NYC this past weekend, and I was a temporarily single mom. I survived and thrived a little better than I expected. Honestly, I figured I’d drown in the household chores and baby stuff and only barely keep my kids alive. Hubby and I often have a good cop/bad cop thing going on (if you’re wondering who the bad cop is, you’re looking at her) and I was afraid I would be too much bad cop. But I was alright playing both roles for the weekend!

L O V I N G || Great conversations I’ve been having with friends from church. There are so many inspiring people that I get to be with on a weekly (and more often than that) basis. One of these great times was yesterday… I blogged about it here.

T H A N K F U L  F O R || Sweet friends and family. While Hubby was gone this weekend, we had a couple of friends who helped feed us and in-laws who pitched in to keep the kids while I was at church for my normal Sunday marathon, and it was the biggest help. J is usually napping during church time, and so he’s in a phase of hating the nursery. It’s too loud for him to sleep, but he’s super cranky when he doesn’t get to. Thankfully he sleeps just fine at his grandparents’!

L E A R N I N G || I’m constantly learning this, and I’ve written about it before (here and here, for example), but each day it’s more true… I’m learning patience. It’s one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever learned, which must be why it’s taking so long. Breaking generational curses and trying to be slow to anger, quick to love can sometimes be difficult and exhausting. It can also be extremely rewarding. That must be why I’m still doing it!

H O P I N G || I am truly hoping that the next two months are filled with joy and family and fun, and not stressful and too busy. I like being busy with fun things during the holidays, but I also know that sometimes busy can be a curse, too.  So here’s hoping that we aren’t overly committed, but that we have just the right amount of cooking and shopping and partying and giving.

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Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Yesterday, if you saw some of my Currently posts on Instagram, I caught a little Christmas spirit. I got out my tree, untangled some lights, lit a cinnamon and evergreen candle, and even listened to my first few Christmas tunes. For the first time this year, I baked a batch of Christmas cookies! Actually, there isn’t truly anything “Christmasy” about them, except that I (almost only) bake them around Christmas.

There are a few cookie recipes that my mom always made during the holiday season. She made them for us, for family members, for neighbors, for friends, for teachers, you name it. I’ll share the recipes here on the blog throughout the season, so that you can consume more than your fair share of cookies over the next two months, just like my family does!

Here are the ones I made yesterday:

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These are called Cherry Shortbread Cookies. They are from a Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookie cookbook from, oh, 1990 or so. My mom’s edition is so well-used that the binding has broken, and I’m using photocopies out of a 3-ring binder. There is a whole section for shortbread, a whole section for holiday cookies, and so on… let me just say, they’re delicious. I’ve tried a LOT of them, and rarely have been disappointed.

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup maraschino cherries, well drained, 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and red food coloring if you’d like your cookie to be vibrantly colored. Mix the flour and sugar, add the butter and mix on low until the mixture looks like fine crumbs, then add the drained cherries until it looks like dough. Make one-inch balls (with your hands of course, and expect them to turn pink), then flatten them on an ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper) about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (till they are slightly firm and edges are golden) on 325 degrees. I do it all in my Kitchen-Aid mixer, so I don’t even use a bowl!

I always leave out the nutmeg because I don’t really like it (in anything, not just these cookies). But I typically double, and sometimes triple, the recipe because it doesn’t make too many. So because I was already doubling yesterday, I decided to go out on a limb and try something new… I’ve been baking a lot with almond meal, and I know it’s not a great flour-to-almond-meal substitution. It’s very moist, so typically you need a little less of whatever the liquid is. Because there isn’t a “liquid” in the recipe, I knew I couldn’t straight sub. But I wanted them to be a little healthier, so I used 1/2 cup almond meal, and 3/4 cup (plus one tablespoon to thicken it) flour. That way it was a little less worthless gluten. They actually turned out tasting BETTER! I was truly surprised. In the picture above, you can see the ones on the right have specks… those are the almond meal specks!

So now the fun part… my sister-in-law is hosting a cookie swap in a few weeks, and I want to have a new thing or two that I can bring to the table. What are your favorite cookie recipes? Can you comment with the recipe or a link to it? I can’t wait to see what YOUR holiday cookie favorites are!