putting up the Christmas tree

For as long as I can remember—on some random day during those last couple of weeks before Christmas—my dad would announce to the family that it was about time “we take down the Christmas decorations from the attic.”  

I don’t know if it was the smell of leftover pine from the Christmas before.  Or the warm, cozy mugs of Swiss Miss hot chocolates (with those fluffy white marshmallows!) that my mom handed us.  Or the rolling sounds of Bing Crosby looming over the radio.  Whatever it was, this day—this unpacking, sorting and decorating—was almost as exciting as Christmas morning itself. 

I’m not that little girl anymore.  But I can still feel that same excitement and curiousity, just as I did on those nights of helping my dad take down all of our Christmas memories and decorations from the attic.  Peeling back an oversized Toys “r” Us bag to reveal an array of collected ornaments.  Putting garland around the stairways.  Laughing and giggling and just having fun.  

I love Christmas.  I love big bags of unique ornaments.  I love laughing and being silly and listening to Bing Crosby.  

(I love Charlie Brown and funny looking snowmen!)

Know what else I love?

Eating breakfast in front of the Christmas tree.  To be continued…

Question: What is one of your favorite holiday memories?

it’s a tradition

Many of my favorite memories revolve around the holidays.  Things like…

  • Driving with Dad to pick up the Chinese food every New Years Eve, for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes through a blizzard!
  • Running a 2-3 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.
  • Watching Memere laugh and tease my Dad because “that’s not how you carve a turkey!”
  • Eating fruit cake for breakfast on Christmas morning. 
  • Making a complete mess of the kitchen with flour and cookie dough, while listening to Christmas music the night before Thanksgiving. 

By the way, it’s totally okay—maybe necessary?—to have a messy kitchen on the night preceding a major holiday. 😉

My sister and I look forward to this tradition of cookie decorating every single year.  I find it to be one of the most quintessential parts of the entire holiday season.  It’s just not Thanksgiving until there’s either a batch of sugar cookies or gingerbread men baking in the oven.  

I may have failed to mention this very important part of myself in previous posts, but there’s something you should know: gingerbread cookies are my favorite cookies.  Ever. 

What is it about the gingerbread cookie that I love?  First, there’s the thick, sweeter-than-life molasses swirled throughout.  And then there’s the spices.  Cinnamon.  Ginger.  Cloves.  Sea salt.  They all combine to form the most perfect cookie known to man.  I like to think they’re autumn’s cookie of choice.

In other words, I simply love them.

 Martha Stewart’s recipe for gingerbread men.  It’s a no fail recipe. 😀

However, the decorating is another story. 

Each year, my sister and I being our decorating endeavors with the determination that we will make the most beautiful cookies.  People will ‘ooh’ and ‘aww.’  The plate will go untouched for hours, just because they’re “too pretty to eat.”  People will pause midstep just to glance at them one more time.

And—each year—we end up in hysterical laughter because nothing wernt as planned.  Mr. Gingerbread Man has a goatee instead of a scarf.  Mrs. Gingerbread has one big eye, one small eye.  Or maybe only one eye at all.  We try our best, but we’ve a long ways to go.  Lots of practice needed.

This year we decided to prepare ourselves by looking at some online designs…

We even went so far as to draw the designs out on paper!!  If that’s not hardcore determination, I don’t know what is.

There were some minor difficulties found in getting the parchment paper to fold together for piping purposes, but it all worked out in the end. 😉

Moving on…

…time to decorate!

Studying the online images and designs seemed to help some…

…but then we still ended up in hysterical laughter.

And there were still some cookie “flops.”  You know.  The ones that look “okay” but not good enough to bring anywhere outside of home.  It’s okay though.  We took care of them. 😉

The rest of the decorated cookies will find their way onto a cute holiday plate. 

One plate for Pepere.  One plate for Aunt Marie’s.  One plate to add to tomorrow’s dessert spread at my house.

And, in the end, it really doesn’t matter how the cookies come out at all.  What matters is that we practically die laughing.  That I’ll wake up feeling like I did a Jillian Michael’s ab workout.  That our conversations are filled with excitement and plans for Black Friday shopping.  That we put thought into which cookies go on which plate. 

That my sister and I carry on the tradition of decorating cookies together every holiday season.  Because traditions are what make the holidays so special.  So fun.  So unique.  And that’s what matters.

From my home to yours, I wish you the most Happy of Thanksgivings!  Enjoy, and take the time to be thankful for all of life’s simple blessings. 😀

Martha Stewarts’ Gingerbread Cookies

These cookies puff up quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to roll them on the thin side.  You’ll still get a deliciously chewy gingerbread cookie.

These gingerbread cookies are exactly what gingerbread cookies should taste like.  Spices and sweet molasses will hit you on the very first bite.  There’s no such thing as “subtle.” 😉  I truly consider them to be my go-to gingerbread recipe, and I highly recommend them. 😀

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses

Directions

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
  5. Store cookies between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Question: What is your favorite holiday tradition?