Christmas cookies

The other day, I had a baking ‘day’ with Mrs. Nye.  We started at 10:30 a.m. and didn’t finish until 4:30 p.m., so it was quite an endeavor.  We made three batches of cookies–traditional sugar cookies, soft sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies.

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I actually don’t own a single Christmas-themed cookie cutter, and Mrs. Nye has enough to go around, so it worked out nicely.  Growing up, one of my mom’s big things at Christmas was to make lots of Christmas cookies, but we almost never made cut-outs or decorated them.  Her repertoire included those peanut butter-Hershey Kiss ones, the green cornflake/marshmallow ‘holly’ cookies, and some almondy-shortbread things covered in glaze and sprinkles.  And chocolate-covered goodies. LOTS of things got dipped in chocolate over the years: pretzels, Oreos…she even made her own chocolate candies with different flavor extracts.

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So anyway, Christmas cookie-decorating isn’t necessarily a childhood memory of mine, but it sure felt like it when I was with Mrs. Nye in her kitchen!  I can’t believe I missed out on all that decorating fun.

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And of course, the perfectionist in me had high expectations for how my finished cookies would look.  I can’t say any of them could be mistaken for something purchased in a bakery, but I was pretty pleased with myself for using multiple colors and sugars, etc…  And really, any aesthetic value is short-lived; they just end up eaten anyway.

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Merry (almost) Christmas!

happy holidays

A couple weeks ago, Andrew asked me how I ranked the holidays, which got me thinking. How DO I rank my favorite holidays?

Well, here goes:

1. Christmas – obviously, number one.  I love everything about it, from Jesus’ birthday (we always do a cake!), to new pajamas and snow and presents and family and cookies and stockings and time off of work…I could go on forever.  My family growing up didn’t have many traditions, but we did have special things at Christmas.

2. Birthday – What other day of the year gets to be all about me?  Just kidding…  But since my mom’s birthday is the day after (and her mom’s is the day after!), I have happy memories of Memorial Day joint parties at either Bamma’s house or ours.  Lots of family, lots of love, lots of good weather.  Oh, and did I mention my love language is gifts?  So, really, ANY day I get something makes me feel special.

3. Valentine’s Day/Anniversary – a close third to Christmas and my birthday is Valentine’s Day, and just three days later is our “dating” anniversary, so we typically do something big for one or the other.  February is a good month for me.

4.  Thanksgiving – I almost ranked Thanksgiving higher, and maybe I should have, since it’s food-related and all, but the top three are pretty big.  I love Thanksgiving because of family, and all that once-a-year food goodness.  Bring on the pumpkin pie!  And let’s not forget it’s the start of “holiday season,” which gets me all sorts of jolly 🙂

5.  Anniversary – Our real anniversary is Dec. 17, which is hard because it tends to get lost in the chaos of Christmas. Our first anniversary we flew to Chicago one week before Christmas…it was terrible.  We’ve done all sorts of different things, from almost-nothing to trips to fancy dinners, and I have to admit, I’m not really happy with any of them.  I’d like to pick something–anything–and make it a ‘tradition’ (there I go with my traditions again).  Like, ‘every year we go to [insert restaurant here],’ or [every year we give each other [insert certain type of gift here].’  Guess we’ll keep working on that.  We do have seven months.

6. St. Patrick’s Day – I’ll admit, this one’s out of left field.  It’s green.  It’s all about beer. It’s huge here in Buffalo–who knew?–but neither of us are, indeed, big drinkers… All I know is that I have a pair of bright green running shorts and a special “I’m not Irish but kiss me anyway” t-shirt that I wear proudly every year.

…hmmm, what am I missing…?

7.  July 4th – …is always fun!  Bbqs and fireworks and good weather and food and family and friends.  And checkered tablecloths.  And decorations.

8. Memorial Day – this one is obvious: my birthday, as well as bbqs and family and friends being off of work.  At least they were growing up…in the military you get like EVERY holiday off, so I’m not used to Andrew working on days like Martin Luther King Jr. Day or President’s Day.  I was so spoiled. But then again, it’s the military; I kinda think they should get the most time off of anyway.

9.  New Year’s Eve – this one is a hard one.  We aren’t big party-ers, so we aren’t really into clubs or going out.  We don’t drink that much, or dance or really even stay up that late regularly, but we don’t want to be boring and you definitely need the right crowd for an occasion like this… So, it’s always a bit of a conundrum.  Perhaps our favorite one was the year we went to Columbus with Heather and Silas and went to fancy-schmancy dinner all dressed up.  Last year was an adventure

10.  And bringing up the rear is Halloween…  Growing up we celebrated Halloween for awhile,  then we didn’t celebrate Halloween for awhile, (during which time we went to the ‘Harvest Festival’ at church), and then when we got older we passed out candy and Christian tracts (our parents made us) at the door.  Andrew and I have done everything from nothing (this past year…I think we went to Panera or something) to dressing up at a Halloween party the night we got engaged!  I love dressing up, so this holiday only ranks highly if we have an awesome party to go to.  Take notes, friends–someone plan a party!

And that’s all, folks.  It was kinda nice strolling down memory lane as I recounted various holidays from my childhood…

holiday recap

Finally!  A sigh of relief can escape my lips after my whirlwind of a week…

1.  I finished my last exam Tuesday morning and after a celebratory lunch and manicure, I immediately went into Christmas-prep hyperdrive.  By that evening, presents had been mailed ($50 for three SMALL boxes–good grief!), Christmas photo taken and annual letter finalized and printed.  Andrew and I tag-teamed at the table addressing and stuffing envelopes until our eyes gave out.

2.  Christmas, in my house growing up, means Christmas cookies, but I knew my mom would be flying (she’s a flight attendant) until late Wednesday night, and probably wouldn’t have the time to make the spread of sweets she typically does (the woman is a chocolate-dipping machine at Christmas), so I brought some with me.  I made two bags of white-chocolate dipped pretzel rods, two batches of those peanut-butter kiss cookies, some of those pre-decorated sugar cookies.  The relief in her voice on the phone when I told her my plan was audible.  I even did a special “Christmas Sweets” blog for the co-op; many of those yummy goodies appeared on our table this year, however, we never got around the the holly cookies!  I’m still bummed…

3.  This Christmas was very different from years past; almost all of my dad’s giant family came to visit, which brought the total number of people for me to see into the 50s.  It was fantastic!  We had a Christmas Eve bash at an aunt and uncle’s house who live in the DC-area as well, spent Christmas morning at home with another aunt, uncle and cousin who stayed with my parents, then moved to a banquet facility (owned by my mom’s brother) where BOTH sides of the family (my dad’s out-of-town relatives and mom’s in-town family) gathered for a potluck and to exchange some presents.  Definitely not enough time socializing, but at least it was something.

4.  I made a ginger pumpkin pie with toasted coconut and balsamic-glazed green beans, both from November’s Cooking Light.  Both were well-received and I LOVED the pumpkin pie.  Even my mom, who doesn’t really like pumpkin pie, liked the ginger version.  I will definitely be making it again.

5.  I’ve been calling this year ‘the year of the gloves.’  I ended up getting FOUR pairs of gloves, and it would have been five if the Dick’s in Virginia carried the running gloves I asked for.  Get this–my mom went to get them and the salesman said it didn’t get cold enough there for them!  Ha!  However, as I’ve learned already, one can never have too many pairs of gloves here.

6.  Which brings me to my next tid-bit: my cold-weather haul.  Check out my new running gear and other winter apparel:

Andrew’s mom got me the beautiful white hat and gloves that I’ve been wearing EVERYWHERE, praying I don’t get dirty.  Andrew found the black heavy-duty gloves for me to use to take the dog on walks since they have grippy stuff on the palm-side, and I totally scored the matching pink-and-black running gloves, hat and earband just yesterday at Dick’s on sale.  Sweet!  And the best part?  The fleece hat even has a hole for your ponytail!

7.  It was also the year of running stuff for me…  My mom gifted me with LLBean sport sunglasses, a pink and blue earband and an awesome pink running top:

8.  We kept the Christmas tradition of opening jammies on Christmas Eve alive (just barely–mom was going to skip it until the boys and I put up a stink, so we headed off that afternoon to find suitable outfits), except that the shirt I ordered for myself didn’t come on time…so sad!  We found a stand-in at Old Navy, but nothing will beat this:

We found it at a local store weeks ago but it took FOREVER to come, so I’ll have to enjoy it post-Christmas.

9.  Because of visiting family and our Christmas Eve party at my aunt and uncle’s house, we skipped another tradition: reading Luke and having a birthday cake for Jesus.  I’m still a bit bummed about that one, too.

10.  We left Monday evening and drove to Philly to visit with my sister.  Along the way, we stopped for Geno’s cheesesteaks.  (Andrew insisted–surprise, surprise)

Grossest cheesesteak EVER!  We should have walked across the street to Pat’s, which is mildly better, but still not as good as Silvio’s, which is our hometown cheesesteak joint near my parents’ house there.  They make their own bread, are take-out only and are THE BEST cheesesteaks in the world.  I kid you not.  I’m almost salivating writing this.

11.  We stayed the night with my sister and FINALLY got to meet her daughter, Danika.  Sweet girl!

We brought all their presents and goodies from Virginia, so we did our own Christmas morning with them.  Danika is walking all over the place and starting to jibber-jabber as well.  It was crazy to see a little “mini-Allison” toddling around!

12.  We scooted out around lunchtime to meet two of my best girlfriends from college, Betsy and Leslie, at an upscale American place in Doylestown.  Leslie’s husband, Christian (also a friend from college) came along as well, which was nice for Andrew.

We all, apparently, got the memo to wear shades of brown (and so did the wall behind us).  It was such a great time exchanging gifts and catching up, but not nearly long enough (pretty much the theme of the whole trip).  We try to get together at least once a year, which is surprisingly difficult given Betsy’s deployment schedule (she’s in the Air Force), Leslie’s work schedule, and now my school schedule.  I’m just thankful Betsy’s parents only live a street away from my parents’ house (which is where my sister is currently living), so I can always combine a visit.

13.  After lunch we made the drive home and I’m STILL recovering from being out of town…  I’m in the midst of thank-you note writing, cleaning, gift returning/exchanging and holiday-sale shopping, as well as trying to get back into the gym routine and working on two articles for the Advertiser.  Whew!

14.  Stella has a new home…  At Thanksgiving, my green-thumbed friend Emily gifted me with a clipping of her purple houseplant, Stella, and she’s been freezing to death in a jar of water on a windowsill in our kitchen ever since.  (It’s not exactly the time to buy pots and things around here, or anywhere, for that matter…)  When she really started to look poorly the other day I decided I had to do something.  I bought the cheapest pot I could find at Lowe’s and threw in some potting soil.  She joined Gerard (center) and Victor (or Vincent, I can’t remember), that was a gift from an aunt for Christmas. Cross your fingers for their survival!

Whew!  Busy is the name of the game right now…  I have lots more to share, so stay tuned!