Our Family Christmas

It’s no secret… We love celebrating big, and the holidays are no exception to that! I know it’s popular these days to slow down and simplify everything so you don’t lose sight of what Christmas is all about, but we have loved filling our days with holiday activities, creating new traditions and watching our kids truly enjoy the magic of the season. We thought it would be fun to give you a peek into our holiday home and share some of the traditions, old and new, that are special to our little family.

Part 1: Trimming the Tree

I’ve always loved decorating for Christmas. Even as a college student I chose to spend my money on Christmas decorations rather than buying required text books for classes; a decision I still fully stand behind! With every tree we set up and every garland we hang, the joy of the season seems to fill our home even more.

One of our traditions is to hand-make the garland on our tree. Over the years we have done everything from paper chains to even making a garland out of paper clips and fancy tape! This year we chose to make a classic popcorn garland. While slightly tedious, we found it relaxing and enjoyable, especially with a holiday movie playing in the background. If you want to give this garland a try here are a few tips we learned along the way: Pop your popcorn the day before you want to make the garland, so it can become stale and more styrofoam like. This makes the popcorn more firm and less likely to crumble. Use a sharp needle threaded with fishing line, and only work with four to five foot sections at a time. Also, make sure to leave enough fishing line at the end of each garland section so you can tie the ends together as you place it on the tree. It takes a little bit of patience, but it really was fun to see it all come together.

Part 2: A Tree of Their Own

I love having multiple trees throughout our home. When Jamie and I lived in a 632 square foot apartment, I somehow managed to squeeze eight Christmas trees into that tiny space. Out of control? Maybe a little, but the more the merrier right? With that mindset, we added a new tradition this year of decorating small trees for each of our kids in their own room. Grey has decorated, undecorated and redecorated his tree more times than I can count, and I just love watching his creativity blossom. He picked out his own ornaments and has clear opinions about where each one should be placed. I think we have a budding wedding designer on our hands!

London’s tree is filled with everything pink and girly to match her room. Each time we turn on the tree lights when she wakes up, she’ll wave and point to her tree and say “wow”. So until she has a voice and an opinion to tell us otherwise, we are really enjoying all the pink that has entered our home since she was born!

Part 3: All Decked Out 

In the same way that we deck the halls for the holiday and make our home a little fancy, we also love to get a little dressed up throughout the season. While I fear some might think this is pretentious, that is really not our heart behind it. Dressing up is not something that happens on a normal day, so getting all decked out feels special and makes this time of year feel even more extraordinary.

We started yet another new tradition this year. Every year we are going to get dressed up and head to downtown Seattle for a family date. This year we went to an interactive concert for little kids at the Seattle Symphony and then we stayed at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel where we visited the Teddy Bear Suite, enjoyed a classic holiday tea in the Georgian Room and then visited Santa. It was such a special day for our family and the start of a beautiful tradition I am excited to see unfold each year. I think my favorite part was when Grey discovered that his personal tea sandwich tower also had macarons on it, he declared at the top of his lungs (for all to hear!) “It’s a macaron Da-Da!”  Meanwhile my 10 month old baby quietly sat next to me delighted to be eating her own scone.

We also continued our annual tradition of hosting a dress up holiday party. I started doing this in college for all of my friends. Instead of studying for my finals, I would spend the week baking and preparing for my big Christmas party at the end of the week. I loved spoiling them with abundant food, desserts and drinks. It was my gift to my friends, and a way to cultivate a deeper sense of community by using my talents and passions to serve the people I love and care about. Eighteen years later, our holiday party looks a little different, but the heart and purpose behind it has not changed and it remains one of my favorite holiday traditions that I look forward to each year.

In keeping with the tradition I mentioned earlier in this post, we also made our lunaria garlands. I’ve been a bit obsessed with lunaria as of late; I love how natural it is while still feeling ethereal and whimsical. I had a pile of it left over from a wedding, so I decided to put it to good use in our home for the holidays. We created the garlands by cutting down the lunaria bundles into smaller bundles, and then taping them together with classic masking tape. We then taped those little lunaria bundles to a long piece of wire, overlapping one bundle on top of the next until we reached the length we needed. This was also a bit tedious and time consuming, but worth the results. We didn’t put many ornaments on our tree this year as we loved the statement of simplicity that the lunaria made.

Part 4: Let Them Eat Cake… and cookies and every other treat! (in moderation of course)

We love to bake. It’s almost therapeutic to me… well until I see all of the dishes I need to wash! During the holidays, we make marshmallows, caramels, pies, cakes in addition to rolling out countless sugar cookies and gingerbread men. Another yearly tradition for us is to host our friends for a cookie making party. It might take months to clean up the last of the sprinkles that fall to the floor, but it is totally worth it for the joy that comes from what we create together!

This year we are sharing our soft gingerbread cookie recipe. It is absolutely the best! You can control how crisp your cookies become by adjusting how long you bake them, so make sure to experiment with your first round! You also need to think ahead. This recipe is best when you let the dough rest in the fridge overnight before rolling them out. I have found this to be the perfect recipe for the holidays and we hope you enjoy it too!

Whatever your traditions may be and no matter what holidays you choose to celebrate, our family wishes you a season filled with joy, love, laughter and perhaps a few gingerbread cookies.

photos: Alanna Maria Photography

calligraphy and recipe design: LaHappy

download and print our gingerbread cookie recipe

Holiday Recipe Round Up

After a busy wedding season and crazy year of adjusting to life with a little one, Jamie and I opted for a simplified Christmas this year and decided not to do any new recipes on the blog.  Over the years we have shared a variety of recipes, and so we thought we would just do a round up of some of our favorites.  Below you will find links to our sea salt caramels, marshmallows, gingerbread cookies, and red velvet cake. It’s always so fun to see people trying these recipes and sharing their photos with us by tagging us on instagram, so let us know how these recipes turn out for you!

Sea Salt Caramels 

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Gingerbread Cookies 

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Red Velvet Cake

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Photos:  Matthew Land Studios 

Homemade Marshmallows

My brother Billy and I could not be more opposite. Growing up, he was the fit, good looking athletic and popular kid that all the girls wanted to date. I was the  chubby, (they called it husky back then) artistic, piano playing, suspender wearing, bulletin board decorating (yes… I used to have my own bulletin board that I would decorate to match each season), and downright nerdy kid that all the girls wanted to befriend as a way to get closer to my brother. While my brother wrestled, played football, and lifted weights, I spent my time baking cakes, practicing instruments and learning how to sew. For those of you that remember ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel- Air’… Billy was Will and I was Carlton. It’s amazing that he and I came from the same set of parents.

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I would like to be that person that could say “Well, look at me now!”,  but fast forward 20 years from our childhood to the present, and nothing much has really changed. Billy and I are still pretty opposite. He is an officer in the military, a cage fighter and has the most intimidating glare (even when he’s in a good mood). And me… well… I’m still baking cakes, decorating and sewing. Over the years, we have come to mutually appreciate and respect the differences in each other, and have developed a great friendship through which I have discovered we do have one thing in common: neither of us enjoy reading long drawn out passages of text.

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It’s true. Long, extended e-mails, text messages, drawn out facebook posts… it doesn’t matter… we don’t enjoy reading them. Billy actually introduced me to a four letter phrase to send back to people who send such verbose passages of writing: TLDR

It stands for:  TOO LONG DIDN’T READ

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Now, I’ve never actually replied to a person with this response- although I would put money on it that my brother has.  This helpful and amusing adage does however come to mind while reading through long recipes. I just don’t have the patience for it. In my mind, a long recipe means it will be too difficult and time consuming.

This was the mentality that I approached the idea of making homemade marshmallows with. Because the recipe had more than 3 steps and didn’t fit on a 3×5 card, I assumed the process would be difficult. I decided to face my fears and risk a headache and so I set out to make these marshmallows.

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People aren’t kidding when they say making marshmallows is easy. Don’t be intimidated by the long instructions on the recipe card below. You simply gather your ingredients, measure, cook and then mix. It really is that simple. While the sugar syrup is cooking on the stove top, you can walk away and prepare the powdered sugar coating for the outside. While the hot syrup becomes a fluffy white miracle in the mixer you can prepare your pan and wash your dishes. Do not be intimidated by this recipe or reject it because of the long passages of text. I promise you can do this.

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I have learned a few things along the way that might be helpful to pass along.

1. Read through all of the instructions before starting and gather all of your supplies.

2. Don’t be intimidated by a candy thermometer, and don’t try and replace it with a meat thermometer. Not the same thing. You need a candy thermometer (they don’t have to be expensive) so that you can regulate the temperature so the sugar doesn’t get too hot. All you do with a candy thermometer is clip it to the side of the pan and turn it on. Watch the temperature of your sugar syrup rise and then pull it off the stove at the appropriate time. Easy.

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3. Spray your pan very lightly with cooking spray before lining with parchment paper.  This helps the paper to stick to the pan and not float all over the place.

4. Do not oversaturate your pan and parchment paper with cooking spray. Too much spray creates a yellow mess on your marshmallows. This happened to me. Lightly spray means to lightly spray. Trust me.

5. Tap the pan gently after covering the cooking spray with the powdered sugar/corn starch coating. You do not want excessive amounts of this sugary coating to remain in the pan. Tapping the pan and removing the excess powder will give you a cleaner and smoother marshmallow.

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6. Use scissors to cut your marshmallows. I tried a knife and a pizza cutter. Both of those tools created a hot mess. Scissors were fast and easy.

7. Make sure to lightly dab your freshly cut edges in the powdered sugar/ cornstarch mixture as you go. The marshmallows can dry out quickly and become crusty if you do not coat as you go.

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8. Before sharing with any of your family or friends, reward yourself for your successful marshmallow making adventures and play chubby bunny. Seriously. You’ll feel like a kid again. Promise.

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We’ve enjoyed sharing different recipes on our blog, and then hearing about how people have used them.  We love seeing your results through the e-mails we have received, facebook posts and instagram images.  Please keep sharing your results with us!  We’d love to see how these recipes turned out for you! We’re so thankful for all of you who follow along and enjoy our blog.

Photo credit:  Matthew Land Studios 

Download and print our recipe for Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

Recipe Design and Calligraphy:  la Happy 

Sinclair & Moore Marshmallows recipe