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

In the Stillness

Over the weekend Steve and I had a special Christmas date night planned. We got dressed up and went to dinner, saw the Nutcracker ballet and then went out for dessert afterward. Every part of the night felt rushed and way too fast to me. I was shocked when the curtain came down for intermission – it must have been a stage malfunction. How had that already been an hour? The intermission itself was so short we couldn’t even get a decent photo of ourselves. When the dancers started bowing in the second act, I figured they must’ve cut out some of the scenes from the original Nutcracker I saw as a little girl. It all went by so fast and before I knew it, I was at home washing off my makeup and getting under the covers. I’ve come to realize that time moves incredibly fast when you’re an adult.

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In contrast, the Christmases I remember from childhood seemed to be painfully slow coming, like the season was put in slow motion and the big day would never actually arrive.

I remember my family had a fabric advent calendar in the shape of a Christmas tree with little felt shapes and characters that would Velcro on to count down the days. To me, it seemed like those 25 shapes would multiply and the season was entirely too long. The anticipation would drive me crazy and make me feel hopeless.

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It now seems like the hopeless feeling comes in the opposite way. That I can’t get everything done, that my calendar fills up too quickly, shopping feels stressful and I sadly can’t even stay awake to watch one of the Christmas movies in my Netflix queue.

One of the pastors in church yesterday shared that he was feeling behind too – that he’s been caught up in meetings and get-togethers and that his family Christmas tree still hasn’t been decorated yet. He encouraged us  to take a moment and simply be still. It was just what I needed to be told. Be still.

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Having a fast paced business in which we spend the majority of our time planning for the future and setting goals, it is vital that we set aside time to simply be still and embrace the present. This is the season for us to relax and recharge for the coming year, but it’s just so easy to get wrapped up in all of the to-dos and not savor the stillness.

In the stillness is when we enjoy the present. In the stillness is when I realize how good our tree makes our apartment smell, how amazingly colorful the sunsets are in the afternoon and how magical it looks when small flurries of snow make a brief appearance.

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One of my favorite Christmas traditions that Steve and I have is creating tree decorations together, and I love that it requires us to stop everything and be still. In our three Christmases together, we have come up with a concept for the look of our tree, shopped for craft supplies and carved out time during the evenings to put our plan into action.

These are the times that I’ll remember most as the start to the holiday season before it feels rushed and hectic. The moments when we first start playing Christmas music and sit across from each other at our table creating something beautiful. The times when we put everything else aside to spend time together in the stillness.

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He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”    – Psalm 46:10

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Check back tomorrow for the recipe for these homemade marshmallows (or as I like to call them, Mooreshmallows)!

photo credit: Matthew Land Studios