From our family to yours…

It’s Christmas morning. Grey is already awake and waiting for us to tell him it’s time to run downstairs. London is still fast asleep. Jamie is getting ready. I’m taking a moment to pause, give thanks and just take it all in before the rush of the day begins. It wasn’t that long ago that I spent nearly every Christmas by myself, dreaming of having a family of my own. I remember those days well, so I feel especially grateful for all I have been blessed with.

While it still feels surreal that this is our last year as a family of four, we have had the best season creating memories for a lifetime and I can’t wait for our full house next year.

From our family to yours, we wish you a merry Christmas!

photos: Kristen Honeycutt Photo Co 

11/40

Cookies with Kids

One of the best parts of the holidays is sharing the magic of the season with friends.  Every year we get together with our good friends Christiana and Todd and their kids and decorate cookies together. I still remember our first cookie party five years ago when there was only one kid decorating cookies. Jamie and I didn’t have any kids of our own, but we set up the party for our friend’s daughter because we knew she would love it. Times have changed and our families have grown! We now have five kids standing around our kitchen island decorating cookies, and next year there will be seven kids between our two families! We definitely believe the more the merrier… but we have also come to realize the more the messier! We don’t mind the kids making a mess, but we have discovered that the kids have more fun when things are a bit more organized and don’t feel as chaotic. We’ve learned a few things over the years about hosting a cookie party and thought we would share a few of our tips! Make the Dough! Use a good recipe for making your dough! We have previously posted Jenny Cookie’s sugar cookie recipe here  in addition to the best soft gingerbread cookies here. Make the dough early enough so you have time to roll your cookies out the day before your cookie party!

On another note… you could skip this step altogether! Check with your local bakery or grocery store to see if they have cookie decorating kits where you can just purchase fresh baked cookies directly from the store! Lets be honest… sometimes there just isn’t time to do all the baking yourself, and thats ok!

Roll it out! Roll the cookies out before all of the kids arrive! We used to have all of the kids participate in rolling out cookies. While it is fun to do with one or two kids, rolling out cookies with five kids, is tough. We found that they had a hard time being patient through rolling enough cookies to actually decorate and then waiting for them to bake and then cool. Most kids are really excited about adding the frosting and the sprinkles, so baking the cookies ahead of time allows the kids to do what they really love most!

I rolled out most of the cookies myself, but it sure was fun to have my little buddy next to me rolling out a little bit of dough and experimenting with how to use a rolling pin!

 3. The icing on the cookie! While I love the look of smooth royal icing on a sugar cookie, it’s not very easy or fun for kids to work with. We like using buttercream… or perhaps I should call it fake buttercream- you know the fluffy kind bakeries ice their cakes with that is entirely unhealthy but still tasty! You can find our recipe here from a post we did several years ago!

Make your icing ahead of time and color it to your desired shades! We use AmeriColor food coloring in small amounts, or just keep the icing white!

You can also just purchase icing from your local bakery or grocery store!

Sprinkle it up! At our very first cookie party two year old Isola referred to the sprinkles as “toppers” and the name has kind of stuck with us! We like to find a variety of fun and unique sprinkles in the color palette of the party. We source our sprinkles from places like Williams Sonoma , Wilton  or Etsy!

Minimize the mess! We don’t mind kids making the mess, but if we can minimize the amount of clean up we have to do afterwards, it gives us more time to spend with our family versus being overwhelmed with clean up! Here are a few supplies that have come in handy for us:

  • Takeout containers with lids work great to quickly color and store your icing
  • Disposable decorating bags allows for quick clean up at the end
  • Icing bag ties  help keep the frosting in the decorating bag by tying off the end
  • Small cookie sheets for each kid to decorate on keep the sprinkles (mostly) contained
  • Paper souffle cups  are perfect for rationing sprinkles out to each kid ( this helps us avoid the whole sprinkle bottle from being poured out on just one cookie or kids fighting over which color of sprinkles they currently want to use!)

Standing higher! We get the kids closer to the action with the use of towers and stepping stools. We have a couple of  these learning towers that have been gifted to us. We love this brand because of the solid construction and that the towers are adjustable for different heights to accommodate various stages of childhood. Our step-stools are probably from Target- Nothing special, but great to have on hand!

Freedom and Fun! I love that our kids feel free to decorate their cookies however they want. We try to just let them explore and figure things out on their own unless they ask for help. I love seeing what they each come up with, what colors they prefer using and creating what they find beautiful in their little minds! The kids get so focused on what they are doing, and then are so proud of themselves for what they have created. Except for London. She’s just there to eat the cookies (with monitored consumption of course).

Take photos! It’s so crazy to think that Isola was only two years old when we made our first cookies together. Watching her grow into the young lady she is becoming has been a joy… she’s also developed some impressive cookie decorating skills since that first party. I wish I had photos from that first year. Watching how the kids have changed and developed from year to year is really special and the photos from this party each year are things I really treasure.

Get in on the Action! Parents deserve to have some fun too! When the kids are done and lose interest, take some time and create your own cookies… It will make you feel like a kid again! This is the first year that our kids were old enough to really go and play on their own in the adjoining room while we were able to have some decorating fun! Something tells me 10 years from now it will just be us decorating the cookies while the kids are off spending time with each other.

 

Tied up in String! The first year we decorated cookies together, we got to the end and I realized we didn’t have anything to package the cookies and send them home in. We are more prepared now, and have a variety of different bakery boxes that our friends can package their cookies up with, like these bakery boxes!  Having ribbon to tie up the package makes it special and festive! The velvet ribbon in the photos was a vintage find, but you can purchase similar ribbon from ETSY and the chunky yarn is from Michaels!

Life is better done together! The most important thing that I am reminded of every time we see our friends, is that life is better when we do it together. Our community is our support, encouragement and cheering squad through the ups and downs of life. Investing into the kind of friends that truly know your heart and allow you to just be yourself, and push you to be the best version of yourself is worth its weight in gold.  True friendship is hard to come by and is truly the best kind of gift you can receive in this world… although good cookies with some icing and “toppers” might be a close second!

Photography: Alanna Maria Photography 

10/40

 

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