Something funny happens when you get older. People tend to move away, get married and have children – everything changes. So when the holidays roll around it’s always interesting to see how deep-seated traditions stir into new ones.
I’ve mentioned in past posts that it’s easy for me to feel a little blue when the holidays come around. Being from the snow belt in Buffalo, NY and now living in San Diego, our Christmas trees tend to be on the beach in 80 degree weather where there’s 0% chance of a white Christmas.
When I woke up on Christmas day last year I immediately realized something was up. My husband was not in bed and I could hear rustling downstairs. I called out to him and the chaos immediately halted, ending abruptly with him shouting up a hurried, “Stay right there!” My mind immediately raced to think of all the things that could be happening. Breakfast in bed? Last minute gift staging?
In the meantime I had gotten up to fix my bedhead and look out the window. Palm trees, no snow. It still didn’t feel like Christmas. The silence broke with Tyler’s voice calling me downstairs.
Halfway down the steps I noticed it – balsam fir. When I turned the corner, Tyler started playing A Charlie Brown Christmas on vinyl with the lit tree sparkling behind him, and the best wintery scent enveloped the room. He had went out and got a Christmas candle all on his own to light for me on Christmas morning to put me in the spirit and make me feel more at home. That will always be one of my favorite memories.
This year my motto is “Cherish the Present.”
I cannot express how I feel about the holidays this year, mainly brought on by the fact that this is my first Christmas as a mommy. It is my responsibility to show my baby the warmth of the season – through love and family, sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. And with the new traditions come the passed on ones that will be with us through the rest of our days.
Here are some of the ways I will be setting the holiday tone this season.
This year I decided to spruce up my place settings a bit. I have a 12-seater table, so linen can get expensive. This year I opted to use scrapbooking paper in lieu of a placemat. The colors and textures really made the place setting pop. A festive DIY ornament was the perfect touch to top the plates and they doubled as a sweet little “thanks for coming” gift for guests to take home with them later on.
DIY Festive & Modern Christmas Ornament
- Clear ornaments (I got mine from the craft store for $1 a piece)
- Faux cranberries and pine (for a fresh take try using real cranberries and rosemary)
- Optional: Tinsel, jingle bells, glitter
- Open ornament and assess the size of the opening. Be sure that anything you choose to add in will be a good fit.
- Cut pieces of foliage down to size. I leave mine a bit longer than the length of the ornament knowing that I can bend them to wrap around the inside.
- Add largest piece of foliage to ornament.
- Continue adding to ornament until inside is full.
- Cut pieces of pine off.
- Insert only needles into the ornament. Add optional items like tinsel, jingle bells, or glitter if you would like.
- Pop top back on and shake lightly.
- Thread ribbon through the hole. I chose to leave a longer tail on mine so that I could also use as a hanging decoration from the chandelier or as a cheery Christmas necklace.
Christmas would not feel the same without my grandma’s homemade Italian cookies. This year I took a stab at a family staple – Italian Anise Cookies.
Italian Anise Cookies
Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 24 cookies
- ¾ c. sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ c. milk
- 1 tsp. anise extract
- 2¾ c. all-purpose flour
- 2½ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
- 5 tsp. milk
- Sprinkles (I used Christmas sprinkles, but these are traditionally made with multicolored nonpareils)
- Optional – 1 tsp. anise extract (I chose to omit this for our cookies)
- Heat oven to 325°F. Coat baking sheet with nonstick spray.
- Dough: Beat first 5 ingredients (sugar, butter, eggs, milk, anise) in a large bowl with mixer on high speed until well blended. On low speed, beat in next 3 ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) until smooth.
- Form small balls of dough (about 1 inch diameter) and place onto baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between dough balls.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until bottoms are light golden. Remove from oven and place cookies to wire rack or plate to cool immediately.
- Glaze: Whisk confectioners’ sugar, milk and (optional) anise extract in a small bowl until smooth.
- Spoon glaze over each cookie and, while wet, sprinkle with nonpareils.
- Let sit for 10 minutes or until you can’t wait any longer to taste.
Oh, and when I was picking up the ingredients for these at our local Albertsons I noticed this special Glade® holiday display and went nuts buying up all of the scents! The Glade® Limited Edition Winter Collection scents include Be at Peace™ (balsam fir and juniper), Cherish the Present™ (apple cinnamon), Send a Little Love™ (vanilla biscotti), and Share the Spirit™ (pomegranate sparkler).
I plan on sending a few plates of these yummy cookies over to the neighbors with a Share the Spirit™ candle to spread some cheer!
What are your holiday traditions? Are there any smells that trigger the warmth of Christmas for you?