It seems that everyone has their own set of family traditions over the holidays. One of my friend's family reads The Polar Express to each other on Christmas Eve, no matter how much time has passed since they were kids believing in Santa Claus. Brian's family watches It's a Wonderful Life together every year.

This got me thinking about my own family's traditions when I was younger. I remember my sisters and I would take pictures in front of the Christmas tree each year with our dog Misty. Year to year, you can see how we passed down our Christmas outfits to the next younger sister..and oh what lovely outfits they were. For the sake of not further embarrassing myself and sisters I will only post one picture. I remember my older sister would always wear her "Acme" t-shirt on Christmas morning, without reason. One person in my family would be appointed Santa that year and would be in charge of distributing the gifts. These yearly rituals, no matter how small, would become our traditions.

Even though I hated getting dressed up for pictures or going to midnight service on Christmas Eve, I now appreciate all of those things we did together as a family because as each year passes it is getting harder to get together. It has become increasingly challenging to schedule gatherings now that we all have our own families and spouse's families schedules to consider. Sometimes I wish it were simple again and weren't such a chore to get the whole family together. I wish my dog Misty was still around and I wish my sisters and I could take a picture each year in front of the Christmas tree (minus the overload of plaid and lace dresses). So while I remain envious of the lucky families who still carry out their yearly traditions and get together with ease, I am moving my focus to building new traditions. Traditions that may embarrass Lily as she gets older (she'll appreciate it later), but nonethelesss, traditions that we have built together and will always carry out as a family.

So what will our new yearly traditions be?

Collecting meaningful ornaments?

Making a gingerbread house?

Or getting Lily to pose in matching pajamas with her cousin?

Only time will tell!

feelin crafty

This year, in an attempt to be crafty while saving a few dollars, I decided to make a few gifts for my sisters. We're not supposed to be exchanging gifts, since we are doing a secret santa gift exchange, so technically I'll say these are from "Lilyan." Hopefully they won't read this until after Christmas, otherwise the surprise is ruined! Oh well, I just had to share the great ideas I came across for my gifts:

Bandana Aprons - found from the DIY section of Ashley Ann's blog. (Not only is she creative, but she shares the same first and middle name as me...one of many reasons why I love her site)

These were so simple, it makes me wonder why I haven't thought of this before? Oh, that's right, because I am not creative in the slightest....although I do aspire to be! Anyways, all you need is some Heat n' Hold tape, Fray Check, ribbon, and a bandana. Follow the instructions from the link above and voila! An instant apron that is basic, chic, and costs about $5 to make.

Recipe in a Jar - found from the Dec 2009 issue of Food Network magazine.

Now this idea, although simple in thought, is not so simple when trying to find specific ingredients. Did you know yellow lentils are NOT the same as yellow split peas? Or that blue cornmeal is IMPOSSIBLE to find anywhere? After numerous trips to numerous grocery stores (Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant, Safeway & Bloom) I finally found yellow lentils (Toor Dal) at Grand Mart. I have yet to find blue cornmeal, so I finally settled with yellow cornmeal. Once I got all, or most, of the ingredients I needed, I assembled 3 Recipes in a Jar by layering the main ingredients and attaching a recipe card to each.

Blue Cornbread with Pineapple
  • 4 chopped dried pineapple rings (found at Whole Foods)
  • 1 c. dried blueberries (found at Wegmans)
  • 1/2 c. fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c. blue cornmeal (I substituted with additional yellow cornmeal)
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour + 2 tsp. baking powder + 1/2 tsp. baking soda + 1 tsp. salt
Recipe card:
  • Butter an 8- or 9-inch sq baking dish and line with parchment paper. Stir the Blue Cornbread with Pineapple mix, 1 c. buttermilk, 2 eggs and 4 Tbs melted butter in a large bowl until just combined. Pour into prepared dish and bake at 425 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25 mins. Cool, then slice into squares.

Curried Lentil Soup
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried chile pepper
  • 2 tsp. tumeric + 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder sealed in a plastic bag
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • 1 c. yellow lentils
Recipe card:
  • Heat 3 Tbs. butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 4 smashed garlic cloves and 1 diced red onion; saute 6 mins. Add the contents of the spice bag, the bay leaves and chile pepper from the Curried Lentil Soup mix and cook about 3 mins. Add the rest of the soup mix and 8 cups of water or chicken broth; simmer until the lentils are soft, about 1 hour. Season with salt.

Super-Chunky Christmas Cookies
  • 1 c. toasted shredded coconut (I used shredded coconut and toasted it in a pan on low heat)
  • 1 c. semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 c. chopped cashews (I left these out)
  • 1 c. white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c. red and green M&M's
  • 1/2 c. Dutch-process cocoa powder (found at Wegmans)
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour + 3/4 tsp. salt
Recipe card:
  • Beat 1 1/4 c. sugar and 1 stick butter with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 egg and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Add the Super-Chunky Christmas Cookie mix and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet and back at 350 degrees until set, about 12 mins. Cool on a rack.

This is such a great gift because you can use any recipe that you love. Of course it helps if the recipe is appealing in a jar. Now it's time to test out these recipes on my own. I'd hate to give a gift that disappoints!


Christmas Countdown

Yikes! I just realized that Christmas is 2 weeks away. I haven't even begun my Christmas shopping! Luckily this year, we are doing a secret santa gift exchange within my family (sisters, parents, brothers in law). That means I only have to buy one gift for the person's name that I drew and also means that I will have tons of money (ok, maybe not tons) left over to shop for Brian and Lily! Now if only I had time to shop...

What do you get a 11 month old for Christmas? She's at that age where she'd be happier with the box or wrapping paper than the actual gift, but of course I can't just wrap up empty boxes....or can I? No that wouldn't be nice of me, especially on her first Christmas! So here are a few ideas that I have so far:

(her favorite show & she'd love being able to crawl in and out of this thing)

(I know... boring... but she'll thank me later when she's smart!)

Baby Dolls
(she's a big fan of giving her dolls kisses...and chewing on their feet)

Sports toys
(soccer ball from me, golf clubs from Brian I'm sure)

So it looks like Brian and I have to get started on our shopping! I plan on being crafty this holiday season by making a lot of small homemade gifts for stocking stuffers, but with only 2 weeks left, we'll see what I can do!


first snow!

I can't believe fall has already passed, but I am so excited for the snowy days this winter. I hope there are tons of snow days like we had this past weekend. Lily absolutely LOVED the snow! She was trying to eat it and loved crawling around in it. Finally we had to carry her, against her will, back inside after she kicked off a shoe and shook off a glove.