Starting New Traditions + A Cut-Out Christmas Cookie Recipe

Sunday, December 21, 2014

As our little family grows (still waiting on baby number 2 to join us...already a couple days past my due date), Joe and I have been thinking a lot about traditions, specifically around the holidays. What family traditions from our childhoods will be continue, what new ones will we start? Some of the traditions seem minuscule and insignificant, others are more meaningful. But the sum total of these traditions will shape and form so much of our daughters' childhood and memories and understanding of what family is and its purposes, around the holidays and throughout the rest of the year.

One of my favorite holiday memories from my childhood is baking Christmas cookies. Everyone in my extended family bakes pretty much the same selection of cookies, recipes my nana has passed down and has been making for years and years. Every winter we'd gather in the kitchen - sometimes at home, sometimes at Nana's - and spend hours mixing, rolling, shaping, and baking. Then we'd pack away in Christmas tins or on paper plates wrapped in plastic and decorated with ribbons for the neighbors. I love the memories of being in Nana's kitchen, wearing one of Nana's aprons, standing on her brown metal step stool, snacking on raw nuts in a mini paper cup. And most of all, just being together as a family, learning how to work with others in the kitchen. This is one tradition I want to keep alive in our new family, using all of the favorite, tried and true recipes. I've already blogged our recipes for Oatmeal Lace Cookies and Russian Drops. Today, I'm sharing Vanilla Wafers (from which we make cut-out cookies).

Since starting my own family, I've realized just how many of these essential family recipes I'm without, living away from my family. Almost every week I email or call my mom or aunt for a recipe. So when Zoe and I set out to make some cut-out Christmas cookies, of course I had to call my mom for that as well. I used my early Christmas present - an Intel 2 in 1 device - to keep the recipe close by while preparing and rolling the dough. Zoe and I also used the tablet side (my favorite) to look at some cookie inspirations, although our cookies didn't end up quite like the cookies we saw on Pinterest. I'll be honest, as a lifelong lover of a different brand of tech equipment, I was skeptical about the Dell. But, I love it, and it's super convenient when cooking (I use it almost every day in the kitchen), propped up on my cookbook stand. I try not to let Zoe zone out in front of movies all that often, but I confess that in desperate times, I've also folded it into the tent position on the kitchen table, while preparing dinner, and let Zoe watch a bit from Winnie the Pooh or Robin Hood (her two favorites).

Back to the cut-out cookies, though. My favorite parts about the recipe card my mom send over? It's on a 3x5 card, typed up on a typewriter, has my nana's handwriting at the bottom: "Make TRIPLE," and is smudged with years of butter, flour, and eggs. Zoe and I had so much fun making these cookies together. She's at the age where she just wants to be involved in everything happening in the kitchen. She hardly had the patience to wait for me to roll out the dough. And once she realized that raw cookies taste good (delicious, in fact), she couldn't stop shoving the dough into her mouth. And the sugar. Oh, the sugar. She mounded it on those cookies (the sugar actually burnt when we baked those cookies, which is why they're not pictured, haha) and had so much fun doing so. I'm so blessed by this little girl, and am looking forward to the years and years of beginning/continuing traditions and learning and memory making together!

Other traditions Joe and I have been discussing and we're still unsure how we're going to approach them: Christmas Tree. Should we surprise the kids and have it set up early one morning when they wake up, or will we include the family in the entire process and forage in the mountains for a tree, bundled up and drinking hot cocoa. What about an Advent calendar? We know we definitely want to keep gifts minimal and simple, and use this time of year to teach our kids about serving others.  Being a parent is such a wonderful gift, but we're learning how each stage has its own lessons and challenges. We feel so comfortable being parents of a baby, but all of a sudden, we have a toddler and find ourselves asking so many new questions!

Do you have any great holiday traditions? Or behavior you try to teach your kids all year round, but especially make a point to demonstrate at Christmastime?

Vanilla Wafer Cut-Out Christmas Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream butter, then add sugar, egg, milk and vanilla. Mix and sift dry ingredients and add to first mixture. Chill. Roll out to 1/8-1/4" thick, cut into shapes, move to parchment-lined baking sheet, then decorate with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 5-7 minutes or until bottom of cookie begins to turn light brown. Be careful not to over bake as cookies will brown very fast.

Photos (with exception of recipe card photo) : Anna Clair Photography for A Daily Something | Styling : Rebekah Lisk | Creative Direction : Rebecca Gallop

#spon: I'm required to disclose a relationship between A Daily Something and Intel. This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

A Holiday Gathering + Simple Florals + Entertaining Tips for Verily Magazine

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last month, I hosted a cozy dinner with my friend Rebekah. Rebekah and I planned this supper using the Virginia Hospitality cookbook (by the Junior League of Hampton Roads), first published in 1975. The cookbook is full of history, giving a detailed background for each course and its relevance to Virginia hospitality over the last several hundred years. Some of the recipes date back to the 18th century and sharing the recipes from this cookbook felt like we were all participating in and paying homage to Virginia history in a very meaningful way. The Junior League of Hampton Roads generously donated copies of the cookbook, so we were able to give each lady their own cookbook to take home! 

Today, I'm over on with some pretty images from the Virginia Hospitality dinner, sharing some tips on throwing a stress-free, affordable gathering...Head over there for the tips, and please share some of your own...with baby number 2 arriving any day now, I can use all the help I can get!

One of my favorite elements of designing tabletops is incorporating nature! I almost always place a sprig of something at each place setting, and I love a simple, fresh table runner or centerpiece arrangement. I'm definitely not a floral designer, but I have picked up a few tricks on how to make a centerpiece that doesn't topple over and how to make an overhead hanging display. A few tips on how to make both the arrangement and overhead installation I made for the Virginia Hospitality dinner are over on Verily, too!

Hope you're inspired to create a simple yet beautiful holiday tabletop!

"Hospitality in eighteenth century Virginia gained the state her reputation as 'the land of hospitality.' The colonists in the English custom displayed pineapples as a sign of welcome on doorways, gateposts and garden walls. Fresh pineapples were used as the center of table arrangements and as a main feature of Christmas decorations. The tradition of warm hospitality is cherished and continued by Virginia hostesses." - Virginia Hospitality 

Thanks to:
Rebekah Knable for the inspiration and cooking and organizing and doing basically everything for this dinner!
Melinda - Knead & Know for all her help and for the biscuits 
Anna Clair Photography for the photos
Rebekah Lisk for her assistant styling
Junior League of Hampton Roads for the cookbooks
Greenhill Vineyards for providing the wine
Rebekah Pizana for baking the delicious lemon chess pie
Alicia Bruce - Love Knot Photo for sending over two photos of hers: #8 and #24

Sisters' Room Makeover with The Land of Nod | Part 2

Thursday, December 18, 2014

If you're just tuning in today, this is part two of Sisters' Room Makeover with The Land of Nod. My husband and I are in the midst of the ongoing process of making our early 1900s Virginia farmhouse a home, and you can read part one of Sisters' Room Makeover here. Today, I'm sharing the AFTER photos of their sweet little room. Because the room is so tiny (about 8' x 9'), I wanted to keep it very simple and bright! I love vintage and I'm a border-line I tried hard to keep the room minimal while incorporating vintage here and there, and pops of color for the girls.

We didn't need to do very much to the room. First, we emptied it. It had become a literal junk room full of baby + kid things, with a pathway to Zoe's crib. Then we painted the walls and the trim. Next we packed up the paint supplies and washed the floor. The most fun part was putting the room together - building Zoe's new toddler bed, setting up the Moses basket, arranging collected artwork on the walls, building the shelf, making the felt garland.

We tackled two very simple DIYs for the girls' room. First was a wooden wall shelf, made by Joe in just an hour or so. We found some very old floor boards in our garage, left there by the original owner. So, he simply cut a board to the correct length and hung it using L-brackets. Couldn't get any easier! The second DIY was the felt garland. I wanted something festive, but wanted to keep it muted. So, I picked out some neutral felt colors, cut a bunch of half-moons, and hand-stitched them all together with wool yarn. My mom and I sat at the dining room table during one of Zoe's aftenroon naps and sewed; she modified Ikea curtains and I made the garland.

Seeing it come together, and not just a random collection of ideas in my head and on pinterest, was incredibly rewarding and satisfying! Excited for the rest of our house-to-home process (which we'll be sharing over the next year or so)!

My gracious mom spent a few days with us; she helped with the impossible task of choosing the paint colors, painting the room, and making curtains. She also spent hours watching Zoe, cleaning, and cooking. I'm so grateful for her help and willingness to give so much of her time! And a huge thanks to The Land of Nod, who made the room makeover possible, provided the uptown toddler bed and flokati fluff rug, and gave me the motivation necessary to complete this room!

Here's a list of some of the resources:

paint | cloud cover by Benjamin Moore
toddler bed | c/o The Land of Nod
vintage dresser | Auctions on Main
lampshade | Target
wooden wall shelf | DIY
wool rug | c/o The Land of Nod
pendant lamp | Target
Edison bulb | Home Depot
triangle mobile | The Alison Show
Moses basket | Amazon (and I changed the liner/ribbon)
fox pillow | Uncommon Goods
animal alphabet chart | Rifle Paper Co.
"runaways" print | Kelsey Garrity Riley
animal party parade print | Rifle Paper Co.
cardboard elephant head | Uncommon Goods
cube bookshelf | Target
wooden stacker toy | Uncommon Goods
fox slippers | Target
headbands (similar) | Little Hip Squeaks
felt garland | DIY
wooden rattle | Fennel & Rose
brass lamp/wire basket/mirror/toys on shelf | vintage
mocassins (similar) | Minnetonka
elephant booties | Uncommon Goods
curtains | modified Ikea

Please let me know if you have any questions about the room or products! So so blessed to be able to share these projects with you all!

Photos by Anna Clair Photography for A Daily Something.

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