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 3×5 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.
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