My mother-in-law is the Queen of Christmas Treats. She has a whole arsenal of delicious Christmas recipes, and you better believe her four boys make sure she makes every single one every single year. Since we are very sadly not going to see her this holiday season I'm trying to give Bryan a teeny tiny taste of what he's used to.
One day I made a dozen batches of chocolate chip cookies- a dozen batches of a dozen each. Some were for a funeral and some for a baby shower, but our family ate an embarrassing number of the leftovers. Next I made gingerbread cookies at Jilly's request. We made and delivered these to many of our friends. We had Santa's Cookies- a tasty recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip M&M cookies that my friend gave me. And on Saturday morning I made gingerbread waffles.
But of all the Christmas delights, Cherry Walnut Bars are my very very favorite. I had never tasted these until I married into the Martinez family but I immediately fell in love. One year all my dirty, rotten in-laws (kidding!) ate all the cherry walnut bars before we got there and it just about ruined my Christmas. I've since forgiven and let them know I will fight to the death for my annual cherry walnut bar (or bars... or the whole pan) This year I made cherry walnut bars for the first time and they weren't quite up to The Queen's standard, but still delicious.
Amazon Prime: Between the winter weather that I am slowly adjusting to and two little girlies that must!touch!everything! shopping in actual stores has not been my cup of tea this year. Amazon Prime has been a lifesaver over and over again. Not only can I find nearly every gift I'd ever want to give, but also they're often cheaper than anywhere else and are sitting on my doorstep in two days flat. What could be better?
Hot Cocoa: In high school I went to an early morning Seminary class at church and my sister and I would take hot chocolate with us every day. Our friends called it our "Mormon Coffee." Thankfully I don't have any classes to attend in the dark hours of the morning, but I still love hot cocoa, and I've passed on the love to my girls, who both have called it "hot toto." Jilly's no dummy and tells me almost every afternoon, "While Mattie takes her nap today you and I should drink hot cocoa together." Done and done. My hot cup of cocoa helps me warm up and motivates me to get some things done instead of just sitting down to close my eyes for a bit. I don't have a brand preference for cocoa, I'll drink pretty much anything that's hot and super chocolate-y. But, I do love to add a dash of cinnamon to my mug and marshmallows are a must.
Smart Phone Gloves: Apparently I'm pretty stuck on cold weather but these gloves have changed my life. Now when we're out looking at lights or shopping or just riding in the frigid car I don't ever need to take my gloves off to use my phone. Seriously, whoever invented these is genius. There are lots of options: some pretty, some very affordable, some for men (Bryan recently got a pair of gloves just like this and he's sold.)
My New Vacuum: I will forever be a real Christmas tree devotee but that does not mean I love the mess they make. Also, with holiday festivities we have more people coming over to our house this time of year so I'm a bit more diligent at keeping it clean. I remember reading a blogpost once that said instead of stressing yourself about cleaning every square inch of your house you should have an arsenal of 2 or 3 things you can do with a few minutes' notice that will make a big difference to you on the tidy scale. My thing (or one of my things) is vacuuming. If my carpets are clean and have those beautiful vacuum lines I feel immensely better about the state of my house (even if windows have fingerprints, the sink is full of dishes, and the microwave is a scary sight.) And it doesn't hurt at all that I bought my vacuum for 50% off on Black Friday.
Mancrates was the inspiration for this post. If your husband/dad/brother/etc. is anything like mine they are The Hardest People to shop for. Mancrates is a company that sells crates that are full of stuff men love and, my favorite part, must be opened with a crowbar. They're an excellent option for some last minute holiday shopping
Posted by Rachel at 7:00 AM
Last year my friends Shauna and Jana posted about making mini Advent Ornaments, and I suddenly needed to make some of my own. I actually started way back in September, but wasn't very dedicated to the project til November and then I found myself sitting at my sewing machine late into the night November 30th so I could finish the tree in time! This was an enormous project and left me with stiff and sore fingers many nights but I really enjoyed it, and I'm so thrilled now that it's done!
The pattern can be found here, and was immensely helpful. I realized that I liked the simpler ornaments better because I was able to make them look better. So I skipped a few of hers that seemed complicated and instead made a little Baby Jesus in a manger (got this idea from Shauna), a star, and a light bulb. I wasn't crazy about the tree in the pattern either so I copied Jana's.
My favorite part of the project is that Jilly loves it as much as I do. Every morning in November she would ask if I had finished an ornament the previous night and get so excited to see my progress. Now there is an ornament in each pocket of my Advent Calendar (so glad to finally have a purpose for it!) and it's so fun for the girls to pull one out every morning. Hopefully these ornaments survive for many, many years!
+ For Family Night on Monday we told the Nativity story
B: "Christmas is Jesus' birthday"
J: "What?? I thought Halloween was Jesus' birthday!"
B: "Why did you think that?"
J: "Mommy told me."
+ Jilly calls the angels "fairies" and I'm still trying to decide how necessary it is to correct her.
+ We ate some Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's one night and I could tell Jilly wasn't crazy about them because she only ate half a cookie. The next day she asked me if we were going to eat more of those cookies with toothpaste in them.
+ Bryan's favorite thing to tease me about (from the long, long list of possibilities) is my totally uncool taste in music. But, when it comes to Christmas music I reign supreme. If you haven't listened to the Peaceful Holidays station on Pandora then you are missing out- it's especially perfect for bedtime. Also, this is amazing.
+ I'm not ambitious enough to do an Advent calendar with activities for every day in December, and I don't have the energy for Elf shenanigans every night, but I can handle Christmas books every day. I wrapped them all up because my girls think it is so, so, so exciting to unwrap a present. Between our collection and the piles I've brought home from the library we have enough for each girl to open a book every day. We open them first thing in the morning and it's the best way to start our day.
+ One of my favorite parts of an East Coast Christmas is all the candles in the windows. I bought these and they are awesome because they turn on automatically every night at dusk and then off again when the sun comes up. I grew up having to run around to each window to turn the candle on so I am basking in this newfound laziness.
+ Speaking of laziness, I've become a couch shopper. I've always loved shopping at Christmas time because of the excitement, decorations and all the fun things to see, but this year it's not worth it. I'm the biggest baby ever, but it is such a haul to bundle my girls up in coats, hats, mittens, run out to the car, take coats off to buckle them in car seats, drive to the store, then have to get out right when the heat has finally come on, bundle everyone back up, run in the store, strip layers off. I'm exhausted just typing it. So, I buy everything online. Thank the heavens for Amazon Prime.