Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cookies, cookies, and oh, some more cookies

Every year for the last few ones, we bake a lot of cookies for the holidays.

There are  usually several parties to attend that require us to bring something, so I sign up for desserts.

I know I've said this before, but I love baking. Like love it with all my heart.

Bread, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, pies ... I want to make them all, all of the time!

This year, however, we took our cookie game to the next level.

I finally figured out royal icing.

We made our first meringue cookie.

Both girls were even bigger helps in the kitchen.

And oh my goodness, did we make some pretty phenomenal cookies.

Nothing was overly complicated or complex. Decorating the sugar cookies did take time, but it wasn't hard.

In addition to that, I whipped up some darn cute cupcakes. That turned out a bit sillier than I intended, but after they were done, I loved them for their silliness!

I made my first swiss roll cake. It wasn't perfect - but I managed to roll it without cracking it. It's a feat I'm pretty proud of. Though, I definitely left myself some room for improvement. I mean, Rome wasn't built in a day and my swiss roll cake wasn't perfected in one bake!

And if I'm being honest, I'm proud of myself for trying something new. And shocked it mostly worked the first time.

I've always loved baking. I've always been drawn to it. But lately, it feels like I'm ready to step it up to the next level. Not with crazy complex treats, but learning to make new things, new methods, and really refining skills.

It's fun to feel an old passion get rekindled. It's fun to be in the kitchen and feel confident in doing things I've done before. And it's fun to stand there trying something new while simultaneously praying it turns out okay!

And then, after all of that, you get to sit down and munch on something that tastes good! It's so much fun.

I'm already thinking about what to do over the coming year. New things I'd like to try to make are tarts, cream puffs, and coffee cake. I definitely want to make more bread - loaves, rolls, crusts, etc. It will be so fun to see what else I can pull off in the kitchen in the upcoming year. Thankfully I have a lot of friends and family who will be willing to try what I make!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

It's the night after Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone.

I swear, we spend weeks preparing, and then poof! It's here. And over. And you've barely had time to take it all in!

That's not to say I don't enjoy the preparing. And I love the actual two days - Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

Our family was positively spoiled this year: both by ourselves and from others.

But I probably won't remember the specifics of this. We are spoiled every year. Every year the husband and I say that we went over the top for each other, for our kids. We have never had to have the experience of going without at Christmas or of feeling sad because we can't get our kids "enough." We've never had a Christmas where there is no where to go to celebrate the holiday with. And we've never had a Christmas apart (though it was close one year).

In ten years I might forget that this was the year I splurged and got my husband the new computer items he wanted (but would never want to spend the money on himself like that). I will probably forget that this was the year I got tons of baking supplies that I hope to use so many times that maybe in ten years they will already be replaced. I might forget that my son got a lot of dinosaur things - which he still loves and is so excited for. I might forget that I managed to somehow pick out make-up that the 16 year old actually likes. And I might forget that the 13 year old was most excited about getting a set of bed sheets with chickens printed on them.

What I hope to remember is that we baked a lot of cookies, but even better: we shared a lot of cookies. I hope I remember that my mom took me shopping and paid for cookie baking supplies so it would be one less thing for me to have to budget for the month (for while we don't go without, we also don't have unlimited spending) and that it felt like she handed me a million dollars instead of flour, sugar, butter, and some other things.

I hope I remember getting to rock our baby cousin to sleep at the Christmas Eve party. I haven't rocked a baby to sleep in a while, and her and I tucked away in a quiet room and I stole lots of baby kisses.

I hope I remember my 10 year old coming down stairs at 10:30 at night because he was just too excited to sleep! And Christmas is awesome and he just didn't know how he'd ever sleep! So we cuddled on the couch, flipped on The Christmas Story marathon and watched some tv together. And it was so sweet because at 10 he doesn't cuddle with me very often anymore. And we certainly don't get many moments where it's just the two of us.

I hope I remember the look on my mom's face as we all opened what she gave us. While what she gave us was awesome, her face of seeing us get it was priceless. For her the joy of Christmas is in seeing what happiness she can bring to others, and this year, that seemed to shine brighter than ever. Maybe it's always shone so bright, and this year is just the first year I saw it so much. But it was awesome. And I want to be like her.

I hope I remember how excited granny was that Santa brought her a present and filled her stocking too. We did this last year, but it seemed more fun this year. And I suppose it's probably been a while since granny has unpacked a stocking, but the simplest stocking stuffers made her smile.

I hope I remember that even though I didn't decorate every square inch of this house as planned - because we were having work on the house done, we couldn't decorate - that it was still a wonderful Christmas.

I hope I remember all the smiles I got to see. And all the hugs I was given and got to give. I hope I remember the happy tears - while just a few here and there - that I cried. And saw others cry, because even though things aren't perfect, and there is illness and sickness and some wish list items not purchased or received and some family isn't close enough to hug and some family members are (we like to wish) celebrating with us in Heaven, that despite the imperfections and heartbreak that exist in this world, that Christmas is still an amazing, wonderful time. And that the happiness and joy of the season seem to fill the cracks, if only for a small bit of time as you sit around the tree with your loved ones (the ones that were chosen and the ones that family ties you to). For a few moments, you look around and see smiles, and hear laughter. And sometimes there are tears in the eyes - sometimes happy tears, sometimes sad tears. But for a few moments, it's all okay.

I know we're supposed to carry the spirit of the season all year round. That's a lot of pressure though. Heck, I barely survived my great gingerbread-house-melt-down of 2015 (though I did) because it's hard to be happy and upbeat all the time. Life is just not built that way.

But for a few magical moments on Christmas, it all seems to fade away and just take a break. I am surrounded by the love of family and friends. I'm surrounded by smiles. I'm surrounded by squeals of delight.

It truly is a most wonderful time of the year for me.

I hope your holiday season was wonderful as well, even if not perfect, regardless of whatever holiday you celebrate (or don't) this time of year.