“I never thought it was a bad little tree ..
Maybe all it needs is a little love” ~ Linus
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The kids next door have been counting down the days
“Miss Alison, Miss Alison; Do you know how many days until Christmas?”
“I don’t Sweetie, do tell.”
Sometimes in those moments, I find myself missing the years when I was little, or a young mom with children of my own. The years when Christmas felt like it was everything. The years of snowflakes and a Charlie Brown Christmas, strings of popcorn on the tree, and afternoons spent baking cookies.
But then it happened, so gradually I barely noticed. One day I realized, I’d simply lost the spark. Falling victim, it seemed, to the plot of so many holiday movies where the grown-up grows weary of the hustle and bustle. They fail to see the magic until a curly-haired child, dramatic event, or miracle provides a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment.
All of a sudden, Christmas is real again. It’s real, and it’s here, and it’s magic. Hark the Herald angels sing. Hallelujah and glory forever ..
For me, the curly-haired child has been my grandson, and thankfully, it hasn’t taken an event or even a miracle.
Every conversation we have reminds me there’s always an excuse not to celebrate, be it crazy schedules or shifted priorities. The truth is, we’re not guaranteed a next year. So in the spirit capturing his enthusiasm and carpediem-ing the season, a bit of unabashed celebration it has been
‘Tis the season for the young at heart
‘Tis the season for the kids, and the kids who used to be kids
For the record, my husband has never lost his spark. Deep down I’m convinced he’s an elf
Hanging paper snowflakes on the windows? “How cool is that?”
The Bing Crosby or Dean Martin playlist? “Whichever you’d like my dear.”
Another log on the fire? “But of course, let’s make it two.”
Hot chocolate or eggnog? “Both” (he’ll say with a twinkle in his eye)
For me, it’s taken a bit longer.
Although I’m feeling a bit more festive this year, I haven’t been rushing around town with a Christmas list in hand. Instead, we’ve been shuffling our feet to the beat of a different drum(mer boy). We’ve been quiet. Cementing some of our own traditions, those void of expectations and never-ending to-do lists. One of my favorites?
An Advent Calendar
Here’s the thing, I’ve always loved advent calendars.
Growing up ours was made of felt and hung in the dining room of our farmhouse. A different ornament for each of the days. Every morning as I took one off, I’d think Christmas couldn’t come fast enough
When I became a mom, I was no longer in such a hurry. Instead, I wanted to draw the holiday season out as long as I possibly could. Trickling the joy, little by little, like a trail of cocoa powder over a pan of fresh-baked brownies
I’d always start with the best of intentions. This would be The Year of the Advent Calendar. We were doing it and doing it right. Every day would be filled with holiday activities like ice-skating on a picturesque pond, hanging outdoor lights in wool sweaters or singing carols door-to-door with
rosy-cheeks and mittens
In all of those years, we never, not once, did any of those things. They exist only in my mind because each year I’d write them down, but we’d skip them all except for our favorite. Watching Christmas movies with a big bowl of
popcorn and mixed nuts
The kids and I were always good for movie night and eventually decided that this alone would be our holiday tradition. A Christmas movie for every day of the season. It wasn’t quite deserving of Norman Rockwell, and it certainly won’t grace the cover of a holiday card, but my goodness, did we ever enjoy it
It was simple and quiet and us
This year finds my husband and me with 3 puppies, 3 kitties, and an Advent calendar of our own. I’m still not in a hurry and am far smarter about over-committing. So we decided to continue a tradition that seems manageable, logging into Netflix and adding to our queue
a number of our favorites
A mix of classics, and even a couple of mistletoe-infused romantic comedies; because ’tis the season.
If you’re in the mood for a good Christmas movie, I thought it might be fun to share a few
Frosty the Snowman
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Story
A Charlie Brown Christmas
It’s a Wonderful Life
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Miracle on 34th Street
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The Polar Express
We’ve already finished a number of our picks, and a few days out of the month we haven’t watched any; opting instead for tree-trimming parties and cookie exchanges. But isn’t that the point of a custom Christmas? To slow down just long enough to make a memory that works for your family?
To hunker down, or head out
To sing jingle bells or enjoy silent nights
To bring frankincense or myrrh
Because someday we may decide to don those matching wool sweaters and cut an evergreen from the Christmas tree farm. But that’s for another day. For this year, on this sofa with a bowl of popcorn and nuts, on this night, all is calm
And all is most certainly bright
This year Bon Appetit has had some pretty incredible and different ideas for holiday pies. It’s been fun to see pops of color and different flavor combinations amongst the standard holiday beige
This pie adds an unexpected tang to the table, which is such a nice counterbalance to the usual maple-pecan-pumpkin sweets. Sugary cranberry jewels on top make it pretty enough to distract and impress even the most challenging of relatives.
“The pink pie, which looks like it took a jaunt through a grassy meadow (lime zest!) and forgot to dust itself off, is holiday-ready—even decked in Christmas colors, if you’re into that kind of thing. And it’s doable in a way that won’t make you regret raising your hand for dessert duty” ~ Bon Appetit
~ Adapted from Bon Appetit
Cranberry-Lime Pie with Gingersnap-Pecan Crust
- 4 oz gingersnap cookies
- 1 cup pecans
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- Filling And Assembly
- 1 (12 oz) package cranberries + 4 ounces (about 1¼ cups) for serving (fresh or frozen and thawed)
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tsp finely grated lime zest, divided
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- Pinch fine grain sea salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, and cut into pieces
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- Pulse cookies in a food processor until very finely ground (you should have ~ 1 cup)
- Add the pecans and pulse until finely ground.
- Add butter and brown sugar; pulse to combine.
- Transfer to a deep 9" pie dish.
- Press firmly onto the bottom and up sides of dish (the back of a measuring cup works well for this task).
- Bake until firm and slightly darkened in color ~ 10–15 minutes. (If crust slides down the sides, gently press it back up)
- Let cool
- Filling and Assembly
- Bring 12 oz. cranberries, 1 cup sugar, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high.
- Reduce heat; simmer until cranberries burst and most of the liquid evaporates ~ 12–15 minutes. Let cool.
- Purée in a blender until very smooth
- Cook purée, eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, lime juice, salt, ½ cup sugar, and 1 tsp lime zest in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (bowl should not touch water), stirring with a rubber spatula and scraping down sides of bowl often, until curd thickens and coats spatula ~ 8–10 minutes.
- Let cool until just warm.
- Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat curd, adding butter a piece at a time and incorporating after each addition until curd looks lighter in color and texture ~ 5 minutes.
- Scrape into crust and chill until firm ~ 2 hours
- Bring ½ cup granulated sugar and ½ cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Add remaining 4 oz. cranberries and cook until barely starting to soften ~ 1 minute.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.
- Chill until no longer sticky ~ 20–30 minutes.
- Toss remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp. lime zest in a small bowl.
- Toss cranberries in lime sugar.
- Top pie with cranberries; serve with whipped cream