Winter Solstice, Early Christmas and Light Fights

Merry Christmas Eve Eve! I’m SO ready to kick off a nice relaxing week with the family, and we had a great weekend to get the holiday party started.

On Friday, we celebrated the winter solstice, which is an annual event in my family and one of my favorite traditions. We got together at my parent’s house for a delicious dinner and then took turns lighting candles and making wishes for the year ahead. You can wish out loud or silently, and it’s so nice to take a quiet moment and put some positive energy and wishes into the world.

Winter Solstice

That same night, my husband and I jumped in the car and headed to Richmond for an early Christmas celebration with his family.

First order of business when we arrived: some puppy love from their weimaraner Lexi! (She doesn’t look too thrilled, but I promise, we’re buddies.)

Weimaraner

In addition to eating delicious food nonstop and exchanging gifts, we also took a tour of some UNREAL Christmas lights. My brother-in-law’s friend does a phenomenal light display every year, so we drove to check it out. In fact, his friend is one of the contenders on the ABC show the Great Christmas Light Fight! His episode airs tonight at 9 a.m. and his display is called Hadley’s Winterland.

Hadley's Winterland

I mean, how amazing is that? The pictures don’t even do it justice.

photo 3 Hadley's Winterland

The display included a TON of lights and figurines and an arch with lights that moved in sync with Christmas music. Not to mention a zillion other awesome elements. If you live in the Richmond area, it’s a must see!

And we obviously had to take a picture under the mistletoe:

Hadley's Winterland

We saw a few other awesome houses to wrap up the night.

Hadley's Winterland

I can’t even fathom the amount of time and energy that goes into these displays. So fun to see, and the perfect way to kick off Christmas!

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Easy Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Based on the number of cookies I consumed over the past four days, my body is now comprised of 75% butter and sugar. To start, my dad organized a cookie day on Friday, which turned into a baking marathon. I think between my dad and I, we baked something like 20 dozen cookies.: sugar, pizzelles, molasses and chocolate chip. I was on my feet for 40 minutes at one point pressing pizzelles in the iron. Am I out of shape if I was really tired afterward?

photo 3Cookie Day

And today, our department at work had a little holiday lunch, so I needed to whip up something for dessert. Since 20 dozen cookies wasn’t enough, I decided to tackle some raspberry thumbprint cookies. These are the perfect thing to bring for a holiday event or cookie swap, because they’re easy and beautiful! You use a store-bought cookie mix as a base, but they taste like they’re from scratch. It’s the perfect way to trick co-workers into thinking you’re awesome!

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Source: Betty Crocker

(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:
– 1 package Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
– 1 egg
– 3 tbsp flour
– 1/2 cup butter, softened
– Raspberry jam (or any jam would work!)
– White baking chips

Directions:
– Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
– Mix sugar cookie mix, butter, egg and flour in a large bowl until dough forms.
– Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
– Press your thumb into the center of each ball of dough to create a small dent. Fill the dent with jam.
– Bake for 8-10 minutes.
– Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.
– Melt white baking chips in the microwave. (Tip: microwave the chips for 30 seconds and then stir. Microwave again for 30 seconds and stir. After that, microwave in 10 second increments, stirring between each.) Use a spoon to drizzle white chocolate over top of the cookies.

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Like I said, quick and easy! People seemed to love these, and every last cookie is gone. (Although, people at work eat literally anything you put in the kitchen, so it’s not a great system for judging quality. But I’m going to tell myself it was my awesome baking skills.) I doubled this recipe, and it made a little more than four dozen, but I think I made my cookies bigger than the instructions stated. If you made little tea cookies, you could probably get a ton more out of the recipe. Enjoy!

What are your favorite holiday cookies?

‘Tis the Season for Pie

I am thankful for so many things this holiday season. One in particular? My mom, who taught me all her pie making secrets this year! When I took on a dessert assignment for Thanksgiving, I knew I wanted to make pie. The only problem? I’ve never really made a pie before. So my mom invited me over to join her for a pie making marathon/lesson on Wednesday. The result?

Thanksgiving pies

That’s right. SEVEN pies. Four for my mom and three for me. It was definitely an all day project, but I was so happy to have my mom’s help and recipes! First up? Pumpkin pies!

Pumpkin pie mixLIBBY’S® Pumpkin Pie
Source: LIBBY’S® Pumpkin label

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground gloves
2 large eggs
1 can LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin (15 oz)
1 can Carnation Evaporated Milk (12 oz)
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

– Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
– Pour into pie shell and bake in preheated 425-degree F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 40-50 more minutes. Let cool for two hours on a wire rack.
– Serve immediately or refrigerate.

My Grammy makes one substitution to the original recipe that we followed, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.

Next up, we tackled chocolate chip pies, which are delicious!

Chocolate chip pieChocolate Chip Pie
Source: family recipe, similar to this one found on Bakerella from Nestle Classic Recipes, 2003

1 prebaked 9-inch pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened and cooled
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

– Preheat oven 325 degrees F. Prebake pie crust for about 15 minutes.
– Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter.
– Stir in chocolate chips and spoon into pie shell.
– Bake for one hour. Cool on wire rack.

This pie is definitely served best warm, so eat it immediately or plan to reheat. It’s like a chocolate chip cookie in pie form: what’s not to like?

Last up, we made my mom’s recipe for pecan pie, which is so delicious and not too sweet. But, that’s another family secret!

Pecan pie

All in all, it was such a great day! Full of delicious food and family time. What better way to spend Thanksgiving Eve?

Thanksgiving pie

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you all had as much delicious pie as we did 🙂 What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Etsy Holiday Gift Guide

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is two days away! The holidays snuck up on me this year, and I really need to start shopping before it’s too late and I’m scrambling to find things with two-day shipping on Amazon. If you know me, it’s no secret that I absolutely love Etsy. I pretty much kept the site in business shopping for our wedding, and all my wishlists for the holidays typically include at least one or two Etsy items. If you’re not familiar, it’s a marketplace where people can buy and sell unique homemade or vintage items.

With the holidays right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share a few Etsy finds that would make great gifts for friends or family.

GiftList1. Set of 8 Gold Foil Coasters, $18.00 | Emily Ley
2. Home Sweet Home screen printed pillow, $32.00 | EarthCadets
3. Colorful watercolor print, $30.00 | WatercolorPrint
4. Leather Wrapped Infinity Crochet Scarf, $48.00 | ThreeBirdNest
5. All You Need is Love and a Dog 8×10 print, $25.00 | milkandthistle
6. Gemstone stacking rings, $158.40 | delezhen
7. Fingerless Black Gloves with Red Felt Heart, $34.00 | yastikizi
8. Mint clutch, $48.00 | VincentVdesigns

A few notes. The watercolor print comes from a shop that I recently found with gorgeous artwork. It also has watercolor images of different skylines, dancers, flowers and even an octopus, which sounds weird but is actually awesome. And how cute would the other art print be for a dog lover? The gemstone stacking rings are pricey, but it’s a set of three that you can wear individually. I think the gray, black and white combo would go with a lot of things, but they have a zillion other colors. My mom got me a ring from the same shop last Christmas, and it’s beautiful. The mint clutch is part of a set meant for bridesmaids, but the shop also sells individual clutches in all sorts of beautiful fabric. I’m obsessed with the brass closures too.

I will say as a small word of warning: Etsy items are handmade, so items are potentially hit or miss with quality. I definitely recommend checking out reviews from previous customers before buying.

Have you started Christmas shopping yet? Are you a fan of Etsy?