Being Selfish at Chrismastime

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You know the saying, “The only thing that is constant is change”? Nothing is more true. We grow, we adapt, we change.

Except for one thing; Christmas!

No matter how much change you went through during the year, no matter how old you get, Christmas is always waiting for you in December with the same traditions to comfort your soul and to make you feel like a kid again.

That is until you get married.

Yes. I’m giving you permission to judge. I’m even calling myself out. I’m being a big selfish baby.

If you’ve been around these parts for the past month, you know how much I love Christmas. We also all know that marriage is all about compromise. Ryan loves Christmas almost as much as I do, so this shouldn’t be a problem, right?

But no matter what anyone else will ever tell me, my family’s Christmas day and traditions are the very best ones out there. None will ever compare. I don’t care if you tell me your family brings in real reindeer and offers magical reindeer rides. Or that you have 7 Christmas trees in your house, or that you fly to a gorgeous chalet in the Alps and celebrate like royalty, or that at your house you can eat as much of your favorite holiday food as you want and actually lose weight, or that Santa is actually your dad and you go to his workshop in the North Pole every Christmas eve and help. Nope, not going to change a thing.

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My family Christmas is still better because it is ours. It is my family, the loves of my lives. It is the only Christmas that I have known. It has defined what this holiday season so all about for me. But that is changing.

Okay, before you start judging me even more and thinking I’m a total selfish B, please know that we are splitting Christmas and I’m very much looking forward to sharing Christmas with Ryan. I’m looking forward to celebrating with his family for the first time and to trying something new. It’s just HARD.

To you, my Christmas may sound pretty ordinary. My brother and his wife – who I see about 3 times a year, if I’m lucky, travel up to PA this weekend. On Christmas Eve, my family always goes out to our favorite local pub for a fun dinner followed by a night of games, drinks and music. We still wake up early on Christmas morning, eat some baked oatmeal and attack our stockings like we are 5 year olds. We then slowly open our gifts in front of the tree. One gift at a time, taking time to oohh and ahhh over each thoughtful gift. By 11:30 it’s time to head to the kitchen and do the final preparations for our mid day dinner for about 14 guests. We pour the wine and Amaretto and try to stay calm. It’s that fun kind of stressful though, right mom?! After the dinner, same menu for the past 30 years, we gather around the piano with drinks for some happy Christmas sing a longs. The night ends with us having some leftovers, eating too many cookies, and enjoying some laughs over drinks and toasting with Buttery Nipples. The day is special because it is ours. Because it is tradition. Because it stays the same.

This year, we are moving our mid day dinner earlier in the day so that Ryan and I can promptly leave and head down to his family’s Christmas celebration 1.5 hours away. I’m excited to see his own family traditions and celebrate with my new family. I’m sad to miss out on the singing (my favorite) and the relaxing evening and simply being together with everyone. Give and take, isn’t that right? Tis’ the season?

Why am I being so selfish? Because I’m proud of my traditions because they define me so much. Because it is stressful to have to pick and choose. It’s stressful because someone will always be hurt – be left out. Simply put, I don’t like too much change. Christmas is about family, and we have two now, mine and his.

But, really there are three. Because, what about our new family. The family that is just Ryan and I?

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We need to start our own holiday traditions. My goal this week is to be sure to carve out some time to celebrate Christmas in our own way. To remember we are our own family. We hold the power to combine both of our traditions and make something totally unique to us. The definition of our holidays is written by Ryan and I, and I can’t wait to discover what that is. I’m sure it will be simply magical, considering how completely crazy we both are over the spirit of Christmas.

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Oh and don’t forget about the Christmas spirit of the dogs too!

How do you handle sharing Christmas?

  xoxo katie

 

Christmas Sand Tarts – a family tradition

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Linking up with Amber (Mr. Thomas and Me) and Erin’s (Hooley with a Z12 Days of Blogging Christmas link up. Today’s prompt was “Christmas Cookie Exchange!”

It’s a fact; Christmas cookies taste better than any other cookies. They have those few extra ingredients that other cookies are missing: tradition, magic, and love.

Sand Tarts are our traditional family Christmas cookies. My mom has always gone all out when it comes to baking at Christmas time. At any social gathering she always proudly presents a Christmas tray displaying a plethora of cookies. You’ve got the classic chocolate chip, the peanut butter blossoms, the vegan oatmeal raisin, the O’Henry bars, the peanut butter cup cookies, and then the shining beacon of Christmas cookies, the Sand Tarts.

With the help of antique cookie cutters they come in all shapes and sizes and we decorate them with sprinkles and love. I’ve been intricately decorating these cookies for as long as I can remember. There is always a day in December that is “Sand Tart Day”.

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We blast the Christmas music and I sit in my chair, picking out individual sprinkles, preparing to don the doggies in sweaters and the camels in saddles, the trees with ornaments, and the gingerbread people in outfits. Meanwhile my mom is rolling out the dough and cutting out the cute shapes Hundreds of cookies are baked!

So today, I’m letting my mom, Pat Walsh, take over the blog and tell us the story behind these beloved Christmas cookies:

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This sand tart recipe was used to bake cookies for Christmas by my grandmother, Mary Weaver, my mother, Mim Weaver Dubble, and then myself, Pat Dubble Walsh.  Now I’m so pleased to have Katie using the same recipe to create these delicious cookies.  I remember baking sand tarts with my mother since I was very young.  At first I just liked to decorate the cookies but then she taught me how to roll the dough and cut them out.  I always had my favorite cookie cutters: star, bell and rabbit.

Every Christmas Eve my parents would host a party for their friends, and we would bake the sand tarts to share with their guests.  One Christmas Eve afternoon as we were baking cookies it started to snow.  It snowed so much that my parents had to cancel their party Since we had already made a lot of sand tarts I got to eat as many as I wanted. I still like to read and hold the recipe that was hand written by my mother.

My mother passed away twenty-four years ago and I always get a little teary when we make sand tarts before Christmas.  I’m so lucky that Katie likes to decorate the cookies and we have fun working on them together.  I know that my grandmother and my mother would be very proud that Katie and I have carried on the tradition of using their recipe to create Christmas cookies and family memories.

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I’m happy to share this never been shared before family recipe!

Sand Tarts, by Mim Weaver Dubble

Ingredients:

1 lb. Sugar

1/2 lb. Butter

3 eggs

1 lb. Flour (4 cups)

3 tsp. Baking Powder

1 tsp. Vanilla

Directions

Mix and refrigerate overnight

On the next day, roll out and cut into shapes

Decorate

Bake at 325 degrees for about 8 minutes.

The best cookies are the ones that are so thin and crispy that you can almost see through them!

Thanks Mama Walsh! This past Saturday we had our annual Sand Tart Day – and it was extra special this year because Ryan got to join in on the fun. He was so excited – poor boy never made a single Christmas cookie before. Ever! My parents and Ryan and I had a lot of fun and can’t wait to carry out this tradition together every year. Can’t you just taste the buttery goodness of these cookies by just looking at them?!

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xoxo katie

Skinny Mozzarella Sticks

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I love everything about the holidays except one thing: those pesky extra pounds that creep on after the multitude of holiday parties. I’m really feeling the extra weight this season. It is just so hard to say no to your favorite cookies, traditional family meals, and excessive drinking. Everything is a celebration – which means bring on the food and drink – which means an extra five pounds on my hips come January!

I always struggle at holiday parties. When food is in front of me I’m bound to eat it. Add alcohol into the mix and I tend to snack on double the amount that I should. I always like to bring a healthier plate to holiday parties to give me a little help.

This is why I was so happy to perfect this recipe of  “Skinny” Mozzarella Sticks. They are so tasty that you don’t think twice about them being healthier than any kind you’d order up at your local bar. Made with egg roll wrappers, you can eat 2 or 3 of these mouth-watering treats and not feel too guilty!

They are an instant crowd pleaser for all ages. Plus, they won’t hurt your Christmas budget or take up too much of your precious Holiday time, leaving more time to celebrate!

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

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12 pieces of mozzarella string cheese (I use Weight Watchers brand, only 1 point each)

12 egg roll wrappers

Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

Marina sauce for dipping

Directions:

1. Lay an egg wrapper flat and place a single cheese string in the bottom corner. Fold bottom corner and roll up. Dip the remaining corners in water and fold them around the cheese. (the water acts as a sealer. otherwise the wrapper will flap open while cooking).

2. Repeat with all wrappers and cheese sticks.

3. Begin to heat olive oil on a frying pan on your stove top.

4. Once the oil starts to bubble, add the sticks, a few at a time. Fry time for about 1 minute on each side or until they are golden brown.

5. Lie the finished sticks on papers towels to drain the excess oil.

6. Serve hot with marina sauce for dipping!

Happy Christmas feasting! 

xoxo katie

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without…

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Linking up again with Amber (Mr. Thomas and Me) and Erin’s (Hooley with a Z) 12 Days of Blogging Christmas link up.

Today we were asked to finish the phrase, “Christmas Just Wouldn’t Be Christmas without…”

Today’s prompt in the #12daysofblogging link up gave me a little bit of a mind blank. I’m a Christmas fanatic and love going all out during the holidays. I decorate the house to the nines, play Christmas music non stop, decorate the tree with passion, and wrap presents like they are pieces of artwork. The season turns me into an overly emotional woman who will cry at the sight of a reindeer or a smiling child.

But what exactly makes Christmas so special?

The idea of taking away any of my favorite things about Christmas gives me a slight anxiety attack. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the tree, the music, the decor, the cookies, the movies. I would never want to do Christmas without my favorite holiday traditions. But saying, “Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree in my living room” or “Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without my favorite rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas…or my mom’s cookies, or a viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life”…or all of our decorations”  sounds SO terribly trivial.

If we no longer had all these beloved elements of the holiday, Christmas would still happen and of course it would still be lovely and beautiful.

What exactly is it about this season? How does it maintain its magic year after year?

Just imagine experiencing Christmas for the very first time. Imagine that you have never heard of Christmas. You have  no recollection of childhood Christmases. No fond memories of tree decorating, or the magic of Christmas Eve, or the excitement of Christmas morning. Imagine hearing all about the “silliness” that happens during this season.

Bringing a whole live tree into your living room. Playing rhyme heavy and childish songs over and over. Decorating your yard’s shrubbery with twinkling lights. Filling stockings with gifts. Believing in a fat man in a red suit that travels all around the world in one night delivering gifts to children. All these activities would sound completely ludicrous.  This whole idea of Christmas would  be so alien and absurd to you.

Kids, it all boils down to this: Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without memories and traditions.

Christmas is made by traditions. Traditions that would be completely pointless without our family and memories of our family’s past. Everyone’s traditions are different, unique to their particular family – that is what makes them so very special. Christmas wouldn’t mean anything without our memories. Our memories tie our family together –  they act as the bond that makes us a unit. Christmas is about family, about remembering where you have come from, and about making hopes and plans for the future – together.

So, I’m here to tell you what every single made for TV Hallmark holiday movie throws in your face; Christmas means nothing unless you have someone to share it with. Christmas means nothing if you don’t hold onto happy memories and have hope for the future. Christmas means nothing without love.

xoxo katie

 

5 Favorite Books from 2013

Another year come and gone. There are only 3 more Friday’s left before we say “see ya later!” to 2013 and welcome 2014 into our lives. 2013 was a year full of love, change and growth. (really, what year isn’t full of these three things?!)

But, how do you sum up a year? I can’t help but reference “Season’s of Love” from Rent, that asks  “How do you measure, measure a year?” There are five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes in a year. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Can you measure it in sunsets, laughter, hugs, cups of coffee, miles driven, tears, diapers, text messages, fights, trips, weekends?

There is no way to sum up the moments of the past year – but I’m going to try with top 5 lists for the next three weeks. So how about in books?

It’s no secret around her that I love to read. And, as a reader I’m always looking for good book recommendations and reviews. I wanted to share with you my top 5 books that I read in 2013:

2013 top 5 books

1. Beautiful Ruins

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A story about dreams and how they grow with us through our lives or fade away. This book explores the dreams and the journey of flawed but fascinating characters and spans 50 years. It takes us from the Italian coast in the 1950’s to the set of Cleopatra in the 60’s, to Scotland in the 80’s and modern-day LA. It is full or surprises and enchantment.

2. The Light Between Oceans

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I can safely say this is the most beautifully written “new” book that I’ve read in the past 10 years. It is 1918 on a small rock of an island in Australia and a light house keeper and his wife make a life altering decision that will devastate and destroy not only their world but those of others. We are reminded that one person’s moral justice means the exact opposite for another.

3. The Book Thief

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I’ve always been fascinated with historical novels that take place during the Holocaust. Narrated by death, this novel tells the story of Liesel and how books (meant to be burned by the Nazis) provide her with comfort, love, and connection. She befriends the Jewish man her foster family is hiding by sharing her books. We are reminded at the power of words to heal and feed our souls.

4. The Fault In Our Stars

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I ate this young adult novel up in one sitting, like it was a delicious bowl of ice cream. We are welcomed into the world of terminally ill 16 year-old Hazel who is fighting Cancer. She meets and falls in love with Augustus, who is also terminal. Seeing the strength and perspective of these young adults allows up to widen our spectrum and re ask ourselves the big questions of life and our purpose as humans.

5. The Interestings

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The Interestings follows 6 teenagers who met at a summer camp in the 1960’s and remained friends throughout their lives. Spanning 40 years, the novel examines how people, friendships, and relationships change over time. The complex characters all face challenges due to social class, talent, money, envy, health, and personal happiness.  It’s kind of a more grown up “Now and Then”.

Please comment below on some of your favorite books from 2013! I’ll need some new recommendations for 2014.

Remember reading is sexy!

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xoxo katie

Music Carries the Heart of Christmas

Linking up again with Amber (Mr. Thomas and Me) and Erin’s (Hooley with a Z) 12 Days of Blogging Christmas link up.

Today is Christmas Music Day! 

I bawled my eyes out at a Rod Stewart concert last night.

If you don’t know me at all – this may make you concerned. But if you do know me, you know that I’m a huge sap and can be found crying at most anything. I haven been known to cry during car commercials, totally average get-togethers with friends, and even the movie Old School. I can’t help it!

Ryan and I went to see Steve Winwood and Rod Stewart in Philly and had a blast.  Winwood rocked out on the guitar and still sounded pretty amazing for being 65. And then it was time for Rod! (And I swear I’ll be getting to the Christmas part, just bear with me!)

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Most people don’t know or wouldn’t expect that I’m a huge Rod Stewart fan. Have you noticed that my dog’s name is Maggie May? The first cassette tape that I bought with my own allowance money was the Hot Legs single. Totally normal for a 9-year-old right?! I would sing those sexy lyrics picturing legs literally on fire. I had no idea what he was really singing about.

Of course my music taste matured as I got older and my other favorite Stewart songs include Mandolin Wind, Handbags and Gladrags, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, County Comforts, and Reason to Believe. Perhaps I was born in the wrong decade.

So, back to the tears. I started getting all emotional and weepy eyed when Rod brought out his daughter Ruby. She performed one of her own songs and I was pretty impressed. And then, they started singing his hit “Forever Young” together and I lost it. I was so moved that he was able to share his labor of love with his daughter, the daughter he wrote this song about, on stage, in front of thousands of fans every night.  Ugly cries for the next 10 minutes.

Next, Rod sang right to my heart by playing a Christmas song. And, not just any old Christmas song, my all time most favorite Christmas song ever, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. And the ugly cries just kept coming.

Christmas music carries the heart of the season in its melodies and lyrics. Think about it, what would Christmas be with out all of the joyful and familiar Christmas carols and songs we all know so well? I listen to Christmas music all month-long in December. It’s always playing in the background at my home, and I love singing my heart out each and every song. It’s good for you people! The music spreads joy, creates excitement, adds comfort, and reminds us of simpler time.

I cry my little heart out when listening to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. Rod’s acoustic version was so sincere and touching, I couldn’t help getting all blubbery.

My Favorite version is the original, as performed by Judy Garland in Meet Me In St. Louis. Press play!

To me, this song reminds us to hold on to our cherished memories of our past just as strongly as we do our hopes for the future. It’s a simple song that is so beautifully written with the perfect combination of melancholy and hope to satisfy my old soul. It allows me express myself with my favorite emotion – smiling through tears.

The tears start streaming on the third line “Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” and then I proceed to really lose it at “Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow.” I’m crying, but I’m also smiling. Because yes, life is hard, we lose people, we fight battles, we “muddle” through but in the end our life is beautiful when we have each other. Our life is beautiful because we have love from the past pushing us forward and hope that things will be just fine.

So take the time this season to reach out to your loved ones. Take the time to recall fond memories and let your soul smile. These are the elements of life that fuel us and prepare us for what our future holds – both good and bad. Take the time to let your heart be light and to celebrate the beauty of your life.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yule tide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

xoxo katie

Snow Day Snack – Peanut Butter and Nutella Puppy Chow

There is nothing like a snow day!

Yesterday we woke up to a blanket of snow with the promise that it would keep falling until mid day. Ryan and I were both lucky enough to be able to stay home. We bundled up and I worked in my PJ’s on the couch with Christmas movies playing in the background. It was so perfect.

The snow was the heavy but fluffy kind and was truly beautiful. By noon we had about 6 inches of snow! On my “lunch break” we ventured outside with Maggie.

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Snow days always make me feel like a kid. There is also something so cozy and romantic about being snowed in. When I was younger snow days were like mini holidays. And since my mom was a teacher, she was always able to stay home with us  to play games, watch movies, and bake.  After a hard day sledding and trekking through the snow, my brother and I would come in starving. We’d bake some fresh cookies or stuff ourselves with some other tasty snack.

Yesterday, I decided to make Puppy Chow with a twist! I added Nutella and it was delicious! You can’t beat this 15 minute recipe!

(Some people call this snack Muddy Buddies, I prefer Puppy Chow because duh, I love puppies!)

Perfect for when your snowed in:

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Ingredients

9 cups Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex or Chocolate Chex cereal (or combination)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup Nutella
1/4 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
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Directions:

1. Microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter, Nutella,  and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla.

2. Measure out 9 cups of your desired Chex cereal in a very large bowl.

3. Pour chocolate, peanut butter, and Nutella mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.

4. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag and add the powdered sugar.

5. Shake until all the pieces are coated in sugar.6. Snack your little heart out!

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xoxo katie