“I smell snow.”
— Lorelai Filmore
Can you smell it? The brisk winter air, charged with cheer that buoys your step with joyous anticipation? The holidays are here!! I can hardly sit still this time of year, I’m so invigorated with the spirit of the season - giving thanks, giving gifts, giving back. And the baking. And the shopping. Oh, the shopping. Let’s be honest, if it involves baking or shopping, I’m in, so clearly I’m in my element this season. I may not be Gilmore level energized, but it’s a close call. If you’re looking for ways to embrace the season (and expend a little energy, whether yours, your guests, or the littles), here are a few winter wonderland inspired ideas:
- Visit an ice rink
- Bake & decorate cookies
- Check out craft and pop-up holiday markets
- Write your list to Santa
- Attend a Christmas tree lighting
- Host Friendsgiving or a Trim-a-Tree party
- Take a long winter walk
- Make snow angels
- Ride in a sleigh
- Take a holiday cooking class
- Make s’mores & hot cocoa
- Adopt a family for the holidays
Craft and Holiday Markets
Have I mentioned the shopping? I love the growing trend of pop-up markets and art fairs, and this time of year, there are plenty to choose from. Markets often include a wide array of items, including home decor, jewelry, food items, and apparel, and some pop-ups offer DIY maker opportunities to design your own piece. I’m always inspired by the creativity and skill of the artisans, and with Christmas just around the corner, I arrive armed with an excuse to take beautiful, unique finds home for the holidays.
Some of my favorites in Texas include Canton First Mondays (open year round, once a month, on the first Thurday-Monday weekend of the month), The Nutcracker Ballet Market, Texas Chritkindl Market, and anything in Bishop Arts, Deep Ellum or McKinney. If you plan to visit a market, I recommend comfortable shoes, layered clothing, remembering where you park the car (not kidding - take photos or drop a pin in your phone) and bringing your own reusable bag or cart.
Host a Friendsgiving or Trim-a-Tree
Over the years, my husband and I have attended several Friendsgivings, and it’s becoming a treasured tradition. There was the one where we made (and ate!!) the Friends trifle. In my opinion, it DOES taste like feet, although some of our friends swore it wasn’t so bad and went back for more. There was the one where everyone brought a trial Thanksgiving recipe to test out before the big day, which included a spatchcocked turkey that was delicious, and some other dishes that weren’t, but no one cared because it wasn’t about the food anyway. And this weekend, we kept the tradition alive at a fabulous Friendsgiving feast in the home of a dear friend that exemplified the spirit of the season. It was a wonderfully warm and welcoming potluck where friends new and old gathered together to share life - not to mention a delicious meal of traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving fare, from paneer tikka masala to pumpkin cake. There were no rules or stress, only the assurance of good food and good company.
As I sat in Bonnie’s home, enveloped in the warmth of the evening, a beautiful piece of artwork on her wall caught my eye. When I asked her about it, she explained it’s origin, and I was struck by how perfectly the piece described the evening and our hostess. It was a large collage composed of artistically designed affirmations and inspirational quotes she had hand selected and her mother had printed on a single canvas. How like the room filled with kind, fun, brilliant guests from all walks of life she had surrounded herself with the canvas was.
Another fun family tradition, this one passed down on my husband’s side, is hosting a trim-a-tree party. Since before my husband can remember, family and friends have gathered to decorate the tree, share a potluck meal, eat ‘The Cookie Lady’s’ cookies and play games to kickoff the Christmas season. My favorite part of the evening is when everyone pulls the couches and chairs into the main room so we can all sing Christmas carols together. The sound of my husband’s voice leading us in ‘Silent Night’ or my friend Becky singing ‘Mary Did You Know’ - it’s magic, making me feel the joy of Christmas the way I felt it when I was little.
They’re precious traditions I’m so thankful for, and I hope their ideas that will inspire magical memories for you and yours.
“It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.” - Sarah Addison Allen
You can always tell a southerner by the way they show emotion through food. Someone sick? Bring them a casserole. Someone going through a break-up, bring them a pie. Someone say holiday - oh honey, break out the extra table leaf because everyone will ask, ‘what can I bring?’ and no matter your answer, they will bring that and then some.
Holiday baking in my family, whether due to that extra zing in our step, or an upcoming Thanksgiving or Christmas event, is no exception. The commotion in the kitchen before a holiday was something to behold with four women baking up a storm, and I can still feel the warmth (sentimentally, but also from the oven and people - it was hot and crowded in there, y’all!). Those memories are precious - even the ones where I dumped Lawry’s seasoning in the pumpkin pie cuz it looked exactly like the cinnamon container. It did!! Or the time my brother-in-law left the fork at the bottom of the green jello salad, forever frozen in green goo. We tell those stories every year, and I wouldn’t change them for the world. (Ok maybe I’d change it so one of my sisters dumped the Lawry’s in, but that’s it.)
Since baking for me is always “cinnanimous” with the holidays, I’m always looking for an excuse to whip something up - hosting parties, attending church and work potlucks, decorating cookies, or joining a baking class. For me, baking together makes for a great opportunity to make memories as well as goodies. So break out the icing for some family cookie decorating or look up a nearby baking class. Some of my favorite classes include ones hosted by:
- Sur La Table - we’ve taken several classes with Sur La Table year round from main courses to pastries and loved every one. They provide take home recipes, excellent instruction, and a fun social environment…not to mention immediate access to a drool worthy kitchen shop next door.
- Michaels - the craft store offers several Maker classes, from florals, to decor, to cake decorating. They use the Wilton Decorating Method in their cake decorating classes, and Wilton is a brand I’ve used and loved for years.
- Sugar Social DFW - Sugar Social DFW is an online only bakery that designs and bakes desserts for all occasions and offers classes to help spread their passion for baking. Their classes are fun and laid back, with the two Chelseas, who are humble and kind, taking time to help class participants. Note: the cakes are sample size, great for practice, but smaller than traditional cakes.
- Mrs. B’s Cookie School - Mrs. B’s offers intimate-sized cookie decorating classes to teach class members how to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing. Mrs. B also sells cookie decorating kits of pre-made cookies and icing so you can host a cookie decorating party of your own for the holidays!
Sugar and spice is in the air as we near the holidays - so don the spirit (and your party apparel, shopping shoes, and aprons) and embrace the season!
For more fun holiday ideas and treats, I hope you’ll check out my other posts and check out the blog next week!