Christmas at Home | A Cook Family Tradition

I've inherited so much of my love for tradition and sentiment from my parents. Christmas memories are some of the most precious ones that I hold onto so dearly in my heart... the smells, the tastes, the sights, the feelings, all of the emotions that surround this time of year - all of them speak to me and my heart in such a warm and fulfilling way. 

Jesse and I would always sit at the top of the steps while mom and dad got all of our gifts together in piles on one of the sofas - Jesse's on one, and mine on another, so we could sit and open them one by one, with our stockings (that my dad's mom, my Nana, made when we were tiny babies) overflowing with goodies too. They never put the gifts under the tree - they would always keep them tucked away until Christmas morning for us to come down and see. We didn't do Santa in our house either and quite frankly I look back and don't mind one bit. My parents worked hard for those gifts year after year, and made it all such a magical experience for us every single year...

Dad would make his famous french toast topped with "snow" (powdered sugar), a beautiful egg bake with a green pepper Christmas tree and a roasted red pepper bow on top, links of sausage, and sweetly baked apples with nutty pecans and spices. The house smelled like a wonderland. Folky Christmas music would be playing, and sometimes Nana would be there too. Her birthday is on Christmas Eve so she'd often spend the night after we'd all been together the day before, celebrating with her and the rest of our family. 

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I've always been sentimental, but it seems as though turning 30 has ignited my yearning for keeping traditions alive even more. I've been so emotional this Christmas! Nana, who will be 92 tomorrow (Christmas Eve), has been in and out of the hospital, and I've been really reminiscing about memories relating to her. This past year has also been really challenging in many ways for not just us, but those close to us - whether it be relating to jobs, losses, struggles - it's just seemed to be a tough 2017 for many loved ones we know. So I've been really reflecting and just thinking about a lot lately about who I am and where I've come from, and I've just been falling in love with our family - my safe haven, my sacred space, my comfort, my home - all over again, and soaking in all of the blessings we've been given over all this time we've had together. 

We really do live life so fast-paced. And for what? Why are we rushed so? What does looking so forward to the future do for us? When will we just sit back, rest, stop, look, see, feel, smile, close our eyes and breathe...? It's so easy to move so quickly through life and forget to take the time we should to appreciate those we love, and to spend time with them without rushing or thinking about what else we have to do. These moments, in fact, are what the richness of life is made of.

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So this year, we celebrated Christmas together back at home. Dad worked so hard to make us an incredible dinner of Swedish Meatballs, green beans, mashed potatoes, and cranberry salad. It was the best meal I've had in such a long time!

Mom always has "something to share" at the end of a meal... An article she's recently found to be interesting, a joke she heard on the radio, or something to warn us about - like the worst day of the year to drive during (so be extra alert on the road!) or one of our favorites, "what to do if you see a shark in the ocean while swimming"... This year, she shared a holiday letter with us from some of her extended family in Wisconsin, and some Christmas word jumbles to figure out - all of which I was able to decode! :) Then Dad read from Isaiah, where it talks about the prophesy of the birth of Christ some 700 years before he was born. It's so amazing to me that he came to us so simple and so unobtrusively, yet full of majesty and wonder... 

We always take forever to open our gifts. I like to savor mine and watch everyone else open theirs! It's so fun to see what we all get... Mom got a cute pair of slippers and some of her favorite music, we gave Dad some white dinner plates he's been wanting for quite some time, Jess received a sweet new fancy coffee grinder, and Tyler and I each got a new coat and a set of gorgeous white organic cotton bath towels from Williams Sonoma, our favorite! - among an abundance of other goodies we all bountifully bestowed to one another. Jesse is newly engaged to his girlfriend Karlie who gave us all very sweet and thoughtful gifts! Stranger Things soundtrack on vinyl for Tyler, and some gorgeous serving spoons for me. 

Before we left, dad surprised us with an adorably wrapped Christmasy to-go box (bow and all!) of his Christmas breakfast for us to enjoy on Christmas morning... French Toast, egg bake, sausage, and apples... It brought a tear to my eye of course! Such a special labor of love and I can't wait to enjoy it!

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I love looking around the house and seeing how cozy it is. My parents have such a way of making home feel so warm and full of love. Every corner has a story, twinkly lights, a comfy chair, and so many memories... Mom always has her adorable little way of making sure everything has a little touch of sparkle, hence the glitter on the table and stars around our napkins. It felt so especially special this year. I wish I'd captured it more, but here are a few pictures from our night together. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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  • My dad built the little tree you see here out in the back yard with a few stick sand some rope. Isn't it adorable?
  • Mom's candle holders were a gift we gave her for her birthday, along with the felted mistletoe, both from from Becket Hitch.
  • My Nana painted the chicken oil painting you'll see, as well as made every single element in the miniature General Store that sits on our piano, completely by hand. 
  • And I made the cookies. :)