Home for Christmas

Our Family Christmas, Continued... | Christmas 2017

What a wonderful Christmas it was... We spent it with each of our families and got to see pretty much every single member, all of which we love so dearly. 

The Saturday before Christmas was spent with my dad's side, the Cooks, at Uncle Rich (my dad's brother) & Aunt Bonnie's house, where we'd just spent Thanksgiving, for another cozy sweet time together. I had made Nana's (dad, Rich, and their other brother Doug's mom) famous dinner rolls recipe from scratch (for the first time, nervously hoping they were just right!) a couple days beforehand with my mother-in-law, Karen, during our annual Christmas baking day we had. Each of us took turns accidently turning the mixer on too high too fast getting flour everywhere, hehe!

The table was decorated so beautifully as Aunt Bonnie always does, with the name tags handmade with love... Bonnie & Rich's grand-daughters put together the cute little gumdrop tree.

After dinner, we exchanged gifts under the theme of "oldie but a goodie" - meaning we had to buy our person something from the Thrift Store this year! It was fun to see what everyone got, and we all made out VERY well!

The day after, on Christmas Eve, Tyler and I took the day for some much-needed rest and enjoyed a candlelight service at our local church in town. I love going there on Christmas Eve because it's such a beautiful sanctuary with the red carpet, candlesticks, poinsettias, and beautiful old Christmas hymns. 

Each Christmas morning, we spend with Tyler's mom Karen for brunch the three of us then heading to spend the early afternoon with Nanny and Opa, her parents. We usually go to her house but this year, she came to us! It was so nice. Remember that breakfast I told you that dad made for us? We headed that up and enjoyed every single bite - it was delicious and took me right back to my childhood, as I knew it would... We toasted with Mimosas and opened gifts! And Jesse joined us too! The egg bake with a gorgeous wreath made of parsley and peppers, french toast, spiced apples, and sausage... Can't forget the topping of "snow"! 

We also had our stockings ready to open... Baxter finally had one of his own this year. I crocheted the other two for Tyler and I (and one for our beloved Myah of course) back in 2009 or so, and had yet to make Bax one but I found time to stitch him one this year so now he's official!

Karen gifted me that wreath you see Baxie laying next to right up here to the right, and Tyler received a new toaster oven! We got rid of our microwave this year (look it up - they're so bad for our bodies!) and so we're excited to use that! And my wreath will be perfect in time for next October! Bax was excited about his new toys and cookies too... So then it was time to leave for Nanny and Opa's!

We surprised Nanny and Opa with an "all-in-one" record/CD/tape player this year so they could play their old records, and it was absolutely precious to watch them pick out their favorites and sing along to the ones they chose to listen to. We also surprised Opa with a DNA kit from My Heritage and are excited to see what those results are so we can pass that down to our own kiddos one day. We had a small little lunch around the pop-up table in the "dining room" of seven layer salad, quiche, ham, and Nanny's famous Chocolate Cake, all of which Karen made and brought. Tyler and I ate light because we were about to go to another feast at Aunt Nina's! But we exchanged our gifts with them and spent a nice calm and relaxing afternoon with Nanny and Opa. We love them so much. 

Afterwards, it was time to venture over to my mom's sister, my Aunt Nina and Uncle Denny's house for Christmas like we also do every year! It's so warm and cozy there - like a Christmas dream! I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked but that's because I was visiting with everyone which was so nice... :) 

Each year, all of us get a fun little musical instrument and this year it was spoons! We all goof off with them and them move onto our Yankee Swap (where you have a pile of wrapped gifts everyone has brought that you can trade among each other once they've been opened) before Santa comes! ;) Holly's (Nina's daughter) birthday is on Christmas and this year, she turned the big 5-0 so Aunt Nina had the fun idea of buying gifts for Holly instead of the Yankee Swap, but of course not having Holly know until it was time to start the game. I went first, and opened the gift saying, "wait - this says it's for Holly!" so she opened it, and #2 went. They also opened the next gift and said "wait - this is for Holly too!" so she got it and began to open the rest of the gifts after being given the adorable birthday hat to wear while she opened! So that was fun! And on a fun note: apparently her birthday cake took a little tumble this year during preparations... hehe. Still tasted delicious, I'm sure!

Then Santa came, and everyone got a little something special (thank you Uncle Denny and Aunt Nina!!) and we then sat and visited and enjoyed each other's company...

And after a week of working/not working, resting, sort-of working, eating leftover cookies, and wondering what day it really was... we topped of Christmas week off with Tyler's dad's side of the family - The Smiths, at his dad's sister Tracy & her hubby Mark's house in Virginia - you know, where we spend the weekend for the kayaking trip every summer! I hardly photographed but did capture a couple fun little moments... We had our cocktails, smoked trout, steamed shrimp, salad, rice, and gumbo! We did do a Secret Santa and exchanged our gifts with whoever we had one-on-one at different times through the day whenever we felt like it was right, which was kinda fun. We hadn't done it like that before but I loved it. It made the gift-giving feel more special in some sort of way because usually, this side of the family just all opens the gifts at once and it gets insane!

Luke (Tracy & Mark's son) was in town from California, and it was so great to see and catch up with him! We all just took it easy and hung out together for the day which was nice... 

We are so unbelievably blessed to have the family we do - on both sides. And as tired as I am, currently under the weather at best, I wish I had more energy to go into just how grateful we are, but I know they know - and we know they know we know - and we know they feel the same because we are all so blessed to have each other. At any time - but especially at Christmas.

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Merry Christmas once again - and a very Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for sharing in our memories with us!

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. :)