Saturday, December 4, 2010

Things I love: Christmas and Winter edition ...

As we're getting the house and our hearts ready for the Christmas season, it got me thinking about some of my favorite Christmas and winter things that I though I would share. So, here goes:

1: Being Moravian during Advent Season: Technically, I'm not Moravian, yet. Casey and I were well on our way to joining our church, Raleigh Moravian this past spring and then, well, Beatrice Kate had other plans and was born before we could join officially. Nevertheless, I still absolutely feel like Raleigh Moravian is a part of our family and we feel so at home going to services there. Moravians are, of course, a Christian denomination, who (very simply put), do a lot of worshiping through music and are very open-minded and tolerant of other people's beliefs. We go by the motto, "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love." That pretty much sums it up for me!

I first heard about "Moravians" when Casey and I first started dating back in college. After some confusion from my family about whether I said "Morman" or "Moravian", I was hooked! Casey's grandfather, "Pop", a devout Moravian, who grew up in the "sacred" Old Salem of Winston-Salem, NC would always invite me along to their church services, Easter sunrises services, Candle Teas and Love Feasts.

I especially love attending a Moravian church during Advent season because of three main reasons: a) There's something about the combination of the band music, choral singing and Christmas liturgy that completly envelops me during Advent. My heart feels personally touched each and every Sunday that the Advent wreath is lit and Christmas carols are sung.  b)The church is so amazingly beautiful when it's decorated for the holiday season. I tear up every year during Silent Night on each Christmas Eve's Love Feast in part because Pop is no longer with us and also because it's just so special to see the sanctuary lit up by candlelight. c)... well see my next favorite things...

2: Sugar Cake and Mrs. Hanes Cookies: I've known what Moravian Cookies were long before I knew that there were actually Moravians behind them. The thin, crisp deliciousness of a good spice cookie can't be beat when paired with a cold glass of milk or Moravian coffee. What I didn't know, however, until I met Casey and subsequently, Pop, was that there is an ever higher echelon of Moravian cookies than what you can buy in the seasonal shops. That's right; Mrs. Hanes. Any good Moravian can tell you- Mrs. Hanes makes the best cookies in the state. That's right Winkler's Bakery, I said it. Mrs. Hanes are the best hands down. They don't come in those silly, frilly tins. No, Mrs. Hanes doesn't waste time on non-essential packaging, her Moravian Cookies come in a simple plastic wrapped sack and are sold by the pound and half-pound (but who's buying only a half-pound?)

The other awesome part about being Moravian during Christmas is that this year, I volunteered to help make Sugar Cake at our church for Candle Tea and hit the gold mine in baking advice from the little old ladies experts. In one morning's time, I learned more than I have ever learned about baking, rising, spreading and butter-topping than I have in 27 years. These ladies do. it. up. right. Since then, I've been addicted to making Sugar Cake. Seriously, I've made about 12 and have given away only 2. But as good as mine are... they're nothing compared to the ladies at Raleigh Moravian. I expected as much though- they've got 60 years of experience cranking those babies out. I've only had 3 hours. I guess there's no other way to perfect my technique than to make some more ...

Christmas Colored Scarf
3: Scarves and Pashminas: During the wintertime, you will rarely see me outside of the house without a scarf or pashmina tied around my neck. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of ....ohhhh 3 dozen of them. No that's not an exaggeration. I have just about every color, every texture, every pattern, some for inside, some for outside, some just for "fashion", some to play in the snow (when that happens in North Carolina). They take up 4 hangers in my closet, and that's not even all of them. I need to get this scarf holder from Ikea at some point I think.Somehow though, no matter how many I have, I always find just one more that I need to get. So, if you're ever looking for a gift idea... think scarf!

4. Bob's Mini Candy Canes: Hi, my name is Ashley and I'm a mini candy cane addict. And I'm not talking about those cheapy, flimsy, sticky kinds you find at discount or Dollar Stores this time of the year. No, I'm talking about the sweet, candied goodness of Bob's Mini Candy Canes. I can spot a box of Bobs from two aisles away. Their distinct green packaging may seem camouflaged amongst the sea of seasonal candy wrapping, but for me, Bob's shines like a beacon in the night. When located, I have been known to spend like $50 stocking up on these babies to last me throughout the year. Of course, for me, "throughout the year" winds up being until about... February. I can't help it. Casey will watch in amazement as I attempt to stuff an entire mini candy cane in my mouth whilst hurriedly unwrapping another. Sure, they have occasionally snapped while consuming, sometimes leading to mouth lacerations because of their razor sharps points but nonetheless, I have a problem and I don't want any help, thankyouverymuch.

5. Netflix on Demand:  If you know Casey very well (or barely at all) then you probably already know that he is a cheapskate in the worst way and that we don't have cable. I'm not knocking it tough, because it's due to his frugality that we can afford for me to be a stay-at-home-mom. That being said... there's just not a whole lot on television during the weekdays, or well, really even during the weekends. That's why I was beyond excited when Netflix started their On Demand/Streaming over the Wii of some of our favorite television shows and movies. When Beatrice Kate first came home from the NICU in April and never, ever, ever slept more than 45 minutes a time; the Nextlix on Demand was about the only thing that kept me from losing my mind. There are only so many different late night news channels and talk show hosts one can watch before going insane. During those foggy, sleepless days I watched the entire first five seasons of Lost.

Now that it's winter time and it's too cold to go out and do things once the sun goes, we're stuck inside most nights as well as days. Thankfully, Netflix On Demand is there to save the day. They've recently added most USA shows, a lot of NBC's latest season of shows and a few other networks' line-ups as well. It's really hard to beat being snuggled up on the couch, our tiny baby in our laps (when she's willing), with a fire blazing in the fireplace, watching an episode or two of 30 Rock.

6. Smart Stick Hand Blender by Cuisinart: If you don't have an immersion blender in your kitchen, stop what you're doing, and go to purchase one right this second. I own the Cuisinart version and it. is. awesome. It's so much easier to blend things with an immersion blender rather than dragging out my giant food processor or full-sized blender. You just stick it in the pot you're already cooking in and press "start". Thirty seconds later, you have velvety goodness. I use it almost daily for making soups, sauces and most recently, baby food. Beatrice Kate won't eat anything blended in the food processor because it's not as finely pureed as it would be in the immersion blender. I think we have a little food critic on our hands! I also make a ton of homemade soups with this thing; which usually are healthier versions of what we would otherwise be getting from a can. I'm telling you, if you like to cook (or even if you don't but want an easy way to get started cooking) buy one of these things. It's the best $30 you'll spend this holiday season!

7: Gift wrapping: Being a Christmas-Nazi runs in my family. My mother is nothing, if not methodical in her placement of all her Christmas decorations (just ask my husband why he refuses to help her decorate anymore). This meticulous behavior also extends to gift wrapping. I take a lot of pride each year in selecting "the perfect" gift wrap for each of our gifts to be given and then matching it with a coordinating ribbon and finally topping it with a special touch of something like an ornament, a bit of raffia, a sprig of holly or some metallic garland. I love to see the end result of all my hard gift wrapping work sitting under the tree each year and especially love the way the gifts are lit up by the tree lights. One year, I got brave and thought I could remember how each person's gift was wrapped and decided against gift tags. It's a great system in theory; but not when you have a family that exchanges $5 gifts for all 10 people (times two for Casey's gifts to everyone). I now use tag for everyone, no matter how small the gift!
If you're a thief thinking about stealing our gifts... be warned, there's a $5 limit and they're not even that great

Don't worry, I'm not breaking the bank with my obsession of fancy, better-than-Belks-gift wrapping. I only buy wrapping paper, ribbon, accessories and tags in January when everything is on deep discount. I bet I've probably spend only about $20 on all the gift wrapping necessities I'll need for the next two Christmases.

8: A hot cup of tea: Brace yourself. Below is a photo of the "tea drawer" in our pantry:
Yes, we acknowledge that it is ridiculous that we have a drawer just for tea

A quick inventory check reveals that we currently have:
  • 6 boxes of Celestial Seasonings Brand (blueberry,  2 Sleepytimes, a Sleepytime extra, a mixed fruit and a Tangerine Zinger)
  • 5 boxes of mixed variety of Yogi Tea
  • 3 tins of Twinnings' Lady Grey
  • 1 tin of Twinnings' Darjeeling
  • 1 box of Bigelow Earl Grey
  • 1 box of Lemon Green Tea from Whole Foods
  • and 2 random tins of tea from my last trip to the U.K.
See, for some reason, when the temperature starts dropping my husband and I both become British. By which, I mean that we consume an unusual amount of hot tea. I didn't help the situation either by venturing to London on a business trip last January and coming home with 5 of those tins...

Anyway, what are some of your favorite wintertime or Christmas time or Holiday time things? I'm in the market to add a few more to my list!!

1 comment:

  1. Did you see my blog about the scarf hanging?? I need to see how you do it! I think I've finally mastered the art though...

    Also, I have to ask- what kind of gifts do you get for $5? That's a steal!!