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Well, it’s that time of year again!  Christmas cookie decorating time! So on Friday I put on my apron, and made some cookies!

This year I made the standard sugar and gingerbread cutout cookies that are the recipes that my mom made for all of my Christmas cookie decorating parties while I was growing up.  They are always good!

I’ve actually been having cookie decorating parties every Christmas for as long as I can remember.  I believe I was either 2 or 3 years old (probably 3?) the first year my mom threw a cookie decorating party for me.

She invited a few of my little friends over, and made cute little aprons for each of us with our names on them.

The parties continued all the way through high school, and then when I was on my own after college, I started throwing them for my friends.

It’s such a fun tradition, and I really enjoy continuing it on as an adult.

Always in the past, we’ve put out cookies, different colors of icing, and tons of different decor items like sprinkles, colored sugars, mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, etc., and everyone gets their decorating on.

This year, I got a new icing recipe from my friend Melissa, and tried their tradition of dipping the cookies into icing a day ahead so that the cookies have a dry base of icing on which you can add more icing and more decorations.

I did this for about 40 of the cookies (I think?) and then lost steam and left the others plain.

My final verdict was that I think pre-icing the cookies is nice, and worked out well, but it was also a lot of extra work, and I’m not sure that anyone really cared whether they decorated a pre-iced cookie or a naked cookie.

I’d say for the snowflakes and snowmen, it made it much easier to start with an already white-iced cookie, and then you could just add pretty little details.  But the other cookies didn’t seem to make much difference.

Also, the gingerbread cookies did not like being pre-iced.  Their dark coloring ended up seeping into the icing as it dried, and turned the icing weird yellowish colors, so in the future I will probably no bother pre-icing the gingerbread cookies.

I decided to do a break-down of all the shapes I made, so here it is:

We had 6 friends come over to decorate cookies with us.

Patrick and Amy:

Laura and David:

Amanda and Mike:

And here we are:

Unfortunately Patrick and Amy had to leave early, so they didn’t get to decorate quite as many cookies or hang out with us after the decorating was over.  Hopefully next year!

After decorating, we enjoyed a potluck dinner – Bryan made a chicken taco casserole, Amanda brought a potato casserole, and Laura and David brought baked autumn vegetables with sourdough bread.  It was really nice getting to sit down to a hot home-cooked meal after the decorating.  So I think we’ll plan to continue that tradition.

The amount of cookies I made seemed to be just right.  In past years we’ve ended up with lots of undecorated cookies, but this year there were only about 10 cookies left undone at the end of the decorating session.

In this next picture, David looks like he’s had about enough of decorating cookies… 🙂

After dinner, we played some games in the living room: Balderdash and Linq.  Overall it was a very fun evening!

So now that I finally posted about Thanksgiving… here’s Christmas!!

We picked up our tree at around noon yesterday while we were out of the house because someone was viewing it (yay!)

We brought it back to the house, took it inside, unwrapped it (cut all the netting off), started vacuuming up the needles, and then got a call that the people who had viewed our house at noon wanted to come back and see it again at 1:45 (yay!!!) but that was in 10 minutes!  Yikes!

So we quickly and frantically finished vacuuming up the needles, threw open all the window blinds, turned back on all the lights in the house, and put our shoes on.  As we were getting our shoes on, I looked out the window, and yelled, “they’re here!”  Talan couldn’t get one of his shoes on, so we were just getting out the door as they were walking up the sidewalk.  But we made it out!

We went to Target.  Then came home and Talan took a nap.  We had to wake him up from his nap at about 5:20 to decorate the tree with us.  At first he was still half asleep…

Here’s our tree waiting to be decorated.

And here’s Talan still half asleep.

Bryan set up the camera to video document the tree festivities, and he also set up a light since that corner of the room was in a shadow (one of our overhead lights is burned out).

But eventually Talan woke up from his groggy post-nap haze and we got the tree decorated.  Here’s a video of the process!  (The section during the video when Bryan is holding Talan sideways and shaking him around was because he was still trying to get Talan to wake up out of his funk!)

And here’s the finished product.

As you can see, Talan did finally wake up.

And here’s some more evidence of that.

Some family photo shots with the tripod…

So there you go!  We are the in the holiday spirit now.  And we’re hoping hoping hoping that we’re going to get an offer on our house… 🙂 because selling this house would be the best Christmas present!!!!

I figured I’d go ahead and post some pictures from Thanksgiving this year.  We just got around to getting those onto the computer and off the camera card a few days ago.

Unfortunately we didn’t get as many photos as I’d have liked, but Thanksgiving day is always such a blur of cooking and getting things ready and eating and cleaning the kitchen that there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of time left to remember to take photos.

We did take a few video clips so maybe we’ll put together a little Thanksgiving video at some point.  But for now, here’s some pictures.

I think they’re fairly self-explanatory so I don’t think there’s much to say… Plus I’m in the Christmas spirit now and don’t really feel like going into much detail about Thanksgiving any more 🙂  So, here they are!

Miracle of miracles… Last night I received not one but two email requests for showings of our house! Two within 10 minutes of each other! Bryan and I were feeling the holiday spirit and did a crash deep cleaning to get our lovely lady looking her best. I’m so excited.

The first showing is in 20 minutes so I just left home and am sitting in a parking lot posting this from my phone. The second showing is tomorrow at noon.

An interesting coincidence about today’s date: December 9 was the exact date 6 years ago that I closed on this house. Could be my house’s lucky date?!

Here’s how I left her. I’d buy her:) oh yeah, I already did 🙂

Don’t you think she’s looking just lovely though all dolled up for the Christmas? Pray for us and send us good vibes. This could possibly be an awesome weekend.

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This past Sunday evening Bryan and I went to a special concert together.  We went to see Colbie Caillat at the Carolina Theater in Durham – which is special because that’s where we met each other!  We used two of Colbie’s songs during our wedding – Lucky was sung during our ceremony by one of Bryan’s friends:

And once our ceremony was finished, we walked back down the aisle together to I Do:

Plus we used Brighter Than The Sun for our Honeymoon video:

She sang that one as the last song at her concert!

Did I mention that Bryan got our tickets off of craigslist the day before, and that we had front row seats?!

Yep, front row.  So we got up close and personal with Hinder (neither of us are fans, but it was interesting seeing them up close and personal anyway):

And Hinder’s funky starry jeans:

and G105 Bob and the Showgram people who were hosting the concert:

Immediately after lifting his shirt up like that he looked down at me and said, “Oh you want to take a picture of that?”  haha

And…

Colbie!

She sang just for us… we forgot about all the hundreds (thousands?) of other people in the sold-out theater and balconies, and it felt like she was singing just to us… and she looked at us multiple times.  Bryan thinks she was looking right at him but I thought she was looking at me.  🙂

Here’s a video I took (see?  Doesn’t it look like she’s looking RIGHT at me and singing to me at several points during the song?):

So that was very cool.

Now onto the other part of this post as mentioned in the title: menorahs.

I was subbing in a class last week when we were talking about menorahs and Hanukkah and I got this overwhelming urge to celebrate Hanukkah.

I don’t want to go all out and start reading the Jewish prayers or converting to Judaism or anything.  I just want to have a menorah and light the candles on the 8 nights of Hanukkah.

Bryan thinks I’m crazy but he’s supportive.

Here’s my logic:

I don’t consider myself tied to any one religion.  I consider myself spiritual, and religious, but nondenominational and open-minded.  And I also feel discouraged by how commercialized Christmas is and how we really only pause to be spiritual or contemplative on Christmas Eve at church, and other than that it just feels like it’s all about hustle, bustle, shopping, Santa Claus, eating cookies, going to parties, opening presents, and more eating.

I remember when I was a kid going over to my friend Jenna’s house one night, and her family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, and that particular night was one of the nights of Hanukkah, so they invited me to celebrate with them.  They lit the candles and the kids got presents and they read the special prayers.

But the thing I like about it is that it lasts 8 nights, and it’s simple, but it gives you a dedicated time each evening (supposed to be right after sundown I believe) when you take time to sit together as a family and light candles – adding an additional one each night, until on the final 8th night all of the candles are lit.  And I just like the idea of having a little bit of time set aside every evening to contemplate being thankful and quiet and really appreciating the holiday season for what it’s supposed to be.

So that is why I bought a menorah and candles from Target yesterday.  I think they fit right in with the Christmas stuff…

As I was walking up to the display, there was a mother with 2 young boys, around 7 or 8 years old probably, and they were looking at the display as well.  The boys were saying that they liked the menorahs and wanted to get one.  The mom said no, and the boy said, why not?  The mom said, “No, we can’t get one, we’re not Jewish, what would we do with it?”  And I thought to myself, “well, I’m not Jewish either, but what the heck, why not?!”  haha 🙂

Am I crazy weird?  Oh well.

***Update: After discussing the menorah idea and religion stuff in general with Bryan in depth over a delicious meal at PF Chang’s last week, I decided that having the menorah was actually unnecessary and perhaps inappropriate and did in fact clash with our beliefs.  So… I returned the menorah and candles to Target last week.  Oh well, it was a fun idea while it lasted, but I’ll just stick with Christmas now. 🙂  Of course if we ever had anyone in our house who actually did celebrate Hannukah, I’d be totally happy to have a menorah for them!