For as long as I can remember, I have wanted traditions to anchor my (future and now present) family. We don't attend church, we don't have those traditions, but I wanted to have our own. Before there was Mister or the smalls, I considered the kinds of traditions that would be meaningful spiritually, personally, emotionally, which would be those you look back on and smile as you get older, which would bring us together as a family that was grateful for eachother. Ideally, traditions do all of those things. Some are funny in a way that is unintentional. My father and stepmother's pumpkin carving party is hilarious because it takes a lot of time ... to take the pumpkin photos and every year, people groan about the photos, and every year, the photos of the pumpkins are fantastic reminders of how creative each of us is and how we all sat together and worked on them. It's a connection that my side of the family has with my stepmothers. It's sometimes tenuous, but it's something we have in common and we don't have many of those connections.
What would we do, especially since we're no longer in the neighborhood to have Christmas with my family or with our friends. What did I want to do as a mother?
Next year, we'll have an advent calendar. I plan to work on it through the year to have it done for next Christmas. Asha Dornfest, who runs Parenthacks and co-authors Minimalist Parenting, and is the kind of person I meet who I wish I lived closer to because I like her so much, was over with her husband to play games while their children watched The Muppets and my children slept. We were looking at the salt-dough ornaments we'd painted yesterday and her kids were munching some of the gingerbread cookies we made a few days ago and wow, we have been busy. We've seen movies, decorated the tree, bought presents, read a lot of books, and she said it takes a while to develop those traditions. It does, it's true. When you visit friends who seem to have it all going on or read blogs where the solstice area is set and the cookies are baking and the socks are being knitted, it's easy to forget or not realize in the first place, that these things don't happen accidentally or overnight. They take planning. There were activities Bama and I did when she was two and I was pregnant with Rabbit, but we skipped last year because they didn't work with my three-year-old and one-year-old children's schedules.
This year, we brought some back, like ornaments, added others, like cookies and walks, and are talking about next year.
But let's talk about the cookies. Bama and I mixed the dough last week before I went off to book club (I brought a fresh ginger cake with me; we used up all the flour, ginger, and molasses in one swoop). It set that night and the next day. Friday morning, we were up and ready to roll. Rabbit lives in the tower these days but it doesn't make a good sharing space for rolling and cutting out cookies. He's wearing the apron I made her last year (thanks to SewLiberated's pattern). They'll each get new ones in a few weeks.
Rabbit and I picked our new cookie cutters out The Brooklyn Kitchen last week. He added a poodle, a dragonfly, a bunny rabbit, and a lamb to the mix. I went holiday traditional, picking up gingerbread person, snowflakes and stars, a moon, a reindeer, and letters for all of our initials.
Bama carefully pulled the dough from around the cutters before we lifted the cookies from the counter.
Naked ginger guy.
Bama explains the mechanics of rolling dough to Rabbit. He just wants to eat the stuff.
While Rabbit slept, Bama and I made royal icing (perhaps my first Alton Brown recipe) and loaded up with sprinkles. They aren't beautiful. Mister is much more the master baker but after a few changes in how I was applying the icing, things worked out.
We don't have a pastry bag so I used a ziplock. Too gloopy. This ginger guy looks like a cookie version of a character from a horror film.
And maybe we needed some new sprinkles. The liberal shaking produced shockingly patriotic cookies.
I used Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of Martha Stewart's spicy gingerbread cookies. They are very good. Just moist enough (stored in a tupperware-ish container) and they are lasting well.
We had fun mixing together and cutting them out. It was fun to decorate them. Fun to give them away. More than that, it was sharing time with the smalls and they had to work cooperatively. A tradition that works for us: fun, tastes good, promotes sharing.