Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Traditions {coco + kelley}

While we're leaving Cleveland today, we're heading to Seattle to talk Holiday Traditions with the lovely Cassandra of the effortlessly glamorous blog coco + kelley.

What were your family's holiday traditions when you were younger? What was a typical Christmas Eve/Christmas Day for your family?

Our family always threw a big holiday party when we lived in LA. We would get 'bundled up' and head to the ice skating rink for a while, then back to our house where we would sing Christmas carols and decorate the tree. Every guest was required to bring an ornament!

Now that we're older our only traditions are fairly basic- we have a big dinner at my parents' house with aunts, uncles and cousins, and wake up early Christmas morning to open presents! We each take turns opening, and we always enjoy some traditional Italian Panettone or goodies sent to us from the Italian side of the family from Toronto where they all live.

Me & My Sister

Did you/do you leave treats for Santa? If so, what were/are they?

We always left treats and a letter for Santa. Sometimes, my mom will still request we do it, and my sister and I roll our eyes and write Santa a very witty note. We usually left the Mexican Tea Cookies my mom would make, and a glass of milk (although, nowadays we tend to leave a more adult beverage.)

Have your family traditions changed since you've gotten older?

We used to do a lot more as kids, but I think that's probably the case with most families. We used to read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, right before bed. We used to get Santa pictures (I totally broke that tradition the second I turned into a teenager!) and I think we generally spent more time together leading up to the holiday- decorating cookies, shopping, everything! Now, we all have our busy independent lives, so all of that is harder, but we still make the effort.

Have you implemented your own traditions into your life since you've gotten older?

I don't have a lot of traditions myself yet- I think once I settle down and have a family those will evolve. At this point, I have a big Christmas box that goes in and our of storage every year, and I love dragging it out and rediscovering the favorites pieces I've been collecting since college.

Have you ever gone caroling?

I think we went once when I was REALLY young and living in LA. A lot of my parent's friends played instruments, so we all went out singing in a little group... I don't know if I'd be brave enough to do that now!

What foods do you feel are must haves during the holiday season?

Oh, lord, where do I start? The Italian side of my family always sends their homemade dried meats and cookies that I will never be able to imitate, so those always make it feel like Christmas. Big boxes of tangerines are a must. My mom's homemade biscotti. And a big Christmas dinner- usually lamb- cooked to perfection by my dad. I suppose a little gingerbread latte is also necessary to kick the season off!

What does a traditional Christmas meal include for you?

My dad's lamb, as I said, and his rosemary pecan pie. The rest is usually open to whatever recipe my dad has been wanting to try, but we always try to get some super garlic mashed potatoes in there too!

What is your Christmas decorating style?

Not surprisingly, my Christmas style changes every year, but one thing I will say- I do love me some sparkle! Ornaments that glitter are my favorite, followed by vintage balls and mercury glass. I bought a small tinsel tree a few years ago and usually use that so my style ends up being a little bit kitchy and a little bit classic, but this year I'm really leaning towards a bit of country in there.

My tree this year was inspired by the vintage keys I had and I decided to do a 'Secret Garden' theme with fake flowers, birds and feathers, ribbons and miniature ornaments. I guess I'm still figuring out my style!

My Tree

White lights or colored lights?


What is one holiday-related event that you must do during the holiday season?

Ice skating, if I can. On the top of my to-do list is to spend a Christmas in New York and ice skate at Rockefeller Center. DECORATE!

Do you have a favorite holiday memory?

I don't have one memory that stands out the most... I know that getting to spend Christmas in Toronto was always fun, because we never got snow in LA! I loved going there and visiting my huge Italian family. I also remember that at the mall in LA they put Santa in a big sandcastle. You would have to wait in line and walk through the castle to get to see Santa, and I always thought it was so amazing!

Complete this sentence- "It wouldn't be Christmas for me without..."

Family, friends, and lights on the tree.

Cassandra, thank you for taking the time to share your holiday traditions and memories with us! I would love to try your dad's rosemary pecan pie- wow, it sounds so delicious and unique! I am in complete agreement about ice skating at Rockefeller Center some year during the Christmas season, and I love me some sparkle too.

And for any of you who've missed the previous Holiday Traditions posts, catch up on all of them here. These ladies' all share wonderful Christmas memories in their interviews, and they are certainly worth the read.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Traditions {even*cleveland}

For our next stop in this Holiday Traditions series, we are heading to Ohio to check in with clever and crafty Stephanie, the woman behind the always brilliant blog even*cleveland.

What were your family's holiday traditions when you were younger? What was a typical Christmas Eve/Christmas Day for your family?

Every year, we would light pink and purple candles in my mother's simple Advent wreath and start counting down the days early. There never was much money, but Christmas was a big deal- there were strange and special foods and cookies to be made, smelly pennies to roll to take to the bank to buy presents, things to make and secrets to keep.

On Christmas morning, we always started with stockings, which usually had little utilitarian luxuries like fancy toothbrushes, boxes of printed band-aids, and little pots of lip gloss. After stockings, we opened presents- my dad always had to hand them out, because he wrote all the gift tags as riddles. To get your present, you had to figure out which ones were for you. That's something we look forward to still.

My parents' tree

Did you/do you leave treats for Santa? If so, what were/are they?

We always left an assortment of home-made cookies and a tall glass of milk, along with carrots for the reindeer.

Have your family traditions changed since you've gotten older?

I think the core of our traditions have remained the same- the only thing that has changed is that I wake up at my own house now instead of my parents', and I don't wake up at 6 AM ready to dive into my stocking. I make it until at least 7.

Have you implemented your own traditions into your life since you've gotten older?

I have. Sean and I started dating in a December long ago, so our early courtship was blended into all kinds of seasonal things, like driving to look at Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies, going ice-skating and making ornaments for each other. Those are things we still make a point of doing together every year.

When we were at the Chriskindl markets in Vienna, we bought handmade wool felt slipper boots with pointy tops, and since then, we have set them out instead of stockings.

Have you ever gone caroling?

Caroling was important in my family. When I was growing up, we went caroling just about every year. My father is a professional musician, so he would have us practice harmonies a week or two before, then we would bundle up and head out into the snow to walk and sing. We always sang very traditional songs, and usually one or two in French- my mother is a Francophile, so she would coach us along.

The best part was that people were alway so surprised and happy, and one lady on our street always magically had hot cookies for us to eat after we sang. She must have been baking constantly, because we never told anyone when we were going out. They tasted delicious- I remember them steaming in the cold air.

Caroling books made by Stephanie

What foods do you feel are must haves during the holiday season?

Cookies, cookies, cookies. My mother and I have an annual baking jamboree, because that is the taste of Christmas to us- ginger spritz, balesh with nut or apricot filling, creme wafers, sugar cookies, nut balls, jam thumbprints, homemade marshmallows, macaroons, plus a few new recipes we try to work in. I like to make bourbon milk punch to go with cookies- it's boozy, but lighter than eggnog. We call it Super Milk.

What does a traditional Christmas meal include for you?

My mother's Italian Wedding soup and my great-grandmother's fruit salad- it has oranges, grapes, and pineapple in it. It was a Christmas treat during the Depression, when fruit was expensive and hard to come by.

What is your Christmas decorating style?

I like all things handmade and simple. Most of our decorations are handmade or little things we have picked up on our wanderings. They are all very meaningful to me.

Village made by Stephanie

White lights or colored lights?

Either- it depends on my mood. This year we have white lights on the tree, but I do love colored lights- they take me back to my childhood, when I used to lay on the floor under the tree and look up with squinty eyes to make the lights twinkle.

Our tree this year

What is one holiday-related event that you must do during the holiday season?

I need to watch It's A Wonderful Life. It reminds me that a good life is possible even if you don't get to follow your dreams.

Do you have a favorite holiday memory?

Layer upon layer of good memories- I think that is why I feel so happy this time of year. One of my favorites is the year my little brother gave us all geodes for Christmas- one after another, we each unwrapped a dingy rock and were completely confused as to why they were our presents. My brother was as pleased as can be, though, and kept telling us, "But if you hit it with a hammer, there could be diamonds inside!" It was too funny.

Another favorite is the year Sean and I spent Christmas in Dublin. We had just gotten back from Vienna, which was a winter wonderland full of beautiful Christmas tree stands on every corner. When we got back to Dublin, we couldn't find a tree anywhere. I was sick and feeling terrible, so Sean literally walked the length and breadth of the city, until he found a scraggly pine in a pot at a flower wholesale market. It was truly a Charlie Brown tree, but we thought it was amazingly beautiful. It was either Christmas magic at work or too much cold medicine.

Complete this sentence- "It wouldn't be Christmas for me without..."


Stephanie, I love the story of Sean searching for a Christmas tree in Dublin; it is so sweet and illustrates the importance traditions carry in our lives. I also love that your dad riddles all the gift tags- what a unique and special tradition. And your baking jamborees with your mom sound delicious! Thank you so much for sharing these memories with us.

There are still more Holiday Traditions to share in the coming days, and be sure to check out Tina's and Kimberlee's interviews if you missed them!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Let It Snow

I find the idea of a winter wedding complete with snowy weather quite romantic, and these images, from James Christianson, absolutely make me swoon.

The bride's vintage stole is the perfect addition to her ensemble, and, with the lovely snowy setting, this looks like a truly perfect "white" wedding.

Katherine and Grant's wedding was featured on Style Me Pretty yesterday; there are more gorgeous photos to see, including some delicious shots of s'mores, so, if you haven't seen them already, be sure to take a look!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Traditions {Luphia Loves}

We are hoping across the pond to visit with Tina of Luphia Loves in England for this next installment of Holiday Traditions.

As a note of introduction, Tina was born in China, in an industrial city not far from Beijing, and lived there until she was 13. She then moved to Saudi Arabia where her mum & step-dad lived at the time, although Tina was only there for 3 months before her family moved to the UK.

What were your family's holiday traditions when you were younger? What was a typical Christmas Eve/Christmas Day for your family?

Since I only came to UK when I was 13, my real Christmas started quite late. But for me, it was also so exciting. I remember waking up at 6 in the morning on my first Christmas day and counted every second to my mum and step-father got up at 7 so I could open my presents!

A family tradition we have is that we always get each other something small like a box of chocolates or some socks in our cats' name! The tags read something like, "To Tina, Happy Christmas, from Timmy (miao, miao...)" Of course, we normally get some treats for the cats too.

Timmy on the camel stool we bough in Riyadh, one of Timmy's favorites places to watch us unwrapping our presents!

Have your family traditions changed since you have gotten older?

Since moving away for university, my parents have been away on holiday every year to somewhere sunny & hot (no, I'm not jealous at all...) So I have spent the last two Christmases with my boyfriend's family, which was a wonderful chance to see what a big family's Christmas is like! I have never seen so many presents piled under one tree; it was really cosy & warm.

Have you implemented your own traditions into your life since you've gotten older?

When I was at home, decorating and wrapping presents wasn't really a big deal, my mum would put up the Christmas tree and decorate it with the same decorations each year and wrap the presents with paper bought from high street shops. Since I got older, my creative side definitely got a lot stronger, so I tried to wrap my presents uniquely and with a different theme each year. This year it's going to be an all white snowflakes theme. So I have bought some really pretty extra wide white ribbon with glittering snowflakes on it.

What foods do you feel are a must have during the season?

Mince pies, I get so many through Dec... I think this is quite a British thing; a mince pie is a sweet pastry filled with mincemeat- a preserve which contains apple, dried fruit, such as raisins and sultanas, spices and no meat!

BBC Food

What does a traditional Christmas meal include for you?

Roasted parsnips and brussel sprouts! I know some people hate them, but, for me, it wouldn't be Christmas without these little stinky cabbages.

What is your Christmas decorating style?

I am definitely a white-themed girl. White with icy blues & violets. I have always wanted a white tree too. Like MadeByGirl's tree- this would be my dream tree!


White lights or colored lights?

Definitely white lights with a traditional tree, but maybe coloured lights with a white tree.

What is one holiday-related event that you must do during the holiday season?

Going to the Christmas market! When I was at home, we used to drive to a Christmas market looking for some uniquely made items while drinking mulled wine. Since moving to Bath, we have a market right in the city centre, so it is even more convenient to get some mulled wine!

Do you have a favorite holiday memory?

It has to be my first Christmas, while I was wrapping my presents, our cat Monty came to join us by having fun of his own with some wrapping paper! It was so cute!

If you celebrate Boxing Day, what does the day entail for you?

Me and my boyfriend normally go for a meal in the evening. Last year, we went to Cafe Rouge, which was a beautiful French restaurant in retro style.

My picture at Cafe Rouge

Complete this sentence- "It wouldn't be Christmas for me without..."

Going to all the shops and hearing some of the greatest Christmas songs, it all gets me in a festive mood, especially with all the festive decorations too! Starbucks' Christmas cups are one of my favorites! I also have to have one of the golden reindeer by Lindt too.


Tina, thank you so much for sharing this with us! I loved hearing what makes your holiday season complete. Your wrapping paper theme sounds adorable this year, and Starbucks' red cups completely put me in the holiday spirit as well! Also, I am glad to know that someone else is a crazy about their pet's as I am...last year, our two dogs, Itchy and Moose, "gave" E a birthday present. And Timmy looks so sweet perched on this favorite stool.

For those of you reading, if you haven't already, check out Kimberlee's interview about her Australian Christmas traditions.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Traditions {Brown Button}

In yesterday's introduction to the Holiday Traditions series, I told you that our first guest would be Kimberlee of Brown Button. So without further ado, I give you the fabulous Kimberlee...

My first and last time in a string bikini!

What were your family's holiday traditions when you were younger? What was a typical Christmas Eve/Christmas Day for your family?

We always had a fresh/live Christmas tree- it would 'magically appear' one morning when we woke up in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. We used to live across the road from a creek, and, as it turns out, father dearest would go over the road, in the depths of the night, and saw a 'limb' off a tree that 'magically' became our Christmas tree.

My sister and I with our 'magic' Christmas tree- 1984

For the first 16 years of my life, our family lived in a very small country town called Burra, about an hour and a half from Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia (SA.) My father is the youngest of three boys whom lived with their families in Adelaide, along with other extended family and my grandparents.

My mother is one of five siblings whom all reside in Brisbane, capital city of Queensland (QLD.) Given that mum's side of the family was a three day drive (or a 2 and a bit hour plane trip) away, we either spend Christmas in South Australia or Queensland. It made it easier in a way, we could just go to one spot and stay as opposed to have to rush between families.

Our trips to Brisbane were quite sporadic when we were younger, so the majority of our Christmases were in Adelaide. Usually Christmas Eve, we would drive to Adelaide just in time to watch the Carols by Candelight on television.

My sister and I would leave a pillowcase at the end of our beds for Father Christmas to fill (we weren't stupid, you could fit a lot more in a pillowcase than you could a stocking...) Christmas morning would be first spent at Church, then home to open Christmas presents.

Handing out the presents in 1986. That's me in the scary straw hat and 'sunglasses' dress.

Families would take it in turn to host Christmas Lunch and long trestle tables would be set out for lunch.

2005. Me scoffing my face closest on the right in black.

Then a nap, playing with gifts, cricket or football in the streets with cousins would occur in the afternoon. Christmas evening would be spent eating what was left over from lunch if you weren't still full from lunch (not that that ever stopped me...) My late grandfather had a great love of photography, so a group family shot would also be taken.

Christmas 2007. Shot of "Brown" family and a few "Smith" ring-ins who were in SA for Christmas that year. Christmas was at Mum and Dad's house.

2007 Christmas. Lunch underway at my parent's house.

Did you/Do you leave treats for Santa? If so, what were/are they?

Traditionally, I believe, many Australian children would leave beer and biscuits for Santa (strangely enough always the beer of choice their father enjoyed...)! My parents don't drink, so we always left milk and a biscuit. I think a sweet kind of biscuit.

Have your family traditions changed since you have gotten older?

While our trips to Brisbane for Christmas were quite sporadic when we were younger, a more regular tradition of alternating between SA (Brown family) and QLD (Smith Family) has occurred in recent years. Every other year we head "North" for Christmas with the Smith side of the family in Noosa. This year we will be in Noosa.

My parents, sister and I moved to Adelaide 12 years ago, so the tradition of driving up and staying with my grandparents is no longer. I spend Christmas Eve catching up with friends at a local pup, and, if I'm in a suitable state, I try to go to a midnight church service with my parents. No gathering around the Christmas tree opening gifts as we are all grown up now, but as my cousins are now married with children, I wouldn't surprised if that begins again soon.

Have you implemented your own traditions into your life since you've gotten older?

Sadly, no. So I think I'll do something about that next Christmas! I always attempt to catch up with friends in the lead up to Christmas (any excuse to get together and have a drink!) and if I'm in Adelaide, Christmas Eve is spent at pub with friends.

Adelaide is a small city and a number of pubs around town are traditionally the pubs where people go for Christmas Eve. Line ups being around lunch time to get into these particular pubs. Lucky for me, I live next door to one of the "Christmas Eve pubs" so I can keep an eye on things and head over before the line ups begin!

What foods do you feel are must haves during the holiday season?

CHERRIES! I always know it is nearly Christmas when I see cherries in the shops. It's summer in Australia, so all the fabulous tropical and stone fruit- mangoes, nectarines, peaches, apricots, and pineapples.

What is your typical Christmas meal?

It can often be dreadfully hot on the actual day, so a full hot traditional meal is a bit impractical. If we are in Adelaide, it has traditionally been cold meats and salads, but in recent years, we have cooked lamp, pork, chicken and beef on the weber and had that with salads. In Queensland, it is freash seafood, mangoes, champagne and more champagne.

Dessert usually includes lots of fabulous fresh fruit, pavlova, and Grandma's fabulous Christmas Pudding with brandy custard- it is one of my favorite all time things (which is really ironic given that I HATE sultanas) The last couple of years, my sister has assisted Grandma prepare the pudding in the weeks leading up to the day. Memories I'm sure my sister will treasure forever.

My sister and Grandma with THE pudding

What is your Christmas decorating style?

Colour, fun, fresh, white, silver, pretty.

My Christmas tree this year

White or colored lights?


What is one holiday-related event that you must do during the holiday season?

Nothing specific, just catching up with family and friends.

Do you have a favorite holiday memory?

In the days when Father Christmas was still 'real' to me, I remember being sure that I heard him come into our room and fill our pillow cases full of gifts. Why? Because I heard the bells on the reindeer. It woke me up, and I lay as still as possible, desperately trying to keep my eyes closed. Years later, I realised what the 'reindeer bells" were. Dad used to wear a hideous pair of sandals (occasionally with long socks- eeekks!) and it was the buckle on his sandal making noise as he walked...

If you celebrate boxing day, what does that day entail for you?

It's funny that you say 'celebrate.' as I had to look up the origins if Boxing day to work out why we in fact receive a public holiday for 'boxing day.' Traditionally in Australia, it's a day spent watching the first day of the boxing day cricket test on TV or, if you are lucky, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It is also the beginning of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race leaving the great Sydney Harbour and people usually try to catch that on television as well.

Many families use it as a second 'Christmas Day' spending it celebrating Christmas with the other side of their families. I usally spend it with friends at a BBQ celebrating summer and the short break we get before heading back to work in the new year.

Complete this sentence- "It wouldn't be Christmas for me without..."


Kimberlee- Thank you so much for sharing your memories and holiday traditions with us. I loved hearing your responses and finding out more about an Australian Christmas, and E has told me that we will be following Australian tradition regarding treats for Santa whenever we have children!

I have more Holiday Traditions to share with you and will be posting them during the lead up to Christmas, so stay tuned for more in the coming days!

Giveaway Winners

So, I have learned that hosting a giveaway the week of a move may not be the best timing... I am sorry to be so late in announcing the winners of the giveaway!!

Anne of The City Sage, Ali, and Katelin are the lucky winners, courtesy of a list generated at; ladies, I will be contacting you shortly for your addresses.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered and to for making it possible!

UP NEXT: Kimberlee's Holiday Traditions Interview!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Golden Days

As you may have realized, I love the holidays. While the time between Thanksgiving and New Years always goes far too quickly, it is a season almost beyond compare for me.

I love the decorations that appear everywhere from the grocery store to neighbors' houses. While my tastes have changed over the years, and I now prefer white lights to colored ones, seeing the world dressed in holiday lights still feels as magical to me as it did when I was young.

I adore the radio stations that switch to Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day; I can listen to the same songs sung a hundred different ways, and each time I hear them, they put a smile on my face. Whether the music fills me with happiness or sometimes longing, it always fills me with a contented peace.

There are must-watch holiday movies for me during the season, from older classics to newer ones as well. I love watching these with my family, especially my youngest brother who has the same deep love for Christmas as I do.

Searching for the perfect gift fuels me as I scout stores and websites to uncover just the right items for the people I love. And discovering that perfect gift, knowing that someone will adore or appreciate it, is the greatest thrill.

From decorations to holiday music and from gift-giving to gift-wrapping, every element adds up to create a season like no other. And the thread that ties all of these elements together is tradition.

Traditions vary from family to family and across regions and cultures. They can be long-standing or newly created, and sometimes even just one tradition carried through from year to year connects us to our past.

Whether tradition is indulging in a particular food during the season or having the same foods every year for your holiday meal, whether it is an annual outing to look at Christmas lights or a night spent at home watching holiday movies, tradition is the element that makes the season complete.

I have asked some of my fellow bloggers to share with us the things that make their holidays whole; they will be sharing the traditions they had growing up and those they have now.

My first guest, Kimberlee of Brown Button, will be stopping by tomorrow. I know you'll enjoy hearing the memories and traditions of her Australian Christmas' as much as I have.