What Christmas looks like all up in here

This will be another photo-heavy post because I’m in that pre-holiday state of mind– which basically means I walk around 24/7 making lists, losing my lists and perpetually feeling like I’m forgetting something important that will eventually come back and bite me in the butt. Merry Christmas!

I did get a few things done however, and I have the pictures to prove it! Lindsay of Suburban Turmoil invited us to her dessert party last Saturday night and I was determined to bring my way-too-labor-intensive Christmas cookies, so I plunged headlong into the two-day process of turning those little suckers out. As much as I ‘complain’ about how much trouble they are, the truth is, I thoroughly enjoy the process and REALLY enjoy the finished product. I do make a big ol’ mess though- wanna see?

Here’s what the kitchen and I looked like at the end of Day 1:

(BTW– I totally had to photoshop my shirt because between me holding it out in front of me and the flash from the camera? You could completely see right through it! And as Madi said once when she was a little girl and my mom jokingly threatened to wear a tank top– “Nobody wants to see that, Nanno.”)

Here’s Day 2– These days I have to put my reading glasses on to decorate the cookies, which actually works because I think it gives me a certain Mrs. Claus vibe, don’t you?

Usually I make extra ones for the girls to decorate for themselves and then the fancy-schmancy ones are the gifts for others, but this year marked some kind of rite of passage and I finally let Madi decorate some with me. She was so funny and kept making jokes about being on ‘cookie probation’ until I was sure she passed muster… She did beautifully, of course, but after finishing about half a dozen of them she realized how much work it was and then kind of drifted back upstairs… Here’s some of the finished product:

(Here are two of Madi’s– gorgeous, right?)

We also managed to get the tree up and decorated while Russ was gone last week. I wrestled the lights, and Charlotte played around while Madi studied for exams– like Norman Rockwell, only with more estrogen and also? I kind of got the lights a little crooked. Oh well. By the time we loaded on our three frillion ornaments, who could tell?


That present Char is checking out is actually this handy-dandy thing we picked up at Home Depot– looks like a gift, but you fill it up with water and there’s a tube that goes into the tree stand and it keeps the tree watered. It actually works!

The dogs were totally NO HELP at all.

But the weather cooperated–

Among our frillion ornaments are some of my favorite homemade ones that the girls did in kindergarten. Here’s Madi rocking a side ponytail and Charlotte looking very unsure about being Rudolph… Warning: you need to mentally prepare yourself for the cuteness you are about to witness, because it could KILL YOU!!!


And finally, the finished product: Ta da!

So… how are your Christmas traditions coming along? Tell me all about them!

26 Responses

  1. rockin robyn

    Wow! that is totally awesome… you really go all out for the cookies thing – they look too beautiful to digest!! …. and your tree is gorgeous! What a special time!

    I finally got my tree up and decorated last week-end. Well! quite a few years backed I stopped with the live tree “thing”. Although I really miss the pine smell drifting through the house. To save costs I bought a fake tree when I bought my house a few years back. Now, this year I gave up on something else… Oooh Tori my but your tree is so beautiful and the lights all look so perfect — I just don’t have that same talent. My lights always look like I just through them up there. Every year I struggle with putting lights on the tree, so this year I bought a “pre-lit” tree. (Am I totally getting lazier or what??)

    Now that all my sisters have their places decorated for Christmas (I just got my house decorated this week…) in a few days we will plan to spend time at one-anothers house to see their decorations – see their Christmas tree’s and share in some holiday eating and holiday stories of Christmas’ past. Shhhhh!! They don’t know it yet but I’m going to read to them a storybook about Christmas in Lebanon county Pennsylvania -don’t ya know!!! I went to a book signing years back by the author of this book and have read it before to them —- they hate it!! hee hee…

    I’m just trying to get my shopping completed between ice storms and then we lug all the gifts over to my brothers’ house to spend Christmas day there. Not one gift gets opened until we all gather at his house.

  2. emilythemom

    Uh, those cookies! They look fantastic. I am way impressed, lady. And quite the beautiful tree!

    And do your kids always call your mom Nanno? Thats what my kids call my mom!

    Our Christmas traditions are going along swimmingly. I’ve tried to inject more ‘Christ’ into Christmas this year, and seem to have succeeded, somewhat. When I was growing up, my grandmother always made her three kings travel to the nativity scene over the Christmas season. I am trying to do the same with the boys and they are loving moving them everyday, when we can, um, find them.

    We’re doing the ‘elf’ thing to, and the boys are super into it. Its where an elf moves every night somewhere in the house. Supposedly he’s reporting to Santa every night. Its a little nuts, to say the least, but the boys are all gaga over it. They think this elf is fantastic. I’ve created a monster.

  3. tammy961

    Wow!! Tori you really are a Betty Crocker! What talent you have..those cookies look amazing…..We have had Christmas decorations up since Thanksgiving weekend..BUT!! my real news is this….AS I was traveling through Mississippi last Thursday, I saw SNOW!!! I mean LOTS of snow for this little ol’ Pensacola gal….it was everywhere! and yes, I have lots of pictures to prove it…..That SO made my Christmas…….It was the most snow I have ever seen in my entire life…..as you can tell, I am still pretty excited about it..actually, it kinda made the reason for the trip seem a little less important….but that ok…..ya know why?? I saw LOTS of snow!!
    If any of you guys get more than you feel is your allotted amount of snow for the year, just send on down here. We will gladly take it off your hands…..Merry Christmas, everyone!


  4. carsmith

    Wow, I can’t believe the detail and work you put into your cookies. I thought Momma June was the only person I knew that works so hard in the kitchen. You are keeping the family tradition going and good to see Madi trying her hand. Great job and I’m very impressed. Don’t tell me you make pickles too.
    Carolyn in Hot (VeryCold) Springs

  5. tori

    Woo-hoo!!! (See- it wasn’t that scary!)

    rockin’ robyn– how incredible that you have your sisters so close to you! That book sounds…um… festive.

    emilythemom- Yep, Madi named her Nanno and it stuck. I wish I had known about the elf thing when the girls were little, I bet they would have loved that so much.

    tammy–I’m so glad you got to see all that snow! I am a complete sucker for it, too. Nothing is more Christmas-y!

  6. LindaB

    TORI! You are the Michelangelo of cookies! What delicate and intricate work! I’d need a boatload of Ritalin to do that! And if anyone took one to eat, I’d have to rip their face off! You’re the Christmas cookie queen! And Madi, you are the princess!

    Now I have to go lie down ’cause all that extreme cuteness ’bout did me in. Don’t ya just want to kiss those little cheeks again?

  7. jd2008

    Hi! It’s me. Jess. After I saw the picture of Charlotte, I thought: Yes! Now I can black mail her! Just kidding. Christmas traditions right now are going well, a fire every once in a while, occasional C’mas music, except our Christmas tree isnt real. Its fake. (Why did I even say it was fake? If it isn’t real, what else could it be??!) Anyway, I LOVE the picture of Charlotte, the snow the weekend was great, and by the way, those cookies are AWESOME! They are so pretty! And I noticed your shirt in the first picture and thought, Oh my gosh, I can see her person! But then I saw the foot note about photoshop and stuff. It was blurred and I’m writing this comment sort of late…Anyway, thanks for a good laugh before Beddy-by!


  8. tori

    Yay– Jess de-lurked!!!!

    Ok, everybody? This is Jess, one of Charlotte’s best and coolest friends from school. They are great buddies and have been in each other’s class for years at St. Paul. Jess is an extremely talented artist and he’s also quite an actor– you should have seen the skit he and Charlotte (and their friends) did at the talent show! He also obviously has very sophisticated taste in reading material…

    Jess? This is everybody. (And you’re right– isn’t that the best picture EVER of Char?!)

  9. CarolynR

    Well Tori your energy and enthusiasm leaves me gasping for air! I don’t know whether you are Betty Crocker or Michaelangelo! Perhaps Beryl Cook? ;)

    As a graduate “summa bah humbug” from the Ebenezer Scrooge school of Christmas Cheer, I’ve grappled quite successfully with Christmas Past but am still unwrapping my Christmas Present. Therefore, if you don’t mind I’ll get back to you re family Christmas British style, when the ghostly finger of Christmas Yet To Come has finished pointing out the flaw in the apparently oxymoronic phrase “future traditions”. I will get round to it some day!

  10. karen48

    I saw that first picture and thought I’m glad I’m not the only one who ends up with flour all over me when I make sugar cookies. lol But you do a much grander job of decorating that I ever did. I used one color icing and colored sugar or balls to add that little touch.

    Your tree is beautiful and I love that package waterer.

    We have snow here in KC also and it was not fun driving yesterday. Streets are still a bit slick this morning, but not near what they were yesterday. It’s always fun to have snow at Christmas time, but I just wish it would stay off the streets and sidewalks.


  11. meb

    I am so jealous of all the people having snow. We aren’t that far from some of these places and we have yet to see a flake!!! Being a transplant from up north, that is the one thing I miss most during this time of year.

    Tori, the cookies are beautiful. I would never have the patience to do that. And it’s great that you can share that with the girls.

    A very merry Christmas to the entire Taff family and all of your readers too.

  12. auburn60

    I started the decorating process the weekend after Thanksgiving–and I’m still working on it!

    We had company for 4 days last week–my parents e-mailed 3 1/2 weeks ago that they might be coming this way–then could not be pinned down as to an actual arrival/departure date. (Don’t ask–this is the usual holiday chaos that is part of my DNA.) So that threw us into a tailspin.I finally decided I would just get done everything I could and not worry about the rest.

    So… I am only putting up one tree this year,instead of the 2 or 3 I usually do. My main tree is almost entirely decorated with homemade items. We have several of those ‘kindergarten picture’ ornaments also, along with ornaments I cross-stitched and beaded candy canes I made with about a gazillion Girls Scout troops through the years. My most prized ornaments are the ones my grandmother made about 50 years ago that always hung on her trees. They are beaded and sequined wonders. I try to make a few new ones every year so my kids will get them when they have their own homes.I also have the snowflakes she crocheted on the tree.

    My other 2 trees (that won’t make an appearance) are the ‘angel tree’
    and the ‘sports tree’. I have some beautiful angel ornaments made of Battenburg lace and some made of sea shells.

    My kitchen is covered in snowmen–snowmen garlands, cookie jars, candles,wreaths.

    My den holds all kinds of Santas–Santas on birdhouses,rows of Santas,Santa throws on the couch,Santa pillows.

    My husband just walks through the house and shakes his head.

    We used to do the whole cookie making thing every Dec. 24th (to have cookies ready for Santa,ya know) BUT now with kids coming home from college at all different times–we’ll see. We’re still kind of making up new traditions as we go along.

  13. belinda

    I love the Christmas pictures! You out do yourself on those cookies. I have made them and decorated them, but nothing like you do. Madi did a great job too.

    The ornaments with the pictures of the girls are too precious. I love them! I love your tree! It is gorgeous. Makes me miss all my Christmas stuff that is still in the attic. I put some stuff up but nothing like i usually do. I usually have Christmas in every room of the house. Next year, it is all coming back out!

    Everyone have a wonderful holidy season! Merry Christmas!

    Welcome Jess

  14. Barbara M. Lloyd

    “It’s Beginniig to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is the song that should be playing at your house, Tori. And look at all of that flour on your tummy, framed by all of those adorable Christmas cookies. Smacks a bit like a Rockwell cover on the Saturday Evening Post…all that baking and decorating with a Christmas tree being trimmed over to the side. I love it!

    My younger son, Mark, put a timer on my Christmas tree and it sparkles almost day and night as it sits perched ontop the round table in the sunroom, with packages piled all around the table. The oh-so-fat tree is chock-full of two shades of red balls and white lights. I wasn’t too keen on having the lights on during the day, but now I’m glad Mark talked me into it because it really does give it a Christmas spirit around here.

    The mantle is full of pine branches and tall red candles in class globes. A wreath hangs from the center. There are five manger scenes of assorted size and description here and there….with the larger being an all-white one that sits year-round on the dining room sideboard, with minature holly wreaths and tall red candles in glass globes on the opposite end. It is in the middle of this where the Christmas desserts go: the always red velvet cake as Jesus’ Birthday Cake and this year a strawberry cheese cake.

    A Christmas green tablecloth covers the long dining room table, with placesettings of red dinner plates and clear goblets and napkins with one Christmas tree. This year instead of a large holly and pine centerpiece, there is a thick row of pine covering the bottoms of seven tall red candles in glass globes. Pine and holly and wreaths are everywhere. Dinner will be a buffet, which will be set up on the kitchen counter where a cute little santa and his Mrs. are jitterbugging in front of, yep you guessed it, tall red candles…but this time not in the glass globes.

    Outside there is a lighted up Christmas tree at one window and a lighted up snowman at the other window. With the venetian blinds pulled all the way up, they are almost as much decoration for inside as for the outside.

    My baking is done and in the freezer along with a couple other dishes. Shopping is done and wrapped. Christmas music has been playing for days and days….with my Russ Taff Christmas cd right on top. (Tori, next year Russ really must make another Christmas cd…what a crooner that boy is!)

    That’s it……be careful what you ask for, Tori.

    Merry Christmas everyone! I have so enjoyed sharing Tori’s blog wth y’all this year….and I look forward to being here with you next year….and with Tori, our fearless leader. Love you, Tori.

  15. gracelynn

    Go Tori! I wish that I was that creative when it came to baking cookies and making ornaments. I haven’t had time to even think about Christmas yet. In fact, I’ve still got to do my Christmas shopping. (One of the joys of working for the state and not getting paid until after the 18th in December) So I get to go and do that this weekend. Teaching can make it very hard to get into the Christmas spirit – at least until the last day of school before Christmas vacation (1 and a half days left). But mom has the tree up and we have family coming this weekend so that will help tremendously.

    Welcome Jess!

    I saw one white Christmas – everyone in the house was sick but me. And that’s only because I had the flu 2 days prior to Christmas. So I don’t think my family cares to see another white Christmas LOL.

  16. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Oh my gosh, I came back again to admire those special Christmas cookies and discovered the home-made ornaments you were talking about. The ones with the girls’ pictures on them. They are precious! Ornaments like that and the ones where a loved one’s voice is recorded are the ones that make us smile every year. I just love them.

  17. kbfoss

    Hi Tori,
    I have been a fan for many many years. In fact I met Russ in St. Louis four years ago. What a priviledge. I spoke with him for about twenty minutes or so and told him that I loved singing his songs even from his Imperial days. He told me to go ahead and sing them to my heart’s content. I am having a bit of difficulty finding the copyright information to “Whenever I Speak His Name” and we want to record it on a new CD. Can you help me please? We have the recording of the Imperials Heed The Call CD but it does not have that information. This was the only way I could contact you guys because there is not an e mail address for Russ. Thank you so much for the help in advance. I’m not sure how you can get this to me but I did sign up for an account.

  18. BrownEyedGirl

    Beautiful pictures, Tori! The cookies are amazing. I have had all decorations up ( except the live tree) since the week before Thanksgiving. I can’t get enough of the lights!!

    My baking hasn’t been started yet since 25 y/o stove died. New one arrived while I was at work today… Can’t wait to make those sauerkraut balls. Those first…. then the cookies!! ( I just now jumped back into the work force this week after being a stay at home mom /babysitter to teachers for the last 18 years!! We’ll see what gets accomplished as I adjust)

    Some traditions we have are watching the Best of the Andy Williams Christmas special together while eating chicken parmesan ( My 13 y/o insists that we eat this every year during the show- a tradition that snuck in the back door LOL) , we always watch the Muppet Family christmas by tree light along with all of the fun traditional holiday specials ( even my college age son), of course getting together with family if all of us have off of work. Our family gag gift exchange is the most fun of all – heck with the regular presents :o)!!

  19. belinda

    Momma Lloyd, I second that new Christmas CD from Russ. We have his current Christmas CD playing all the time. WE have it in the house, in the vehicles and I have it at work. We love it! Would love another one to add to my Christmas collection. What about it Tori? Surely he will do it for Momma Lloyd, won’t he?

  20. jd2008

    BTW-I was a little confuzzled when char told me that she didn’t believe in SANTA?!?! Seriously, the most creative girl in Tennessee doesn’t believe? O JEEZ.

    BTW-BTW- I think you should write a blog on the C’mas program.

    BTW-BTW-BTW-WE hit a DEER on the way home from the christmas program!!! SO SCARY!

  21. belinda

    I second that about the blog on the Christmas Program! I saw a few pictures and it looked like a great program.

  22. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Does anyone want to buy a little man who does nothing but read to a little old woman? I could have sworn he said you wanted to know about our decorations….instead, you said about our traditions. That’s twice I’ve messed up on this one blog. Oh dear, how long before santa comes? I’ve graduated from the two front teeth to a hearing aid. I don’t like old age.

  23. tori

    Hey Momma Lloyd, Christmas decorations ARE a Christmas tradition, so you were right on!
    I can just picture your house all dressed up for the season…

  24. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Everytime I have to log in again….like just now….I can’t help but wish I hadn’t thought someone was going to send me a check or I wouldn’t have been so formal with my name for signing in.

    Okay, the grape salad was a big hit! It was a new dish and delicious. Thank you, Tori, from the Lloyds.

    I love Christmas….every part of it. But when Christmas Day ends, I am exhausted. One of my gifts from the children is a 26 inch computer screen….they were hoping it would help me see better….and, you know, I believe it does, a little. In any event, I love it…and I’m grateful for their thoughtfulness. Now, all I need are some more Russ Taff pictures.

  25. school

    Op het schoolplein vind je het allerlaatste nieuws uit het onderwijs…

    Basisscholen en gemeenten mogen vanaf komend schooljaar gaan experimenteren met het uitbreiden van de leertijden…

  26. Krabpalen

    Banana leaf krabpalen…

    Banana-Leaf – een nieuw ontdekte natuurlijk materiaal. In veel culturen is dit materiaal een belangrijk onderdeel van het dagelijkse leven…

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