Posts Tagged ‘holiday memories’

Building Traditions: The Gingerbread Village

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 Comments Off on Building Traditions: The Gingerbread Village

My family is all about traditions. Christmas must include Kieflies!
Christmas must also include the same ornaments that we have used for 40 years, the same stockings (received upon the birth of the children), the same small repertoire of Christmas Eve dinners, followed by one of the more elegant choices for Christmas Day dinner. And, Christmas must include Gingerbread houses. This year, our first year as grandparents, included our new granddaughter Kaya Marie in the building event. I got to hold her while her mother, Maria, constructed and decorated. We also had the pleasure of hosting friends with their children in the construction zone. Some beautiful masterpieces resulted. Baking cookies or making gingerbread houses with your children are two wonderful ways to experience “team cooking” and learning the joy of spending time together in the kitchen. On my facebook page, I received two comments from friends/relatives who still remembered the gingerbread houses we made with them 40 years ago. Lifetime memories.

Following is the story from one of our guests, Eric Karpinski, who brought his wife and two lovely children to participate in the event.
The Transforming Power of Savoring by Eric Karpinski

Earlier this week, I took Becca and the kids to a gingerbread house making party with my friend Karin Eastham. Karin, a former biotech colleague of mine, has been pursuing her passions by publishing a cookbook around team cooking. The book is awesome and her blog shares a ton of great recipes and ideas about how to throw a fun cooking party or team building activity in the kitchen.As we settled into assembling the houses, I noticed I was feeling off. I’d had a run-run-run day getting ready for Christmas festivities which had left me feeling a little anxious and cranky. I broughtthat energy with me to Karin’s. Are the kids being polite enough? Did Becca really want to bring the family all the way up here instead of having a quiet afternoon at home? What do these biotechcolleagues REALLY think about my leaving the industry to be a coach? I could feel the negative energy of these questions — the judging and worrying — start to take hold and make me more anxious.

Then I noticed what I was doing. That I was taking what could be an amazing experience and tainting it with gratuitous negativity. Yuck! So I decided it was a great time to turn on my savoring tools. Iconsciously slowed down with a couple deep breaths and became aware of my senses. This helped me notice all the subtle positive things that were happening. How my 9 year-old’s tongue stuck out a little when she was concentrating on her masterpiece. How my 7 year-old was designing his house to maximize how much candy he could fit on it. How proud I felt as my wife talked about her leadership roles at work. How yummy the peppermint bark tasted. How much fun it was to meet some new and interesting people. Savoring brought me out of my worrying loops and into the wonderfulexperience we were having as a family.

Then I focused on building up the experience in my mind and sharing what I was feeling. I expressed my appreciation of Karin for hosting and doing the baking ahead of time. I shared my own memories ofmaking gingerbread houses as a kid at my aunt’s house. I talked about how Piper, the two year old with us, was an perfect stand-in for Cindy Lou Who, with her big blue eyes and brilliant smile. All of this helped increase the joy I was feeling and encouraged the others to share similar stories.

While I’d arrived grumpy and tired, I left Karin’s house energized and happy. Savoring had helped me not only salvage a bad day, but imprint some great memories that I will hold onto for a long time.

Check out Eric’s advice for how to really “savor” the holidays:




A Crown for Juliet: Best Sugar Cookies and Icing from Mrs. Z

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 1 comment

Lise’ Zondler, author of Z biscuits in an earlier post (, has graciously shared another story and the accompanying recipes with us below.  If you have a great story about holiday traditions, please share it in the comments to this post, or consider guest blogging on Cook the Part.

Lise' and Juliet

A Crown for Juliet

A Crown for Juliet!
With all the wonderful baking going on this time of year, great memories and wonderful traditions, I wanted to share the story of A Crown for Juliet.
Juliet is my 4-year-old Goddaughter. I was with her the moments after her birth. She was born so premature, that her entire body fit in the palm of my hand with room to spare. We have photographs of her wearing her mother’s wedding ring on her upper arm and it is hanging off. Ok, how many of you just looked down at the rings on your fingers? Yes, Juliet was tiny and incredibly fragile, but such a blessing. She spent almost her entire first year of life in the NIC U. 
While Mommy and Daddy were spending full days and long nights at the hospital, the cooking fairy would leave meals in the fridge and goodies, especially cookies, on the counter. I became known as the Cookie Fairy. When Juliet’s first birthday arrived, I wanted to do something special, thus was started the tradition of A Crown for Juliet! Since her first birthday and the three that have followed I have made Juliet crown cookies for her birthday. I envision and look forward to the day when I am sending crown cookies to Juliet when she is away at college. She has had so many challenges in her young life, but her spirit is so beautiful and it touches everyone that meets her.
My favorite cookie to make, by far, is A Crown for Juliet!  When we get a chance to to slow down and recall, with tenderness, the loved ones and friends that we share our craft with it is precisely at that time traditions start and memories are made… and yes, the crown cookies are regularly requested by my girlfriends of all ages to help celebrate their special days and I love that!
Happy Baking! The Cookie Fairy

Best Rolled Sugar Cookies:
*1 C butter room temp
*1 1/2 C sugar
*2 eggs
*3 tsp vanilla
*3 C flour
*2 tsp baking powder
*1/2 tsp salt
In a mixing bowl cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients into the butter mixture until well combined. Chill dough overnight. Roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes in a pre-heated 375 degree F. oven. Transfer cookies to cooling racks and cool completely before decorating.
Best Sugar Cookie Icing
*2 tsp milk
*1 C confectioners sugar
*2 tsp. light corn syrup
*1/4 tsp almond extract
Place milk in a bowl, add and mix confectioners sugar in 1/2 C increments until the entire cup is combined. Add corn syrup and almond extract and mix it well, I mean muscle it, to become smooth and glossy. If the icing is too thick add more corn syrup in small bits. Use coloring if desired. Decorate and ice cookies to your liking.