making christmas: cinnamon ornaments

When my sister and I were little girls, our family often had two Christmas trees. One classic Christmas miracle, and a second smaller tree covered in the weird stuff kids make in grade school. Lots of macaroni art and yarn, you know. A lot of those kid ornaments wouldn’t survive from year to year, due to a combo of not exactly being made to last and mouse attacks during the off season, and our supply dwindled. One year we moved all of the remaining favorite silliness to our main tree (we still hang them, and they really are some of the best…especially Joie’s macaroni art), but still wanted a second “kids” tree. Our genius mother helped us make a batch of cinnamon applesauce ornaments, and they plus a few strings of lights added up to a really gorgeous tree. I decided to make them again this season, to fill in some gaps in Hal and my little tree and to give to guests at our holiday party.* And I’m so glad I did! They’re a perfect simple Christmas craft, and make the house smell fantastic for days.


*note to said guests: if you snuck away without one, I still have extras!

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holiday cookie bonanza

Two weeks ago, I asked readers to help test the selections from this year’s Washington Post cookie feature. You responded with blazing ovens and raring mixers. We tested 10 of the best-looking recipes from the The Post’s list and found some definite winners. Maybe a loser, too. Two of the recipes looked so good that they were tested twice: the Salt Caramel Millionaire’s Shortbread and the Salted Chocolate Chip and Sour Cherry Cookies. The vote was split on the shortbread, but the chocolate-cherry cookies were rock stars. Other hits were the White Chocolate Honey Crisp Bars and the Honey Maple Pecan Bars. The biggest surprise was the deliciousness of the Lemon, Dill, Havarti Wafers. Check out everyone’s summaries below. A big thank you to all of our bakers!


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roasting to the dinner rescue

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the pinch of not having enough time between holidays this year. Usually there’s a bit more space to catch my breath and re-calibrate after Thanksgiving and before diving into Christmas  prep. Not this year. This year I feel like I got back to Brooklyn after a wonderful holiday in Virginia and hit the ground running–it’s time to track down presents, to deck the halls, and to make cookies. As much as I love this time of year (I love it even more than this, which is just one of the Christmas movies my family watches annually), I’m feeling more than a little stressed and pressed.  In a mood like this it’s all too easy to turn to delivery for dinner (and oh my heavens, do we ever), though I know that I feel better and even more relaxed when I take the time to make something. To get me to actually cook right now, that something better be simple and quick…and a little healthy wouldn’t hurt, to combat all of the holiday cheer. Enter roasted shrimp and broccoli.


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calling all bakers!

I’d love your help with a baking project. One of my favorite signs of the holiday season is The Washington Post‘s annual cookie bonanza: an issue of the Food section devoted to an absurd number of cookies, bars, and other seasonal sweets. This year’s insert appeared today and it was exciting. My Facebook feed was buzzing with people’s plans to bake until the butter ran out. Even though the Post is no longer my local paper, I spent an inordinate amount of time clicking through/drooling over each of the 25 recipes online. I wanted to make. them. all. And I actually thought about baking all 25… until I had the much saner, much better idea to ask you for help.

my dad was kind enough to snap a photo of the WaPo for me

my dad was kind enough to snap a photo of today’s WaPo for me

Here’s my idea: if you are interested in trying any of the 25 recipes in today’s Post (listed below with links to each recipe), send an email to by midnight this Friday, December 6. Let me know which recipe or recipes you’d be willing to try. On Saturday, December 7, I’ll let everyone know what they’re baking. Then you’ll bake your treat, take a picture, and email me a photo and your thoughts by midnight on Sunday, December 15. The week of the 15th, I’ll share your pics and stories.

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