Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Cookies 2013

This Christmas is only already our 4th as a married couple. As such, we’re still working on establishing traditions for our own family. One of the traditions that we remember as kids and that we wanted to observe this year was that of Christmas cookies. We both have similar memories of exchanging tins or plates of cookies with other families or coming home from church with a few collections of Christmas cookies!

Since we just got back from vacation with less than one week before Christmas, we haven’t had much time to prepare specifically for the holiday (ie: Christmas decor is absent even though it’s the eve of Christmas Eve!). Despite being limited on time and prep, Andrew supported me in efforts to pull of some baking during this season. I won’t forget one recipient’s remark upon receiving our gift of cookies, “How did you ever have time to get these done?” My response was and is true: It’s because Andrew was willing to do a LOT of dishes, runs to the grocery store, watch Gideon, and put up with a messy kitchen for a while. As we haven’t made many cookies at all in the last year an a half, it was a fun experience to bake up a storm in our home knowing we wouldn’t be required to eat all of the goods!

I thought it would be neat to look back years from now and see what cookies I made for Christmases past, hence this post is a little selfish. But in order to make the post less selfish I am including the links to the recipes used in case those that received our cookies would like to know the recipe(s)!

Snickerdoodles

From Allrecipes.com .

Snickerdoodles (in honor of Tam)

In honor of Tam

The idea of doing these cookies came from my sister, Tamarah. Though she does not enjoy some cookies/treats that many Americans would consider traditional Christmas cookies (namely, gingerbread), she does like snickerdoodles. In a recent conversation it was mentioned how we didn’t grow up on snickerdoodles or weren’t aware of them till we were older, but how we both enjoy them now. Personally I think it is the cinnamon that wins her heart with these cookies. But whatever the case, her mention of these cookies sparked the idea to add this to our list this year. I’m glad we did! Soft enough to taste fresh but firm enough to be a sugar cookie and not undercooked; plus, the cinnamon sugar exterior is that perfect combination of sweetness and holiday spiciness!

Orange Cranberry Crinkle Cookies

Thank you Pinterest 🙂

My favorite of the 5

My favorite of the 5 we made.

We only recently discovered this recipe, but we’ve already grown to love it! Since cranberries are only easily found in Singapore at this time of year, we’ve taken the excuse in the last month or so to buy them up… but that requires some good recipes to use them with. I think this one is probably my favorite of the bunch. Despite being sugar-y (hey, it’s a cookie!) the bright citrus flavor of the orange and the crisp tart sweet cranberry flavor make it suprisingly full of flavor!

Chocolate Nut Clusters

Only four ingredients!

More of a candy than a cookie - but no one is complaining here.

More of a candy than a cookie – but no one is complaining here.

Growing up I always remember finding some sort of nutty treat covered in chocolate from various cookie platters given to us from friends from church. I think because it wasn’t something my family normally made, the unique treat was especially savored. I had never made these before, but with only four ingredients I thought I’d give it a try. They were worth trying… though next time I would try adding more nuts (maybe cashews) and look for a different chocolate base (I’m not even sure what kind of chocolate chips it was that I threw into the pot)!

Molasses Cookies

Allrecipes again.

In honor of Marge

In honor of Marge

Andrew and I talked about what recipes and sweets we remembered from our childhoods. This one was one he talked about. He said he remembered his mom making (and liking them). This was proven when we told his mom during our weekly video call that we had made molasses cookies. She perked up with a wistful excitement, “Oh, I love molasses cookies!” My favorite moment baking these was when I was transferring these little treasures onto the cooling rack and I hear, “OOOOOOOOOHHHHH Those smell delicious! Ooooh. Those smell good.” Apparently from Andrew’s emphatic statement from across the house, the smell was just what he remembered from his childhood. Not only was the smell right on point, but they were yummy too. I’ll count them a success. We’re only sorry we can’t share them with her!

(Side note: definitely do brown sugar instead of white as many of the reviewers suggested.)

Oatmeal Etc. Cookies

With all the sugary goodness, we felt like we needed something a little more hearty to balance all those “empty” carbs out. So I turned to oatmeal cookies. I had found a recipe a month ago that used flaxmeal in it’s make-up. The suggestions from reviewers were so many, plus my own tweaks, that the end result was a bit different than the original recipe. They definitely fit the bill of giving a less sweet treat, but still very tasty!

Since I added so many tweaks, I’ll call them Oatmeal Etc. Cookies:

Ingredients:

    • 1/3 cup butter
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup molasses (optional… gives it a sweeter and richer flavor though)
    • 1 mashed banana
    • 2 eggs (could probably do more banana for eggless recipe)
    • 2 cups flour (will need more depending on humidity and how much wet ingredients you used)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 2 cups oatmeal
    • 1/2 cup ground flax seed/meal
    • chocolate chips to taste (I used almost 2 cups)

Directions:

Cream room-temperature butter and sugars together. Add the rest of the wet ingredients together and mix till consistent. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Finally add oatmeal and chocolate chips … to taste 🙂

Bake on parchment paper baking sheets at 350F  for 10 minutes until set and starting to brown on edges.

PS – All the above recipes have been toddler and adult tested and approved. 🙂

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Eastern Interpretation of a Western Holiday

Christmas is traditionally more of a Western tradition rather than an Eastern one. Yet, here in Singapore they have adopted many American and European customs. While Chinese New Year probably wins the vote for most popular holiday, Christmas still receives a lot of attention.

Most American Christmas traditions are at the very least accepted here, if not also practiced. Christmas music (both secular and Christian) are played on the speakers in stores. Trees are seen dotting shops and attractions (though perhaps a little different than in the States). Special candies are sold just at this time of year; I’ll admit the variety and price are different. And even decorations and displays are still put up depicting different aspects of Christmas.

And yet, something gets lost in the Eastern interpretation of the primarily Western tradition. Maybe part of it is due to the fact that the climate is warm and they are trying to carry on with festivities that require snow. (There is even a mall that hosts an event where they produce massive amounts of fake snow!)

Perhaps the holiday’s confusion is seen nowhere better than West Coast Plaza (a local mall a few bus stops away from our home).

Christmas = mushrooms?

Christmas = mushrooms?

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but incorporated into this massive display outside the entrance to the mall is the following: mushroom forrest, melting snow, cozy lanterns, bare trees, pine trees, grass, ivy, sled, and unicorn.

Yes, I said UNICORN!

Since when does a unicorn pull a sleigh in grass?

Since when does a unicorn pull a sleigh in grass?

Despite the odd display, we figured we’d ask a passerby to take our picture. Why not?

Under the spring-like ivy arbor

Under the spring-like ivy arbor

Thankfully (?) the theme is continued inside. It is complete with suspended wreaths with mushrooms/unicorns throughout the mall.

More fairy-like than Christmas-y

More fairy-like than Christmas-y

Andrew’s German friend/coworker was also puzzled by the display. He claimed that displays as such are what made him go back to Germany for a real Christmas celebration. To prove the point to his colleagues, he made this powerpoint slide.

Powerpoint slide depicting the oddities of the display

Powerpoint slide depicting the oddities of the display

It really is bizarre. As best I can tell it’s trying to incorporate fairy tale magic into the holiday.

In the display’s defense, the secular American ideas of Christmas aren’t that much better. At a young age I pointed out to a friend who believed in Santa the absurdity and illogical nature of it all. I guess elves and such do seem similar to fairies. And fairies seem similar to spring and unicorns??? Maybe…?

But this isn’t the only display that strikes us Americans as a bit odd.

At another mall the theme seemed to be a mix of Beauty and the Beast with Barbie sparkles. I did not understand how they claimed that this promoted “Christmas magic.”

Swags of red and gold cover columns while gold picture frames highlight sparkly shoes and purses... um, yeah.

Swags of red and gold cover columns while gold picture frames highlight sparkly shoes and purses… um, yeah.

Oh, if you look closely there’s a fairy or something flying in the air towards the mall. I don’t get it. I’m not even going to attempt an explanation or defense.

But if displays at malls weren’t enough, then why not add advertisements of malls to the mix?

Santa & his reindeer in a hot air balloon

Santa & his reindeer in a hot air balloon

Words are beginning to fail me on how to describe how odd it is. Granted reindeer don’t fly, so a hot air balloon does sound slightly more plausible than a sleigh. But really, I just don’t get the point of it. What’s the point of any of these confounded displays?

I’m not fanatically suggesting the elimination of all displays at Christmas. But personally, I wouldn’t mind if all displays were omitted so that more focus could be placed on the real reason for the season. I suppose the celebration of a baby being born in a little town of Bethlehem seems foolish to some. However, I would argue that these displays are not only foolish, but just downright confusing. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas on the beach… away from all of the confusion and any bizarre displays.

Christmas trees – Singapore Style

I can’t point to one specific reason that I have decreased the frequency of posting lately. But I do feel like I’ve been more busy. Maybe it’s that I’ve gotten into more of a routine and found ways for normal life to fill up my time… or maybe it’s the fact that Christmas is almost here… it’s the fact that I leave later this week to visit the States (*squeal*)… Whatever the reason, I don’t think my posting will improve until next year. That being said, I can’t leave Singapore without mentioning some of the oddities that I have noticed as Christmas draws near here in this warm land.

So without further ado, let me ask this question:

What do Ferrero Rochers & Newspaper have in common here?

Well apparently they both make excellent Christmas trees 🙂

First off, the Ferrero Rocher tree

Orchard Road (the “Time Square” or “5th Avenue” equivalent in Singapore) is quite decked out for Christmas time. There are fancy lights here and there, pretty trees, and other Christmas-time-only decorations.

Often after our Sunday church service we go to dinner somewhere on/near Orchard road. Last week, while going to dinner we spotted this tree:

The Ferrero Rocher Christmas Tree

I LOVE Ferrero Rochers, so I had to have my picture taken with this tree. (As a side note, Andrew recently discovered my weakness for these delicacies and bought me a whole box!)

Tree 2 – Newspaper

While browsing through the web, I came across this link. Now, normally I am not a huge fan of anything relating to Martha Stewart – but these looked so neat I bookmarked them.

Since we aren’t going to be in Singapore for Christmas I am not putting much stock into decorating our home for Christmas. Add to that fact, that Christmas trees aren’t very cheap here. And they’re all fake. So I decided I would try making my own Christmas tree with things I already have around the house.

This meant 0$ and a fun evening activity.

I didn’t want to use one of my knitting needles and I didn’t have a receipt spike as the website suggested. Instead I used my meat thermometer as my temporary spike. I then transferred all (approximately 500+ pieces of newspaper) onto a “spike” made from newpaper & tape.

Work in progress

I didn’t have “clear glass glitter” on hand… so I decided to use glue and cotton to give the newspaper a slight snow effect. I also made a makeshift star out of some craft foam paper I had on hand.

Ta-da:

Finished Product (The PS3 controller is shown for scale!)

It’s not perfect, but it was fun and it looks humble and cute 🙂 I don’t know why it ended up being extra stout…

While I’m on the topic of Christmas trees, I thought I would mention some of the differences here in Singapore.

1) There’s no live trees.

Well duh. I mean, where would they grow them?

2) They like colored trees. A lot.

I know there are colored trees in the States. But here it seems that 50% or more of the trees that I see on display in the malls are colored trees or are decorated in monotone color choices.

Colored Christmas Trees - see what I mean?

3) Warnings

The other difference here that we’ve noticed, which we think is funny, is that a lot of the display trees in stores have warning’s on them. Like this one:

High Voltage Warning

Honestly? … I’m a little bit confused. Why don’t you see high voltage warning on other displays? I don’t know… I think this is a little excessive. Oh well.

At least all these trees (if albeit a little different) help convince us that Christmas is indeed approaching, even if the weather isn’t helping. But the thing we are most looking forward to as December advances isn’t the trees or decorations, but rather the time with family & friends and setting aside time to glorify our Savior. And I’m sure with our visit to the States we’ll get some colder (and maybe even white) weather for Christmas too!