Browsing Category: Christmas

Cranberry Walnut Bread {a Recipe}


Around Thanksgiving I shared over on Instagram about my Cranberry Walnut Bread, but there’s more to the story. When I was pregnant with the triplets Panera had Cranberry Walnut bagels which were DELICIOUS! Of course, after Christmas they disappeared, because we can’t tolerate such things out of season.img_1537

For years I’ve been trying to find a recipe for a Cranberry Walnut bread, but most of them were a baking soda/powder recipe, which was NOT what I wanted. I wanted a yeast bread. I wanted it to be more of a brown bread. So I started trying recipe after recipe to find the right one.


One day I was making one of my  favorite breads, molasses brown bread, when it hit me…it’s the perfect bread for cranberries and walnuts! Here is my recipe, per request. The recipe does freeze well, but there’s nothing quite like a hot slice of bread with melted butter.


Cranberry Walnut Bread
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2 loaves
  • 1-1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 4-3/4 to 5-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  1. In a bowl, combine first four ingredients. Cool to 110°-115°. In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Sprinkle with sugar. Add oat mixture, brown sugar, molasses and 3 cups flour; mix well. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  2. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down. Divide in half; shape into loaves. Place in two greased 9x5-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Brush with butter. Yield: 2 loaves.


Paying it forward

I’m not sure how it’s been 5 years, but it has. On Thursday Henry, James, and Elanor will be turning 5 years old. I may have to spend the day in bed with the blankets over my head, because I am completely in denial that they’re 5. There are no words as to how grateful I am that we have Peter, because it’s been a whir!

Five years ago, on December 22, 2011 we found ourselves at Albany Medical Center, very anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little ones. A few hours later Henry, James, and Elanor were born and hurried off to the NICU. I was discharged on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, going home to our two-year-old, leaving our babies in the hospital. It was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do.

Christmas morning, we drove the two hours back to AMC to spend our first Christmas with our newest family members. It was the first time we could hold all of them. The nurses in the NICU were wonderful and had told us that someone had knit little hats for the babies in the NICU on Christmas and would we be willing to accept one for each of our peanuts.


Every Christmas we look at those tiny hats and marvel at how they were BIG on our now huge five year olds. The gift of those hats meant so much to us on an incredibly hard Christmas. It has been my goal that for our babies’ fifth birthday I would make three Christmas baby quilts for three little ones spending their first Christmas in the NICU. These are those quilts.


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My Favorite Things – A Collection of White House Christmas Bests

Over the past 9 years of blogging I’ve written quite a bit about my favorite time of the year, Christmas. From books we love to things we do, recipes and ways to enjoy the season more fully. For a while now I’ve been meaning to collect all of these posts together in one place…and now I am.

For the Book Lover!



For the Foodie!

For the Stressed-Out!

a Simple Christmas
Taking the Stress out Christmas Shopping


Must Haves to Surviving Christmas with Toddlers

***This post contains affiliate links: Read my disclosure policy here.

I kind of consider myself an expert on this topic, particularly given the battles of THREE toddlers at once trying to scale the tree. We are now onto our fifth toddler trying to tear down the tree and constantly unplug it. I hadn’t put most of my tricks in place and was wondering why I was losing my ever-loving mind!

Must Have #1


Swivel Base Christmas Tree Stand – I bought this YEARS before we had kids. I was sick of fighting with a cheap tree stand that would fall over, leak water, and never keep the tree straight without spending HOURS underneath it tightening and loosening screws. This thing is FANTASTIC! It literally takes me about 5 minutes to get the tree in the stand, in the house, and straight. I have never had to anchor a tree to a wall with this thing….the tree can be at a 60* and still not come crashing down (I may be exaggerating, just a touch, at that last one.)

This is how cock-eyed the bottom of our tree was this year….


You wouldn’t know it to look at the tree, other than my teetering star that still needs to be secured.


Must Have #2

img_2477On Off Ornament Switch – I think I splurged on this when Avelyn was a toddler. There are a bunch of different kinds if you look on Amazon, I think we paid about $25 for our’s, but it has been well worth it. I’m able to tuck the plugs behind furniture that little ones can’t get to and still be able to easily turn the tree on and off. It’s a very simple thing, similar to the “touch” lights of old; you just plug your light string into the box that attaches via a wire to the ornament, and that gets plugged in the wall.

Peter was driving me up the wall (our ornament needed to be rewired…not a big deal, but I hadn’t put it on yet). He was constantly plugging and unplugging the tree. No amounts of no or anything else helped. I finally just had it and had to take the 5 minutes to fix the wire on the end of the box and move the plug back to the outlet behind the dresser. Problem solved. He hasn’t touched the lights since.

Must Have #3


Baby Jail – We had bought one of these for Avelyn to have a place to play when we had our store, but quickly remembered it when we had the triplets at 11 months and needed to protect the tree. You can make the corral as big or as small as needed. The nice thing is the sides are very rigid and the thing is not easy to move: It was a much needed wall of NO around our Christmas tree.

Must Have #4

A Sense of Humor – As with anything with children, a sense of humor and LOTS of GRACE seem to take the edge off of things. A healthy dose of lowering your expectations works wonders too. We’ve had our share of mishaps, but for the most part have avoided any major Christmas-Catastrophes. It has also helped that there have been years that the tree gets lights and beads and that’s it, mostly because I just wasn’t up to the effort of full out decorating Christmas trees (ie. I was pregnant with the triplets and with Peter).

The most important thing to remember is that Christmas is a magical season, not just for children, but for adults too. No one wants to spend every waking minute of it saying or being told NO (and other, more PC, alternatives).


New Favorite Christmas Books for Children

***This post contains affiliate links: Read my disclosure policy here.

Today was St. Nicholas Day! In our house, that means new Christmas books and new pajamas. Growing up we always celebrated St. Nicholas Day, that’s what happens when you’re a second generation German American. Of course, our St. Nicholas Day mornings looked a bit different than my own children’s; it usually involved copious amounts of chocolate and a new book or movie.


I was up until 10 last night finishing up the new pajamas; the girls’ I had finished up a few weeks ago, but I still had to finish the boys pants (which still ended up being too long and a bit big in the waist) and wrap all the goodies.


What I really wanted to share with you all were the books that I had picked out for gifts. I’ve been listening to the Read Aloud Revival, which seems to be getting me into a bit of trouble with my Amazon credit card.


I have to admit I am an absolute sucker for Children’s books, an even bigger sucker for CHRISTMAS children’s books: I want them all! As it is our Christmas book stash is going to be taking up two boxes after this Christmas.

First up…

A Christmas Carol by Gibbs Smith
I had seen the BabyLit collection in one of my book groups on facebook, and I was immediately smitten! The premise of the series is an early introduction to the classics, but in board books geared toward little ones.

A Christmas Carol is a color book, going through the different characters from Charles Dickens classics tale. For us it has been a great way to share the story for all of our kids, without getting to deep in the actual story.

I was deeply grieved though when I realized just how expensive these books are, they’re your standard priced board books, so anywhere from $8-13. By chance I found out that Costco had a special on the boxed set, $22 with shipping, so I promptly ordered two sets (as of my publishing this, they are still on sale…so HURRY!)

The Baker’s Dozen by Aaron Shepherd
This is one that was mentioned on the Read Aloud Revival. The premise of the story is that a very honest baker is called on the carpet by a women, on St. Nicholas Day, that a dozen is actually 13. The women refuses to accept anything less and walks out. From that day forward everything goes wrong in his bakery, until a year later.

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous! The added bonus for us is that we live in the Central New York region in which this story takes place, so it gives us some interesting historical perspective into our state. You also get a fun telling of how a baker’s dozen came to be 13.

Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble
The illustrations in this one were fantastic!  The entire story reminded me of Little House on the Prairie. A little girl’s favorite apple tree falls during a storm and she is devastated at the loss of her “studio”. All of her Christmas spirit seems to have died with the tree, until Christmas morning when she discovers that her Papa realized just how much that tree meant to her.

I think so often we feel like no one realizes just how much something means to us or why, and this story just gives us all hope that someone will notice the important things to us.

The Christmas Tree Ship by Carol Crane
There was a very simple reason for my getting this book…it was about ships, and as Matthew used to work on ships and went to school for Marine Transportation, I have a soft spot in my heart for any books about ships.

This book especially has a soft-spot, because it’s based on a true story about the ship that brought Christmas trees to Chicago and it’s sinking, and how the captain’s wife took it upon herself to continue the tradition after his death.

The illustrations are beautiful done by Chris Ellison, the colors are all just fantastic.

The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel
I love the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City! If I could, I would visit it every year, and it’s my dream to someday ice skate beneath it. The Carpenter’s Gift is a beautiful story about the struggles of life and how one small thing can become so much more than we could ever expect.

This story of course left me sobbing through the end, all the good books do, and gave me all the feels. The words and pictures beautiful meshed together in such Christmas-sy glory. For us, again, this book really hit home this Christmas as this year’s Rockefeller Center tree is from nearby Oneonta, NY.

The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden
I have to be honest, the one reason why I bought this book was because the illustrator is Barbara Cooney, whom I love. Yes, I do buy books sight unseen, based solely on who the author or illustrator is.

Again, I admit, I cried through the end of this one. It’s the story of a doll that want’s a little girl, a little girl who wants to be loved, and a husband and wife who long for a child. It is the pinnacle of all things that tug at my heartstrings. The story is beautifully written and, of course, the book is beautifully illustrated as only Barbara Cooney can.

We had a few other St. Nicholas books sneak in after the fact, that I’ve yet to look at, but I can guarantee you there probably just as wonderful as the ones I’ve listed above, particularly The Miracle of St. Nicholas.

What are some of your favorite new Christmas book additions?