Baking up some holiday cheer

Growing up, the baking and decorating loads and loads of Christmas cookies was one of those things that was a very big part of celebrating the holidays in my family. These days, it's not much different, although I think in the last few years, I've mellowed a little bit and stopped making eleventy-zillion different varieties of cookies. Last year I think I made 9, and this year I've whittled it down even further to just 7: wagon wheels, peanut butter balls, snowballs, sugar cookie cut-outs, festive fudge cookies, salted caramel brownie cookies, and muddy buddies. I always like to give a little something homemade to teachers and neighbors and such, and while I feel like this holiday season has been a lot busier than the last few, I couldn't pass up doing some holiday baking over the weekend.

Festive Fudge Cookies - super easy holiday recipe on my blog today

Before I started sewing, baking was my hobby of choice. My mother taught me to bake as a little girl, and it's something I've always enjoyed - in large part due to the yumminess that baking yields! I've baked less and less over the last few years, especially this past year as I've been working on eating healthier and losing weight. Christmas baking is different, though, and I don't see myself ever giving that up. On the bright side, I've noticed that I've eaten far fewer cookies thus far than in years past, so I guess I've learned something this year in my quest for healthier eating!

Nothing like some good old-fashioned child labor!

I wanted to share the easiest holiday cookie recipe that I make - something I call Festive Fudge Cookies. I've made them since the kiddo was a teeny tiny baby, and they're insanely easy to put together. I've made several different varieties, some with Andes mints in the center, some with plain Hershey kisses in the center (for chocolate lovers like me), some with Hugs in the center, and some with the candy cane Hugs. They all taste wonderful, but the Hugs make them look awfully cute, and when you're giving holiday cookies, I like to think you get bonus points for cuteness, so I like to use them.

Festive Fudge Cookies - recipe on the blog!

Festive Fudge Cookies
makes about 60-80 cookies

1/3 cup butter
6 oz unsweetened chocolate squares
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 pouch/box sugar cookie mix, 17.5 oz
60-80 Hugs, kisses, or mix, unwrapped

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave, for about one minute, and stir until smooth.
2. Stir in condensed milk. Stir in the cookie mix. This will take some effort, as the dough will get quite thick. Use a wooden spoon or firm spoonula for this step.
3. Shape and roll dough into 1/2" balls. Place on a cookie step about 1" apart. The cookies do not spread much while baking.
4. Bake for 6 minutes. When you take the cookies out of the oven, immediately press 1 candy into the center of each cookie. Let the cookies sit on the hot cookie sheet for about 3 minutes, then gently push the candy down, to spread the candy across the top of the cookie. Wait another 3 minutes, then squish the top of the candy to flatten the candy.
5. Let cookies cool thoroughly before storing. I like to place mine on an unused cookie sheet and pale it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before storing, to solidify the candy.

Note: I usually make a lot of cookie dough in advance this time of year, freezing it until I'm ready to make the cookies. I don't recommend that with this recipe, it takes a crazy amount of time to thaw and is positively unusable while frozen.

Happy Wednesday to you all! Have a great day :)

I {heart} pillows

Are you looking for my giveaway day post?  It's right over here...

It's official.  After the Pillow Talk {Swap}, I now love making pillows.  I haven't received my pillow in the swap yet, though I have a few guesses as to which might be for me, so I was itching to have a new pillow on my couch this weekend.  Somehow, I found myself making a trio of holiday pillows.  I just couldn't stop!  I suspect I'll be making them all the time now.  I am already planning to make one for my mother's birthday in February - a dresden plate in yellows, because she loves sun faces, and I think this will remind her of a sun face.  So rather than hand stitching the binding to my Urban Lattice quilt along and That Girl quilt along quilts, so I did pillows instead - perfect for way faster gratification!

Speaking of dresdens, I made my first one in this trio of holiday pillows.  It's miles from perfect, but I learned a lot while doing this.  I used a couple of different tutorials, but the one that was most helpful was Elizabeth Hartman's from Sew Mama Sew.  I wish I'd done a solid for the center, but all in all, I really enjoyed making a dresden.  It's a great way to use up scraps or charm packs!  It sounds like we might be doing one next month in my bee, with Amy Butler's new collection, to boot.  I can't wait!

And I also made a scrappy Christmas tree pillow, thanks to Kati's super awesome tute.  I adore this pillow.  I'm so glad I got over my fear of paper piecing, because I am really loving the things I'm assembling that way. Thank you, Kati, for sharing the details on your pillow, it's been one of my favorites from the Pillow Talk {Swap}!

For my final pillow, I went super duper simple.  I absolutely adore this Alexander Henry print that I found at my LQS.   It's quite possibly the best Christmas fabric I've seen.  It's from a small collection called Merry Moderns, and I just love the old time-y feel it has.  Feels like a vintage newspaper ad.  This is quite possibly my favorite holiday pillow of all, even though the others required far more work and such, I just love this fabric so very much.  Fortunately, I've got plenty more to use next year.  I'm strongly considering busting out my Christmas stash in July and doing some holiday sewing then.  Maybe I'll even do a linky party...hmm....

And speaking of linkies, don't forget...I'm going to be hosting a linky next Monday, December 20th.  I'm going to be sharing my ideas for sewing and quilting next year, and I'd love to see you guys do the same and join in the fun!   Share concepts, inspiration, stacks of fabric, lists, whatever you like.  I adore lists, they make me happy, so I can't wait to see what you all are planning for next year.  :)

Ho Ho Holiday Swap

Happy mail day to me - I got my ornament yesterday from my partner in the Ho Ho Holiday Swap!

Check it out, it's a hexy star!  Wow, this is a seriously awesome ornament, I just love it.  Thank you, Jennifer!

I hope she isn't too disappointed with mine, given that it's so...well...not exciting or particularly impressive.  I had a really tough time with this swap.  Apparently, small things are not my forte.  I tried a bunch of different things, like turning some patchwork into a small, softie ornament - fail.  I tried using a cookie cutter as a pattern - fail.  On the left hand side there, that was supposed to be a candy cane.  The fact that it's pretty much unrecognizable speaks for itself.

I turned on some holiday music on my iPod, which led to a modicum of success.  That's how I wound up with these two.

OK, yes, I do see that my stocking is backwards.  But I didn't realize that until I was completely done with it, so I sent it off to Jennifer anyway, along with a much better ornament, along with a note of explanation for a chuckle.  Again, with the need to slow down!

Happy holidays to you all!