Christmas is almost here. I did most of my shopping online in my sweats on Black Friday which is by far the BEST way to Christmas shop. Yesterday, I wrapped most of the presents. Phew…I’m feeling less stress already. Is it just me or did Christmas sneak up this year?
This year it will be our family’s first Christmas alone. No family. It will definitely feel different but it sure makes for a quieter less stressful holiday. Still knowing that our families will be gathering together without us is hard. There won’t be any need to coordinate holiday celebrations or family get togethers. I am really excited for Landen to have his first Christmas but saddened that my family won’t be able to experience it with us in person.
Since I have always been fortunate to spend Christmas with family, I never gave much thought to those who can’t or don’t spend Christmas with the ones they love. For some of you, the holidays is a reminder of broken relationships, the loss of loved ones or like me a tangible reminder that you are far from the ones you love the most. Just know that for the first time in 32 years, I am aware that the holidays may be more of a source of loss than joy.
Making New Traditions:
We are making some new family traditions and are having fun experiencing Christmas in a new city. Like this one: Christmas in the Park. This was lovely and I was so impressed by the amount of work and set up that went into all the Christmas decorations. Both of my cuties were mesmerized. They loved it.
And just went I thought this would be our first Christmas attending 0 parties we got invited to one. We went to a Soup & Sing and it was like a breath of fresh air. Everyone welcomed us with open arms. We only knew the host, a relatively new friend, Margaret who was so hospitable. I also made an AMAZING new soup (recipe to come) and received several compliments. I have a habit of making new foods for get togethers and honestly, the recipes don’t always come out. But this one was a hit and my husband said he even got compliments on it. 😉 Emma danced as we went door to door caroling and Landen got passed around but lots of eager holding baby lovers. It was chilly night out but not anything close to the bitter Michigan winters we are used too. We are already looking forward to next year.
Another tradition we are making is only giving our children each three presents plus a stocking from Santa. What? I know this was not an easy decision for me. My parents always did a wonderful job lavishing us (all four of us) with beautiful toys and items for Christmas. We knew that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus but we were also VERY excited about all the loot we were going to get too! Now, that I’m a parent, I appreciate even more all the time and money they spent on us. Naturally, experiencing Christmas this way, I wanted to repeat this expectation for my own family and children. I LOVE buying gifts for those I love. But last year, I felt overwhelmed with all the choices I could buy for my 2 year old daughter.
Everything seemed appealing and trying to predict what she would enjoy was difficult. To say the least, she walked away with plenty of wonderful toys. So much so that she didn’t know what to play with for the next few weeks. She would play with one toy for a minute or two and then excitedly run to the next. This wasn’t a bad thing but I realized that we were possibly setting her up for discontentment. After two weeks, I decided to put away some of her new toys so that she could focus on less. When she started getting bored I switched out the toys. She loved it. I still rotate her toys usually when she’s napping so she doesn’t notice.
Six months later, I began the task of downsizing to make our cross country move less expensive and stressful. Again, my husband and I were confronted with the fact of how much we had. Stuff just accumulates, doesn’t it? I think especially more rapidly when you have children involved. Since we were also downsizing from a 1,800 sq. footage home to a 1,025 sq. foot one, we were both challenged to live with less. Although the process was difficult we came out of the experience feeling physically lighter and more free emotionally.
As Christmas approached, my husband and I talked about the budget and ideas for the kids like we always do. We both agreed that we needed to buy less for our kids this year. But what did less look like? It made me reflect back on a podcast I heard about a family that only gives their children 3 gifts. Why the number 3? Three represents the number of gifts that baby Jesus received when he was born. Since it is our desire for Christ to be emphasized not Santa then this seem like a good route to go. Our hope is that starting this tradition now will set a new expectation. Our kids are so little they probably won’t even notice but for me it really challenged me. Only buying 3 gifts made me make sure they were gifts I REALLY wanted my children to have.
So for me, keeping the gifts to three has been a success already. Since I love to give than I can easily fall into the trap of being too generous. What does too generous look like? A lot like compulsive buying. It’s spending for the sake of spending because it’s Christmas and that is what we are supposed to do. I don’t know if we will always only give 3 gifts but so far it has helped my husband and I focus on the true meaning of Christmas which is never a bad thing. Hopefully, it will help our children as well.
Lastly, we will be adding Sugar Cookie Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting to our new list of holiday traditions. These were a Big Hit. The idea came from a sugar cookie fail. I was trying yet another round of gluten-free vegan sugar cookies but my dough ended up to sticky. Instead of staying frustrated I decided to take cookie dough and turn it into cupcakes. And viola, Christmas goodness in every. single. bite. 🙂
Before, we dive into recipe details. I’m going to talk frosting. I LOVE having options and I’m guessing you do too. So, I’m going to give you 3 frosting choices and then you can decide which one you would like to do.
Sugar Rant & Stance
Let me just say that our family is not just about staying away from our known allergies but we try to stay clear from certain types of sugar and limit healthy sugars. In a nutshell, we do eat sugar in the form of honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses, and fruit. I do not bake or cook using white sugar, brown sugar, or any type of corn syrups. If I do buy something that is sweetened with sugar it NEVER has corn syrup in it or high fructose corn syrup and I ideally want the sugar used to be organic. I also try to stay clear from foods that have unnecessary added sugar in them like pasta sauce or canned fruit with added sugar.
This does not mean that I question what type of sugar is used in sweets when we are at social gatherings. While I believe that your extended family should know about your desired food restraints, I don’t believe this is necessary with friends unless you spend a lot of time together eating. 🙂 When my friends make the effort to bake and it’s allergy friendly the last thing I’m going to do is ask them what type of sweetener they used. 😉
My goal is not to prevent my family from eating anything with sugar but to give them a healthier alternative. There have been several times that our daughter Emma has passed on glass of lemonade or a gluten-free cookie because she found the taste too sweet. This is exactly what I want. I want her body to enjoy sweet foods but I also want her body to recognize when it’s too much. So, that being said, the store bought frostings are pretty high in sugar content but again are use of these is reserved for special occasions. Frosting is something that we only eat a few times a year.
Dairy-free Options & Reviews:
Option 1: Dairy-free Vanilla Frosting by Pamela’s
Great taste and texture. Really easy to spread.
Keeps in the fridge or freezer for a week.
Easy to make – simply add water and butter.
Only 3 ingredients: Organic sugar, vanilla and sea salt (plus the water and butter you add.)
Very sweet almost too sweet but had a great vanilla taste.
Free of soy, dairy, gluten, corn, eggs, and nuts.
Part of the Non-GMO project
Option 2: Wholesome Chow Vanilla Frosting
Great taste and a bit thicker in texture.
Keeps in the fridge or freezer for a week.
Easy to make but I struggled getting the right consistency.
Only 2 ingredients: Organic sugar & vanilla (you add butter, water, and oil)
Less sweet in tastes & flavor was more of a butter cream than vanilla.
Free of soy, dairy, gluten, casein, eggs, and nuts.
Although, both frosting packages were the same size. I felt like I got more frosting from the Pamela’s brand than from Wholesome Chow’s package. Overall, I was happy with both brands and would recommend both. 🙂
Option 3: Make your Own
Great texture and a slight coconut taste.
Keeps in the fridge for at least a few days.
Only 3 ingredients: Coconut butter, vanilla and maple syrup.
You control the level of sweetness and if the ingredients are organic.
Coconut Vanilla Frosting
– 1/2 to 1 cup of coconut butter (this is 4 to 8 ounces)
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1 – 2 tbsp maple syrup
Measure and place coconut butter, vanilla, and maple syrup in mixer and mix until smooth. Mix well. *If frosting seems to think simply add water 1 tablespoon at a time. If frosting seems to watery, place frosting in fridge for 15-20 minutes to thicken.
Sugar Cookie Cupcakes (Gluten-free & Vegan)
- 2 1/2 cups of gluten-free all purpose flour (I used Wholesome Chow)
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1/2 cup non dairy butter (I used earth balance)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together butter, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until well mixed.
Next add in milk, apple cider vinegar and mix again for another 3o seconds.
Add in your gluten-free flour and blend. Once your dough is completely mixed. Scoop muffin mixture into a greased cupcake pan or into cupcake holders.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fork clean. Let your cupcakes completely cooke before moving or frosting them.
I would love to hear from you. If you give this recipe a try, please let me know by giving the recipe a rating and leaving a comment. What are some of your family’s Christmas traditions?