Happy December

golden retriever puppy in front of womens legs holding hand tied wreath with burgundy wreath

I’m only a week late, but that seems to be how the last few weeks are going for us around here. 

We had an eventful Thanksgiving week. Long story very short Clay was rushed to the emergency room because he woke up with some leg pain and by the afternoon was unable to walk and had a fever. (Like was wheeled out of the pediatrician’s office in a wheelchair…) 

The ER took excellent care of him but decided that they didn’t have the resources they needed to fully diagnose him, so we were put in an ambulance and sent to Boston Children’s Hospital.

After 12 hours, lots of tests, both of us being very scared, we were sent home with not a lot of answers and a brand new set of crutches. They could see the problem but didn’t know exactly what was causing it.

The next morning, our pediatrician called when the rest of his lab work came in. He has Lyme Disease. He’s on antibiotics, walking normally with no leg pain, and we are all hopeful that this will do the trick. We caught it early and the doctors are optimistic that he will not have lingering effects. 

For some reason, I decided to not cook Thanksgiving this year. It was the first year in my life that I didn’t cook anything. I ordered a meal from a farmers’ market and planned on making a few desserts. Since it was just the five of us, and only Wes and I really like the thanksgiving meal, I figured why not? 

Thanksgiving dinner table with orange and yellow centerpieces

After the sleepless night at the hospital and the stress and the worry, it was an absolute blessing. I even skipped making desserts and bought some when I went to pick up my dinner. Was it weird to not have my berries or stuffing? A little. But did I love not having to wash a million dishes? You bet. 

I never understood why people didn’t make their own holiday meals. Now I kind of get it. I don’t think that I will do the whole thing, but I can see the appeal of a few side dishes.

I did make some really pretty centerpieces though with the Thanksgiving Collection from Sweetwater Floral. It was such a nice way to spend an hour. Being creative is cathartic for me, and using my hands felt good.

All that to say, we had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. 

mugs, twinkle lights, and a reindeer on a grey shelf

I know that this holiday season is weird for a lot of people. For us it is pretty normal.

We do sometimes have an orphan holiday – which means we invite over whoever is in town and doesn’t have a place to go. We do that most Thanksgivings, for Christmas, we spend most of our holiday just the five of us. 

We’ve never had our family with us for the holidays. Wes has either had duty or couldn’t take leave. A lot of our Christmases were celebrated in the wardroom of an air station, and honestly, they were a lot of fun. 

When he became a senior officer I felt like it was important that he take holiday duty. I remember his Captain doing that at our first duty station and it made an impression on me. I said that when it was our time, it was what we would do. I bring dinner up to the crew and it’s a good time. 

Also, people assume that we have somewhere to go for the holidays, so no one ever invites us. 

If you have any military families in your life that live away from their families, ask them if they would like to come for Christmas dinner. Or any holiday. They would LOVE it, you have no idea. 

We decided early on that we wanted Christmas to be in our home so we wouldn’t travel for Christmas. Grandparents and relatives are more than welcome to come to our house, but the idea of traveling cross country with small kids and gifts and the holiday chaos was never something we were interested in. Any other time of the year we would be game, just not Christmas. 

peppermint candies scattered on a grey surface

Also, the night before we got married my parents sat us down and told us that we were becoming our own family the next day and that we never needed to feel pressured to do what we thought they wanted us to do. They understood that we would want to make our own traditions and do our own thing. It was a bigger conversation than that, but you get the idea.

I didn’t understand what a gift that was until years later when my friends would lament about the fights over which family they had to spend the holidays with. Or how one mom would count how many minutes they spent at her son’s in-laws and compare it to how many minutes they spent at hers and make them make up the difference. True story.

We would rather spend time with our families when we can actually spend real time with them, and the holidays are so busy, we usually do it in the summer. So it’s always been just the 5 of us for Christmas. 

I keep seeing posts from friends that the holidays aren’t going to be special this year and that it’s going to be awful. But I’m going to push back on that idea for a second. 

What if this is the holiday you’ve always wanted? 

What if you get to actually enjoy the holiday season because you get to experience it exactly the way you want to? 

I really love having our own traditions and doing things on our own timeline. There is no rushing and no expectations of me or my family. We do what we want. It’s nice.

We have a super low key Christmas every year and it’s amazing. We are not tired by the end of the holiday, we do just enough to make it special, but not too much that we feel overwhelmed.

We’ve created our own rituals and celebrations that we value and are important to us as a family unit. While our extended family is important, the one I really care about the most is the one that lives under my roof. 

You will miss your family. I miss my family every year. 

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I get a little jealous that all of my cousins are together with my siblings. 

But I also will admit that I like getting to hear about the family drama rather than experiencing it firsthand. 

  • You don’t like the holiday meal your grandmother serves every year? Make something YOU like. 
  • You want to wear pajamas all day and watch Christmas movies and not leave the house? You don’t have to. 
  • You want to spend 6 days making a gingerbread house and you finally have the time? DO IT. 
  • You hate Christmas music? Don’t listen to it. 

You have the power to make this holiday anything you want it to be. 

This year will be different. But different doesn’t have to be bad or not special, it just needs to be reframed. Make it how you want it to be for you.

vegan and gluten free millionaired shortbread on a plate with a plaid box in the background and jar of ribbon with a Christmas tree in the background

Things I’m Loving //

Kalin is one of my favorite people on the Internet and I watch her Clinks every morning on Instagram. For my sister’s birthday, I bought each one of us a Sweetwater wreath kit, had them delivered to our respective homes (me in Boston, her in NYC) , we Facetimed, and made our wreaths together while drinking coffee and started a new yearly tradition. The wreath that I’m holding in the pictures in this post, I MADE!!

Flowers are always my thing and this spring I’m planning on planting a cutting garden. We had wild success with our vegetable garden this year and I really would love to be able to go outside and cut flowers whenever I want. I signed up to participate in the Growing Kindness Project and if you love flowers and sharing them with people, you might like this too.

I made this pulled pork for dinner the other night and it was delicious. I bought a few different kinds of sauces, bread and butter pickles, and delicious rolls and we had a make-your-own-pulled-pork sandwich party.

I am a mid-40-year-old lady and for the first time in my life I’m dealing with pimples. I blame the mask, as that is where the concentration is and I notice that when I wear a mask for a long period of time, I am guaranteed a break out a day or two later. I have tried just about everything and have found one thing that has helped. I even hesitate to share it with you because I know I’m going to hear about it. It’s insanely expensive. It smells HORRIBLE. It takes forever to be shipped. It’s the most extra of all skincare. But it works. And I have already ordered another one and this to go with it.

Last year I bought two sets of these lights – one for my front windows and one for my back. They make me so happy, the pictures don’t do them any justice in the listing. They are so much better in person. They were the first thing I put up this year and they will be the last things I put away.

I make this cake every year and it is not Christmas without it. I give it as gifts and I always get asked for the recipe. It makes 6 loaves so it’s perfect to put in a gift basket.

I also make a Chocolate Roll every year too. Also a recipe we make year after year.

The bars in the picture above are so delicious. They are Vegan Millionaire Shortbread. I made them for a friend that is dairy and gluten-free. I made them with cup-for-cup flour and followed the recipe as written. The vegan caramel was so good Wes and I were scraping it from the bottom of the pot as I was cleaning up the dishes.

I updated my teen gift guides. Here is a guide for the teen girls you are shopping for, the teen boys, and fun stocking stuffers.

I have shared my Christmas book tradition before and have all of our Christmas books in one place.

chocolate roll slice on a plate with a snowman mug in the background

What have you been loving this month? Let me know in the comments.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using any of these links, I make a small percentage of that sale at no cost you.

lady holding a wreath

Oh hey there!

Well, hello there! I’m Bree Hester, the Boston-based blogger and food photographer here at Baked Bree. Here you can get lots of weeknight meal inspiration, eat more plant-based meals, and still indulge in a decadent sweet treat. Baked Bree is a place where you will find great recipes and inspiration for your next family adventure.

raspberry orange pistachio ricotta cake slices on a wire rack

Don’t Miss a Thing!

The newsletter you can’t wait to read. Best enjoyed with a beverage and a snack. 

Enter your email address below to join my list and receive my weekly Friday newsletter and new blog posts.

White Chocolate Banana Bread

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Sara

    I agree, we are going to make the most of Christmas and maybe even make some new traditions.

    1. Bree Hester

      Change is good and maybe you will create new traditions that you will keep for years to come.

  2. Tricia

    Happy holidays! I hope Clay continues to recover!

    1. Bree Hester

      Thank you so much, I appreciate it!

  3. Julie

    I am so excited to see a blog post like this. I’ve felt so very alone, when everyone around me is complaining about the Christmas they can’t have, they aren’t seeing what they can have. I feel like for so many years I’ve felt obligated to live up to everyone else’s expectations. Between my family demanding my time and my husband’s family asking for it, I found myself opening presents at 2 am or a week late and I grew to hate Christmas and honestly I grew to resent my family for insisting I experience Christmas their way and that we had to favor old traditions over creating new ones. I don’t have kids so it was clear my household wasn’t viewed as a valid household as a result. I’ve never had a Christmas Day to just me and my husband and I’m so excited about the possibilities. As a kid we all find wonder in new experiences and the magic of Christmas and I hope to restore it this year, and restore some boundaries in the future. I think it’s helpful knowing how you’ve experienced Christmas and the holidays in general over the years and how we all have to adapt and adjust as life presents new opportunities.

    1. Bree Hester

      I am so sorry that you have been made to feel this way. I hope that you get the holiday that you’ve always wanted. Boundaries are a really good thing. I also have learned to be okay with other people’s disappointment and let go of other’s expectations. It’s been a gamechanger.

  4. Lynda

    I love the sweater you’re wearing in the beautiful “wreath picture”! Please may I know where that came from? I also love that you share recipes, book lists, and gift guides! Thank you so much, Bree!

  5. sarah

    Your mention of doing your own thing as it feels right really resonates with me. Once we had kids I insisted that we would only visit one set of grandparents on Christmas day, and would see the other set on a different day. I got some pushback at first, but over the years it has become the norm. I have found that traveling briefly to get to one set of family members is reasonable for us, but trying to then take off and get to the next one made it so we just had no time at home. Holidays are more relaxed this way, and the kids get to enjoy any gifts they’ve received without having to rush off.

    1. Bree Hester

      I am glad. I don’t really think that the pressure to be everywhere with everyone on a holiday is fair. Your children are also allowed to have their own traditions and spend time in their own home on the holidays. It’s also ok to disappoint people, it’s usually more about their expectations and them than anything else. So enjoy your holiday any which way you want.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.