Every year, I roll out my rolling pin to make a special batch of cookies as a sweet treat to my nearest and dearest. My all-time favorite recipe is the raspberry Linzer cookie. Its charming “windowpane” cutout design and wintry sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar make this the perfect gift to share with neighbors and friends.
Linzer Cookies with Raspberry Jam
This version features the flavors of vanilla and cinnamon, while whole-wheat flour adds depth. But linzer cookies are perfect for a bit of customizing to enhance your favorite flavors. Feel free to add some finely chopped almond bits or swap in almond flour for a nuttier flavor. Not a fan of raspberry? Use your favorite jam! Make sure you have a Linzer cookie cutter set to create the cutouts.
Recipe by Margie Monin Dombrowski
Makes about 20 cookies
You will need:
2 cups all-purpose whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
raspberry jam for filling
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
You will do:
Spoon flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl.
Using a an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat at a low speed until well blended, being careful not to over-beat.
Add the mixture of dry ingredients to the bowl until just combined and it forms a dough.
Divide the dough in half and wrap both in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper to ensure non-stick and even baking.
Roll out each portion of dough to about 1/4 inch thickness with a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
Use your large cookie cutters to cut out the cookie shapes, then use the small cookie cutters for the “windowpane” cutout on half of the cutouts. These “windowpane” shapes can be fragile, so carefully transfer these shapes to your parchment paper.
If your cookies fall apart after the cutout, try cutting out the smaller shapes while on the cookie sheet.
Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow cookies to completely cool.
Spread raspberry jam over the cookies without the cutout shape. Add the cutout cookie on top to create a sandwich with the raspberry jam peeking through. Dust the top of each cookie with confectioner’s sugar. Serve and enjoy!
Choosing a live tree this year? Nothing can quite compare to the fresh scent that fills the air when a real tree is in the room. Whether you plan to visit the local lot or make a special trip to chop your own, give this guide a quick glimpse before you go!
IMAGE BY S.RAE
The noble fir is known for its longevity and beauty, and is often used not only for Christmas trees, but fresh wreaths. Its needles turn upward, which exposes the lower side of the branches and makes ornament hanging easy. It also has stiff branches that can hold heavier ornaments.
IMAGE BY RVWITHTITO.COM
2. Douglas Fir
The douglas fir is one of the most popular species in the US for Christmas trees. The branches are usually packed tightly together, and their needles fan out from the branches in all directions, which gives the tree a dense, full look. If you want to hang lots of ornaments though, you might a tree with more space between branches.
IMAGE BY MINDFRIEZE
3. Fraser Fir
Another of the most popular US Christmas tree species, the fraser fir has soft needles on sturdy branches with good spacing, which makes them easy to decorate with ornaments. This species is often used as the White House indoor Christmas tree, and is known for being long lasting and looking fresh throughout the season.
IMAGE BY GREG GOEBEL
4. Colorado Blue Spruce
The blue spruce is an unusual pick because of its unique blue-gray needle color. It has sharp needles that are often used to stuff pine pillows. The tree has stiff branches that are great for hanging ornaments, and the blue spruce is known for being long lasting. But do be aware that when they’re crushed, the needles give off an unpleasant odor.
Christmas is a time of celebration and family, so avoid the stress and make decorating your home simple and effective. For this French country home in Aurora, Missouri, homeowner Cindy Blackenburg of the blog Edith and Evelyn Vintage uses natural elements and dresses up her year-round décor to create the spirit of Christmas. “I don’t purchase a lot for Christmas,” she says. “I use what I already have.” The result is both simple and elegant—the perfect Christmas combination.
Many of Cindy’s antique and vintage collections originate from France, giving her home a romantic, French feel during Christmas. “I’ve always collected old religious antiques and nativity sheep, and I use them in my Christmas vignettes throughout the house,” says Cindy.
In the family room, an old repainted French provincial cabinet is filled with Cindy’s collection of French religious statues, including Jesus, lambs and sheep. Rather than remove her collection during the holidays, Cindy incorporates a wreath and moss balls into the display to give it a festive look.
The foyer holds a large statue of an angel that came from a church in St. Louis. She is also a year-round piece, but Cindy gives her a long candlestick to hold and places a crown on her head during the holidays. “She was missing her wings at the auction, but my husband found a company that sold metal wings and fixed them to her back,” says Cindy.
Her sheep can be found in almost every vignette of the house, including the birdbath-turned-manger for the baby Jesus in the foyer, where they can be seen among the clippings of evergreen.
Another key component to Cindy’s look is her use of natural elements in her holiday setup. She incorporates pinecones, dried hydrangeas, moss balls and evergreen clippings into every room of the house to spread Christmas cheer without breaking the bank. “I love to go to home improvement stores,” says Cindy. “They give out evergreen clippings to make wreaths and garlands.” With this simple trick, she can hang greenery from mirrors and several surfaces, often adding lights for a festive look.
This idea also extends to the Christmas trees throughout the home. It was said in Cindy’s family that if you found a tree with a bird’s nest, it would bring you luck for the following year. “I never have a Christmas tree where there’s not a bird’s nest tucked in there,” she says.
Traditional Meets Contemporary
Though the trees have similar natural elements, they vary in color palette from room to room. “I stay pretty neutral with blues, lavender and pale sage green in my home,” says Cindy. This allows her to have a red and green tree palette in one room and a gold and pastel palette in another.
Her tree in the family room is filled with red and gold ornaments, and a plaid ribbon bow tops it off. “We had a huge basket of really large pinecones, so we stuck them in with the ornaments,” says Cindy. The flocked tree in the master bedroom, however, has a wintry look, with dried hydrangeas, gold ornaments and sparkly snowflakes. To keep the trees as focal points, Cindy kept the presents neutral, using white boxes and ribbon that matches the tree they’re under.
Cindy’s tips for achieving a simple yet elegant Christmas interior.
Steal stuff from your yard. Depending on where you live, you may have an abundance of Christmas décor right outside your door. “Go to the woods and gather up natural elements, like dried flowers and branches,” says Cindy.
Shop home improvement stores. Most stores will hand out free evergreen clippings that you can use on your mantel, staircase or mirrors.
Elevate what you already have. Instead of hitting the stores right away, see what you can do to dress up your current décor pieces. Adding small accents like candles, wreaths and bottlebrush trees will be a less time-consuming and more cost-effective way to decorate for Christmas than buying all new festive décor.
The Christmas season is a special time that should be spent with family and friends, creating memories that will be cherished as they are added to the nostalgic feeling that makes the holidays seem so magical. It’s easy, however, to get caught up in the duties and demands that come with making the magic happen. Decorate! Bake! Shop!
If you don’t get ahead on your to-do list, you may find yourself exhausted, pressed for time, and praying for the holidays to be over. That is why there are more than a few reasons to cross at least one thing off your to-do list and start shopping early so you can focus on the things that really matter.
Pick thoughtful gifts.
Stressed decisions are not often the best decisions. Being in a rush can cloud judgement and lead to choices that may not make sense in the long-run like missing sales or finding that must-have item is sold out. Give yourself the necessary amount of time to consider each person, their wants and needs and move forward with confidence knowing you won’t be trapped between two less-than-desirable options when all other choices have run out.
More time for planning other things.
Shopping isn’t the only potentially stressful activity during the holidays. There are parties to attend, food to cook and cards to send. Budgeting not just your money, but your time as well, will help you keep on track amid the cookie decorating, family photo sessions and tinsel hanging.
Mother Nature is unpredictable.
Depending on where you live, you may have no other choice but to get your shopping done early. Snow fall or heavy rain can make it difficult to get out for your errands. Even if you live in a mild climate, conditions in other cities can often delay shipping, putting you in a pinch when you don’t know if that hand-made coffee cup you purchased on Etsy will arrive on time for your gift exchange.
Spread out your budget.
Instead of getting everything done in an exhausting marathon session, spread holiday shopping out over the next few weeks to ease the burden on your budget as well as your own nerves. Setting a budget ahead of time can also ease the shock that inevitably follows a shopping spree. Since you’ve decided how much you can reasonably spend, that extra time can be used to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your money.
Find better prices.
Take advantage of seasonal sales, like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday to snag the best prices. Huge sales like these can be intimidating because they attract swarms of people. These crowds, however, are similar those who can be found shopping in the last few days before Christmas, except the added desperation of a serious time-crunch and reduced options. At the end of the day, you’ll feel better knowing you’re almost done and with a month ahead of you to complete the task.
Get a Head Start on Wrapping
The night before Christmas can turn into a nightmare when you’re surrounded by so many things to wrap. The pressure increases if you’re invested in creatively personalizing these packages. Once you’ve unpacked your shopping bags or brought your parcels in from the front porch, it’s time to get started. Build anticipation by laying your finished packages under the tree or make them magically appear the morning of the 25th, and don’t worry about running out of tape.
Less stress means Happier Holidays.
One of the drawbacks of leaving everything until the end is that you are left with very little time to enjoy the season. Procrastination makes the cloud of responsibilities only grow more menacing as time progresses. With holiday shopping under control, you’ll have the peace of mind to enjoy the season.
3 Ways to Make Gift Giving Easier
Get a list
Take out the guesswork and get your friends and family what they really want. Request a list of desired items from those nearest and dearest to you and choose something that fits your budget from that list. It may seem less than merry to remove the element of complete surprise from your family’s gift exchange, but knowing your present is unlikely to be returned is a fair trade. Some choose a theme such as “something you want, something you need, something you’ll wear and something you’ll read” as a fun template for gift giving.
Shop from home
Avoid the crowds and stay in your fuzzy slippers by shopping online. With options for free shipping, adding gift wrap your order, delivering directly to the recipient or store pick-up for protection against package thieves, it’s a cinch to click and be done. Most shops, both large and small, will post a holiday specific shipping schedule so their customers can navigate the postal service’s busiest weeks.
Make it an Outing
Invite a friends who are great company and have good taste and you’ll enjoy every minute of your gift gathering excursion. Plan to stop by a favorite café along the way for a snack and hot beverage of choice.
What started as the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia that celebrated fertility has now evolved into a holiday during which one billion cards are sent, according to the Greeting Card Association. But wooing loved ones with cards brimming in cute verses is not just a 21st century tradition—or a 20th century tradition, either. Since the Middle Ages, Europeans have exchanged handmade Valentines, eventually turning over the duty of making cards to factories in the 1800s.
You can still collect these relics of romance today! Nothing is more sentimental than a literal piece of history. The often elaborate designs on these cards also serve perfectly as vintage decor.
History of Valentines Cards
Although written verses of ardor had been exchanged in Europe for awhile, Valentines cards really took off in popularity when industrialization hit Britain in the early 1800s, allowing for the mass production of cards. Dwindling postal rates in the 1840s due to the Uniform Penny Post only kindled the printed Valentine’s Day greeting fervor.
These factory-produced Valentines started off modestly—they featured black and white pictures, which factory workers painted. But when Queen Victoria took reign and the Victorian era ensued in the mid-1800s, Valentine’s Day received a new surge in popularity and subsequently more ornate cards.
Artwork on these greetings commonly featured flowers, love knots, Cupid, real lace, paper lacework, embossing, ribbons and more: all these materials were referred to as “Victorian scrap.” The traditional folded greeting card that most people exchange today did not take form until offset lithography became a cheaper method for producing Valentines in the late 19th century. But not all cards were a standard rectangular shape: through die-cut techniques, cards were made into shapes like crescent moons and hearts, and sometimes even had characters and shapes pop out.
The Valentine’s Day greetings craze transferred over to the United States in 1849 when Esther Howland, an American printer and artist, published and sold Valentines. As one of the first to commercialize Valentines in the US, she became known as “Mother of the Valentine.” Renown company Hallmark Cards sold its first Valentines in 1913—American Valentine’s cards sometimes boasted more intimate artwork than on European card fronts.
Where to Find and Collect Valentines
A quick eBay search for “vintage Valentine’s Day cards” leaves you with an almost limitless offering of old greetings to choose from—with most of them ringing below $10! The same search on Etsy also produces an impressive amount of vintage gems. Ruby Lane, an online marketplace for antiques and vintage finds, is another great source for collectible Valentine’s Day cards.
If you are willing to hunt for an especially old greeting card, attend antique shows and auctions!
Christmas arrives with a rush of special memories, with each ornament, figurine and package bringing with it images of holidays past. Drena Bathemess’s 1920s Florida cottage reflects treasured traditions throughout this festive season, her decorating style influenced by her childhood home and the home she’s built with her own children.
Drena grew up in a home decorated with multiple Christmas trees, a tradition she’s carried into her own home. Trees can be found framed by windows, on tabletops and artfully arranged in corners. A faux white tree brings a wintery feel to the home. Pastel mini-trees give rooms a fresh burst of color.
A natural tree, cut from a local forest, serves as the family tree. It’s decorated with a mixture of heirloom ornaments, pieces made by Drena’s son, and vintage baubles sourced from area flea markets and antiques shops. The family’s gifts are gathered under the tree, wrapped in brown paper and embellished with string, ribbon or a floral garnish.
Drena’s collections of ornaments can be found throughout the home, not just on the trees. In the dining room, ornaments are hung from sashes to dress up chairs. In the sitting room, ornaments are gathered on platters and under cloches. The living room fireplace is decked with a wreath Drena crafted from an assortment of vintage balls.
The look is topped of with a variety of new and vintage, fresh and artificial accents. A vintage tobacco-barn star is given a holiday makeover with twinkle lights and embellished with flowers. Fresh evergreen garlands swag walls and trim windows, while a variety of fresh and silk flowers bring a pastel touch to the rooms.
While all of these pieces hold special meaning to Drena, she’s not afraid to mix it up and experiment with the design of her holiday home from year to year, excited to find new ways to showcase the collections that hold so much meaning.
“I never decorate my home the same way; it changes each year, inviting friends and family to rediscover Christmas treasures,” she says.
With these gift wraps, friends and family won’t mind waiting until Christmas to open their presents. Here are some ideas on how to transform your gifts from merely presents into holiday decor.
You don’t need to cover presents in traditional gift wrapping paper. Vintage wallpaper is a creative substitute and has that classic romantic look that most gift wrapping papers today can’t replicate. You can shop online for retro wallpapers on Vintage Wallpapers.
“Use vintage wallpaper, gift wrap and old fabric scraps to create beautiful and unique wrapping. Scan or copy original pieces in 11 x 17-inch sizes. You can alter the color and saturation in a photo editor, if desired. Wrap packages and trim them with ribbons, twine and millinery flowers,” says Matthew Mead of Holiday…with Matthew Mead.
Are you often hesitant to top off presents with ribbons in bolder colors or daring textures in fear that it will clash with the wrapping paper? Go with plain brown paper. The simplicity will give you an excuse to get extra creative when embellishing your gifts.
“Old Christmas cards, scissors, glue and access to a computer and printer are all you need to fashion thoughtful and one-of-a-kind holiday accents,” says Melinda Graham of Surroundings by Melinda.
“Old boxes make wonderful containers for small gifts. Use scraps of fabric or lace to four-way tie the boxes shut. Take the presentation (and gift) one step further by tying a vintage ornament to the lace….Gently clean old boxes first. Spray a thin layer of matte polyurethane over the inside and outside of the box. Allow to dry completely,” Melinda says.
Doily and Costume Jewelry
“Old tablecloths, linens and lace are a perfect finishing touch for a package. After wrapping the gift, find a scrap of lace or a doily larger than the box. Lay the box in the center of the linen and gather the four corners into the center. Use a piece of ribbon or twine to tie them together. Most laces have an “open weave,” which will allow you to lace them together. Finish by pinning a piece of inexpensive costume jewelry to the package…You can also make the doily and jewelry part of the gift by using pieces in pristine condition,” Melinda says.
“A creative way to recycle old candle jars is to use them as “gift boxes.” Fill candle jars with an assortment of tiny gifts or place one spectacular ornament inside. Finish with scraps of ribbon, buttons or homemade gift tags…To remove wax residue, place the jar in the freezer for a few hours. This will make the wax easy to remove,” Melinda says.
Paper Towel Tubes
“To turn these mundane tubes into clever gift containers, first cut them in half. Tuck the gift inside the tube and wrap, leaving a three-inch length at the ends. Twist the two ends and tie closed with decorative ribbon to resemble old-fashioned candy,” Melinda says.
Take-out Food Containers
“Simply place the gift inside and embellish the containers by tying five-inch strips of fabric in simple knots to the handle. Hang a hand- made tag and “Your order is ready!”…Take-out food containers are available online at the Oriental Trading Company and amazon.com for as little as 50 cents each. Keep some on-hand for gifts and party favors,” Melinda says.
“For this project, simply curl the scrapbooking paper into a cone. Secure the edges with double-sided tape or glue. Then, measure the diameter of the opening and cut a circle out of another piece of paper. Place the gift inside and glue the circle over the opening. Decorate the top of the cone with ribbons to create a custom tree-shaped gift box,” Melinda says.
Paper Lunch Bags
“Transform an ordinary paper bag into the perfect gift bag. Tuck the gift inside, then fold the top over to close. Use a hole-punch to make two holes two inches apart at the top center of the fold. Lace a ribbon through the holes and tie a bow. Raid your jewelry drawer for odds and ends like single earrings to add a special touch to the bow…Create a custom vintage look by adding a piece of ephemera to the package. Visit the graphicsfairy.com for free vintage-style clip art you can print from your computer,” Melinda says.
Small galvanized tins serve as unexpected gift baskets. If the tin is large, fill the bottom with crumpled newsprint, then add craft crinkle-paper on top. Place the gift into the tin so it peeks over the rim. Secure by wrapping the entire package in cellophane. Tie a ribbon and finish off with a small ornament or gift tag…Galvanized tins are available at garden centers, hardware and craft supply stores. You can also use empty paint cans, available at airseacontainers.com for as little as $1.70 each,” Melinda says.
“A fun alternative to a gift basket is a picnic basket. Tuck in a little something special or a variety of themed items for a spectacular and unexpected gift. For an added bonus, fashion a belt using a vintage buckle and burlap around the basket…If you can’t raid your own attic for baskets, visit save-on-crafts.com. You can find 10-inch baskets for only $6,” Melinda says.
Planning on tackling these DIY gift wrapping projects? Share pictures of your work on our Facebook and Twitter, or tag us on Instagram!
Christmas is naturally a time for nostalgia—whether it’s the magic of childhood your Christmases past or even for a previous time period. As you plan your vintage Christmas party, here is some inspiration for a cheery, midcentury-inspired theme.
Rather than traditional forest green, use mint greens with red to set a whimsical, retro tone. A vintage tablecloth in this palette is perfect. Browse your favorite flea markets, thrift stores, or browse online on shops like Etsy. A wintergreen vase with red roses continues the color scheme and marks the occasion.
The mint isn’t just for the color palette but for the palate as well. Cupcakes with miniature candy canes echo the festive red and classic freshness. For the full effect, use cupcake holders with a red, striped pattern.
What better way to evoke Christmases past than by using collectibles from the period? Holt-Howard actually got its start as a company with their Christmas products, and for festive retro whimsy, their Santa punch bowl and mugs are perfect. Look for two black H’s stacked on top of one another along with the year it was made in black on the bottom if you want to make sure it’s authentic.
Holt-Howard’s 1959 Starry Eyed Santa Mugs offer a playful way to serve up some punch. The Santa’s hat forming a straight handle and stars for Santa’s eyes, these mugs can’t help but lighten the mood. Other variations on the design include a Santa hat forming a round handle. If the bright colors and playful innocence of vintage 50s Christmases inspires you, then these mugs will fit right in. The large Santa bowl is the icing on the cake. Use to contain your favorite punch, jazzed up for the occasion with orange slices and raspberries.
For some homeowners, the holidays offer an opportunity to transform the look of their home, to bring in new colors and patterns for a fresh seasonal style. Other homeowners, though, view holiday decorating as a chance to amp up their current look, selecting décor and accessories that accentuate the style they’ve carefully crafted.
Donna Pochaski-Thomas, owner of the home furnishings and design shop Vintage Chic Furniture, follows the latter approach when dressing her vibrantly appointed Victorian brownstone in Upstate New York for holidays.
“I love a palette of aqua, light pink and hot pink,” she says. “My theme is primarily white with those pops of color.”
White dominates the home at Christmas. A white tree is framed in the front picture window. Cascading white garlands wrap around the banisters and frame doorways, brightly spotlighting the home’s gorgeous woodwork. Vintage white linens drape tables and are transformed into tree skirts.
Texture is an important element in the white theme, from the spiky garlands to the soft angel wings and plush pom-poms found throughout the home.
“I remember finding this pink and white pom-pom trim; I couldn’t use it [on a pillow], then I realized it makes an awesome vintage-looking pom-pom garland,” Donna says. “Now it’s one of the most exciting things that I have.”
When it comes to accents, Donna stays true to her favorite shades of pinks and aquas.
“I have found several boxes of ornaments over the years,” she says. “I would pull out all the pink, blue, white and silver, and give all the red and green ones to friends of mine.”
The look is topped off with some sparkle and shine.
“I love adding extra mercury glass ornaments, candleholders and tree-shaped pieces with scented candles,” Donna says. “The holidays are a perfect time to have more candles than normal, and mercury glass always adds that holiday sparkle.”