Finally... my Holiday Home!

I know it's late, and I'm very sorry! Things have taken a complete change at work and suddenly I'm in a new position {though temporary - I think} with a huge amount of responsibility and leadership/guidance required. I'm hoping this is a good thing for me - maybe? As a result, my fun, down time is almost completely non-existant. Boo Hoo!

I planned to have a gorgous photo of some Blog Swag to give away. Alas, no time - no time! However, I do plan to share in the holiday spirit with something. I'm not going to be specific at this point, because in reality things might change. I do know that it will surely be advent-urous to say the very least though!

To enter, please leave a comment with your name, state, and what your favorite thing about the Christmas season is.

Thanks for visiting!

1. Christmas Tree 4, 2. Dining Room 2, 3. Christmas Tree, 4. Christmas Tree 2, 5. Brush Tree 2, 6. Feather Tree 1, 7. Angel Candle, 8. Advent House 2, 9. 2005 Christmas Tree, 10. Linzer Torte Cookies, 11. Work Advent Calendar 2, 12. Nook Decor2, 13. Little Forest 2, 14. Little Forest 1, 15. Holiday Home Tour 1, 16. Fireplace 2

Coming Soon... My Holiday Home!

Aaack! The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, my Bella ornaments are on their special tree, the little trees are out and festooned in their holiday lights, the stairway banisters are decked out with lighted garlands, the tables are set, and little vignettes are set up in their holiday cheer - but alas my digital camera memory card and reader are in my computer at work! What a bugger thing to have happen! Of course, it doesn't help that I've been out sick with the ick for the last two days, does it?

Regardless, tonight when I arrive home from work, my number one priority will be to take photos of our home decorated in it's holiday finest.

Alas, I still don't have a wall, but our home is feeling festive anyway. I'm hopeful that we'll have a wall by Christmas. If not, I'll definitely have it by my birthday - if I have to hang the drywall myself!

Be sure to pop on back over - I even have a few pieces of special Blog Swag to share!

Celebration of Tradition

Today is the day I'm participating in Jill Assman's Holiday "Celebration of Tradition." Such a fun and timely idea, Jill! She's a gold star, that Jill. Her readers have been invited to share their holiday traditions with each other - and of course with our blogging friends also. So many traditions hold a place in my heart. It seems that many of them revolve around the Christmas holiday season. Perhaps that is why I adore this time of year (the cold - not so much though).

Growing up, my parents encorporated many German traditions into our lives. I remember seeing a fresh Advent wreath on the dining room table and always knowing it was the start of the Christmas season. Though we are not Catholic, each Sunday in December we would light a candle on our wreath and let it burn for a bit as we began to read and discuss The Christmas Story. I think I'm going to make an advent wreath and add this tradition to my family's list next year. I recall (though we often argued and fought) this being a particuarly special tradition full of spirit, knowledge, and family love.

We also put out our shoes on the night of December 5th for Nikolaustag (Saint Nikolaus Day). If we were good, we would find our shoes filled with lovely treats like chocolates and fruits the following morning. If we were bad (or naughty - not that I had any experience with that whatsoever), we would find things like coal and switches. I remember one year where my parents had Sankt Nikolaus and Swartze Peter (Black Peter was his sidekick who delivered switches and coal to the naughty boys and girls) actually come to our home to visit. Of course, it was friends of theirs, but I'll never forget the excitement of that day. Such fond memories!

Music has always been a very VERY important part of my life. In fact, I get all misty and teary eyed when I think about Christmas and music. My family is INCREDIBLY musical and always has been. My parents have been choir directors, pianists, singers and performers for as long as I can remember. They've instilled a deep love for music within all of my siblings and I. My all time favorite thing to do at Christmas time, aside from spending time with my family, is singing with my family. Absolutely, without a doubt! We each have "our parts" memorized to specific songs. We each know the different harmonies and tunes which work beautifully together. When we attend church together, I often cry when I get to sing with my family (even if it's in the pews with the congregation) because I love hearing our harmonies and voices together.

Of course, what would Christmas be without our special traditional Christmas foods?! My mother has a knack for cooking like no one else I know. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without my mom's Beste Cherry Christmas Braided Bread. Each of the males in our family have been known to eat full loaves by themselves - it's rich, but oh so good! Mother has given me permission to share her recipe with you, and I will once I have time to give it a good post - which it so deserves! My mother also makes awesome Fantasy Fudge. It's the original recipe which used to be found on the side of Marshmallow Fluff jars, but they've gone and changed it into something which is totally off from the original. She was kind enough to make Steve his own pan of it when she was here before Thanksgiving, and I've not heard the end of it yet!

Family Photos have also almost always been a family tradition too. One year, as many other Am-Berliner families did, we spray painted our holiday greeting onto the Berlin Wall. This particular year, we sprayed on the east side of the East Berlin wall (versus the West Berlin wall - did you know there were actually two Berlin Walls?). This is a definite photo to treasure forever and ever! I recently found a bag full of Berlin Wall pieces - holy cow! Holy asbestos batman! (No worries, into a mason jar they went!)

Christmas is definitely my favorite time of year. Though Steve and I don't have any children of our own, we have a few traditions of our own. We' ve managed to have photos taken to use for our Christmas card (much to Steve's annoyance!). We always invite our family (the kids - Thomas and Kimberlee) to join us with their significant others and/or friends. Wel always also invite our friends who don't have family close by to join us on Christmas Day for dinner. We both have our own advent calendars (like we're seriously supposed to share chocolate? helloooo). We have stockings hung for everyone we are expecting on Christmas Day, and then a few extras "just in case" we have additional guests. Every guest has a stocking on Christmas Day at our home. Now, they're not full of deep meaningful and pricey items. Generally, it's things like socks, an orange, pens, post-its, and other little things that can be or are needed through out the year. Even though it's a small token, I know it has meant a lot when we have guests over (especially if they are alone for Christmas) and they have a stocking waiting for them. It is always so nice to make someone feel extra special on Christmas.

There are loads of other traditions my family has participated in over the years, but these are the ones that stick out most. Thanks for inviting me to play, Jill! I've really enjoyed it!

Thinking of family Christmas photos, I can't decide which of these two I want to use this year and could certainly use a bit of guidance from my blogging friends. Which do you think is better of BOTH of us - #1 or #2?

It's Christmas Cookie Swap with Scrappi Jessi Day!

Linzer Torte Cookies
Originally uploaded by heather_ales
Oh you're in for a fun and tasty treat today! Scrappi Jessi ( has gathered some of her blogging sisters together and we've all shared some of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes with you. This time, I'm sharing my Linzer Torte Cookie recipe. It's a buttery sugar cookie sandwich filled with a raspberry preserve filling and then lightly dusted with the finest powdered sugar you can find. I posted the recipe onto my cooking blog ( I hope you'll love it as much as we do!

I think my all time favorite, easy Christmas recipe is the fabulous 1-2-3 Pretzels. I get more compliments on them, and more requests for that recipe during Christmas than almost anything else! The Beste Christmas Cherry Bread is the #1 requested recipe, followed by the Ales Christmas Berry Braid Bread recipe. I'm thinking about sharing those recipes with you this year, but it will be for a limited time. I can't let all of our family cooking secrets out of the bag you know!

Enjoy the Cookies!

Linzer Torte Cookies

Linzer Torte Cookies
Originally uploaded by heather_ales
It just wouldn't be Christmas without Linzer Torte Cookies! I remember enjoying these fun treats at many Weinachts markets my family and friends attended. Steve is also a big fan of anything with fruit in it so these are an automatic winner in his book (plus, anything with sugar is perfect in his world). Here's the recipe I normally use. At the end, I'll share a quick and fast way to make them too.


1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar (optional)
Seedless raspberry jam


Place flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; stir to combine. Beat granulated sugar and butter in medium bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture. Beat at low speed until dough forms. Divide dough in half; cover and refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Working with 1 portion at a time, roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 3/16-inch thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes with floured cookie cutters. Cut out equal numbers of each shape. (If dough becomes too soft, refrigerate several minutes before continuing.) Cut 1-inch centers out of half the cookies of each shape. Reroll trimmings and cut out more cookies. Place cookies 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Let cookies stand on cookie sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove cookies to wire racks; cool completely.

Spread 1 teaspoon jam on flat side of whole cookies, spreading almost to edges. Place cookies with holes, flat side down, over jam. Sprinkle cookies with holes with powdered sugar, if desired. Store tightly covered at room temperature. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months, but if you go this route wait to dust them with powdered sugar until you’re ready to serve them.