Expat Life

Kicking off the Holidays

We were kicking off the holidays here in London last week, starting with our first family Thanksgiving at home. I have never cooked on Thanksgiving. Not even a dessert. So preparing a full Thanksgiving meal, even if it was just for the three of us, was a little intimidating. Even though everything turned out just fine, I still much prefer sitting at the kids table and having the real adults cook for me. That is a much better tradition.

Armed with family recipes courtesy of my grandmother…

Kicking Off The Holidays

and vintage dishes that have been on my family’s table since the 70’s…

Kicking Off The Holidays

we made a pretty decent Thanksgiving feast.

Kicking Off The Holidays

On The Menu:

Belgian Crustille Ham
Roasted Garlic & Herb Stuffing
Vegetable Rice
Mashed Potatoes
Green Peas
Buttered Rolls

It wasn’t fancy or gourmet, and truthfully the only thing that required any real work was the mashed potatoes because I wanted them to be perfect, just like my grandmother’s. Everything else was simple. We didn’t have turkey this year because Cory and Lex are the ones that care about the meat and they both prefer ham. (But we still made stuffing anyway because I love it!) Hopefully this doesn’t make us bad Americans.

The dessert was Lexie’s responsibility and she made an apple crisp recipe she learned in her cooking class – buttered puff pastry with apple slices on top, sprinkled with a little cinnamon and sugar and baked to a crisp perfection in the oven.

Kicking Off The Holidays

Kicking Off The Holidays

Accompanied with tunes from the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams Jr, we brought a little southern USA to our flat in London for the evening. While it can’t compete with sitting around the table with our extended family, I think we did a pretty fine job of making our first Thanksgiving here in London special.

Because Lexie’s school doesn’t recognize Thanksgiving as a holiday, she still had classes the next day, but when the weekend rolled around we jumped right back into our regular traditions, starting with the decorating. Which, given the size of our flat, took a total of twenty minutes.

Kicking Off The Holidays

Kicking Off The Holidays

Like usual, Lexie was in charge of decorating our tree with the hodge-podge of homemade ornaments we’ve collected over the years. Our little tree – at only two feet tall, it could give Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree a run for its money. We have it on our table, because putting it on the floor would just be ridiculous, and we’re already using almost every inch of floor space as it is.

Kicking Off The Holidays

And because we’re nothing if not resourceful, when it hit us that we no longer have a mantle to hang our stockings on, we improvised and used the latch that holds our living room window closed.

Kicking Off The Holidays

Kicking Off The Holidays

It’s a far cry from our Christmas decorating the past two years (2011, 2012), but I like it. It suits us.

We also got started on our Christmas baking over the holiday weekend, but it didn’t exactly end the way I expected. The PTA at Lexie’s school had asked parents to send in Christmas treats for the teachers, so we decided to make sugar cookies, the same kind I’ve made at least a dozen times before. They always turn out chewy with the perfect amount of sweetness.

Kicking Off The Holidays

It all started out okay. The dough felt a little stickier than usual, but not enough to make me worry. And then my first batch came out, not necessarily burned, but absolutely, completely stuck to the pan. Not to mention they’d also turned into a cookie sheet instead of individual cookies.

Kicking Off The Holidays

At this point, I started cursing the PTA because this is obviously all their fault. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t even be baking cookies! (After one meeting I quit the PTA. Unfortunately, this did not protect me from being asked to make cookies.)

You see, I’m not a baker. When something goes wrong, I don’t know how to fix it. So I proceeded to make the other four dozen cookies in exactly the same way as the first with only a slight improvement in results.

Kicking Off The Holidays

Four dozen rock hard cookies for the teachers. You’re welcome, PTA! Other than our unfortunate baking mishap, it was a lovely holiday weekend, and the first one we’ve spent at home, not going anywhere, for a very long time. With everything we have planned before we leave for the States, it will probably be our last for a very, very long time, too. Such is the holiday season. It’s the same every year and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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  • Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
    December 11, 2013 at 5:01 AM

    Glad you had a lovely Thanksgiving and beginning to the holiday season! Made me all warm and fuzzy inside! :) And I will still eat hard cookies as long as they are sugared up! Send them my way…I am sure they will soften up by the time they get across the world! ;)

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    December 10, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    So glad your Thanksgiving meal turned out. Looks good!! Lexie’s apple crisp looks amazing!! Sweet Christmas decorations!! I love having them up!! Don’t give up on the cookies! You may just need some ingredient tweaking! =)

  • Emmymom
    December 10, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    I love stuffing too and totally just make it with random meals. I always stock up around Thanksgiving as it is way cheaper than the rest of the year. Looks like you had a great Thanksgiving meal.

  • Anna
    December 9, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    Everything, the food, the tree, even the cookies look wonderful. Your home seems so lovely. We don’t have a tree or anything this year as we’re travelling but next year I hope I’ll be able to have a wee tree to decorate too.

  • Robert Wareham
    December 8, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    Haha the cookies don’t look too bad at all! I think they look rather good. Although if they were hard, perhaps you could just leave Lexie to make them next time – those apple crisp’s look delicious!

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 8, 2013 at 8:42 PM

      You’re so right! I should pass all the kitchen responsibilities onto Lexie. This is why we have kids, right? So they can learn to do everything we don’t want to! :o)

      • Robert Wareham
        December 9, 2013 at 12:05 PM

        Haha of course! At least, that was my understanding anyway :)

  • Katrin
    December 8, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    I love your vintage dishes and the Christmas tree! I am sure your cookies taste great! I need to practice baking as well. :)

  • Mrs. Match
    December 7, 2013 at 6:30 AM

    Love stuffing! I could care less about turkey. Just give me the stuffing! I love your sweet Lil tree, it reminds me of the one match and I has our first Christmas together! Did I read that right? You guys are coming stateside? Are you coming home for Christmas?

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 7, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      This is the same tree we used when we were first married, too! :o)

      Yep, we are headed to the US for the holidays in a couple of weeks! I’m so excited to see family and friends! We’re going to Memphis where both our families live, so it’ll be next summer before we get back to Nashville, but I’m okay with that!

  • Nicole
    December 6, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    The Thanksgiving meal looks perfect and delicious!! As for the cookies…I think I’ll steer clear of those ;)

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    December 6, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    This post made me smile! I LOVE your Christmas tree. It is homely and warm and lovely :) The biscuits are 10000 times better than anything I could have produced – good job x

  • Stacie Stamper
    December 6, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I bet you’ll just be aske to bring chips next time….which may have been your plan all along!

  • Keith Wynn
    December 6, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    This post made me feel so Christmassy!!!

  • Janelle Halfpenny
    December 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I am having the same problem with making cookies here. I use the same recepie from the states, but I just can’t seem to get it right.

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 7, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      I think we’re just going to have to find UK recipes to replace our US ones. Something is just off when I try my US recipes. This isn’t the first time one of my regular recipes has failed me here. It makes me sad every time!

      Are you back in the UK now?

      • Janelle Halfpenny
        December 9, 2013 at 9:05 PM

        Yep back in the UK until Christmas :)

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    December 6, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Biscuits aren’t my forte at all – a cake, not prob, but biscuits… They still look scrumptious!

  • Miwa
    December 6, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    Everything looks delicious!! That includes the cookies, too ;) And your apartment looks so festive and cute!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    December 6, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    I wouldn’t have known how to fix the cookies either, in my experience in england, I always blame the flour haha. I think if I ever did have kids, I couldn’t be a part of the PTA either.

  • Sara Louise
    December 6, 2013 at 7:29 AM

    Don’t worry about having ham, I made chicken here, it’s a lot easier for me to find than turkey. And it still looks like it was a really nice Thanksgiving :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 7, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      Turkey is a popular meat in the UK, but only for Christmas. During the summer I never saw turkey anywhere! It wouldn’t have bothered me so much except for the fact that we always substitute ground turkey for beef in recipes and I could never find any!

      • Sara Louise
        December 8, 2013 at 6:31 AM

        No ground turkey here either! And no turkey bacon, I miss turkey bacon :(

  • Jenn
    December 6, 2013 at 3:55 AM

    Those cookies really make me want to start baking!

  • Alex Fahey
    December 6, 2013 at 3:32 AM

    This was our first year making a complete Thanksgiving dinner. We did fried chicken because we don’t have an oven big enough to cook a turkey. We thought the restaurant we were ordering the chicken from had rotisserie chicken, but they hadn’t cooked them so we were stuck with fried chicken. It felt a bit weird, but everything else turned out great.

  • stephanie
    December 6, 2013 at 2:23 AM

    Your baking sounds about like how mine goes every time! I love your little flat and all of its holiday cheer!!