2018 Books

by Kristen DeLap


Following on the heels of some more famous folks releasing their reading lists from 2018, I thought I'd put together mine. I read more books than I expected to this year. Almost 25 in total, where my goal was around 15. I owe a lot of that to a very engaging monthly book club, but also to some really great books that have just landed in hard copy on my desk.  

These are the ones I'd recommend to folks looking for something good to read. I'm proud to say only one of these is not written by a woman, and most of this list is women of color. We must promote diversity on every playing field and battleground. 

Note: I've got two going right now, that I won't finish in time but are sure to be on next year's list - Becoming by Michelle Obama and Wearing God by Lauren Winner. 

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Happy reading!  


The hopes and fears

by Kristen DeLap


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We got to the farm today in what was one of the most difficult drives with kids on personal record. We will be here for the holidays, and I’m sure the tenure of our stay will not be reflective of our journey. But there are many varying expectations for the coming days. 

Returning to my childhood home always carries emotions - it has changed so much since I was a fulltime resident here, but still carries the echoes of those days, and the generations before me. At some point I will have to decide this homestead’s fate. It is not a time I look forward to. 

Tonight, the night after solstice, a full moon peeked out from the passing clouds, illuminating the best parts of the farm. The naturalist/romantic/human in me couldn’t not stop to observe and appreciate.  

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I couldn’t decide if I liked the full verse better or not, so here are both. 

Best of luck to all of us as we navigate all that the holidays bring.  


Marble cookies

by Kristen DeLap


I took a day off this past week to get ready for my son's seventh birthday (wrapping gifts, baking a cake, etc.) Since I had the time and no kids underfoot, I decided to do a bit more involved baking for friends and coworkers. 

I've rarely met a cookie I didn't like. But lately I've been following some very talented bakers on Instagram whose creations are real works of art. I was hoping to marry a good tasting cookie with a good looking cookie that not everyone has seen before. Enter: marbelized icing on shortbread.

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I found this idea through A Beautiful Mess, and made a few tweaks to work better for me. I started with Martha Stewart's shortbread cookie. (I also made a dozen vegan ones for those with dairy allergies.)

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I used a plastic cookie cutter, but if I do it again will upgrade to these metal ones. Shortbread wants crisp edges (and so does this icing).

The top is fondant (which is also dairy free) and is made by mixing colors. I was hoping to find gray premade but couldn't, so ended up kneading together white and black for gray. Note: black fondant has a dark violet base, so when mixed skews a bit purple. My tip here is to use much more white than you'd imagine you would need. 

Rolling the fondant into logs, twisting, folding back on itself, twisting more, and then rolling takes a bit of practice to get perfect (or am I just that picky?) But once you have it, the results are amazing.

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These traveled well, all the way to NYC, and my coworkers loved them. I think they'd be good to mail as well - though you definitely want to priority mail them so the fondant doesn't get stale.

As far as elaborate holiday cookies go, these are a clear winner!

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In defense of the holiday letter

by Kristen DeLap


One of the reasons I love the holidays is because people send more mail. Everyone loves when real mail arrives in their mailbox - it's an almost universal feeling. To know that a few days (weeks) ago, someone was thinking of you, took the time to document it, and troubled to send it your way. That is effort.

But it is equally as gratifying to send mail. To think of someone, choose some stationary or card you think they'll enjoy, write a sentiment you want to share, seal it up, and drop it in the box with anticipation of when the receiver opens it. That is intention.

Which brings me to my defense of the holiday letter, which has dropped unceremoniously out of fashion. The holiday letter takes a bit of effort, for sure, but one could argue no more effort than arranging family photos and ordering cards from any of the glossy services that have tricked us into thinking that is what holiday correspondence should be. More than effort, a holiday letter takes a bit of reflection. The writer must pause and evaluate their year, sift through the mundane and the extraordinary, and make decisions about what to share. In this world of social media where there is little visual hierarchy between a glamour shot of a happy hour cocktail and a celebratory birth announcement, it is nice to have a bit more curation. The author of the letter gets to emphasize their preference of topic or event, painting things as rosy or as realistic as they prefer.

And further, holiday letters reach those without social media profiles (or those who don't exercise their ability to obsessively check all platforms daily). The USPS famously will deliver a letter anywhere, whether the receiver wants it or not.

So every year I look forward to crafting our holiday correspondence. Some years it is a long paragraph, some years it is a page. This year it is in the style of a newsletter with some bullet points and sidebars. We usually incorporate multiple photos - the candid type, not the professional, I'm afraid. But Todd and I sit down and do it together. We discuss what was meaningful about our year, in our individual lives and as a family. This year even Søren weighed in a bit on what to include. It's a great time to reflect, before the business of the holidays sweeps us away to the beginning of the next year.

The letter for me doesn't end inside the envelope. I try to find some fun vintage postage and customize it based on the recipient. My farmer father gets the stamps with the snow-covered red barns; and my active brother gets the Olympic skiing stamps; the christmas toy ones to a family with young kids, and those young at heart. This attention to postage is certainly above and beyond (though there was a time that stamps printed with a custom photo were somewhat common), but I enjoy it.

And, these letters are a great historical reference. I keep a stack of one letter from every year in the box with our stockings. Looking back at years past shows us how far we've come, and reinforces our traditions.

I know some families feel it is wasteful, so much paper used and the expense of it all. But I, perhaps naively, only think it is wasteful if it isn't meaningful. And for me, I still find meaning, in both sending and receiving this bit of traditional correspondence.

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