Tips for Perfect Christmas Cookies + Boston Family Entertainment Giveaway!

Christmas is right around the corner and boy has it sneaked up fast! It’s always hard coming up with gift ideas for family and friends… but these days we’re personally trying to cut back on the amount of “stuff” we buy and give, and focus more on homemade items and experiences for gifts. What better gift than something made with love and the opportunity to create lasting memories? Read on for my tips to make the Perfect Christmas Cookies and then be sure to enter the amazing Boston Family Entertainment Giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win some spectacular tickets to Boston-area events!
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Tips for Perfect Christmas Cookies + Giveaway!

5 Tips for Perfect Christmas Cookies

Sift

Make sure to sift all your dry ingredients. Doing this breaks up any clumps of flour or baking soda, combines everything evenly, and helps make your cookies light and fluffy.

Parchment Paper

Always line your cookie sheet with parchment paper, this is key to getting the cookie bottoms that perfect light golden brown. If you're planning on doing several batches of cookies make sure to round the corners of the parchment with some scissors first, as the sharp corners of the paper can start to burn after a few times in the oven.

Cookie Scoop

A cookie scoop is probably one of the best little investments you'll make in the kitchen and I don't know how I ever lived without mine. Using a cookie scoop ensures you get uniform-sized cookies every time and makes the whole process of getting your cookies ready for the oven go so much faster.

Time

Always bake your cookies for the lower suggested time.  Cookies that are just cooked all the way through make for the softest, chewiest cookies.  If they aren't cooked in the middle yet you can always put them back in for another minute or two, but it's best to start with the lowest time.  

Your Secret Weapon - the "Bread Trick"

Accidentally over-cook the cookies?  Forget to cover them on the counter?  Believe it or not, the magical solution for over-cooked or stale cookies is just a slice of sandwich bread and a big ziplock.  Put all the cookies in a gallon ziplock bag, throw in a slice of bread, seal, and leave for a few hours - the cookies will get softer as the bread gets staler.  Magic!  


Boston Family Entertainment Giveaway
There is so much to see and do for families visiting Boston. We have an amazing Boston Family Entertainment Package that will mean loads of family fun for one lucky winner! Get those Perfect Christmas Cookies Ready! Today's giveaway has been brought to you by the following sponsors: This holiday season, consider experience such as tickets to a show, museum passes or a gift certificate for other fun family entertainment. Experience gifts are a great way to help families create lasting memories.

Ultimate Boston Family Entertainment Package

One lucky winner is going to receive the Ultimate Boston Entertainment Giveaway Package that includes:
  • (4) tickets to Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston (every weekend in Dec.)
  • (4) tickets to Blue Man Group (to be used after Jan. 1st)
  • (4) tickets to American Girl LIVE, a new musical featuring the iconic American Girl characters playing at the Boch Center, Feb. 22-24 (for Friday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 pm)
  • (4) tickets to Archery Games Boston (can be used anytime)
  • Dinner for 4 at South Street Diner (can be used anytime)

Boston Entertainment Giveaway

Official Rules and Conditions: One winner will receive the Ultimate Boston Entertainment Prize Package. No cash value. Open worldwide to adults 18+. One (1) winner will be chosen. Prize must be claimed within 48 hours of announcement or a new winner will be drawn. Prize will be delivered electronically. All entries will be verified. This giveaway is in no way associated with Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Rafflecopter, or any other entity unless otherwise specified. Giveaway ends 12/16/2018. Enter using the widget below. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out all the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways!

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Giving Back 2018

Did you know I donate a percentage of profits from Birch Landing Home (blog + Etsy shop) at year-end?  So every time you place an order or visit my blog that donation gets the chance to grow.  Last year I was able to donate to St. Jude and Susan G. Komen.

I haven’t decided where this year’s donation is going yet so if you have a favorite charity please share!

Giving Tuesday

#givingtuesday #giveback

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New England Maker: Sara Fitz Studio

As you know by now, I love sharing about companies and products we love on the blog and our Instagram - and most especially those made right here in New England.  Next in our series of interviews from New England Makers, we have the Sara Fitzgerald O’Brien of Sara Fitz Studio!   

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

Sara Fitz is best known for her beautiful coastal-inspired watercolor prints and stationery. More recently they have expanded to carry fabric and wallpaper as well as home goods such as pillows, plates, and more!

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your business.

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

I'm the mom of two beautiful little boys and the wife of a super sweet guy named Miles. We've been married for almost 11 years.  I'm an artist and designer with a Master's in architecture and minors in visual arts and painting. I've been in the creative industry since about 2007 (on and off around having babies). Our family lives along the coast of Maine and frequents Nantucket Island. I'm constantly inspired by the beauty around me. We spend a lot of time at the beach, exploring seaside towns, and feeling grateful to love where we live. Together with Miles, I own Sara Fitz. Our company is a New England-centric lifestyle brand, launched in 2016.  Sara Fitz incorporates my watercolor illustrations onto a variety of goods; various lines including wallpaper, textiles, gift wrap, and other small-batch collections. The aesthetic of our brand is coastal and clean, yet detailed, colorful... with a bit of whimsy. My goal as an artist is to celebrate those simple everyday things that one comes across when they're in New England, like a vintage life jacket or a vase of hydrangeas. 

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

How did you start Sara Fitz Studio? Had you been making watercolors for a while or was this a new venture for you? How did you make the leap into offering home goods as well?

Back in 2007, prior to having our boys, I founded a custom stationery studio. It was focused solely on weddings and events, and the papers were designed around my watercolor artwork. I very much enjoyed my day-to-day and ran the studio happily for quite a few years.  When I found out we were having our second baby, I decided to take a step back from the industry to soak in all the amazing mama moments. I stayed home full-time with my kiddos (and loved every second, knowing it was a fleeting time). There was always the intent and desire to re-enter the industry in one way or another when the time was right. And Miles and I had dreamed of one day working together -- designing a family business. In 2016, our dream became reality and we officially launched Sara Fitz. In many ways, the company is a rebrand of my original studio, in that we continue to offer custom wedding stationery, as well as our lines of home goods. 

As far as watercolor goes, I've been enjoying the medium for as long as I can remember. Most people think of watercolor as lax and unbound. Funnily enough, what I thrive on is my ability to control it, to give it shape, detail, and crispness. I love the range of color one can achieve, the lightness, and the transparency. There's an authenticity to watercolor that I gravitate toward.

Expanding Sara Fitz into the lifestyle arena came somewhat gradually, but very intentionally. Both Miles and I grew up around interior designers (our moms) and find ourselves drawn to many aspects of design in our daily lives. It felt very natural to branch into collections that encompass what we enjoy most about design: simplicity and color, a coastal casual look. We began by introducing framed art prints and then gift wrap. This past summer we announced lines of wallpaper, textiles, pillows, dishware and a few other fun goods! It's been an exciting road!

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

What does a typical day look like for you?

I tend to be an early riser (when you have little ones, there's not much of a choice!). We start our day at about 6 a.m., taking our time with family breakfast and chatting about the day ahead. The boys head off to school and Miles and I have a quick work meeting to get on the same page. Often I'll spend some time in my studio painting (either a commission project, custom wedding or new design for the brand). I'll likely be on the phone quite a bit, and answering emails. When we're introducing a new product, there's a prototyping period that I really enjoy, including testing out/tweaking designs. Each day looks a bit different, and some are more creative than others, but I love so many aspects of running Sara Fitz and feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to pursue my goals for the company.  

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

What is your favorite part about owning your own company? And least favorite part?

My favorite part is the creativity... turning my ideas into reality. To see our products used and enjoyed by our clients is so satisfying. It brings me a lot of happiness. It means a lot to me and Miles that our boys can witness our hard work and determination, as well... and they take pride in Sara Fitz. That's quite special for us. 

My least favorite part? I think when you run your own business you want to do all the things. While wonderful, working for yourself can certainly be exhausting and stressful. It is definitely non-stop.  I struggle with feeling like I'm not accomplishing as much as I'd like.  (I'm a perfectionist, for sure -- so keeping that in check can be a challenge).

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

What has been the most exciting moment for Sara Fitz Studio since you started?

Honestly, there have been so many moments since we launched that have felt surreal. We've had the chance to work alongside some very inspiring people, which is always a treat! I'd say our recent home goods launch will stand out to me as an exciting achievement! There was a tremendous amount of effort put in behind the scenes, a team of people coming together, a lot of balls in the air. I'm proud of the direction we're headed.

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

What advice do you have for people just starting out?

I think the most important thing I'd say is to keep your eyes on your big picture. Remain authentic and true to your vision. I believe it's important to emphasize what makes us unique. Believe in yourself and your ideas and know that everything takes TIME... more time than you'd think, and a ton (a ton) of hard work. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Guidance and advice from others can really go a long way. Roadblocks will happen often, you've just got to stay motivated and push through. 

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

What is your long-term goal? Where do you see yourself in five years?

We have quite the long to-do list over here! Over the next few years, I'd be thrilled to continue doing what we've been doing, branching into the interior design arena with our product lines,  exploring new designs, and enhancing our existing collections. I love the idea of collaborating with other brands on creative projects and hope to do more of that in the future. Perhaps at some point, we'll have a small flagship shop that represents our brand.

New England Maker:  Sara Fitz

Who’s one of your favorite New England makers?

There are so many talented makers in New England! One that never ceases to inspire me is Erin Flett. You know what she does that I just love so much? She cares. She sincerely cares about encouraging others, putting out positivity, and creating beautiful, happy products. I really appreciate and respect that :)

Sara Fitz Logo

Keep up with Sara Fitz Studio!


DO YOU OWN A NEW ENGLAND-BASED BUSINESS AND WOULD LIKE TO BE FEATURED IN AN UPCOMING INTERVIEW?  OR WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN HAVING ME STYLE, REVIEW, AND FEATURE ONE OF YOUR PRODUCTS?  
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Going “KonMari” on my Daughter’s Bureau

Our daughter’s bureau was a train wreck and I just couldn’t take it anymore. She’s been very much into picking out her own clothes lately and tends to dig around in her drawers until she finds what she wants, without putting anything back the way it was. Today I finally decided to tackle the disaster and emptied her bureau, folded everything in the “KonMari” style, and put it back with order.

 BEFORE

BEFORE

What’s the KonMari style? Well, technically the first step is to only keep what you truly love or use, and purge the rest (I pulled out a few items that she was starting to outgrow, but most of her clothes stayed). Then you fold everything uniformly so it can stand up in the drawers and be “filed,” allowing you to see everything at once. This is a great way to fold your clothes as you can see everything all at once and keeps you from falling into the rut of constantly wearing just what’s on top.

 AFTER

AFTER

As you can see I came up with a basic system for the drawer too - I grouped all her t-shirts together, then long-sleeve shirts, then sweatshirts and tank tops. (This folding technique also seems to be a lot more efficient as there’s even some empty space now!) I also tackled her other drawers too and tidied up her jeans, pants, and PJs. Overall I think it looks great and should help make getting ready for school in the morning a breeze.

How I organized it:

Going "KonMari" on my Daughter's Bureau:  AFTER

I already had my own drawers folded in the KonMari style and love it - it’s so nice being able to see all your options at once when you’re getting dressed in the morning. As for our daughter, I explained the new setup to her and she understands it (she was honestly really excited about her neat drawers when I first showed them to her) - but the reality is she’s five years old and there’s no way it’s going to stay this organized on it’s own. I also don’t think it’s worth nagging her over it to keep it this way, it’s really not a fair expectation for a five year old. So, we’ll see how long this lasts… I’ll do my best to tidy it up when I can and try to keep some semblance of order but it won’t always be picture-perfect and that’s okay. That’s life ;)

One Week Update: She actually kept the system perfectly! Just a few things had fallen over and one item was crumpled up and put back, but 95% of it was still perfect. I’m super impressed that an almost 5-year-old can keep the system that neat. But it goes to show, that if she can do it - so can you!

Related Post:

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How "Clean Kitchen at Night" Changed my Life

Okay, okay - so saying a hashtag "changed my life" is a bit dramatic, but let me explain...

As a Mom, you spend your entire day cleaning up after others... toys, food, diapers, everything - and at the end of the day the last thing you want to do is clean up more. Before kids I used to be good about keeping an empty sink and clean counters, but these days once the kids were in bed I just wanted to be done and the kitchen was left in disarray almost every night. However after seeing An Organized Life's Instagram hashtag #cleankitchenatnight, I was inspired and had to try it!
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How Clean Kitchen at Night Changed my Life

The whole point of "clean kitchen at night" is that it's a great motivator.  Having a clean kitchen and clean slate to wake up to in the morning helps set a less-stressful and more motivated tone for the rest of your day, in all aspects of your life. It's so refreshing to see clean counters and an empty sink.  Making meals throughout the day is so much easier too when all of the dishes, pans, and silverware are ready to go!  I don't know how many times before I would go to make a meal, only to realize a specific pan, measuring cup, or casserole dish I needed was still dirty from the day before. Now meal prep is so much easier and quicker, simply because everything is already clean.

How Clean Kitchen at Night Changed my Life
How Clean Kitchen at Night Changed my Life

Now, we don’t have an “Instagram-worthy” kitchen… it still has the honey-colored maple cabinets and green (yes, green) builder-grade laminate counters. But trust me in that you don’t need a picture-perfect kitchen to feel the sense of accomplishment and motivation in leaving everything in a clean and organized state each and every night.

As cheesy as it sounds, having a clean kitchen really does reduce stress and brings some peace to normally chaotic mornings. And I’ve found this motivation snowballs into all other areas of my life too - I feel so much more productive in work and efficient in accomplishing my to-do list every day. There's a saying that goes something like "cluttered house, cluttered mind" - and it's true... if you surround yourself with messes and clutter you feel it. If you have a sense of control over your house, even if it's just the kitchen, it makes you feel like you have life together (even if you don't, haha).

Don’t believe me that “Clean Kitchen at Night” really makes a difference?

I challenge you to give it a try! For the next week, I challenge you to make a point to clear out the sink, clean the clutter off the countertops, and wipe down your whole kitchen every night. It can be hard work at first, but once you get in the rhythm it goes quick - especially when you’re only picking up that day’s mess and not messes from previous days too. Try it for a week and let me know if you feel less stressed and more motivated across all aspects of your life - I hope you do!

#cleankitchenatnight #resetyourspace #progressnotperfection

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How Clean Kitchen at Night Changed my Life

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Our Anniversary Weekend in Acadia National Park

Getting away these days isn’t easy… especially with two small kids and being a self-employed family.  And even more so when the car decides to bite the dust the day before you’re planning to leave (ugh).  But thanks to our wonderful family and a borrowed car, we were still able to make our whirlwind getaway to Acadia National Park to celebrate our seventh(!) wedding anniversary. 
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Watching the boats from downtown Bar Harbor.

Acadia has become one of our favorite places to visit for so many reasons - including the ocean, the views, the hiking trails, and the dark skies. Acadia is one of the best places to find dark sky these days, as the night sky everywhere is becoming more and more “light polluted” by city and town lights. On a clear night in Acadia you’ll see far more stars than you ever could back home. My husband Adrian is an accomplished astrophotographer, and loves capturing the landscape at night, along with the milky way and galaxies. This year our anniversary also coincided with the Acadia Night Sky Festival so it was a perfect excuse to make the trip up there. My favorite part of the whole trip was sitting on Sand Beach Saturday Night, listening to the waves and watching the stars.

 Adrian captured this amazing photo for us to celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary!

Adrian captured this amazing photo for us to celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary!

The rest of the trip was spent doing some small hikes, taking photos for other projects, and driving around exploring. This time we had a chance to visit the other side of Mt. Desert Island too, and got to see Somes Sound and Bass Harbor Lighthouse. We also spent the night at Blackwoods Campground which is conveniently located in the midst of of the park - we got very lucky getting the second to last campsite available in the entire campground!
On the way home we made sure to stop into Dysart’s Truck Stop for a late breakfast - no trip up the coast of Maine would be complete without a Dysart’s stop! All-in-all we only spent about 36 hours away but we were able to fit in a lot - scroll down to see more photos from the trip.

Happy Anniversary!  At Otter Cove, Acadia National Park
 Blackwoods Campground, Acadia National Park

Blackwoods Campground, Acadia National Park

 Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

 Near Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park

Near Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park

 Otter Cove, Acadia National Park

Otter Cove, Acadia National Park

 The other side of Otter Cove, Acadia National Park

The other side of Otter Cove, Acadia National Park

 Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

 The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain - look how big that cruise ship is compared to downtown Bar Harbor!

The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain - look how big that cruise ship is compared to downtown Bar Harbor!

 Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

 Along Somes Sound, Acadia

Along Somes Sound, Acadia

 The worn stairs at Bass Harbor Lighthouse were so cool!

The worn stairs at Bass Harbor Lighthouse were so cool!

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, MDI
 Bass Harbor Lighthouse, MDI

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, MDI

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, MDI

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Featured by BostonVoyager Magazine

Honored to have been recently interviewed by BostonVoyager Magazine for their Trailblazers series!  You can read the interview and see more photos here:  

Birch Landing Home at Work

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New England Maker: Sewcialite

As you know by now, I love sharing about companies and products we love on the blog and our Instagram - and most especially those made right here in New England!  Next in our series of interviews from New England Makers, we have Roula Rallis from Sewcialite!   

New England Maker:  Sewcialite

Roula Rallis is the one-woman show behind Sewcialite, a seacoast-based company best known for their gorgeous coastal-inspired creations - all made of rope, fabric, and paint!

Roula Rallis of Sewcialite

Tell me a little about yourself and your business.  

Roula Rallis:  I am a wife, full time IT project manager, and mom of 2 (ages 7 and 4).  Sewcialite is a part time home decor business.  I design baskets, planters, wall baskets, bowls, coasters, and most recently tote bags and clutches using clothesline rope.  All my designs are inspired by the coast and I am a huge fan of modern coastal interior design. 

How did you start Sewcialite?  Had you been making rope baskets for a while or was this a new leap for you?

RR:  Sewcialite began as a hobby and has since turned into a side hustle.  In March of 2017 I decided to make myself a basket for my home and I just fell in love with the design process!  With the support of family & friends I opened my Etsy shop.  And over the past 1.5 years I have continued to refine my designs by weaving them with fabric and hand painting them. 

What does a typical day look like for you? 

RR:  My days are typically very long!  I’m up at 6am packing lunches, orders, sometimes styling and posting products, and getting my kids ready for school!  I drive my youngest to school, I then commute 45 mins to work.  After working all day I am back in mom mode, I help make dinner, give baths, do homework.  But once my kids are in bed the Sewcialite studio opens (my guest bedroom).  My husband has been so very supportive and he does quite a bit of heavy lifting to give me time at night to design!

New England Maker:  Sewcialite

What is your favorite part about owning your own company?  And least favorite part? 

RR:  My favorite part is being my own boss!  Having worked for someone else my entire career it’s great to be able to call all the shots. 

The least favorite part is being responsible for everything!  Sometimes I wish I could clone myself!  I’m designing, styling, photographing, advertising, fulfilling orders, blogging, etc. it can get overwhelming at times and I’ve had to learn to say no to be able to balance my full time job with Sewcialite. 

New England Maker:  Sewcialite

What has been the most exciting moment for Sewcialite since you started?

RR:  I’ve been so fortunate to have a few so I can’t choose just one!  I am a HUGE fan of Serena & Lily!  It’s one of my favorite home decor brands!  They have actually liked a few of my social media posts and designs which is mind blowing!  I’ve also been lucky to connect with a few amazing interior design social influencers who I’ve worked with like Jordecor and Coastal Interiors! 

Also getting to meet many of the amazing entrepreneurs I follow on social media in person has also been so exciting and inspiring! 

New England Maker:  Sewcialite

What advice do you have for people just starting out?  

RR:  Be prepared to take risks and work your butt off!  Being an entrepreneur is not easy!  Success does not happen overnight! 

Make sure you have a good support system of family and friends!  They will be crucial for those rough days where you may feel overwhelmed or frustrated! 

New England Maker:  Sewcialite

What is your long-term goal?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

RR:  My long term goal is to continue to slowly grow my social media presence, as it’s been the my primary channel for all of my online sales.  I would also like to design a better/bigger studio space for myself too! 

New England Maker:  Sewcialite

Who's one of your favorite New England Makers?  

RR: I love Watts in Maine she designs the most beautiful jewelry and she works full time. I was lucky enough to meet her in Portland this year!

New England Maker:  Sewcialite

Keep up with Sewcialite!

All photos courtesy of Sewcialite.


DO YOU OWN A NEW ENGLAND-BASED BUSINESS AND WOULD LIKE TO BE FEATURED IN AN UPCOMING INTERVIEW?  OR WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN HAVING ME STYLE, REVIEW, AND FEATURE ONE OF YOUR PRODUCTS?  
Please drop me a note.  


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