Christmas Cookies

I’ve been baking, and I expect to bake all this week. I started with Turtle Pecan Shortbread. The picture looked wonderful, and the shortbread, which had almond extract, smelled heavenly! But, the caramel was a problem. You’re supposed to melt 24 caramels, and then dip two sides of the pie-shaped cookies in the caramel, and then in chopped pecans. The caramel is so hard and chewy you could break your teeth on it!

I have about 18 shortbread left that didn’t get to meet the caramel. I’m going to use chocolate to glue half a pecan on the center of each, and then drizzle them with chocolate. I’m thinking about dredging one edge in the melted chocolate and then in pecans, but I may opt for the easier version.

On the more successful side, I’ve baked Russian Tea Cakes (the little confectioner sugar snowballs), Peanut Butter Blossoms (which aren’t really a Christmas cookie, but are something my family likes at Christmas) and Thumbprints. I’ve frozen the Thumbprints, to be filled with jelly and/or icing later this week. I followed the directions, but they still turned out to be a two-bite cookie. I’ll have to talk with my youngest sis to see how she does them, because hers are one-bite.

I’ve also made fudge with semi-sweet chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and walnuts. And, I’ve made Haystacks with milk chocolate. I’m thinking about one more run of fudge, with milk chocolate.

I’m working on Kolache, the kind which are made from LOTS of butter, cream cheese and flour. I plan to use raspberry and apricot fillings, and I’m going to create and fill the cookies and then freeze them. They can be baked Christmas Eve morning.

I also plan to make “Fanciful Raspberry Ribbons,” and Sugar Crisp. (LOTS of Sugar Crisp.) That should be more than enough to create gift trays and have plenty for our house, too. I hope I manage to get them all done, and artfully arranged on the trays by Christmas Eve!


I am blessed to have a niece who really should be an interior design specialist.  She and her husband  volunteered to help us with our Christmas decorations.  E is the keeper of the ladder, so he was elected to put the garland and lights and Santas  on the shelf that runs at the top of the wall the length of the living room.  He also got to put the lights up on the outside trees.  At LAST we can hold up our heads as dusk comes and the neighborhood lights up.  The house directly across from us, and the one to the north of it, had lights shining immediately after Thanksgiving.  We’ve had at least a week of eye searing lights keeping the street safe from robberies.  The houses flanking us had their lights up a few days later. We were missing a timer and some three-way plugs for our lights, but it all came together today.  It’s a lot of fun to look out and see our trees decorated, and that we are a part of the neighborhood.

K worked on organizing the nativity scene and finding things for the mantle.  She set out table runners and candles of all shapes and sizes and we put up the “Snowman” quilt my mother and I made.  She hung ornaments from the chandelier in the dining room, and filled the Waterford bowl on the table with ornaments.  She even got out the Christmas guest towels.

It looks like Christmas here, and tomorrow I am going to work on the first of the Christmas baking.  Sunday, K will return with one of her cousins and we will bake cookies together.  Christmas is getting closer!

Merry Christmas

For the few of you who read my blog, I want  to wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best in this coming year.  I hope you are able to spend time with family and friends, and have a little time off to be able to enjoy the season

As usual, I’ve been experiencing my anti-materialism gloom.  Dear Husband has done the “hit the pavement” shopping, while I’ve handled what needed to be ordered via the Internet. It helped to be able to spend a day baking with two of my nieces, and celebrating with our exercise class.

Our exercise guru opens her house to a pot-luck brunch immediately following class on the final session in December.  I subbed for her so that she could be ready for her guests, and class was very pleasant.  The day before, DH made his famous latkes, and I baked “egg muffins.”  The muffins are basically scrambled eggs poured over chopped veggies and cooked chopped meat and/or cheese.  I cooked them for 24 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  They puffed up, and then sank as they cooled.  They make a very convenient breakfast, and can be refrigerated for several days and reheated.

I have lots of wrapping left to do for our kids and granddaughters. We’ll see them several times this holiday season.  In addition to Christmas, we’ll take them all out to a marvelous seafood brunch.

I’m looking forward to hanging the bird feeder that my sister gave to us as a housewarming present.  It’s a platform that holds a suet/seed ball that has fruit added to make it look like a little owl.  I plan to put it out Christmas Eve so that we can watch the birds.

My family has already met for the year.  It’s so large that it has become difficult for them to clear the decks to gather, and….a number of them are spread out over the U.S.  This year we were instructed to choose a DVD to give, and a “snack” to go with it.  It’s tough to buy a DVD for a drawing, so there were some hits and misses.  We ended up with two Mark Wahlberg action movies, and a Nicholas Sparks chick flick. lol

January 2nd, my quilting bee will come for a Soup Supper night.  I’ll make several soups and provide bread, salad and dessert.  This will be the first time most of them have seen our new home.

I’ve enjoyed this Christmas more than several in the past, but the materialism really bothers me.  The push to get the best price and the perfect piece of technology misses the point of the season.  I’d rather spend time with friends and family and not worry about gifts.  So, I’m the Grinch.  I hope you all will carry on the Season for me.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Things begin to pull together for the Christmas season on Friday.  I’ve been invited to sub for the leader of our exercise class on Friday.  She will be preparing her home for the class for our annual Christmas brunch.  We’ll exercise and then head directly to her home for a fabulous repast and conversation.

Saturday, I hope to get some baking done.  Sunday is the family party for my side of the family.  Either Saturday or Monday afternoon I’ll be caroling with some of the women from my exercise class.  There are six people we hope to visit, to bring a little cheer.

Christmas Eve I hope we’ll go to the 8:00 service at church and then on Christmas Day we will load all the presents I’ve been wrapping (in green paper with gold ribbons, Cop Car), and head north to spend the day with Dear Husband’s children and our grandchildren.

After Christmas, I hope to spend a couple of days with family teaching some of them how to make sugar crisp, the traditional family cookie.  It’s time to be sure that SOMEONE will carry on the recipe.

I’m looking forward to all of it.  This the season of joy!

Gift Wrapping

We have an unusual division of labor at our house for Christmas.  Dear Husband chooses and shops for gifts for his children and our grandchildren, and he frequently chooses the exchange gift for my family’s Christmas party.  I arrange for most of the gifts for those who provide us services, and for the gifts I give to my side of the family.

The one thing I do that DH usually does not do is wrap the gifts.  I started the wrapping this afternoon.  I plan to do a few every day from now to Christmas.  I started with dark green paper with vines in a darker green, and two kinds of gold ribbons.  One of the packages has tiny Christmas tree ornaments nestled into the bow, and the other has red and green jingle bells.

I’d like to choose a theme every year and decorate all the gifts in that theme.  Wouldn’t that look fabulous under the tree as the mound of presents grows? I could choose a different paper for each of our granddaughters to make it easier to hand them out on Christmas Day.  Unfortunately, somewhere the idea breaks down and we end up with a hodge podge of every kind of decoration imaginable.  No one else minds.  Perhaps the idea is just too anal-retentive.  I still may try it one day.

So, the Holiday season can start!

Odd Traditions

When I was young, we had some rather odd dinner traditions for the night before Christmas.  I have four siblings.  My youngest sister arrived when my oldest sister was nineteen, but the traditions must have been constant, because I’ve heard both of them reminisce about them.

My mother made oyster stew for Christmas Eve.  I think she made it to please my father.  Personally I wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot pole.  Some of the family left the oysters behind, but sipped the broth, but Dad liked it all.  I don’t think I was the only kid who didn’t care for the stew, so in addition, someone made grilled cheese sandwiches, which was just fine with me.  I was too excited about opening presents to really care what was on the table.

There was one other meal that my family ate that I considered odd.  It wasn’t tied to Christmas, but was an occasional Saturday night special.  Dad would cook a lot of bacon.  He would save the fat to cook sliced onions, and then he would scramble eggs in the same pan.  I don’t think he drained the fat.  As I recall, it was a greasy mess!  It was served on toast as a sandwich, and some of us added ketchup to it.  Frankly, it’s one meal I have never recreated, and don’t miss, but my sisters speak of it lovingly.  Sorry, Dad.  I’d rather have one of your grilled steaks.

Someone in the family came up with a variation on a peanut butter sandwich that I still like!
You slather white bread with crunchy peanut butter, then add a spoonful of what we called “piccalilli.”  Probably most of you know that as sweet relish.  It’s grilled like a grilled cheese sandwich.  I love it!  I haven’t had one so far this winter.  I believe I’ll be treating myself this coming week. Of all the food that I’ve described, this sandwich is the only one my husband will not eat.  He just doesn’t know what he’s missing! *G*

I’m confident that I’m not the only one who has been a part of odd family dining traditions.  Care to share yours with me?


‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

This is one of my favorite times of year.  I like the end of the day, usually when I have a good part of the house to myself.  It’s taken me a long time to get into the Christmas spirit this year.  About ten days ago I needed to begin baking for things that had to go into the mail.  I felt a little of the spirit then, but it didn’t really sneak up on me until this weekend.

Cop Car has teased me about what I consider to be a simplified Christmas.  Yes, I’ve put up swags and wreaths, but it’s about a quarter of what I once did to ring in the holiday season.  I chose to decorate with two large poinsettias, and two arrangements with small poinsettias, ivy, cyclamen (and one other white flowered plant I don’t recognize).  I like the uncluttered look, and the plants bring color into the house.  The planted arrangements will last much longer than cut flowers, and I got it all at Costco, so you know I’m feeling thrifty!

My side of the family gathered on Saturday evening for a meal, and to do a Christmas gift exchange.  We had a fabulous meal, to which everyone contributed.  None of us needed to cook, though.  My niece provided enough for several days of meals.  It was lovely to see some of my great nieces and nephews who were tiny when I saw them last, and almost grown now.  My youngest sis and her family were the only branch of the family not represented, and I miss seeing them.  When the girls were small they all came to celebrate with us, and Mother.

Early today, I tidied the living room, and hung the stockings.  A little more Christmas spirit snuck up on me.  I cleared the clutter in the public areas of the house, and contemplated what I needed for dinner. I put the tree skirt around the little Sitka spruce that decorates my house all year long,and watered plants.  I put a few more decorations out.  The only thing I didn’t get to was hanging ornaments from  the chandelier.  I might still do that, just to enjoy it for the next two weeks.

I decided that I wanted to make a nice dinner for Dear Husband and the son who lives with us.  I settled on Sullivan Island Shrimp Bog (a pilaf with shrimp and bacon), green bean casserole (his request….I would have done steamed broccoli), a simple salad with romaine, strawberries and walnuts.  And, I found an Ice Cream Cake Roll.  My Dad loved that dessert, and so does Dear Husband.

I caught up with my Facebook friends after dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, and then sat down to wrap our grand daughter’s gifts.  It’s amazing how fast you can wrap gifts when your husband has the remote and he’s sleeping through a science program about the universe!  I was done in record time! *G*

So, in a few minutes, the house will be quiet, and I’ll have a private moment to commune with the Christmas tree.

I wish for you the blessings of the season.  I hope that you will all have the chance to celebrate with family or friends. For those of you traveling, I pray for your safety while on the road.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


I have not been caroling at Christmas for decades.  I love to sing carols, and have not been where I could join a group that planned to go caroling. I was moaning about this situation last year to a friend at exercise, and she remembered what I had said.

Jackie wondered why we couldn’t invite members of our  exercise class to join us.  Of the roughly 45 members of class, ten of us will go caroling Wednesday, right after class.  We’re going to visit class members who have had a difficult year, and are unable to be at class.  We’ve lucked out, and should be able to complete our rounds before the first snow of the season moves in.

One of the women suggested that we might take boxes of homemade cookies to share.  Even class members who will not be singing will be donating cookies, so we should have a lovely collection of cookies to share.

Do you have a favorite carol?  I love so many of them it’s difficult to choose one, but “Angels We Have Heard on High,” or “What Child Is This?”  are at the top of the list.  Invite me to join you caroling, and I’ll be happy to sing whatever you like, as long as it’s not “Gramma Got Run Over By a Reindeer!”

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Getting Ready for Christmas

Or not….as the case may be.  As you know, we are planning to put our house on the market.  We were supposed to have it ready this past year, but a number of things interrupted our plans, including a new knee for Dear Husband.

When I thought the house would be on the market last summer, I boxed up all the winter clothes, the fall decorations and the Christmas decorations.  Boxes and boxes of things are stacked in the basement.  All that storage makes it a little more difficult to get to what I need.

I’d like to decorate the house so that every room looks gracious and festive, but it seems more prudent to follow the “less is more” philosophy this year.  I put up swags at the carriage lights, and a wreath at the front door.  I have wreaths up on both sides of the fireplace. I put a wreath covered with silk berries at the back door, and my Mother’s cute country “Welcome” wreath on the door to the studio.

I finally decided to use our  six-foot fake Sitka spruce tree as our Christmas tree this year.  My-Sister-The-Nurse and My-Niece-The-Artist put new lights on the tree for me and redecorated it last July, so it looks really lovely. I just need to put out the tree skirt.

I plan to bring things up for the mantle.  I have a man-made garland that is made of little red seeds that will compliment the wreath.  I’ll anchor it with candles in hurricanes, to be lit Christmas Eve.  And, I think I may decorate the chandelier in the dining room.

With a few poinsettias, and flower arrangements, we should be good to go.  I like the idea of a simpler look, that allows us to enjoy the holiday.  I’ll make a few cookies this week, and wrap gifts on Sunday, and we (I hope) will be good to go!  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Holiday Extravaganza!

Dear Husband goes to the salon once a month to have a haircut and beard trim.  The young woman who takes care of him is like a family member to us.  She told DH that she was performing in a concert on Saturday, and he asked for information.  Cindy has been a part of the Sweet Adelines for ages.  She sings in the Melodeers Chorus, and they gave a performance in Lincolnshire at Stevenson High School.

We left home about an hour and a half before the performance.  We wanted to be sure to find the school in plenty of time, and not walk in late.  It took us about an hour to get there via tollways.  We walked in, and bought tickets, and were lucky to get two of the last few seats left.

The auditorium was slow to fill, and the concert was delayed by about ten minutes.  When they got started, we were absorbed in the performance and well entertained. Cindy was in the front row, smack in the center!  Five quartets sang, dispersed among songs sung by the chorus, which boasts 150 members.  The first half of the show featured popular Christmas tunes.  The second half was mostly traditional carols.  I was fascinated by the harmonies, chord progressions and arrangements, choreography and superb voices.

It was a wonderful way to get into the Christmas season, and to support Cindy.  I’m delighted to have had the chance to hear her sing.