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Every year, with the boxes all around me and the tissue paper pushed back, I gaze at my life in ornaments and baubles and am in awe yet again at the wealth of memory and nostalgia that we place on the accepting branches of our chosen tree.


That gorgeous crocheted Santa, aptly named Lunar Santa, was made by my sister. It’s one of my most favorite ornaments. And I still have a handful or ornaments that my Grandma made for us. Every year when she came for Christmas, she would bring a box of her handmade treasures. They had tags on them, with our names in her perfect script. Several of mine still hold those tags, that memory of her permanently in ink. Some of the items on our tree were made by Griffin’s paternal Great-Grandmother too.

I love this faded and fragile paper Christmas tree, with Griffin’s tiny little face in the center. He made it in Kindergarten and I hope I never forget the look on his face when he brought it home to me. He swelled with pride when we placed it on our tree that year. Next to it, see that even more faded little paper chain? I made that in Kindergarten, thirty years earlier that the date on Griffin’s tree.

The year that Christmas almost wasn’t was when Griffin was three. It was a pretty hard time of my life and the ocean of sorrow that swirled around me left me almost broke and lacking much holiday spirit. A friend of mine refused to let me wallow, and said “You need to celebrate for your son’s sake.” They took me shopping and bought me a few ornaments, a tiny little tree and stand and a few groceries. Among the ornaments was a box of these old-fashioned styled glass baubles in all sorts of shapes and colors.


My family had some ornaments like this when I was very little and they reminded me of a better time of life, a time when we just had no clue as to the difficulties that lay ahead. Now, when I pull out the tin that lovingly holds this collection, not only do I remember some beloved childhood treasures, but I also recall the support and guidance of someone who gave selflessly to me at a critical time of need.

It really isn’t fully festive during our decorating time unless someone grabs the Santa-inspired tree skirt and dances around the house with it around their waist. Usually it’s me. This year it was Griffin and I almost collapsed from the hilarity. But shhhhh….don’t tell him I mentioned that here. He is 15, you know.

And me? I’m way beyond the need to shake the packages under the tree in a vague attempt to identify their contents, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the urge every year when they start to accumulate.

I hope that your Christmas is full of treasured people, whether it’s family, or the friends that feel like family. I hope there is delicious food, warm genuine smiles. I hope it is peaceful, because I sure know about celebrating Christmas when it’s the last thing you want to do. I hope snow is involved, if the climate allows, and twinkling lights fill your eyes.¬†We’ll be staring at magical Christmas snow in amazing abundance this year. It is a VERY white Christmas.

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

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You’ll notice the orange fluff to the right of this photo- that’s Harmon, trying to get in on the Christmas action by the tree.

So it’s Christmas- again. We have lots of fun family time planned for the next few days and I hope you do too, if you indeed celebrate something this time of year, whether Christmas or Hanukkah or anything. I hope you do celebrate, raise a glass of cheer and see smiling faces all around you. We all deserve, and need that.

The Fur-Boys say ‘Merry Christmas!!!’

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There’s one little box of new toys under the tree for the cats, as is the norm each Christmas for our catnip addicts. New toys are always appreciated, and often fought over. We need to be fair and make sure there is an equal share or we might see trouble.

Griffin, at 14 shows some excitement for Christmas, but it isn’t the same as when he was, oh maybe 4 or so. He likes getting gifts but he loves the food more, and better yet, hanging out with family. That’s the best part for him. Last night he surprised me before heading to bed by crawling- as best a 130-lb boy can manage- into my lap and snuggling with me, listening to me reminisce about my most favorite Christmas memories of him when he was little. I would have kept him there all night except my leg started to tingle. And to think he once fit perfectly on my forearm.

We continue to get great snow, and the landscape is beautifully white and very Christmas-like. I’m enjoying my cross-country skis, taking twilight excursions through the park near our house. It’s great for de-stressing.

My wish for everyone is to have a wonderful Christmas, and I want to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart for your comments, visits and feedback. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your readership and support. Enjoy the holiday! I’ll see you all soon!

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Aaaaaaand I’m back! Miss me?

I did treat you to a few posts, shelved prior to ‘the week without tastebuds’ in my house so I wasn’t superbly absent. Interestingly enough, while I recuperated, my blog was inundated with hits, mostly searching for pictures of funny cats. I suppose I’m not so remiss in that area, but this is a food blog!

So it’s December, and the month of Christmas, which means it’s time to bake cookies. Baking for me is highly nostalgic; my mother was a champion baker, if only just for our family. She prided herself on never having store-bought cookies, cakes or anything like that in our home, she baked, and she baked really darn well. If she had one prominent love language to show us, it was in her Baking. She only had to call out “Who wants to help me make cookies?” and I would often drop everything I was doing and race to the kitchen. It was our time to bond, hang out and laugh, not to mention, nibble on warm cookies. Each recipe I have of hers brings me waves of nostalgia whenever I make them- Gingersnaps, Peanut Butter Fingers, Coffee Toffee Bars, Three Layer Bars; they all spelled L-O-V-E in our house. I love to bake but don’t have the benefit of five kids to take away the tempting treats, so I don’t do it too often unless it’s for a crowd, or a special occasion.

Onto the cookies!!!

One of Griffin’s favorites is what our family, and likely plenty of others, always calls ‘Church Window Cookies’. It’s a simple chocolate and colored mini-marshmallow cookie, that when cut (and if you squint and engage enough imagination), can resemble stained glass.

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RECIPES:

Church Window Cookies:

Melt one stick of butter and one bag of chocolate chips of your choice, stir gently until smooth, then cool. Pour over one bag of colored mini marshmallows, stir to combine. Either roll into logs, or scoop into plastic drink cups, chill until firm, then slice.

Date-Nut Pinwheels

8 ounce package dates
1 cup hot water
1 cup very finely chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
3-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine dates, sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and hot water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened – about 6 – 8 minutes. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Set date mixture aside to cool. Combine brown sugar and butter. Cream until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, soda, cream of tartar, salt and cinnamon. Stir into creamed mixture. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Divide dough into thirds. Roll each portion into a 12″ square on waxed paper. Spread with 1/3 of date mixture. Lifting up edge of waxed paper, gently peel off dough and roll jelly roll fashion. Wrap rolls in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. Cut dough into 1/4″ slices and place two inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 (3 ounces) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups cake flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat hard. Stir in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add flour, mixing well. Stir in nuts. Push small amount from spoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until delicate brown. While hot, roll in powdered sugar.

RECIPE NOTES:

On the Date-Nut Pinwheels, I doubled the filling mixture, using half dates and half dried sweet cherries. This mixture took a lot longer than 6-8 minutes to thicken, likely from the extra bulk. Cook until it resembles a thick paste, almost jam-like, and allow it too cool completely. I also subbed in some wheat flour, and used a little extra cinnamon. The dough was tacky, I treated it somewhat like pie dough, tossing a little flour over it to keep the rolling pin from sticking. Chill the logs thoroughly and keep them chilled while baking. Any extra filling is wonderful spread on toast.

In our version of the Window cookies, we used Ghiradhelli dark chocolate pieces. If you’re going to eat chocolate, why not make it dark?? Don’t sub the fake stuff for butter; trust me, it tastes so much better to use the real thing. We keep these chilled for a better texture. Cool down the chocolate mix before pouring over the marshmallows or they will melt. Using plastic drink cups is super easy; make sure to press the mixture well into the cup for the best effect. When chilled, cut a slit in the side of the cup and break it apart, pushing the solids onto a cutting board. Use a serrated knife and just a little pressure to slice. *Hint* The bottom slice from the cup is the best part!

For the Cheesecake cookies, I added in about 3/4 of a teaspoon of pure lemon extract to give the cookies more pizazz. It’s been my experience with using just zest and juice that it needs a little added something to really make that lemon flavor shine. Instead of adding in the nuts to the batter, I dipped the cookies into the nuts prior to baking, then finished them with a glaze made of lemon juice and powdered sugar.

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Chewy Chocolate Bites

4 squares Bakers unsweetened baking chocolate

1 1/2 sticks butter (no subs or all of the above mentioned will fail, trust me)

2 c. sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 t. vanilla

2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat (or use double boiler) until only small pieces remain. Remove from heat and stir gently to melt completely. Stir in sugar, blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, mix well. Chill for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle. Shape into 1″ balls and place on greased cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Bake 8 minutes or until just set. Do not overbake. (again, trust me, don’t make ’em crispy ‘cuz all that stuff I said earlier? Yeah, ain’t gonna happen) Allow to cool on baking sheet about a minute then transfer to wire racks.

These are fabulous all by themselves, a dense chewy and rich cookie with amazing chocolate taste. However, you could up the Christmas love by embellishing them any and all ways. Crush some candy canes and sprinkle over the top before baking; press pieces of peanut butter cups in them after they come out of the oven; drizzle them with melted white chocolate (or my fav….melted cappucino chips….this, I swear, could solve world peace) or how about spreading them with a thick layer of mocha icing?? The possibilities are endless and as long and varied as everyone’s imagination. Bottom line…..MAKE them! Do yourself a favor if the omnipresent and ridiculous commercialism of Christmas is in any way getting to you and making you want to hibernate, go into hiding with a container of these and let the rest of the world just fall away. I don’t doubt it would do you wonders.

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