Merry Christmas to everyone! May this special day bring you happiness, peace, serenity, time with family and friends, a moment or two for reflection, and a visit from Santa Paws carrying the present of your dreams on his back.
It’s traditional to wish for a snowy Christmas, but heading south for the holidays isn’t bad, either.
I’ve distributed my cookies and fudge and am glad to see that I was on point in calculating volumes: the cookies and fudge are gone, the tins are filled, and there is nothing left over. I’ve tried to allocate cookies to have each tin feature a range of different colors, too.
Thus ends the 2021 holiday baking frenzy.—and it’s only December 8, which has to be a record!
Tonight I powered through the last of the baking and cookie decorating. As always, it was fun.
Tomorrow morning it’s tin time. I’ll be glad to get the cookies and fudge out of the house and on their way, to remove the nibble temptation. For now, though, it’s time to kick back with a glass of wine and watch some TV while the icing hardens.
Today was a full day of baking, and good progress was made. There is more to be done, of course, but the baking period is off to a good start. I’ll do more over the next few days, but for now it’s time to do the dishes and de-flour the countertops.
The first step in holiday baking, for me, is taking stock of what I’ve got, figuring out what I need, and then preparing my shopping list to ensure that I’ve got all of your ingredients and don’t get caught short and need to make an emergency run to the store for a missing item. (Of course, that typically happens, anyway.) That means pulling out what’s in the cupboard, in terms of spices and other essentials, then going through my stack of recipes to determine which cookies I’l be baking this year, and then matching up what’s on hand with what’s needed as I assemble my shopping list. It takes some time, so I’ve decided to get an early start this Saturday morning and, I hope, beat the rush at our neighborhood grocer.
I always like to try baking some new cookies, and this year one of new efforts will be White Velvet Cookies, using a recipe suggested by Webnerhouse reader Betty. Thanks, Betty! It’s her grandmother’s recipe, and the cookies get Betty’s highest recommendation. You can find the recipe, in her grandmother’s excellent handwriting, at the link above, along with a photo of Betty’s grandma and the cookies, too.
As a general rule, handwritten recipes are good recipes. I’m an admitted exception to that rule, however: my handwriting is illegible to everyone except me, and sometimes even I can’t read it. Fortunately, Betty’s grandmother has excellent penmanship.
This year I’ve decided to resume baking, and sending out, Christmas cookies to family, friends, and clients. Last year I reluctantly took a year off, breaking a long-running tradition, because of the COVID pandemic. Although the coronavirus is still with us, the CDC says–after more than a year of experience and testing–that there is no evidence that COVID can be transmitted through food or food containers, so long as basic precautions like washing your hands are followed. So, this year I’ve decided to get back to normal and return to my holiday baking efforts.
If you’ve got some good cookie recipes that you don’t mind sharing in the comments, I’m all ears. And I’ve reprinted, below, links to blog entries from prior years that provide links to some of the recipes for the cookies I’ve baked and posted in the past, if you’re on a recipe hunt yourself. The links below will take you to blog entries with recipes I tried in the prior years and, at the bottom of the entry, links to other new recipes I tried that year.
So far I’ve taken the initial steps to prepare for the holiday baking frenzy: finding my old recipes, and (thanks to Kish and The Container Store) laying in a supply of very festive looking silver cookie tins, some of which are shown in the photo above, that I’ll be filling with the baked goodies. The next step will be to figure out which specific cookies I’ll be baking, and then preparing my shopping lists to pick up the ingredients. I haven’t quite decided for sure, but I think this year I’ll get back into the swing of things by focusing on some tried-and-true favorites, like iced sugar cookies, Dutch spice cookies, and cranberry hootycreeks. I’ll probably try a few new ones, too, because experimentation is good for the baker’s soul.
Yesterday as I was working at home I heard a rustling outside and a kind of thump on the doorstep. Those sounds, coupled with Betty’s frantic barking, told me there had been a delivery. I went outside and found a package, and when we opened it, we discovered a “made in Oregon” gift box from our friends who live in the Portland area. The box included cheeses, nuts, summer sausage, salmon, marionberry fruit spread, and chocolates — all with an Oregon provenance.
It’s a great way to showcase a state’s products, and it made me wonder if there is a similar collection of Ohio products that is available to ship for the holidays. We enjoyed getting a taste of Oregon, which we hit pretty hard last night and which made our holidays more merry. Thanks, Ben and Rebecca!
The holiday season, for me, is in large part a music season. This year, I’m getting my Christmas musical fix from Sirius XM’s Holiday Pops channel.
Sirius offers a bunch of different holiday music options that cater to different musical tastes. There’s a country-oriented channel and an upbeat rock channel, for example. The Holiday Pops channel gives the season a classical music flavor. At any given moment, you might hear some selections from The Nutcracker or Handel’s Messiah, a choral rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, a pretty French carol from the 1700s that you’ve never heard before, or It Came Upon A Midnight Clear played on a harp. What you won’t hear is Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. (You won’t hear Bing Crosby, either, but sacrifices must be made to avoid Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.)
Every Christmas, my musical tastes seem to shift a bit. Some years, I’m focused on jazz interpretations of the holiday classics; other years I can’t get enough of the ’40s and ’50s swing era versions. That’s one of the great things about the music: it’s capable of being adapted to pretty much any style and played on pretty much any instrument from a banjo to an organ to a full orchestra, and sung by everyone from a single performer to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This year, I’m definitely in a classical and choral frame of mind.
Wherever you are on the musical spectrum this year, I hope you are enjoying the music.
There are lots of nice holiday light displays in German Village this year, but my favorite is the one at the little house within the footprint of Schiller Park. With its roofline limned in lights and the crossed, bright red candy canes in the windows, the house looks just like a gingerbread house when I walk by in the morning and the dark brick structure is framed by the brightening sky to the east. It’s a good example of how light displays don’t need to be elaborate to be effective in creating a festive holiday mood.
People are still putting up their Christmas decorations in German Village. Yesterday, while taking Betty for a walk after the Browns’ fine win over Tennessee, we ran across this not yet inflated Santa, and I got a chuckle out of it.
Was Santa was falling down drunk at 4:30 p.m., or just deflated? Either way, it seemed like a fitting scene for 2020.
There’s a special quality to the last day of the four-day Thanksgiving weekend holiday. Those of us of a certain age remember working on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but those days are long gone for most white-collar workers. Now it’s generally accepted that we’re looking at four solid days off. And frankly, by the time late November rolls around, we can use a four-day holiday — this year especially.
Each day of those four days has its own identity and personality. Thursday is all about The Meal and the excitement surrounding it. Friday is devoted to regretting your Thanksgiving overindulgence and catching up with your guests. Friday is the day for meaningful conversation. By Saturday, everyone has settled in and caught up; Saturday is a day for just enjoying each other’s company. And when Sunday rolls around, the goal is to wring every last drop of enjoyment out of the holiday weekend before it regrettably comes to a close.
This year, the four-day weekend seems to have been quieter and simpler. There may have been some Black Friday shopping sale craziness somewhere, but if so there wasn’t much of it. 2020 has sucked in more ways than we can count, but it least it has discouraged people from going out and engaging in brawls with other shoppers trying to get that last big-screen TV on sale. This year, Thanksgiving seems to have gotten back to its family-oriented roots.
Enjoy Day 4. We won’t see it’s like again until Thanksgiving 2021.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all!
The library staff at our firm is pretty creative when it comes to holiday decorations. I particularly like this year’s festive book tree.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
How lovely are thy volumes!
The cookies and fudge have been carefully — and more or less equally — distributed to their respective tins, in the last step in the holiday baking process. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I baked just the right amount to fill up our tins, without a lot of tempting cookies left over or an egregious shortfall.
This year we’ll be sending out 24 tins to friends, family, and colleagues– the most ever. And I can fairly say that, after the last few days, I will be perfectly content not to see a cookie for a while.