3 Days ’til Christmas: Happy Winter! / Magazine Will Be Up LATE (the 27th)

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Welcome to winter. It’s the shortest day of the year. After today we’ll start seeing extra minutes of daylight. But, as my dad says (and probably his dad before him), “As the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.”

UPDATE: Regarding the magazine – It will be up late. Your Humble Editor has hit the wall. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the new issue will be up on Tuesday, December 27th. We hope you’ll enjoy it!

4 Days ’til Christmas: Did you Drop?/Longest Night of the Year

After you shopped, that is? If you’re still in the midst of the madness, here’s a little lighthearted song to keep you going. The song is “Twelve Days to Christmas” from the musical “She Loves Me.”

It’s on YouTube (embedding doesn’t seem to work for me today).

And, for those of you who are starting to drag from lack of light (me!), tonight is the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere! More light coming soon. Winter solstice people!

6 Days ’til Christmas: Caroling

Have you ever gone Christmas caroling? I did it once so now I can say that I have. I like singing carols but not so much the act of going caroling. Do you have favorite songs? My taste goes more toward the tradtional.

As mentioned earlier, “The Holly and the Ivy” is a fave.

Then there’s “O Holy Night,”

“I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In,”

“Here We Come A-Wassailing,”

and the less traditional: “Winter Wonderland.”

Your faves?

7 Days ’til Christmas: Scents of the Season

The whole house smells wonderful because of the Christmas tree, the baking and cooking that has been going on, and the citrus pomander balls I made for my office. Have you made one? It’s citrus season. Grab an orange, lemon, or lime; a sharp object like a skewer or knitting needle; and some whole cloves (they might be cheaper in bulk).

OrangesPoke starter holes in your fruit with the skewer and then push a clove into each hole. The closer together the cloves, the longer the pomander will last. If it dries properly, it might even last for years.

You can tie a ribbon around the whole thing and secure it with more cloves at the ribbon’s edge and then hang your pomander.  I took the lazy way out using lemons (they’re smaller) and parking them in little ramekins.

Lemon pomanderIn any case, the pomander scent is wonderful. Try it, you might think so too.


8 Days ’til Christmas: Ornament

The Taste Tester and I got our tree after climbing up and down the mountain several times. And now it’s all lit up and decorated. Taking the ornaments out of the box brings back great memories.

New Orleans Christmas Ornaments

Of vacations taken.

Crocheted angel ornament

Of things my grandmother made.

Mushroom Christmas ornament

Of years spent with The Taste Tester and fun things we've done.

Beaded Christmas ornament

Of crafts my mother did.

 Do you have an ornament collection? Good memories tied up with the decorations? A tree-selecting tradition? Do tell.


9 Days ’til Christmas: Pinned

Santa PinYou know how department stores have pyramids of boxed Christmas pins on display this time of year? Probably people think of them as a cop-out gift. I happen to like them. Above is the first pin I got when I was but a wee lass. It was a decoration on a Christmas present well before I could be trusted around sharp objects. Since then, more pins have followed me home. I inherited a couple from my grandmother when she died. And every couple of years, if I see one I like (some of them are too cheesy even for me) and it’s not too expensive, I buy another. Consider the people in your life. Would they like a piece of Christmas cheer to wear in December? If so, maybe a pin isn’t a cop-out gift at all.

11 Days ’til Christmas: Exchange

I stayed up far, far too late making cookies for a cookie exchange at work (and I’m obviously still up). Have you done one of those? For each person participating (other than yourself), you bring a 1/2 dozen cookies–or your specified amount–and the recipe. Then you do a big swap with everyone getting a package of cookies from each of the other participants. In theory that means you can offer a variety of cookies at your own holiday shindig without having to bake more than one type yourself. Some folks package up their cookies in beautiful containers which I have to admit is part of the fun. I’m more of a bung-’em-in-the-pre-printed-holiday-Ziploc-and-be-on-your-way sort, though. So it goes. I did expend slightly more effort on the cookie decorating part this year but nothing compared to what I expect I’ll see at work on exchange day.

Because I seem to have renounced sleep for the duration of the holidays season, this is what I went for:

Reindeer Christmas Cookies

On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prancer and Vixen. On Comet, On Cupid, On Donder and Blitzen (led by Rudolph).

They’re reindeer (so everyone’s getting 9 cookies instead of 6…I couldn’t help myself) made from a family recipe called Rolled/Filled Cookies. And you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the recipe is once again from my maternal grandmother, Edith Davis. The dough’s great for cut-out cookies since it’s not terribly sweet and can stand up to the oodles of frosting that may prove necessary at the decoration stage. Way back in the last century before I went off to college, my mom and I would make tons of cookies and these (highly decorated) were features of the Christmas cookie trays we’d take to friends and neighbors. There’s also a filling portion of the recipe (not used this time) that takes the dough to a whole other level. I might share the filling part of the recipe at some later date. Or not.

Rolled/Filled Cookies
Makes approximately 100 cookies

Cream together wet ingredients:
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour milk (add a tablespoon of white vinegar to your cup of milk and let it sit for a bit before adding–it will almost certainly curdle)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix together dry ingredients:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder

Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well. Refrigerate dough until workable. Roll to a 1/8″-1/4″ thickness on a lightly floured board and cut out with your favorite cookie cutters. Bake on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet for 8 minutes (or until lightly golden just at the edges) at 400* F. When the cookies are cool, decorate with your favorite icing, candies, etc.

I’m wondering what kind of cookies other people made. They’re sure to be tasty, fancy, and packaged beautifully. Do you have a specialty or favorite cookie that you make this time of year?