The cookies for Santa tradition was a favorite one when I was little. A small glass of milk, a decorated cookie or two, and a tangerine (in case Santa had had too many cookies already). In the morning, there was a plate of crumbs and peel. Good times.
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!
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,”
and the less traditional: “Winter Wonderland.”
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).
Poke 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.
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.
Do you have an ornament collection? Good memories tied up with the decorations? A tree-selecting tradition? Do tell.
You 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.
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:
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.
Makes approximately 100 cookies
Cream together wet ingredients:
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
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?
Christmas Bird Count
Every year the Audubon Society sponsors a “citizen scientist” activity where ordinary folks take a bird census. This helps track how bird species are doing, where they’re moving, and if they’re in trouble or not. This year marks the 112th annual Christmas Bird Count. It runs from tomorrow (December 14) to January 5. Local chapters sponsor a count on different days during the Christmas Bird Count period so check https://netapp.audubon.org/cbcregistration/ to see when your local count will be and to register to participate. If you go, have a good time. Pat yourself on the back for doing a good deed. And, let Quarterly Speed Bump know how it goes (see our “On the Road to…Birdwatching article in our Autumn 2011 issue for more on birding).
Give a Little
It might be fun to spend some money on a good cause as well as doing your Christmas shopping this year. In case you’re looking for places to make a charitable donation this holiday season (maybe in the name of people who have everything they need and don’t want more stuff), the Better Business Bureau has reviews and ratings of national charities with offices in the US at http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/. Doesn’t hurt to check that the place where you’re sending your hard-earned cash will be using is properly.
12 Days of Christmas
There might be 12 days until Christmas but that doesn’t mean today is the First Day of Christmas. Nope the Twelve Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and end on January 5 (Twelfth Night) with January 6th being Epiphany (Twelfth Day). Because we’ve been completely overtaken with holiday madness here at Quarterly Speed Bump HQ, we’ll be blogging the 12 Days of Christmas as soon as our advent calendar posts end.
I suppose we’re getting down to the wire for Christmas gifts. If you’re stumped, why not make your own book with photos and text that you put together yourself. Check shipping dates for companies like Blurb, Shutterfly, and the like to see if it’s too late (I haven’t used these companies so can’t vouch for the finished product) for this year. Or check with your local print shop to see what they can do for you.
I think a recipe book with family favorites could be a great way to go. Or maybe you have vacation memories to share? A homemade calendar can be nice too. Use your own photos, put in all the special birthdays and anniversaries, and add the phases of the moon (what? calendars should have those!). Many of the print on demand companies have their own templates but you can wing it with your own software (just check to see what the printing company’s specs are first) and printer (if you want to use up a lot of ink).
If you don’t already have the photo-editing software or desktop publishing software, I can recommend what I use to create Quarterly Speed Bump Magazine. The GIMP is a free, open source photo editing program. Scribus is a free, open source layout/desktop publishing software. And, Inkscape is a free, open source vector graphics editor. Scribus and Inkscape also have calendar templates. Just remember that there can be a bit of a learning curve if you haven’t used these types of programs before.
If you do make a book or calendar, have fun. We’d love to see it.