Well, I haven’t got a tree up, or a tree at all, and I haven’t done any shopping either. It’s not as if it’s a big surprise. ‘Guess what! Christmas is on December 25th this year!’ Maybe it is the sudden cold, or the darkness settling in at 4:30, or the full comprehension of everything I haven’t done and will probably not do, that makes me want to lie down and take a long, long nap. Can somebody, please, wake me when it’s over?
I just put on some wacky Christmas music (Gene Autry singing ‘Merry Texas Christmas Y’all’) and I am making my list. Now I am crossing out most of it. I feel much, much better. I am not going to clean the house, because, what’s the point? When we do get a tree, there will be a mess everywhere, so I might as well wait until later. And I just thought of something else I can put off: sending cards. It worked last year. I put it off until this year. So why not do it again? No one will be disappointed. Actually, that’s been my strategy for the last four years, since we moved. I’ve dropped off the radar. If you are one of the few people reading this, I apologize for that. Let’s just say, this is my Christmas card to you. It’s a scattershot approach, but some of you may be reading this. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
I just thought of another thing I am not going to do: wrap other people’s presents. Yes, I am a chump. The men in my family, which means, my whole family, claim they are no good at wrapping presents. They look at me pathetically, pleadingly. This year I will say, ‘practice makes perfect, the paper, scissors and tape are in the second drawer, help yourself.’
Here is what I AM going to do: make a few cookies, and cook a nice Christmas dinner, though I don’t know what any of it will be yet. College Boy comes home tonight. We will probably make his favorite gingerbread cookies and I will make my mom at least one of the family traditional cookies. My grandmother made infinitesimally small cookies. I used to marvel at the size of them. She painstakingly dropped what looked like hundreds of tiny blobs of dough using the two-spoon method on each cookie sheet. Everyone got a plate filled with her assortment. She didn’t bake often, but her cookies were legendary. I am including a recipe here for one of the family favorites (also in my book of food gifts, Food for Friends.) These came from Grandmother’s sister Rose.
This year I discovered a neat trick for making icebox cookies. My rolls were always disappointingly imperfect and the cookies came out square-ish rather than round. Not so important, but the neat-freak in me decided to find a solution. I wrapped the dough (rolled into a cylinder) in plastic. Then I slit the cardboard tube from a paper towel roll down the center to open it up. I plopped the plastic-encased dough into it and rolled it back and forth. Voila! A nice, even, round cylinder. You could probably use a sushi rolling mat, if you have one. Pop it into the freezer on a flat tray for an hour or so and it is ready to be sliced and baked. Keep turning the cylinder of dough as you slice to prevent it from flattening on one side.
Auntie Rose’s Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies
(Makes about 9 dozen small cookies)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar. With a wooden spoon or electric mixer set on medium speed, beat until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly mixed.
3. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, stirring just until the flour disappears. Stir in the walnuts.
4. Divide the dough in thirds and shape each third into a log about 1 1/4-inches in diameter. Encase each log in plastic wrap and roll it back and forth several times to make a round, even roll. Twist the ends to close them. Place them on a flat tray in the refrigerator until firm enough to slice (about 3 hours) or overnight. If you prefer, freeze the logs for up to six months.
5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
6. Slice the logs into 1/4-inch thick rounds (frozen or cold from the fridge.) Place them 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool. The cookies will keep for 2 weeks in a tightly closed tin.
Look for wrapping supplies at hardware stores, Staples, The Container Store, drug stores, gourmet shops (e.g., Sur La Table) or wherever you might be in your shopping travels.
May your days be sunny and bright, may your hearts be happy and light!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah!