Hardcore traditions for the holidays are few and far between in my family. But there are a couple of things that we take very seriously. Decorating trees, for example, is a major undertaking. Everything is fair game for going onto a tree--I have handmade ornaments, old paintbrushes, eye glasses, and international trinkets on mine. My sister Kerry has several trees in her house, which the boys--particularly Liam--love to help out with. We also go Christmas light looking, driving around for hours to find houses with the most amazing displays. We don't put an excessive amount of lights or adornment on our own houses, but we do like to take in other people's installations and expressions with light. The obsession with blow up things--trees, Buddy the Elf, Santa, Octopuses, etc.--that has taken over Christmas in the last 10 or so years has me particularly intrigued, although I will never probably buy one.
This year, we added some things to our short list of traditions . . . I stepped out of my non-church-going habit and attended a candlelight service with my sis and mom in Spring Hill on Christmas Eve. At this service, they had a very nice photo and video booth set up for families. It was AWESOME! So, we had our pictures made and we played around with the video booth. It was great fun!
We also made lots and lots of cookies! Cookies are a steadfast tradition . . . We use my Grandmother Bailey's recipe and my dad prepares everything. This year my lovely nephews played a major part in the decorating, which consisted of sprinkles and more sprinkles. I have typed out both the cookie and icing recipe below. Feel free to share your creations! (I hear Valentine's Day is fast approaching . . . )
Double batch makes 100 cookies
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat oven. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Cream shortening and sugar together, add eggs and vanilla, then sifted ingredients and milk. Refrigerate over night in plastic wrap or a covered bowl. Roll and cut. Bake on a lightly sprayed baking sheet for 10 - 12 minutes in an oven set to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
One batch ices 60 - 70 cookies. Be prepared to work quickly to avoid stiffening prior to being done with icing all of the cookies.
1 unbeaten egg-white
7/8 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Place all the ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Place over boiling water and beat with a beater for 7 minutes. Add flavoring or colorant and stir until thoroughly mixed. Decorate cookies! (Go nuts!)
On Christmas Day I flew to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What was surprisingly a quick and quiet trip, was made even more magical when I flew over Chicago and it looked like an overzealous Christmas-light-decorated-winter-wonderland. (I don't think I have ever flown in or out of Chicago and not been delayed in someway . . . But this time it was in-and-out!) The trip was made even more glorious when I let myself into Emma and Chris's house, in the dark, and saw their gorgeous tree in all of it's tinseled and glowing wonderfulness . . . With two presents thoughtfully placed under the tree with my name on them. 💖
Emma and I like to make things. Mostly art, but sometimes we cook things! The sprinkles she had at her house were the most colorful jimmies in all the land. And there was such a large portion of them . . . How could we not make a rainbow sprinkle cake with an attempt at rainbow sprinkle stars on top of it??!!! 🌈 The cake was flat and relatively terrible. But man!! I could build a house and live for days in those sprinkles!!! (More on these sprinkles forthcoming . . . )
Emma and I have been friends for 15 years. At least I'm told 15. It's either 15 or 16 years. We are both artists. We both love decorating things. And we both love laughing (although that's probably more me than her). We listen to rap pretty regularly, dance uncomfortably a lot, and have a huge love for Prince, whom we saw in concert together in Nashville, TN (circa 2004? 2003?). Since coming back to the States, I have done my very best to visit her once a year. In 2016, it was in the fall. Most recently, the wintertime (to quench my need to see snow). Next year? The tail end of summer, me thinks. For Emmer's birthday.
To ring in the new year, we decided to make Galaxy Cookies from Betty Crocker's Cookbook published in 1970. We got a little carried away and brought in lighting and my picture taking got a little out of control. I'm still not sure if I'm 100% behind how these cookies turned out in the taste department . . . They were a bit solid for cylindrical cookies. And flour-y. But we had so much fun making and decorating them! We even included inedible things in the decorating process. So. Much. Fun.
As varied as the stars. So easy, so delicious are these cookies that look like bonbons. And there's a surprise center in each.
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
food color, if desired
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
dates, nuts, semisweet chocolate pieces and candied or maraschino cherries
icing (I would suggest using the icing recipe above, so that it stiffens nicely)
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, vanilla and few drops food color. Work in flour and salt until dough holds together. (If dough is dry, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons light cream.)
Mold dough by tablespoonfuls around date, nut, cherry or a few chocolate pieces. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on uncreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until set by not brown.
Decorate. (And by decorate, I mean: go crazy.)
Do you see how many pictures I took of these cookies? We were playing like these cookies were in a real, live photo shoot . . . Close-ups, extra lighting, colors, sprinkles, setting. It was chaotic, but perfect! Best night ever!
My last night of cookies (ahem: for at least 6 months, anyhow) came when Emma and I were hanging out with Ashley, one of my friends from my MFA program. She was in Milwaukee with her family visiting her husband's mother and sister. She bought us the most gorgeous and yummy spread of all different types of Greek and Italian food, complete with baby-time and cookies to boot! There was even Sticky Toffee Pudding! (New fave . . . )
You can't pass up on baby-time! This is Finny Bob! Born on Thanksgiving! Ashley and her cute family live and work in Alaska. I'm already planning a trip up to visit them in May or sometime over the summer . . . They live on a smallish island with lots of interesting festivals! Can't wait!
Up next: Art teacher interviews and tutorial videos! Hooray!! XO