Monthly Archives: December 2016

Happy-making baking.

Cookies! That is to say, baking cookies is happy-making for me. Really, the only time I do it is at Christmastime. It’s a creative project that I can do alone and without any pressure or expectations from anyone else. If I’m successful my cookie platter will have a balance of colors, flavors and textures, and include something for everyone’s taste.

This year Pearl and Maggie got me started – they came for several hours on a Saturday and we made six kinds of what we think of as Christmas cookies. Some were traditional for me, and a couple were new.





One of Maggie’s ideas was to make meringues, and she did that beautifully. I wanted to make some Peppermint Cookies that we have done several years. But we were so busy I forgot to take many pictures.



Yesterday I finished up what we started of the Ginger Spice and Chocolate Macaroons…


And I baked a new kind of cookie — Christmas is the only time of year when I take the time to try new cookie recipes — that I found in Fine Cooking magazine: Winter Stöllen Cookies. They were a good bit of work, requiring the chopping of candied and dried fruit, and two kinds of dough that are layered and rolled up jelly-roll fashion. Then you freeze the dough and slice it to bake.



You are supposed to brush the rounds with butter before and after baking, and dust with powdered sugar afterward. I skipped the afterward parts for most of the cookies I made, because I didn’t want them to be too sweet. I also didn’t want to hide the swirl in the middle that was faint to begin with. I don’t know what the purpose was of that layering of dough.

I probably won’t make these again; they are too soft and cake-y for my taste, though I did like the burst of tart cherry flavor. (I see now that the description calls them “tender.”) We’ll see how they rate with the rest of the family.


So much kitchen momentum developed yesterday, I began imagine two or three more recipes I could revive, or try for the first time — but then bedtime arrived. Today tasks like housecleaning are calling me, and late tonight the first of my children will be arriving. But maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in one more batch….

If I manage to take a picture of my cookie platter this year, I will post it here, and also share another recipe, after we come back from celebrating. If you bake special cookies for Christmas, I’d love to hear about them.

Christmas trees and Christmas now.

gretchens-1st-xmas-marysville-50This was my first Christmas, in Marysville, California. I seem to be more interested in my toys than in the tree, but with the decided lack of bling on that scrawny evergreen I guess it’s no wonder. Now, though, the strings of popcorn please me very much. After that year, our trees were always decorated with tinsel in typical 50’s fashion, and sometimes plastic icicles.

Amazing, to see three dolls under that tree! All these things make me think that my First Christmas may have been more formative than one would imagine.

This year I put up my faux tree for the second time. Who would have dreamed, even three years ago, that I would ever have a faux, (a.k.a. fake), tree for any reason? (When I mentioned my faux tree to friend Mr. Bread, he burst out laughing.) But while we were shopping during my late husband’s last Christmas season, he looked at the faux trees on display and said, “Gretchen, next year you should get one of these.” I brushed him off and never gave it another thought until the following November when I realized I couldn’t manage getting a cut tree home, not to mention setting it up, and taking it down again in January.Christmas tree 2015

If you didn’t read the poem by Robert Frost about the Christmas trees he didn’t know he had, I put it up last year Here.

This year I decorated my tree all by myself one day when I was alone in the house. That was also a totally new experience for me, and I enjoyed it so much! I should not be surprised about that, either, knowing how I’m never at my best doing group projects.  In the past our whole family would take an evening to decorate while we drank eggnog and hot cider, and many times listened to a recording of “A Christmas Carol.” Seven people decorating one tree is a challenging group project, but it was our tradition that we loved.

I’m pretty sure that introverted decorating will be my new tradition. I will listen to carols while I make the tree into a work of art. As I try to remember who gave me which beloved ornament, I will thank God for Christmas Past and Christmas Now.

Christmas Joy by Soldier and Joy 14

Hear the cold splintering.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

-Robert Hayden

Hear the poet reading his poem.

The story of the universe.

From Father Stephen Freeman:

The public narrative (news and history) is like watching actors in a play. However, the actors have stumbled into the notion that the play is reality. They react to each other and the narrative within the play, but the reality off-stage (which is the rest of the whole world) is nowhere in sight. We might easily conclude that the entire idea of a public narrative is absurd (and it is, largely).

But people are story-tellers. If you ask, “What’s happening?” the answer will take some sort of story form.  Apparently, God is a story-teller as well. In St. John’s gospel we read:

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18)

The Latin translation of this verse says that the only-begotten Son “narrates” Him (enarravit). And this is precisely the case. The Christian claim is that Christ Himself is the story of the universe. He is the author and the protagonist. He is the meaning of the true story. Every sub-story (my life and yours) gains its meaning and purpose from the greater story of which they are a part.

Read the whole article here: World Story – The News and the Good News

Myrrhbearing women at the tomb
Myrrhbearing women at the tomb