I am proud to report that I got my Christmas "tree" up early this year - the weekend after Thanksgiving! I have been enjoying it so much. Of course, it's not a tree - it's a garland. I decided that this year I didn't have the energy to fight "Scroogio" (who, by the way, has been replaced by a non-Christmas-hating Sergio this year!) over it and to have to make my case for why the Christmas tree is worth all the trouble. I just didn't have it in me this year. Not to mention - a tree would have been the perfect height for Julia to get into and I like to get those native, invasive Eastern Red Cedars that are prickly and I can only imagine what kind of trouble Julia would have gotten into with that.
garland and three tiny stockings - one for each of us
So I went with our trusty old back up garland. And even though it's artificial and even though it's not a tree, I love it.
new ornament this year - Julia's hand print cut out and decorated like Santa (from Nina's school party)
With all my cards sent and my gifts purchased, wrapped and shipped, I was ready, this week, to do some long awaited holiday baking. I have yet to figure out why the winter (even a mild winter like what we're having) makes me feel like baking. But it does. So I hunkered down in the kitchen a couple of nights this week and baked two kinds of cookies - Nutmeg Maple Butter Cookies (from Smitten Kitchen), which turned out to be fantastic; and Gingerbread Folk (as I like to call them, since "Gingerbread Men" is so limiting). We bundled these up and distributed them to co-workers and to the concierge staff at our building. Oh, and we kept a few for ourselves. They were all delicious and well worth the hours of rolling and cutting out.
I make sure my icing is super messy, that way people who receive my cookies know without a doubt that they are home made and not store bought.
Now, it feels like the night before Christmas because we leave for Mexico tomorrow. The bags are packed; we have wrapped up our Christmas in Kansas City just in time to fly out for the next, big Christmases. (One in Mexico; one in Oklahoma.)
And since my garland is artificial, I'm leaving up until I get home. No reason not to enjoy it a few days into the new year.
"Frosted Ginger Cut Outs" (or "Gingerbread Folk")
1 cup shortening or butter
1 cup molasses
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
In large bowl, combine shortening and molasses; blend well. Add flour and remaining cookie ingredients to molasses mixture; mis well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. On well-floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness; cut with floured cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool completely.
FROSTING (Emily's Easy Icing)
a lot of powdered sugar
a little milk
To make the icing, mix a tiny bit of milk with a whole lot of powdered sugar. You just have to eye ball it until you get the consistency you want - whatever you need to ooze appropriately from your piping bag without pouring out and without getting stuck. You be the judge.
GINGERBREAD MEN (or WOMEN!): Roll dough 1/4-inch thick for soft cookies or 1/8 inch thick for crisp cookies. Cut dough with floured gingerbread person cookie cutter. Bake as directed above. To decorate, pipe frosting on cooled cookies.
(My recommendations on the Gingerbread People - go with 1/4 inch thickness to achieve a softer cookie, and shoot for the shorter end of the 8-10 minute baking time suggestion.)