by Amy M. Reade
Recipe at the end of this post.
I’m one of those people who always has her Christmas shopping done in September, who has half the gifts wrapped and handed out by Thanksgiving, who has the house completely decorated by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and who is staying up late by this time every year baking, washing dishes, baking more, and washing more dishes. And making lists. Lots of lists.
Lest you think I’m a domestic diva, let me assure you that all these things get done at the expense of my house, my sleep, my laundry, my dog, my family, my work, and my sanity. And not necessarily in that order.
But this year has been different. This has been a year of challenges and uncommon busy-ness, and I’m finding that the holiday season is unfolding in a different way, too.
I started shopping later than usual this year. And those presents I usually hand out by Thanksgiving? Some of them aren’t even purchased yet (those are actually on my list for tomorrow). Don’t even talk to me about wrapping.
The house is decorated—sort of (just yesterday I threw away a pumpkin that sat forlornly on my hearth). The tree is up and there are ornaments on it, but not as many as usual. Most of our decorations are in the attic, and I haven’t even been up to the attic yet this season. Those decorations may or may not make it downstairs this year, and I’m finding that it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.
And baking? Ha! I haven’t baked a single thing. Not only are we trying to cut down on the baked goods in my family, but I haven’t felt that irresistible seasonal impulse to pull out the butter and sugar and flour and make them into something magical, or at least edible. I’ll still make a few goodies (see my recipe below!), but not nearly as many as I’ve made in previous years. And if I had to guess, I’d say we won’t even miss them.
On Christmas Eve I’ve always hosted a lush dinner for my husband’s family. I spend three days cooking while I’m trying to juggle everything else. Last year I prepared Beef Wellington and a dizzying array of sides, appetizers, and desserts. This year? We’re getting take-out pizza. Seriously.
So what have I been doing with all the time I haven’t been shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, and planning for Christmas Eve? I’ve been writing. A lot. I’ve been reading and watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music. I’ve been doing laundry. A lot. I haven’t been cleaning the house (that’s also on my list for tomorrow), but nobody’s perfect, right? Right?
So where am I headed with all this? I guess I’m wondering if I’m the only one who is experiencing the holidays a bit differently this year. I’m wondering if I’m the only one who’s taking things a little slower this season, a little more thoughtfully, with a lot less holiday-induced stress. There’s still stress, don’t get me wrong, but it comes from sources other than the holidays.
I feel more grounded this holiday season. It’s not about the gifts, as The Grinch can tell you. As most of us have always known, it’s never been about the gifts (it is fun to get gifts, though, no doubt). It’s about slowing down and savoring the anticipation, about spending time with those I love, and about prioritizing my time differently. This is the first year I’ve experienced that feeling of letting go of the things that suck the enjoyment out of the holidays and concentrated instead on doing what’s best for me and my family. And of course, my dog.
This holiday season, I urge you to take a few moments for yourself, to reflect and recharge. I urge you to spend time with the people you love doing the things you love. Those people and your own sanity will thank you.
In spite of my inclination to bake less this season, I cannot let the holidays go by without making Raspberry-Almond Thumbprint Cookies. My father gave me the recipe and I’d like to share it with you:
Raspberry-Almond Thumbprint Cookies
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 t. almond extract
2 c. flour
Red Raspberry Preserves (I use Smuckers)
Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, combine sugar, butter, and almond extract with mixer. Mix until creamy, about 1 minute. Add flour; beat with mixer until mixed well, about 1 minute. Chill dough for at least one hour. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Make indentation in the top of each ball with thumb. Fill each indentation with 1/2 t. raspberry preserves. Bake for 14-18 minutes, or until edges start turning golden. Let stand for 1 minute, then remove from sheets.
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 t. almond extract
2-3 (possibly a little more) t. water
Stir all three ingredients until they make a runny paste. It works best to make the glaze in the minute or two before the cookies come out of the oven. Take spoon and hold glaze 6-7 inches over cookies. Drizzle glaze over cookies. Make sure to do this while the cookies are still very hot!
Enjoy the cookies and happy holidays!