Cookies and Exhaustion and Christmas–It’s All Good

Christmas Cookies
I made about 300 Christmas cookies this weekend (literally), saw my first opera, painted toys to give to underprivileged children, finally bought those Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies we watch every New Year’s Eve, and did some good Christmas shopping–meaning, at the bookstore, where I always feel I’m getting gifts people will enjoy and also supporting writers. Oh, and I read some poetry, too.

Welcome to the holidays; it’s all good!

My mom always made batches and batches of Christmas cookies, and so I’m really just trying to keep her tradition alive. In fact, most of the cookies I make are from her recipes: orange cardamom sugar cookies and pepperkakor, which reflect her Swedish heritage; candy cane cookies, which were always my sister’s particular favorite and now are my son’s; brandy balls (my choice among her many booze-ball options, which also included rum and bourbon balls).

Gingerbread house and Christmas cookiesI’ve added new favorites over the years, recipes that I got from college roommates and other friends. What weren’t holiday cookies for my friends have become that for me, as it’s the only time I make these recipes during the year.

The end result, of course, is that I exhaust myself and run out of time. I end up anxious and harried, struggling to get all this baking done, presents bought and wrapped, house decorated and cleaned for Christmas Eve, when we host family and friends for a fairly traditional Swedish feast–another tradition handed down by my mother and fueled by her recipes. But I do it every year, and I can’t imagine giving it up. At the same time it makes me crazy, it makes me crazy happy.

Welcome to the holidays; it’s all good.

Soon, I’ll roll out the pepperkakor and orange cardamom dough, haul out the cookie cutters (some of which were my mom’s as well), cut and bake the dough. And then I’ll sit my family down around the table with icing bags, and possibly with friends, and we’ll decorate as a group. Another holiday tradition.

Yesterday, for the first time, I joined in another holiday group decorating tradition, hosted by a new friend, a woodworker who makes wooden toys to give away to underprivileged kids every year. He’s been doing this for six years, and after the first few years he realized the work would go much faster–and he could give away more toys–if he had other people do the painting. Thus was born the annual toy-painting party.

Picture a long table covered in drop cloth, with another drop cloth below it to protect the floor; atop the table pot after pot of acrylic paint, paint brushes, water cups for rinsing; and people lining both sides of the table, painting away on toy after toy after toy. Creative, cathartic, inspiring in multiple ways, and Christmas tree and hound dogfun. Holiday giving, and the givers–in this case the painters–are getting a gift themselves, in the experience. Thank you, friends P and G, for hosting and including us. Not to mention the food, which was delicious (and honestly there’s another pound I really didn’t need!).

Meanwhile we got the Christmas tree about half-way decorated. It’s beautiful with no ornaments, half the ornaments, or (soon, I hope) all the ornaments, and we’ll finish it another day. When there’s time. And energy.

Welcome to the holidays; it’s all good!


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