"Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were."
Here I sit in a booth upholstered in red faux alligator pleather, inside a popular restaurant in Tucson. A Grammy award winning song by Adele, that I’ve probably heard a million times, blares overhead. I wish I had a buck for each time I’ve listened to it so I could be a millionaire, too. While I sit and wait for my Chicken Pine Nut Gorgonzola Salad to be delivered to my table, I’m experiencing a rare moment alone to sit and think and contemplate the busy month ahead wondering how I’m going to get everything done for the holidays while working full-time. There are presents to buy, meals to plan, bathrooms to clean, floors to mop, seemingly never-ending loads of wash to process and then fold, a tree to decorate, a limping KitchenAid mixer that needs to be fixed or replaced (really bad timing), a dog to groom, parties to attend, a tradeshow to exhibit at, cookies to bake (without a mixer), a play to attend and among other things new music to be discovered and downloaded. (My daughter said that if she has to listen to Pink Martini’s Christmas album one more time she’ll go insane.)
I remember very fondly the Christmases spent at my Nana and Papa’s posh home in Redlands, California. Their futuristic sixties house, nestled in the hills, featured floor to ceiling windows that beautifully framed the city below and the lights that sparkled at night. The modern kitchen with turquoise counters and black appliances looked like it was inspired by the cartoon The Jetson’s. The refrigerator was three separate mini refrigerators that hung over a work surface. There was a double oven and a bar. The small kitchen dining area overlooked the rose garden. Every Christmas our family would ooh and ahh over Nana’s decorations and meals, and especially her popcorn balls, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and tied with brightly-hued curling ribbons. Nana would always half-jokingly bemoan the effort, and say by way of lament, “I worked my crock off.” I can picture the dismissive waive of her immaculately manicured hands, nails painted brilliant red, diamond rings flashing.
What I really want this Christmas is to have my grandparents back. I want to enter their sophisticated and familiar house, while I take in the smell of roasting turkey and marvel at the Asian-inspired, decorated and flocked tree. I want to hear the player piano play old standards, listen to ice cubes jump in a crystal high ball glass, see my parents together, hear my sisters laughing, and hug my cousins. But as we all know, there is no going back. I only wish I appreciated everything more at the time, while we were all together. Now my parents are divorced, and I keep in touch with cousins via Facebook. My sisters stay at their respective houses due to work conflicts, and whatever Christmas gets put together is largely up to me with some help from my husband and daughter.
|Hand crafted tin ornaments are popular in the Southwest.
|I still have ornaments that Linda made by hand over 30 years ago.
Why have one Christmas tree...
|...when I can have two. Scratch that... I really have four!
So, it warms my heart and makes me feel less like a lady Grinch when I see the photos of my daughter in this post that I captured last December. I feel the joy of how she has grown into a young adult over the last twelve months. The braces are off and she cut her hair, donating the ponytail to Locks of Love. Among her accomplishments, Maddie earned her second degree black belt in karate and passed her driver’s test. She’s studying for her SATs. It occurs to me as I sit here in this pizzeria bistro, listening to Don't Turn Around by Ace of Base, that she’ll be off to college all too soon (for my husband and me, that is). I need to remind myself that I’m creating memories, hopefully cherished holiday memories, which she can happily reflect upon for many, many years to come. But, first, I will need to work my crock off, and apparently while not listening to Pink Martini. Bummer. I for one, really like that cheerful Christmas album.
Our Family's Sugar Cookies
These cookies keep very well in air tight tins or containers. We prefer to "frost" the cookies with icing and while the icing is still wet, liberally shower the cookies with decoratifs, such as: sanding sugar, colored sprinkles, chocolate vermicelli or crushed candies. Let the icing dry thoroughly before storing.
If you are feeling particularly industrious, you may feel compelled to make the Royal Icing in two consistencies: thicker and thinner. The thicker icing is put into a pastry bag. Using a #2 tip, evenly pipe the icing along the perimeter of the cookie. Then, a thinner icing is used to "flood" the cookie inside the "border". This two step icing procedure makes for very professional looking cookies. For our photos here, we just slathered on the frosting with a knife for a homemade look, which I like.
1 cup unsalted butter or 227g, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups or 288g granulated sugar
3 large or extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups or 420g sifted all purpose flour
2 tsps cream of tarter
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
Royal Icing, makes about 2-1/2 cups:
3 Tbsps meringue powder
4 cups or 480g sifted confectioners' sugar, or more to thicken icing
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsps vanilla extract
4 to Tbsps warm water
1. For the cookies: Cream softened butter by gradually adding sugar and beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
2. Sift dry ingredients together and add gradually to creamed mixture. Divide dough in half and flatten into two discs. Wrap each disc separately in plastic wrap and chill thoroughly, about 3 to 4 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove one dough disc from the refrigerator. Dust a work surface with flour. Remove and discard plastic wrap. Roll the dough to and even thickness of about 1/8 to 1/4-inch. Cut the dough into desired shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake cookies for 6 to 8 minutes until done. Do not over bake or the cookies will be dry. Cool slightly on cookie sheet and finish cooling on racks.
4. For the Royal Icing: Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks, about 7 to 10 minutes with a standing mixer set to medium and 10 to 12 minutes with a hand mixer at high speed. If icing is too thick, add more water; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes 3 cups.
5. Frost the cookies and decorate as desired.
|What?! No sugar cookie for moi?