Thanksgiving to Christmas is just crazy busy.  What makes the busy-ness tolerable is the fun stuff that we do every year.  Last Saturday, after hosting 42 people here for Thanksgiving, we girls had our fifth annual Christmas cookie bake.  Ok, let me re-phrase that…Kristin and Shelley came over and baked all day.  Julie’s sorry excuse was that she was in the hospital (what some people will do to  get out of baking…).  And my sorry excuse for fading on the sofa while cookie sheet after cookie sheet came out of the oven was, well, 42 people here on Thanksgiving.  Don’t get me wrong—I love hosting the Thanksgiving gathering.  But by Saturday, I’m ready for some couch time.   A week later, though, I’m all ready to head downtown to Tuba Christmas. (Don’t miss the picture at the very end of this post!)

And everyone was afraid we wouldn't have enough dessert!

I love this shot of Mario digging into desserts.  Well, he is eating for two these days.  Oh wait, that’s Kristin who’s eating for two!

Harper and Ally enjoy the chocolate fountain on Thanksgiving

Did someone tell Carol it was the fountain of youth?  Looks like it works, based on her two little side-kicks.

The cookie  bake-off began around noon on Saturday.  Kristin and Shelley–both former Graul’s bakery girls–put their two Kitchen Aid mixers to work.  Kristin swears by the Joy of Cooking recipe for chocolate chip (her 2005 Bride Edition cookbook which is falling apart already).  It’s pretty much the same as the Tollhouse recipe on the Nestle’s bag except for the higher ratio of brown to white sugar.  As a variation, they also made a cranberry white chocolate version. Yum. 
Rolled cookies included classic sugar cookies and gingerbread.  Unlike Aunt Kathe’s amazing legendary Thanksgiving sugar cookies, our sugar cookies are rolled thin and absolutely, positively made with almond extract. The basic recipe (with vanilla) that we used was from my 1980 Better Homes and Garden Cookbook. ( That one is falling apart, too, but at least it’s from age and not poor binding.)
   
The gingerbread was made using Mom’s (aka Hanny’s) 1955 Fannie Farmer Cookbook recipe.  (The recipe has outlasted her cookbook!)   It is crucial that the dough be rolled thick enough to remain soft after  baking.  My grown daughters don’t realize that the thickness must replicate the softness of the gingerbread that Mom bought from Portner’s Bakery in Margate, NJ when I was a kid.   The cookies this year turned out perfect.
Traditions are fluid things, the same  but evolving.  This year I searched for a recipe that would use the fennel seed I harvested this fall.  I found a really tasty Fennel Tea Cookie recipe that is very much like a Pfeffernusse cookie.  These cookies will be my downfall if I don’t keep them hidden in the freezer.  (And  even then, they are just a microwave beep away from my mouth.)
Here is the recipe which I have just copied and pasted from the source:http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Fennel-Tea-Cookies
  • 18 Servings
  • Prep: 20 min. Bake: 15 min.
  • Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed
    • 2 tablespoons boiling water
    • 3/4 cup butter, softened
    • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • Confectioners’ sugar

    Directions

    • In a small bowl, soak fennel seed in boiling water; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Drain fennel seed. Combine the flour, baking soda and fennel seed; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
    • Roll into 1-in. balls; place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Roll warm cookies in confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks. Yield: 3 dozen.

    William Donald Schafer comes to Baltimore Tuba Christmas 2010

    About 230 tubas and tuba-type horns showed up at the Inner Harbor Ampitheatre for the annual Baltimore Merry Tuba Christmas.  We’ve been going for 12 years, since newlywed Julie was in 6th grade.  Back then, we would go have lunch at Phillip’s while she had tuba rehearsal.  We no longer have to drive her, but we have continued the tradition of having lunch before the concert.  This year, Mom, Shelley and I met at Tir Na Nog.

    The tuba newlyweds

      After the concert Mom and I went back with Julie and Chris for some dinner.  We devoured a piece of Fresh Ginger Guiness Spice Cake.  Look for that in the next  post!

    Only in Baltimore does a crabby mood make you smile. Here's Hanny enjoying a crabby day.

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    3 thoughts on “Holiday Traditions

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