‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Skamarakas Style

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Every creature was stirring, even those two damn dogs who were told to lay down and be quiet at 9 PM.

The stockings weren’t hung, because, as usual, I over estimated just how much one stocking can hold, and they will pull my banister down if I leave them attached with all that crap in them.

Oh, yeah, wait, I mean St. Nicholas over estimated.  Yeah.  St. Nicholas.

The children were whining and complaining from bed

That the new Christmas jammies were itching their heads (but it’s okay, because I told Granuaile she had to put the footie part on her FEET, and now her head’s not itchy any more).

Daddy in his boxers (the ones that say “I Got Yer Christmas Present Right Here” on them) and I in my – oh, wait, I’m still up and dressed.  Because it’s Christmas freakin’ Eve and everyone else gets the night off.  But I’m the mom, and there are presents to wrap, mostly because they didn’t fit in the damn stockings; dishes to do; a camera battery to charge; presents to put under the tree; and hopefully, when it’s all said and done, a cocktail to be had!

So yeah, Daddy had just settled down for his long winter’s nap.  I worked my ass off.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter!  I ran to the window to see what was the matter!

As expected, it was our cracker Christmas display falling over, yet again.  Santa kneeling at the Baby Jesus is asking for one of those LifeLine “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” buttons so he doesn’t have to rely on us to stand him back up every damn day; and the inflatable sled full of snowman is now pointing vertically, with the one snowman clutching his chest and yelling, “I’m comin’ to see you, Elizabeth!” as he looks upward toward the heavens.

(the original poem has a line here that references the new fallen snow, however, this is Jersey, and it only snows when I have somewhere important to go – I’m leaving that line out)

I’m speaking not a word, and I’m going back to my work.  There are presents to wrap and photos to fake (I try to photoshop a picture of a reindeer in front of our house for Granuaile each year – that kid will think there’s a Santa until she’s 30, so help me Bob!)

But for you faithful readers, I exclaim, with great thanks in my heart

Merry Christmas to you all! (Harper, did you just fart??? Holy Jeebus!)

The Christmas Cookie Crisis – Or Why Anna Should Stay Out of the Kitchen

You know those people who gather the family during the holidays and do happy, fun, traditional holiday things?  Yeah, we’re more like the Griswolds – we start out with the best intentions, but somewhere on the way to our Norman Rockwell Christmas, we take the detour at dysfunction.

Christmas cookies are no exception.  With the new KitchenAid Stand Mixer I got for my birthday in September, this was going to be the year of the cookie at our house!  No more scratching the word “Oreo” off of those chocolate sandwich cookies with the red middles and calling them my own.  No more soaking the ‘Nilla wafers in red and green food coloring, then telling the kids Elf pee made the cookies soggy, and Elf pee has magical properties!  No, not this year.  I was making my own cookies!

Of course, every child in the house clamored to help – until they realized that there would be more work involved than opening the package.  Once words like “mix, pour, drop, and separate” came into play, they opted to separate themselves from the whole process.

I began with an ambitious list of cookies I’d never made before, then figured I’d better throw in a few that I could not possibly mess up.  My old standbys were my Aunt Lee’s butter cookies, which I’ve made a bazillion times before; and Jim’s favorite – white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  To those tried and trues, I added a list of new ones.  There would be pistachio cream cheese, lemon ricotta cheese, peppermint snowballs, jewel box cookies, ooey gooey Paula Deen chocolate cookies, and Snickerdoodles.  At the last minute, I threw in peanut butter blossoms, only because, c’mon, who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter?

So this is how it went.

Lemon Ricotta – Did I tell you about my new oven?  The convection oven that I don’t know how to work?  So, yeah, I put all three cookie trays in, and within a matter of minutes, the bottom tray was as close to on fire as you could get without actual flame coming out of the oven.  The parchment paper was burnt, the cookies were burnt, and the house stunk.  Good times.

After nearly burning down the new kitchen, I thought I’d better switch to something I know.  Aunt Lee’s butter cookies have always screamed “Christmas” to me.  It’s the only time of the year we ever had them, and they were always fun to make, because the kids could get involved in sprinkling them (not like the Elves and the ‘Nilla wafers – with sugar and jimmies).  I even had a brand new cookie press to make quick and easy work, which would surely help lure the children back to the kitchen.  Yeah, not so much.  The cookies were a disaster, not one came out of the cookie press in usable condition, and after almost an hour of messing with the whole thing, the dough got canned.

So with that boost to the baking morale, let’s tackle the peanut butter blossoms.  I have to say, these turned out okay!  I didn’t burn any, the kids helped roll the balls in the sugar, no one squashed the chocolate kisses as they came out of the oven.  Success!

So, on the heels of that fabulous success, and with the attitude that I’d better not press my luck, I grabbed the peppermint snowball recipe from Sandra Lee.  How could I mess these up, right?  You make these cookies with pre-made, store bought cookie dough!  It’s a no brainer.  Well, Sandra Lee’s cookies looked like this:

Mine did not.  Scrooge you, Sandra Lee!  Mine still tasted pretty good – even if they looked a bit scary.  They got all the flavor, none of the fluff.

Well, back to the tried and true, right?  How much humiliation can one woman take in a holiday baking season?

White chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  Well, of course I know my way around nuts – I live with a house full of them!  These probably turned out the best – closest to what they are supposed to be, no house fires, no culinary disasters.

I’m encouraged again!  Let’s try those Jewel Box cookies!  I knew I could rope the kids in for this one – poke their fingers in the cookie dough?  Of course!  That sounds a lot less like work and a lot more like Play-doh!

So, the recipe I have says it makes 66 cookies.  Yep, 66.  Does anyone EVER get the amount of cookies they are supposed to?  I NEVER do.  And when I see the ball of dough I end up with, I know that not only is 66 really optimistic, I think those Smucker’s people are messing with a whole different kind of grape concoction.  I can’t imagine jelly giving you these kind of hallucinations!

I roll the balls to the diameter they say they should be, and discover that Granuaile is the only thumb who’s print will actually fit on these cookies.  But it’s not fun enough for her to stick around for all of them, so Brighid and Eilis take turns putting their prints on the cookies, through the cookies, crushing them like fragile glass.  Even the 1/4 teaspoon of jam that I’m supposed to fill them with seems to overflow.  Something’s not right, but in the oven they go, and out they come.  They’re good.  Not pretty, but good.

This is about the time when I was praying the spirit of Christmas Yet to Come would turn up and show me to MY final resting place.  There would be no begging not to see the name on the tombstone – I’m just gonna roll right over….

Next to go into the oven are the pistachio cream cheese cookies.  I had to make the dough earlier, since they needed an hour to cool.  What could possibly go wrong with pistachio and cream cheese?  Sounds yummy, right?  So, why do they taste like cardboard?  What did I forget?  No idea.  But they’re nasty.  The dogs were offering to go into their crates voluntarily at bedtime if I promised NOT to give them a cookie.

After nearly six hours in the kitchen, you can stick a fork in me – I’m done.  I made up a tray of cookies for the house, and put together the treat boxes Eilis wanted to give her teachers for Christmas – which is why I really undertook this task.  Don’t worry, she’ll still get good grades – I hid the pistachio cookies on the bottom of the boxes!

Next year, when the bug strikes me that we need to do something traditional and holiday-ish, I may just finally learn the correct order of the gifts in the 12 Days of Christmas and just sing Christmas carols.  I’m fairly certain I can’t burn the house down doing that.

Fairly certain.