Toy Story

'Tis the apex of Holiday-Orama. I just recovered from some weird twenty-four hour stomach bug that was pretty unpleasant. Fred too. Even Emerson had some little nannyboosky situation in addition to her newly ever present runny nose. But, it's now Christmas Eve Eve, and we all three seem to be prepared for the big day, full bore. Go Team.

By December first it is my tradition to have the Christmas music set in both the car and home, the house is decorated and the Santa hat perched atop my head. Suffice it to say all shopping is historically long completed by now. That leaves the last days leading up to Christmas for pine cone jammies and wrapping gifts. Not the case this year. For some reason, it has taken me a little longer than usual to get into the spirit. Regardless, the tree is up and decorated at Dad's house (we were a little nervous about an eighteen month-old and tree temptations at our place), all shopping is completed (as of a few hours ago), and I even just wrapped the last present. As I write this I'm sitting over at Dad's, by the tree with the Santa hat on my head. Go Me.

Interestingly, Christmas is changing. In a good way. I still have visceral reminders of my Christmases as a little girl; certain Christmas songs, the classic Christmas cartoons, almost all of my Christmas ornaments. But as an adult, for the last I-don't-want-to-say-how-many-years, the holiday season, while having its romance, has not had its magic. Its Santa.

Well, thank you very much Emerson Rose. Because when I read you T'was the Night Before Christmas before bed, when I hear you try to sing "Deck the Halls" ("La, la, la, la"), when I see you hug your stuffed Frosty the Snowman saying “Frothteee,” when you excitedly point to the snow globe saying “Shantah, Shantah” or "Ho, Ho, Ho," and when I witnessed your very sincere (and legitmate) fear seeing The Real Santa Claus and refusal to sit in his lap, I feel all those feelings again. It's like I'm that little girl again. But way better. I get to give all of it to my little girl.

I was in a toy store recently and came across a couple of toys from my childhood that struck me – the old Fisher Price teaching clock and rotary teaching(?) phone. I wanted to pick them up for Emerson when it occurred to me that neither of these toys are even relevant anymore. One less so than the other. I do plan on teaching Emerson how to read a clock. But I honestly don't think the old rotary phone is at all germane to our society at this point. Not sad, but wistful. I can remember bursting home from school,  running up the stairs to my dad's room, and making a beeline to the answering machine to see if the little light was blinking in the hopes I had a message. I recall nights talking on the phone for hours and hours, even falling asleep on the phone and waking up still on the phone - chatting again and dozing back off – a sleepover without sleeping over.

Christmas with Emerson is still pretty easy. We don't have to go through the elaborate game of hiding the gifts and getting them under the tree unseen, putting cookies out for Santa, handling that whole elusive Santa dodge game. Yet. She doesn't really even care whether we get her a teaching phone or clock. A fat crayon, some stickers and a couple pieces of paper would make her day. But I can tell she's getting some of the magic. I bet next year she'll sit on Santa's lap.

I did a fair amount of holiday baking this year. My mom came over and for two days we made lots of cookies; classic sugar cookies in the shapes of trees, candy canes, snowmen, Eazy E, Tupac and The Notorious BIG (as one does), coconut macaroons, chocolate chip cookies and my mom's butter balls. These are also called snowballs or Mexican wedding cookies, and probably a few other things. People get pretty riled up over these cookies. I love them although I have to use caution when eating them – if I accidentally inhale a little right before I pop one into my mouth, I end up choking on all the powdered sugar (am I alone, here?).  Then it was time to scurry off to deliver my precious cookie parcels. For some time, a favorite past time of mine is to sneak up on friend's porches, dispatch culinary goodies and then send a photo of the package on their porch (although I did get busted by one friend for the first time in all my years of stealth food deliveries!).

Next year we very well may leave a few of these out for Santa. Until then, I wanted to share the recipe so all of you out of my stealth food delivery range can whip up a batch for yourselves. Or, even better, any of you who want to return the gesture can make a batch for me!

Happy holidays and an extraordinary new year to all and all a good night!

Butter Balls
(Recipe adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

Makes about 36 cookies

8 Tablespoons sweet butter, softened
3 Tablespoons honey
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup shelled pecans, chopped
¾ cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease one or two cookie sheets.

Cream butter. Beat in honey; gradually mix in flour and salt, then vanilla. Add pecans. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Form balls by hand, the size of quarters. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove from oven; as soon as cool enough to touch, roll in confectioner's sugar. Allow to cool and roll again in sugar.

Two years ago: Marshmallows
Three years ago: Kathy's Deviled Ham Salad
Four years ago: Sunday Cassoulet


  1. The cookies are delicious, and beautiful!


  2. Some of your best pics ever, especially that last one. Just beautiful!

  3. Simple, delicious, and so nutritious. What could be better.
    Thanks for sharing such amazing recipe.!!
    Happy new year.!

  4. Your featured Butter Balls are obviously a gastronomical delight. I love to cook and have a taste of it myself, if only for its pecan ingredient.

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