It's hard to believe that the holiday season is over. All that preparation and then it's over in the blink of an eye. Now we're on to a new year. My wish for you (and me) is that we have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
I spent the days after Christmas rearranging my living room (as seen on Facebook), so my inside decorations came down the day after Christmas to make room. Next year I may go with a full size tree instead of a tabletop one. I've got plenty of time to think about it.
We also got our first snow. The boys, Sammy and Griffy, really enjoyed chasing eaching other around in it. It wasn't long before it turned to ice. Now it's doing the melting refreezing cycle. We have colder weather coming in but no accumulating snow in the forecast. That's my kind of winter.
Since I've received four great seed catalogs (I'm favoiring the Burpee one), I'd love to see the winter pass quickly and quietly so I can start seeding, planting and tending my garden. Well, I can dream, can't I?
This Christmas, for the first time, I made Christmas cookies and they were a hit. If you've read previous blogs, you'll recall that I PURGED (yes, it was that dramatic), my mother's cookbooks and recipes last month. I inherited some of her old cookbooks and recipe cards. Unfortunately I threw out one she went looking for. We backtracked through my piles of cards and the trash but never found it. It was a recipe my Mom remembered from childhood - her mother, my Grandma Con's holiday fruit cookies. I felt so bad. The one recipe she decided she wanted to keep and it disappeared off the face of the earth-of course she decided AFTER I had gone through all the recipes and cookbooks, so it's not entirely my fault. Okay, maybe mostly, but not entirely.
Here's a picture of Grandma Conniff, Grandma Con, to me and my siblings, with me at my tender age of 15. My mother was her only child and she was widowed the same year I was born. So I only ever knew my grandmother, not my grandfather. She was a great lady. Despite a tough life, she was always positive. She had the greatest laugh.
I remember one year we took her out to dinner at a restaurant and as a joke my mother had bought these funny glassses that had slitty eyes in them. My grandmother thought they were the funniest thing. To this day I still remember her uncontrollable laughter as we wore them in the restaurant and then into the car. My Dad had to take his off to drive, but the rest of us wore them proudly, waving to people along the way. I've never heard her laugh so hard in my life.
There are two sayings our family still equates with her: "It Is What It Is" and "There's always room for jello". I know someone else made that line in a TV ad, but when she was ill and we were taking care of her, even if she couldn't finish all her dinner, she always said there was room for jello.
I spent alot of time with my grandmother, for which I am very grateful. It wasn't just because a couple years after we moved to Massachusetts, she moved here to be close to us. She would be at my folks house almost every Sunday. I still see her sitting in the chair in the corner - a chair which, with her passing, somehow became my chair, even after it had been replaced with a new one. (I've already mentioned how I seem to have taken her place on Sundays too).
During the last few years of her life, she was too ill to leave her apartment. So my mom, my dad or me (and towards the end my brother Steve), drove to Hopedale every evening to get her dinner ready, sit with her while she ate, do the dishes and set up her breakfast for the morning. (She had a home health aide that came in during the day). We did this through all kinds of weatherfor almost three years. And when you've put in a full day at work, it was often exhausting to head down almost to Rhode Island and take your turn. But I wouldn't trade those times for anything. It was during those visits when we sat and talked about everything and anything. She shared things about her life I didn't know and gave me some sage advice.
I don't remember her cooking and baking. She must have, of course. She was married and had a child. My mother still tells the story of Grandma Con throwing a squash down the cellar steps because she couldn't cut it up to cook it. A memory from my mother's childhood.
I remember her apartment on Roby in Buffalo. The bed there was so high (or I was just so little) I needed a step stool to climb up on it. The small couch she used to sleep on when I stayed overnight. I do have a vague memory of cooking with her in the kitchen but I think we were making toast. She was our Buffalo Zoo grandmother. She lived close enough to walk to it, so when we stayed over that's where we'd go. When she stayed with us, she'd pile us into a wagon and pull us over to Ellicott Creek Park for a picnic lunch and some playtime.
Anyway, on to the tale of two cookies. My sister-in-law Mary has always had the family market cornered on cookies - at least to my tastebuds. She makes these great chocolate chip cookies that practically melt in your mouth. I don't know how, or what is in the recipe. So far she hasn't spilled her secrets. Oh, I do love those cookies. This year, for the first time, Mary forgot to bring them. How disappointed was I!
This year, I brought homemade cookies. My Grandma Con's Holiday Cookies. How did I manage that feat when I tossed out the recipe? Well, they MAY not exactly be THE cookies. We can't be certain. But the recipe in the old Betty Crocker cookbook said "Holiday Fruit Cookies", so I'm going with it. Henceforth they are known in my family as Grandma Con's Holiday cookies. My mother waffles back and forth as to whether these are the same cookies. But one thing everyone agrees on is that they are really good.
Not to me. Oh, they are great cookies. Chock full of goodies. They came out nice and soft and chewy (I hate hard, crunchy cookies). But you see I don't eat nuts - of any kind. And this recipe has pecans in it. So I'm going to stick with Mary's chocolate chip cookies as my favorite and remain disappointed that we didn't have any this year. I fully expect at least two dozen of them on my birthday - May 14 - to make up for it. But for everyone else, Grandma Con's Holidays cookies run a close second.
GRANDMA CON'S HOLIDAY COOKIES
1 cup of shortening
2 cups of brown sugar
1/2 cup of buttermilk
3 1/2 cups of SIFTED flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Blend into dough
Mix into dough:
1/2 cups of broken pecans
2 cups of candied cherries
2 cups of cut up dates
** I used my hands (clean hands) to mix the dough. It was much easier than trying to use a spoon. Everything was well blended - and afterwards I could lick my fingers of the dough Yum!
Chill the dough for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls about 2" apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. (Note: I used a smallish ice cream scoop which made slightly bigger cookies and lesser amounts. Also I used parchment paper on the cookie sheet. So much easier than spraying or greasing the pan. Cookies didn't stick and cleanup was easy)
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, Bake until set -just until, when touched lightly with finger (I promise I washed mine following the licking before I did this) almost no imprint remains.
Recipe says it makes 6 dozen 2/12" cookies. Mine might have been a little bigger. I got 3 1/2 dozen out of this recipe.