My favorite holiday cookie (although it doesn’t need to be limited to the holiday season) is a shortbread-y little thing with Hershey’s Kisses inside. Not on top, like the peanut butter cookie version, but inside. I think we called them Holiday Surprise Cookies when I was a kid. I love these cookies so much because the recipe is simple enough for a kid to make. Just 2 cups of flour (or a little more–you don’t want the dough too buttery), about 3/4 cup of fine (not powdered) sugar, 16 tbsp (2 sticks) of butter and a little bit of salt. You form little balls of the dough with a Kiss inside each one. Bake for a long time (40 minutes? maybe longer? just don’t overbake) at 300 F. I actually don’t know the exact recipe but I don’t think it matters. When they come out of the oven, you roll them in powdered sugar while they are still warm. Eat right away and they melt in your mouth; keep them in a tin for a week and they still don’t lose their appeal.
There are plenty of opportunities for a small child to help with this recipe. Unwrapping all of the kisses is a great first step. Dumping the ingredients in the mixing bowl, mixing, and then forming the balls–all doable for a three-year-old. I had to reshape most of the balls myself, of course. Charlotte handed me a huge glob of dough when she was “done” with each one. Every single time, she said, “here you go Mama! I rolled it into a tiny little ball!” Not quite, kid, but you are adorable.
Willa just watches us from the high chair.
Dan brought home a huge pile of packages from work yesterday, all Christmas gifts from our parents and siblings. There is now a big stack under our tree and Charlotte won’t stop talking about opening them up. Last year was the first time she really got into Christmas, but this year she is even more excited. Before we had kids, our Christmas tradition consisted of watching Love, Actually and sending out a card (this was my 7th year in a row using Tiny Prints–they keep getting more expensive, but I can’t seem to shake my brand loyalty).** I remember one of Dan’s coworkers at his old consulting firm’s holiday party telling us that one of the best things about having kids is that you regain a sense of wonder about the world. Little things like flowers and bugs seem interesting when you watch a kid discover them for the first time. With kids around, suddenly Christmas becomes magical all over again. I start to think about my own childhood and the special Christmases that stand out. I remember serving the altar for midnight Mass one year in Cairo, waiting outside the church in the chilly night air in the white summer dress I insisted on wearing (was I wearing vestments? perhaps I had some different job that night), watching the palm trees swaying in the wind and wondering why this night always felt so much more special than other nights. I remember the kitten who followed us when we walked home from Mass (possibly a different year), who became a (wild and crazy) member of our family. But when I was still young enough that Christmas just meant gifts, one in particular comes to mind: we were living in Saugatuck, and my sister and I were about 4 and 6 years old. When we came downstairs on Christmas morning, it seemed like the entire living room was full of presents (probably because that living room was super tiny and I myself was pretty small at the time; but the effect was miraculous). The highlight was a new play kitchen. We loved that kitchen so much, my dad practically had to force us to give it away to an orphanage in Cairo years later (when we were really much too old to play with it anymore). Charlotte is getting one this year. I can’t wait to see her face on Christmas morning.
**Speaking of Christmas cards, if you didn’t get ours and would like to be added to our list, please email me your address. I discovered this year that several of my friends haven’t been receiving my cards because I don’t have their current address. So please make sure I have yours!