To bake or not to bake. . . .
With the nest empty except for Dearly Beloved and our Miss Piggy cocker spaniel, my Christmas schedule has had some adjustments. We’re writing the script as we go along: a good book, a knitting project, long walks, leisurely evenings by the fire sound warm and cozy. Flexible and spontaneous in a meandering kind of way. Some of the things that used to be Must Do’s have been dropped without even a thud.
Toys R Us. That store is to me as a boutique mall is to my husband. The very thought of having its automatic doors sweep open in my face is enough to call forth the tranquilizers. Better not to think about it . Oh Amazon, I love you so!
Giving gifts to people we never see, including relatives, especially in-law sibling relatives. My in-law relatives, that is. Dearly Beloved’s in-laws– my siblings–are at least sociable enough to show up for things like weddings. If we’re not close enough to want to visit each other occasionally, why fret over sending a Christmas gift? These are people who consider Rush Limbaugh’s book gift-worthy. Oh the horror! Can’t even re-gift that sucker. I’ll just send them a card with my annual Christmas newsletter poem. Won’t bother including photos; maybe they’ll picture us buff, tanned, and Botoxed. They’re really into that.
Real Christmas Trees. It surprises me that I don’t miss them, but we can enjoy the fake one in our sunroom without having to watch it crisp. Somehow, it is not nearly as sad to take down a fake tree as it is to toss a real one and I am all for eliminating sadness. Holidays without hormones can be even tougher than holidays with PMS. I don’t miss the stuffy nose that comes with live ones either. Trees, I mean, not hormones. I do still use real greenery when I decorate. If I decorate.
Cookie Exchanges. Dearly Beloved is peculiar about eating other people’s food. Potlucks and cookie exhanges are occasions for him to eat sparingly (Which one is yours?) while I feel the need to pile it all on so no one will worry that her stuff wasn’t tasty. I’m probably still carrying around somebody’s tuna hot dish from thirty years ago on my thighs.
Spousal Gift Exchange. Dearly Beloved and I agreed, after years of finding it difficult to shop for each other, not because we’re picky, but because we’re pretty content, to give up shopping for each other and find, instead, something for both of us to enjoy. This year he broke the rule when he sneaked out and bought me a much too-expensive Swiss watch. He gave it to me early because he feared I’d “get yourself one from Target” which of course is exactly what I’d planned to do. It’s a lovely, exquisite watch, but it pre-empts my suggestion, something I thought he’d love: a High Definition tv so large we could count the underarm hairs of the ACC basketball players. Underarm hair is not a fetish with us; we just have a running joke about it. Years ago as we watched our son play his first high school basketball game, he raised his arms to shoot a layup and my head began spinning. I clutched DB’s arm and shrieked, “He has HAIR under his arms!” Mothers are always the last to know.
Then there are the things I loved but no longer do every year. That is one of the bittersweet, natural progressions of life. I miss sitting with our kids after the Christmas Eve service, sharing chocolate yule log and eggnog while Dearly Beloved reads to us about Jabez Dawes in Ogden Nash’s The Boy Who Laughed At Santa Claus.
Big Christmas Breakfasts. I didn’t even mind cooking them. Country ham, cooked apples, grits and eggs, biscuits and freezer preserves. . . plenty, so no one wanted to eat again until evening.
Fudge. My mother was the candy-making queen: fudge, divinity, penuche. She taught me to be a fudge snob, that the made-with-cocoa kind is so much more delicious than any concocted with chocolate chips or squares. It’s hard to find; if you want it, you have to make it. I’ve done so–I enjoy making it, but how can I justify eating it when I still outgrow jeans faster than a ten-year-old? Don’t even make ridiculous suggestions about making but not eating it. Get real. I’m a fudge addict. Some years when I made it, I was the only one who ate it. Oh, they liked it, all right. Perhaps I neglected to point out the fudge tin in plain sight in the old pressure canner in back of the pantry. All they had to do was lift the lid. Besides, the cookie jars were full.
Baking cookies. I love having homemade cookies around at Christmas, but there are so many I want to make once I start. Santa’s Whiskers, of course, but what about date/nut pinwheels, rum balls, wedding cookies, butter cookies, just for starters. . . ? One kind that my fellas of all ages like best isn’t even baked, but still it’s a pain-to-make cookie. The big guys can get snarky about sharing these and no matter how many Peanut Butter Balls I make, there are never enough. Of course they can make them. . . their wives can make them. . .but somehow they look at me and think peanut butter ball. Huh.
A friend in Wisconsin gave me this recipe thirty years ago. For all I know she got it from a Rice Krispy box or a peanut butter jar.
PEANUT BUTTER BALLS
1 16 oz. box Confectioners’ sugar 1 stick butter, softened
1 (16 oz) jar creamy peanut butter 4 c. Rice Krispies
Almond bark–which I can never find now so I end up using those blocks of the white stuff.
Combine ingredients except bark with mixer and form into small balls. What size? Smaller than ping pong balls, larger than marbles. Remember those little balls that came with jacks? That size. I roll them between my palms, like working with Play Doh or Silly Putty.
Melt the bark or whatever white stuff you bought and dip the balls into it, then place on cookie racks to harden.
You can’t mess it up unless your Rice Krispies are stale. That can happen if you made Rice Krispy Treats for the grandkids in June and you’re trying to use the rest of the box. Otherwise, make sure the balls are firm enough to hold together before you dip them and you’re good to go.
Oh. . . you don’t have to thank me for the recipe, BUT if you know either of my offspring and live nearby, perhaps you could drop some off at their house. I’d appreciate it.