We went out last night to pick up a tree. The kids were bundled and the packing blanket was in the back to protect the roof. This is the first year both of the kids are super jazzed about the holidays. Curran (4.5) is excited for new toys and allllll the colorful, tacky decor. I am told every day that the white lights we have on the house are NOT festive AT ALL. Cleo is excited about whatever Curran is excited about lately, so anytime we see lights (trees, wreaths, fake reindeer, whatever) squealing ensues. It was cute at first, and now it’s just… loud. But truly, I love it. The first few years of parenting are so much work, with few of those personal connections where you actually get to see your children as a people. The more I get to know them, the more I like them. Even the complicated, emotional parts. Anyway, their excitement is infectious, and their Scrouge McWhite-Christmas-Light-Preferring mother is even considering putting rainbow lights up somewhere… like inside their room ;)
Anyway, the tree. I had this romantic idea about the tradition of picking out a tree and how we would pick up dinner after and decorate it, fireside, with classic Christmas tunes. As it turns out, it was not the romantic vision I anticipated in my head. There was a time this would have wildly disappointed me, but kids have lowered my expectations for the better. We ended up at Costco which I love for many reasons, but rustic tree buying experiences is not one of them. I mean you can’t even see the trees, they are all wrapped in twine in bins and you just take a wild guess. Curran seems to be recovering from a minor concussion so complains and whines frequently, and I get that he doesn’t feel well, but, again, with the Cleo doing everything he does. Our dinner was underwhelming and by the time we got home, people needed to go straight to bed. They both screamed at the reality of needing to take a warm shower (how dare me!), and tucked away they went. There was no decorating, no songs, no fire.
I am not disappointed, this is life. When I think back about getting a tree and decorating it with my family, it was not some Norman Rockwell scene every time. Traditions and memories in their imperfect state are just as nostalgic for me as the ones where everything went ‘right.’ Fighting over whose year it was to put the angel on top, holding the twine down through the windows of the mini van to make sure the tree didn’t fly off, how all the limbs starting breaking off the clay wisemen in the manger scene and no one bothered to glue them back on, or the year a votive candle lit a garland on fire. I would maybe argue that the messy parts, the imperfect parts, are actually more interesting. I don’t think I even remember the moments that went as planned, if there were any. So Mr. Frankie, the bare, unlit, lopsided tree, is sitting in the living room, reminding me that all I want for this month is just to soak in the holidays and stay flexible. Mayyyyybe we’ll even put rainbow lights on him this weekend.
CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT SHORTBREAD
Recipe adapted from Real Simple
I made these a touch sweeter than the written recipe because well, it’s a holiday cookie. You could sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top while the chocolate drizzle is still soft and that should act as glue for the candies. If you have tried Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies , they are basically shortbread with a bit of baking soda to help them rise a bit. I’ve tried it here, but don’t think it changes them wildly, so it depends how dense or light you prefer your cookie. Add 1/2 tsp. if you want to try. These are snappy day one, and start to become more tender as they sit. Taste great either way, texture changes, just a fyi.
1/2 cup/1 stick plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
3.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
flaky salt, for garnish, optional
In a stand mixer with paddle attachment or with an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla, peppermint and beat those in to combine. Add the cocoa, flour and beat until just combined, do not over mix. Roll the dough into a log about 2” across (this is kind of hard, just do your best), wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, or overnight. Alternatively, you can roll it out and use cookie cutters to make shapes.
Preheat the oven to 325’ and line a baking sheet with parchment (maybe two, or work in batches). Slice the cookie log into 1/2” coins and arrange them on your baking sheet. They won’t spread much, but give them an inch between for safety. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just dry on the edges. They will look raw in the center but that’s ok! Pull them, and let them cool.
While they cool, melt the chocolate either in the microwave or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir in the remaining peppermint extract. Drizzle it on top of the cookies, sprinkle flaky salt or peppermint candies, if using, and let the chocolate set.
Enjoy! Cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.