Several years have passed since my family
stopped exchanging presents at Christmas time
It's a declaration I'll never forget, on a Saturday in December so very long ago. As Mom and I navigated Target, we were weary, our cart was full, and the to-buy list was still terribly long. She turned to me and simply said
“We're never doing this again.”
And just like that, it was so
Admittedly going cold-turkey at Christmas seemed foreign, even blasphemous, so we tried to ease ourselves into it. For a year or two, the adults exchanged books, and we bought kids a little something to open. But eventually gave ourselves permission .. to stop
In lieu of presents at Christmas time, deciding it was more fun to set that money aside and splurge a bit on one-off events with the kids during the year.
On Christmas day instead, we gather together as a family, along with a few close friends, and enjoy the greatest gift, that of
Maybe it's because I'm more aware, but it seems so many places I go there are rumblings of how people are worn thin this time of year.
For some, it's the madness of a consumerist Christmas, with the endless sales and blinking advertisements. For others, it's the rush of dinners, parties, and expectations. Celebrations that often leave us feeling frenzied, rather than dazzled.
I hear stories from those that are anxious because of family drama and old memories. The kinds of things that can surely bring tense shoulders and biting fingernails as they wait for the shoe to drop
I think too of those who are navigating the holiday season grieving a loss, knowing there will be one less place setting around the table. How difficult that must be
Every year at this time, especially when I hear the weariness of others, I think back on that fateful day and am so very thankful for her wisdom.
While there's no way she could have fully realized it at the time, what my Mother gave her family was the most beautiful of gifts. Decembers filled peace, a season (and a family) that's protected.
A lifetime of holiday quiet and space to enjoy lots of silent nights, midnight clears, and peace-on-earths
So this year, at our house, the calendar is (sort of) wide open.
My husband and I have been going on dates, wearing our fuzzy slippers, building fires, eating comfort foods, and discovering new Pandora stations filled with Christmas music. I've also been doing quite a bit baking — cookies for cookie exchanges, extended family gatherings to share with friends and neighbors.
Oatmeal cookies have long been a family favorite. The chewiness, hearty texture, and nuttiness of the oats, along with chopped dark chocolate and pecans are such a great twist on a classic
These are thick enough, but not too much so. Overly thick oatmeal cookies can sometimes turn dry. At the same time, they're not too thin, which for some, paper-thin cookies may not be a favorite
Instead, they're just right
ps: The secret to a really good cookie? Let the dough rest 72 hours before baking your cookies .. here
pps: Note from Ali: This post originally appeared in December 2015, and it's one of my favorite stories for the holidays. I originally set out to update the photos but decided an updated post was in order, for those who maybe haven't ventured through the archives
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~ Adapted from Food52
Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Nuts
- 5 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp fine-grain sea salt
- 5 oz natural sugar (or brown sugar)
- 4 oz fine-grain natural cane sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temp
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 8 oz whole wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 oz old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 oz pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp golden flax seeds
- 10 oz dark chocolate, rough-chopped
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter, sugars, and salt. Cream until they're until well-incorporated and airy.
- Add the egg and vanilla.
- Beat until the mix resembles the texture of a smooth buttercream.
- Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and mix on a low until just combined.
- Using your hands, fold in oats, pecans, flax seeds, and shaved dark chocolate.
- Roll into balls (~ 3 oz in size), then chill dough for at least 30 minutes. (The longer you chill it, the less it will spread during cooking. (I chill mine at least 24 hours, preferably 72 hours)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Bake for 15 to 16 minutes, then let them sit on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Note: they won't look done when you take them out of the oven, but the residual heat from the pan will give them just the right amount of gooey-ness as they rest.