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Thursday, December 16, 2010


   My fondest childhood memories are of Christmas. My mama always made this time of year extra special. It was packed full of traditions.
   Our tree was always cut from the back pasture and never resembled a triangle. Colored lights and silver tinsel were our theme.
   We had the green porcelain tree that had a light bulb inside that beamed through the little colored pegs on the tips of the branches. It stood in the center of the mantle above the fireplace beside the mechanical Santa and Mrs. Claus. I don't recall ever having stockings.
   My dad still has the candle lanterns we always placed in our windows. You remember, the ones with the white bulbs with orange tips? I used to love going through the house plugging those in every night.
   Mama always seemed to be in a jolly-ish kind of mood from Thanksgiving, throughout December. I'd sit and watch her meticulously wrap every present. {I now do the same thing myself}
   She baked a lot. I don't remember a lot of the details, but everyone always requested her Rum Cake for bake sales and gifts. Her chocolate pie was out of this world. That's a goal on my list next year...make the perfect chocolate pie!
   On Christmas Eve every one of my siblings were there for supper, and their children too. It was great! The cousins would bring their significant others and friends, even unannounced sometimes. That was okay with mama. She worked at a hosiery mill and always kept a few extra boxes of socks in the hall closet. If you were a girl, she'd pull out one of her Southern Living items that she had stock piled in said closet!
   There was always plenty of food. We finally got to use the fancy dishes. 
   When they would begin to arrive at our house, my sisters and brothers in law would tell us that they had seen Santa in the sky, or that they had heard on the radio that he had taken off from the North Pole and was headed our way. I was the youngest person in our family. I ate the whole thing up. It was a fun, cheerful time. Not a care in the world down there at the dead end of Reece Road.
   And then, when the all the presents had been passed out, I would duck and peek, making sure that none had been forgotten under the tree.
   Then, the second wave of people would come. Daddy's side of the family. Our house was packed! It was great! They'd come for dessert and coffee. Then we'd do the whole thing again, I saw Santa here and there they'd say. He never seemed to be going in the same direction.
   Then, when all had quietened down and all the guests had gone home, I'd lay awake in my bed for what seemed like an eternity listening for the slightest foot step of the big guy in red. I was always so worried about him getting burned by the embers in the fireplace.
   Before I knew it though, it was morning! And Santa had indeed come and I must have fallen asleep because I never heard him!
   Christmas Day was just as special, just as fun. Not only did we celebrate the fact that it was Jesus' birthday, but it was also mama's birthday!  The family was all together again that day. And MORE dessert!
   Christmas 1992 was mama's last Christmas.  I was 11 that year. It's never been the same. There's been a void ever since.  Santa never came after that. If I had known then what I know now, I would have bottled it all up and poured it all out for my little family now. {I can't listen to Faith Hill sing "Where are you Christmas" without balling my eyes out!}
   We aren't usually at our own home on the actual Christmas Eve and Day, and so for as long as we can pull it off, there will be 2 of each of those days for my kids! We usually celebrate Christmas Eve and Day with our little guys {and gal this year}, ahead of time, before we head up north.
   So, tomorrow, Friday, December 17th, is Christmas Eve and Santa comes tomorrow night! And on Saturday, it's Jesus' birthday, and we'll treat it as such- with a great breakfast and a birthday cake!
   But Jim's mom, she's got it going on! We head up to northern Illinois during the holidays, where there is almost always a promise of a White Christmas! Jim's whole family is there.
    We are there for about a week and there's always something baking, coffee brewing and Christmas music playing on the kitchen stereo.
   And on Christmas Eve...we all head over to Jim's grandma's house, just like they have Jim's entire life {he's the oldest of all the grandkids}. This year, the final tally comes to 33. From 5 months to  86 years old!!!
   And they have so many traditions, I'm still trying to figure some of them out.
   On Christmas morning, Santa even comes and hands out all 19 stockings to those of us at Jim's mom's house. Then we have a breakfast that is out of this world. Followed by the gift exchange, in order from the youngest to the oldest.
   So for now, I'll pour out all I can for my little anxious munchkins, mustering up all the great memories and creating some of our very own.
   Christmas Eve, crammed in a tiny, hot, suburban home might not be all that appealing, but my children will remember every second of it, and love every minute.
From our family to yours, 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
from the Brown's

Monday, December 13, 2010

White Chip Chocolate Cookies

   No lie, you can make these cookies with a baby on your hip.
{See Jim, this is why I need a stand mixer, then I would be able to make you more desserts!}
   They are that easy! Usually, super easy recipes don't really taste all that great. And recipes off the back of product packages aren't that great either...but I'm telling you these are the exception!!!
   It's like eating a brownie cookie with little morsels of ooey goodness!!!!
   I'm headed to the Annual Troxler Cookie Swap in just a few hours and I'm taking a few dozen of these little treats.
   If you try them, you won't be able to stop at just one. Take that from a girl that is surprisingly not a big fan of cookies...I just have a husband who is!
All you need is this:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Baking Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Premier White Morsels
   Preheat oven to 350. Set out your 2 sticks of butter and 2 large eggs and bring to room temperature. {use butter, not margarine, for cookies. The oil in the margarine can make the cookies too soggy.}

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
{I like to sift my dry ingredients together. My husband doesn't see why I would need a sifter, so I use my small metal strainer.}

By sifting it, it should turn out looking a little like this when you are done.

Cream together butter and granulated sugar.

Add in your brown sugar.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Blend in eggs, one at a time.
Then gradually pour in your dry mixture.

The batter will be thick.

Use a sturdy spoon to stir in the White Chocolate Chip Morsels! 
{White Chocolate chips make anything better!}

Now, if you don't have these next two items, a small ice cream scoop and a silicon baking pad, you should seriously ask Santa for one this year! They are a baker's best friend! 

This scoop, that I found second-hand, makes the perfect sized scoops for cookies. 

Place scoops of cookie dough about an inch and half apart on baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 9-11 minutes.

This recipe yields about 60 cookies! I've got plenty for the cookie swap and a few left over for some hungry little boys and a very hungry daddy!

Cool on pan for 2 minutes then move to wire racks to cool completely! 

I even think a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup would take this "cookie" to a whole new level!!!