festivity and serenity, financial ruin and grinchery! This is the time of year when a working mom's distillation of time, resources, and life force into "what really matters" is put to the ultimate test.
In the spirit of generosity, I will share with you what I treasure most about the holidays and how I have decided to maximize goodness and minimize stress this year.
What I Love Most About the Holidays
- family time
- baking smells
- pretty Christmas music
- fire in the woodstove
- giving festively wrapped boxes and watching people or pets unwrap them
- taking photos of my kid covered in joyful messes of glitter, sprinkles, or snow
- decorating with red and gold
- pine cones
What I Love Least About the Holidays
- junky toys and unwanted gifts piling up (for the love of Baby Jesus, no more batteries or pod coffee abominations!)
- going broke
Giving only edible gifts to everyone outside your immediate family is a great way to avoid the above joy-crushers. It's also a great way to tick off everything on the Love List!
The Christmas tree is already up, festooned with red sparkly things and gold-glittered pine cones (how I love ornaments that I don't have to fuss about keeping unbroken in the presence of an excited three-year-old), and I've got my Sufjan Stevens and Zooey Deschanel folksy Christmas tunes playlisted. Last year's ice storm provided a wealth of fallen trees and logs to keep a perpetual fire going in our woodstove, completing the holiday ambiance in our house.
Now, all the other things I love about the holidays can be bundled into a month-long baking extravaganza!
Absolutely everything I bake this year will be made with copious amounts of butter and less than the proscribed amount of sugar. (It's sugar and other sweeteners that are the root of all dietary evil, not carbs or butter, says this skinny mama, believe me. Surprisingly, every time I bake a batch of half-sugar cookies--no sweetener substitutes either--people ask me what my secret is for making them taste so good. They give me the stink eye and think I'm a lying crazy lady when I reveal that I only put half the crack--I mean, sugar, in.) I'm pretty sure that over-sugaring everything is a conspiracy to make us eat more food with less flavor and spend more money on sad diet junk food and gym memberships. Let's all just eat the butter and love it.
The same goes for pie. My daughter and I made this pumpkin pie with real cream and butter and very little added sugar, except for a crunchy glaze topping made with cranberries and pecans, and everyone who ate it declared it the richest, most delicious pumpkin pie ever!
Messing with time-honored baking recipes bugs some people out, but my Amy Sedaris-esque secret is that unless you're trying to make a fancy-pantsy cake you saw on Pinterest, baking is not an exact science. Pick something inexact like drop cookies, use a lot of real butter, and it's hard to go wrong.
Cookies don't have to look perfect. That's why you roll them in a mess of sprinkles and pack them up in a fancy box purchased half off at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts.
I snap some photos of my daughter reveling in floury, sprinkly messes along the way, and POOF! I've taken care of every item on my holiday love list.
If you are feeling extra crafty, bonus elf magic points are awarded for humorous projects like my famous Inside Joke Gingerbread Cookies. That's when we bake regular old, buttery and less sugary gingerbread cookies and then make them into portraits of friends and family members using clever references and inside jokes. These are not the kinds of things that translate well on Pinterest, but they are so very fun in real life, the realm of real relationships, tastes, and smells.
The best part about ugly cookies is that nobody feels bad about eating them. You think, "Ooh, that one is messed up. I'd better take it out of the pile." Then when you dispatch it, you feel like you've done a delicious service.
This holiday season, this UnPinterested mama will gleefully let go of what doesn't matter--fussy perfection, materialism, and undue worry about messes and calories--and revel in what does matter--love! As in, butter.