Monday, December 15, 2008

For Goodness' Sake

“It’s Amazing” by Jem

No tree, lights, or decorations up in my place, and not because I’m a Scrooge. I love the holidays at this time of year, all of them (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, etc.). My time has just been otherwise prioritized (i.e., work). This is also my first holiday in a while in a new city, one that is known for being breathtaking and brightly lit during this time of year. Preparations for the approaching history-making inauguration have somewhat muted the regular round-the-town holiday fare, I’m sure, but I can still see glimpses of it in store fronts and on street corners. The city still seems to sparkle.

I can also tell it’s the holiday season by the weather.

We have actually already experienced a few flurries, wispy ones that don’t stick to anything, but could tingle your tongue if you allow them to. And we have had some rain.... Just a few nights ago I was making my way home from apre-late-worknight-drinks, and there was this cold and heavy rain that I had to battle my way through with a small, inadequate, but better-than-nothing, umbrella, bracing myself against the faintest wind that would every now and again sweep the rain sideways and turn my inadequate umbrella into a completely ineffective one. I soldiered on, with my inexplicable (some might even call “idiotic”) half-smile, while others shouldered past me purposefully in appropriate early-winter attire, oblivious to what they would hardly call a sprinkle. Silly southern California girl.

Of course, there are other telltale signs of the holiday season. Everyone around seems to be more positive, more polite, friendlier. Granted, I could be subconsciously feeding into a proverb in the Bible: “He who seeks good finds goodwill.” Regardless, I’d rather be a misguided reveler than any alternative. There’s an insurance company with a commercial that starts out with one person helping someone else out, and another person seeing it and in turn helping someone else out, which is then witnessed by someone else, and so on. The idea of the commercial is not foreign to me. A few years back I remember this movement that promoted random acts of kindness (a popular coffee table book was published on the topic, I'm sure even Oprah touted it, etc.). I remember trying it, a random act of kindness; I sent a “thinking of you” note to an old friend that I knew was very sick and hadn’t been able to be out and about in a while. We hadn’t really been in touch either (in large part my fault because I’m horrible at keeping in touch with anyone). Her response to my note couldn’t have been more warming or more appreciative. I was startled at how my little amount of effort produced such a fountain of positivity and good energy. If I had the discipline, I’d practice it more often (gift-wrapping at a Georgetown bookstore for donations to a not-for-profit doesn’t quite seem as satisfying as working a soup kitchen in South Central Los Angeles on Thanksgiving day, but it was still really fun, and the intention was there, no?).

This past weekend, on my long walk home with a friend, from the best fried chicken in the city (i.e., The Hitching Post), I was bundled in two scarves, thick mittens, and a long jacket. We were actually passing a garden shop full of what looked like a massive group of carolers inside. I turned to my friend after I noticed that they were all men, and mouthed, “Are they the Gay Men’s Chorus?” since every major city has one (LA’s is one of the best I’ve ever heard). She, one of my trusted DC locals, shrugged uncertainly, so we walked inside to listen to them, and asked who they were. One of the singers responded proudly: “We’re gay.” A round of laughter followed by a: “Yes, we are the Gay Men’s Chorus.” And then they proceeded to share their beautiful, simple gift; they sang carols, lovely, heartfelt, harmonious carols. We were able to stay for two before we had to leave because my friend had a train to catch.

So, all this to say that while my little place doesn’t have any decorations or lights up inside, I still feel the blister of winter approaching as well as the hope of a long break over the anticipated holidays and the sparkle that this city is letting off (another idiotic smile), whether altruistically or intentionally. This is the closest I’ve come in a long time to feeling like it really is that “time of year when the world falls in love.”

Now be good to yourself and fall in love with these holiday cookies courtesy of Bridget Klein from Louisville, Kentucky.

Princess Tea Cakes

To make ahead: Prepare the dough (Steps 2 and 3), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Roll in the second coating of confectioners' sugar just before serving.

3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
2 cups confectioners' sugar, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup very finely chopped nuts, such as pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Pour oil into a medium bowl. Whisk all-purpose flour, white whole-wheat flour, 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, cornstarch and salt in another bowl.
3. Mix half the dry ingredients into the oil by spoonfuls. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients by spoonfuls until thoroughly combined. (The mixture will resemble creamed butter and brown sugar.) Stir in nuts.
4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls; place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake the cookies until just set, being careful not to let the bottoms get too brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
6. When the cookies are still warm, but no longer hot, roll them in the remaining 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar and place them back on the rack to continue cooling. (Reserve the sugar.)

When the cookies are completely cool, roll them in the sugar again.

Makes 3 dozen cookies


notes from the music box steps said...

I’d rather be a misguided reveler than any alternative too.

sweet niece said...

Thank you so much for including my recipes--I'm very flattered :-)