What’s most important to you at this time of the year? And more giveaways… (Well, hey – it’s that time of year!)

Hello and Happy Times!

Well, gosh – it’s almost Christmas. I have another giveaway but you’ll have to scroll down to find it. (Sorry!)

As I type this I’m aware that time is rushing by and that I have only two and bit days until the big man in red arrives. Not that I can forget with little grandchildren running around reminding me at every opportunity. ☺ Yesterday morning, for example, the three youngest slept over and the middle boy (6yrs) who was sleeping in my bed woke early, and he’d barely blinked before whispering, “Nonna, there’s only four days to go!”

So, how are you faring at this time? Despite my slight panic at time passing, I’m in pretty good shape. I have one gift to pick up and only about three to wrap. Foodwise, everything I can do ahead is done – my puddings are steamed, cake done, meats and seafood ordered and menu set. And my house is currently redolent with that mouth-watering, buttery, sugary aroma of freshly baked cookies. Of course, sadly, several social outings have been cancelled due to Omicron – and even though I’m more than happy to comply to keep my family and other families safe, it’s been a hard one to swallow. Why? Well, like many others, it’s the people who are most important to me at this time of year. Not the gifts or the food. Though the food, in particular, is always happily anticipated it wouldn’t be as enjoyable without others to share it with – whether it be on the day or days before or after. The day – the 25th – has its own significant importance, but as for the celebrating and sharing, that can be enjoyed on any day. Is it the same for you? For me, I think it’s the memories of Christmases past that have shaped my attitude, I guess. e.g. When I was a kid Christmas was always enhanced by the people who shared the day with us. Some, I guess, who may not have had somewhere to be but most exciting for my sister and I were the uncles who would magically appear on Christmas morning. Real uncles – my mum’s younger brothers. She had four and two of them worked away from home and we often didn’t see them all year long. Yet, on Christmas morning we would wake to one – often two – of them, either stretched out on a sofa, or camped on our front step waiting for us to wake. It was back in the fifties, communication and travel weren’t as easy as they are today; they would have travelled all night – perhaps with kind strangers – to make it to see their sister and nieces. It was like Santa had delivered them to us! And there was always laughter and hugs and it was a joyous time.

My father’s family was large and noisy and always fun. So, my memories of Christmas also include the parties they had – and again – it was about the people we shared those times with. As an adult, a mother and grandmother, our Christmases have always been big and all about people. We’ve hosted up to thirty five to forty people for Christmas lunch at times – and everyone was always welcome.

I’d love to hear your own feelings about this time of year- especially any memories that are particularly poignant (and you could hopefully win a free book!) Of course this year will be different, but I pray that if we’re all sensible and observe all the safe practices that we will eventually return to some kind of normal. And then we can see and embrace the people who, especially at this time, make this season so special. What is most important to you at this time of the year?

I’m sure you all have your own cookie recipe. But I’m happy to share mine – see below. It was given to me when I was a very young mum – almost fifty years ago – by a dear neighbor – one who still lives next door! My mum was an exquisite cook but she was more experimental – she didn’t often bake cookies. My neighbor’s mother and aunts were country cooks and bakers. They learned from their mothers and passed it down the line. Back then I was so excited because it made so many cookies!! I could hand them out to all the neighbourhood kids who played in our yard and still have plenty.

So, did you all get the latest newsletter? I hope so! It contained my holiday gift to you all – a free Christmas short mystery – A Time to Pie. Don’t you love the title? It came from my writer’s group. I was tossing titles around with them – and one of my writing buddies tossed this one back – and I loved it. And while it’s not Christmassy, it suits the story which is about more mayhem for Rosie at the annual pie baking competition. And that cover? Again created by another beautiful writing buddy – Cathryn Hein – who very generously put it together for me. I feel very blessed (and in case you’re now wondering, I truly did create the words all on my own. Ha!) Anyway, I hope you received it and find some time to enjoy it.

Christmas Giveaway!

If you haven’t read any of the Rosie Hart, Hart of Texas Mysteries, you might like to begin with a hardcopy version of Book 1. It will have the original cover (Tule have since changed the cover and renamed it) but it’s the same story . How to win? Just respond here below and if you’re the name drawn from the hat, I’ll post it out to you! It’s that simple.

So, until next year – yep, 2022 – a whole new year, for this Holiday season I wish you a joy, peace and good health. Stay safe, be kind to yourselves and I sincerely hope you find some time for you – hopefully to read!

As I go I want to say a huge thank you to two women – two friends – who keep me from falling in a heap. Author, Paula Roe, who gets this blog up and running for me and runs my website. (And tells me all the things I’m doing wrong…And thankfully fixes them. ) And Author, Monique McDonell who makes sure the *newsletter arrives to you and is readable! (And who daily, tears out her hair when faced with my ignorance). These are very special women in my life, beautiful friends and very clever and incredibly generous. I am blessed and, along with my gratitude, I wish them both all the joys of this Christmas season.   (*If you’ve signed up? You’re missing great stuff if you haven’t!)

RECIPE – Roll Out Vanilla Cookies

Ingredients

  • 250g / 1¼ cup  butter  or margarine – softened
  • 1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs (jumbo)
  • 4 cups plain flour (all purpose)
  • 2 tsps baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan forced)/ 350°F (180°C if not fan) fan).
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy (about 1 minute or so)
  4. Add egg and vanilla, beat until well combined.
  5. Add flour & baking powder. Mix carefully until all combined.
  6. Dust work surface with flour. Take a large scoop of dough and form into a ball. Flatten and roll to required thickness. (This dough doesn’t have to be refrigerated before use, however, if it is warm in your home, refrigerate the bowl of dough between working with each scoop.)
  7. For crispier cookies roll out to 0.3cm / 1/8″ or 0.6cm / ¼” for softer cookies, using a floured rolling pin. Sprinkling flour over the dough as you work will aid in preventing sticking)
  8. Dip the cutting edge of each cookie cutter in flour, then press down to create desired shapes.
  9. Using a cookie lifter or spatula, transfer the shapes to a flat surface or a strip of baking paper to decorate before baking.(see note below)
  10. Transfer again to the lined cookie tray.
  11. Retain all the ‘scrappy bits’ of dough as they can be combined, and re-rolled to create more cookies.
  12. Bake for 14-16 minutes. Depending on your oven you may want to switch the trays around if you choose to bake two trays at a time. We all know the higher shelf will bake faster – but only you know your oven.
  13. These are not dark cookies. They will be baked when the edges begin to lightly brown.
  14. As with most cookies, cool them on the baking tray/sheet. This completes their baking.
  15. Store in airtight jars or containers.

Notes

  1. These cookies should keep for well over a week – as long as they last that long.
  2. Naturally these could be iced after baking and cooled, however, for fifty years or so, I’ve been sprinkling these with colored sugar, or colored sprinkles or any other seasonal edible decoration. I also always use shiny silver balls (cashous) for eyes and tree decoration.
  3. The reason I use a separate tray or strip of baking paper for my type of decoration is to keep the spilled sugar from burning the edges of the cookie or burning on the tray. That way, when baking they are all on clean, lined trays/sheets. It’s more fiddly but worth it.
  4. The yield will be between 55 and 70 cookies depending on the size of your cutter shape and the desired thickness.

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