A Little Yule Cheer, Day 4: Go Tell It On the Mountain by Zach Williams

There are so many really good new Christmas videos released this year. Today, let’s add some big energy to this countdown (count up?) with Zach Williams and his band. I love the bass, the horns, and the Motown feel of this version of the classic gospel song “Go Tell It On the Mountain”.

A Little Yule Cheer, Day 3: Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

(Today, I’m bringing back an old post from my original Christmas countdown from 2015. Christmas cookies are an integral part of my Christmas experience and these cookies are one of my favorites to bake and eat this time of year. They are relatively easy and absolutely delicious, and you can make them as festive and Christmasy (or any other winter holiday, for that matter) as you like. Oh, and for best results, let all refrigerated ingredients come to room temperature before mixing. Enjoy!)

There are so many things I could say about sour cream sugar cookies:

  1.  They are the perfect miniature version of the big cakey Pennsylvania Dutch sugar cookies seen around here at farmer’s markets and bakeries – soft and airy with a just-sweet-enough frosting.
  2. They are e-a-s-y to mix up and bake.  If you bake even occasionally, you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry or fridge.
  3. Their potential for decorating possibilities is endless.  For anyone who likes messing with colored frosting, sprinkles, non-pareils, and sanding sugar, these cookies are the bomb.
  4. They are a cornerstone in my husband’s family’s Christmas culinary traditions.  I’m sure there would be grave disappointment if Grandma ever came to Christmas brunch without her anticipated cookies; some might even think the earth would cease rotating on its axis.  The recipe is my mother-in-law’s and I’m grateful she shared it with me.
  5. Even though they make adorable Christmas cookies,  they aren’t just for Christmas.  Seasonal sprinkles make these an adaptable cookie recipe for any time of year.

All of the above statements are true and interesting.  However, the most relevant and compelling thing I will say, as I sit here stuffing yet another sugar cookie in my mouth, is that you need to make these cookies just because they are so. darn. good.  Seriously.

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Sour Cream Sugar Cookies (adapted from Arlene Yoder’s recipe)

2 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Cream the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla for 7 – 8 minutes.  Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Gently fold each addition into the batter.

Place cookie dough (still in mixing bowl) in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.  This step is optional but the cookies are plumper and spread less during baking if you do it.  It will not change the flavor or texture of the cookie at all so if you are pressed for time, skip this part with a clear conscience.

Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoons onto the cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 – 11 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 3 minutes and them move to cooling rack.  Allow cookies to cool completely.  Frost cookies with butter frosting.  Makes approximately 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Butter Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 cups confectioner’s sugar

4 – 8 Tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat butter and sugar in a small bowl with a hand mixer.  Add vanilla and milk.  The amount of milk will depend on the consistency you want.  I prefer a thicker frosting so I usually use about 4 Tablespoons.  Add the milk by tablespoonfuls so that you have better control over the frosting’s consistency.  Beat until smooth and well blended.  Add food coloring now, if desired.  Apply frosting to cookies.  Add any embellishments – sprinkles, jimmies, non-pareils, sanding sugar, etc. – at this time.

Pour yourself a glass of ice cold milk.  Pop a cookie (or two) in your mouth.  Mmmmmm…  See what I mean?  So. Darn. Good.

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A Little Yule Cheer, Day 2: Fire and Ice at Longwood Gardens

My daughter, Julia, and I took a quick trip to Longwood Gardens (in Kennett Square, PA) this past weekend to celebrate the start of the Christmas season. Even though opportunities where everywhere, I took very few photos. Instead, I just relished the time with Julia as we wandered through the conservatory and grounds. It was chilly enough to feel like Christmastime, but still warm enough to enjoy a slice of pizza outside and walk through the gardens without turning into a popsicle. The theme this year is fire and ice, as you could probably guess from the only three photo opportunities I couldn’t resist. Julia kept using the word “magical” as we moved from one display to the next and I agree. It was a magical way to officially begin Christmas 2021.

Do you do anything special to mark the start of your holiday season? Please share!

A Little Yule Cheer, Day 1: “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year” by Ingrid Michaelson

Life has been hard lately and has me feeling rather Grinchy. If I’m not careful, my grumpy attitude could negatively impact my experience of Christmas and that of my nearest and dearest who will be celebrating with me. That’s why I’m bringing back A Little Yule Cheer, the count down to Christmas I did on this blog a few years ago. Each day I’ll post something (a music video, recipe, photograph, etc.) related to this most wonderful time of the year, hopefully bringing a little merry into your life and mine.

To get the party started, I’m sharing a new Christmas video from Ingrid Michaelson and Zooey Deschanel. It was posted on Youtube about a month ago and is the most adorable thing I’ve seen in a very long time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Small Pleasures: June 2021

 “And since all this loveliness cannot be Heaven, I know in my heart it is June.”

~Abba Woolson

My spring was filled to the brim with fun adventures and big celebrations. Everything was wonderful, but also filled my life with busyness and intense emotions. Life is finally settling back into a dependable groove, which is giving me time to reflect on the inconsequential and trivial things that add an inordinate amount of delight to my life. June was filled with so many blessings that the hard part of composing this post is narrowing the list down to only five pleasures. The abundance of so many good things is a pleasure all its own.

Small Pleasures: June 2021

  • Strawberries. June is strawberry season in Lancaster County and my family indulges daily. We’re perfectly content with fresh berries and whipped cream, but occasionally we went fancier with no regrets. Cottage pudding, strawberry pancakes, strawberry milk shakes and strawberry cake bumped the strawberry eating experience up several notches. Finally, Jay and I finished our June strawberry bender with strawberry basil mojitos at The Hobbit in Ocean City, Maryland for our anniversary.
  • Gardening. For the first time in years, I have a functioning garden with raised beds and pebble pathways. I am so enjoying watching herbs, veggies and flowers grow. We’ve already been enjoy the results of our labors (lettuces, radishes and herbs) and look forward to more delicious veggies on the way. Spending time at the end of the day putzing around our little patch is a surprising joy I didn’t anticipate.
  • Mythos (audiobook), written and narrated by Stephen Fry. This audiobook single-handedly saved my reading life from the doldrums in June. Listening to Fry narrate his charming and witty takes on the Greek myths was an absolute delight. My favorite stories are about Eros and Psyche (C.S. Lewis’s Until We Have Faces is based on this myth), Hephaestus, and Prometheus. I will definitely be listening to Heroes and Troy (the latter just published on 6/29/21) for more myth goodness wrapped in Fry’s humor and insight.
  • FunkyMonkey Slides. These foam slides are cheap, light and very comfy. I’m currently wearing them around the house and out in the garden, but I think they’ll be perfect for the beach, too.
  • Late afternoons at the beach. Speaking of the beach, we spent two afternoons at the Delaware State Beach at Tower Road during our anniversary trip to Rehoboth, Delaware. Four o’clock is the magic hour at the state beach, the time when the crowds disappear and the beach belongs to a few diehard beach lovers. At that time in the afternoon, the sun is mellow and the sand is warm and the midday heat has subsided. The empty ocean heaves and tumbles and the sea gulls dip and coast. There is space to breathe deep and to stretch out. This setting is so soothing and meditative – a better stress reliever then just about anything else I know.

I hope June has sprinkled your life with many little delights, too. If you would like to share some of them, please do in the comments…