Tried and true Christmas

For the first time in years, we will truly have a white Christmas in our neck of the woods.
The snow came down heavy this past week, managing to cling to the smallest of branches and tiniest of barbs on fences. The results are simply stunning. Perhaps more so for those of us who do not actually have to plow the snow.
The world is covered in marshmallows, all stuck to the spoons after stirring a batch of Rice Krispies Treats.
Trees are weighted down with the snow, bending over the roads creating tunnels of white to drive through. Driving up the hill to the farm, the trees give the effect of those picturesque Christmas cards with glitter on them – the ones with the snowy parts slightly raised that you loved to run your fingers over as a child. The evergreens are snowy white and form the perfect triangles of a child’s Christmas tree artwork. The only way it could get prettier is if the sun would appear to put us all in a snow globe of sparkles swirling around.
Ira and Henry were elated for a snow day. They live to plow snow this time of year. The two of them worked together to put the chains and snowblower attachment on his lawn mower, and suddenly, I had snowblown trails through the yard. When at the farm, one is in the loader and the other is in the skid loader on snow detail. They work to outdo one another in their snow pile construction.
Dane, Cora and I are left to do barn work and dream of getting to the kitchen for some cookie making. Cora wanders around singing songs, with some composed on the spot, though Rudolph usually comes out on the daily.
As I threw down hay for the calves in our old milking barn this week, I recalled climbing up there as a kid to get hay down. Prior to our nightly meal on Christmas Eve, we would (and still do) make sure all the animals are bedded a bit extra as a gift.
Blessed with being caretakers of animals, we needed to make sure they had their Christmas Eve dessert as well. Mom would coax us out of the house before bedtime, or sometimes go herself, to push up hay to the cows.
There was always the chance we might hear the whispers of the magic the animals were granted that evening – the gift of speech. Though I’m not certain I ever heard them talk, the barn always had an air of magic to it that night and the next day. It still does for me, to this day. I swear the animals know it is Christmas. Yes, there will be calves born and work to do, but there is a feeling that takes over in the barn on Christmas that one has to be there for. It isn’t easy to put into words.
My walk from the barn to the house is a lot longer these days than it was back then. Yet, I rearranged the farmhouse living room to put the tree in the window specifically so I could see the lights as I come around the corner at the pavilion after chores.
Often, I send the kids to the house early to get ready to go home, eat or clean up the house a bit. This leaves me and my four-legged sidekicks – Peanut and Lucy – to walk to the house alone and quiet. The lights strung across the front porch, the Christmas tree glowing in the window and the smoke twirling out of the chimney all make me feel warm and cozy inside and a little bit like a child. It’s a nice, snowy walk down memory lane to a place where I don’t have to have all the answers or worries of adult life.
If the cows cooperate and I can sneak in a few hours in the kitchen between chores, I work diligently at filling the Currier and Ives tins with cookies. I like to try new recipes every year, though the people eating the bulk of the cookies would be fine if I stuck to the tried and true favorites. It is a hilarious musical chorus when I am in the kitchen and some-one steps into the porch. Stomp. Stomp. (Snow off the boots). Rattle. Rattle. (Shaking cookie tins to check which are still full). Ping. Ping. (Opening tins to search for the desired treats, because no one can remember which picture corresponds with their cookie selection). It always makes me smile, knowing we did the same thing as kids when Mom would use the porch as a cooler and fill the very same tins.
The recipe that follows falls in the tried and true category of cookies. Mom made Linzer cookies for Christmas and Valentine’s Day when we were little, and my brothers devoured them then as they do now. Sometimes it takes me a few days between making the dough, baking and assembling. The final product is always worth it. I usually make one batch of dough for all the bottoms and a second batch for all the tops. It is easier to do than keep track of matching pairs as you roll and cut them out.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and do not forget to give the creatures a little extra and listen closely for the magic.

Chocolate raspberry Linzer cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup soft butter
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup raspberry-strawberry jam
Powdered sugar
Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Beat sugar and butter until creamy in a large bowl. Add eggs and extract. Add flour mixture. Beat until balls up. Divide dough in half, cover and refrigerate for about an hour or so. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with desired cookie cutter. I use a donut cutter with removable inner circle. Make half of the cookies with holes in the center and half of dough with no hole. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool cookies. Melt chocolate chips with a bit of butter to sandwich cookies together. Place dab of jam in the open center, and sift powdered sugar over tops of finished cookies. The colder they are, the better they taste.

    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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