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In whatever way you celebrate in December, hopefully there is a day or two to putter around home, vaguely dressed in loose clothing to allow for maximum grazing and eating throughout the day. And cookies with kids, too.
Growing up I don’t remember the behind-the-scenes exhaustion that my parents may have felt through the month of December. I remember trips to the Woodward’s toy department to pick out presents with the guarantee of a chocolate malt if I kept my hands to myself and my mouth zipped while we were there. We’d march around the Promised Land for Children, picking out board games and Barbies for all twenty-three cousins and godchildren.
Anything we couldn’t find was ordered from the Sears Christmas Catalogue, and then everything was wrapped and tossed in the back of our wood-panelled station wagon for delivery. After each house visit, I’d return to my father in the car, his head tilted back in the midst of his Two-Minute Dad Nap between destinations. There were signs of exhaustion, but those went unregistered to a kid high on Christmas Supply.
We learnt the art of party preparation from top dogs in the industry; our Greek mothers had us polishing silver, bringing out the good china, placing down crochet doilies on every available solid surface, the essence of Pledge on our fingers for days. We folded spanakopita for a hundred people, rolled out cookie balls for kourabiethes, and walked around parties serving nuts in crystal bowls and little glasses of Tia Maria until we were released and sent down to the basement to tear around (as kids are wont to do) and emerge for dessert sweaty, braids loose, missing a shoe. In fact, when looking for a waitress job while living in Toronto, the bartender asked me if I had any experience in the service industry as there was none noted on my resume. “Have you hosted a party for a hundred and fifty Greeks?” I asked. “Get me on the floor and let me get this job done right for you.”
Before all the holiday parties, it was the smell of my mother’s Aquanet, the nozzle squeezed down for a good half-can of spray to lock in her jet-black dome of perfectly coiffed hair set under the large bubble dryer at the salon. There was our midnight Christmas Eve church service, where we sat with eyes glazed over, imagining the plate of Santa cookies to be demolished when we got home, the presents we’d tear open—trumping any Christian Spirit left in us at all.
December can be the most delightful, charming month: sparkling and effervescent, generously handing out time and affection to all. But as we all know, December can also deflate rapidly, losing steam when we least expect it: a boxer in the corner of the ring getting stitched, massaged and told to get back in there with so much fight to give. Capitulating to Overachievement seems to be the doomsday of what could break the best of us in 2023. What I do know is that growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, party goals were supremely innocent; there was no catering, no staff to clean up, no hired bartender. Food was homemade, every cocktail was a free pour and everyone crowded the kitchen to help wash dishes. There was a lot of dancing, and always a bed piled with coats to go sleep on.
In whatever way you celebrate in December, hopefully there is a day or two to putter around home, vaguely dressed in loose clothing to allow for maximum grazing and eating throughout the day. I’m a fan of homemade food and legacy recipes as much as I am realistic enough to go to a great bakery. I am most supportive of Making Festive Breakfasts Great Again. This month is all about the All-Day Holiday Café; delicious pastries, banana and whip cream waffles, savoury bowls that can easily convert to lunch, and a make ahead Egg, Tomato and Sausage Bake.
And hey, if you get to drink cold Chablis and Cranberry Vodka Rosemary Sprigged cocktails all month, kids should have a day or two with their own Party Bar stocked with good green juice, chocolate milk, and festive glasses, so that’s on deck too. I’ve included the easiest cookie recipe we made on repeat every December too. Kids can help easily on this one—a good way to train the next generation of hosts.
There is no avoiding exhaustion, or wanting to go above and beyond for the people we love during this time. Sure, you can take a few things off the table, to the dismay of hosts who would love nothing more than to see your gorgeous face and have a laugh together. The advice given to me was, Say Yes to Every Invitation. Someone has gone to the effort to consider you and thinks you’d be a great addition.here may be a show you’d rather crawl into bed and watch, or a hot bath you want to take, or the door you’d like to lock to quietly eat pasta uninterrupted, alone in your room.
Kids, save that for January. She’s just around the corner.
5 cups plain flour or as required
2 tsp baking powder
1 lb unsalted butter
6 tbsp icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup chopped and toasted almonds
Sift flour with baking powder.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add yolks, brandy and vanilla and beat well.
Add almonds and flour mixture and mix with your hands to combine, making and shape or design, such as crescent shape or small balls.
Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree already preheated oven.
Cool and dust with icing sugar. Seal to store.
*In her handwriting at the top left corner, clear instructions to Double the Recipe for Xmas*
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