A Marathon Not a Sprint

You’ve heard me say it before. When it comes to the holiday season take one day at a time and just put one foot in front of the other. Take your time. Do what you need to do and if you are able to weave your grief into the holiday spirit by all means do so.

If you are a guest among someone who is having a difficult time I encourage you to share some stories about the person who is gone from the table. If they are funny tales then even better. Don’t be afraid that you might make another cry. Those tears are the glue that mend the broken heart. The stories are priceless and allows the grief to be public, to be normal, to not be alone. Your courage to speak out loud is the best gift under the tree. Be the comfort and joy.

linzer tarts with Norm’s Farms elderberry jam

Baking brings me comfort and joy. At this time of year it is absolutely a marathon of cookies. So many recipes on this run to Christmas Eve. Some are traditional family favorites like linzer tarts, thumb prints and pressed spritz cookies, but if you know me I have to have some new creative additions, too.


Spritz cookies are the perfect holiday bite. Sweet, crisp and buttery nothing dresses up a cookie tray like these pressed cookies. With a rainbow of colors and sprinkles the fun and festive designs are endless. If you don’t already own a cookie press I highly recommend the Marcato Biscuits Machine as it is so easy to use and every cookie presses out perfectly. 

If you must know nutty thumb print cookies are my absolute favorite. The very best recipe comes from Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray book. I never tinker with her recipe because it truly is the perfect cookie. This year I tried Norm’s Farms elderberry jam with roasted and salted pecans in one batch and almonds and mango fruit spread in the other. Fantastic, melt in your mouth sweet sensations with just enough salty crunch.

Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray Thumb Cookies

 

2 sticks butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

2 cups chopped nuts

¾ cup jelly

Heat oven 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg yolks and vanilla; blend well. On low speed, gradually add salt and flour; mix just until soft dough forms. Shape into 1-inch balls. In small bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy. Place nuts in another small bowl. Dip dough balls into egg white and then roll in nuts coating well. Place on baking sheets two inches apart. Using your fingers, press tops of cookie balls to flatten. With your finger, make a dent in the center of each cookie. Spoon ½ teaspoon of jelly into the dent. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies on parchment paper to a rack to cool. Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Talk about comfort and joy. Invite a child into your kitchen to bake this year. Don’t worry about the potential mess. That is why God invented vacuum cleaners and other assorted cleaning supplies. Oh, what fun……bake some memories.

Quite a lovely gingerbread house for a 2 1/2 year old

Today I want to tell you about a letter I received from my sister in-law Maureen. Maureen has always kept the family close through her letters. She along with my brother in-law raised four strong, generous and successful children and it was through her letters I got to know them well as distance and work did not allow for frequent visits. Her letters continue to be filled with powerful messages about her love of family and strong faith in God.

IMG_2013

She writes, “I am a big believer of angels. I seek help from them on a regular basis.” She goes on to say that on July 8thwhen the Thailand boys were trapped in the cave and needed a special rescue team that she called upon my William. Out of all her list of angels he was the only one qualified to help in this situation. He had the military skills, the strength, ability to swim and the compassion to help those in need. “I had never asked anything of Will before. I started crying. I then felt this huge warm physical embrace.” Later that day, the first two boys were rescued.”

Maybe it’s a coincidence? Maybe it is just nonsense? But maybe, just maybe, his presence is here just in a different form? Praying to angels is a hopeful practice. As Maureen writes, “I sense them and get strength from them.” Maureen made one more comment about my son that really made my day. In fact, it was something that had never occurred to me. She said, “You made him available.” I’m so very grateful that he is felt in so many places and that his spirit is strong, loving and active.

IMG_2014

The Keys clan Thanksgiving 1981

Have you written a letter today? Are you thankful and filled with love and gratitude? May those you love most this holiday season surround you, but if not get out your pen and paper and tell them how you feel. It’s the best gift ever. I love you, Maureen.

 

 

Angels Among Us & Biscuits

IMG_1593

Brush of An Angel’s Wing by Charlie Shedd was gifted to me in 2015. It’s a quick read of miraculous, but true stories of healing, rescues and sweet waves of comforts. The book is as uplifting as having an angel on your shoulder.

fullsizeoutput_5907

 

While I did not need convincing that God’s messengers do exist I wondered if this book of divine intervention could help or inspire other parents who have lost a child. After such a harrowing experience finally believing my son is an angel among us was a real positive turning point in my own grief experience. Whoosh moments inspire me to celebrate him.

The brush of an angel’s wing eases the torment. It happens at unexpected times and when needed most. The book and its wonderful message needs to be shared. So, here is what I did.

IMG_2276

 

I wrote William’s name on the inside cover with his date of birth and the day he died. I then mailed the book to a friend who had also lost a child with instructions to add her child’s name to the “Angels Among Us” list and then to pass it on after reading. I then forgot all about it until now.

Fast forward to a month or so ago when I received an apology note from a mom who had lost her son last year. She said she was sorry for holding onto the book for so long, but she just could not bring herself to write her son’s name in the cover. Suddenly, I recalled my own first year of numbness, shock and disbelief. I knew exactly what she felt. I still have days when I can’t believe it. Back then I would not have been able to write my son’s name in the book either. Glad I was able to pick myself up and in time you will, too.

Hang On Pain Eases (H.O.P.E.)

fullsizeoutput_590a

Have you been apple picking? Have you tried angel biscuits? I suppose they got their name because they are not only made with the typical baking powder, but also leavened with yeast making them rise to heavenly heights. I made some spicy apple butter with all those apples that Annabelle picked adding it to the biscuit mix for some fall flavor. These would be an unexpected pleasure on your Thanksgiving day table and easy to do because the dough is made in advance and can be refrigerated for a day or two.

IMG_1590

Apple Butter Angel Biscuits

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 teaspoon active dry yeast*
1/4 cup warm water (105º-115º F)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
½-teaspoon baking powder
½-teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2-stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
½ cup apple butter
½ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons heavy cream and 2 tablespoons turbinado (demera) sugar
In a small bowl, stir yeast in warm water to dissolve it; set aside.
In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry blender (or rub together with your fingers) until the butter is the size of small peas. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée and buttermilk.  Add the buttermilk mixture and the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the ingredients are moistened.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

Heat the oven to 450º F.  Line a 9-10-round baking pan with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead 4-5 times.  Roll or pat the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch.  Cut the dough with a 2-inch floured cutter using a straight up and down motion; don’t twist the cutter.  Cut out as many biscuits as you can.  Fit as many biscuits in the baking pan as you can with just a slight space between them.  You can also put them side-by-side on a baking sheet. Gather the remaining dough scraps, then gently roll out the dough again. Cut out the remaining biscuits and place on the baking sheet. Brush tops with heavy cream. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake biscuits until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  As soon as the biscuits come out of the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter.  Serve warm with butter and apple butter.

*as always I recommend Redstar yeast and King Arthur Flour for consistent, tasty results

IMG_1601