Christmas Cookies Never Go Out of Style

Christmas Cookies Never Go Out of Style

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Every year my family can’t wait for the famous Christmas Cookie Exchange. My sons and family bake dozens of thumbprint cookies and give them away, Well, that is after all the tweedles munch on the first batch, and dine on part of the second. I may have one or two cookies, I say rolling my eyes. Not only does my waistline expand this time of year, my clothes shrink.

Look at those lights!

Baking these cookies is a must. My neighbors will graciously accept our donations. Nothing like a cookie to make folks smile.

Family favorite Thumbprint Cookies (Recipe below)

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Cookie tray Thumbprint cookies & Meringue

Cookie tray Thumbprint cookies & Meringue cookies

 

Thumbprint Cookies: Gail Ingis’s recipe
½ pound butter (2 sticks) or 1 cup Crisco
2 egg yolks
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1teaspoon vanilla
1 bag of walnut meal (at Trader Joe’s) or ground walnuts
Mix ingredients (EXCEPT THE EGG WHITE)

Roll into approximately ½” balls then roll into the walnut meal, place on cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 2 minutes, depress center with thumb, then finish baking approximately 12 minutes for larger cookie or 5-8 minutes for smaller cookie. If you like crispy, bake until edges are slightly browned. When cool, fill depressed center with the icing mixture: a combination of slightly warm water, vegetable food coloring and confectioners sugar to an almost pasty consistency. (Color for holidays if desired).

Enjoy! And Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Cooking! Eating!

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter, and interior designer.

My current books to be edited and have cover updates.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas Goodwill Challenges

Twelve Days of Christmas Goodwill Challenges

This year Christmas will be different for all.

Who doesn’t love to spend time with family and friends to celebrate the holidays? This year’s parties are off our go-to lists. We’ll be hunkered down in our bubbles. Let’s seek the best holiday cards to shout our cheer, celebrate with virtual games and dress in our finest.

Check out my list below for this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas (and one more).

 

 

Suggestions?
Email me: gailingisclaus@gmail.com.

Twelve heartfelt challenges and one more!

  1. Bring a plate of cookies to your neighbors.
  2.  Make a batch of goodies for doctors and nurses and drop them off at the hospital.
  3. Send an electronic gift card to a single mom.
  4. Send a funny ecard to your co-workers. American Greetings and Jacquie Lawson are my favorites.
  5. Buy a coffee card and ask the cashier to use them for the next person.
  6. Pay for a take-out meal for the person in line behind you.
  7. Drop off holiday cards to a local nursing home.
  8. Volunteer in the community.
  9. Help a neighbor clean up their leaves.
  10. Write a note of encouragement to a retail worker.
  11. Declutter and donate. Give to a homeless person and include a face mask and hand sanitizer.
  12. Donate canned goods to churches, synagogues, inside the entrance of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and your favorite supermarket.
  13. Contribute to Toys for Tots at your local police station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My current books to be edited and have cover updates.

 

Possible future book cover circa 1886,

Celebration!

Celebration!

Come now Christmas morning, white snow falling, the star in the night sky gone, but the King remains, always in our hearts. The celebration of love, forgiveness, and hope resounded at the Black Rock Church in the songs of this special time of year. Everyone sings and rejoices, no matter who you are, all love the music, the lights, the smiles on everyone’s faces.

For your viewing and listening pleasure

 

Candlelight Christmas at Biltmore House by Gail Ingis

Candlelight Christmas at Biltmore House by Gail Ingis

Candlelight Christmas at Biltmore

Christmas at Biltmore House is unlike any other. When you are there it’s like you have traveled back in time to the Gilded Age. Tom and I visited Biltmore House a few years ago while I was researching my first book, Indigo Sky.  Biltmore House, was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, the youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, near Asheville, North Carolina in 1889-1895. At 178,926 square feet, it is considered the largest privately owned home in the United States, It is still owned by Vanderbilt family.

Biltmore House has become famous for its celebration of Candlelight Christmas, which is celebrated  every evening throughout the holiday season, starting just before Thanksgiving, presented as though the Vanderbilt family are your hosts. Tom and I spent three nights at the Inn at Biltmore on the grounds of the estate and enjoyed tea in the afternoon, lunch at the Bistro, dinner in the dining room. Five star accommodations, five star food and five star grounds.

The Vanderbilt rail empire was created by Biltmore’s George Vanderbilt’s grandfather, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877. It was Commodore that bought out LeGrand Lockwood after Black Friday gold panic in July 1869 when Lockwood lost his empire. The same Lockwood who built the Lockwood Mansion (now the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum) in Norwalk, Connecticut. The same Lockwood who commissioned Albert Bierstadt to paint “Domes of the Yosemite.”

Most of my readers know about my journey writing about the life of painter Albert Bierstadt. My visit to Biltmore Estate was inspired by my research while I was painting a copy of Domes of the Yosemite and henceforth, inspired a fictional historical romance novel.

If you ever get the chance to travel to Biltmore House, you will never forget it. It has become one of the most popular destinations for weddings and other special events and for Tom and me, it was a truly memorable and special Holiday visit.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released on Valentine’s Day. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

LIGHTS EXTRAVAGANZA

LIGHTS EXTRAVAGANZA

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Crowds fill the streets in front of retailer windows in New York City as the stores vie for viewers of their Christmas displays. Macy’s started the tradition in 1883 when it debuted an animated shop window. This was followed by stores in other states across the country, but we’re only talking New York City here. This tradition is also in lobby’s of major hotels and office buildings: the Palace, the Harley, the St. Moritz and the Park Lane hotels and the Park Avenue Plaza and Gulf and Western office buildings.

Rockefeller ice skating

Rockefeller ice skating

We strayed up and down, round the town, all the way to Rockefeller plaza . . . and wouldn’t you know it, right across the way was the most spectacular lights extravaganza  in the city, on the facade of Saks 5th Avenue.

The famous tree at Rockefeller Plaza

The famous tree at Rockefeller Plaza

Click here: Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas Light Show 2015

ABOUT SAKS FIFTH AVENUE

For years, it’s been rumored that a Yeti lives on the roof of Saks Fifth Avenue, making snowflakes during the holiday season. He’s inspired Yeti trackers around the world. He’s reportedly been spotted by security cameras. Now, he’s a holiday superstar, with a starring role in Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows and light show, a plush toy ($55) and a furry book by Stephan Bucher ($25).

Saks decor

Saks decor

And just in case you didn’t know Saks Fifth Avenue, it’s one of the world’s pre-eminent specialty retailers, renowned for its superlative American and international designer collections, its expertly edited assortment of handbags, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics and gifts, and the first-rate fashion expertise and exemplary client service of its Associates. As part of the Hudson’s Bay Company brand portfolio, Saks operates 41 full-line stores in 20 states, five international licensed stores, 72 Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH stores and saks.com, the company’s online store.

Do you have a favorite something about the holidays?

Rockefeller Plaza

Rockefeller Plaza

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CHRISTMAS COOKIE CONUNDRUM

CHRISTMAS COOKIE CONUNDRUM

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No more cookies . . . not in any Connecticut Costco. After trying David’s Butter Pecan Meltaways, I needed to buy more for Christmas. They come in a can for all reasons, all seasons, for trinkets, sparkly stones, and surprises. Top it with a bow and it’s a great gift.

Port Chester, NY had two pallets. “It’s not too far, maybe you could go there,” said the salesman. There really wasn’t enough time to make the trip. This was Wednesday, I wouldn’t be able to get there until Friday. They could all be gone by then, but maybe they could hold five cans for me.

At first Dave Somella, Assistant Front-End Manager at the Port Chester store, said, “We don’t usually do that. But call tomorrow—if they’re close to running out, then we’ll hold them for you.”

I was worried.

“Would you hold ten cans?” Dave agreed. I would pick them up in two days, Friday, late morning. Perfect.

During my Wednesday afternoon workshop, I got a message to call home. This didn’t sound good—Tom never calls when I’m in a workshop. He told me that our granddaughter Rebecca, had been rushed to the hospital, unconscious and unresponsive.

It seemed like forever until we got to New Jersey.

In the midst of all this, I remembered Dave. I had to tell him I wouldn’t make it. I called, but he hadn’t gotten to work yet. The voice on the other end said, this is Lou Mendes, Store Manager, “Can I help?” he asked.

“Yes. Dave has cookies on hold for me, but I can’t come. I’m at the hospital with my daughter, Linda. My 23-year-old granddaughter is on life support. Thinking about cookies now is odd, I know, but it will probably be two weeks before I can come. I need them for Christmas and I’m worried that you will run out. I don’t know what to do. What do you think?”

“Let me see what I can do, I’ll call you back.”

The doctors and staff did everything possible with tender, loving care. On that fateful Friday, two days after she arrived, she passed away.

I found a message on my phone from Lou. He said, “I arranged to have the cookies delivered, please call me.”

“Lou,” I said, tears streaming down my cheeks, “My granddaughter has passed away.” But thank you for taking the time to help me get those cookies. How can I pay for them?”

“Please don’t bother about that now—take care of yourself and your family. When you can, call me. Here’s the phone number for the person who will deliver the cookies to you. Call her.”

Lecia Lindsay beat me to it. I called her back. “Lou at the Port Chester store left me a message to call you,” I said.

“I have your ten cans of cookies. Where should I bring them?” Seems her North Plainfield, NJ store was out of them, but her friend Cynthia Barton from the Bridgewater, NJ store brought her the cookies.

Lecia was at the house in a half hour. I had my cookies and I had new friends. It was amazing.

“Oh my goodness. How can I thank you?” She wouldn’t take any money for the delivery. She said, “Please don’t, I did this from my heart.”

I called Lou a week later to pay for my ten cans of cookies.

Lou said, “The cookies are on me.”

“Thank you to the folks at Costco, who are the gracious gardeners that made my heart blossom.”

 

 

RAINSTORM

RAINSTORM

1.3_Lumi 2Last Thursday night, December 19th, the last storm we ever expected in Phoenix was a rainstorm. We had in hand  tough-to-get tickets for all of us (six plus a stroller with baby) to spend an illuminating evening enjoying the luminaries, with music too, in the Desert Botanical Garden.

rainy-2183As we drove to the Garden it began to drizzle. By the time we arrived, it was pouring. We could never figure out if the light show was cancelled as there were as many cars leaving as were arriving.

1.3 Lumi_4 headerThe parking attendants, somewhat protected in rain gear,  were guiding the traffic both ways, in and out of the Garden. I waved to one of them, as the rain pelleted my face, and asked, “What do we do?” He said, “Call them tomorrow at 8AM. They will exchange your tickets.”

rain cloudsYup, it was raining torrents. And I got soaked. Umbrellas would not have made a difference. I called right then and left a message. Good thing, because calling in the morning was not a pushover. But they called me, and connected me to the correct agent. I was on hold for thirty minutes to discuss my plight. Finally, once she figured out who I was, I got my money back. But honestly, we were all so disappointed. When will we ever go? Phoenix is far away, and this is a once a year Christmas celebration. I guess our Phoenix family can go sometime, but for Tom and me, nah, won’t happen.

1.3 Lumi_2 headerI had planned to take spectacular night pictures. Now, the only pictures I have to share comes from them.

The Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

As the Desert Botanical Garden celebrates its 75th anniversary, we invite you to join us this holiday season as we bring Las Noches de las Luminarias and Chihuly in the Garden together for 31 fabulous nights.

Each night of Luminaria, the Garden will come to life with the soft glow from more than 8,000 hand lit Luminaria bags, thousands of white twinkle lights and Chihuly’s vibrant works of art. As you walk the paths with a warm cup of cider, the sounds of hand bells ringing and Dickens Carolers singing remind you of what the season is all about. Make plans with family and friends to attend this year’s very special Las Noches de las Luminarias.

The bell

The bell

Wishing for your good health and happiness in the New Year.

How was your Christmas Day?

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

My red box

My red box in my studio. This one is a table desk divider too!

I am addicted to boxes, all kinds, all shapes, all designs and empty of course. How can anyone function without boxes? In my boxes I keep lists, neighbors phone numbers, my fireplace ignitor, kaleidoscope (a small one), special pictures, coasters, my cell phone, my little Panasonic camera, anything you want handy, but not on a table or counter, and money, what about all that change, in the box it goes. In fact, like my colleague Paula Sharon, I see ‘things’ as dust collectors. But I love those ‘things’. My boxes can help with those accessories. Put them out, put them away, in the box, fun to change. I buy boxes to give as gifts, who doesn’t need a box, or want a box? Then when you visit whoever you gave your box to, you get to enjoy your gift box again. I sometimes make a box to organize my closets. Let’s say when you can’t find the perfect fit for a drawer or closet, why not make one? It’s in my DNA, my mother was OCD. I learned from the best.

Here, I share a few Christmas decorations .

The ArrangmentThe Arrangement (at our front door)

 

Christmas CactusChristmas Cactus

PoinsettiasPoinsettias

The BellThe Bell

Sparkle of ChristmasChristmas tree sparkle

Merry Christmas!

Picture boxMy bigger box. Perfect for sheet music, harmonicas, my guitar picks and my capo

I even like those flat cardboard boxes with handles. The ones we get at Costco to carry our goods to our car and into the house. We just bought the most fantastic wood box to hold our fatwood stiks for our wood stove. We will always keep fatwood in it because we use them all winter long. We’ll put it away in the summer, then be pleased to see it again come November.

Our wood stove, keeps the house warmBest box of all, our wood stove keeps us warm all winter. We keep wood in it. Think you can toast marshmallows or roast chestnuts in it?

Fatwood box from LL Bean (filled with fatwood)Fatwood Box

This post was inspired by Author Thea Devine’s Wednesday blog “The Red Box” at the Seven Scribes.

Do you have your own box story?

WINDOWS

WINDOWS

Lord & Taylor history of the US Post Officexmas lord&taylorpostoffice01. My Historic Romance, still being written, takes place in this era of major movement.

The Lord & Taylor xmas l&Tpostoffice022004 holiday windows along Fifth Avenue feature scenes depicting the history of the United States Postal Service.

 

 

1835 – Mississippi River, MO: Steamboats traveling on U.S. rivers became important in transporting mail to local postmasters.xmas l&t postoffice03 docking

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local postmasters received mail within three hours of the ships docking.xmas l&t postoffice04stagec

 

 

 

 

The Continental Congress encouraged the use of stagecoaches to transport mail.

 

 

 

xmas l&tpostoffice05 growth of stagec

 

The use of stagecoaches to transport mail stimulated the growth of stagecoach lines.

xmas l&Tpostoffice06rr interior

 

As the railroad expanded, railroad lines were designated as postal routes.

 

xmas l&t postoffice07rr mailsort

 

 

Mail was sorted by route agents at many railroad stations.

 

 

 

 

xmas l&t postoffice08snow

 

 

Scheduled airmail began providing service in 1918. Pilots flew without navigation instruments.

 

xmas l&tpostoffice09residents

 

 

 

In cities where postage income would cover the cost, free delivery was provided to residents.

 

 

xmas l&tpostoffice10delivery

 

City delivery required that Americans use street addresses on their letters for the first time.

 

The above were the Lord & Taylor 2004 windows along Fifty Avenue, New York City.

This link will give you more history about Lord & Taylor windows: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/deliver-the-joy-lord–taylor-holiday-windows-to-unveil-history-of-delivery-and-us-postal-service-holiday-ornaments-stamps-75375762.html (To view, copy and paste the link in your browser)

Read some about Christmas:

The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, Christmas music and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

 

LIGHT CASCADES OF LONGWOOD GARDENS

LIGHT CASCADES OF LONGWOOD GARDENS

Twelve foot fountain light structure designed to replicate  water movement.

It’s early the next morning and your head is filled with the bleakness of winter. What happened to Christmas? What happened to the millions of tiny sparkling lights? Bring back the happy times, the presents under the tree, the sounds. Bring back the history of the holidays dating back to December 23, 1921. Founder Pierre S. du Pont and his wife, Alice du Pont, began a fantastic festive tradition of holiday sharing by hosting parties from 1921 to 1942 for the families of the Longwood workers. Finally, in 1957 Longwood Gardens opened its doors to all.

Blue lit tree, one of so many

This magical place was on our drive south agenda. We had no idea we would be witness to the most gorgeous grounds we had ever seen at Christmas time. We traipsed through the acres of Longwood Gardens from eleven in the morning to seven in the evening to see gardens aglow with millions of twinkling cascades of hanging and draped lights on all the trees and foliage.

Tree forms, not actual trees

We also took a “how do they grow their own” tour.

We treasure the memories to warm us on the cold, snowy days of winter.

Christmas wreath

I have hundreds of photos I would love to share with you. Or you can visit their website: www.longwoodgardens.org

Longwood gardens is open year round and always has a showing of their grounds and indoor gardens. It is worth the drive. Have you ever been to Longwood Gardens? If you have, what did you enjoy the most? The Gardens are located in Kennett Square, PA 19348-0501. You must have pre-bought tickets.

Trees at the du Pont house

Tree form at the du Pont house

Central Ticketing is P.O. Box 501, or www.longwoodgardens.org, or phone: 610.388.1000.

Next stop is the oldest city in America … come back and find out where.

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