05 December 2011

Christmas ... a little at a time ...

When the kids were growing up, my mother-in-law gave me this Advent calendar. I would bring it out at the beginning of each December. I wrote little paper tags and put them in the pockets and we'd try to do whatever the tag said on that particular December day ... little things like 'run outside and make a snow angel', or 'read the Christmas story', 'draw a Christmas picture for Grammy and Pop-pop', 'watch a Christmas movie tonight', 'wrap one present', 'help Mom bake some Christmas cookies'  ...

I loved the idea of the Advent calendar. It kept things manageable for me, helped the kids keep a lid on their holiday excitement, and put small family activities in focus. Nowadays, I still love the Advent calendar. I still take it out and put it on the porch door. I still try to do some of the things the little tags say. I thought about replacing the tags with more 'relevant' tags to my life with grown children and retirement living, but I just can't. Every memory of those days when the kids were small and dashing about trying to peek, making long Santa lists, sitting wide-eyed in front of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas' are just so precious to me. Instead, I wrote new tags and placed them in WITH the originals. I try to do what the new tag says, but sometimes I do what the original suggests. Sometimes, I draw a tag that is so child-oriented that I get a bit teary-eyed remembering, but hey, that's part of the Christmas tradition too ... being so full of cherished memories and lingering over them.

Today ... the tags says 'bake a batch of Christmas cookies' so I'm making German Sandkeks. I learned this recipe when I lived in Germany for awhile. I'd bought an inexpensive German Christmas cookbook with a bazillion breads, cakes, and cookies ... and then translated some of the easier recipes for use at Christmas. This is an easy shortbread cookie made with ground hazelnuts or almonds. I have ground almonds stored in my freezer, so I'm using almonds today.

I also have these pretty little cookie presses that I found at our church Christmas fair, so I have rolled the dough a bit smaller than the diameter of the presses. I'm going to cut the cookies a bit thicker than the recipe states, and then, press the cookies to the proper thickness and hopefully, leave the pretty design atop. I have some green and red sugar sprinkles so I may go all out to make the finished cookies gaudy little treats ...

Last weekend, SB and I lit the first Advent candle at church and did the readings. During the week, we cut greens and took them to my parents to bring some Christmas Spirit their way. Then, there was that first holiday dinner party mid-week. This past weekend, we put up our Christmas tree. Today ... some cookies ... we're doing Christmas a little at a time and waiting patiently for the arrival of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I hope you're able to come to Christmas a little at a time too ... it's so much more restful that way. There is wisdom in the Advent calendar ...

Cookie presses work okay, but the cookies look boring ... gimme those red and green sugar sprinkles and my old-fashioned biscuit cutter any old day! Merry Christmas, folks!

German Sandkeks

Oven -150 ° C - 300° F


250 g. butter, room temperature
125 g. granulated sugar
125g. ground hazelnuts or almonds
350 g. all purpose flour
1 package vanilla sugar or 2 tsp. vanilla-infused sugar
More sugar and another packet of vanilla sugar for rolling the finished cookies OR colored sugar for sprinkling on the cookies before baking.

Making the Sandkeks:
1. Cream the granulated sugar and butter until smooth.

2. Whisk together the flour, vanilla sugar, and ground nuts and add a bit at a time stirring by hand to incorporate as much as possible.

3. Work the rest of the dry ingredients in with your hands and knead to make a smooth ball of dough.

4. Divide the dough in half and lay each ball on a large sheet of plastic wrap.

5. Gather the wrap up and roll the dough balls into log shaped tubes that are about 5 cm. in diameter (about 2 inches).

6. Chill the dough for at least two hours, then cut the logs into cookie rounds about 1 cm. thick.

7. Place the cookies on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake for about 20 minutes in a preheated oven. Cookies should be barely browned at the edges when done.

8. Remove them from the oven and roll them in sugar – then let them cool on racks.


  1. what a lovely story... it's left me a little bleary eyed... Christmas should be full of happy childish memories and I think you've created some for many generations to come... lovely cookies too... I have ground almonds, so I may give them a go... perhaps with a sprinkling of cinnamon too!

  2. Really enjoyed reading you and your photos. I find your cookies so interesting; they must taste wonderful.

  3. What a great idea and tradition! I've never had these cookies before - they look and sound delicious!

  4. I loved your story as much as your cookies. Christmas is about memories past and future. I love your advent calendar. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  5. What a lovely reminiscence. The idea of Advent calender is so interesting. It must have been so exciting. Ah those good ol'days... Lovely cookies btw; they look delicious.


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