The Afternoon Nap – Chapter One, Sugar & Spice Tea with Homemade Cookies

“The Afternoon Nap” is a collection of seasonal short stories about winter holiday magic, simple recipes to savor for enjoying the season’s moments and thoughtful gift ideas to share with friends and family. Last month I realized that I was not going to have this ready in full for this holiday season so I decided to share some of the stories with you for feedback to help shape the book and to use the season to feed my creative process so that I can complete my book.

Christmas is one of the holidays that I celebrate. I love Christmas, but even more than that day, that moment, I love the whole holiday season. I believe in the magic of the holiday season and every year I feel it in different ways. Sometimes it is in the hustle and bustle of fitting in everything that makes the season special for me. Other times it is in the quiet moments that I carve out to freeze time and savor everything that is going on around me. There is magic in the music, the lights, the smells and the anticipation of gathering with people who I love. I can also feel the magic surround me while I am going on about my business with all the rest of the people out alongside me. It’s in the extra care that people share with others, that twinkle in their eye as they show their awareness of someone else and their needs. It is in the idea of a Santa who leaves surprises, especially for those who could really use one.

I love gift giving, but that is no surprise since that is the premise of my blog. Santa is still one of my favorite parts of the season because I love the anonymity of the “surprise” gift.

The winter holiday season has a feeling to it that runs deep in my being. I would not be “whole” without the hustle and bustle but I also like to carve out quiet moments to keep mindful, to savor all that I love about the season. I do not want to be so busy “doing” that I missed out on enjoying everything that I love. There are so many wonderful tidbits to the season; the lights, the music, the magic, the cozy warmth, the thankfulness and the foods…it’s like one big holiday potluck!

A few years ago I had an idea for a holiday magic story that involved me taking a nap and waking to the magic of the season – a hot steamy cup of cocoa was sitting on a tray next to me. I was never able to get far with the storyline though. Being married, the idea of writing a story about a sexy Santa with a magical peppermint stick did not feel quite right and anything else that I came up with was boring and had no “meat”. Although I just might enjoy reading about a sexy Santa if someone else wanted to write that version!

Becoming a blogger has been a wonderful journey, unleashing so many parts of myself that I had never considered developing. Sharing ideas for gifts and recipes for giving helped the pieces finally came together for holiday magic and I had an idea for my book. It is unfinished but I wanted to share it with you for feedback. There is no point in going in one direction if no one is interested! Throughout this month I will share some of the stories, recipes and gift ideas with you as I develop the rest of it.

I hope that you enjoy the magic of the season in these stories, despite the lack of a sexy Santa…

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The Afternoon Nap
Chapter One: “Sugar & Spice Tea with Homemade Cookies”

Weary-eyed, I looked at the clock. It was almost 12:00. Wasn’t that the “Witching Hour”, the time for magic to happen? Maybe, but this was 12:00 noon, not midnight. The only magic that I was looking forward to was a nap on my oversized sectional couch under a cozy blanket. I was tired and I did not need witches. I needed to close my eyes and dream about sugar plums.

I turned my calendar page to the last month of the year. December came way too fast, as it always does, and the first snowflakes of the winter season made their debut about an hour ago. Big fat snowflakes that made your eyes droop from their mesmerizing drift toward the ground. It was perfect timing for an afternoon nap. The morning had been busy and I had a few more minutes to spend on the computer and then I could take a break. I finished writing, saved my work and stretched. Seeing the falling snow out the window made me smile. Oh, how I loved this time of the year. The snowflakes drifting slowly were right out of a holiday movie, the ones I watched as a kid…and still do. Maybe after my nap I would make some tea and I might even put off getting back to writing to whip up a batch of cookie dough too. Then I could have homemade cookies tonight. Mmmmmm…I could just smell all of that seasonal goodness baking.

With those happy thoughts in mind, I curled up on the couch under my cozy winter-themed throw that had been so patiently waiting for me all morning, all the while beckoning and teasing me to come on over. The blanket had been a gift from a few years ago and it always made me smile when I pulled it out each winter holiday season. No sooner had I scooped it up under my neck and my eyes began to close. The last thing I saw before I closed my heavy eyelids for good were those big fat snowflakes.

It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when I was looking at those big fat snowflakes again. But they looked…different. Or something seemed different at least. I was still snuggled up under a cozy blanket but it was not my cozy blanket. As I opened my eyes all the way, I saw that it was not my couch, or even my house. Something smelled heavenly, which filled me with curiosity instead of fear. The smell was intoxicating, like vanilla and cookies, and my stomach cooed. Quietly, I sat up, stretched and looked around. It was a charming home filled with all sorts of furniture and the kind of trinkets and decorations that made you feel safe and happy, like being at your grandparents’ house.

The house was very quiet and I was not sure if anyone was here. I coughed to make some noise figuring that if someone were home it would be a non-startling way to get their attention. Silence.

I called out, “Hello? Is anyone here?”

Silence again.

With curiosity taking over, and the heavenly aroma almost pulling me off of the couch by my nose like it does in the cartoons, I stood up and slowly padded softly toward the next room. I passed a fire that was burning mildly in the fireplace and then I paused to peer out a window and could see that evergreen trees dotted the yard and they seemed to have no end. The snow outside was falling heavily now and it covered the trees. Those snow-covered trees were also shining with thousands and thousands of twinkle lights, some white, some colored, some blinking and some shining steadily. It was magical and I stood looking out the window, mesmerized by the trees, and I felt so peaceful. Letting out a big cleansing sigh, I slowly came out of my trance.

This was all so odd and baffling, yet I was not afraid. I felt very relaxed and comfortable, as if I had been invited here. I turned from the window and felt the next room beckoning me. It was the kitchen, the most wonderful kitchen, the kind that you pictured Mrs. Claus bustling about in as she cooked for Santa and the elves. I smiled. The holiday season always seemed to send me into childlike daydreams.

On one counter, I saw a plate of mouth-watering homemade cookies and next to it was a hot steamy cup of something. There was another counter that was full of items that looked like ingredients for a baking recipe. The flour and sugar jars were open and softened butter lay on a plate next to bottles of pure vanilla and containers of baking powder and soda. I saw that a few cookie sheets had been prepped as if waiting for their turn and it looked like someone was going to start to bake.

But who? So far, I had not noticed anyone or heard anything aside from some holiday music that was crooning softly about silver bells. Had that been playing this whole time? The odd feeling was growing, yet I still felt peaceful and comfortable, as if I was supposed to be here.

I called out again to see if anyone was around and there was still no answer and no sound. I decided to wander around the first floor thinking that someone must be here if a fire was burning and food was left out. As I peeked around looking for someone I noticed that there were no pictures on the walls of people, only winter and holiday scenes. The front hall closet was slightly ajar but I could not see anything in there aside from how neat it appeared to be. I was not about to be caught pushing it open and nosing around so I kept walking.

My tour of the first floor took me in a circle as I came back to the couch that had so warmly snuggled me a few moments ago. I kept going and made my way back to the kitchen and noticed that steamy drink and the plate of cookies had been moved from the counter to the kitchen table. Feeling entirely out of sorts, my eyes drifted to a note next to the plate. I still did not see or hear anyone but the note drew me in and I picked it up. It read, “Please help yourself to some Sugar & Spice Tea and Christmas Butter Cookies, they were made just for you. When you have finished, go on into the kitchen and get started…everything you need is there.” The note was signed but I could not read the signature.

Despite the oddity of it all, the tea and cookies had me at “hello” so I sat down and took a sip. It was amazing…an “eyes roll back in your head” kind of amazing. I gazed outside the window feeling the warmth of the tea as it went from my throat down to my belly. It was pure delicious cozy goodness in a mug. The twinkling lights were still glowing on the trees and it seemed as if there was some sort of hustle and bustle going on outside but the heavily falling snow hindered my sight. I could not really tell what or if anything was going on beyond the windows.

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I looked at the plate of cookies and my hand instinctively reached for one. They were the most delicious looking homemade cookies I had ever seen and they were frosted and decorated in the season’s colors. Picking up a cookie, I took a bite. I did not think that anything could have been better than the tea, but I was wrong. This cookie seemed to wrap everything I loved about the winter holiday season into one small cookie package. They were buttery, soft and crisp at the same time. Mmmmmmmm…I happily and dreamily finished the tea and cookies. I did not really need anything else in life, but then I guess I could not stay in this unknown kitchen forever.

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I started to feel a strong push to go into the kitchen, and not knowing what else to do next, I obeyed the unseen force. I picked up my dishes and headed into the kitchen. For some reason, an almost magical one, I felt right at home in this kitchen. I started to sense what I should do next and I got busy. I found two recipes; one for Sugar & Spice Tea and one for what must be those amazing cutout cookies called Christmas Butter Cookies. There was a delightful pegged rack on the wall that held various wintry and holiday aprons. I took a moment to look through them all and then settled on one that was frilly and over the top with holiday pizzazz. It just seemed like the right choice and it made me smile. The island counter had a basket on one corner that was overflowing with another fabulous selection of dish towels. I picked out a few and threw one over my shoulder. When I am in the kitchen, it is my “constant companion”.

I fluttered around the kitchen adding this and that, stirring and combining the ingredients that had been laid out for me. I had started with the cookie dough recipe since the dough would need to chill, and then I neatly wrapped it in plastic and tucked it into the refrigerator. I was having a wonderful time and I felt so content. Making cookies and tea while listening to holiday music as the snow was falling outside, in an amazing kitchen no less, was exactly the “vision of sugar plums” I conjured up when I thought about the winter holiday season. The jazzy apron was the bright sparkly bow on top of the whole wonderful package.

The tea recipe was next and I dutifully followed the steps. It was so simple yet so delicious. I had no idea what time it was and it really did not seem to matter much. Wasn’t that how it was supposed to be? As my tea steamed away I took the cookie dough from the refrigerator and rolled it out then used every single one of the cookie cutters that had been left out for me. While the cookies baked I tidied the kitchen, tended to my tea and made my frosting. Once the cookies had cooled, I began working with my frosting and the colorful stash of decorations that were on the counter. I was having so much fun and felt like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to copy the recipe for these cookies so that I could make them at home, but I could not find a pen in plain sight and I did not want to start pawing through the drawers looking for one. That would be bad manners, of course. I wondered for a moment if I could take the recipe cards that had been left out for me, but decided against it. That too, would be bad manners.

Once the cookies were decorated and tea had cooled, I skillfully packed everything into the containers that had been left for me as if I had been doing this all my life. The kitchen was now tidy and I was feeling sleepy again. A belly full of tea and cookies, especially a belly that has been gazing at a fireplace and falling snow for hours is bound to be sleepy. Add the holiday music playing in the background and I was a goner.

I made my way back to the couch and decided to lie down and close my eyes for a moment while I waited for someone who lived here to find me. I felt a bit like Goldilocks and hoped that it would not be a scary bear. I was curious to find out about my day and slightly more so to figure out where I was and how I was to get home. As I pondered those thoughts, I drifted off to sleep again to the view of the falling snow.

The smell of deliciousness had me rousing and slowly opening my eyes. But this time, I was back under my own blanket in my home. I chuckled. I must have been dreaming. I would happily have that dream again and now wished that I had paid more attention to the recipes – just maybe they really would have yielded the delicious tea and cookies from my dream.

I stretched and looked out the window and saw that it was still snowing. Crazily, the delicious smells of vanilla and cookies were still wafting into my nose and I could not believe how real the aroma seemed. I sat up on the couch and then I saw that a steaming cup of tea and a plate of those amazing cookies that I had made in my dream were on the little table next to me. The containers that I had packed the cookies in were there as well. I sat there staring at the goodies in disbelief. I knew that no one else was in my home but me so what was all of this?

Then my eye caught something sticking out from under the plate of cookies. I reached over and pulled it out.

There were the recipe cards that I had used.

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Sugar & Spice Tea

  • Difficulty: easy-peasy
  • Print

Combine 3 tblsp each of white sugar and brown sugar with 1-2 tblsp of cinnamon in a mason jar, or similar vessel. Shake, shake shake…that’s it!

For the tea, heat up your teapot, fill a large mug with 2 bags of black tea, then add the Sugar & Spice mixture to your liking. Top with a splash of cream (or milk, I suppose)…Delish!

The Sugar & Spice is also great for oatmeal, cream of wheat, toast, cookies, french toast, pancakes and even your coffee!

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I love these Butter Roll-out cookies. They are not the ones to use if you need a perfectly shaped cookie, but you will not mind. They are tender and buttery and will make every good memory you have ever had all rush to the surface…mmmmmm.

I love homemade frosting and make various kinds but these cookies need the traditional butter frosting. There’s just no arguing!

Christmas Butter Cookies

  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print

Gather:
2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add the flour and salt and mix until blended. Do not over-mix.

Divide dough in half (or thirds) and wrap each portion in plastic wrap. Flatten wrapped dough into disc shapes to make it easier to roll out later. Chill dough for 3 hrs.

Working with one dough at a time, roll out and cut with desired cookie cutters. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. To keep cookies from spreading you may chill the cut out dough for 15 minutes before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness of dough and size of cookie cutters. For softer cookies, remove early. For crispier bottoms, watch for golden crust.

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Traditional Butter Frosting Recipe

Gather:
4 tblsp soft butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tblsp milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla

With a mixer. combine all ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Start with 1 tblsp of milk and add more for consistency if needed. Tint as desired and frost away!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: “The Afternoon Nap” | Make it, Bake it or Buy it...Recipes!

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