Making a Dozen Lists, Checking Them Obsessively

Okay, so the meter doesn’t work with the song, but Santa Claus ain’t got nothing on me. This time of year, my lists have lists. Here’s a preview:

  • Christmas card list
  • Christmas gift list (I know— everyone has these lists. I’m not done. I’ll point out that I have several siblings, several nieces and nephews, and several great-nieces and great-nephews, several godchildren, and friends that I buy for, in addition to…
  • Birthday gift list. I have four family birthdays plus a godson’s birthday between now and Christmas, and four more family birthdays in the two weeks after New Year’s that I buy for as part of my Christmas shopping. I actually merge this with the Christmas birthday gift list, but it’s why I have certain people listed multiple times. Because they’re December (and January) babies, I try to give them separate gifts, where it makes sense.
  • Thank you note list. The hard part of a birthday a month from Christmas is that you typically get two gifts (I know, cry me a river, right?), which in my family is two separate thank you notes. Which is not me complaining, though I haven’t started on birthday thank yous or Christmas cards (Mom and I are doing Christmas cards together and she and I operate at entirely different speeds. I may spontaneously combust, that we haven’t figured out which ones I’m doing. Killing me. This is an easy thing to get out of the way, but a pain if you let it sit…)
  • Christmas cookie list. I mentioned yesterday that my flavor of insanity involves a dozen kinds. I made the first two kinds of slice & bake dough yesterday. In case you’re interested, the perennials are:
    • Chocolate crackle cookies with cherry chips
    •  
    • Chocolate crackle cookies with white chocolate chips
    • Ginger cookies
    • An orange-infused oatmeal raisin cookie dipped in white chocolate called “frost bites” that is mom’s favorite
    • Vanilla refrigerator cookies filled with homemade jam
    • Magic cookie bars. Other people call these “Hello Dolly bars” or “7-layer bars”— graham cracker crust, layers of chocolate and butterscotch chips topped with coconut and held together with sweetened condensed milk. This might fall off the list, because although popular, it’s one that a lot of people do. (They typically put nuts in theirs. I might put a nut butter in mine, but you’ll find my cookies pretty nut-free.)
    • Apple cider cookies stuffed with caramel
    • Often either a honey cookie like lebkuchen or a cinnamon honey cookie
    • I do a turtle bar (peanut butter cookie crust topped with caramel and chocolate and not pecans) that has been a crowd pleaser. Maybe or maybe not, this year. I might do peanut butter cookie filled with Heath chips.
    • I did a “puppy chow” inspired cookie a couple of years ago that I remember being pretty addictive, if I can find the recipe.
    • I usually do variations on shortbread that round me out. I typically do straight, chocolate chip, chocolate, and chocolate chocolate chip, but I’ve done dried cherry and I did candied ginger at the suggestion of someone I follow here earlier this year and could make an argument for that. When I do variations on shortbread, these are the ones I roll out and use cutters for— dried fruit filled shortbreads I just make into little slice-n-bake squares or circles.
    • I’m probably including candied orange peels and chocolate-dipped orange peels this year. I’m tempted to find a way to include them in a cookie, also (an argument in favor of lebkuchen, though the cinnamon honey cookies are kind of more my thing.)
    • Others that probably won’t make the list: a chocolate-covered cherry cookie. I love this one, but it’s a lot of work and doesn’t keep well. I’m not sure I have the right event for it this year. Sugar cookies— I think these are better for people with kids. I don’t enjoy the rolling and cutting and decorating on my own. I go to a cookie exchange or two and don’t mind pitching in and decorating some there. Chili-chocolate: this is a nice one, but I strive for a balance of chocolate and non-chocolate, and this one isn’t at the top of my list. Salted caramel– I was kind of disappointed in this, despite the presence of pretzels in the cookie. Regular oatmeal-raisin with molasses: good, but not popular or festive enough to compete with the frost bites. Oatmeal with peppermint chips: if I know I have someone who’ll love it, I might do that. Mint isn’t really my thing, but if I know I won’t get stuck with them, I don’t mind making them. Mint doesn’t usually play well in an assortment (everything starts tasting slightly minty…) Rugelach: I love this one, with cinnamon sugar. I haven’t mastered it, and I haven’t done it in years. Truffles: I’ll do them on special request from certain people. Messy and not that interesting to make (though they could be good with the candied orange peel.) Cake mix cookies: these are good, but I’m not a cake mix person, and won’t buy one just for this. Earl Grey cookies, lemon cookies, lime shortbread: All delicious, but not the right thing, seasonally. Chai cookies with cinnamon chips— good, but cinnamon chips aren’t that easy to find. One year I made a red velvet shortbread that I dipped in white chocolate with red-and-green sprinkles. Festive, but insufficiently shortbread-y, red velvety, or delicious to be a perennial fave.
  • Christmas movie list. Just the essentials, which typically take me well into January to get through. Also, I don’t like the Nutcracker or variants on A Christmas Carol, in particular, so you won’t find any here. You can watch my share, as my gift to you. I like the animated movies, too— Charlie Brown and Rudolph and Frosty and the Grinch, but I typically encounter those as happy accidents— I don’t own them and insist on watching them. And we’ve been watching Hallmark movies since Halloween, and there are some favorites in there I’m not counting. My family has some that I also watch every year, but this is my must-see list. In case you’re interested:
    • “Family Man” (2000) Nicholas Cage, Tea Leoni, Jeremy Piven, Don Cheadle. There are few things I don’t love about this movie. It’s kind of an inside out “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
    • “Elf” (2003) Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel. Jon Favreau just gets me.
    • “Holiday Inn” (1942). Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire
    • “White Christmas” (1954). Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen. I sing “Choreography” pretty much all year long. It’s perfect to watch while decorating the tree, so in my house, that happens the week of Christmas.
    • “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946).
    • “Love, Actually.”(2003). The Colin Firth parts especially. And the Andrew Lincoln parts. Also the Laura Linney and Emma Thompson parts. But not the Bill Nighy parts, because those are annoying.
    • “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947). Cary Grant, Loretta Young. When I can get it.
    • “Holiday” (1938). My Christmas movie list, in fact, the movie list of my life— has a strong Cary Grant vibe. And if you put him and Katharine Hepburn on the screen, I’m probably going to watch and rewatch and watch some more. You can say this isn’t a Christmas movie, and technically it happens at Christmas without being about Christmas, per se,  but I watch it every Christmas. Also, could you not talk during the movie?
  • Christmas music. Ninety percent of the Christmas music I love is in Handel’s “Messiah.” The other 10 percent I encounter in church, in an annual caroling party I go to. But I should get my Christmas music onto my phone/iPod, because I haven’t started enjoying it yet, outside of department stores.
  • Christmas decorating. I’m delegating most of this to Mom these days. Not that she’s running with this ball, either, so far. I’ll put up the tree, and I’ll do the outdoor decorations. I brought her the house decorations, took down Thanksgiving and put a snowman on the door, just to get us started.
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