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Friday, December 30, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Heidi Cullinan

Christmas Cookie

Every year I make a metric tonnage of Christmas cookies. I start right around the first of December and end up hurriedly putting the last ones together right before my daughter gets out of school, usually, because the goal is always to give the cookies away as gifts. Teachers, instructors for lessons, the mailman, the neighbors, and more. It all sounds good in theory, but it means I make a lot of cookies.

What I love most about this tradition is twofold: one, I always know what I’m bringing to gatherings or as a hostess gift, and two, everyone always has a favorite. Some of the cookies are in the rotation specifically for certain individuals. My sister loves the fudgy bonbons. My daughter’s godfather loves the peanut butter cup temptations. My husband goes weak in the knees for gingerbread. My sister-in-law is there entirely for the monster cookies.

Every year it seems I add another cookie, and every year I can’t take it away because it immediately becomes the one someone can’t live without. Is it a hassle? Yes. Is it expensive? Yeah, it can get there. But man, it’s fun, especially when I give myself the time to get the job done. The house smells amazing. The porch is full of cooling cookies and cookies in tins and bags and everything else. (Benefit of living in Iowa: your screened-in porch is your walk-in freezer in winter.) And everyone is so happy to get the cookies as gifts. They love the variety, love that you took the time, love that you thought of them.

And think of them I do. While I’m baking the fudgy bon bons, I think of my sister and the time we made them together, of how we had to find somewhere open on Christmas Day evening that had sweetened condensed milk. (Walgreens.) My daughter and husband usually do the cut-out cookies, which include the gingerbread, and I love listening to their banter and teasing as they work. I remember the face of my therapist as she poked through the gift bag full of goodies, how her eyes lit up and how she thanked me, of how I finally felt like I’d given her something back that equalled what she gives me. I remember how one year we didn’t get the cookies done before school got out and my daughter had to deliver them to the teachers’ doors. She actually asks every year now if we can do that again just because it’s fun.

Best of all, making my Christmas cookies reminds me of what the holidays are supposed to be about: giving, of my time and myself, for those that I love and who mean something to our family. That, and making Christmas cookies means there will be spritz shaped as green trees with red sprinkles. Because those are my favorite.


Ed Maurer’s life would be fine if he could just get Laurie Parker off his back. He’s bounced back, more or less, from the neck injury that permanently benched his semi-pro football career, and he volunteers now at a local community center. It’s just that every time he turns around, that damn professional dancer is in his way, hating Ed right back. But when a bargain Ed strikes at the center lands him as an assistant in Laurie’s ballroom dancing class, their perceptions of each other turn upside down. Both Ed and Laurie have heartbreak in their pasts, but somehow dancing together eases their individual pain. For Ed, dancing with Laurie becomes a way to reconnect with his body after losing football. For Laurie, partnering with Ed has erased some of his fear of performing and brought back joy to a sport he wasn’t sure he could ever truly love again.

As Laurie and Ed lose themselves in dance, their lives continue to spin around them: Ed’s injury makes it clear he’s nowhere near recovery, Laurie feels the pressure by friends and family to perform once more, and the community center that has become such an important part of both their worlds threatens to close. Alone, they haven’t had the strength or spirit to face what life has hurled at them. But as the turns of their personal paths lead them into the arms of love, Ed and Laurie begin to think that if they dance this dance together, they might be able to succeed.

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Heidi has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When she isn’t writing, Heidi enjoys knitting, reading, movies, TV shows on DVD, and all kinds of music. She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats.

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Win a copy of Heidi’s novel Dance With Me: just leave your own favorite holiday memory in the comments for your chance to win.


VampedChik said...

My favorite holiday memory would have to be from my oldest nephews first Christmas. Just watching him crawl around having more fun with the wrapping paper while his sister was trying to get him to open presents was one of the sweetest and funniest things I've ever seen. Thanks so much!

Cathy M said...

With two boys I have lots of wonderful memory days. Their first visit with Santa was pretty special. Two cranky babies who closed their mouths in shock when put on Santa's lap. I was begging him to go home with us that night, lol.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

Mountain Laurel said...

Now you got me wanting cookie batter. I too always loved making cookies...but I have lots of holiday memories especially when my babies were little...

flchen1 said...

What a lovely, generous tradition, Heidi! I LOVE homemade cookies! It's been a while since I've baked many, though now that the kids are old enough to help, I'm trying to get back into the swing of it!

Love the sounds of Dance With Me--I love characters who dance ;)

As for a favorite Christmas memory? Most of them revolve around food and family :) What's not to love about spending time eating with those you love?

Hoping you had a lovely time celebrating and wishing you joy and success in the new year!

f dot chen at comcast dot net

elaing8 said...

One of my favorites is having all the nieces and nephews over baking cookies.More were consumed.They figured if they made a mess with the decorating they could eat the ones that were not done right..LOL.

shadow_kohler said...

I have so many favorite christmas memories. One of my favorites is when my little cousin (he was about three at the time) he snuck under the christmas tree and opened everyones presents. He was also in his mine phase. It was fun watching his giggle and rip open the paper. So cute! Thanks for sharing! Happy holidays!

Debby said...

My grandmother's Christmas cookies are a wonderful memory. She made one cookie that we all loved called Peanut butter Whirls.
debby236 at gmail dot com

June M. said...

My favorite memory was of my grandfather reading the story of the first Christmas every year aloud.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Robin said...

My mom would decorate the tree with all of my sisters, brothers and me.