While the celebration of Christmas among the McMullen family has evolved and adapted over the years with the addition of spouses and grandchildren and adjusting to different schedules, there is one memory that stands out from their childhood: making sugar cookies with Big Nana.
“Every year, we would make dozens and dozens of sugar cookies,” Cheryl said. “I mean, I don’t even know how many we made, but it was a lot.”
“We would go visit my mother’s mother, who we called Big Nana,” Hedy recalled. “They lived on a farm, and they butchered their own beef and chickens and the whole nine yards; they really only went to town for flour and sugar that was it. We would be so excited to go there for the holidays, because you know, we were ‘city girls’ by that point.”
Well, once a year, it seems Big Nana went to town for more than just flour and sugar, and she went ALL OUT.
“She had every single color of icing you could imagine -- pink and green and blue and red and every other color there was,” Hedy said. “And she would have these little bowls full of all sorts of decorations for us to use. Sprinkles, and silver balls, and little Red Hots to use as buttons -- every sort of confection you could ever want to put on a cookie. And that was a big deal, not only because they went into town for it, but they were spending money when there wasn’t much money to spend.”
So, armed with their wide array of adornments and a collection of cookie cutters in the shape of Christmas trees and Santas and snowmen and the like, the sisters, Nana, and Big Nana would spend all day baking and decorating.
“Audrey was still a little too little to really get into it; she’d get up there and make a few, but we never could hold her attention for very long,” Hedy said. “And then Cheryl’s, my god, can you even imagine what hers came out looking like?! And then, there I was, I had icing all in my hair, it was all up and down both arms, just a mess.”
“Oh, you know me, of course I was crazy about decorating them just right,” Cheryl said. “I had to make sure every silver ball was lined up perfectly on the Christmas trees, and just took every detail to heart.”
“It was almost half exciting, half embarrassing when they displayed them to the rest of the family,” Hedy laughed. “Like, ‘Look at the cookies I made!’, but also ‘Oh. Look at the cookies I made.’ But they all tasted the same anyhow.”
Can’t you just picture how adorable (and chaotic) that scene must’ve been? So, when you’re stressing over the minutiae of making the holidays “perfect”, just remember it’s the messy memories that mean the most.
Granny’s Cut Out Iced Cookies
½ cSoftened Butter 1 ½ cSugar 2 Eggs 1tVanilla 3 ¾cFlour 1tBaking Powder ½ tBaking Soda ½cSour Cream ½ tSalt
Mix together.Chill for 2 hours.Roll out til ¼ - ½ “ thick.Cut cookies.
Place on silicone sheet on the cookie sheet and place cut cookies on the silicone sheet
Cheryl’s late Saturday night notes: For this article, Mom called Aunt Sue to get Big Nana’s recipe since Aunt Sue is the “keeper” of the family recipes. However, something didn’t look right to me...for starters Big Nana would have never cooked cookies or anything for that matter on “silicone.” Also, I remember fresh cow’s cream going into the icing. Dubious, I had to test the recipe to see if in fact if it was the one Big Nana used all those years. The results:
The cookies were spot on.
The icing in the recipe above is a thick butter cream icing and is definitely not what BN used. I think all of the ingredients are correct other than she added lots of cream for more of an icing consistency. Either way - they are still delicious.
FYI: if you invite your older children to help decorate, it makes for a great holiday time together however, you can’t take pictures of the finished cookies because they tend to get X-rated. Those boys - I love them!
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