‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’ croons Johnny Mathis on a classic holiday tune now blaring from my speakers. I’ve thought about that line quite a bit these past couple of holiday seasons wondering exactly who is having a good time? No, this isn’t going to be Negative Nellie post but seriously, I know I’m in good company when I say that by the time the calendar says November, it’s a dead run until the end of the year.
But I will also tell you that it’s also the time of year I look forward to most – it’s not necessarily about slowing down, because we don’t. But I look forward to this time of year because of the gathering of friends I only see for a couple of hours at a holiday party; it’s the gathering of family, the stories shared, the laughter as new stories unfold, the eclectic collection of holiday music we’ve amassed and it’s remembering those who have passed and those who live away.
One of the things I look forward to most, is an overnight visit from our Cincinnati family; we always love having them here but it’s also because the nieces come and stay in the upstairs bedroom. We originally painted and decorated that room for Alice the first time she came to stay with us after we moved into this house. A room of pink, purple and lime-green polka dots, furry berry-colored pillows, pink bedspread and pink, purple and blue-striped curtains that I made using fabric shower curtains that I tied to rods with blue ribbon. We’ve never changed that room and with each overnight visit of the ‘Nati Family’ as we call them, Avery and Lydie head up the stairs and plop their things on the floor and make themselves at home for the next couple of days.
There is life in that room, books are read, journals written in and conversations happen between sisters. Avery has spent this semester studying abroad in Copenhagen so she wasn’t here this Thanksgiving and won’t be here for Christmas – it was just Lydie and I wasn’t sure how she’d feel about sleeping in the upstairs bedroom by herself. But I didn’t need to worry, Lydie was fine; she’s a senior now and I’m not sure how many more Christmases the upstairs bedroom will be filled with girls.
But what has become a tradition of sorts is also one of my most favorite things every single year – the nieces leave us a note. Just a simple ‘thank you for having us’ note, written out in long hand on whatever scrap of paper they can find, signed by each, then tucked onto the photo board we hung for Alice. The first note took me by surprise and I saved it, pinning it up on a board by my office desk which is on the landing right outside that bedroom door.
I’ve continued to save those notes every year and they’re all pinned on that same board near my desk; I wondered if Lydie would leave a note this year even though Avery wasn’t here – she did and I’ve continued the tradition of adding the note to the board with the others. I read these notes several times throughout the year; it makes me smile thinking about them, wondering what they’re up to that day and I offer a prayer of gratitude for their generosity – for taking a moment to sit and simply write a note.
I guess Johnny Mathis has it right – ‘it’s the hap, happiest season of all.’
GLUTEN-FREE ROSEMARY-TANGERINE BISCOTTI
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 3-4 dozen
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons grated tangerine zest
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (use your favorite mix)
- 1 teaspoon psyllium husk
- 1/3 cup cornmeal
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 eggs, 1 reserved for egg wash
- ¾ cup blanched almonds, toasted and cooled
- 1 Tablespoon water for egg wash
- Fine sanding or granulated sugar for dusting
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Immediately pour into small bowl and add tangerine zest and rosemary; let cool
- Whisk together gluten-free flour, psyllium husk, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl
- Beat in 2 eggs, vanilla and the butter mixture; stir in almonds and mix until incorporate
- Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight to allow the dough to firm up and is ‘kneadable’
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Dampen hands and form dough into a log – about 13×2 inches; set on a parchment-lined baking sheet
- Combine remaining egg with the 1 Tablespoon water and blend well; brush the log with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding or granulated sugar
- Bake 12 minutes, rotating sheet pan and bake an additional 13 minutes and log is golden brown; transfer to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes
- Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees; using a serrated knife, cut log on the diagonal into ¼-inch thick pieces (if you like your biscotti thicker, it’s fine – you will have less biscotti)
- Arrange slices on their sides on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes; rotate pan and bake for an additional 30 minutes – total baking time is 1 hour
- Let cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temp up to 1 week; biscotti can also be frozen up to 1 month.