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Sensing the holidays

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As a parent, I want to do everything I can to make sure that my two boys have a memorable childhood. Memorable in a good way, of course. Not in a my-dad-made-me-star-in-“Home Alone”-then-squandered-all-of-my-earnings way. So, my wife and I take them to interesting places, encourage them to try different foods, and snap about a bazillion photos to document our experiences together.

Still, for all of the “memorable” stuff that we do, I can’t help but wonder how much my kids will actually remember. After all, they are only 6 and 3, and unless you’re Junie B. Jones, it’s kind of tough to write first-grade memoirs with any great detail. I’m 37 and those closets in my brain that hold 30-year-old memories are filled with a lot of, ahek-ahek, dust.

There is hope, however. In my humble, non-scientific — but always correct — opinion, the brain best remembers those things that, at a moment in time, inundated one of your five senses: taste, sight, hearing, smell, or touch. And, it seems to me, that kind of attack on the senses is bound to happen each year when the holidays roll around. That’s the time when colors are a tad sparklier (yes, I said sparklier), songs are a bit zazzier (yes, zazzier), and cakes taste more rum-my (no, not yummy, rum-my).

That’s why, for me, a good percentage of the early childhood memories that do still exist revolve around the holidays and the senses. And I’m making a concerted effort to pass those memories on to my two sons. Here’s a sample:

Taste

I know you’ll be right with me on this one: candy canes. One lick of a candy cane and you’re immediately transported to the holidays of your childhood. My favorite version of candy canes is the seasonal special, peppermint stick ice cream. It’s mint ice cream with crushed candy canes. My boys prefer mini-candy canes, which turn their fingers red.

Sight

Watching holiday specials on TV is a great memory. Seeing the Dolly Madison ice cream commercial that accompanied “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was a sure sign that the holidays were here. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman” endure to this day .

Hearing

Two words: Bing Crosby. No album will ever top Bing’s “White Christmas” for direct association with the holidays. In my mind, I can hear Bing singing, “I’m dreaming…” and my dad singing, “… of a …” and my grandfather singing, “… white Christmas …” Who doesn’t love to impersonate the bub-a-dub-bub sound of der Bingle?

Smell

The smell of the holidays is pine. I’m told my father once tried to put up an artificial tree in our house, but one look at my mother’s face told him that he better throw it in the trash and drive, as fast as he could, to the lot down the street to pick up a real tree. Once inside a house, a pine tree’s scent dominates everything.

Touch

The holidays always recall the feeling of squishing cookie dough in my hands. One of my family’s great traditions was the annual baking of a cookie called, “Winter Rainbows.” The recipe calls for the dough to be colored red, yellow and green. My mom would squeeze a few drops of food coloring on the dough and then let my brothers and I have at it. I remember going to school with green fingers. Now, it’s my sons’ turn to squish dough.

And since it is the season of giving, I’d like to offer the gift of the “Winter Rainbows” recipe. Spend some time with your kids making memories and making some really great cookies. Enjoy — and happy holidays!

Winter Rainbows

Makes six dozen cookies. (Yes, you’ll want at least that many.)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. baking soda

10 tbsp. (1-¼ sticks) butter, softened

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Yellow, green and red food coloring

Milk

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large bowl, mix or sift together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda. In another bowl, beat butter with sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, a third at a time, blending well to make a soft dough. Divide dough into three equal portions, tinting one green, one red and one yellow.

Roll each portion of dough into a nine-by-five rectangle between sheets of wax paper. Chill in freezer 10 minutes. Cut each piece of dough in half lengthwise, cutting through wax paper. Peel off top sheets.

Brush top of one strip lightly with milk; place another strip, paper side up, on top. Peel off paper. Repeat procedure with remaining dough strips, alternating colors, to make six layers. Press lightly together. Cut finished stack lengthwise to make two narrow stacks. Wrap in plastic wrap, foil, or wax paper; chill in refrigerator three hours or overnight. Unwrap dough. Cut into 1/8-inch slices with a sharp knife. Place on greased cookie sheets. (They won’t spread much, so you can put them pretty close together on the cookie sheet.) Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) for eight minutes, or until edges are golden.Brian Kantz really wants you to make these cookies. They’re good. Seriously. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at thenewbiedad@yahoo.com.

Updated 4:29 pm, July 9, 2018
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